Sanitation in the Brewery: Keep Your Sanity


Sanitation in the Brewery

Sanitation in the Brewery


Brewing is a combination of art and science, requiring specialized and well-maintained equipment, ingredients, exact temperatures, caustic chemicals, knowledgeable staff and all-around safety. Vessels and equipment must be maintained to run effectively and efficiently. The most critical components to maintaining equipment are cleaning and sanitation. Just like in brewing, a well thought and executed recipe for cleaning must be followed. The proper cleaning recipe consists of four ingredients: time, temperature, chemical action and mechanical action.

“Your trial and error, and finding the correct balance of each ingredient is what makes this recipe custom to your tanks, tuns and all vessels,” said Russ Wehrle, Global Sales Manager for Butterworth, Inc., Tank Cleaning Machines and Systems. “Work smarter, not harder. Put your attention on these four ingredients and enjoy the benefits of finding that perfect recipe for you.”


“Let’s face it, you will ALWAYS be cleaning,” Wehrle said. “As your operations grow, you can move away from the time consuming manual methods and towards more Clean-In-Place (CIP) type cleaning,” Wehrle continued. “CIP is defined as where you are cleaning your tanks and vessels in their assembled state – where they stand. The amount of time that you spend with preparations, staging, and actual cleaning will decrease as your methods evolve, but should always be considered when trying to fit cleaning cycles between dumps and fills. Some will argue that cutting cleaning time, with better results, would be one of the quickest ways to see any return on investment on upgrades to cleaning methods.”


“The temperature of the cleaning medium, whether it be water or chemical or detergent or caustic, will always affect the efficiency and results. Even if just using water, the benefits of utilizing a heated cleaning medium outweigh any cost associated with heating it,” Wehrle said.

Chemical Action

“This is generally the most expensive, long-term ingredient to your recipe,” Wehrle said. “The amount required and used is directly related to the temperature available and mechanical method being employed. If heated is available, any required chemical dosing could be altered accordingly and result in drastic savings on chemical usage. Similarly, when balanced with the mechanical action, the amount used for a spray and scrub is far greater than that used with spray or impingement technologies.”

Mechanical Action

“Last and most importantly is the mechanical action,” Wehrle said. “Be it your hand with a spray bottle and a brush, a static spray ball, or impingement cleaning devices; mechanical action is essentially how your cleaning medium is delivered to the tank walls. Without this mechanical action, you are just wasting time and money soaking tanks, vessels, and components in heated chemical baths. Once you go from manual mechanical methods to more of the Clean-In-Place systems, you will find that any investment up front is returned very quickly by saving on all the other ingredients mentioned above.”

Brewhouse & Home Brewer’s Sanitation Procedures

Chad Kucera, Brewery Technical Manager at Refuge Brewery in Temecula, California, told Beverage Master Magazine about their sanitation and tank cleaning procedures.

“Our tank cleaning procedures begin by first ‘blowing down’ a fermenter to remove the excess pressure and allowing the CO2 to fully dissipate from the tank to avoid any reaction between the CO2 and caustic. Then, we do a quick spray down with a hose to remove any easy-to-remove debris. This is followed by removal and inspection of all soft parts, aka non-stainless gaskets. These are soaked separately in a caustic solution,” said Kucera. “We then raise the heat of the tank to 140 – 160 F by recirculating hot water, followed by a caustic solution. This solution is recirculated through a spray ball inside at the top of the tank for a minimum of 30 minutes or until visibly clean. The pump is then connected to every port on the tank for a minimum of five minutes. Once these cycles are completed the tank is drained and rinsed until a pH reading of the rinsing water shows that all of the caustic has been neutralized. Following this, the cleanliness of the tank is determined by an ATP (Adenosine Triphosphate) meter which is sensitive enough to detect ultra-low levels of microbial life, a passing result of zero will allow us to move on to sanitation.”

Often misunderstood as the same thing, cleaning and maintenance should be treated as separate steps of equal importance.

“Sanitation follows a very similar pattern, with the exception of the chemical used,” Kucera said. “Once the tank has passed the full cleaning process and ATP test, we will immediately fill it with a solution of Peracetic Acid (PAA) and recirculate through the fermenter and all ports just as with the caustic solution (with the exception of the temperature being ambient water temperature). Our particular PAA is a name brand, Reflex, that has other acids such as nitric acid added to the solution, allowing it to both sanitize and actively remove any mineral deposits in a single step, saving us time and money.” Kucera told Beverage Master that Reflex also maintains their equipment better than brands without the nitric acid.

He also recommends finding a chemical supplier with an expansive product line.

“Our chemical supplier, ChemStation of Los Angeles, has been a very good company to work with as they have a nearly unlimited pallet of chemicals [from which] to choose. Their caustics have the option of any number of compatible additives built into them, and they are more than willing to create a new blend if we have need of it,” Kucera said.

At a smaller level, home brewers should also concern themselves with cleaning and sanitation. Homebrewer Kenny Samson of Loveland, Colorado told Beverage Master how he processes his homebrewing equipment. “I ferment my beer in a glass carboy. I scrub it out with hot water and Star Sand, an acid chemical that foams up, before and after brewing. This sanitizer is food safe, and you can’t taste it in the beer. After this, I rinse and use a scrub brush to make sure the yeast is gone. It can stick to the bottom of the carboy. The yeast gets into pores and sits there.”

“Sanitizing is the majority of what you’re doing in a brewery,” Samson said.

According to ChemStation’s website, the company specializes in water-based, biodegradable sanitation that is safe for use on aluminum, other soft metals and polycarbonate plastics. They claim their products will not dull, water spot or streak stainless steel, tile or painted surfaces. They carry a full line of customized solutions for your brewery with products including sanitizers, foaming and non-foaming products, CIP cleaners, degreasers, foaming chlorinated cleansers, floor soaps, aluminum brighteners, foaming acid cleaners, and line lubes.

Tank Cleaning Devices

In a professional setting, cleaning only by hand is unrealistic, so brewers must depend on machinery to get the job done. These cleaning devices generally fall into three categories: static spray balls, rotating spray heads, and 3D/rotary.

Static spray balls force the cleaning fluid through small holes to distribute a cleaning solution on a tank wall. This method involves inundating the tank walls with a cleaner that will eventually erode any debris from the surface, commonly referred to as the “cascade method.”

Rotating spray heads provide a little more impact from pressurized jets/sheets of cleaning solution. Essentially an upgrade to static spray balls, this still involves the cascade method. Rotary spray heads provide a significant increase in mechanical action due to the jets and rotation.

The 3D/rotary impingement tank cleaning machines are fluid driven, low pressure/high volume, indexing cleaning machines. Jets hit the tank wall and explode in an outward motion, removing debris and bacteria from the surface.

Extending the Lfe of Your Tanks

Proper maintenance, cleaning and sanitation are the best way to extend the life of equipment throughout the brewery, particularly when it comes to tanks and other vessels.

“Performing routine maintenance will ensure that a producer’s cleaning devices and systems are operating as they should. This will extend their lifecycle as well as reduce the risk of having to dump a batch of bad product due to failure on inconsistent cleaning cycles,” Butterworth Inc.’s Wehrle said.

Wehrle recommends rotating equipment, a step that could ensure problems are found before they become major issues.

“Rotating equipment such as tank cleaning machines and especially when driven by pressurized fluids do require routine maintenance to ensure that you are getting the most out of them. Failing to do the prescribed maintenance results in higher repair costs and more frequent and inconvenient failures. Simple maintenance like changing of seals and bushings routinely can extend the life of your equipment by years,” Wehrle said.

Proper maintenance and cleaning can also save breweries money in the long run.

“The cleaning methods and the mechanical action being utilized is where the savings really start to show,” said Wehrle. “The more efficient the mechanical action, the more time and labor is saved. A small investment on the mechanical action part of the cleaning recipe is returned quickly though those savings on time and labor. Add those to the savings on chemical, water and energy and the return on investment is achieved very quickly. Routine maintenance ensures the devices are working at their peak to allow for those measured savings.”

Determining which cleaning machine is right for you depends on your production and volume, as well as your priorities. Are you hoping to cut cleaning times or water and chemical consumption, or would you just like to keep personnel out of the tanks? The answers to these questions will guide you in the right direction.

In the meantime, according to Phil Esposito, formerly of Upslope Brewing in Boulder, Colorado: “Don’t be afraid of that squirt bottle full of sanitizer. Spray it on anything that ever touches a tank.”

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