Homebrewing Tips | Cleaning is Sexy
Image from Eckraus.com.
She looks at him and raises the bottle to her lips. After taking a sip, she slowly lowers the beer in disbelief.
“You brewed this?” she asks.
“I did.” he replies with a grin. She sets the beer down and moves closer to him. He grabs her by the waist and they embrace in a passionate kiss.
“Shit!” I exclaim as the water overflows and my daydreaming fades away.
I sanitize the last bottle and place it on my bottling tree to dry. I’m almost ready to bottle two cases. I have already spent an hour preparing everything. My back hurts, my fingers are pruned, and I smell. Cleaning sucks. It’s not sexy, or romantic, or even mildly entertaining. It’s work.
That’s a big problem when 90% of a brewer’s day is cleaning. So this month, I wanted to share some tips to make cleaning easier… and sexy.
Hot and Dirty
When I first started brewing, I accidentally poured boiling hot water into my plastic carboy to sanitize it. I knew boiling water would kill anything, so I figure that it would sanitize the carboy. Instead, it melted my brand new, never used, plastic carboy. This forced me to do some reading online, which may, or may not, have made me overly cautious about cleaning. Over the years, I’ve calmed down a bit and learned an easy to remember rule:
If it’s hot, it doesn’t need to be sanitized.
That is to say, you don’t need to keep dipping your mash paddle into sanitizer while you’re brewing. As long as you’re using it during the boil, it doesn’t have to be perfect. It does need to be clean however. The last thing you want is to leave whatever was on it, in your beer. That being said, it is incredibly important to sanitize everything when your beer is cool. When your beer is cooled, treat it like a core of uranium in a spy movie. Sanitize everything.
Get it Wet
It’s a pain to constantly fill containers and submerge everything in sanitizer, that’s why I use a spray bottle instead. Just fill up a spray bottle with water and Starsan, then everything you spray will be sanitized. This is an incredibly convenient way to keep everything sanitized and if you use distilled water, it will last for weeks!
Break Out the Toys
Cleaning is more enjoyable if you have the right toys to get the job done faster. One of the best purchases I have made is called the “Clean Bottle Express Carboy Brush”. It’s a simple design that does exactly what you hate doing, cleaning your carboy. Hook one up to your drill, fill your carboy with some chemicals and water, then turn it on and let it do the work. Simple and brilliant, check your local homebrew shop. You’ll be happy you did.
Say My Name
When it comes to equipment, do yourself a favor and do some research online for the best value. There are several forums online that go into detail on the benefits of each product. While I always encourage people to buy from their local shop, some items may not be available. That’s why I use the Brewing Network’s Amazon link every time I make a purchase online. I recommend looking at detergent cleaning products and acidic cleaning products that will clean just as well as the name brands, but will save you some money. I personally use an Oxiclean knockoff and concentrate cleaning vinegar. I bought everything a few months ago in bulk, so I know I have enough to clean my brewing equipment well past the apocalypse. By using the link, the Brewing Network will receive a check from Amazon, which helps them help homebrewers. While I know it doesn’t directly help local business, it does go back to supporting the brewing community. So you can feel better about giving your money to the corporate overloads. You can repent later.
Wrap it Up
Invest in some disposable gloves and use eye protection. If you go to a big brewery, you’ll see brewers wearing black gloves and glasses. This isn’t a fashion statement, it’s protective gear to avoid chemical burns. While most homebrewers don’t use the same chemicals that professionals do, it’s still a good idea to protect your hands and eyes while using any toxic cleaning supplies. Check with your local homebrew shop or online to get some great products for cheap. Don’t ignore safety.
Clean as You Go
I don’t have a clever innuendo for this one, it’s too important. As you’re brewing it’s easy to set things off to the side and clean them while you’re done, I implore you not to do that. Cleaning while you are brewing takes less time and is easier than cleaning when you’re done. Instead of fighting stuck-on wort, grains gummed up in your mash, and hop residue on the side of your kettle, a quick rinse and scrub will usually wash off the majority of your equipment. I personally like to soak everything with some detergent as well, but that is up to you. At the very least, spray off your equipment as you brew so cleaning is easier when you’re done.
Let it Hang
When you’re done cleaning, set out your equipment somewhere to dry. Make sure you leave the lid off and all the valves open. I’ve had some equipment grow mold because the lid of the mash tun was left on. Hot, sticky, humid areas will guarantee mold and funk. There is nothing worse than going to brew and having to deep clean your equipment before you can start because it wasn’t cleaned properly. Take the extra minute to store your equipment in a dry place that gets plenty of air, like a Scottish man’s kilt.