Sunday, November 14, 2010

It's a boring old topic: Sanitation

I've always cared a lot about the sanitation aspect of brewing beer. I've been told that I'm a fanatic about it. Not sure if that's true, I haven't ever watched someone else brewing so I don't have much to compare to. I do have several not-so-fond memories of drinking a couple of commercial brews that were infected, so I'm pretty much ever-vigilant.

Back in the olden days (what I will call Finn Hill Brewing v0.1) I was brewing with a combination of extract and malt in the kitchen. With v0.1 everything had to be set up and torn down each time, so I cleaned at teardown and sanitized at setup.

Eventually, I moved on to Finn Hill Brewing v1.0. I was brewing with all malt in the garage. Woot! My wife and and were both jazzed about this - for different reasons. Still, everything had to be set up and torn down each time, so I cleaned at teardown and sanitized at setup.

Finally, my aching back convinced me to move on to Finn Hill Brewing v2.0: Permanent plumbing bits, and a pump. The immersion chiller was replaced by a counter-flow chiller, and various valves directed the wort from Point A to Points B, C and D. Only the hot liquor tank and sparge arm need to be set up and torn down each time. I'm still cleaning at teardown and sanitizing at setup. But I worry more.

I now have more points in the system where the stray hop fragment or barley husk could get trapped, and those points are no longer visible to me. "Back in the day" all my tubing was transparent so I could see everything. I still have some parts of the system composed of translucent tubing, and those have helped me to see potential problems. I see a lot of PBW, Starsan and Iodophor in my future.

I also need to take a second look at the layout because there are low spots that trap liquid. I'm picturing little hidden pools where critters will breed. Or maybe I can figure out a way to hook a CO2 bottle up to the system to blow it out? Things seem to be going well so far, but I still worry.

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