Cleaning, kegging, and more cleaning

Saturday, May 29

Cleaning and sanitizing are important tenets in brewing. They also make up a good portion of the ‘work’–i.e., not drinking–part of brewing. I had some dirty bottles piling up and a couple of empty kegs, and so ‘cleaning’ was the word of the day. My brewing buddy Victor and I have been making some beers together recently. He was nice enough to leave his bottle washing tree at my house.

bottle washing treeThe bottle washing tree is a marvelous device. Most of it is devoted to a sort of rack that holds the bottles upside down to dry after washing or sanitizing. The top portion of the tree is where the action happens.

How it works in a nutshell: You fill the reservoir with your preferred chemical solution; in my case this was an iodine solution to sanitize the bottles. You invert a bottle and insert the nozzle into it. As you push the bottle down, the nozzle shoots a jet of solution into the bottle; as you ease up, the spring-loaded nozzle moves up and refills itself with solution, ready for another thrust. A few pumps on the nozzle and the bottle is sanitized. It’s all quite sexual. The bottle washing tree is made in Italy, which I think is delightful.

Before sanitizing the bottles on the tree, though, I like to give them a rinse in the sink to get rid of dust and such. Cleaning and sanitizing require a lot of water, and I try to reuse as much water as possible. For example, if you don’t have a dishwasher or, if you’re like me, your dishwasher is busted and you have to wash dishes by hand, you can reuse the rinse water to rinse bottles. This wee jumping spider was hiding on one of the bottles as I plunged it into the sink. I managed to scoop it out of the water, and it scurried off, presumably to go dry him/herself and to curse me.

After rinsing and sanitizing a whole mess of bottles, I cleaned and sanitized a couple of empty kegs. Cleaning kegs is an annoying and sometimes painful task, owing to the small size of the keg opening, through which I must stick my arm to reach in and scrub the buggers clean. My forearm especially is just wide enough to scrape the edges of the opening, leaving my arm reddened and sensitive. Honestly, though, I’d rather clean and fill one keg than clean and fill fifty bottles.

Kegs go in here.

After I cleaned the two kegs, I put an APA in one of them, stuck it in the fridge, and hit it with the CO2 to carbonate it. This APA was my first experience with dry hopping a beer. Dry hopping is when you add hops after the bulk of fermentation has taken place (as

opposed to the ‘normal’ method of adding hops during the boil). Dry hopping adds more hop aroma and flavor without adding extra bitterness. It’s a perfect technique for a beer like an APA, which should really focus on hop flavor/aroma without being too bitter (the BJCP style limits APAs to 50 IBUs). I’ll have a review of the APA and a discussion of the recipe soon, so stay tuned!

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