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Keep it Clean - Maintaining your Home Brewery for Beginners

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As a new homebrewer you will soon find that most of your time is spent cleaning and maintaining your equipment. In this article I will attempt to explain some ways you can keep your new home brewery clean and infection free, as well as the difference between cleaning and sanitizing. There are far too many products, and options to go over them all within this article, however I will try to give a brief overview of some of the most popular, as well as give tips for new brewers where possible.
First some definitions as they relate to homebrewing:
Cleaning - to make something free of dirt, marks, or mess, especially by washing, wiping, or brushing.
Sanitize - to kill germs and bacteria either by use of chemicals or heat.
Cleaning and sanitizing are two different process and should be treated as such, cleaning is what you do when you are finished with your equipment, to remove all visible traces of gunk and sanitizing is what you do after you clean, before you use your equipment.
Sanitizing should be preceded by a rinse and inspection for debris, scratches, dust, pet hair etc., and possibly a re-cleaning if necessary. You cannot sanitize what is not clean, germs and beer spoiling bacteria can and will hide under any crud you leave behind, or in scratches left in plastic, basically anywhere sanitizer cannot reach.
It is always the best practice to clean your equipment immediately after use if cleaned immediately you will find warm water and a wipe with your hand will clean most all the gunk off, and prevent a lot of work later.
Soaking is a great way to remove gunk and deposits of beerstone, hop gunk and other debris from your equipment, however always make sure whatever you are soaking your equipment with will not negatively effect your equipment, causing pitting, or rust sometimes this can be difficult, but a little research an some Google-fu will help here.
Chemicals
There are many options for the homebrewer when it comes to chemicals to clean and sanitize their equipment here are some of the more popular options.

Oxygen or alkaline based cleaners
- Oxyclean, PBW, One Step, B-brite etc. These all work quite well to remove organic deposits from your equipment. Be cautioned when using with certain metals as they can react negatively and cause pitting. There are home made alternatives too, however I am not going to recommend mixing your own chemicals together.
White Vinegar - can be used to remove odors from plastics, as well as deposits that may be left by oxygen based cleaners used with hard water. Make sure you are using distilled white vinegar, other vinegar contain live aceto-bacteria that can negatively effect your beer.
Dish Soap - It is not recommended as it can leave a film if not thoroughly rinsed and hurt head retention in your beer, or leave residual flavors, but is used by some homebrewers with success.

Bar Keepers Friend
- A great cleaner for your stainless a bit of this, and a light scrub will leave it looking new again, and remove a lot of deposits that soaking doesn't.
Bleach - Bleach can be used as a sanitizer, however it must be rinsed, the chlorine in bleach can cause off flavors in beer if not thoroughly rinsed, use with caution.
Sanitizers - This is a much debated topic since everyone has there favorite but there are many available and the will all work to my knowledge the most popular are Iodaphor and Starsan. Iodaphor is iodine based and colored, and will stain and must be left to dry. Starsan is clear, acid based and has a foaming action that some brewers do not care for, but is totally safe and is most effective while still wet and can be used in a spray bottle. Both sanitizers are no rinse and require only 2 minutes of contact time.

Heat
Heat can be used to effectively kill bacteria and and sanitize your equipment in the home brewery this is why you do not need to sanitize your boil kettle or an immersion chiller the heat and steam of the boil will sanitize it killing any bacteria that may be present. Anything which can stand up to a good boil can be sanitized by boiling for 10 min.
According to John Palmer in his book "How to Brew" bottles can be sterilized by baking them in the oven at 340 F for one hour.( Caution should be used as glass can become brittle from heating this way and shatter.) If you decide to sterilize your bottles in this manner it is recommended to heat the oven with the bottles in it, and leave them in to cool. It has been suggested that if you cap the bottles with foil prior to baking them they will stay sterilized until ready for use.
Plastics
For plastic it is important not to use any abrasive scrub pads or brushes as these can cause scratches that can harbor bacteria a soft sponge without a scrubby side should be okay or even just your hand, or a paper towel. It is also important to use warm not scalding hot water as over time this can weaken and stress the plastic.
Buckets are made of a soft and easily scratched plastic and special care must be used to make sure you do not scratch them, it is recommended by many professional homebrewers to replace them at least once a year, however with proper care they can be used for a long time. The lid contains a gasket around the outside and a grommet for the airlock which should be removed, cleaned and sanitized every few brews, or any time you have a blow-off.
Better Bottles are a denser plastic but can still be scratched easily by brushes, a great trick for cleaning a Better Bottle is to fill it with a soaking solution of your favorite cleaner and throw a soft dish towel in and swirl to remove any stuck on crust, then dump the cleaning solution and towel right back out.
Tubing is easy to clean I recommend getting a jet bottle washer for more reasons than one, but they make cleaning tubing easy simply attach the tubing to the washer and run warm water through the tube to thoroughly rinse it. Always hang tubing to dry to avoid mold growing in the tube. I like to run some sanitizer through my tubing before I store it to discourage any nasties from growing in there, and hang it to dry. It is important to replace tubing every so often, it's cheap and it is the softest plastic in your brewery I replace mine when it starts to turn a color or once a year whichever comes first.

The bottling bucket spigot is the cause of many homebrewers first infection and can harbor some nasty bacteria if not kept clean, always give it a good rinse, dismantle your bottling bucket and reassemble it when needed, this sounds like a headache, but not as much of one as dumping a bunch of infected bottle bombs. The bucket should be
treated the same as a fermentation bucket and care should be taken to avoid scratching the plastic. The spigot it's self should come apart and should be completely disassembled every so often and sanitized to avoid anything growing in it, I do this maybe every third time I use my bottling bucket.
If you hang your bottles on a bottling tree after sanitizing it too should be cleaned and inspected for gunk every so often, and sanitized.
Glass
Glass carboys are not as easily scratched as their plastic counterparts, however they are fragile, dangerous and slippery when wet so caution must be used when cleaning them. Jet washers, brushes, various chemical cleaners, and drill attachment brushes can all be used on carboys with out fear of scratches, again use caution although difficult to scratch they can break easily. A good old fashioned soak with an oxygen based cleaner will go a long way in removing deposits in the carboy after fermentation. I also feel I should caution that you should not dump a carboy full of liquid by turning it upside down the vacuum created can be enough to shatter the glass and cause serious injury.
Bottles can be cleaned using a bottle brush, however a rinse with hot water after pouring the beer out often times is enough. If bottles are excessively dirty a soak with an oxygen based cleaner will help to loosen or possibly remove a lot of the gunk.
Tip: Oxygen or alkaline based cleaner will also help with label removal when bringing new bottles into your bottling line.
I recommend a bottle washer and a tree, or a FastRack to allow bottles to fully dry to prevent mold, before storing them, either upside down, or in empty beer cases covered to keep out dust.

Metal
Stainless steel is easily cleaned with a soak in an PBW, and some scrubbing, every so often you may wish to scrub with Bar Keepers Friend to keep stainless looking shiny and new.
Aluminum pots aluminum can be a little more tricky to clean it is a soft metal and oxygen based cleaners are not recommended for use with aluminum, as they can cause pitting. Aluminum pots develop an oxidation layer on them and many brewers recommend not removing this layer, a scrub with hot water and a cloth immediately after use should go a long way in keeping your aluminum brew kettle in operation for a long time.
Copper can be easily cleaned in a soak with an alkaline cleanser like PBW to remove any organic matter. It is a good Idea to treat your copper by rubbing it with a small amount of undiluted Starsan prior to first time use and maybe once a brew season after that, this will help prevent oxidation of the copper and make it easier to clean later, just make sure not to use too much and wear gloves Starsan can be rough on your skin especially undiluted. If copper becomes oxidized or tarnished and green a soak in white vinegar or Starsan will do wonders to clean it up for you, the acidity will eat the green tarnish right off leaving your copper looking new again.
Maintaining a clean and infection free home brewery can seem like a difficult task, but it is much easier if you keep up with it. Always clean your equipment as soon as you are done with it and never put off cleaning up after brew day, it will make keeping your equipment clean and your beer delicious much easier.
Cheers!
 
Something I use to get rid of odors in my mash tun, fermenting bucket, and kegs is baking soda. Usually the day before brew day (or keg day) I'll fill them up with hot water and a cup of baking soda, shake it up and let it sit until the next day. Does a great job of killing any smell remnants of the prior brew.
 
@plumbrew
Great tip! I have never tried baking soda but I could see why it would work I may have to try that.
Thanks!
 
FastRacks RULE! After a wort chiller, it was the best, most useful and best return-on-investment piece of equipment I've purchased.
 
When dumping a carboy full of sanitizer, I stick my racking tube into the carboy to let air into it. It stops the "glunk,glunk,glunk" and it empties much faster.
 
oxidation I thought wasn't bad for the copper immersion chiller though (thought it was necessary actually)
if it's green it should probably be cleaned up though
 
Good article might help to clear up the misunderstanding that soaking things in bleach cleans them. The jet bottle washer I couldn't live without I use it for rinsing so many things.
 
@whattheschmidt
A small amount isn't bad at all what you don't want is tarnish or green spots that is verdigris and can be toxic.
Starsan keeps the copper conditioned and helps prevent this. I apply a very small amount with a paper towel then wipe it off with another paper towel and store it. Then before I use it I rinse it off. Works great!
Cheers!
 
@ncbrewer
for the most part anything that comes out of the tap should be fine,i would aoid temperatures close to boiling. These temperatures shouldn't warp or melt the bucket, and are fine short term, but repeated exposure will weaken the plastic and cause it to become brittle over time.
 
Really good info here early on in my brewing life i used dish soap to clean my mash tun cooler took 3 batches to realize it was imparting horrible off flavors that were falsely blamed on infection.
 
@guitarpat All you have to do is swirl it a little and you get the same effect without dirtying a tube. Plus, it is fun to watch.
 
I bought a keg line cleaner brush 66" long with 3/8" brush on the end for cleaning my racking tubes, etc. Rinse'em out with the tap, although a jet washer would be better. Then soak filled with PBW propped up in a pail or other such container. Then run the brush through it & rinse with water. Run some star san through it after drying the outside before storage to keep them cleaner over time. I got the line cleaner brush @ keg connection.
 
Good information but a bit of a struggle to read. Try replacing most of your commas with periods. This will help you write shorter and more concise sentences. Your writing will become more crisp and your thoughts easier to follow.
Cheers!
 
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