Cleaning and Sterilization Your Hard Cider Making Equipment
What is the #1 way to ruin a good batch of cider? “Unsanitary Equipment!” Cleaning your equipment ALL of your equipment is the key to not getting spoilage in your cider. I once had a friend hand me a carboy that we were going to be using for a new brew. It was a mess, crusty and dirty. I went over to clean it and 30 minutes later I had a bright clean unit ready to go. My friend snorted at my efforts and felt that it needed to be ClEANED. I felt thats what I did, but his definition of clean was not the same as mine. This is one of the biggest mistakes made by beginner beverage makers. Cider Makers need to know the difference between ”clean” and “sterile”. What I had done was clean the the carboy, which was to remove the nasty bits that I could see, old hops bits, dried yeast, and malt particles. What my friend had wanted was for me to make the carboy “sterile” or to “sanitize” it. An object can be clean, no particles that can be seen; However if it is not also sterilized there could be millions of unseen things on it such as bacteria, mold, yeast, listeria, these unseen things are the ones that can RUIN your cider, or make you really sick. I believe all your needs to be both clean and sterile.
So how do we properly clean and sterilize our equipment? Well, let’s look at different products that I have used or have read about people using for the cleaning and sterilization process.
Oxygen-based cleansers: Powdered oxygen-based cleansers work by creating a buffered alkaline solution and introducing an oxidizer, in this case, hydrogen peroxide. Here is an in-depth article with reviews about these cleaners. Here are some links to products that are highly recommended: Easy Clean – 5 lb., 1 Step – 8 oz. or B-Brite- 5 lbs., and Oxi-clean Free. I have used 1 Step and Oxi-clean Free
both of these products worked great for me.
Bleach: A lot of people use this product. However it is not something I endorse using. Bleach will help clean and sterilize but it stinks.. The biggest problem, though, is that it will ruin your rubber and plastic equipment parts. The problem with everyday household bleach, is that it often has added fragrances or other additives which are very hard to rinse off. You have to really, really, rinse your items out, as bleach will ruin the taste of your beverage. If you use any bleach use on that has no
Elbow Grease: Yeah sorry to say that you have to use a little bit of good old effort no matter what cleaning agent you use.
Dish Soap: If you have nothing else water, dish soap, and a good brush will clean up almost anything. However, soap is really hard to get off and is most often scented which can completely ruin your cider.
Iodine: Iodine has been used for a very long time as a sanitizer, and works great for sanitizing cider making equipment, however, it will STAIN! Your hands, shirts, pants, plastic parts, you name it if it is not glass or metal it will stain. The most popular product is Iodophor Sanitizer, an iodine solution developed for homebrewers, and winemakers. If iodine is what you want to use, I recommend it.
Peracetic acid: The no-rinse sanitizer of choice for fermentors at Modern Times Brewery. It takes a surprisingly small amount mixed with cold water to effective kill microbes. When exposed to water or air, peracetic acid breaks down into acetic acid (aka vinegar). I have seen this used more in commercial options as bulk buying of this product is cheaper than StarSan , but for the home maker the easy of StarSan makes it the clear choice.
StarSan: StarSan is a self-foaming acid sanitizer. This is the #1 sanitizer used by homebrewers and cider makers. This what I recommend and use. A blend of phosphoric acid and dodecyl benzene sulphonic acid can be used as a no-rinse sanitizer if used under 300 ppm. 1 Ounce per 5 Gallons = 300 ppm
Boiling Water – if you can boil a pot of water and let you equipment sit in it for a while it will sanitize your equipment, just be aware it will warp and ruin plastic if items are left in too long.
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