I'm looking for a better solution for cleaning. Some of my equipment is home from copper which limits agents I can use. Currently my strategy is using barkeepers friend on all external surfaces such as my sparge arm and mash tun internals, and of course the inside of the kettles. Once everything is visibly clean I make a 5 gallon mixture of starsan, and circulate it through all my equipment. For the most part this works on everything except my chiller. I can't really clean the internals of my sparge arm and mash tun filter system but I don't have too much trouble with these and don't worry too much since its before the boil.

I use home made reverse flow tube in tube chiller. Scrubbing surfaces is not an option. Neither is not using it, because it works really well. The problem is that cleaning is difficult. Right now, all I do is a hot star san flush. Can someone recommend a good aqueous cleaning solution that is cheap and copper safe?

I found some solutions here cleaning copper but I don't think they will work in this situation.

Has anyone used NaOH in very small tinctures? Instinct says this is a very bad idea, but I happen to have a lot of pure NaOH (long story) and I don't do much with it these days.

3 Answers 3


PBW was originally designed to clean a copper "waterfall" chiller device at Coors. It is more safe than caustics and other harsher chemicals both for the copper and you. Also I believe starsan denatures at 80° or 85°C.

  • Interesting, I didn't know that. That shouldn't be an issue for me. I just use hot water from my tap. ~125°F
    – mreff555
    Feb 2, 2017 at 18:21
  • 1
    I don't think starsan denatures at temperatures above 85°C. It is basically a solution of phosphoric acid and a surfactant. They should be good for 100°C and probably slightly higher. Jul 23, 2017 at 7:00

I use PBW and it is a good 'soak' cleaning agent. However I find when using hard water it can slowly form a 'film' on the surface of things that are repeatedly cleaned by only soaking and rinsing. Any film formed is usually easy to clean off by scrubbing in hot water and re-rinsing. It might be worth checking for any build up in pipes or difficult to reach corners from time to time. My friends who have soft water don't seem to have such a problem.

  • Thanks for the insight. In my case, I'm mostly concerned with cleaning coils. In which case they are not soaked.
    – mreff555
    Feb 8, 2017 at 19:39

Dilute (eg 10%), warm NaOH solution can be used to clean "organic material" from copper usually by soaking/submerging for a short time. Handle with care Do not spill the NaOH nor "splash" the solution. Be cautious if "scrubbing". Wear safety glasses or goggles- and rubber gloves!. Stronger solutions can be used but don't add too much caustic soda or the solution (and coils themselves) can become more dangerous to handle. Rinse well. Some recommend using a dilute acid (like spirit vinegar or citric acid) to rinse first, but I think that is paranoia. Just be sure to rinse the cooling coils VERY WELL.

Copper can also been cleaned from surface oxidation by soaking/submerging in some spirit/clear vinegar and salt solution for some minutes. A litre of vinegar with dessert spoon of salt is the rough proportion but it does not need to be exact. This makes the copper "bright" again for a short while. The usual problem with this is finding enough clear/spirit vinegar to soak a cooling coil in! However the vinegar/salt solution can be made up, saved and reused a number of times.

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