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How to use Sodium Percarbonate to clean and sanitize beer brewing equipment



Using Sodium Percarbonate to clean and sanitise your beer brewing equipment


The first mantra of beer brewing goes something like this:

make sure your equipment is clean and sanitized!

There are many ways of going about this and today we are going discuss our preferred method which is by using sodium percarbonate.

Usually provided in powered form, it is very soluble in water which makes it very handy for quick preparation and an easy soak of your equipment and fermenter.

This 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.


How to use sodium percarbonate?



To use sodium percarbonate you simply add it to water.

Be generous with it.

I like to add hot or even boiling water to the fermenter drum so as to get the action of the chemical happening pretty quickly.


sodium percarbonate to clean brewing gearThe boiling water also helps kill off any nasties hiding about as well.

I close the drum so the vapour gets up the sides and then when things have cooled, I give it a pretty good shake.

Or fill the drum all the way to the top and leave to soak.

Don't confuse 'cleaning with chemicals' as 'cleaning your beer gear'


Don't confuse 'cleaning' with sodium percarbonate as cleaning your bottles and equipment or the fermenter. For me, that is a very different process.

Your equipment needs to have as much gunk and much removed as you possibly can before you use the cleaner.

Get struck in with a soft brush and some really hot water and make sure your fermenter is really damn well cleaned and clear of any residue from your last brew.

That line of scum that forms at the top of the water line?

You don't want to see it before you use the sodium percarbonate.

In my view, it's job is the final part of the cleaning process.

Once you are ready, give your beer making gear a really long soak.

I've seen people say a quick dip of ten minutes is all you need but I say at least half an hour and frankly If I remember before brew day, I soak the fermenter in the percarbonate solution over night.

My thinking is the longer you leave it, the more bugs that will be killed, in addition to the good oxidisation cleanse that will happen.

But an oxidisation clean is not sterilization right?


Fair question.

So if percarbonate is just a cleanser, do I need to sterilize as well?

You may wish to consider using a sterilizing agent like Star San but in my experience, if you have cleaned your equipment and then soaked it very well, you shouldn't really need to use a sterilizer. This is because the sanitiser should have killed most of the bugs, especially as there's argument that the percarbonate does all you need to provide excellent brewing conditions.

The choice is yours.

If you can get cheap steriliser and have the time, go for it.

You might already have sodium percarbonate in your laundry as a laundry soaker!


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

That's right, most of the fancy laundry soaking products have sodium percarbonate as a key ingredient!

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.

If you do use a scented brand, your fermenter might smell like some lovely lavender field so be wary of that and rinse with copious amounts of water if need be.


If in doubt about home cleaners, ask for the mandated information safety data sheet


If you are really worried about what's actually in your laundry soaker, you can ask your supplier for the information.

It's law in many countries that such documentation is available.

In New Zealand for instance, all such products must be registered by law and a safety data sheet be provided on demand which contains the ingredients used in the product.

You can then use that knowledge to decide if you wish to use it.

The Caustic Soda option


As an aside, if you've got say a really stubborn fermentation scum ring that just wont seem to wash off, you could consider using caustic soda.

Beer in mind that it is an extremely strong cleaning agent and it needs to be used with necessary precautions such as gloves and eye protection.

Do not get caustic soda in your eye, that agent will literally give you a chemical burn.

Believe me, when I was a young lad I worked in a chicken restaurant and while preparing a solution of caustic soda to clean gear, I drop got in my eye.

It burnnned so bad.

A hospital visit and eye patch for a week followed.

So clearly, you will need to do an excellent rinse after. Just be bloody careful.

Most beers shops or hardware stores stock the soda - it's commonly known as sodium hydroxide.

So is it safe to use every day laundry cleaner products with my beer?


If the thought of using what gets your 'whites whiter', Oxyclean or whatever Oxy style product you've found in your laundry freaks you out, take a step back and have a Kit-Kat.

These products are designed for washing clothes and yes, the percentage of sodium percarbonate is far less than buying percarbonate by itself in bulk.

So why do it? 

Because it's cheap and it works.

It really does.

If you are concerned that your 'off the supermarket shelf product' will leave strange smells or residues, you can do two things.

You can chose to not use it and get a 100% percent sodium percarbonate product (New Zealand brewers should check out Trade Me), or you could just rinse after the soak.

Flush your equipment and fermenter out with a lot of cold water. A trick I then do is boil the kettle and finish off the rinse with boiling water.

I'm not sure if it's a mental thing but I consider this to be the final thing that kills any lingering bugs.

I have used home brand sodium percabonate laundry soaker products myself many times and have never had a problem.

Not once.


You could also consider using this next magical chemical: Star San


If you've ever read any internet forum about beer making and noticed that any time a keen beer brewer talks about cleaning or sterilising, along comes a dude claiming that Star San is the best product he's ever used!?

But what is it really and is it effective?

Star San is a bactericide and fungicide. It can be used without rinsing under the proper concentrations. Star Sans' main ingredients are a blend of phosphoric acid and dodecylbenzenesulfonic acid.

That's a long way from Kansas, Dorothy!

Many beer brewers swear by this product for their kill bug killing needs, so if all the other chat about percarbonate has put you off, you might want to consider this product.

If you can't find any Star San at your local beer shop or supermarket, it may be purchased online at Amazon.

What about the satchets that came with my home brew kit. Should I just buy more of those?


Your standard home brewing kits will come with a satchet of cleaner, and it's probably advertised as no rinsing required, the so called 'no rinse'. It is quite simply likely to be a sachet of sodium percarbonate.

Don't get sucked into buying a sachet at $1.50 a pop.

If you are going to continue to brew in the long term, like many of your ingredients, you'll want to consider buying in bulk.

One final tip for expert beer makers - Don't confuse sodium bicarbonate for percarboante - you're not making a cake!

So there you have it, a brief summary of how to use sodium percarbonate and the ways to buy it online and also to find it in your home laundry.

If you're in the States, consider buying some sodium percarbonate from Amazon. 

5 mistakes EVERY beer maker should watch out for


5 mistakes EVERY beer maker should watch out for


Beer brewing can be a thankless task at times and no one will thank you if you serve them a horrible tasting home brew when you host your mates for a 'BBQ and Brews' evening.

Here's 5 mistakes that home brewers should bear in mind before they even begin to open the can of malt extract from their kit.

If you follow them well, you'll be sure to produce some delicious tasting brews.

1. Wash, wash away your sins.


We actually mean sterilize. Sterilize the heck out of everything you use. If you're starting out as a home brewer, your kit should contain a cleansing and sterilizing agent.

You NEED to make sure that at the very least your drum is fully clean and sterilized before your start your brewery process.

There is nothing more disappointing that going to bottle your brew and recognizing the scent of a bad brew that has been contaminated by nasty bugs.

2. Temperature 


It would be a mistake to think that home brewing is basically a 'set and forget' process.

It's not.

Well, it can be and a key part of that is making sure that where ever you leave your beer to ferment that it's a place that has the desired temperature and that it is a constant temperature.

Don't leave your beer outside on the back porch to do it's thing! Leave it wrapped in blankets in your garden shed if you have to, but make sure it's in a generally constantly heated place.

My work colleague leaves her beer brewing in the bath tub!

3. Those bubbles...


Just because the bubbles have stopped bubbling through the airlock, it doesn't mean the fermentation process is complete.

It would be a real shame for your bottled beer to start exploding if you haven't given the beer a chance to finish the process.

Use a hydrometer to ensure the fermentation is finished before you at least consider getting that beer into glass bottles. Hint, wait some more time as well.


3. Running before you can walk



Get the basics of beer brewing down first.

Before you run off and try and make the most fanciest beer you can that features some imported yeast from England and three different kinds of hops, learn the principles of beer making.

You will enjoy your first few brewing experiences if you keep them simple. Then you can start to branch out into more complicated recipes and practices.


4. Not keeping records



If you write down what you did, what you used, when you did it and why you'll have a good basis on which to make judgement about your beer brewing failures and successes.

If you find that you've pulled off a stunner of a beer, you might be able to figure out just exactly how that happened.

It could be the difference between remembering that you used a certain kind of hops in your brew!

5.  You drink your beer too early


Patience my young Padawan.

It is a mistake for sure to drink your beer too early.

Post bottling, your beer needs time to carbonate. It also needs time to chill and do its thing. The fermentation process is in a sense a simple chemical reaction but there is a complex relationship going on with the beer's ingredients that need time to sort themselves out.

The patient beer drinker who leaves his beer at least three weeks before indulging will be a better beer maker for it. If you can make it to 5 or 6 weeks before you taste, the better your beer should taste.

Image credit Bruno Girin as per Creative Commons Licence

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

Why does my beer smell like rotten eggs?

Why does my beer smell like rotten eggs?


Who likes the smell of rotten eggs in their beer?

No one.


There was a time last year when I went to bottle my beer. I'd just sterilized the bottles within an inch of their lives and I was ready to get the precious amber fluid into them.

And with that first pour into the green glass bottle I got the most rank smell.

It was like I had cracked open a rotten egg and fanned it up my nose! It was disgusting.

My brew was contaminated and I was gutted

There could have been a couple of reasons why the rotten egg smell was happening. That rotten egg smell can usually be identified as the gas hydrogen sulfide.

It is the bi-product of the yeast strain or bacteria that have snuck into your brew (did we ever mention you've got to sanitize your equipment?).

All is not necessarily lost however.

If you are brewing a lager is possible that the taste of the sulphur will reduce or disappear during the lagering process. So basically all you have to do to fix this is let the beer stand for a few more weeks.

The news is not so good if you have a bacterial infection 

When is such news ever good?

In my case I think it was clear that the beer was infected. The smell was pungent and a wee taste test suggested worse things were on offer.

But I was a stubborn bugger and bottled anyway on the off chance a bit of time would let everything sort itself out.

How wrong was I.

The beer I tasted after two weeks was probably the worst thing I have ever put in my mouth and I once lost a drinking game involving a kitchen cloth.... I reckon this bad beer would have made me sick if I had of drank say a glass.

The rest of the brews were opened and tipped out. What was very interesting was there was a massive amount of CO2 / bubbles foam released when each cap was removed. They were giant gushers.  I imagine this was due to the bacteria continuing to work it's own magic on the malt.

Either way, the lesson here as always is to do your absolute best to ensure that you have clean equipment and that you've done your best to sanitize it, and kept it clean during the beer brewing process.

Skunked beer


While we're here talking about ruined beer, let's talk about skunked beer. This is when a chemical reaction happens in the bottled beer due to exposure to sunlight.

So named after the smell a skunk can release, lightstruck beer is caused by the UV radiation in light from the sun and retailer's lights. The so-alpha acids in the beer (which come from hops) are broken down and form a new compound in the beer by joining with any proteins floating around. This compound stinks!

Brown glass is pretty handy at preventing this from occurring but not so much green bottles or clear glass. So, the trick to avoiding skunked beer is clearly to store your beer in the dark.

In summary:
  • If you are brewing a lager, the smell could be 'normal' and may disappear after the beer has been conditioned
  • It could well be your beer is contaminated by bacteria, in which case nothing will save it. Head to the pub for a self pitying pint.
  • Lightstruck or skunked beer can happen when bottled beer is left in sunlight too long.

Coopers Lager beer kit review - any good?

Coopers extract lager review
If you were forced on threat of being made to drink warm parsnip wine* to name one beer brewing kit brand, I think that Coopers would probably be the first one to come to many brewers minds. 

Even non-brewers will probably heard of it as ‘their dad made a few brews with it back in the day'.

While I’ve been giving the Williams Warns and Black Rock kits a go of late, a chance find of a Coopers Lager while doing the supermarket shopping has lead us to brewing one of their lagers.

Coopers is a large Australian owned brewery known for great sparkling ales and their original pale ale. They are also almost synonymous with home brewing and their brew kits are very popular.

So this extract kit we are brewing comes with a good reputation for quality and I'm are going to assume a great taste!

So is there anything special I need to know about brewing a lager from a kit?


There’s a general rule of home brewing that’s often stated as an absolute so take this with a great of grain of salt when I say that it’s easy to make an ale than a larger. Or perhaps more accurately is easier to hide anything brewing mistakes with an ale than a larger. This is largely due to the strength of the beers’ flavours.

The first thing to consider is that the word lager is derived from a German word, lagern. It means ‘to store’. This should be a strong clue on how to make a good lager – they were originally stored for a long period in cold caves – and thus the lagering process was born. 

Patience is an absolutely needed virtue here. 

Due to larger yeasts operating best at lower temperatures, they actually ferment the beer at a lower rate than compared to ales which often ferment at higher temperatures.

This can mean that to get a lager brewed from a kit to be at its best for drinking, you may need to let ‘lager’ for more weeks than you normally let an ale sit. So hide it in a dark corner of the garden shed.

And maybe brewing it during winter.

While I will be using the yeast that comes with the Cooper’s kit, when making a lager one could always use a yeast that is a true lager yeast. If you're feeling adventurous, you might want to order the Lager Yeast WL833 - it's a popular yeast for lager brewing.

There’s plenty of more things to think about brewing lagers but I need to move on.

So to the actual preparation of the Coopers Lager kit


To get the true taste and worth of this extract kit, I'm are not adding any flavours and we used dextrose only. No beer enhancer and no additional hops.

This might be somewhat of a mistake but for once I felt the need to try the kit on its own merits where the true flavours and characteristics of the beer come out to play.

This is a standard brew. I'm are not doing anything special and I'm are basically following the instructions on the can. 

As usual, I sanitised the heck out of our fermenter drum to make sure that no sneaky microbes were lurking. First up we added one KG of dextrose to one litre of freshly boiled water and made sure it was mixed well – easily enough to do when the water is that hot!

I then added the contents of the kit. Before I actually poured the malty goodness into the fermenter as well, I boiled the kettle. I then added the kits’s content. I then added the boiled water into the can nearly all the way to the top. This way the extract would melt and I would be able to get all of it out from the can. 

Be careful though, the can will get very hot so I transferred it with a tea towel.

I then add 23 or so litres of water from the garden hose. This cools the wort to the point where the yeast has an environment to do its thing. If I added the yeast to the wort without the cool water, it would probably die.

Speaking of yeast I should mention that before I did anything during this brew, I added it to a glass of warm water to activate it. The theory is that doing so gives the yeast more of a chance to compete with the wort itself. If that makes any sense.

Then I put the lit on the fermenter and placed it in the man cave covered in several sheets. And then I waited. I waited for 10 days and then I bottled. And then I waited three weeks. Which felt like an eternity but I had some bohemian pilsners to keep my throat wet so it wasn’t such a hardship….

So what’s the verdict on my Cooper’s lager?



I made a decent homebrew beer! 

This was a no nonsense brew. No hops, no beer enhancer. To my mind this meant I got to get to try the true characteristics of the beer. Featuring a nice clear gold colour, it tasted like a standard beer. 

It had an OK head but fairly little body but no worse than some other beers I have made without enhancer (Coopers do their own enhancer if you're in the market for some). While this was not an amazing brew, I have produced a genuinely good drinking beer. 

This will be best served quite chilled and to that end, would be quite nice to drink at the end of a long hot day. 

I figure if you were going to add hops you would not going wrong with a combination of both Moteuka and Saaz hops.


* Having actually tasted parsnip wine, I can confirm it to be one of the most horrid liquids in existence.