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Copper is great for all sorts of things, manifolds for your cooler based mashing tun, as well as that wort chiller you can't live without. However, copper gets really dirty, really quickly, and I don't think that any of us want all of those oxides in our brew.

To date, I have been cleaning my wort chiller by soaking it in a bucket of star-san, which seems like a waste and it takes a long time to wait around for it to get nice and shiny. Soon I will be building a copper manifold as I get into all grain brewing this summer.

So my question is, what is the best / easiest / fastest way to get these copper parts clean enough for a day of brewing? Would it be better to trade them out for stainless components instead?

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3 Answers 3

up vote 7 down vote accepted

I don't worry about it, other than rinsing sweet or bitter wort off of the copper manifold and chiller. The low pH of the wort will clean off any oxides, and copper is readily consumed by the yeast (it's an essential nutrient), and it's all pre-boil, so a hot-water rinse is all that's necessary, assuming you're doing all of your cleanup at the end of your brew day (later than that, and you may need some chemical cleaners to get molds, etc. off, but you'll need to be careful with that to keep from pitting the metal).

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I clean my home made copper manifold and immersion chiller a couple of different ways. The manifold get's boiled before and after use to remove all the sticky sugars from inside the tubing. The immersion chiller get's rinsed and then boiled in the wort before chilling. It's rinsed with very hot water afterwords and sometimes I give it a clean with a soap solution. Every couple of months I do an acetic acid soak for 20 minutes in a strong vinegar solution. The copper comes out very shinny! John Palmer's "how to brew" site has some good info on cleaning copper. I believe he recommends the acetic acid soak "every now and then".

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When you say soak for 20 minutes in a strong vinegar solution, specifics as to the solution would earn an up vote. I can buy 5% vinegar at Costco for $3/gal, but to submerge in uncut vinegar would be pricey. –  javafueled Dec 25 '13 at 19:15
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I use an approximate 30/70 mixture (30% - 5% acetic acid vinegar). Oxidation is not always a bad thing, you want to achieve a healthy, "passive oxidation layer". Basically I pour a "bunch of vinegar" into a bucket of coldish water...... –  David PGB Apr 15 at 5:08
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I was going to suggest StarSan as you did in your question.
Put it in and come back tomorrow. Actively cleaning it yourself is ones on prerogative, but I have other things to do. Which is also why I soak my other stuff in PBW and comeback the next day, rinse and put away.

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