Working on brewing beer at home is not only about the enjoyment of the finished product. It is also about properly sanitizing equipment before and after creating the beer. Sanitation is one of the most important steps in home brewing because of the fermentation process involved in making beer.
Reason for Sanitation:
Sanitizing before, during and after brewing the beer is about killing off the microorganisms that might find their way into the bottles or other equipment. The only microorganism that a beer brewer wants in the mixture is the selected brewer’s yeast. Any other organism, like bacteria in the bottle, will result in changes to the flavor and sometimes even a spoiled batch of beer.
The sanitation process will kill of any bacteria, viruses and fungal organisms that might end up on or in equipment. By killing the organisms, it is possible to ensure that the yeast is the only living ingredient. The results become more consistent and off-flavoring is avoided.
No Rinse Sanitizers:
In most cases, home brewers use no rinse sanitizers and cleaning agents because it is not likely to change the flavor of beer or cause any complications in the future. Most beer brewing starter kits will have a no rinse sanitizing agent or a strong cleaner, but it is important to identify the difference to avoid accidentally overlooking the sanitizing process.
Common no rinsing sanitizers are Idophor and Star-San. Both options are good for sanitizing beer brewing equipment, but it is important to note that using too much of the iodine based product, Idophor, can result in a noticeable smell. The Idophor will also leave some staining over time if the equipment is plastic.
Star-San is an effective sanitizer, but the foaming action can make some home brewers a little uncomfortable with the no rinse solution. It will effectively kill organisms, but it is harsh on the hands and wearing gloves is suggested for individuals who have sensitive skin.
The no rinse solutions are made specifically for sanitizing and preventing the possibility of leaving behind residue that ruins the beer. It is a simple solution for sanitation purposes.
Bleach is one of the most well-known sanitizers available for household cleaning because it works. Bleach is known for killing mold spores and other microorganisms throughout the home and it is an appropriate solution to home brewing.
The problem with bleach is that it must be thoroughly rinsed with pure water to remove the residue from the equipment and ensure that the bleach does not get into the beer when the equipment is used.
For sanitizing purposes, bleach is mixed with cold water and allowed to soak on the equipment. The cold water helps keep the bleach active and dilutes the material for the optimal sanitation.
Rinsing is always done with hot water because the higher temperature will deactivate the bleach. Ideally, boiling water during rinsing will ensure that new microbes are not added to the equipment.
The downside of bleach is that rinsing is necessary. If it is not thoroughly rinsed, then the flavor of the beer will take on a distinct flavor and smell.
Making a Decision:
Choosing a sanitizer is about determining the preferred method and budget. Bleach is the least expensive solution, but it also takes more time and effort. No rinse options are reasonably priced and do not require rinsing, but some can lead to staining or an unpleasant odor if it is not properly diluted.
The best choice is the one that feels most comfortable on a personal level. Each individual will need to determine the best sanitizer for a budget and preferred cleaning methods.
Sanitizing beer brewing equipment is a necessary step of making good beer. When the equipment is not properly sanitized, the risk of interference that makes the beer go bad before drinking is very high. Sanitation eliminates the bacteria so that the beer tastes as good as possible.