Keep It Clean: Sanitize Your Equipment
The Winexpert wine kit just arrived in the mail today, and your excitement is bubbling through your pores. Youre ready to tear open that box and start fermenting, stabilizing, racking, bottling, and best part of all, drinking. But before you venture too far into the winemaking process, you need to understand and appreciate the three most important works in winemaking.
Sanitize your equipment.
Properly sanitizing your equipment results in a wine that is healthy for consumption and a winemaking environment for making the best tasting and highest quality wine. At first, sanitation may seem tedious and will become the least fun part of winemaking, but these undesired feelings can be alleviated by forming best-practice habits early on in your winemaking journey. After setting up your workspace, going through the sanitation cycle a few times, and making delicious wine that your friends and family all enjoy, sanitation will become second nature. Before moving on to the methods of sanitation, lets take a quick look at the difference between cleaning, sanitizing, and sterilizing.
- Cleaning involves removing visible dirt and residue from your equipment. - Sanitizing involves reducing or removing bacteria and other undesirable microorganisms through heat or chemical processes. - Sterilization involves completely killing everything on the winemaking equipment.
Note, it isnt required, nor desired, to have a sterile environment for winemaking.
The Sanitation Cycle
The winemaker has many cleaning and sanitizing techniques to choose, but there is always one constant in this process - the sanitation cycle.
- Clean everything before use. - Sanitize everything before use. - Use everything. - Clean everything after use. - Sanitize everything after use. - Air dry and store everything.
What is the Everything in the Sanitation Cycle?
Identifying what needs to be cleaned and sanitized is simple; generally, anything that comes in contact with the must or the wine during winemaking needs to be sanitized.
- Your Hands - Fermenter container and lid - Any stirring equipment, spoons - Measuring cups - Hydrometer and test jars - Bottling wands or systems - Racking canes - Wine thief - Siphon rods and hoses - Carboy - Bung and airlock - Thermometer - Wine bottles
What are the Approved Sanitation Methods for Winemaking?
There are many methods to keep your equipment clean, below the most common methods are outlined.
The most basic way to sanitize equipment is to boil your equipment in water. No chemicals are needed, and all the winemaker needs is a container large enough to hold the equipment, water, and a heat source. If youre just starting out in winemaking, this may seem like an easy and cheaper option, but we dont recommend using this technique. Sure, its easy boil water on your stove to make pasta, but when you need to add every tube, stirring rod, and bottle to the boiling pot, you will soon realize that your pot is too small and you need to purchase a larger container. Its easier to purchase chemicals that have been made exactly for the process.
- Advantages: no chemicals are needed, easily accessible, water is inexpensive - Disadvantages: time consuming, large container for boiling, burn hazard
Chlorine, in the form of household bleach, is easily accessible and is a good cleaner and disinfectant. It acts as a good glass equipment sanitizer, but should not be used on plastic equipment. Because chlorine can be absorbed by the plastic, undesired flavors will be produced in your wine. Moreover, if you are using it on glass equipment, then you need to rinse multiple times and use copious amounts of hot water after sanitation. Winemakers tend to use chlorine bleach in emergencies only, when they cannot access other more desired sanitizing chemicals.
- Advantages: readily available in form of household bleach, inexpensive - Disadvantages: can use on plastic, ruins clothes, corrodes stainless steel
Iodophor is used by the food service industry and medical industry to sanitize equipment. It is an iodine detergent, germicide and sanitizer. On the level of usage practicality, it is a no-rinse sanitizer and overall very easy to use. For example, when using an Io-Star Iodophor Sanitizer, you should use a ¼ ounce per 2 ½ gallons of water for a 12.5 ppm solution. At this level of concentration, you can add your equipment to the solution and it takes approximately 10 minutes to sanitize. Then allow the equipment to drip dry for another 10 minutes before using.
- Advantages: economical, no-rinse sanitizer - Disadvantages: toxic in high concentrations, stains cloths, skin
When someone calls into Quality Wine and asks for advice on a sanitizing solution, the first method we refer is an acid based product - Star San Acid Sanitizer for Surface Sanitation. This solution is a no-rinse sanitizer that very simple to use and maintain. It is made from a food-grade phosphoric acid, which is safe for people and the environment. And because it is odorless and flavorless, unlike chlorine bleach method, your wine will not be affected with off-flavors. While sanitizing your equipment, it only needs to be in the solution for two minutes. Moreover, the solution is reusable; it can will remain effective for up to three to four weeks in a sealed container.
- Advantages: no-rinse sanitizer, quick sanitizing time - Disadvantages: toxic in high concentrations, wore protective clothing
Potassium Metabisulfite Powder
This method is instructed in the Winexpert Kits. Potassium metabisulfite sanitizes the equipment by inhibiting bacteria and wild yeast. When combined with water, it releases sulfur dioxide, which is a powerful antiseptic. After adding the powder to water, you will notice a strong sulfur odor and people allergic to sulfites may be affected by its potency. This method is considered a cost-effective sanitizing rinse, because no additional rinsing with clean water is needed.
- Advantages: Long shelf life, economical, no rinsing required - Disadvantages: Needed accurate measuring skill, some people are allergic to sulfites
Whatever sanitizing agent you decide to use during your winemaking process, its important to never get lazy during the sanitation cycle. At times it may feel tedious, unproductive, and time consuming, but sanitize your equipment is the most important three words in winemaking, and if you want to create the best quality of wine possible, you need to allows implement the sanitation cycle.