Cleaning & Sanitizing Questions
- Can I use plain soap or detergent to clean my brewing gear? Once in a while is OK but most soaps leave behind a residue that will build up over time and affect the flavor of your beer. It’s best to regularly clean with an alkaline agent like PBW, One Step or Oxi-clean.
- How should I sanitize my brewing gear? The best and easiest way is with food-safe, no-rinse sanitizer like StarSan or Iodophor. You just mix them with water and splash it on your equipment. It sanitizes on contact and you’re ready to go. You can use high heat to sanitize, such as pouring boiling water in your fermenter, or sticking bottles in your oven but it takes longer and you also need to let everything cool down before using it.
- Is bleach OK for sanitizing? If you don’t mind beer that tastes like bleach, go for it. Lots of old homebrew books will tell you to just use bleach because back in the dark ages (the late 20th century) food grade sanitizers were hard to find. Sure bleach is cheap and you already have some in your laundry room but after you waste 3 weeks of your life, and $50 worth of ingredients making a batch of Clorox Ale, you’ll wish you had spent ten bucks and five minutes on the internet ordering a bottle of StarSan.
- Do I need to rinse after I sanitize? Not if you’re using a good, food-safe sanitizer. StarSan creates foam and your brain will tell you it is “soapy” and you need to rinse, but you don’t. If fact, rinsing can un-do the work you just did because the rinse water probably contains microbes that can harm the flavor of your beer. If the instructions for your sanitizer tell you to rinse, then bleach is probably the active ingredient and I recommend you get rid of it. (See: “Is bleach OK for sanitizing?”)
- Can I use my cleaner or sanitizer for other things besides brewing? Totally. Alkaline cleaners have lots of uses. (Just don’t use them on aluminum.) PBW is amazing for removing stains and sticky residues. It makes the labels fall right off my beer bottles and it gets those black stains out of my coffee pot. Sanitizers can be used anytime you want to kill germs. If you’re also into canning or pickling you can skip that first step of boiling the jars and lids. Just dunk them in your sanitizer and you’re ready to add the produce.
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