Cleaning or Sanitizing?


by Mike Retzlaff

There is an issue which comes up every now and then.  It has to do with new to you equipment.  As time marches on, more and more home brewing equipment is going from Chevy to Cadillac.

I was reminded of this problem by a recent post on a popular home brewing forum.  A guy posted a few pictures of a krausen ring in his fermenter.  This ring was different than normal.  It was dark and crusty.

Several responses drew out the fact that this was a new S/S fermenter.  A few responders noted that they had also experienced this problem but the problem goes away after one or two uses.  The speculation was that the culprit was “machining oil.”  In actuality, the dark, crusty krausen ring is caused by drawing soap from the manufacture of the vessel.  Virtually every pot, sauce pan, vessel, kettle, skillet, or metal bowl in your kitchen or home brewery is machine drawn into that particular shape. 

When metal is drawn in or through a die, it has to be lubricated so the metal doesn’t tear, gall or crease.  Most oils and greases don’t have the lubricity to accomplish this.  For a very long time, various soap compounds have been used as a lubricant for such operations.  Most of this drawing soap is removed before packaging and shipping but there is always some residue.

Whenever I get a new pot, pan, kettle or other drawn metal vessel, I wash it out with hot water and detergent while scrubbing with fine steel wool.  That is followed by a rinse with nearly boiling water.  I never bother sanitizing a boil kettle, but it is always prudent to sanitize a fermenter of any sort before use.  I’m sure the original poster did sanitize his new S/S fermenter but that’s different than CLEANING which should have occurred first.

This mindset should be kept when dealing with an old Corny keg.  Who knows what was in it before you got it?  There may be remnants of old beer, soft drink syrup, and especially the horrendous traces of root beer syrup in there.  The keg should be completely dismantled and thoroughly cleaned BEFORE sanitizing. In the case of a Corny keg that is new to you, do an initial cleaning, soak it and all the parts in a baking soda solution, and then thoroughly rinse before sanitizing. Of course, all of the O rings need to be replaced too. There are few things more heinous than an otherwise good ale or lager with a hint of root beer in the background. That is unless you like a good single malt scotch whisky with a splash of Barq’s.

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