Cleaning is a huge part of your responsibilities as a brewer. Sanitizing your tanks and lines is certainly one of, if not the most important aspect of that process. Nothing can ruin a batch of beer faster than errant bacteria or wild yeast. Although there are several methods for properly sanitizing your tanks and lines, peracetic acid is by far the most popular. It’s fairly easy to use, very effective and also easy to find through most suppliers. There’s one big difference between sanitizers and cleaners though- more is not better.
So, you’ve brewed a recipe with a much higher soil load. When it’s time to clean, to address this increase, you (along with most everyone else) answer with a stronger solution of caustic. It certainly works (up to a certain point). The same happens with acid- you have a particularly higher level of mineral scale than usual, so you just bump up the concentration to break it loose. However, when it comes sanitizers and disinfectants, the “higher concentration = stronger” mentality needs to be set aside. These types of products are designed to kill pathogens at a very specific dilution, and although it may seem counter-intuitive, a concentration that is higher than recommended can actually prevent it from killing the microbes that you’re trying to eliminate.
With the need to accurately mix your sanitizer (and ensure that anyone else mixing it at your brew house does the same), what’s a brewer to do? The answer is twofold- dilution equipment and titration. We’ll take these in turn.
First, the best way to take the guesswork and inaccuracy out of the mixing equation is with a dilution system. You can certainly get pretty wild and crazy (and expensive) with these units, but at SIS, we prefer to keep it simple. There are quite a few single chemical dilution systems on the market that are easy to install, cheap, and reliable. Our personal go-to is the Dema 802, but there are many others that will get the job done. These units only require a water source and chemical. The great thing about the “drop tube” style units like the Dema 802 is that it can be used with any size of chemical container. One last tip – we highly recommend disassembling your dilution unit periodically and soaking the parts in hot water. Although they are very reliable, it only takes a little buildup internally to throw off your concentration. Which leads us to our second sanitizing tool- titration.
Titration is a method of testing your PAA solution to ensure that you’re mixing accurately. It should certainly be done when you first install your dilution system, but we also recommend doing it periodically to stay dialed in. Some brewers like to use test strips to test a PAA solution, but we strongly discourage them. Test strips are not reliable and very subjective. A titration test kit is accurate and dependable. For around $100 you can get a PAA titration test kit that will last for hundreds of tests.
Dilution equipment paired with regular titration can not only give you the ease of mind knowing that your sanitizer is working properly, it can also save you a lot of money in chemical and bad batches. At SIS, we love to help our brewer partners through this process, so reach out for a collaboration! Happy brewing.