Brewing Safety & Quality

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Brewing safety is not just for the protection of the brewers but goes hand-in-hand with the quality of your finished liquid beverage. Brewing safety discussed here includes proper clothing and proper working environment, and how they help to guard an employee or brewer against potential chemical dangers. Brewing quality includes clothing, environment, instrumentation, monitoring, recording, observing, ingredients, etc. Here we will discuss the safety precautions that any home brewer may consider for their safety and for the safety of others, as well as some basic quality issues to consider.
I. Brewing Safety:

Photo 1. Rubber gloves, lab coat and protective eyewear.
Basic protective attire is readily available at the grocery store or any laboratory supply store (Photo 1). These items can reduce the chance of the chemical sanitizer from coming in contact with the brewer, as well as carryover from the sanitizing area to another location by transfer from the hands or clothing. These items should be kept in the sanitizing area and removed when leaving the sanitizing area thereby reducing the chance of contaminating your beer or household with chemicals. Once a chemical sanitizer is in solution it becomes, for the most part, invisible. Labeling a container of sanitizer can prevent accidental poisonings. Following these basic guidelines is just common sense in that you isolate the chemicals to one area and prevent them from finding their way elsewhere.
Most beer kits come with a chemical sanitizing agent. Keep in mind that when working with chemicals, it is important to read the safety guidelines contained on the chemical container. These guidelines include storage conditions, safety guidelines and instructions for use. We should be aware of these warnings before use so when or if an accident occurs, the clean up or required care can be performed as quickly as possible. Assuming you are using a sanitizing agent that came with a beer kit, normal instructions for use require mixing a powdered chemical agent or solution in water.

Photo 2. Mixing pitcher, measuring spoon and sanitizer.
One safe method for dissolving a powdered agent in water is by use of a mixing pitcher (Photo 2). Again, keep these items in the chemical area and labeled to avoid cross contamination. Using a measuring spoon is helpful for producing proper sanitizer concentrations as instructed on the chemical label. In order for sanitizers to work, the item to be sanitized needs to be previously cleaned.

Photo 3. Non perfume containing detergent, bottle brush and beer bottle.
Cleaning bottles and equipment prior to sanitizing is necessary to remove organic matter and particulates, which prevent sanitizers from functioning properly. Cleaning should be done thoroughly using a mild unscented dishwashing detergent and a bottlebrush (Photo 3). Scented detergents can leave behind flavors in plastics. Using a dishwasher to clean beer bottles will not provide enough scrubbing action in the bottle to be effective, the detergent may not get properly rinsed out and dishwasher-drying additives can destabilize the foaming properties of beer proteins (*).
II. Brewing quality:
Brewing quality will best be achieved through experience. The final product and its shelf life will be an indicator of brewing quality. The first thing that comes to mind with respect to quality is hygiene. Not just the cleanliness of the brewer but the brewing area is important. Most household kitchens are great areas for food production including beer made from extract. Boiling beer may be better done in the garage where the area can be aired out. However, garages are not great places for producing a food item.
Keep in mind of how a contaminant (hair, dust ball, microorganism, chemical, insect, rodent feces, dirt, etc.) can enter your brewing kettle, fermentation vessel or beer bottle. Always keep items that contain or will contain your beer covered or upside down on a clean surface. Don't hover over or let someone hover unnecessarily over your beer. Sanitizing a mixing spoon, then setting it down before use on a dirty surface may result in contaminating your beer. Close zip-lock bags if possible and store raw ingredients properly.
In addition to your normal record keeping, record items such as expiration dates, lot numbers, where a raw ingredient was purchased and observations (odors, color, how long it took for the fermentation to start; to name a few). Observations can help you identify when something out of the ordinary is happening. Finally, proper labeling can help eliminate confusion. Labeling also lets you separate an entire batch if there is some question about its integrity.
* How to Brew, Everything you need to know to brew beer right the first time. (Ingredients, methods, recipes and equipment for brewing beer at home) Palmer, John J.; 1963; 3rd edition. Brewers Publications, PO Box 1679, Boulder, Colorado 80306.
 
Nice article. I would also like to point out that wearing a shower cap is a nice way to make sure that hair doesn't end up in your beer.
 
I am a fire fighter, so ill be the first to admit we can be a bit over protective with safety at work. Sometimes at home, I can get a bit too relaxed. During a brew a few months ago I got lazy and forgetful -- forgot to hook up the drain line for the wort chiller. Due to the placement of the faucet I placed my forearm straight in front of the discharge and stream of boiling water that came out. Lets just say that I have a nice softball size reminder on my arm that will never go away.
 
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@TheLastAvenger
Thank you for sharing your mishap.
We can all learn from one another here!
 
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