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I'm a new home brewer. I only have a few batches under my belt -- one partial extract and two all grain. Like most, I've read multiple books and watched videos on the brewing process. Cleaning and Sanitization are talked about in depth. In fact, it's talked about so much so that it has made me a bit paranoid.

On brew day, for example, I clean my equipment with PBW or Oxyclean, then sanitize. I'm good with that, as I understand that this is best practices, and it doesn't take too long. But, after I do that, say with a hydrometer, spoon, pitchers, etc. Do I have to sanitize again every time I put it down?

I'm attempting to find a balance between doing the right thing for my beer but not obsessing about it where cleaning and sanitizing is something I dread, keeping me from brewing. I find a lot of video on the right way to clean and sanitize, but none that actually talk about HOW careful you have to be.

After reviewing these boards, even on a single question about cleaning and sanitizing you get three different answers -- Is it okay to clean/sanitize brewing/bottling equipment the day before I plan to use it?. I'd like to get the opinion on some home brewers that have more experience to see exactly how careful I have to be.

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The other advice looks good so far. Having a generally clean work space and equipment is very important, and the fully sanitizing equipment only really matters for things that will come in contact with the wort post-boil. To answer one of your other questions, yes if any equipment that needs to be sanitized does contact anything else that is not sanitized, then it needs to be sanitized again. You may avoid this by putting sanitized equipment down in a sanitized area.

What I would like to add is a suggestion that you consider using a spray bottle with a no-rinse sanitizer, like Star-San. If you are finding the process of sanitizing your equipment burdensome you should seek to make it less so. One avenue is to sanitize less equipment, but the other is to make sanitizing easier.

You do not need to carefully wash with Star-San. Using a spray bottle filled with Star-san or similar product and generally clean equipment, spray any equipment you wish to sanitize generously, and you're good to go.

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    Star-San makes brewing SO much easier. On brew day, I've got a bowl of Star-San where I keep things like hydrometers and spoons between uses. But you are right that the best tool is the spray bottle. I use it to spot-sanitize things that i've accidentally touched or brushed up against, and it comes in very handy to knock down the rising foam before your boil really starts going (I brew near the limit of my pot, so I am very susceptible to boil-overs before the hot break forms). – Dave Oct 8 '16 at 13:08
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    @BBS, I actually brewed today and used the spray technique with the Star-San, and I kept a 2 gallon pail with some Star-San soaking some larger items. It seems to be getting easier. I guess like anything it takes some time to know what process works best. One question: After I spray Star-San on an item there is no need to re-rinse, correct? I don't rinse carboys after sanitizing, but with the spray I wasn't sure if that was the case. – mike0416 Oct 13 '16 at 23:27
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    You are correct, you do not need to rinse the equipment after you spray it. – BBS Oct 17 '16 at 13:24
  • I concur with using a spray bottle. This obviates the need to pour sanitizer into a pot or bowl, and try and cram your tubes or thermometer or whatever else inside. Much easier to spray the parts of the equipment that need sanitizing. – Ryan Nov 2 '16 at 20:34
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The concept of sanitation itself implies that you have a significant tolerance for undesired microbes, as opposed to sterility where you have to be more careful. If you think that some of your practices are excessive, try removing them one brew at a time. From my experience, I sanitize the equipment once and whenever I am not using the tools I put them back in the sanitizer. Working in a very clean environment is probably more relevant that continuous sanitation.

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When I first started, I figured I needed to sanitize the living hell out of everything all throughout the brew process. As I've done more and more recipes without incident, I've realized that one need not be paranoid but simply attentive.

Nature is very resilient: those yeast cells you're pitching aren't fragile glass ornaments; they're damn scrappy and will beat out the other microbes every time given the right environment.

Here's what I suggest: keep things clean pre boil, and only worry about sanitizing things post boil.

Pre Boil

  • Make sure your equipment and workspace are clean. "Clean" to me means free of visible dirt and grime. Assuming your pre-boil equipment is clean, rinsing to remove any small dust particles, etc. is sufficient.
  • Create a 2-3 gallon batch of sanitizer to have handy throughout the brew day. I also recommend using a spray bottle, but the bucket is handy for soaking things, or dumping sanitizer into a carboy, for instance. You don't need to soak for very long; 30 seconds appears to be the magic number.

Post Boil

  • Re-sanitize any sanitized equipment that comes into contact with something not sanitized. The most common "equipment" you should re-sanitize are your hands, since they're touching everything. I like to have a bucket of sanitizer handy so I can dunk my hands before touching, say, my sanitized racking cane.
  • Chill the wort quickly. I've let wort chill overnight before without incident, but I think it's a bit risky, since you're giving other microbes a longer timeframe to multiply. Get the yeast in there quickly to give them the best chance.

The biggest lesson I've learned around sanitation is that -- while it's important -- you don't need to be as diligent about it as you might think. Give nature some credit. After all, people have been making beer for thousands of years, long before Star San was around.

  • After all, people have been making beer for thousands of years, long before Star San was around. ^^ this :) – developerbmw Jan 17 at 22:38
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I never sanitize anything, and that works fine, too. I do clean my equipment, just like I clean any other pots and pans used in the kitchen. Then I pour the boiling hot wort into the fermenting bucket. That is good enough to kill whatever might have been in there. I let it sit overnight to cool (closed and with airlock, of course).

Safes me the trouble of buying sanitizer and worrying about when and how to use it.

  • Overnight cooling works for some extract or partygyle styles. But most using all grain that would create a lot of DMS so a fast chill is recommended. – Evil Zymurgist Oct 9 '16 at 2:40
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    Sorry, @EvilZymurgist, that is nonsense. This works perfectly fine for all grain and various styles. I've been doing this for years, with no DMS flavor whatsoever. Have you even tried it? – Robert Oct 9 '16 at 3:30
  • yes I had one beer with DMS. I researched how it's formed and adjusted my process learning from the extensive hard science availiable on the subject. In short, DMS is formed every moment your wort is hot. Extracts have less precursors to form DMS as why it can pass as a low DMS style with a long chill period. – Evil Zymurgist Oct 11 '16 at 3:16
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    If you do a hard enough boil, you'll boil off the DMS precursors and fast chilling is much less important. One good reason to chill quickly, though, is to get your yest in there as soon as possible so it will outcompete any contaminating organisms. – Denny Conn Oct 11 '16 at 21:37
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    While I don't recommend "never sanitising anything" I must support this answer because it reflects my own experience from tests I have made. For the purposes of experimentation only I have simply rinsed and scrubbed one set of brew bins while I have fully sanitised the other set. Similarly with the flip top bottles used for bottling the beers. I have one set just rinsed in tap water after use and the other set is soaked and sanitised. So far, in 3 years of use (yes 3 years!) the rinsed, "unsanitised" brews have performed and conditioned as well as the "sanitised" brews. Amazing - but true! – barking.pete Jan 25 '17 at 18:32
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I spoke to a long time brewer before who had a very relaxed approach. When he finished a bottle he would give it a good rinse out, and the same with the fermenter. When putting on a new batch/bottling he wouldn't bother sanitising unless the fermenter/bottles had been laying around unused for a while.

He explained the yeast would create a self regulating system, and he'd clean and sanitise any bottles if they tasted funny (which apparently was rare).

Personally I've always gone the star-san route with everything myself - though I'm quite interested in what shortcuts are safe-ish. I've relaxed a little when kegging. For kegs I sometimes just rinse them out and pass a kettle of boiling water through them.

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Sanitation in brewing is pretty simple.

If it touches your cooled wort make sure it's sanitized.

For example, there's no need to sanitize your hydrometer if you draw a sample for it and discard the sample. But you do need to sanitize the wine thief or device that draws the sample.

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