“You can’t sanitize a turd”. When asking Head Cellar Operator Brett Kosmicki and countless other Founders Brewing Co. employees about the importance of cleanliness and sanitation, the previous statement proved the great consensus.
Or, more simply, in order for something to be sanitized, it must first be thoroughly cleaned.
Though this author knows much of this information to be common knowledge, he reminds readers that the point of the series is to re-examine common knowledge practice from a fundamental stance.
Now, let’s assume we all know that we must first clean and then sanitize our equipment in order to make the best beer possible. Agreed? Cool. Let us also agree that the nitty gritty of chemical composition and scientific data pertaining to these products would be best suited for other articles, hundreds of which you might find a quick Google away.
When you wake up in the morning, you shower and clean yourself. However, If you have blood drawn, even only an hour after said shower, your arm will be sanitized. Beating a dead horse has its merits when it comes to home brewing like the pros. “Clean is not sanitary,” said almost every professional polled for these articles.
Following are a list of the most common products one might find in a homebrew store. The sparse information following them is by design. Please feel free to use this article as your launch pad to “geek-out” on the products below.
Designed to remove organic solids (turds).
- PBW: A high concentration per-carbonate base similar to Oxy Clean.
- B-Brite: A product similar to PBW, but a far milder concentration.
- Easy Clean: Often used as a sanitizer, this no rinse cleaner is an alkaline that is a very effective cleaner. It may be used to sanitize if done correctly and allowed for its full five minute contact time.
- One Step: Nearly the same makeup as Easy Clean, the same rules for cleaning and sanitation apply to this product.
Rid equipment of microbial and bacterial infection. These products are classified by the government as Sanitizers, an important distinction from the products above.
- Iodine based: Iodophor and Io-San are the most commonly found in the market. This product uses a dilution of Iodine to sanitize.
- Star-San: This acid based sanitizer boasts a very quick contact time and may be stored in a spray bottle for pre-mixed use. However wonderful a sanitizer, many dislike the amount of foam produced when using Star-San — a preference I will leave up to your independent trial and error.
Note that bleach is not used in any professional brewery setting, and will therefore be left out of this article.
It has often been said that brewers are simply janitors who clean up for, and after beer. This statement deliberately makes no mention of recipe development, efficient equipment or volume output because those are not terribly important for making good beer.
Working as a professional, I can tell you that 40% of my day consists of cleaning, 40% sanitizing, 10% visual inspection of proper cleaning and sanitizing and 10% “making” or transferring beer. In order to make beer like the a professional one must first take up the mantra of a professional — “clean and sanitize!”
A more comprehensive list of the contact times and the chemical composition of the above listed cleaners and sanitizers can be found at Siciliano’s Market (or most local homebrew shops) in the stores’ resources folder. One may also call the manufacturer of each product for more detailed information.