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My Brewing Process - Part 5, Cleanup

In the previous installments of this series of posts, we've looked at recipe creation and prep, mashing, boiling, and fermenting.  Now it's time to look at cleanup.

The more batches of beer I've done, the more I refine my cleaning process and activities.

I try to do cleaning when I'm not actively working on brewing the beer. For example, during the mash there are long stretches of time where you can clean or sanitize equipment. The same is true during some parts of the boil process. If you use your time effectively, you can get most of your cleanup done by the time you pump the wort into the fermenter. This will reduce your overall elapsed brewing time.

After the sparge process is finished, I lift the grain basket off the kettle and place it inside a 5-gallon stainless kettle that it fits comfortably inside.

As the wort heats to boiling in The Grainfather, I begin scooping the grain out of the basket and into a plastic bag or trash can for disposal.  (If you have cats and buy litter in those large yellow buckets, these make an excellent grain disposal vessel.) By the time the wort is boiling, I've emptied the basket of grain. I rinse the basket in the utility sink, and also rinse out the kettle.  Those items are very nearly spotless at that point (though I'll finish the job with PBW).

Next, I'll put a half-scoop of PBW into the 5-gallon kettle and fill it with the hottest water I can get from the tap. When the kettle's about half full, I drop the grain basket in and clean it up. I rinse it with fresh hot water and dry it off. By now, The Grainfather typically has the wort boiling.

As the boil reaches the 30-minute mark, I'll mix up Star San and sanitize my fermenter and carefully dry out the excess Star San with a clean paper towel.

When brewing is finished and the wort's in the fermenter, I finish the cleanup process.

At this point, final cleanup consists of these steps:
  • I dump the leftover wort and sediment from The Grainfather's kettle into the sink and rinse it down the drain.
  • I put some PBW solution from the 5-gallon kettle into The Grainfather's kettle and scrub any caked on material in the bottom of the kettle or on its sides. I dump this out and rise the kettle with hot water until I see few (or no) floaters in it.
  • I put the rest of the PBW solution into The Grainfather's kettle and pump the hot PBW through the counter flow chiller and recirculation pipe to clean those.
  • I dump all the PBW and fill the kettle with hot water. I rinse down the sides of the kettle to get any PBW off it, then start the pump. First I'll recirculate through the recirculation pipe, then through the counter flow chiller.  The chiller and pipe are now clean and rinsed, ready for my next brew session.
  • I dump the rinse water out. If there were floaters in it, I may do this a couple of times to get rid of them. 
  • I dry out The Grainfather kettle, grain basket, lid, and pipes.
  • I clean the sparge water kettle and dry it out for the next use.
  • From here, I'll wipe down the work table and perhaps mop the floor.
I've found that the combination of hot water and PBW is extremely effective at removing even the most caked-on mess at the bottom of The Grainfather's kettle. It may need to soak a while if the caked on mess is too thick, but often it comes loose easily. Rinsing with hot water gets rid of the PBW reside.

Occasionally, beerstone will appear in a fermenter or other vessel. I've found a pretty effective way to remove that (a long soak in Oxiclean with very hot water, followed by scrubbing).

Usually at this point I'm left with a few utensils and plastic bowls that need some cleanup. These I'll typically haul upstairs and wash them in the kitchen sink or dishwasher.

The last part of the process, bottling, will be covered in the final installment.

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