The importance of cleaning equipment.
Cleaning the brewing equipment is of the utmost importance, and cannot be stressed enough. We are multiplying biology here and we certainly don’t want to encourage or breed biology that we don’t want. And just like making a beer brew or culturing yogurt, failure to clean your equipment can have devastating effects on the quality of subsequent brews.
It is best to clean your equipment as soon as possible, before liquids have a chance to dry and biofilms develop. A biofilm is a way that biology attempts to preserve itself – it is a mixture of the liquid (compost tea) and bacterial slimes and glues, which form a tough leathery surface coat or film. This is a shelter for biology under it- but oxygen is excluded and anaerobic organisms can multiply. When the surface film is removed in the next brew, anaerobes and their nasty metabolites (such as alcohols, aldehydes, and strong organic acids) are released into the brew with often devastating effects. If you clean brewers as soon as emptied, then biofilms don’t get a chance to form. When biofilms form, the job becomes more difficult and time consuming.
I use kitchen detergent with a soft sponge, and this easily removes any visible grime. Avoid the use of harsh scourers such as steel wool – they can etch equipment and provide further hiding places for biology to hide. I’m not too fussy about cleaning agents as long as they work well. Detergents and soaps work well – I have used truck wash, many types of dish washing liquid, hand soaps and crème cleansers. If the job requires sterilizing, I have used bleach, peroxide, and vinegar. For stubborn greasy or gummy resides I have used Ajax effectively and for impossible to remove stains I have used caustic soda (beware- safety precautions apply) The GOLDEN RULE is rinse thoroughly at least three times to remove residues.
Careful attention should be given to “ hiding “ spots such as inside lids, around bung holes, in corners, in aeration holes, and any areas which can’t be seen. Hoses and spray tanks should be well flushed and inspected for cleanliness. A bottle brush is essential for cleaning pipes and aeration holes- I attach a baby bottle brush to a length of 20mm conduit for quick and easy cleaning of pipes. Dairy cleaning brushes are also available.
If I get onto it immediately, I can clean a 1000litre simple brewer in 10- 15 minutes – If I let biofilms develop and “set’, then the same job can take me 2 hours or longer. When shopping for a brewer system, make sure you consider the cleaning aspect – at SFI we have seen many brewers which perform well for the first brew, but quality goes downhill after that. 95% of the time the problem is a cleaning issue. If you want to design a brewer yourself, remember, it must be cleaned after use, so keep it simple!