How To Clean Brewing Equipment

The not-so-fun part of brewing is the cleaning and sanitising at the end but you can make it easier with our guide. Take a look.

How To Clean Brewing Equipment

With over 9,000 craft breweries in the US and over 1.2 million homebrewers according to a recent survey by the New American Homebrewers Association, it's fair to say a lot of Americans are enjoying the challenge and rewards of creating unique beverages. Meanwhile, there are over 1,900 independent breweries in the UK, and New Zealand has more breweries per capita than the US, UK and Australia. 

As all brewers know, the fun part of brewing is the first part, and the not-so-fun part is the cleaning and sanitise at the end, however with the right equipment and processes, cleaning brewing equipment can be done effectively and efficiently. 

The difference between a good brew and an amazing brew is a microscopic build-up of dirt or bacteria that you can't even see. With thoroughly clean equipment the risk of having your beloved brew tainted or tasting 'not quite right' is greatly reduced. Here are our top tips for cleaning brewing equipment, the same rules apply whether you are starting a craft brewery or are a home brewer:

Expect contamination. When you start with the point of view that there will be bacteria or microbes lurking about, then you'll be much more careful during the brewing process and with the clean-up afterwards. When mixing organic matter like hops, grains, water and various fruit, it is nearly impossible not to have them in contact with surfaces and components of your brewing equipment, especially plastics. By assuming bacteria or dirt will get into equipment like your fermentor, you will be more careful at the start, thus reducing the chances, and you'll be more thorough with your cleaning at the end.

Choose the right cleaners. Bleaches can be corrosive and damage equipment over time, especially if they collect around seals. Kitchen detergents are often designed for degreasing dishes but cannot fully clean scale from minerals and proteins, and you don't want their fragrances appearing in your brews. A good alkaline cleaner is preferred by most brewers and a quick Google will show a range of powders and tablets specifically for cleaning brewing equipment. The Brewers Association in the US has noted that a growing number of brewers are finding that adding hydrogen peroxide to their alkaline cleaning solution is helping to remove protein and calcium deposits.  

Choose the right cleaning equipment. Don't use brittle brushes or abrasive pads or steel wool as these can scour the plastic on fermentation buckets and carboys which in turn create places for bacteria and dirt to hide. A sponge or soft cloth works best with some good elbow grease to scrub all surfaces, nooks and crannies. It pays to use a hand pump that can pump alkaline cleaners and can be fully cleaned itself so other chemicals are not introduced. The Ezi-action drum pump has become a popular choice around the world in the brewing industry. In addition, brewers tell us they value the enhanced safety measures and precision of using a safety measure when dispensing chemicals.

Soak soak soak. Patience is an important attribute for all brewers, and it is equally important when cleaning brewing equipment. Disassemble and rinse all equipment immediately after use and then soak everything using warm water and a strong alkali cleaner. After flushing and scrubbing the fermentor, fill it 90% with the warm water cleaning mix. Soak syphons, tubes, spigots and any other equipment separately. Depending on the time of day, if it is in the afternoon then you should leave everything soaking overnight. The next morning empty and rinse to ensure no chemical residue, and then leave to air dry instead of accidentally wiping on new contaminants.

Following these cleaning protocols will protect your future brews from spoiling, and will give you more confidence with your liquid creations.