If you have clicked on this link, then you're most likely in the beginning phase of home brewing
…….anyone who clicks on this link and has been brewing for a while has probably just learnt the hard way on how easy it is to lose a brew though unsterile equipment.
Anywhere there is yeast involved, your equipment needs to be meticulously clean and sterile. There is a difference between clean and sterile which I will address further in this article.
STERILISING YOUR EQUIPMENT
An excellent product for sterilisation is Sodium Metabisulphite, a white powder that releases S02 gas when diluted with cold water. It is this gas that sterilises all equipment. It has fallen out of popularity in some cases for home users because of the health issues related with inhaling this gas, particularly if you have asthma. However if common sense prevails, and you can resist sticking your head inside your fermenter just to see how much the fumes smell….then you have little to worry about.
This brings to mind a time when I told my youngster not to pick and take a bite out of the chilli we were growing because it would 'burn your mouth' ....no sooner had the warning been issued than I hear a wail from my child...in disbelief I asked why did you do that when I told you not to and got the reply ' I wanted to see just how hot it was!' Along these lines I recommend you don't stick your head inside the fermenter to see how the fumes smell.
Take obvious precautions and use Sodium Metabisulphite in a well ventilated space, and avoid mixing up a too strong ratio…stick with the instructions on the packet! This steriliser is super efficient and works well on HDPE plastic fermenters, airlocks, rubber bungs, sealing O rings, bottles, stainless steel, glass…in fact all your brewing equipment.
There are many other sterilisers/sanitisers on the market…including bleaches, Idophor, starsan etc. You should always follow the instructions on these products regarding dilution ratios, and avoid leaving them on the equipment for longer than recommended.
Stainless steel can get pit marks on the surface if these sterilisers are incorrectly mixed and used.
TO RINSE OR NOT TO RINSE
There are NO RINSE products now on the market that play on fears of contamination from rinse water……
I'm not keen on the no rinse philosophy and can do without a dose of chemical being absorbed into my brew. If you're in doubt of your rinse water, then you could use cooled boiled water or filtered water for the final rinse.
If you are a firm believer in the no rinse policy....then definitely use Sodium Metabisulplhite or Potassium Metabisulphite as your no rinse sterilising choice. These products are used in the food industry as food standard PRESERVATIVES. Likewise potassium metabisulphite is used in winemaking as an antimicrobial agent to treat grapes before fermentation and as a preservative for bottle wine. At recommended dilutation ratios these products would be the best choice as no rinse sterilisers, rather than bleaches or other chemical sterilising products.
THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN CLEAN AND STERILE
Sterilising solutions do just that..sterilise, however your equipment must be clean first. The best way to have clean equipment is to avoid leaving any old beer or wine on the surface that could go mouldy..washing after use is the most efficient way to have clean equipment. It is ok to clean with a mild household detergent and warm water on your HDPE fermenters etc. Rinse all detergent off really well.
If your glass demijohn, glass beer bottles or stainless steel brewing equipment needs a really good clean… the product BREWERS DETERGENT (sodium metasilicate) is the most effective cleaner/degreaser available. It is used with hot water and will strip all mould and labels from glass bottles, strip any greasy marks like boiling hop resins from your stainless steel boiler etc.
Rinse off thoroughly with warm water and it will leave all equipment squeaky clean (do not use on plastics)