Ethyl Alcohol Spray

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Sudz

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Any of you guys use Ethyl Alcohol for spot sanitizing while brewing?

It appears to me this would be ideal since it quickly evaporates and is a good bactericide. Not as messy as StarSan and will stay active forever in a spray bottle.
 

llazy_llama

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Sure don't. It's not as effective or as fast as Star San, and it's not a surfactant. Star San is "messy," for two main reasons. Because it foams, which allows it to sanitize all the little nooks and crannies, and because it's a surfactant, which means it's still working long after you spray it.

Ethanol is for drinking, not for sanitizing. ;)
 

TheTower

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It's also become very difficult to get 100% ethanol. We had a shortage of it at my college lab two years ago because it took us over a year to get all the new certifications and paperwork in to get lab grade ethanol. The best you could easily get is grain alcohol (80%), which I wouldn't trust as a sanitizer. And I think that strength is starting to become illegal in places as well.
 

conpewter

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100% alcohol is not a good sanitizer. 70% is pretty good though. A lot of bacteria can sense when their environment is hostile and will close their cell walls. With 70% they don't realize that it will kill them and will still allow it to come in.

Edit: OK so my explanation was a bit off, 70% is a lot better, but has to do with denaturing proteins in the presence of water.

http://www.realbeer.com/jjpalmer/cleaning.html
Halfway down the page.

Alcohol

The most commonly available alcohols that can be used for sanitizing are methyl, ethyl, and isopropyl. Alcohol's mechanism of action is still unconfirmed, but theories for how alcohol might kill cells include denaturing of cell proteins, interfering with cellular metabolism and destroying cell membranes. In the absence of water, proteins are not denatured as readily by alcohol, and this explains why a solution of 70 percent alcohol and 30 percent water is a better sanitizer than 100 percent alcohol. Alcohol will kill most bacterial organisms in less than five minutes, but because some organisms may take longer, it is best to let items soak at least 10 minutes to kill the majority present. Alcohol does not kill bacterial spores, and viruses are only killed after exposure of an hour or more, but these microorganisms are not a concern to brewers. As with all sanitizers, the degree of effectiveness is dependent on the initial cleanliness of the surface.

Alcohol as a sanitizer has limited uses in brewing. A major limitation is that all types of alcohol are reasonably flammable even at a 70 percent solution. Isopropyl and methyl alcohol are much more toxic if consumed than is ethyl alcohol, and are undesirable in finished beer because of this, let alone their undesirable flavor. Isopropyl alcohol is the most effective sanitizer of the commonly available alcohols, with ethyl alcohol being a close second. Methyl alcohol is not a very effective agent compared to the other two and this fact, combined with its toxicity, means it is not often used as a sanitizing agent (4,5). For these reasons, ethyl alcohol is the more favored alcohol for sanitization, but is rather expensive because concentrated forms are highly taxed.

Alcohol is useful for sanitizing equipment and surfaces used in yeast culturing and propagation. Isopropyl alcohol at a concentration of 70 percent is an excellent, inexpensive choice for sanitizing work surfaces, bottle and flask necks, instruments and your hands. The alcohol can be applied to surfaces in a number of ways, the easiest being with a small spray bottle. A piece of gauze or cotton soaked in alcohol can be used to wipe down surfaces such as tables and container openings, or instruments can be soaked in alcohol until needed. Alcohol such as isopropyl and ethyl are safe to use on most surfaces. Don't use alcohol to sanitize tubing because it can dissolve the plastic to some degree. Some plastics, such as HDPE, are generally resistant to alcohol. Metals and glass also are unaffected.

It is often stated in homebrewing lore that you can simply gargle with vodka or some other high-proof alcoholic beverage and then use your mouth to start a siphon without fear of contamination. But based on the effectiveness of alcohol, this does not seem to be such a wise idea. First of all, alcohol's ability to kill bacteria, i.e., denature proteins, is constrained by the total amount of organic material present, which for the average mouth is a fair amount depending on when the last meal was consumed. Second, an 80-proof beverage such as vodka is only 40 percent alcohol and most organisms are not killed in less than five minutes at this concentration. For this method to be effective, you would have to gargle with 120 proof rum or something of equal strength for 10 to 15 minutes, by which time you probably would have forgotten about brewing. Rather than risk contamination, use a small tube that fits into the end of the racking hose and suck on that to start the siphon. Once the siphon starts, remove the small piece of tubing before the wort reaches it and you don't risk contamination.
 
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Sudz

Sudz

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Thanks for the feedback guys. I have access to 95% Ethanol is one of my reasons for asking. However, you've convinced me to stay with my spray bottle of StarSan.

Great forum and feedback... Thanks
 

SumnerH

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It's also become very difficult to get 100% ethanol. We had a shortage of it at my college lab two years ago because it took us over a year to get all the new certifications and paperwork in to get lab grade ethanol. The best you could easily get is grain alcohol (80%), which I wouldn't trust as a sanitizer. And I think that strength is starting to become illegal in places as well.
In most states you can buy 95% grain alcohol (e.g. the higher-proof version of Everclear)*, I believe that includes OK where Suds is. But as conpewter notes, 70-80% alcohol is much better at sanitizing than 100% alcohol. And as the rest of the thread notes, StarSan's a better option (the fact that alcohol evaporates quickly actually makes it less suitable for a spray application, not more).

*14 states ban Everclear. In most, it's a generic ban on beverage alcohol over some concentration (most commonly 80%). In somes states the statue is written pretty narrowly, though. e.g. in MN you can't sell beverage alcohol over 80%, unless it's been aged in wooden barrels for 2 years or more.
 

giligson

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Ethanol or Isopropanol 70% are great "sterilizing" agents. The work to kill any loose organisms on a CLEAN surface. If there is any gunk (i.e. biofilm) it will protect the encased organisms. Thats why its often better, in the beer brewing world, to have a surfactant (a detergent) included. Starsan and Povidone Iodine have a detergent action that not only eats into biofilms but kills organisms via disrupting cell membranes. Of course items with macroscopic soiling (lots of crud) need physical cleaning with a very good detergent before attempting to sanitize.
 

BioBeing

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Thanks for the feedback guys. I have access to 95% Ethanol is one of my reasons for asking. However, you've convinced me to stay with my spray bottle of StarSan.

Great forum and feedback... Thanks
Probably 95.6%, not 95%, due to an azeotrope forming with water. :D

70% EtOH is great in the lab for a quick wipe down, or long term storage. It evaporates quickly, which is good, or can be passed through a bunsen flame and burned off for even faster removal (plus bug killing). Not so great in a home setting however.
 

terrazza

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Well if your ethanol is denatured, then I'd stay far away. Dip your finger in denatured, let it completely dry, and then stick your finger in your mouth. Do you want your beer tasting like that?
 

rico567

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Interesting material on the efficacy of various concentrations of ethanol as a sanitizer. As a user of Star San, though, and as someone who's not inclined to worry about "messy" (I quit fearing the foam long ago), I haven't seen anything in this thread to convince me why I should use ethanol rather than Star San.
 
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Sudz

Sudz

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One does get the impression brewers do not like ethanol for sanitation use. Good enough for me and that's why I asked the question in the first place. I'll continue to use my StarSan.

However, it is still an interesting observation that all the biolabs in the facility where I work utilize ethanol spray to sterilize (not sanitize) virtually everything they work with which didn't come from the autoclave. They're using pure 95% ethanol... tax stamps and all. And... I promise you my brewing environment is significantly cleaner than these labs.

But on the other hand, I don't know how effective their efforts in keeping the bug count down have been.

Anyway cheers and thanks for the lively discussion. Is this a great forum or what.....
 

BioBeing

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However, it is still an interesting observation that all the biolabs in the facility where I work utilize ethanol spray to sterilize (not sanitize) virtually everything they work with which didn't come from the autoclave. They're using pure 95% ethanol... tax stamps and all.
If they do, they are (probably) doing it wrong! I'd bet they actually use the autoclave to sterilize, and the ethanol spray to sanitize. Anything that is going to touch or otherwise be in direct contact with their bacteria or whatever is going to have either been autoclaved, passed through a flame or otherwise sterilized (e.g. gamma irradiated). They probably wipe down work surfaces, the outside of bottles etc with ethanol. That is the way my lab does it at least.
 
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Sudz

Sudz

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If they do, they are (probably) doing it wrong! I'd bet they actually use the autoclave to sterilize, and the ethanol spray to sanitize. Anything that is going to touch or otherwise be in direct contact with their bacteria or whatever is going to have either been autoclaved, passed through a flame or otherwise sterilized (e.g. gamma irradiated). They probably wipe down work surfaces, the outside of bottles etc with ethanol. That is the way my lab does it at least.
You're correct. That's the way it's supposed to be done. Since most of the stuff they're working with doesn't fit in the autoclave, they depend heavily on the ethanol.

Like I said, I can't see what degree of success or failure they may be experiencing.
 

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