Monday, November 28, 2016

Testing Alternative Brewing Cleaners

Cleaning is as important as sanitizing. Without a debris-free surface a sanitizer loses most of its efficacy. This is worse for some than others, StarSan supposedly retains more sanitizing power in the presence of organic material than Iodophor for example, but it is never ideal. While scrubbing with a mesh pad to remove krausen and residue is fine for stainless steel and glass, the less abrasion applied to plastic the better because scratches provide shelter for microbes. The best solution is a soak or recirculate hot water laced with cleaner. Commercial breweries use caustic, but the care required for safe handling means it generally isn't used at home (although it is available as line cleaner). Most homebrewers use longer contact with milder alkali percarbonate cleaners like Five Star PBW (.75-1.25 oz per gallon - $6.75/lb) or OxiClean Free (1-2 oz per gallon - $3.66/lb) for their fermentors, gear, and kegs.

What the cleaners were up against.I had a bunch of dirty one-gallon jugs from splitting five gallons of wort nine ways (three yeast each fermented at three starting pH values) for my December BYO Advanced Brewing article (subscribe) Acid Tolerance of Brewer's Yeast. I realized I had four alternative cleaning products on hand. I took five of the jugs, dumped out the beer, and let them dry for three days to give the cleaners a real challenge.

All prices listed are for "reasonable" 3-5 lbs containers (most links support the blog). Although suggested concentrations vary (listed), I used 1 fl oz per gallon (8 ml per L) for all for a fair comparison.

Hot Water
For a control I filled one jug with hot (110F/43C) tap water water. Even after a week it really didn't seem any cleaner. The krausen ring was still almost completely intact.

Seventh Generation Free and Clean Natural (~.3 oz per gallon - $4.84/lb)
After a week soaking with Seventh Generation DetergentThe 2X version is suggested by BetterBottle at a rate of 1 oz in 6 L. It is enzyme-based and won't degraded plastics like long-exposure to alkali cleaners can. While it removed most of the krausen ring, some remained even after a week (pictured). I wasn't even able to rinse the rest off with hot water, it required another soak with a different cleaner. It might do a fine job on fresh krausen, but even with triple the suggested usage it was the worst performer of the cleaners.

Craft Meister Alkaline Brewery Wash (1-2 oz/gallon - $5.70/lb)
This is a PBW competitor manufactured for brewing. It did a good job, with the sides looking completely clean after 12 hours without any scrubbing or agitation. I don't care for their packaging though (it leaked in transit, and doesn't seal tightly enough to prevent moisture ingress during storage).

Blu Aktiv Brewery Cleaner (1-2 oz/gallon - $8.25/lb)
I've been using this for about a year after the company sent me a sample of their more eco-friendly (no EDTA or NTA, low phosphate) brewery cleaner. Luckily it still performs admirably, and cleaned the fermentors in similar time to the Craft Meister. However, for me the greenness likely won't be enough to justify the added expense and effort to procure once my supply is depleted.

Logic One Step (.5 oz/gallon - $6.00/lb)
I used OneStep on my first two batches as both cleaner and sanitizer. While it isn't certified as a sanitizer, there are many brewers who use it like one with good results. The surprise was that it removed the fermentation residue in about six hours, beating the two specialized cleaners! While it is twice as expensive as OxiClean Free, the suggested rate is considerably lower.


MSkillstad said...

Nice post. Very interesting to see the comparison. Ritebrew sells 5# of one step for about $16.50 that's about 3.30 per lb. if you live in the area where speedee shipping is available that is pretty economcal also.

Michael said...

How does the PBW and Oxyclean compare to these?

Bruce M said...

I was a 100% PBW guy for a long time until I saw an article basically saying "don't believe any negativity around OneStep, it's really good". I gave it a go and it's been OneStep ever since. Great cleaner, and the no-rinse thing is nice too, although I've heard mixed messages on whether it is truly no-rinse... I still rinse, but feel I don't have to rinse as thoroughly as with PBW or OxiClean.

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

Not a bad deal! I'd like to get my hands on their stronger cleaner (Straight A) to see how it does as well.

I'd guess PBW would be pretty similar to the Craft Meister and Aktiv. OxiClean Free maybe a notch slower, but still does a great job. Any of them will take off anything given enough time. Usually I'm not in a hurry cleaning.

Andy said...

Would be good to list the water temp used for each cleaner, as that can have a big impact on the performance.

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

The temperature for all was the same ~110F/43C hot tap water of the control.

Anonymous said...

I use Oxyclean free and a little TSP-PF free cleaner from the hardware store. Probably a tablespoon of the TSP-alternative into a standard scoop of oxyclean. It has been working well. Have I compared it to just oxyclean in a side by side? No. probably should.

In general, the TPS-free makes the water feel much, much softer.

Breweries Near Me said...

I use Oxyclean as well.