When beer brewing, sanitation is of the utmost importance. You have several options of what to use to sanitize, but the important thing is that you use something and take sanitation seriously. The two cheapest and most accessible options are not the best options, but they do work. You can use bleach or vinegar. Within the beer brewing community, there are better, more popular choices: Star San, One Step and Iodorphor. Here is a look at the pros and cons of these sanitizing agents.
Most beer brewing kits will provide you with some sort of sanitizer to get you started, bit after that you will need to figure out which way you want to go for future beer brewing. Bleach is the most readily available product, and cheap, but it has its drawbacks. There are many no rinse sanitizers available, but bleach is certainly not one of them.
If you use bleach to sanitize, you must be sure that you thoroughly rinse bleach from your beer brewing equipment. This may require multiple rinses. In order to rinse, you will likely use tap water, which poses dangers as well. There is no telling what types of bacteria and other microorganisms are in the tap water that can be left behind on your beer making equipment after multiple rinses. Bleach also is not fun to smell, while using it, and when left behind on your equipment after rinsing. You absolutely do not want to leave behind any traces of bleach, as this could get into your beer and ruin it. And there is always the concern of getting bleach on your clothes, your skin, or the floor and counter tops.
Mixing bleach and vinegar makes an effective sanitizer, and it can actually be a no rinse sanitizer. However, using this method requires extreme caution. Never, never, never, never mix bleach and vinegar directly together. This creates a toxic gas that can be fatal! You should research this very carefully and before attempting to very thoroughly to ensure that you do this properly. You want to avoid mixing the two directly, and you also want to be sure to use it properly as a no rinse sanitizer.
Needless to say, this option isn’t recommended for beginners. It really shouldn’t be an option for anyone beer brewing, since better alternatives exist, and aren’t that much more expensive. Bleach is cheaper, however, you will likely need to use more of it as opposed to commercially available sanitizers designed specifically for beer brewing. Bleach really only offers one advantage–it is readily available.
Some commercial beer brewing sanitizers include Star San, One Step and Iodorphor. These are all equally effective and do not require rinsing, so your choice will probably come down to a simple matter of personal preference. One Step recently lost its Sanitizer classification by the FDA, although there remain some faithful users. Nevertheless, it is still great for cleaning, but probably not the best choice for sanitizing. It is often included in beer brewing kits, it doesn’t have an odor, and is a no rinse product.
Iodorphor is a sanitizer made with iodone, something that has long been used for sanitization–common table salt has iodine in it. You can purchase Iodorphpr online, at your LHBS, or even at livestock related stores. There are a few drawbacks to Iodorphor. It can stain your beer making equipment if not diluted properly, and over time it will stain your equipment, especially plastic items and vinyl tubing. It can also stain your skin.
Star San is probably just about the most popular sanitizer, and for good reason. It is a no rinse sanitizer as well. (No rinse simply means that you do not rinse away the sanitizer–you leave it on the equipment and it will not harm your beer) Star San is concentrated, so a little goes a long way. One tip to stretch it out is to mix Star San with distilled water in a spray bottle.
It is safe to use, and comes in a convenient, easy measure bottle. It creates a nice foam that penetrates all the hidden spots and tight spots on and in your beer brewing equipment. The foam breaks up in the wort and, and also provides some additional nutrient for your yeast. Star San also continues to sanitize in the presence of sugar, which makes it invaluable in sanitizing plate chillers and other beer making equipment that you cannot see inside of.
It sticks to whatever you use it on, and continues to sanitize. Star San ia also great at removing painted on beer labels, like those on Corona bottles. There are a few drawbacks, however. In its concentrated form, it can etch glass. You want to be extra cautious using this on glass equipment such as carboys.
Star San might be a little more difficult to find, but you should be able to get it at your LHBS or online. But you won’t find it at the grocery store or Wal Mart. Star San can also dry out your skin. One issue with Star San, especially with those new to the beer brewing world, is the foam that it creates.
Apparently, some think this foam is harmful, so they wind up rinsing their equipment and remove the foam, thus removing the sanitizer. The manufacturer’s instructions clearly state that it is a NO RINSE sanitizer and to not rinse it. If you go with Star San for your beer making equipment sanitization, just remember, the foam is your friend!