Sanitizing Cider Making Equipment
Sanitizing your cider making equipment is a very important component when making hard cider to ensure there are no unwanted bacteria in the hard cider. This extra bacteria can cause an infection that will ruin the batch.
That being said, sanitizing the equipment is one of the most misunderstood components of the cider making process. It can also be one of the most frustrating and time consuming components. This page will give you an overview of the options for how to sanitize your equipment, and give instructions on how to accomplish each of the techniques.
What is Sanitizing?
Sanitizing is the process of removing unseen contaminants, such as bacteria. There are a variety of approaches that you can use to sanitize your equipment, but the most important thing is that all pieces of equipment that will come into contact with the cider needs to be sanitized prior to using.
Two important things to note:
- The equipment has to be cleaned prior to sanitizing. The approaches and techniques discussed on this page are not effective on equipment that is visibly dirty.
- You will likely need to sanitize equipment several times when making hard cider.
Let’s dive into the various options you have for sanitizing, starting with my preferred method.
Using a Sanitizing Solution Made for Homebrew
My preferred approach for sanitizing equipment is to use a sanitizing solution that been specifically made for homebrewing.
These products come as liquid concentrates or powders. The most common liquid concentrate is a product called Star San, and is very widely used by the homebrewing community. A common powder is OneStep no rinse cleanser.
Make the solution
If using the powder or the liquid, the first step is to make the solution by mixing it with luke-warm water. Be careful to follow the directions on the container, as a proper concentration is important.
Generally, the Star San is made with a concentration of 1 ounce of concentrate to 5 gallons water. The OneStep cleanser is 1 Tbsp to 1 gallon water.
If I am sanitizing a lot of equipment (specifically a lot of beer bottles), I will make a large batch of sanitizing solution directly in a clean sink. If I only have a few pieces of equipment to sanitize, I will make a half gallon or so in a large tupperware container.
Soak the equipment
Next, throw all the equipment that needs sanitized into the solution. Make sure there aren’t any air bubbles in the airlocks or tubing. Depending on the source, you need between 30 seconds and 2 minutes of time where the solution is in contact with the equipment. I typically play it safe and soak for around 2 minutes.
It’s important to note that the entire piece of equipment doesn’t need to submerged in sanitizing solution. As an example, I sanitize a 5-gallon carboy by putting around 1-gallon of sanitizing solution in it, then putting my hand over the opening and gently turning for 2 minutes. Since the inside is continuously wet with sanitizing solution (it’s never dry), this counts as the ‘contact time’ that’s needed for the sanitizing solution to work.
When soaking the equipment, try to not to create too much foam. The foam is safe, but no one wants excessive foam as the first step. You can minimize foam by not shaking carboys.
Prepare equipment for use
When the equipment has soaked long enough, it’s time to get it out of the solution. Another way to minimize foam is to dump the solution from containers carefully and slowly.
These sanitizing solutions are designed so that you don’t need to dry the equipment or remove any foam. That being said, if there is lots of foam in the equipment, sometimes you can give it another dip into the sanitizing solution to remove some of the foam.
Don’t rinse it with tap water, as you are risking contamination. If you insist on rinsing, boil some water or use distilled water.
Place the equipment in a place that won’t contaminate it. I use clean paper towels laid out on the counter or drying rack. You could also use a clean and empty dishwasher if you’d like. They also make bottle holders for safe keeping and drying.