I can recall my very first batch of homebrew ever made. It was a Honey Wheat extract kit from William’s Brewing. I knew very little about brewing or any details of the steps involved. One of my very first lessons was to keep everything as clean as humanly possible. Of course, me being paranoid that I would ruin my first batch of beer, I had that kitchen cleaner than a hospital surgery ward from start to finish. Even during the boil, every time the stirring spoon came out of the wort, it was cleaned with bleach-water, rinsed, and dried for it’s next use in the boiling wort.
Fast forward 8 years later and some of those same principles still hold true. Of course, I’m not nearly has aggressive in my sanitation habits as I was when I began, but I have a tendency to maybe clean a little too much. The extra time I spend in the basement soaking, scraping, filtering, spraying, wiping, drying, and mixing pay dividends for my peace of mind on brew day.
Anyone who happens to land on this page looking for insight into making their own beer before they dive in, I will give this valuable piece of information. “YOU WILL CLEAN OFTEN!”
I spend over 75% of my time in the brew process cleaning my equipment. Like I said earlier, I may spend more time than needed, but my assurance that I will not contaminate my precious beer is something I can live with. My wife frequently gets on my case at the amount of patience and attention I devote to my beer making gear while neglecting the rest of the house. I spent over an hour tonight cleaning my 4 beer lines as preventative maintenance to ensure I do not have any bio-gunk build up in my lines. Most informed bars do this, but they are 1) professionally cleaned, and 2) dependant on clean lines to stay in business. I did it just to make sure the lines were clean.
The bottom line is that you should learn from your very first batch the utmost respect for cleanliness and sanitation. Although at times it may seem that you are devoting most of your precious brew time to cleaning, you will hopefully never have a bad batch of beer due to preventable infections.
My list of favorite clearning aids:
- Bleach (1tsp/1 gallon of water)
- Star San (1oz/5 gallons of water)
- Liquid Line Cleaner (.5oz/1 gallon of water)
- Oxy Clean Powder (varying strength
- Hot Water (can I say anymore)
- Sponges w/green scrubby back (invaluable)