Sanitation is an important first step for homebrewing. It is the best way to ensure that you brew a delicious tasting beer.
Sterilization kills off all the free range yeasts, fungus and bacteria, making sure that your beer is only fermenting with the yeasts that you want to use, otherwise you might end up with a bad-tasting sour beer.
– Of course sour beer can be delicious, but only if you know what culture you are using.-
Basic Brewing Guidelines:
- Pull your hair back.
- Wash your hands and sing three verses of “99 bottles of beer on the wall” under the running water before touching any of the brewing equipment.
- Wipe down your counters with a sanitation solution.
- Sanitize all of your equipment.
- Never, EVER towel dry your equipment.
Don’t sanitize in your dishwasher or by heating everything in the oven. It’s risky, and what’s the point of spending a day brewing just to make skunky beer? If you’re taking the time and money to make homebrew, you might as well make good tasting beer.
Boiling only works for glass, and since most airlocks and tubing are plastic, boiling is not a good option for homebrewers.
Using a commercial sanitizer is really the only way to sanitize your bottles and brewing equipment. You can usually find a few options at your DIY beer and wine stores. I usually fill up one of my sinks up with chlorine sanitizer, and keep all my equipment stored there while I’m brewing. Just follow the instructions on the package for mixing and rinsing.
Some common sanitizers are:
- Pink chlorine sanitizer powder: Equipment cleaned in chlorine based sanitizers need to be to rinsed well prior to use. Chlorine will kill the beer yeasts and it doesn’t taste good. Officially, it’s risky to use tap water for rinsing… but I have never had an issue with contamination from my tap. If you use well water you probably want to buy water for rinsing.
- Star San: This is a food grade phosphoric acid that is odorless and flavourless. When diluted for sanitizing, it doesn’t need to be rinsed off. However, you should wear gloves because the acid (pH of 3 or lower) is harsh on skin. Also, don’t leave your metal and plastic implements soaking in Star San, because the acid will affect them.
- One Step: One Step is an oxygen based cleaner that doesn’t require rinsing. It is not technically a sanitizer, however, many homebrewers find that it is good enough for sanitizing their equipment and bottles. Just don’t use it on beer bottle caps, because it might react with the different coatings. Boil your caps instead, it helps to soften their seals anyway.