3 Levels Of Clean

There is one phrase that is commonly said in homebrewing, “99% of brewing is cleaning, 1% is following directions.”

So what is clean? Well there is really 3 levels of cleanliness in my opinion. Taking a quick look at what it takes to clean and sanitize to make sure that you beer turns out the way it’s intended to looks something like this:

1) Clean

To clean brew ware is a good place to start off.  Pretty much what is accomplished here is you are ridding the hardware of dirt or stains.  Before you can sanitize you must clean.

A good rule of thumb to go by is that your brewing equipment must be cleaned, but not all your equipment needs to be sanitized.  When you look at what needs to be cleaned versus wheat needs to be sanitized, view it in pre boil and post boil.  Anything pre boil just needs to be cleaned.  The boil is going to kill any bacteria.  Anything that is post boil must be sanitized.  

Examples Of Cleaners

Good Old Fashion Soap –  Soap will clean your equipment.  The downside is that sometimes it is scented and your beer could smell like soap.  Also, sometimes there is a white residue that is left over.  In small amounts soap is pretty good though.

Bleach – Cheap and it works.  If you end up using bleach, use about a tablespoon per gallon.  If you use plastic, bleach will most likely be absorbed and will give you off flavors.  Another downside is that I’m told that bleach can eat through stainless steel if in contact for a long enough time.  Rinse super well if you choose to use it.  I tend to stay away from bleach for the most part, but I know some homebrewers swear by it.

Oxiclean – one of my favorites.  Cheap as well as easily found. Just get the store brand if you choose this route, it’s the same thing but even cheaper.

PBW – pretty much a stronger version of Oxiclean. Use between 1 and 2 tablespoons per gallon.

Straight A, One Step and B Brite – These are all precarbonates.   Not as strong as PBW and have similar cleaning characteristics of Oxiclean.  1 tablespoon per gallon of water.

**As seen in the comments below, if you have white residue there is a solution:

 “…do an acidic rinse (white vinegar+water) prior to the the plain water rinse to get rid of this…”

Love it***

2) Sanitize

To sanitize something makes it so that you eliminate bacteria.  All equipment that touches your word post boil should be sanitized.

Examples Of Sanitizers:

Bleach – To get it to sanitize allow it to sit for 15 minutes.

Iodophor – This is used in medical and food industries to sanitize equipment.  Use  one tablespoon per 5 gallons.  Contact time needs to be 2 minutes.  This is a sanitizer that is a no rinse.  Also make sure that it doesn’t get on your cloths because it will stain it.

Star-San – One ounce per 5 gallons of water, it is a no-rinse sanitizer.  The nice thing about Star-San is that is can be reused a couple times as long as it’s pH stays where it is suppose to.

3) Sterilize

Most homebrewers don’t go through the steps to actually sterilize equipment.  To sterilize you are actually ridding all bacteria or microorganisms.   The only way which I know how to do it is heat.  We have a blog about how to do it with bottles.  Technically you can do with any glass equipment.  But if your interested, you can actually save time by sterilizing your bottles rather than sanitizing your bottles.

What I do: I normally use Oxiclean and then iodophor for brewing containers.  Anything glass I bake in the oven. It seems to work for me about every time.  Once I switched over to carboy’s and do this combination, I haven’t had any contamination problems.


If you have any suggestions or personal experiences leave a comment below!


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6 Comments on “3 Levels Of Clean”

  1. Bob Says:

    Ever find residue from Oxyclean? Sometimes I find some white powdery residue behind (same with One-Step). I often do an acidic rinse (white vinegar+water) prior to the the plain water rinse to get rid of this.


    • Jay's Brewing Blog Says:

      Bob, I love it! I’ll have to include that in the post. I have found that sometimes you get that residue based off how concentrated the mixture is. Love love love it Bob! If it works it works.


    • Jay's Brewing Blog Says:

      Hey Bob, wanted to let you know we included your suggestion. Thank you very much!


      • Bob Says:

        Heh! Glad I could contribute. Now I hope it actually works and my results with this step weren’t totally imaginary 😀 White vinegar by itself is a pretty good sanitizer, but, of course requires a rinse. I heard on an old Basic Brewing Radio segment (mainly about Star San) that you can boost the power of bleach with the addition of white vinegar to make a more acidic solution.http://media.libsyn.com/media/basicbrewing/bbr03-29-07.mp3 The StarSan guy also said that a solution of 1 oz bleach + 5 gallons water + 1 oz white vinegar per 5 gallon is a ‘no rinse’ sanitizer with 80 ppm hypochlorous acid I haven’t had the nerve to try this.

        The companion podcast in the BBR sanitizer series covers proper use of Iodophor
        [audio src="http://media.libsyn.com/media/basicbrewing/bbr03-22-07.mp3" /]

      • Jay's Brewing Blog Says:

        Awesome, I’ll defiantly have to try it out and see how it works. It makes sense to me though!


  1. The Best Summer Blonde Ale Recipe | Jay's Brewing Blog - January 24, 2013

    […] 3 Levels Of Clean […]

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