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The Best Sanitizer for Homebrewers

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Five Star's Starsan sanitizer has got to be the best sanitizer out there in my opinion. Why you may ask? For one, it's a no-rinse wet sanitizer. You can't do that with bleach. And like some others, it gives no discoloration. It works in as little as 15 seconds for small things like bottle caps, plastic spoons and paddles, etc.
You only need to fill the little measure on top of the bottle to 3/4's of the way up to the 1/4 oz. mark for one gallon of water. Tap water's fine, but distilled water won't go cloudy as tap water does. But I've found that cloudiness isn't a visual measure of acidity of the solution. A PH of 3.5 or lower is good. This pic shows some of the things I use when sanitizing

Here's a shot of the bottle with the ounce markings highlighted;

I like using Ferrari's Avinator (commonly called a "Vinator") half full of Starsan for sanitizing bottles on bottling day. Here's a shot of it with a 12 oz bottle resting on the shoulder of the pump. I'm pointing to the fill level I commonly use;

I also use it to sanitize racking tubes, and the tube/bottling wand assembly. I use a dollar store funnel in one end of the tube, with the other end in a 1/2 gallon plastic vodka jug. Just pour the Starsan through the tube by way of the funnel with the pin on the bottling wand open inside the vodka jug. Here's a pic of it ready to go;

I just fill the funnel, and then raise it up so the Starsan flows through it into the jug. I then use the jug of Starsan to sanitize the outside of the tubing. I run the tube on the wand through the broken chair's legs to make it a one man operation. In these shots I show how I'm sanitizing my racking tube assembly for the Cooper's fermenters with the "Little Bottler" wand tube in one end to allow it to connect to the Cooper's spigot;


I then dip the little bottler wand's tube into the jug to sanitize that end. I do the same with plain lengths of tubing that have nothing attached to them in order to sanitize both ends. The orange five gallon Home Depot bucket gets used for larger things that need sanitizing, but mostly for cleaning purposes.
The 1 gallon Arizona iced tea jug is a heavier plastic than the SunnyD jugs I was using to store my Starsan & PBW solutions. I then use a radiator fill funnel to pour solutions back into the jugs, shown here;

The yellow radiator fill funnel is commonly available at stores selling automotive supplies.
Here's a full shot of the Arizona tea jugs I started replacing the SunnyD jugs with;

The labels wouldn't soak off. Much less scrape off. So I wrote the jugs contents on the label. One gallon of Starsan is enough to sanitize fermenters as well. I pour it over the lid into the bucket-style FV. Then turn the bucket as I pour it down the sides of the bucket itself. Then swirl it around. I set the lid on top of the bucket with the bucket on that broken chair to drain the Starsan through the spigot back into the jug. Tilt the FV to get the last of the liquid Starsan out. It's OK to leave the foam behind when straining or otherwise pouring the wort into the fermenter. Starsan breaks down into a yeast nutrient over a short time. Hence the expression, "don't fear the foam". So look around the next time you're in the store. You'll find many things that'll come in handy in the brewery. Like the plastic tubs Butterball & Oscar Meir put their deli style lunch meats in. They're great for soaking small stuff like spigot parts. This shot also shows the Dobie Brand scrubber I use on all my stuff for cleaning that I mention all the time;

Once again, straight out of the grocery store, Giant Eagle in this case. Starsan is so quick and easy to use I can't imagine using anything else. It hasn't failed me yet!
 
I like to get a gallon jug of distilled water (89 cents or so) and then add the appropriate amount of StarSan directly into the jug. Makes its own storage unit and lasts for months (probably years).
I've found tap water + StarSan to create a nasty smell and taste that I am particularly sensitive to, but maybe it's just something in my tap water. Distilled water creates a completely tasteless solution.
 
I read somewhere that Starsan will not last years in its mixed form. It only takes a few weeks for it to start to lose its acidity. Should always check it with a pH strip if it hasn't been used in a while.
 
Brrman, the only way you lose acidity is by adding a solution with a higher pH, known as a "base" chemical, or too much water with a high pH.
I agree with the sanitation techniques the poster has made. One thing I'd like to mention is the use of plastics that are not food grade such as the radiator funnel, which is at risk of leaching harmful chemicals when acids or alcohol is applied. I would consider purchasing a food grade funnel from the Homebrew Supply store.
+1 on the article.
 
Ya I've seen youtube tests debunking the whole "haze" or "age" thing with starsan. I mix small amounts in a bottle and use it as a spray, it sits until it's used. Never had any kind of problem.
 
@ClarkBar I would advise looking in dumpsters around colleges, it's always best to go late at night and wear all dark clothing so they don't get stained. I would also advise sunglasses to protect your eyes and a skee mask to stop trash from getting on your face and hair. Also, don't forget the gloves!
 
Sometimes I only need to mix up a small amount of Starsan. I have a bunch of those cheap plastic pipettes. At the correct dilution rate, 1.5 ml makes 1 quart.
 
The OP talks about saving sanitizer. I would never save sanitizer. Its super cheap, easy to make and because of this I would not risk getting spoiled beer to save a few pennys or minutes.
 
@brrman
That depends on the water quality you mix it with. Cloudy starsan -can- indicate too high of a pH but not necessarily. The cloudyness is a result of various minerals precipitating out. Sometimes these raise the pH. As you said a simple pH test or using DI/RO water will prevent any issues.
@Schlenkerla
This is sort of a to-each-their-own sort of thing. As you said Starsan is cheap compared to time and ingredients. I typically use the same portion to sanitize all my equipment whether it's brew day or bottling day(ie bottling bucket -> pour to bottles-> transfer between bottles).
Depending on how clean you have your equipment prior to sanitizing you should be able to reuse starsan for quite some time.
 
I got onto StarSan pretty soon after I started making cider. No rinse is the way to go! I personally mix a gallon at a time and use a 1 gallon carboy for storage. I always fill a spray bottle that I use for nothing else. At the end of whatever process I'm doing, I usually top off my spray bottle and funnel the rest of my sanitizer into a half gallon carboy and keep it for a couple of weeks or so, before I start to worry about it breaking down. One tip, if you make cider: look for Murray's Apple Cider from Roanoke, Virginia. It comes in a 1/2 gallon glass carboy...free! And the cider is pasteurized and contains no added sugar or preservatives. Great for blending, back sweetening or just adding yeast to it and making cider directly from it...and the carboy is a handy bonus for storing sanitizer or doing small, experimental batches of whatever.
 
After my return to home brewing it didn't take long for me to discover a suspicious film in the tops of the bottles on one of my brews. I know now it was an infection. Fortunately, it didn't progress to the point of having any serious impact on the beer....or did it? It was an ok beer, nothing to call your family up about. I started using Star San shortly after that. Since then I've never had an infection. I consider it a "must have" when I brew and I'm cleaning my equipment. I even suspect the yeast appreciate the extra nutrition too.
 
Instead of a funnel to run starsan through your tubing just push it down on the top of the vinator to pump starsan through the tubing.
 
I purchased food grade silicone funnels at Ross's for only $2.99 for two (one very small, the other medium). For a very large funnel I use a silicone baking mat that works very effectively and is sanitize-able. (as makeshift alternatives to the bigger plastic ones at LHBS's as one of ours closed a while back.)
 
Go to your favorite big box home improvement or paint store and get a Wallpaper Paste Tray. Great for soaking long items like racking canes, auto siphons, random lengths of tubing, etc. Takes less than a gallon of StarSan solution! Should cost less than $5.
 
http://podbay.fm/show/75092679/e/1175200200?autostart=1
good podcast with the creator of star san plus loads of info on homebrew sanitizing
 
Good discussion here! I use the dollar store funnels because smaller diameter tubing won't fit over the vinator pump. & that radiator funnel has seen so much Starsan & PBW that I doubt it's small size & high flow rate will leach anything. Nothing so far. And the ice tea jugs are way heavier plastic than the thin milk jugs used for water. The milk jug styles leak after days or weeks. I gave up on them. The broken chair was from the kids younger days. Ever go junkin' on the day extra stuff gets tossed out? There's more gold than just metals that are recyclable in them hills...
 
The last time I used StarSan, it etched the silver finish off of the drain in my kitchen sink!!! Now I have a big gold streak in my drain (I guess the drain is plated brass).
 
I just a keep a 5 gallon bucket of starsan around for months of time. I have never had any sanitation issues even if I find an occasional dead fly in the bottom of the bucket. I submerge all my bottles in it and then flip them over to dry out before bottling. I usually will make sure its clean for bottling, otherwise I usually dump it if I see a bunch of junk floating around, otherwise i may throw something in there for a few days and it usually turns out fine. Its great for tall items and tubing since i just pump the racking cane and tubing in the bucket.
Another note, a 2x starsan solution can take off a lot of bottle labels if you soak them for a few days. You want to scrub off the label before rinsing it off with hot water since the hot water will reactivate the stickiness. If you leave the bottles in it for a month or more, it can start to acid etch the bottles and ruin them though.
 
I store mine for months and check the ph occasionally with wine strips. Never had any problems. I use a siphon for transfer to keep that sanatized and then I dont need a funnel.
 
When I spoke of using a funnel on my tubing, I'm referring to racking tubes, blow-offs & bottling wand tubes. Typically 3/8" in my case. Siphons can pump it through by virtue of their design. Others have to be done manually. That radiator funnel is also handy with coffee filters (recycled paper ones are fine here). The higher flow rate of the radiator funnel's larger spout helps keep the filter from slowing down while running the Starsan through it. Great when you have pets, flie,etc. Nowadays, I use the Starsan solution for maybe 2 months, then make more.
 
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