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Sanitizing Your Home Brewing Kit, Supplies, and Equipment

July 25, 2014 by Rick Morris:

One of the first steps in brewing beer at home (or anywhere) is to clean and sanitize your brewing kit and/or equipment.  The old saying "cleanliness is next to godliness" is the chant of all brewers, big and small.  You must have the cleanest, most sanitized environment in which to brew beer.  No questions.

Arguably, every home brewer knows the importance of sanitation.  Most even know the difference between cleaning and sanitizing.  What's crucial to understand is anything that will touch your home brew wort must be sanitized.

When we first started brewing beer, we read a lot of information on the home brewing process.  And, no matter how much we read or how many You Tube videos we watched, it seemed that the primary focus was always about sanitation.

We initially started "sanitizing" our home brewing equipment with One-Step, a white powdery substance we added to warm water.  For the most part, our homebrew turned out good.  Well, honestly looking back on it, we probably didn't realize the minor off-flavors we were tasting.  After about 10 batches, we began to notice that something wasn't quite right with some of our beers.

Use Iodophor to sanitize your home brew equipment.After discussing the issues we were having with our guys over at the Asheville Brewing Supplies store, we learned we really weren't sanitizing our home brew equipment; rather we were simply cleaning it. 

The solution (no pun intended)?  Iodophor

Iodophor is a no-rinse water-soluble agent containing iodine.  A couple capfuls per 5 or 6 gallons of water, followed by a 2-minute wait, and our equipment is completely sanitized.  We use it for everything from the fermentation carboys and buckets to the bottles and kegs we ultimately fill with refreshing homebrewed beer.  Mind the plastic buckets, however.  Anything more than about 5 minutes and your bucket will turn yellow in color.  Not a big problem.  Just something to look at and complain about.

The real beauty behind Iodophor is the fact that, when mixed properly, you don't need to rinse (and you clearly wouldn't want to rinse) after a bath in this sanitizer.  It naturally converts to gas, leaving no residues.

We typically fill our carboy with luke warm water and two capfuls of Iodophor.  After about 3 or four minutes, we siphon this into a clean sink, which sanitizes both the siphon (which will be used later in the home brewing process), and the sink.  Everything else goes in the sink with the solution, including the brew spoon, air-lock, rubber stopper, funnel, hydrometer, thermometer, wort chiller, etc. 

Your bottles should be dipped for at least two minutes and allowed to air-dry for about 5 minutes before filling.  If you don't have a bottle tree, get one.  For now, you can place your bottles on the dish washer racks or even stand them on the counter after the Iodophor bath.  Don't forget to give your bottle caps a dip as well!

Be careful when using Iodophor!  This stuff can cause damage to eyes.

Another sanitizer home brewers use is Star San.  Does pretty much what Iodophor does, but with more suds/film.  We like Iodophor, however, because it costs less.

Some people let their dish washer to the sanitizing by running it without soap, and on high heat.

We've also heard of brewers heating their equipment in the oven at about 300 degrees F.  But, this just seems problematic to us.  Also, the required time for heating is between 1 - 12 hours.  No thanks.

And, you can also use a bleach solution.  It takes about 20 or 30 minutes of soaking time, and you run the risk of some minor off flavors (such as chlorophenol).

During our preparation for brewing, we spend about a half hour getting everything in place.  This includes arranging clean towels on the kitchen counter, thoroughly cleaning our bottles, gathering the brew kettle, carboy, wort chiller, air-lock, etc., and doing an inventory of supplies.  But, the initial (and constant) focus in on cleanliness and sanitation.

Don't let a contaminated siphon or hydrometer ruin your 5-gallons of homebrewed beer.  Clean and sanitize everything!

Now that you have an appreciation for sanitation, it's time to learn about the homebrew boiling process...

Learn How to Brew Beer at Home in 5 Easy Steps

Sanitize Home Brew Equipment
Mashing and Boiling
Pitching Yeast
Bottling & Kegging Beer

The Home Brewing Process
Instructions on Brewing | Videos 


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