The Best Sanitizer for Brewing and Distilling (In 2022)

The best sanitizer for brewing and distilling relies on complex chemical reactions to producea safe, palatable product.

If there are contaminants present, they can not only affect the flavor and quality of the final product, but they can cause a failed batch or even make people sick.

What is Sanitizer (and Why Do You Need It?)

The type of sanitizer you choose is an important factor to consider when brewing and distilling. As sanitizers kill any microbes and surface bacteria that may contaminate the equipment, it ensures that it is safe to use.

Potentially, this is the most important phase in the brewing process. Without sanitizers, beer would be filled with organisms that turn it sour and make the beer practically undrinkable.

The best part about some of these sanitizers is that they are “no-rinse”, so you can soak your equipment in the sanitizer and immediately use it to brew and distil alcohol. This reduces any risk of recontamination.

What Happens if You Do Not Sanitize Correctly?

Cleaning and sanitizing your equipment, whether it be for home brewing or commercial purposes, is necessary as it is one of the best and easiest ways to ensure your beer’s quality across batches.

If you do not clean and sanitize your brewing equipment, you are exposing your beer to microorganisms that can ruin the beer at a rapid rate.

A common bug that ruins beer is called Lactobacillus. This creature will leave your beer tasting sour and unpleasant. The reason for this is the lactic acid produced by the bacteria after it eats the yeast and sugar in your beer. Other creatures like Pediococcus will leave strange rope-like bits growing in your beer.

If you do not clean and sanitize your equipment properly, you are setting your brew up for failure.

If you clean your equipment but do not sanitize it, you are allowing bacteria to fester and infect your beer. On the other hand, if you sanitize but do not clean your equipment, there may be leftover sediments and yeast which will ruin your next batch of beer as it masks its color and character.

What is the Difference Between a Cleaner and a Sanitizer?

Many consider cleaning your brewing equipment as a good scrub down with soap and hot water. This, however, is not totally effective.

Cleaning your brewing system means washing any leftover grains, hops, and yeast from your previous batch of beer. For most parts of the homebrewing process, you can simply clean your equipment. For others, this does not offer the required sanitary level.

Sanitizing refers to the process of killing all remaining microorganisms that are left in or on your equipment after it’s been cleaned.

What to Look for When Buying Sanitizer for Brewing and Distilling?

There are two convenient ways to sanitize your equipment. These are chemicals and heat.

If you use chemical sanitizers, the solution can be prepared by using a fermenter bucket where all your equipment can be soaked. If you decide to use heat, the methods depend on the type of material being cleaned and sanitized.

What Are Some Popular Sanitizer Products?

There are three effective chemicals to choose from: Bleach, Star San, and Iodophor.

Bleach

Bleach is readily available and cheap. It can be made by mixing a gallon of water with one tablespoon of bleach. You need to soak your equipment for twenty minutes before allowing it to drain. Generally, rinsing is not necessary when using this concentration. For many brewers, however, rinsing with boiling water just to be sure that no off-flavors remain from the use of chlorine is desirable.

Star San

Star San is an acidic sanitizer made by the same producers as PBW and was developed specifically for sanitizing brewing equipment. All that is required is thirty seconds of contact time and no rinsing. Compared to other “no-rinse” sanitizers, Star San does not add any off-flavors at higher concentrations than the recommended dosage. The recommended concentration is one ounce per five gallons of water. From there, you can use the solution in a spray bottle, which can also be used as a spray-on sanitizer for your glassware.

The surfactant in Star San will not influence the heat retention of your beer like those used in detergents.

Iodophor

Iodophor is a convenient to use solution made of iodine mixed with a polymer carrier. One tablespoon in 5 gallons of water is all that is required to sanitize your equipment. You need to soak the equipment in this solution for two minutes.

If you soak your equipment for longer than ten minutes at the same concentration, your equipment or surfaces will be disinfected to hospital standards.

At 12.5 ppm, the solution has a faint brown color which is used to monitor the viability of the solution. If the color is lost, it means that it no longer has enough iodine to work. If plastic is exposed to this solution for a long period, it will stain.

This 12.5 ppm concentration does not need to be rinsed, but you should allow your equipment to drain first before use.

Heat

If you decide to use heat to sterilize your equipment, microorganisms heated at a high enough temperature for a long enough period, will die. You can use both dry heat and steam to kill any bacteria.

Dry heat, however, is less effective than steam for sanitizing and sterilizing. But it is a method favoured by many brewers.

Dry Heat Sterilization Duration

TemperatureDuration
338 degrees F60 mins
320 Degrees F120 mins
302 Degrees F150 mins
284 Degrees F180 mins
250 Degrees F12 hours (Overnight)

Though these times may seem long, they are necessary to kill all microorganisms.

When cleaning and sanitizing your equipment, you want nothing but the best to ensure the cleanliness of your brew.

I’ve listed some of the best cleaners below:

1. Iodine-based Sanitizer – BTF Iodophor

This product has five stars and fantastic reviews. The best part? It only costs $13.99.

2. IO Star 32 oz

A Five Star sanitizer to leave your equipment cleaner than ever before. The cost for this is roughly $27.00.

3. Saniclean

With 4.5 stars in its reviews, Saniclean is a reliable product that costs $15.99.

4. Vital Brewing Equipment Cleaning Kit  

This package comes with a PBW Brewery Cleaner, a Star San No-Rinse Sanitizer, and a Chemical-Resistant Spray Bottle. All for $31.99.

A Work On Safety

Finally, when using any of these products, it is best to use a set of Brewer’s Gloves. These are purely a precaution but will save your hands in the case of an accident.

The Best 5 Sanitizer Products for brewing or Distilling (In 2022)

Best All-Round Sanitizers for the Homebrewer (On a budget or not):

  • Star San
  • Iodophor
  • Powdered Brewery Wash (PBW)
  • Laundry Soakers as sanitizers
  • Bleach

Star Sun will destroy any microorganisms that could potentially destroy your brew. The manufacturers describe it as a “self-foaming acid sanitizer ideal for brewing, dairy, and other food and beverage equipment.”

Iodophor is another popular sanitizer that is traditionally used by both the food and medical industries. This is a cost-effective sanitizer used on equipment in the food industry.

Powdered Brewery Wash or PBW is a cleaning product that was originally widely used in commercial breweries. Over time, however, the public has caught on to how well this product disinfects, sanitizes, and cleans equipment.

The next one might seem strange, but it is effective. You can use your laundry soakers as a sanitizer. Any product or brand name with the word “oxy” refers to an oxygen cleaning or oxidization agent. Most fancy laundry soaking products’ key ingredient is sodium percarbonate.

Each of these products is approved for making wine, beer, or even cider.  

Best Professional Grade Sanitizer:

Listed below are some of the best professional-grade products for sanitation. All these products can be found on Amazon:

Pros:

  • Easy to use
  • Fast cleaning
  • Non-toxic
  • No-rinse
  • Brilliant cleaner

Cons:

  • Strong cleaner
  • Not FDA-approved

Clorox Disinfecting Bleach – Best Value For Money

Finally, consider using bleach as your sanitizer. You can make a bleach solution to kill any microorganisms. This solution must consist of one tablespoon of bleach to one gallon of water. Leave your equipment to soak for roughly 20 minutes before rinsing it off.

Pros:

  • Budget-friendly due to its low price
  • Easy pour
  • Kills 99.9% of bacteria and germs
  • Fantastic stain remover
  • Uses a low dosage

Cons:

  • Requires thorough rinsing
  • Takes a long time to get the job done
Clorox Disinfecting Bleach, Concentrated Formula, Regular - 43 Ounce Bottle (Package May Vary)
  • Clorox CLEAN: Get more cleaning power per drop with this concentrated formula with 33% more compact dose reducing the amount required for cleaning (compared to Clorox Disinfecting Bleach2)

Beer Clean – Last Rinse Sanitizer

Pros:

  • Cleans beer glassware thoroughly
  • Laboratory tested
  • Kills all staph and E Coli germs
  • Maximizes profits at breweries
  • Fantastic alternative to liquid bleach

Cons:

  • Takes a while to fully dissolve
  • Very strong
Diversey-90223 Beer Clean Last Rinse Glass Sanitizer, .25oz Powder Packet (100 Pack)
  • Provides thoroughly cleaned glassware with no odor, aftertaste or residue

Kegconnection – Beverage System Cleaner

Pros:

  • Leaves no residue behind
  • Dissolves quickly
  • Easy to use
  • Perfect for cleaning beer lines
  • Up to 64 uses

Cons:

  • May leak if not tightened when stored
  • Instructions are complicated and unclear
Kegconnection 31002 BLC Beverage System Cleaner-32 oz
  • Designed to Clean your Kegerator & Kegerator Kits Beer Lines

Five Star – Low Foaming Iodophor

Pros:

  • No-rinse
  • Easy to use
  • Effective on various surfaces
  • Low-foaming solution
  • Safe for all food-related uses

Cons:

  • Unclear instructions
  • May lose effectiveness over time
Five Star IO Star - 16 Ounce - Low Foaming Iodophor
  • IO STAR is a low foaming iodophor wash sanitizer

Star San – Best Overall

In the world of brewing and distilling alcohol, one of the most popular products to use when cleaning or sanitizing your equipment is Star San.

Star San is an acid-based sanitizer that requires no rinsing after use. It is effective and easy to use. Star San contains food-grade phosphoric acid and is safe for people and the environment.

This self-foaming product can penetrate cracks and crevices with ease. It is odorless and flavorless, which means you do not need to worry about it tainting your beer or wine.

This product is safe to use on all surfaces but requires caution as it is an acid. Contact with soft metals, rubber, and plastic must be kept to a minimum.

The cost of this product is in the region of $30.00.

Five Star - 6022b_ - Star San - 32 Ounce - High Foaming Sanitizer
  • Star San Is A High Foaming, Acid-Based, No-Rinse Sanitizer That Is Effective And Easy To Use.

How Do I Use a Brewing Sanitizer?

The method of sanitation of brewing equipment is as follows:

Step One – Mix the solution (your cleaning chemical and water) at the right concentration. You will need to refer to the label to get the proper ratio as every product differs.

If you want to sanitize a keg, mix the solution in a bucket and siphon, or drain it into your empty keg.

Step Two – Allow all your equipment and surfaces that will encounter the beer an adequate amount of contact time with the sanitizer solution.

Star San, for example, requires 1 to 2 minutes of contact time to sanitize a surface.

Again, you will need to refer to the label because different cleaning or sanitation products require different contact times.

Step Three  – Just before using your equipment, you will need to drain the sanitizer. Do not rinse to achieve maximum sanitation. However, a quick rinse will not have any negative effect.

FAQ – Frequently Asked Questions on Sanitizers for Brewing and Distilling:

1. Are a sterilizer and a sanitizer the same thing?

Sanitizing reduces microorganisms to a safe level whereas sterilizing will remove all microorganisms from an item. Sterilizing is not often necessary in a commercial kitchen environment, but is used in places like breweries and hospitals.

2. Can I use OxiClean to sanitize brewing equipment?

Oxyclean does a fantastic job of cleaning your brewing equipment. However, you will also need to use a sanitizer like Star San on everything your beer will touch. Generic “oxy” works well when cleaning glass carboys and beer bottles. After use, be sure to rinse them well, then sanitize them with Star San before you fill them.

3. Do I need to rinse off my sanitizer before using my equipment?

If the concentration is 12.5 ppm, your equipment does not need to be rinsed, but you should allow it to drain properly before using it.

4. How often do I need to sanitize?

It is best to clean all your equipment as soon as you are done with a batch. This entails rinsing out the fermenter, tubing, etc., as soon as they have been used.

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