One of the most basic, but
most important steps to successful home brewing
is proper cleaning and sanitizing. Done properly,
this is really a two step process:
The best reason to practice good
cleaning habits is that it is YOUR beer, and you will
be drinking it. Without proper cleaning, surface build
up can occur, which provides a place for bacteria and
other unwanted organisms to take up residence.
Every surface that touches your
beer during the brewing process should be clean and
free from oil or soap residues. Most brewers use their
brewing equipment only for brewing, to prevent odors
and oils from the kitchen from affecting the quality
of your beer. The cleanser used is also important.
Common dish soap is effective (as long as it is unscented),
but it does have some disadvantages: it is a foaming
cleaner and requires thorough rinsing to remove all
of the soap residue. Many home brew supply sources
carry cleansers especially made for brewing, and many
of these are free from phosphates, chlorine, or other
toxic chemicals and so are low environmental impact.
Two of the best are 5-Star PBW (Powdered Brewery Wash),
and Straight-A cleaner.
One last word about oil and soap
residue: Both can affect the quality and appearance
of your beer because they interfere with head retention,
causing the beer foam to dissapate rapidly. For this
reason, your serving glasses should also be well rinsed
to ensure the best possible presentation of your hand-crafted
cleaning, all equipment that comes into contact with
your beer after it has
been boiled must also be sanitized. This is usually
done by soaking the equipment in a sanitizing solution
for about 10 minutes. One of the best all around sanitizers
available to home brewers is Iodophor, an iodine based
sanitizer. Iodophor is non-toxic when mixed to the
recommended dilution, yet is a very effective sanitizer.
Iodophor is toxic if undiluted, and should never be
used full strength. The recommended dilution for home
brewing purposes is 1/10th of a fluid oz. per gallon
of water, or about 1 Tablespoon per 5 gallons. The
solution should be a light amber color. It does not
need to be rinsed if equipment is allowed to drip dry
after sanitizing. Note that it is not necessary to
sanitize equipment that contacts your beer before and
during the boil, as the process of boiling will sterilize
both the beer and the boiling pot. Equipment that does
not need to be sanitized includes grain straining equipment
(bags, strainers, or other vessels), thermometers used
before the boil, the brew pot & spoon, etc.
The reason for sanitizing all
other equipment is to reduce the population of bacteria
present in your brewing system to a very low amount.
This allows the yeast to dominate your fermentation.
Once yeast is present in large numbers, it in itself
is a strong deterrent to other organisms, even other
strains of yeast and wild yeast. It is not necessary
to sterilize the equipment; sterilizing is the
complete removal of all living organizms, at requires
an autoclave (a type of oven used in laboratories)
or boiling for more than 20 minutes.