N.B. – Craftmeister (aka National Chemicals) sent me a sample kit to try out. After Denny broke away from his usual cheap ways and gave the Craftmeister products his thumbs up, I had to get my hands on a kit to test out as well. In the kit – 3 lb tubs of the Alkaline Brewery Wash, Oxygen Brewery Wash, a jar of Keg & Carboy Tablets and a jar of Growler Tablets. In this test, we’ll look at one of the most common tasks facing homebrewers – the carboy yeast ring of crud – aka a wonderful amalgamation of protein and yeast detritus. A lot of American homebrewers talk and use Five Star Chemicals products, like PBW and Star-San/Sani-Clean. Some of you cheap-o’s even love to use your Oxiclean or Oxiclean knockoffs (see Denny). Me, I’ve always splurged a little extra on the more expensive PBW and Saniclean (a better choice for sanitizing you’re pumping everything). It helps that my homebrew shop allows you to refill PBW containers at a much better bulk price than buying new containers constantly.
National, in the meanwhile, is probably best known to many homebrewers (or maybe just me) for their Beer Line Cleaner – BLC – and their BTF Iodophor sanitizer. So they’ve been around for quite a while, but this was my first exposure to their day to day cleaning products. The real trick about cleaners is to know that different cleaners are going to be more effective in different situations.
The most common distinction between cleaners is whether they are acidic or alkaline. The cleaners in today’s test are basic or alkaline in nature, in other words the pH of the mixed solution is between 7 and 15. Alkaline cleaners tend to be best suited for use against organic substances. They tend to work by allowing deposits to dissolve into water or by dissolving key bonds that make the deposits “sticky”. Cleaners usually have a mix of a primary cleaning agent (e.g. sodium percarbonate in Oxiclean) with surfactants (aka chemicals that make “water wetter” usually by containing bonding groups friendly to both water and fats) and chelating agents, which deal with the mineral character of your water. All of the cleaners I’m testing today are alkaline so they’re perfect for carboy crud. Hmm, maybe that’s why they’re so common. (Want to see the perfect application of acid cleaners in brewing? Try attacking beerstone! Acid makes very short work of it.) The trio of cleaners to be tested. The PBW jar is an old jar that I hold onto because our shop requires a PBW labelled jug to fill and they no longer offer the big size
After writing up my Saison Yeast Guide in time for summer, I had to get my test on to fill out more yeast data. Sheesh, so many Saison strains! The cleaning kit’s timing just happened to be perfect to deal with the leftovers from the three latest samples of my Saison Ordinaire. The yeasts in this test included pitches of Omega Saisonstein and Wyeast 3726 Farmhouse with a reference pitch of the old standby of WLP565 Belgian Saison I. As you can see in the pic, all three carboys had a pretty solid, but not outrageously krausen ring that needed to go. I racked the kegs about an hour previously and gave them a quick hot water rinse to remove any leftover yeast that wasn’t stuck. Each carboy was given a dose of cleaner according to the instructions (1 tbsp PBW per gallon, 2 scoops of the Craftmeister products per gallon) and then filled with very, very hot tap water. My brewery has a separate water heat that I can crank to produce extra hot water. The solution was given a gentle stir to ensure full mixing of the product without mechanically disturbing the yeast crud. After that, the test was really simple – let the carboys sit and record that “damage” A few notes from what you can see in the pictures – the PBW didn’t perform as well I would normally expect it to. One possible cause – the PBW is a good bit older and has been sitting out in the garage, so maybe some of it’s effectiveness has been lost. The Oxygen Wash aggressively foamed when hit with the hot water at high speed. Took a little finagling and pitchers of water to fill the carboy. That was sorta tedious. (A side note – yeah, don’t do what I was doing here and adding the chemical first then the water. One, that’s dangerous in any sort of open vessel or with a chemical that might have a strong exothermic reaction to water. I did that here to reduce the amount of mechanical agitation I was exposing the soil to. I also knew the carboys would be relatively closed, so splashing was a minimal risk) You should probably be smarter than me and use gloves while using the Alkaline cleaner. My hands felt a bit like the American Nazi dude at the end of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. The cleaner is effective, just a bit harsher than good ole PBW. RESULTS and CONCLUSIONS after the pictures
Yeah, that guy Three freshly emptied carboys, alike in schmutz, waiting for the cleaning (Closest – Omega Saisonstein; Middle – WLP565 Belgian Saison I; Farthest – Wyeast 3726 Farmhouse
Foam escaping during the hot water fill with the Oxygen cleaner Cleaners are mixed and now we wait – no mechanical agitation at this point (Closest – PBW; Middle – Oxygen Wash; Farthest – Alkaline Wash) 10 minutes in 20 minutes in – starting to see soil breakdown 30 minutes in – more soil breakdown – check out the farboy of Alkaline 50 minutes in – clear winner, no? 70 minutes in 70 minutes closeup of PBW carboy 70 minutes – closeup of Oxygen Wash carboy 70 minutes – closeup of Alkaline Wash carboy The Next Morning – All Clean
Results and Conclusions
I think the pictures speak pretty well for themselves. All three carboys were completely clean by the morning, but the alkaline cleaner easily sped past the other two in the test of organic crud cleaning. By the 30 minute mark it was clearly outstripping its competition. As Denny noted, the rinse phase is super easy. (Sorry no photos of the sheeting action or whatever it is that detergent manufacturers go on about.) Looking around online it seems like the Alkaline Wash and PBW cost roughly the same per pound – within a buck or two at the 1lb size. In this fresh organic material test, it’s a clear winner. Next up we’ve got to start looking at other common cleaning tasks to see how it does. I’m curious to take their tablets for a spin and see if they can handle my assembly line keg cleaning process! Material Safety Data Sheets / Tech Sheets (if you’re into that whole thing about knowing what’s in your stuff and whether or not it will eat your flesh) Arm & Hammer Oxiclean Versatile Stain Remover BLC Beverage System Cleaner BTF Iodophor Craftmeister Alkaline Wash Craftmeister Oxygen Wash Craftmeister Growler Tabs Craftmeister Keg & Carboy Tabs Five Star Powdered Brewery Wash (PBW) Five Star Sani-Clean Five Star Star-San