Brewing Basics: Cleaning and Sanitising
The joys of homebrewing are multiple. You’re not a homebrewer if you don’t get excited by yeast. The huge range of hops available to us is incredible. The choices we have for different malts is vast. The clever and innovative equipment we have available to us is exciting – it seems like a new way to improve our brewing or make our brew day easier comes out every day.
The aroma of the malt as it is mashing. Cutting the foil on a new, fresh pack of hops. Tasting that first gravity sample. Pouring a fresh, cold, carbed beer from your four tap kegerator.
Yup. The joys of homebrewing are myriad.
But we’re not here to talk about that.
Because, as every brewer knows, there are two elements to successful homebrewing that are of absolute paramount importance.
And I’m here to tell you, they ain’t that glamourous.
I’m talking about cleaning. And sanitizing.
Simple. Yet vital.
Cleaning and Sanitising – so, what’s the difference?
Basically, everything that your wort or beer touches on the cold side (that is, after the boil) has to be both cleaned and sanitized.
Cleaning is… the macro level. Getting rid of dirt, dust, build up, detritus from the previous brew. Cleaning the equipment, in other words.
Sanitising is the micro step. Once the equipment has been cleaned and rinsed, it is ready for sanitizing. Sanitising takes care of the microscopic bugs, the potential for infection that we cannot see. You can’t sanitise a dirty surface. And there is no point in cleaning if you don’t also sanitise.
Cleaning and sanitizing. Hand in hand. Every piece of brewery equipment. Every time.
What’s The Best Way to clean my equipment then?
Easy. Get yourself a tub of StellarClean PBW (short for Powerful Brewery Wash). This will take care of 99.9% of your cleaning needs. Mix it up according to the directions. Reuse it as well – it’s supoer handy to have a spray bottle of PBW to hand on your brew day. Clean with PBW depending on the equipment.
All in one units like the Brewzilla can be partially filled with warm PBW, then scoured or wiped and rinsed off. Many items will just need a spray and a wipe. Any stubborn debris will be easily removed with a soak in PBW. Worth remembering that it works much faster when warm – heating up some PBW in your BrewZilla then using that to clean everything else is a great time saver on brew day. If I’m feeling lazy, I will often fill my kegs, fermenters etc with some PBW to soak, then I can wipe out and rinse the next day in a matter of minutes.
PBW. Get some.
So, Sanitising? What’s the deal with the foam?
DO. NOT. FEAR. THE. FOAM.
Just thought I would get that out of the way. If you have never used a no rinse sanitizer like StellarSan, I guarantee I just saved you a Google search. Do not fear the foam. It’s harmless. It’s tasteless. Rack your wort or beer onto the foam without fear. Learn to love the foam.
So yeah, get some StellarSan No Rinse sanitizer. Dilute it as per the bottle – a little goes a very long way. It also lasts a long time – provided the PH stays below 3.5, it is good to go. I keep a 19L keg filled with StellarSan solution at all times. You can check your PH with a handy little digital PH Meter.
Once your equipment is cleaned, 60 seconds contact with StellarSan is all you need to sanitise. Fill your fermenters and kegs, shake around, pour out and you are done.
Just remember – it’s a No Rinse sanitiser. DON’T rinse it, or you will destroy the good work you have done.
StellarSan will take care of almost all your sanitising needs. It’s really handy to have a bottle of Super Kill Ethanol on hand as well – we use this for spraying posts and disconnects all the time. If you get in the habit of zapping your posts and disconnects every time you attach them, you will go a long way to minimising any risk of infection. We also use the spray for zapping hop packets before dry hopping, and lids before replacing on kegs and fermenters, anytime we need a super quick solution that evaporates almost immediately.
So that’s cleaning and sanitizing your brewery in a nutshell. Please do yourself a favour and get in the habit of cleaning equipment straight after use, and remember to sanitise anything that your precious beer touches. Don’t forget to clean and sanitise your beer lines – try to do this every time you change a keg, if not more often. A PET bottle with Carbonation Caps on it is a handy little hack for this, by the way.