Sanitation is an issue for many brewers, but knowing which sanitizers to use, how to sanitize your system is one of the most important steps in home brewing. Knowing the ins and outs of sanitation will mean never having to worry about whether you’re doing it right again.
Paying attention your sanitation will allow you take all the worry out of cleaning. Right before you brew, set up a cleaning station with an extra bucket. Put some Acid based cleaner in it and water. Dilute it to the right level with a potency using the instructions on the bottle. I prefer Star San as my acid based sterilizer because it will sterilize equipment in just 60 seconds, so a short dunk will do the job. Before using anything that will touch the beer, simply dunk it in the sanitized bucket. This will ensure complete sanitation. After you brew, make sure you clean everything, so no beer residue is left.
Do not sanitize with bleach unless it is your only option. There are better sanitation products to use for beer because bleach can leave a chlorine residue and create off-flavors, like a swimming pool flavor, in your beer. The two products I use to sanitize are an acid based sanitizer such as, Star San or Sani-clean, and sometimes an iodine based cleaner, Iodophor. The acid cleaners are easier to use but they create a little foam. If using Star San a little foam wont hurt . I like the motto “Don’t fear the foam” because Star San is guaranteed not to cause off flavors in a beer ( I’m still weary though). The iodine cleaners can stain white plastic. Personally I use an acid cleaner for everything because it is easy, quick and doesn’t stain.
Another good sanitation tip is to keep a spray bottle of Star San around. If your not sure if something is sanitized spray it. You can also use it on your hands before you touch ingredients or anything else that might touch your beer.
I like to clean carboys and buckets with an acid sanitizer right before brewing so they are freshly sanitized. Its good to clean right before you brew so you are sure they are sanitized. Once a bucket has dried or sat for very long it leaves it open for dust particles or other contaminates that may contain bacteria. If your buckets are still wet you know for sure they are sanitized.
Cleaning bottles can be done easily with iodine cleaner or acid cleaner. Keep a bucket full of water with a little acid cleaner added, in an out-of-the-way place, such as your garage to toss your used bottles. Or rinse them out and put a few inches of sanitized solution in the bottom and store them on a shelf. When you’re ready to clean your bottles, set up a rinse bucket or use a sink, and scrub the bottles out with a bottle brush to make sure there’s no residue lurking around the bottom of your bottles.
I recommend cleaning your bottles pretty near when you brew to allow the least chance of contamination. Next, use more sanitized solution to sterilize the bottles. You will need to soak the bottles in the iodine cleaner for twenty minutes to completely sterilize them and a only 60 seconds or so for the acid cleaner. You should dry them upside down to get any extra sanitizer out. Remember a little Star San foam isn’t bad but try to get most of it out.
If you follow a sanitation regiment, you will never need to worry about sanitation again. It is relieving knowing that I am sanitizing properly, and I don’t even have to think about it. It makes brewing quick and easy, and if I do get off-flavors in my beer, I know that it wasn’t a problem with my sanitation.