The best things you can do in order to make good (great!) wine is paying close attention to cleanliness and sanitation. If there is only one thing that you take away from this website, it should be that cleanliness and sanitation are the most important parts of wine making.
Wine making can be a messy adventure. Spilled grape juice that makes everything sticky. Chemicals and dirt on fresh fruit. Dirty hands coming into contact with your equipment, or worse, with your juice. Keeping everything clean not only helps to keep things tidy but will also result in better quality and flavor in your finished wine.
When it comes to cleaning your equipment, any mild dish detergents are acceptable as long as they’re non-toxic and are free of perfumes and dyes. OxiClean is a better option. The absolute best option is a brewery wash such as Five Star PBW. PBW, which stands for “powdered brewery wash”, is intended specifically for cleaning brewing equipment. It is an alkali cleanser that was developed for easily removing the byproducts of fermentation. Not only is it a great product, it’s also highly recommended here at MakeGoodWine.
Pro Tip: I want to make an important distinction here between cleaning and
sanitizing. Cleaning refers to making sure your equipment, buckets, carboys, fruit and anything else is free of dirt, grime and any other kind of nasty things that could ruin your wine. Sanitizing doesn’t include any of this. Instead, proper sanitation kills off bacteria that might be lurking inside your buckets, carboys, equipment and even on your hands!
Sanitation is the step that comes after cleaning. This step kills bacteria and germs that might be present in your buckets, carboys and other equipment (including your hands!). It’s critical that you sanitize everything that comes into contact with your wine.
The best way to sanitize properly is to use a no-rinse sanitizer. The reason this step is required is because the water that you use to rinse equipment after cleaning could have unwanted bacteria in it. While it is usually fine for drinking, it may not be fine for your yeast and wine.
There are several no-rise sanitizers on the market. My favorite, and the one I recommend, is Five Star Star San. Star San is odorless and tasteless so it won’t impart any undesired aromas or flavors in your finished wine. I’ve been using Star San for years now and can’t recommend a better option. Give it a try, I’m sure you will be happy with the results.
Whether you choose Star San or another sanitizer, keep in mind that contact time is very important. Some sanitizers call for a contact time of as little as 30 seconds while others may require five minutes or longer. For Stan San, 1 to 2 minutes is enough.
Pro Tip: What is the most important thing in wine making? If you said cleanliness and saniziation, you’re right!