One of the biggest mistakes a new cider maker can make is to overlook cleanliness and sanitation of anything that will be used in the fermentation process. Skipping this important step will lead to bacterial infections, mold, funky smells and all sorts of nasty microscopic garbage. Messing up one batch of cider will easily cost more than a container of no-rinse sanitizer. These sanitizers, such as OneStep or StarSan are incredibly quick and simple to use so there is no excuse for leaving them out of your cider making process.
Begin with Clean Equipment!
Cleaning and sanitizing may sound like the same thing, but they are slightly different. Sanitizers will not remove residues and cannot properly sanitize residues so it is very important to thoroughly wash equipment before and after use. While some may use dish soap for cleaning, the bubbles can be a pain so I suggest a cleaner specifically designed for brewing and winemaking such as PBW by Five Star. This product is an oxidizer, like Oxyclean, and will leave your cider making equipment squeaky clean.
Give everything a good scrub with a brush. Even if you do not see any debris a light film from previous use could be on the surface. Items that cannot easily be scrubbed, such as siphon hoses should be allowed to soak a little longer and be flushed out multiple times. ( after use as well!)
Please note, cleaners do require rinsing before moving onto sanitization!
Start by sanitizing your biggest container, in most cases, this will be the fermenter. This way, once the vessel is sanitized, the sanitizer solution can be poured off into a food grade bucket or brew kettle to be used for sanitizing all other cider making equipment.
Measure out the required amount as stated on the sanitizers package based on how much water required.
OneStep Powder: 1 tablespoon per gallon
StarSan Liquid: 1 ounce per 5 gallons
These are the most popular brands, one is a powder and the other is a liquid, but they both work great and it comes down to personal preference. Both require two minutes of contact time for full sanitization and do not require a rinse.
Soak, swish, and scrub! Make sure all equipment has had at least two minutes of contact time with the sanitizer solution. Check for air bubbles in airlocks and hoses to ensure full contact.
Don’t rinse or dry with a towel as this will only contaminate your newly clean equipment. No-rinse sanitizers are meant to be used without the need of rinsing or drying which means it is safe to fill your fermenter while it is still dripping wet.
Everything Means Everything!
Once fermentation has ended and you are ready to bottle the cider, don’t forget to repeat this process! The secondary, siphon, bottles and caps all need to be properly cleaned and sanitized before use!