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Cleaning & Sanitizing

During the brewing process it is of the utmost importance to keep your equipment clean and sterilized. This prevents bacteria from contaminating your wine and beer, the results of which could be disastrous. A contamination could produce a variety of problems, such as vile odours, awful tastes, haziness or worse. By practicing sound cleaning techniques you can be assured of keeping the chances of contamination to almost zero.

The most effective way to disinfect your brewing equipment is with the use of chemical sterilizers. There are many different ones to choose from and each one has it’s own special properties. Some of these include Sodium Metabisulphite, Diversol, Iodophor and even bleach. Some are more effective than others, especially for certain types of applications. This handout will explain the basics of how, when, and where to use these products.

Sodium Metabisulphite / Potassium Metabisulphite

This is a white crystalline powder which mixes with water to make a sanitizing rinse. It is the most widely used of all the sanitizers. Sulfites have been used in winemaking for hundreds of years. They are effective sanitizers and also act as a preservative to prevent oxidation in wine.

When to use

Use a Metabisulphite solution for sanitizing your equipment only. Metabisulphites are not cleaners and should only be used on already cleaned equipment.

How to use:

Dissolve 50 grams in 4 litres of water (8 tsp. per gallon). This produces a re-useable solution that will last for about 2 months. Keep it tightly sealed in a glass or plastic container only (it will corrode metals). This solution gives off a very strong odour which is irritating to lungs. Avoid inhaling and use preferably in an open or ventilated area. To sanitize simply rinse your equipment and let it drip dry for 10 minutes. The metabisulphite solution can be poured into or on your equipment, or your equipment can be dipped into it. (Helpful Hint: use a spray bottle to spray it onto your equipment). Note: when using metabisulphite on beer equipment a rinse with fresh clean water is necessary. Metabisulphite will combine with the organic compounds in beer to produce off flavours in your batch. This reaction does not happen with wine, so air drying is acceptable

Where to use:

Metabisulphite solutions are useable on all your brewing equipment, as well as bottles and even corks. For sanitizing bottles pour or squirt the metabisulfite solution into the bottle and let stand to drip dry. Rinsing is necessary for beer bottles, but not for wine bottles. A solution at 50% strength can be used to soak corks to sterilize and soften them up prior to bottling. Metabisulphite can be used for filling airlocks. Do not use metabisulphite on metal or stainless steel (such as draught kegs). It is corrosive and will cause pitting. Do not mix with alkaline solutions such as bleach or Diversol. This will cause hazardous gases to form.

Diversol (The Pink Stuff, Sani-brew, Stericlean, Sparklebrite, etc..)

An easily recognizable pink powder, Diversol is sold under a variety of trade names (listed above). We sell it simply as "The Pink Stuff". It has chlorine and alkaline components, making it effective as both a very effective cleaner and a sanitizer. It is widely used for both beer and winemaking.

When to use:

Use a Diversol solution for cleaning and sanitizing your equipment. Diversol is extremely effective as a cleaner. It practically dissolves stains, residue and even most wine label glues. What makes it so versatile is that it sanitizes at the same time. Two jobs are done at the same time when using Diversol.

How to Use:

Dissolve 3.5 grams per litre of water, 50 grams per 12 litres (or 5 tsp. per gallon). For cleaning: soak stained equipment and bottles for up to 48 hours. Use a brush, sponge or rag to knock loose any stubborn spots. Rinse well with hot water (this is important as chlorine residue will affect both wine and beer). For sanitizing: fill primary with Diversol solution and immerse all equipment: hoses, spoons, bungs, airlocks, hydrometers, thermometers and primary lids. Let soak for at least 20 minutes. Rinse well with hot water. For carboys: use 10 litres of solution in a carboy. Place on its side a slosh it around the insides. Repeat after 5 minutes, let stand for 20 minutes and then rinse well with hot water. For bottles: fill up a tub or old pail with Diversol solution. Immerse bottles for 1-2 hours or more (overnight works well). By allowing a good soak, the Diversol does all the work in removing the labels (note: solvent based glues will not come off this way). Use a jet washer or bottle washer to blast out any inside residue and rinse the bottles well. Bottles can then be used immediately for bottling.

Where to use:

Diversol is used primarily as a cleaner for equipment. Its use as a sanitizer is effective, but requires a 20 minute soak. Diversol must be rinsed well for all beer and wine equipment and bottles. Do not use to fill airlocks, run through electric wine filters, or for soaking corks. Do not mix with acids or ammonia as hazardous gases will form.

Iodophor

Iodophor is an iodine based sanitizer. Almost magical in its convenience, it requires no waiting and no rinsing. For those who are sensitive to the noxious odour produced by metabisulphite Iodophor is a wonderful alternative. It practically has no smell. It is even more effective than metabisulfite in its germicidal ability. Iodophor is the best sanitizer to use for making beer, as the other two will affect a beers taste if not rinsed properly. Iodophor does not have to be rinsed for either wine or beer.

When to use:

Use iodophor for anything you would use metabisulphites for. It is only a sterilant and not a cleaner, so all items must be cleaned first.

How to use:

Mix 1 ml per litre of cold water, or one tsp. per 4 litres (one gallon). Pour onto, spray onto, or immerse your equipment in the solution. Shake off the excess. Do not rinse. Use the equipment, it’s that easy. Iodophor will mix to be a light yellow colour. If the colour fades then it is time to mix up a fresh batch. The more you use it the more the colour will fade. Usually it will last no more than 2-3 days, so a fresh batch is needed every time you brew.

Where to use:

Iodophor is usable much the same as metabisulfite. It’s main advantage is the no rinse factor. Its main disadvantage is that it has to be mixed fresh every time you use it. Iodophor will not clean equipment. The concentrated solution will stain fabric and skin, so handle carefully.

Household Bleach

Unscented household bleach can be used as a cleaner and/or sanitizer. However it is harsh on equipment and skin and has several drawbacks, so its use is not generally recommended.

When to use:

For sanitizing it is just as effective as Diversol. For cleaning, however, Diversol would be preferable.

How to Use:

For cleaning use 5 ml per litre of cold water (1 tbsp. per gallon) and follow the instructions for Diversol. Rinse with hot water extra well, or off tastes will be produced in your wine or beer. For sanitizing again use 5 ml per litre of cold water, and follow the instructions for Diversol.

Where to use:

Bleach is a great back up when you run out of your other cleaners. Used as a cleaner for equipment it works fine. Its use as a sanitizer is effective, but requires a 20 minute soak. Bleach must be rinsed very well for all beer and wine equipment and bottles. Do not use to fill airlocks, run through electric wine filters, or for soaking corks. Do not use scented bleach unless you want your wine to smell "lemony fresh". This smell is hard to remove from plastic fermentors.

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