They say that if you like to clean, then you’ll love to brew beer. Cleanliness is the most important aspect of brewing beer, even above the ingredients or your high-priced equipment.
Buckets and fermentors are usually pretty straightforward to clean. The fact that you can get your hand into (most of) them, means that you can safely clean out all the brewing residue before stashing it away for next time.
However, there is one integral part of your brewing setup that cannot be cleaned by hand – and that are your hoses. Hoses are commonly used in kegerators, siphons and to transfer wort or beer from one place to another. Whether your hoses are made of silicon, PVC or something else, these pesky things can present a challenge for new homebrewers and experts alike.
So what are the best ways to clean your hoses? Read on…
Clean vs. Sanitize
It should be noted that “clean” doesn’t necessarily mean “sanitized”. Cleaning your hoses simply removes any gunk or beer residue from the hoses. However, cleaned does not equal sanitized. Microscopic bacteria can still be inside your hoses even after a good cleaning. To sanitize, you need to use a solution like Star San. StarSan takes anywhere from 30 seconds to 3 minutes to work its way into the microscopic cracks and crevices that can harbor bacteria.
Is it Time to Replace Them?
Depending on how frequently you brew, your hoses may be at the end of their lifetime. After a few years, I usually spend a few extra bucks and just buy a new roll of tubing and replace everything I can. No matter how well you clean your hoses, they will eventually begin to stain and lose their pliability. Old hoses begin to dry rot and will usually begin to keep their kinks and folds well after unfurling them. If you notice this, it’s time to replace the hoses.
Plastic in particular can get etched easily with abrasive scrub brushes. Those small etches make perfect habitats for bacteria to grow in. You may not be able to see these scratches with your naked eye, but then again, you can’t see microbes with your naked eye either. Glass and metal will not, so your steel fermentors and glass carboys are safe to be vigorously scrubbed. However, plastic buckets and tubing will need an alternate way of being cleaned.
Clean Them Immediately
First, we list the most simple of all the methods. Clean them immediately after use. Don’t wait around for them to get sticky and gunky, or you’ll have to do a much more rigorous cleaning next time. If you clean your hose immediately after using it, usually hot water is all you’ll need.
Hot water will remove any residue that is left inside the hose. If you let it sit and that residue begins to dry and harden, you’ll probably just need to replace them.
After washing them out, I often squirt a few sprays of StarSan into one end of the hose as well. If I have a bucket, I’ll dunk them. However, be careful doing this. Don’t leave them sitting inside the bucket for too long. The plastic in the hose can start to break down when left in contact with Star San for too long, and it’ll need to be thrown away.
PBW is an alkaline, non-caustic, environmentally and user-friendly cleaner that every brewer should have in their arsenal. PBW (Powder Brewery Wash) a brand name cleaner that is made by Five Star Chemicals. Oxiclean, or any generic sodium percarbonate wash will do the same high-quality job.
Whether you use an oxygen cleaner, PBW or a sodium precarbonate wash, make up about 2.5 gallons and let your hoses soak in it for 15-30 minutes, then wash with warm water.
Tip: Get the unscented Oxyclean! No one wants lavender-scented brewing hoses!
Boil Your Silicone
Not all hoses are made of silicone, but if they are, you can boil them to sanitize and clean them. Silicone can withstand temperatures way above that of which water boils (212F), so there is no harm in destroying your hoses while boiling.
My Typical Procedure When Cleaning Hoses
After all that, this is my typical procedure for cleaning my hoses. This process works with any food-grade hose, used for any purpose (coffee, keg or soda lines, etc).
- Before use, spray or submerge in Star San for 3 minutes.
- Immediately after use, run warm, clean water through the hose.
- Set them in a bucket of Oxyclean or PBW for 15-30 minutes. There is no need to rinse them after removing from the bucket.
- Spray Star San inside the hoses, and let them air dry.
- Hang up for next time.
For pipes or hoses that cannot easily be submerged, like siphons or keg dip tubes, consider laying them down on a cookie sheet or kiddie pool that has PBW and Star San inside it.