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Do I really have to sanitise all my beer brewing equipment?

sanitization of beer brewing equipment

Yes you do bloody have to clean, sanitize and sterilize your beer brewing equipment, right down to the bottle caps and stirring spoon.

There are plenty of tricks and cheats you can do to product quality tasting beer but the one thing you can't escape from is the proper cleaning, sanitizing and sterilization of your beer gear.

There's a difference between sanitizing and sterilizing

Sanitizing is a technical term that means a certain allowable amount of microbes to survive on the surface of your equipment.

Sterilizing is like sanitizing, but it removes all the microorganisms (the bugs and germs that will ruin your beer).

 Do I have to sanitize my brewing equipment every time I make beer?Think of washing your hands with hot water and soap as sanitization as it kills a few bugs but not all and is an acceptable means of cleaning your hands.

If you want to kill all the bugs on your hand so the skin is sterile with no bugs on it anywhere, then I suggest you boil your hands in water...

For the most part, the typical home brewers doesn't need to sterilize, only sanitize. The chemicals commonly used for homebrew brewing are made to sanitize.

Now we've got those definitions clear, there are several methods that you can try to 'sterilize' your gear. We'll note a couple in detail:

You can drown everything in bleach

A cheap and cost effective way to get your gear free of bugs is to drown your gear in bleach.

But what is bleach?

Bleach is usually a solution of  chemicals such as sodium hypochlorite or hydrogen peroxide and they act as an oxidizing agent. They are great for all kinds of things such as removing bad smells, making your whites whiter and your brights brighter and for home brewing.

A popular American brand of bleach is Chlorox but there are hundreds of brands of bleach you could use.

As with all these sterilizing methods, you simply soak your equipment in the solution for a good length of time. A quick dip of ten minutes is the bare minimum.

We try and do several hours of soaking if possible.

The trick with bleach is to remember that you need to rinse everything off with clean water after. This is done to ensure that no yucky flavours left over from the bleach make it into your batch of beer. 

Use sodium percarbonate as a sanitizing agent

Using sodium percarbonate is our preferred method as it works well, no rinse is required and it's very easy to order in bulk online.

If you've ever tried to buy sodium percarbonate from a specialist beer brewery shop, you'll know that you can get a small bottle or container of it that will cost you a small fortune.

If you can buy it in bulk from an online supplier, you'll do well to nab some as using it will effectively bring down your cost per brew. 

To use sodium percarbonate you simply add it to water. I like to add hot or ever boiling water to the drum so as to get the action of the chemical happening pretty quickly. The boiling water also helps kill off any nasty bugs hiding about as well. 
using sodium percarbonate to steralise beer equipment
A home brand with sodium percabonate.

Here's another trick, this chemical is basically what you might know as Tide or Napisan or any product that's brand name tries to use the word 'oxy' as in oxygen cleaning or oxidization agent.

Chances are you already have some in your home laundry so feel free to use that. I have done so several times with no problems whatsoever.

Non scented house brands are awesome.

Other methods to sanitisation and sterilization
  • Applying heat - use your oven for a good dry heat.
  • Boiling in water
  • Use an autoclave or pressure cooker (this seems like a bit of over kill though)
  • An ordinary house dishwasher machine can be used for sanitation
They key goal here is to make sure that your equipment is nice and clean and that it has as few microbes on it is possible. You can use whatever means you like to achieve this but you have to do it and you must be consistent.

You cannot take a break from it. If you want good tasting beer that's not contaminated then you just have to take the plunge. 

Image credit Anna L Martin as per Creative Commons License

1 comment:

  1. Great post, its food to know the difference of this two words: sanitizing and sterilizing.Thanks for sharing! Cleaning Equipment Pampanga

    ReplyDelete