In this article, we will explore some of the best brewing sanitizers and provide a few suggestions and advice on how to pick the best sanitizers for brewing.
There are very few homebrewers that haven’t had a beer go bad. When beer goes bad, one likely culprit is foreign microbes. Whether bacteria, fungus, or wild yeasts, these beer-fouling invaders can make brewing a misery.
Thankfully, they can be easily managed with proper cleaning and sanitizing techniques. Let’s explore the best brewing sanitizer products.
What To Look For In Brewing Sanitizer
Many people new to homebrewing think that typical household cleaners or dish detergents will work just fine for their brewing equipment. However, there are a number of reasons why you should add a brewing sanitizer to your brew day routine.
The most important thing that you need to know about brewing sanitizers is that they are specifically formulated to be free of fragrance, artificial dyes, and surfactants. Sanitizers that are fragrance-free will not add flavors to your beer.
A good brewing sanitizer will work to kill microbes using a chemical that is safe to contact with foods or food containers. A good quality food-grade or brewing-grade sanitizer will be “rinse-free,” meaning you can soak your equipment in the cleaner and use it immediately without rinsing with clean water.
How To Pick The Best Brewing Sanitizer
When you are new to homebrewing, you will quickly find that there are quite a number of options for brewing sanitizers. Some homebrewers like to use commercial-grade sanitizers, but for small-scale, home brewing needs, there are better products.
When you are considering brewing sanitizer, there are some features that you should look closely at before purchasing.
- Ease of use: You will quickly learn that the majority of your brew day is spent cleaning equipment. So, it is important that you find a product that doesn’t require a degree in chemistry to mix and use.
- Fragrance-free: The added fragrance will stick to your brewing equipment and make your beer smell and taste like your cleanser. A good sanitizer will be free of perfumes or fragrances.
- Non-staining: Some sanitizers, while amazing for cleaning, have ingredients that can stain clothing, counters, or other household items.
- No-rinse: Products that do not require rinsing before using equipment add to ease of use, and you know that the product is safe for food items.
- Gentle on the skin: You will get this product on your hands because most of us aren’t going to wear dish gloves when cleaning our brewing equipment. Products that will not irritate or burn your skin are high on our list.
- Affordable: There are some great products out there that don’t cost a ton of money. There are also products that seem a bit expensive until you realize that you only need a small amount to make a proper sanitizing solution.
Star San is a highly popular sanitizer for brewing. It is the one product that we found to have all six of our product considerations. This widely used, food-grade sanitizer is affordable, no-rinse, non-staining, fragrance and dye free, easy to use, and reasonably gentle on the skin.
This product requires dilution, so though it may be more expensive than other products on our list, a single bottle of Star San will last a long time. When diluted, Star San does foam, which some brewers do not like. However, the foam is able to find its way into crevices in your brewing equipment.
Because Star San is a no-rinse product, many homebrewers feel confident in placing the diluted Star San solution into a spray bottle for touch-up sanitizing or for bottle tops before capping.
- Rinsing is not required before using equipment
- Does not have added dyes or perfumes
- Light foaming gets into spaces your sponge or towel miss
- Inexpensive concentrate
- Can dry out your skin
Five Star IO Sanitizer
Many homebrewers prefer to use an iodine-based sanitizer. The IO Sanitizer from Five Star comes from the same maker as Star San. Like Star San, this product is made specifically for sanitizing food cooking and storage containers.
Five Star IO sanitizer is a no-rinse sanitizer, so you don’t need to worry about this cleanser impacting yeast activity during fermentation. IO sanitizer foams less than Star San but enough for effective cleaning in hard-to-reach places.
When properly diluted, this product is relatively gentle on the skin. It can dry out your skin with extended exposure.
Five Star IO comes in a handy dosing bottle for easy dilution. The instructions are easy to follow and even give recommended contact times for the best sanitizing results.
- Easy-to-follow instructions for diluting
- Rinsing prior to use is not necessary
- Foams less than other sanitizing products
- Does require at least two minutes of contact time
- Iodine-based products can stain clothes or other porous surfaces
- Does have a shelf life
Iodine-based sanitizing products are generally made for the food service industry or commercial food production facilities. BFT Iodophor is intended for restaurant use but can be used for larger-scale home brewing setups.
This sanitizer is quite effective at killing microbes on brewing equipment. However, the dilution instructions are really focused on larger facilities than your home kitchen. Brewing equipment will need to soak in the diluted BFT Iodophor solution, and with this product, you will need to rinse the equipment before using it.
You will notice that this product, as with other iodine-based sanitizers, is brown in color. BFT Iodophor will stain clothing, plastic, and other materials, so it should be used with caution.
The concentrated cleaning solution can also be harmful if it comes in contact with your hands or eyes or is consumed. Make sure to read and follow the instructions before using.
- Does not foam
- Free of fragrance
- Great for larger sized home brew set-ups
- Has a shorter shelf-life than other cleansers
- Requires rinsing
Five Star Saniclean
Saniclean is another product from Five Star. This acid-based sanitizer is designed as a non-foaming alternative to Star San and IO sanitizers. The biggest reason to select Saniclean over Star San or other sanitizers is that it can actually remove flavors, so it is perfect for sanitizing brewing equipment and tubing or parts for your kegerator.
Because this is an acid-based product, you will want to dilute it thoroughly so that it does not damage equipment or burn the skin. Once diluted, this product does require a minimum contact time of two minutes. When diluted to the proper concentration, Saniclean is also a no-rinse sanitizer.
- Removes odors and flavors from brewing equipment
- No rise product when properly diluted
- No foam is produced when diluting
- Can damage soft metal (aluminum) brewing equipment
- Concentrated products can stain clothing
- Acid-based products can be irritating to the skin
Clorox bleach is the only “household” cleaner on our list, and it is a product that should be used only in a pinch. While bleach is highly effective at sanitizing brewing equipment, it does have some downfalls.
It does require equipment to be thoroughly rinsed prior to use. It has a strong odor and can leave a taste in your beer. Additionally, bleach can stain clothing and is very irritating to the skin.
If you find yourself out of your normal sanitizing cleaner, bleach can be used with proper dilution and a very good rinse. You might also find our airlock alternatives helpful.
- Very inexpensive sanitizing agent
- Creates a strong sanitizing solution with a little concentrate
- Leaves no residue when rinsed properly
- Can burn or irritate the skin
- This is not a “no-rinse” sanitizer
- Can leave a flavor or odor if not rinsed well
To find the five best brewing sanitizers, we considered a number of products that are widely used by homebrewers. For each product, we diluted according to direction, cleaned some brewing equipment, and used that equipment to make a batch of beer.
Why You Can Trust Me
We’ve been homebrewing for years. One of the first things we learned about making a great beer is that it requires clean equipment. If you liked this post, you might also be interested in our guide on how much water is used in batch sparging.