We gave you the steps to sanitize the brewing equipment, but what can I use to sanitize brewing equipment at home or in a brewery (brewery sanitizers)?
This article will describe all you need to sanitize your brewing equipment. We will discuss all the agents (equipment sanitizers) and their merits and demerits. Moreover, we will offer alternative solutions to sanitize your brewing equipment in case you are stuck.
Using our experience as a craft brewer for over 10 years at Hopsters Brewing Company, we will guide you on what has worked for us over the years. We will also inform you of where we failed so that you do not repeat the same mistakes. Let’s dive in!
What can I use to sanitize brewing equipment?
To sanitize your brewing equipment, you can either use Star San, Saniclean, unscented household bleach, isopropyl alcohol, vinegar, Hydrogen Peroxide, Iodol solution, or Oxy Clean depending on what is available and the effectiveness required. The cheapest and readily available sanitizer is unscented household bleach which can be made by a ratio of 1 tablespoon of unscented household bleach to 1 gallon of water (4 ml per liter).
As we have experienced, sanitizing is a little simpler in practice than cleaning since the process of removing bacteria from surfaces does not require a lot of effort. Moreover, sanitizing can also help in removing dirt remaining after cleaning.
Every surface that will come into contact with your brew should be sanitized. That means even equipment for yeast culturing and propagation.
You can just coat the item in sanitizer and let it stay for a period depending on the sanitizer being used. Some of the brewing equipment that needs to be sanitized include:
- Bottle Caps
- Rubber stopper
- Yeast starter jar
The following are some of the commonly used sanitizers for your homebrew equipment:
|Contact time to sanitize
|Rinse or No-rinse
|10–60 minutes (20 mins)
|Vinegar and Hydrogen Peroxide
|70% Isopropyl Alcohol (Ethanol)
|Boiling Equipment in water
1. Unscented household bleach
Household bleach is one of the cheapest, effective, and most readily available sanitizing agents that you can use for your homebrewing equipment.
For the best results, you should use 1 cap full of bleach for every 1 gallon of water. This means 1 tablespoon of unscented household bleach added to one gallon of water (4 ml of bleach per liter of water).
The household bleach contains 5%–9% sodium hypochlorite. It is very effective in killing bacteria, fungi, and viruses. It disinfects any surface within 10–60 minutes of contact time.
The bleach solution should be used to wash surfaces. However, if the surfaces are rough, you should scrub them with a scrubbing brush which is stiff followed by rinsing with clean water.
The good thing about the bleaching solution is that you can use it on any other surface in your home. Moreover, you can use it to sanitize raw fruits that may be used in your brewing process. However, bleach can corrode metals and damage painted surfaces.
Sanitize Brewing Equipment with Bleach
Household bleach is an effective, readily available, and cheap brewing sanitizer substitute. It works within 10 to 60 minutes killing all harmful microorganisms that may infect your brew.
Bleach can be inactivated by organic materials or exposure to direct sunlight. Moreover, Sodium hypochlorite decomposes with time if stored for a long time this is in addition to any diluted bleach which should be discarded after 24 hours from the time of dilution.
We do recommend limited usage of chlorine for plastic. This is because plastics can absorb the chlorine giving your brew the chlorine taste and also killing some of the yeast.
Finally, Trisodium Phosphate (TSP) is not environmentally friendly. It functions well as a sanitizer but we do not recommend its usage in brewing equipment.
2. Vinegar and Hydrogen Peroxide
Hydrogen Peroxide is another readily available sanitizer. It works just like the No-Rinse Cleanser.
For Hydrogen Peroxide use as a sanitizer, you can use a solution of two parts white vinegar to one part hydrogen peroxide. The solution is excellent for tarnish removal and surface lead from brass parts soaked for 15 minutes at room temperature.
You should use Hydrogen Peroxide on surfaces and brewing equipment that are already clean. It is very effective in this case.
Some people use Sodium percarbonate which is sodium carbonate reacted with hydrogen peroxide to sanitize brewing equipment. The mixture is a very effective sanitizer for all types of brewing equipment.
Sanitizing Brewing Equipment with Vinegar
White Distilled Vinegar mixed with hydrogen peroxide is one of the common sanitizers used for brewing equipment. The brass equipment when sanitized with this solution will turn a buttery yellow color.
The price of white vinegar is the selling point for the sanitizer. You can get it at less than a dollar per gallon.
Some homebrewers use a mixture of vinegar and household bleach. The mixture is made by a ratio of one oz of distilled white vinegar to five gallons of water thoroughly mixed, and then one oz of household bleach. The bleach should only be added once the vinegar has dissolved in water to prevent the outgassing of the chlorine in the bleach.
3. Sanitizing Brewing Equipment with Alcohol
Alcohol is one of the best sanitizers for equipment that will come into contact with the wort. This can also include your hands as a homebrewer by gently spraying your hands with Isopropyl Alcohol.
To make it simple, we all know that alcohol kills most microorganisms including bacteria and yeast within five minutes of exposure. To ensure 99% sanitization, you should soak the equipment for 10 minutes in alcohol. This can be done by pouring your sanitizer into a bucket and soaking small items for 10 minutes including thermometers, lids, and others.
Isopropyl alcohol at a concentration of 70 percent is an effective sanitizer. This means you can use absolute ethanol and add a little water to make ethanol at a concentration of 70%.
The rule of thumb is to ensure that the alcohol has completely evaporated from the surface or brewing equipment before use. However, the exception is when you are using Everclear or other pure ethanol for sanitizing your equipment.
Iodophor is a no-rinse sanitizer that is specially formulated for use to sanitize medical industry and food service industry equipment. It is quite effective and gives you sanitization within two minutes of contact time.
The Iodophor is odorless, tasteless, low-foaming, and does not scourge your hands or skin. To sanitize homebrew equipment, you need to mix One tablespoon in 5 gallons of water (15ml in 19 l) or ½ oz of BTF Iodophor for 5 gallons of cold water. The equipment should be soaked in the solution for two minutes before being allowed to air dry. In other instances, you can spray the equipment in the iodophor solution.
¼ oz for 2 ½ gallons of cold water ratio produces a concentration of 12.5 ppm of titratable iodine. This solution of iodine with a polymer carrier gives you effective results every time as a detergent, germicide, and sanitizer.
If you want an already prepared sanitizing solution, you can go for IO Star which is a low-foaming Iodophor. It can be used to submerge (soak), spray, or apply on the homebrew equipment.
5. Boiling Equipment in water for 20–60 min
Boiling some equipment such as bottle caps, stainless steel kegs, and other utensils is an effective method to sterilize them. This is done by boiling these homebrewing equipment at 100°C (212 °F) for 20 to 60 minutes.
However, the brewing liquids such as wort for brewing, starters, and solutions of priming sugar are the most common things that are used in homebrewing that are sanitized using the boiling method.
Moreover, you can use boiling water to remove other sanitizing reagents such as residual bleach from your homebrew equipment.
The boiling may also be replaced by using autoclaving which is steam under pressure. This is because the temperature in the autoclave is greater than that of boiling water. It is excellent to sanitize wort agar and yeast growth cultures.
6. Star San or Saniclean
Star San is a self-foaming acid sanitizer that can be used in homebrew equipment. For the best results, you can use one oz Star San per five gallons of water. To sanitize, soak or spray the equipment and give them just two minutes of contact time. Moreover, you can apply the solution on the equipment by hand if you are wearing gloves.
If you don’t have Star San and you want to sanitize your equipment, you can opt for Saniclean. It is a non-foaming sanitizer, unlike Star San. Moreover, just like Star San you can soak the equipment for brewing or spray it on the equipment or surface.
The main difference from Star San is that it requires three minutes of contact time compared to Star San which requires two minutes. The brewing sanitizing powder or brewing sanitizer powder can be used instead of these two sanitizers.
7. No rinse sanitizer
One of the common types of sanitizers that some homebrewers are adopting is the no-rinse sanitizer that can be used for homebrew equipment. Oxygen-Based One Step No-Rinse Cleanser e.g FastRack No-Rinse is a common sanitizer for homebrewing equipment.
The no-rinse sanitizers are mostly effective in all stages of brewing and kegging.
You should note that Iodophor can also be used as a no-rinse sanitizer as well as Isopropyl alcohol. They sanitize surfaces quickly as well as being safe for food preparation surfaces.
8. OxiClean Free
OxiClean is majorly a cleaning agent for your homebrew equipment as well as in breweries. The agent is certified as food safe and very effective as a cleaning agent for homebrew surfaces but is not a no-rinse. Therefore, rinsing of the equipment must be thorough when handling beer equipment.
To use it for cleaning, you should mix a scoop of OxiClean powder is added to the keg which is then filled with hot tap water. The exact measurement is to mix one tablespoon of OxiClean with a gallon of water. You should let the equipment including kegs sit in the mixture for at least 24 hours before rinsing them with water.
One of the important things to note is that OxiClean even removes the beer labels. This ensures that your bottling does not have a brewery label.
PBW (Powdered Brewing Wash) is another agent that is used to clean homebrew equipment. The equipment needs to be soaked for at least 30 minutes but the recommendation is overnight soaking with PBW.
Alternative methods to sanitize brewing equipment
To sanitize homebrewing equipment, you may also apply the following alternative methods depending on the availability of materials and equipment discussed below:
- You can sanitize your brewing equipment and more so liquids using the microwave oven. This is a cheap and effective way to sanitize the equipment and solution.
- Using ultraviolet (UV) light
- Using dry heat
- Fractional sterilization or tyndallization
What is the Best Sanitizer for Home Brewing?
There are several sanitizers that we can recommend to sanitize beer bottles and other brewing equipment. However, Star San is one of the great sanitizers that is easy to use, cost-effective, and won’t irritate your skin. It is a no-rinse sanitizer that satisfied your homebrewing sanitation requirements.
Other than Star San, we can recommend Iodophor for your homebrewing. It comes out top in this process and leaves the equipment sanitary within two minutes of contact time.
Other people recommend chlorine for homebrew equipment. It is cheap, readily available, and effective. The challenge is you have to rinse the equipment thoroughly after use and also is not recommended for metals and plastics.
We have gone through what you can use to sanitize brewing equipment at home or in a brewery. All these reagents (chemicals) or physical sanitation methods are quite effective even though some methods are harder to implement or may be costly.
As discussed, Star San takes the crown as the sanitizer of choice for homebrewers for the reasons discussed above.
Star San is an acid-based, high-foaming, no-rinse sanitizer that is cost-effective and easy to use for all your sanitization needs as a homebrewer.