Keeping anything sanitized that are in contact with your your beer is crucial when it comes to making great beer at home. Anything from your fermentation bucket, stirring spoon, bottles, hoses to transfer the beer, bottle caps, and bottle wands needs to be not just clean, but sanitized when it comes in contact with your beer. Lets face it you don’t want nasty tasting beer or even worse, having to dump a whole batch of beer because it got infected.
When choosing a sanitizer there are a few things to consider like whether it must be rinsed before it comes in contact with your beer, and how long it should maintain contact for it to be effective in sanitizing.
Luckily there are quite a few sanitizers available on the market and even ways to sanitize without the use of a sanatizer.
Bleach is probably the most readily available and cheapest chemical to get hold of. Bleach can be used as a sanitizer by adding 4ml per liter of water and letting items soak in the solution for 20 minutes. At this concentrate some recommend that it is not necessary to rinse, but having your beer taste like swimming pool water will not go down well, so I recommend rinsing with boiling water afterwards.
Star San is one hell of a product, specially developed for brewing, however I must note that this is not easily obtainable in South Africa. If you are lucky enough to find some in South Africa it will set you back quite a bit for a small amount, however you can reuse the solution when it is diluted using reverse osmosis or distilled water. Star San requires only 30 seconds of contact time and is also a no rinse sanitizer, in fact Star San actually acts as some sort of yeast nutrient in small amounts, that’s why you do not have to fear the foam that’s left after sanitizing. Dilute 1.5ml of Star San with 2 liter of water.
Perasan, just like Star San, is a acid based sanitizer. Perasan is widely used in the beverage and diary industry in South Africa making readily available to South African homebrewers. When Perasan is diluted in a ratio of 3ml per liter of water it acts as a no rinse sanitizer and only needs about 5 minutes of contact time to sanitize. When diluted at stronger rates and not rinsed it will oxidize your beer as it contains peroxide, however when used in the right quantities it’s a great sanitizer.
Iodophor, an iodine based sanatizer, is probably one of the most used sanitizers in the brewing industry. Diluted at 1ml per liter water it requires only 1 minute of contact time to sanitize, keeping it in contact for longer than 10 minutes will ensure hospital grade disinfection. A note about Iodophor is that it stains easily, so if you use it for long period on plastic equipment it will leave a brown tint over time.
Heat can also be used to sanitize, however it should be noted that you do not want to try using an oven to sanitize plastic equipment. Placing your bottles in an oven at 170C for 60 minutes will ensure that it is sanitized.
Steam is even better at sanitizing than an oven, in fact steam will sterilize and not just sanitize when done correctly. 20 minutes in a pressure cooker at 125C or when the steam bar reaches the first bar is enough to sterilize your equipment, a note again that this method is not recommended for anything that cannot withstand high heat.
A dishwasher is an easy and inexpensive way to sanitize just about a all your homebrewing equipment. The steam produced from the drying cycle is what actually sanitizes. Placing your prior cleaned equipment in the dishwasher on a full wash cycle without any detergent is all that is required. A note that you really should not have any detergent as this will destroy the head of your beer when used on bottles that you will bottle in.