The most important and crucial step in the brewing process is sterilising your equipment.
When you lovingly make your brew and leave it to ferment you want the only micro organism in the fermenter and bottles to be the yeast. Sterilising all your equipment and your fermenter will ensure this is the case.
The wort in the fermenter is an ideal environment for bacteria and wild yeasts to thrive and if this happens your beer will become infected. This can cause several problems.Your beer can develop “off” flavours or become too gassy.
The method to sterilise the equipment is quite straight forward and effective. Mix the steriliser with water in the fermenter in the required ratio and slosh it around with the lid on and make sure every bit of the inside surface is covered. Then place the equipment into the fermenter and make sure all of it is submerged into the solution. Let the equipment sit for a while and let the solution do its work.
Then rinse everything with cold water and place on the upturned fermenter lid while the wort is added to the fermenter.
When the beer is ready all bottles and caps should be sterilised before the beer is bottled.
There are a few different products that you can use to sterilise your equipment. Some are cleaners as well as sterilisers, this is purely down to personal choice. I prefer to use a steriliser only which is sodium metabisuphate. I have used many products but have found this to work well. This chemical although the fumes it gives off are not pleasant (use in a ventilated place), it does not leave any taste in the finished beer. It is also cheap, priced around £1.50 and is easily available. I have found that certain products no matter how well the equipment is rinsed, can leave a metallic taste in the finished beer. This chemical can also be reused several times.There are some products which do not require rinsing such as starsan, but I have not seen this product in any homebrew shop and I don’t think its widely available in the UK. One product i have not used is iodophor, but to be honest I have no problems with the steriliser I use, so why change?
I have now found starsan in my local brew shop and I now use it. It is expensive at around £10 a bottle but you can reuse it and you don’t have to rinse it off once your equipment is nice and sanitised. I cannot recommend it enough!