How to Clean and Sanitize Homebrew Equipment: The Complete Guide

Cleaning and sanitizing your homebrew equipment

To clean and sanitize homebrew equipment is as important as cleaning your hands and utensils before each use. Cleaning your equipment ensures that you’re not introducing contaminants from your clothes or skin into the wort or beer.

You should clean your equipment using a soft cloth or sponge, soap and water, bleach, vinegar, and even a toothbrush for at least 20 minutes. After cleaning, sanitize your homebrew equipment before use using a sanitizer like StarSan, or Iodophor. After sanitizing, dry the equipment and store them in a clean and dry place.

Proper sanitizing ensures that any residual bits of last week’s batch of homebrew don’t make their way back into your next batch. Just as you should clean your equipment before using it, so should you sanitize it before using it again.

There is a right way and a wrong way to clean and sanitize your homebrew equipment. Cleaning and sanitizing your homebrewing equipment is essential for preventing contamination and for creating consistent results time after time.

Even the freshest of recipes can turn out tasting stale if not handled properly. Luckily, cleaning and sanitizing your homebrewing equipment is easy and can be done regularly. Follow these steps for cleaning and sanitizing your equipment to get consistent results time after time:

How to clean and sanitize homebrew equipment

It is important to clean your homebrew equipment before brewing to prevent contamination of your beer. You can scrub your equipment using a soft cloth or sponge before soaking the equipment for at least 20 minutes and sometimes overnight depending on the equipment and the type of dirt on it. We do not recommend using abrasive pads or brushes for cleaning your homebrew equipment.

To clean and sanitize your homebrew equipment, you need to follow the following 4 steps:

  1. Gather all your brewing equipment
  2. Clean your equipment using a soft cloth or sponge, soap and water, bleach, vinegar, and even a toothbrush
  3. Sanitize your brewing equipment after cleaning using a sanitizer like StarSan, and Iodophor
  4. Dry and store your homebrewing equipment

You can use unthickened and unscented varieties of bleach for cleaning and sanitizing your homebrew equipment at a ratio of 2ml of domestic bleach for every 1 liter of water- this can be an alternative sanitizer that is very effective.

You can use chlorine bleaches on most equipment such as glass equipment but is not recommended for plastic equipment since plastics can absorb chlorine.

Other people prefer using a mixture of hydrogen peroxide and vinegar at a recommended ratio of 1 part of hydrogen peroxide for every 2 parts of vinegar.

Step One: Gather Your Equipment

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To ensure that you clean and sanitize everything, it is important to gather all the equipment to be cleaned and sanitized. The equipment includes:

  • Fermenter (carboy)
  • Airlock
  • Funnel Fine Mesh Colander
  • Thermometer
  • Big Spoon
  • Hoses
  • Auto-siphon/racking cane
  • Bottling Bucket
  • Bottles
  • Bottle Caps
  • Capper
  • Bottle Brush

The fermenting equipment will be cleaned and sanitized just before the brewing day while the bottling equipment should be cleaned and sanitized just before beer bottling.

Step Two: Clean Your Equipment

PBW to clean your homebrew kit

Homebrewing is a great hobby, but it can get messy. Even if you keep your house clean, you’ll still have to clean your equipment before and after every batch of beer, you brew. It’s not hard, but there are a few details that many people forget about.

Homebrewers face a lot of dirty equipment, especially with all the spills and residue they inevitably get from their hooch-producing activities. Before you know it, your keg, fermenter, hoses, and anything else you’ve been storing in your garage will have a layer of grime on it. To keep your brewing equipment in tip-top condition, you’ll need to clean it on a regular basis.

You can use a variety of cleaning methods, like soap and water, bleach, and vinegar with a soft cloth or sponge and even a toothbrush. But when it comes to getting your equipment as germ-free as possible, nothing beats using a specialty cleaning solution.

You can scrub your equipment using a soft cloth or sponge before soaking the equipment for at least 20 minutes and sometimes overnight depending on the equipment and the type of dirt on it. We do not recommend using abrasive pads or brushes for cleaning your homebrew equipment.

Many specialty cleaning products like oxi-clean and PBW (powdered brewing wash) are available as powders, which you can mix with water to create a cleaning solution. The OxiClean and PBW are specifically designed to get rid of residue and bacteria, so they’re perfect for cleaning brewing equipment.

Ensure that you soak your equipment for 20 minutes before cleaning thoroughly and rinsing.

PBW is one of the best cleaning agents for home brewing equipment but is more expensive as compared to Oxi-clean. Both cleaning agents are excellent when used properly and then rinsed after use.

How to clean different equipment

You can follow the steps below to clean your homebrew equipment depending on the type of equipment and the dirt they contain:

  1. Mix the cleaning agent with water in a bucket or dishpan, and soak all of your equipment for at least 10 minutes, scrubbing off any residue with a soft brush.
  2. Rinse the equipment clean and remove as much moisture as you can with paper towels.
  3. For stubborn stains, leave it soaking for an additional 10-20 minutes before scrubbing again and rinsing thoroughly.
  4. In a spray bottle, combine 1 teaspoon of your chosen cleaner with 2 cups of water, shake well to dissolve, then spray down your equipment until it’s fully coated in solution.
  5. Allow the solution to sit on the equipment (at least 30 seconds), then rinse well with hot tap water.
  6. For carboys that still have yeast sludge on them after using Star-San or another sanitizer, soak them overnight in a bucket or tub filled with 1 gallon of warm water and 1 cup of corn sugar dissolved in it (to feed the yeast).

Clean off the next day by scrubbing around the outside of the carboy’s neck and upper lip area, not inside—just where you can see all that gross stuff clinging to the sides from when you dumped out all those dead yeast when fermentation was over last time.

Step Three: Sanitize Your Equipment

Sanitize equipment after cleaning using a sanitizer like StarSan, and Iodophor. Having tested all of them at our Hopsters brewing company, I highly recommend StarSan because of the convenience, high foaming, and effectiveness on different surfaces such as carboys, kegs, fermentors, kettles, brewing systems, chillers, and heat exchangers.

You can also spray equipment with a sanitizer if you can not soak them or apply the sanitizer on the whole equipment. You can also use a bleach solution except for plastics but proper cleaning is a must after soaking equipment in a bleaching agent.

You can use the following chemicals to sanitize brewing equipment:

  • StarSan: The go-to sanitizer because of its effectiveness, low toxicity, and pleasant aroma. Add 1 ounce of StarSan per gallon of water and soak equipment for 4 minutes. Rinse thoroughly with hot water and air dry or allow to air dry.
  • Iodophor: Mix a solution of 5 grams per liter (about half a teaspoon) in hot water then spray the equipment liberally and let it stand for at least 15 minutes before rinsing thoroughly with hot water. Rinse until the runoff is clear before drying if necessary. The sanitizer is excellent for a wide range of brewing equipment including carboys, kegs, fermentors, kettles, brewing systems, chillers, and heat exchangers.
  • Bleach solution: Mix 1 tablespoon of bleach with 2 cups of cold water then soak or spray equipment thoroughly and let sit for 10 minutes before rinsing thoroughly with hot water. Rinse until the runoff is clear before drying if necessary. You should use a weak bleach solution of 10% Bleach to 90% water.

These are the steps how to sterilize brewing equipment using the available sanitizing chemicals. The bleach solution is widely available but not recommended for brewing equipment and when used, proper cleansing should be done.

Step Four: Dry and Storage

It is also important to dry and store your homebrewing equipment. – Put all equipment you used for the brewing process in a clean, sanitized bucket or container.

This includes a fermenter, keg, carboy, hydrometer, mash tun, brew kettle, siphon hose, and thermometer.

  • Rinse with a weak solution of Star San (or other sanitizing agents) and water to remove all traces of soap and detergent.
  • Add a tablespoon of household ammonia to the container filled with water and soak for ten minutes.
  • Remove and rinse one last time before drying off completely with a clean towel or paper towel
  • Let them air dry thoroughly before storing them in an appropriate place which lets items air out as they dry out

Following the steps outlined in this guide, your equipment should be clean and sanitized. You will want to allow them to dry for 48 hours before putting them away. Make sure you are spreading out your equipment so it can dry evenly.

Why should you clean and sanitize your home brewing equipment?

Cleaning removes dirt while sanitizing protects our beer from mold, bacteria, and wild yeast that could be in the air, on dust, and covering every surface in your home. The risks of not cleaning and sanitizing your equipment include ruining your beer, building up bacteria and yeast, or having inconsistent results.

A good rule of thumb is to thoroughly clean and sanitize the homebrew equipment before every use.

  1. Clean off all of the old wort and yeast from your vessel.
  2. Fill it with warm soapy water, then rinse.
  3. Spray the inside and outside of your equipment with Star San or another sanitizer of your choice.
  4. Let your equipment air dry before use!

What You’ll need to Clean and Sanitize Your Homebrew Equipment

You need water and drying objects for your homebrew equipment in addition to the following:

  • Soft cloth or sponge and in some instances a toothbrush for cleaning 
  • Good cleaning agents like OxiClean, PBW, or Star-San.
  • Vinegar and Hydrogen Peroxide mixture at a ratio of 2:1 for removing surface lead and cleaning brass
  • Sanitizing chemicals, such as One Step No Rinse Cleanser or sodium metabisulphite
  • You can also use unscented household bleach (ratio 2ml of domestic bleach for every liter of water) as an alternative sanitizer such as Chlorine bleach for glass equipment but not for wooded or plastic brewing equipment

For cleaning, you should avoid abrasive pads or brushes as much as possible to reduce corrosion for the metallic objects or wear and tear of the plastic equipment.

Can I use dish soap?

Technically, yes, you can but ensure you rinse properly after cleaning with detergent. It is important to note that dish soap does not augur well with the brewing process since it can spoil the flavor if it is a scented soap or leave a residue that is harmful to your beer for both scented and non-scented soap. We, therefore, do not recommend using dish soap whether scented or non-scented on any equipment that will come into contact with your beer or equipment to make that beer.

  1. Use a mild, non-detergent dish soap like Seventh Generation, or use PBW and water to remove any residual oils and dirt on the equipment.
  2. Rinse all surfaces thoroughly with hot water to remove traces of soap.
  3. Fill your sink or bucket with a sanitizing solution (I prefer Star San) and soak for at least 10 minutes before rinsing again with hot water.
  4. If using bleach, fill your sink or bucket with a sanitizing solution (I prefer Star San) and soak for at least 10 minutes before rinsing again with hot water.”

Dish soap is a good tool for cleaning pots and pans but it can be harmful to your beer if you don’t rinse the equipment well afterward.

Dish soap will break down the grain of the stainless steel and leave a film that can prevent your equipment from absorbing water as efficiently.

Using a scented dish soap can lead to funky-tasting beer with higher levels of alcohol, which is never good. If you do decide to use dish soap, make sure to rinse your equipment thoroughly before using it on anything else or it will mess up the flavor.

What can I use to sanitize brewing equipment?

To sanitize your brewing equipment, you can use a sanitizer such as StarSan(Our recommended sanitizer), Iodophor, One Step No Rinse Cleanser, sodium metabisulphite, or a bleaching agent to sanitize your brewing equipment.

If you have alcohol, you can also use it to sanitize your equipment. You can comfortably use isopropyl and ethyl alcohol for most surfaces except tubings which may dissolve the plastics to some degree in alcohol.

We recommend using StarSan sanitizer for your homebrew equipment since it is effective, has low toxicity, and has a pleasant aroma. However, you can also go for Iodophor if that is your preference.

You can also use unscented household bleach (ratio 2ml of domestic bleach for every liter of water) as an alternative sanitizer such as Chlorine bleach for glass equipment but not for wooded or plastic brewing equipment since they can absorb the bleach.

Can I use bleach on homebrew equipment?

You can use chlorine bleach on your homebrew equipment but ensure you remove the chlorine completely since it spoils the taste of beer or bleaches your clothes. Sanitizing is one of the most important steps in brewing because it prevents contamination and guarantees consistent results every time.

You must sanitize everything that comes into contact with your beer, including all surfaces, flooring, and utensils. If any bacteria are left in the equipment, they will contaminate your beer and make it taste terrible. Sanitation is so important that brewers take completely different approaches to sanitation.

Some brewers like to give their equipment a good scrubbing with soap and water before sanitizing while others prefer boiling water or a quick spray before use. It’s up to you as long as you sanitize correctly.

No matter what type of home brewing you do, this is a good way to clean and sanitize your equipment. If you use bleach, don’t forget to remove the chlorine. It spoils the taste of beer or bleach your clothes to death.

Conclusion

Cleaning your homebrewing equipment is easy and can be done regularly. If you fail to adequately clean and sanitize your equipment, you have a good chance of ruining your beer—which has been known to make grown men and women cry.

If you can wash and scrub dishes, you’ll have no problems keeping your equipment clean. It simply involves soaking, rinsing, or spraying your equipment before it touches the beer.

Cleaning and sanitizing your brewing equipment is easy and can be done regularly. If you follow these steps, you’ll be able to get the same consistent results time after time.

Follow these steps for cleaning and sanitizing your equipment to get consistent results time after time:

  • Clean all surfaces with a clean cloth or paper towel
  • Rinse with water to remove any residual cleaning solution
  • Soak in a solution of hot water and brewers cleaning agent (1 tablespoon per gallon)
  • Rinse again with cold water
  • Sanitize by soaking in a solution of unscented household bleach (2 tablespoons per gallon) or a sanitizer
  • Dry and store

FAQs

Why is it important to clean and sanitize my equipment?

It is important to clean and sanitize your homebrew equipment to avoid the risks such as ruining your beer, building up bacteria and yeast, or having inconsistent results. A good rule of thumb is to thoroughly clean and sanitize your homebrew equipment before every use.

How do I know if my equipment is clean?

The best way to know that your equipment is clean is to look for any visible dirt or debris on the surface. If you can’t see anything, there’s a good chance that it’s clean. When in doubt, give it a quick rinse.

What’s the best way to sanitize my equipment?

There are a few methods for sanitizing your equipment. One of the most popular is to use StarSan(Our recommended sanitizer), Iodophor, One Step No Rinse Cleanser, or sodium metabisulphite to sanitize brewing equipment or when not available use a diluted bleach solution and soak it for a few minutes. If you have stainless steel equipment, you can also use a diluted bleach solution in one bucket and use Star San in another. Place your equipment in each bucket alternately and then rinse everything off with hot water before moving on to the next step. Kindly remember that chlorine spoils the taste of your beer.

How do I clean my kegs?

To clean your kegs, fill them with hot water and add a non-bacterial cleaner or dish soap before adding some fresh water. Dump out the dirty water, fill it up again with fresh water, and dump that out several times until the inside of the keg is completely clean. Finally, rinse out the inside of the keg with warm water before using it with beer.

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