How To Clean Home Brew Equipment

I used to get extremely frustrated when my beers were coming out with poor head retention or maybe a gusher here and there… I thought it had something to do with the recipe, or maybe how I primed the beer that perhaps I over-carbonated some, or whatever…

Well after a whole lot of troubleshooting I boiled it down to cleaning… not even sanitizing, I mean CLEANING!!

Seriously, who would’ve thunk that cleaning would be more important than sanitizing? I was kind of surprised myself…

See, I started like most brewers… just following some vague instructions from the home brew supply store that sold me the kit. They emphasize sanitizing because, well, the equipment is brand new and doesn’t really need much cleaning…

But…

Apparently I missed the memo that says you should really focus on cleaning after your first use of the equipment…

And yes, I know it’s common sense that you should clean it, but what is not as common is knowing how you should clean it…

I mean really, who studies how to clean?…

Ahem…. I did… and it sucked! not exactly my favorite topic, especially since I learned lots of useless facts…

So lucky for you, I’m just sharing what you need to know about cleaning home brew equipment… Simply stated, you gotta clean both organic and in-organic dirt/junk/nasties…

Organic basically refers to proteins, oils, carbs and other stuff that comes from the ingredients (barley, hops, yeast)… which are best cleaned using alkaline or caustic based cleaners…

In-organic refers to minerals, and stuff coming from water… which is best cleaned using acid based cleaners…

The problem with most household cleaners is that they don’t clean in-organic stuff that well. So if you use bleach, or oxiclean to clean up, you’ll have a hard time rinsing off your equipment.

The best cleaner you can use is Powdered Brewery Wash (PBW), because it has just the right mix of stuff to clean up both organic and inorganic stuff.

However, it can be a little expensive, so here are a few options and all you need to know about cleaners when it comes to cleaning home brew equipment…

You need to use cleaners with surfactants to break the surface tension of water and allow the water to get into crevices and remove soils. Most detergents have surfactants, but there is two kinds… those that are affected by hard water and those that aren’t.

Sodium percarbonate is the best… that’s what PBW is made out of as well as Oxiclean.

The problem with using surfactants alone, especially when you have hard water is that they mix with minerals from water and it dilutes their effectiveness. So you must therefore use some type of builder which removes some of these metals and makes rinsing a breeze and often times will be enough to clean in-organic stuff and not have to use an acid based cleaner.

Thanks to my good ole friend Morgan (She’s a very smart bio-chemical engineer, or something like that getting her Ph.D….) I came up with a good PBW substitute…

I mixed 42g of Oxiclean and 10g of TSP 90 in 2 gallons of water…

Using this solution cleaning becomes extremely easy as well as rinsing… Now, you know you’ve removed all oily soils and organic junk when you rinse of your equipment and instead of having your fingers slide smoothly across plastic or whatever, they kind of stick…

This cleaning stuff is safe for metals, because the TSP lowers the pH of oxiclean which is a highly alkaline cleaner (around pH 11), and can be corrosive to some metals… especially softer ones like aluminum…

I wouldn’t recommend leaving this solution in a weak plastic as it can break it up… it’s usually safe for food grade plastic, but if I ever have to store this solution I leave it in glass…

Last, you don’t want to let this solution dry out… it will leave a chalky film which can only be removed with an acid based cleaner…

OK… I think that’s more than you need to know about cleaning and hopefully this helps you improve your brewing…

8 Comments

  • CARL

    Reply Reply September 17, 2010

    I am new to homebrewing and have limited knowledge.
    I joined A brewclub, but they all seem wrapped up in thier own little clicks to give a new guy assistance, so everything I have learned is from your website and your videos,
    thank you for your time and cheers

  • Jorge

    Reply Reply September 17, 2010

    Carl – Thanks… I know that for every comment like this there are 20 other readers who feel the same… Cheers…

  • dave

    Reply Reply December 5, 2010

    jorge..thanks for sharing your knowlage with us..look forward to next tidbit..
    for the winemakers.yes i know this is about beer making,but a lot of the info you share can be of value to wine makers..
    again thanks.

  • Jorge

    Reply Reply December 5, 2010

    @Dave No problem… glad I can contribute to the craft…

  • Dave Schratz

    Reply Reply November 10, 2013

    I shared with facebook and in share but the rest of the article never appeared. What is the best cleaner?

    • jorgitoz

      Reply Reply November 10, 2013

      I recommend PBW… I’ve also used oxiclean with tsp 90 (4:1 ratio)…

      Cheers!

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