The first few batches I brewed I had one thing in mind… “Don’t ruin this batch…”

My ‘how to brew instructions’ where at my side the entire brew day… I read the instructions before the next step… during the step and after the step to make sure I didn’t do anything wrong…

Timed everything with precision and worried if I steeped my grains a couple degrees over the suggested 154 F…

But what really had me worried was cleaning and sanitizing…

I heard that the #1 thing a brewer should worry about is cleaning and sanitizing… but I disagree…

Now that’s not to say that it’s not important, but I’ve seen cleaning and sanitizing taken overboard…

I was distracted by YouTube… (gasp)… again, and clicked on a video where I saw a brewer wear latex gloves to grab his grain bag and steep the grains…

and that’s when I thought… hmmm, is wearing gloves really necessary?

NO…

Listen, I applaud all those who go that extra step… but if you understand the difference between cleaning and sanitizing you can put that extra effort into more important things… like drink beer…

Here’s the deal…

Cleaning is a matter of getting rid of dirt, debris and anything you’d find in the surface of your equipment…

Sanitizing is meant to kill bacteria…

The way sanitizers work is by lowering the pH of the surface and creating an environment where bacteria can’t survive and therefore die…

But there is another way to sanitize… heat…

When you boil your wort, you are not just sanitizing the wort, but pretty much sterilizing it!

Therefore, I don’t actually worry much about soaking anything in a sanitizing solution prior to the boil…

Now that’s not to say that I slack off and throw in a dirty spoon into the mash or grab the steeping grains with dirty hands… no!… I focus on cleaning, but sanitizing is one thing I leave until after the boil… when I cool the wort and can’t heat it up again to kill bacteria…

That’s when sanitizing becomes important…

… and as important as it is… cleaning is more so important than sanitizing… you can not sanitize something that is not clean…

Just because you washed something with dish detergent doesn’t mean it’s clean… calcium deposits or chalk need a different type of cleaner… as long as you use the right cleaners you’ll have thoroughly clean equipment where bacteria won’t grow…

You can in fact brew without sanitizing, but your cleaning better be immaculate… I wouldn’t do it, I’m just trying to make a point…

Cheers!

P.S. I got an email from a brewer who said he does a really good job at cleaning his equipment and only sanitizes the equipment every now and then… so there you go…


    5 replies to "Sanitizing Brewing Equipment Is Overrated"

    • Brian

      Is it ok just to use regular liquid dish soap? Ive also heard about using Oxi clean Versatile Free. What would you recommend? Thanks

      • Jorge

        @Brian – as long as the dishsoap is unscented then yes…I use oxiclean versatile and tsp/90 (4:1 ratio) or pbw…

    • Doug

      Is it okay to use household bleach to sanitize bottles?

      • Jorge

        Yes and no… bleach can sanitize your bottles, but the problem is making sure you rinse out each bottle very very well… and that’s a PITA…

        I would strongly recommend you get starsan and mix it in a spray bottle and use that instead… or soak the bottles in an iodophor solution intead…

    • P Murphy

      Hey,
      You are spot on here. I have a Ph.D. in genetics and am an expert molecular biologist. I often work with human tissue, and am always concerned with sterile technique. The most important part of correct science, is understanding what you are doing, rather than just following a strict protocol. There are some, even in the world of science who go wayover board, and use voodoo practices to ensure they dont contaminate anything. The bottom line is, if you practice the proper technique, you do not need to sanitize anything.
      For example:
      When I brew, following mash, and sparage, I boil the wart, then pour it directly into my glass fermeter, and seal it off. The fermenter then goes into a large bucket of ice to cool it off. Essentially, everything that is inside the fermenter is sterile, since it was just boiling, and now that it’s sealed, nothing unwanted can get in. The next important feature is a good hefty yeast starter. I have one going around the clock. When its brew day, I add 2tbls of vinegar to drop the pH, and let the starter sit for about 5 hours at room temp. This will kill any potential contaminants, and leave the yeast intact. Then when my wart reaches temp, I inoculate with the yeast starer. The idea is that if you put enough yeast in, any potential unwanted microbes will be consumed or out-competed by the yeast. I get bubbler activty after 6-8 hours, and never have contamination. Being a good yeast wrangler is essential.
      Sanitation is over rated.
      Thanks for this article,
      Patrick

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