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Home Brew Forums > Home Brewing Beer > Bottling/Kegging > Caps -- To Sanitize, or Not to Sanitize?
View Poll Results: Caps -- To Sanitize or Not to Sanitize?
I always sanitize my caps, are you kidding? 192 84.21%
It's really not necessary. 36 15.79%
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Old 03-09-2009, 11:15 PM   #1
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Default Caps -- To Sanitize, or Not to Sanitize?

Seems like this is a fairly polarized issue among home brewers. Some swear by sanitizing caps, and will never do a batch without their star san bowl. Others just pluck them right out of the bag and roll with it.

I, personally, am in the latter group, primarily because I use oxygen barrier caps that are activated by moisture. I've done hundreds of bottles at this point, and have yet to find one single case of contamination.

I'm curious, though, to hear about others' experience in this regard, being that it comes up time and again.

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Old 03-09-2009, 11:19 PM   #2
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I suppose you can get away without sanitizing just about anything- maybe. Is it worth losing $40 worth of ingredients and 6 weeks of time, just so you don't have to dunk your caps in some star-san? Not to me!

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Old 03-09-2009, 11:20 PM   #3
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In a recent episode of Basic Brewing Radio, James Spencer got in touch with the manufacturer of the oxygen barrier caps. While the oxygen absorbing caps are activated by moisture, the effect happens on the order of hours or days, not minutes. The manufacturer said that sanitizing them prior to use will not adversely affect their ability to absorb oxygen (so long as all sanitized caps are used).

That being said, I sanitize.

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Old 03-09-2009, 11:21 PM   #4
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It's not so much a matter of laziness in my case, but because the O2 caps are impacted not only by the moisture, but the acid sanitizer as well (loses effectiveness). Even though the O2 process occurs over an extended period of time, I can't imagine star san et al has a positive impact on the O2 membrane. To emphasize, the manufacturer said it won't "adversely" impact the caps, but realistically that can mean just about anything in legalese.

Either way, has there actually been a documented case of an entire batch -- or even a single bottle -- being spoiled by a failure to sanitize caps? My thinking is that it takes a fairly large concentration of wild cells to overcome both the yeast and the alcohol in fermented beer. We're talking something along the lines of a piece of organic debris, dirty lines, dirty equipment, dirty hands in the beer, etc etc etc. But so long as the cap bags are kept closed, and people aren't fingering up the inside of the caps, I really can't see caps being a significant vector for contamination.

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Old 03-09-2009, 11:22 PM   #5
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its not like it is hard to fill a cereal bowl with water and star san and to let the caps soak for 30 seconds.

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Old 03-09-2009, 11:28 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pelikan View Post
Either way, has there actually been a documented case of an entire batch -- or even a single bottle -- being spoiled by a failure to sanitize caps? My thinking is that it takes a fairly large concentration of wild cells to overcome both the yeast and the alcohol in fermented beer. We're talking something along the lines of a piece of organic debris, dirty lines, dirty equipment, dirty hands in the beer, etc etc etc. But so long as the cap bags are kept closed, I really can't see caps being a significant vector for contamination.
Well, probably not. I mean, how do you determine that a lacto infection is caused by unsanitized caps vs having crushed grain in the same room? Or how do you decide that the caps caused the issue, but maybe not the spigot in the bottling bucket? How could you possibly know for sure, unless you had an autoclave and everything was sterile (including the room) except for the caps? You'd never know.

I've made over 250 batches of beer, and probably that much wine, without an infection. Is it because I sanitized my caps? Probably not. But it sure didn't hurt.
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Old 03-09-2009, 11:36 PM   #7
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Well, probably not. I mean, how do you determine that a lacto infection is caused by unsanitized caps vs having crushed grain in the same room?
I suppose one way might be to ask someone that doesn't sanitize caps "How often do you get infected bottles?" If their rates of infection are as low or lower when compared to a cap sanitizer, then one can reasonably assume caps are not the issue.

That aside, I see the argument in favor of sanitizing caps. But to me it seems like a "more harm than good" proposition.
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Old 03-10-2009, 01:31 AM   #8
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I think risking an infected batch by skipping something that takes very minimal effort counts as more harm than good in my book. In other words, I think since I sanitize everything else, why in the world wouldn't I sanitize something that is going to be in direct contact with my beer for weeks or months? I mean, you sanitize new bottles, right? Both of these things touch your beer.

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Old 03-10-2009, 01:45 AM   #9
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Its probably not real critical, but as easy as hell so why not.

I usually have sanitizer made up for my bottling equipment; bottles, bottling bucket, filler wand, auto siphon, hydrometer and wine thief. Therefore its pretty much a no-brainer to add the caps. The worst thing about it is counting to 48.

With that said, when I dry hop I don't bother sanitizing the hops.

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Old 03-10-2009, 02:13 AM   #10
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I don't. Now, I've only done 3 batches, but I didn't sanitize any of the caps, and I didn't have any infections. I've also used the same primary and carboy to make wine as well. So far, I've only replaced the tubing. I've never had an infected bottle of wine either.

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