Microbrewing can be one of the most engaging and satisfying hobbies to take up. Cultivating the right flavors, strength, and style over a matter of weeks or months can make the final product all that more satisfying. But one of the most important things you should take into account before you dive into your home brew operation is proper sanitation.
It’s the yeast that cultivates the flavor, but from the moment your initial product dips below half-boiling point, you’ll have to deal with all manner of bacteria that can potentially infect your brew.
Knowing how and what to sanitize–especially if you’re a beginner–can save you weeks of frustration. First, you’ll want to be sure that absolutely everything that comes into contact with your home brew has been properly sanitized.
That means sterilizing your bottles, rungs, chillers, spoons, any racking equipment, and last but not least, your hands. You’ll want to submerge all your equipment in a chemical solution–usually bleach or hydrogen peroxide, both of which are highly effective and readily available.
It is also possible to sanitize by heat, but this is not recommended for most equipment aside from bottle caps. Heat is by far the riskier method of sanitation and is not nearly as effective as a chemical agent. You’ll also want to invest in a sturdy wire brush and some Oxy-Clean. The latter can be extremely useful for cleaning and scrubbing off old labels until they look like new again.
If the bottles are new, be sure to sanitize and then rinse them thoroughly with cold water. This last step is important–you don’t want a bleach aftertaste lingering in your prize home brew! Lastly, be sure to use common sense and remember that the first rule is it’s always better to be safe than sorry.