So...finally have these things going...hopefully I'm using them correctly
Homebrew 101: You clean up good carboy……
July 10, 2014
Home brewing has turned me into a germaphobe. I blame this largely on the lessons learned from reading How to Brew by John Palmer (a book that I recommend every home brewer procure) and the consequences of my own failures to be thorough in this step of the brewing process. Sanitation, while not the most appealing aspect of brewing, is just as integral to the success of a beer as the ingredients with which it is made. This might seem to be common sense, but there are aspects of brewing sanitation that allot of people take for granted. Here are a few things to keep in mind, especially for those of you who are new to home brewing:
Clean your tools you animal: I’ve known a few home brewers (myself included) that when starting out were vigilant about sanitizing carboys, kegs and buckets but less so about other equipment. Things like racking cane, chilling equipment, and thermometers all require attention as well. These items may not require the same level of cleansing as your various brewing vessels but still need to be addressed to reduce potential points of contamination in the future.
Soap is not your friend: I was talking shop with a fellow home brewer that I worked with, who admitted that he used normal dish soap and the sponge from his kitchen sink to clean his equipment. My shock and disappointment must have been palpable as he simply stopped talking and walked away. Soaps and sanitizers made for normal dish and general cleaning contain several ingredients that can leave residues on whatever is washed. This of course can contaminate your beer and have all sorts of unpleasant consequences. There are several types of sanitizers formulated specifically for brewing equipment that won’t leave anything nasty behind and effectively clean your kit. I am a big fan of One Step No Rinse Sanitizer (mainly because I can be a lazy bastard) but there are allot of options out there so go with whatever works best for you.
Make sure your stuff is dry: After you’ve thoroughly cleaned everything, make sure there is no residual moisture before you put things away. This is fairly easy to do with kegs and buckets and the like, but with tools like racking canes having a small amount of sanitizer remaining can result in mildew and all sorts of other gross stuff you don’t want in your beer (unless you’re into consuming dangerous micro-organisms…..I’m not here to judge buddy) I generally let this type of equipment air dry and give it a thorough inspection before putting it away, just to be safe.
Know when it’s time to replace things: Sooner or later, a good deal of items in your brewing arsenal are going to get long in the tooth. This is particularly true for plastic and pvc items which are more sensitive to the wear and tear that comes from the brewing process. When tubing starts to have hairline cracks, when buckets start to smell and get stained, when your airlocks are starting to show their age its worth investing in replacements to ensure that your beer isn’t compromised. On the flip side, things like glass carboys and kettles can last for years when properly cared for; all the more reason to keep on top of keeping your stuff clean.
Don’t put this off: The longer you wait to fully clean something, the higher the likelihood that you won’t be able to sanitize it fully. One of my more shameful moments from my early days of brewing was allowing a bucket to soak overnight after a very late night kegging session. I went to work the next day leaving the bucket still dirty and forgot that we were going to be going out of town that evening. Needless to say I came home to a foul smell and a primary fermenter that had to be replaced. Sanitize immediately before and immediately after brewing to avoid this type of unpleasantness.
So, what was the point of today’s post? Well outside of droning on like Ben Stein (I dare you to read this again and not have his voice in your head when you do) the obvious moral of this story is that sanitizing is really important. No one wants to end up with a batch of beer that needs to be poured out because it’s been contaminated, or to replace equipment because it’s too gross to be saved. Taking the time to make sure your equipment is cleaned properly will ultimately get you better home brew and the respect of your fellow beer nerds. Cheers!
What I was drinking during this post: Thai Style White IPA by Upslope Brewing