Wondering what is the best sanitizer for home brewing? We’ve profiled your choices.
When it comes to making a great batch of home brewed beer, you may think that the biggest key to success is the ingredients you use. And sure, that seems like a logical answer, and it does matter. However, if you don’t properly clean and sanitize your brewing equipment, you may find that amazing batch of beer spoiled by invaders.
And by invaders, we mean bacteria, fungi, and even natural yeasts.
The key to a great batch of beer starts with clean and sterile equipment. Now, if you hop on any of the online homebrew stores, you’ll find a list of sanitizing agents that you can use. But what is the best sanitizer for home brewing?
We set out to find the best sanitizer for home brewing, and through all our research, we found that most home brewers like a minimal selection of products. Some products work by just sanitizing but require an additional cleaner. Some work as both a cleaning agent and sanitizer.
We found a clear winner, and we’ll talk about that product in a bit, but first, here are a few things you should know before selecting a home brew sanitizer.
Cleaning vs. Sanitizing
So there really is a difference between cleaning and sanitizing. While some sanitizers will clean your home brew equipment, not all cleaners will sanitize. This is why it’s essential to know the difference between the two.
- Cleaners work to remove debris, soils, and other particulates from your equipment. Their job is to work at the surface and remove the stuff you can see from pots, fermenters, bottles, and kegs. A good cleaner is important, but most only do the basics.
- Sanitizers take cleaning up a level. Some sanitizers are excellent at cleaning too. Sanitizers use a chemical product to kill bacteria, fungi, and yeasts that may linger on your equipment after cleaning. Remember, these organisms are all around us in the air, so doing everything you can to eliminate them from your brewing equipment is important.
Features of a Good Sanitizer
Finding a good sanitizer isn’t difficult, but we did find that some of the most popular sanitizer products out there had some specific features that put them at the top of most home brewers’ lists. Here are the product features that we think are most important when considering a good home brewing sanitizer.
- Easy to use – Your brew day is long enough already, and you’re going to spend a large portion of that time cleaning your stuff, so it makes sense that you’ll want to find a sanitizer that isn’t a chore to use. And by easy to use, we mean good instructions, simple dilutions, and minimal effort in prep.
- No perfumes – The last thing you want is for your beer to taste like your sanitizer. A good sanitizer will have no perfumes or strong fragrances that can carry over to your beer. Sanitizers with perfumes or odors will require a lot of rising, making it harder to use, and taking up more time in your brew day.
- Gentle on the skin – You will get this stuff on your hands. Look for products that are safe for your skin. We’re not suggesting that you’ll want to bathe in your sanitizer, but if you stick your hands in a bucket of sanitizer to grab an airlock or hydrometer, you don’t want to end up with irritated skin.
- Not staining – Some products have ingredients that can stain clothes. Bleach for instance, is a great sanitizer but will almost instantly stain clothes. Other products have iodine, which can leave brown stains on clothes.
- Cost effective – By cost effective, what we mean is how much product do we need to use each time we brew, and the unit cost of the product. Some products seem expensive, but you only use a little to sterilize all of your equipment, so the per-use cost is low.
- No-rinse – This is a huge time saver. If you can use a product to sanitize your brewing equipment and not have to take extra time to rinse, that is a win in our mind.
The Best Sanitizer for Home Brewing
As we researched, we found that the most popular sanitizing product for home brewing was our favorite product as well.
Star San – This product is a well-known and incredibly popular product with homebrewers. It uses phosphoric acid and dodecylbenzenesulfonic acid to sterilize. While Star San is one of the more expensive options on the market, you only need a small amount (1-ounce in 5-gallons water) to sterilize all your brewing equipment.
Star San sounds like some pretty aggressive stuff, but it is pretty safe to use and, when diluted, won’t stain or irritate your skin. Our favorite part of this product is that it works quickly (30-seconds of contact time) and doesn’t need to be rinsed.
Star San is made for food-grade equipment so that it won’t damage your stainless-steel brewing equipment. And at the same time, won’t leave any unwanted flavors in your beer.
If you can’t find Star San or if you just want to give some other products a try to find the one that is best for you, here are a few good alternatives:
- Io Star – From the same manufacturer as Star San, this product uses Iodine as a sterilizing agent. It is also no-rinse and cost effective. But iodine can stain, so be careful.
- One Step – This powdered sanitizer does a good job and is inexpensive. However, you’ll need more products than with Star San and Io Star for best results. It doesn’t need to be rinsed and has no odors.
- Bleach – If you’re in a pinch, household bleach will work great. It’s really inexpensive but works well. The downfalls of bleach include lots of rinsing, staining, and it can irritate the skin. But, if you run out of your preferred products, bleach works very well at sanitizing your brewing equipment.
You don’t have to reinvent the wheel to find a great sanitizer for home brewing. The best sanitizer for home brewing is the well-known and widely used product, Star San.
This great sanitizer is easy to use, cost-effective, and won’t irritate your skin. Maybe that’s why so many home brewers rely on it as the first step to a great batch of beer.