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Cleaning and Sanitizing

by Alberta Rager

Cleaning and Sanitizing

Beer, Wine and Mead have been brewed for thousands of years and the majority of this fermenting was done before anyone knew about germs or sanitation. Sometimes the product was good and sometimes it wasn't.

Late in the 1860's, Louis Pasteur discovered yeast as the cause of fermentation. At about the same time he discovered that bacteria and 'wild' yeast caused spoilage. From Pasteur's work it was discovered that using large amounts of healthy active yeast could over come small amounts of bacteria and help reduce the risk of spoilage.

Sanitizing is important because without it our wort and must can become infected with bacteria and wild yeast leading to off-flavors and off-aromas. Wort and must are excellent sources of nutrients with will support the growth of may organism, not just yeast. Given the opportunity, any organism that ends up in the wort or must will begin to grow and produce metabolic byproducts that lead to any number of flavors and aromas. So, it is important to eliminate as many sources of potential contamination as possible. Bacteria are present everywhere in the environment. By following a few simple steps to clean then sanitize, you can eliminate the major causes of contamination.

Cleaning is the process of removing all the dirt and grime from the surface, thereby removing all the sites that can harbor bacteria. Cleaning is usually done with elbow grease. If the residue from the last batch is really tough, soak in Powdered Brewery Wash or chlorine. If using chlorine be sure to rinse several times until the surface is no longer slick and chlorine can no longer be smelled. The use of detergents is discouraged because many contain perfumes that can be absorbed into plastic equipment and hoses and manifests in the finished product. In addition, may detergents can not be rinsed completely off leaving behind a soapy film that can be tasted in the finished product.

Sanitize means to use an agent to reduce the number of microorganisms to a safe level. Sanitizing agents are meant to be used on a clean surface. Here's a brief review of the most commonly used sanitizers.

Sulphite Crystals (sodium metabisulfite) is the most common sanitizing agent used by wine makers. Simply rinse the clean surface with the sulphite solution (2 oz. sulphite per gallon of water) and you're ready to go. The effectiveness of Sulphite can be increased three fold by adding 1/4 teaspoon of Tartaric Acid to a gallon of solution.

One Step (peroxi-hydrate) is the choice of most brewers. Use one tablespoon per gallon of water. As with the sulphite, just rinse and go.

Iodophor can enter microorganism fairly easily. Once it does, it kills the cells. This requires a 10 minute soak at a concentration of 12.5ppm. Dilution instructions are included on the package. The use of iodophor requires a pH adjustment of the water with which is being diluted. The pH should be below 8 so add a little Tartaric Acid.

Star San is an acid sanitizer. It is the best sanitizer for soaking gaskets, clamps and hoses. Star San is the sanitizer of choice when attacking hard to reach places because of the wetting agents and foaming action. One ounce to 5 gallons of water provides 200ppm of dodecylbenzensulfonic acid. After a two minute soak, drain. If using at a rate of more than 200ppm a potable rinse is required.

This article was published on Thursday May 14, 2009.