You know you’ve stumbled onto a great blog when it talks about cleaning and sanitation. Nothing excites the masses more than detailed, long, scientific discussions regarding cleanliness. Nevertheless, if you’re a homebrew nerd like me, you’ll know that cleaning and sanitation is the difference between a great beer and a terrible beer.
This week I’m going to give you the run down on ‘Starsan’. For those of you who don’t know, Starsan is a sanitizer produced by Five Star Chemicals. Now before we start, you might be wondering, what is the difference between a cleaner and a sanitizer? A sanitizer is NOT designed to clean the gunk off your equipment. Once it is already clean, a sanitizer is meant to remove the nasties which could infect your beer.
In terms of sanitizers, Starsan is likely the most popular product used by homebrewers. The major stand out benefit of Starsan is that it is ‘no rinse’. This means you can soak your utensils in it and then put the beer on top without rinsing. WHAT! BUT WHAT ABOUT THE BUBBLES! Go on any homebrew forum and you’ll find hundreds of people questioning whether the bubbles could affect their beer. The concept that the bubbles would not at least add some off tastes just confuses people.
Up until recently I have just accepted this blindly and assumed like everyone else, that Starsan is made from the tears of a unicorn and is therefore magic. Everyone knows that if you add anything magic to your beer it is impossible for off flavours to be added as a result. It really seems logical if you think about it. Whilst this answers is sufficient for me, I thought I would have a look on the web to find out why you don’t have to rinse it. Finding information was really hard but the generally accepted attitude is that because the main ingredient is phosphoric acid, when you add beer the acidity is diluted/lowered to a level that doesn’t affect the yeast. Further the yeast uses the phosphates produced as food. Even though I totally understand every aspect of that (I don’t), I’m still going to stick with my magic reason.
Starsan is quite economical with only a really tiny amount required (approx. 30g per 19L). To be honest, I’m not overly particular about the mix ratio but try to adhere to the above loosely. I suspect this is what most people do.
To properly sanitize an item, the Starsan only needs to make contact for 30 seconds. A great way to do this is to make up a spray bottle and simply spray down the items you need to sanitize.
If you’re trying to brew and you don’t have Starsan, you are playing with fire. For a relatively small investment, you can make the process of sanitizing one of the easiest parts of your brew day.
If you have any questions let me know but fair warning, if they are scientific in nature, I am likely to just make something up.