As the Technical Director of Craft Brewing for Birko, Dana consults craft breweries, wineries, and distilleries on food safety and sanitation practices. He has more than 25 years of experience serving Birko’s brew customers and is known in the industry as one of the leading voices on sanitation.
He has formulated many Birko products including Acid Brite™ No. 2, Brute Plus™, Way-Vos™, Cell-R-Mastr™, and invented and consigned the keg cleaning with acid and detergent only patent (Ultra Niter™ and X-Puma™) to Birko in 2012.
A homebrewer since 1989, Dana had authored numerous articles for Zymurgy, The New Brewer, and other brewery trade publications and a frequent speaker at industry events. He is a member of the Brewers Association Safety Subcommittee, (SSC) and the current Webinar Committee Chair for the MBAA, (Master Brewers Association of the Americas), and Technical Co-Chair for the MBAA Rocky Mountain District.
George Allen joined Birko in 2018 as the Director of Business Development – Brewing & Distilling. He brings 20 years of craft brewing experience with extensive knowledge in production operations, sales and marketing, and distribution. George has worked and consulted for several breweries and distilleries around the country. He is also a former brewery owner.
George has a BS in Business Administration from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.
SEASON 2, EPISODE 7: SPRING CLEANING
TOBY TUCKER – DIRECTOR OF SALES, COUNTRY MALT GROUP
DANA JOHNSON – TECHNICAL DIRECTOR – CRAFT BREWING, BIRKO
GEORGE ALLEN – BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT DIRECTOR – BREWING, BIRKO
The BrewDeck Podcast was recently ranked in the Top 15 HomeBrew podcasts by Feedspot!
The full list can be seen here: https://blog.feedspot.com/home_brewing_podcasts
Key Points From This Episode:
- An intro into Dana and George, their careers in brewing, and work with Birko.
- The role of cleanliness in brewing and different methods of passivating.
- How to clean and remove the rust from metal before passivating it.
- The method of passivation Dana recommends that won’t react badly to low-grade steel.
- George’s recommendations for when to remove soils using acid versus caustics.
- Where surfactants fit in with a cleaning process using acid or caustics.
- Comparing nitric versus citric acid versus sodium metasilicate passivation methods.
- A mistake many breweries make of not breaking down heat exchangers regularly.
- How to clean heat exchangers and using a method using hydrogen peroxide.
- Another common mistake breweries make as far as dose and temperature regulation.
- What can go wrong with a brew if the correct cleaning protocol is not observed.
- How PH gets dragged down when brewers don’t get CO2 out of a tank before cleaning with caustic.
- The mistake of using sulfonated oleic acid as a final rinse acid.
- Perspectives on the idea that bad lines can ruin a good beer.
- The issue of storing beer correctly and the best chemicals to use to clean cans.
- Using one ounce of activated Dioxychlor concentrate for five gallons of water for can rinsing.
- Logistics around pricing and bulk orders for shipping HAZMAT items.
- Comparing cleaning methods using iodophor versus parasitic for sanitizing.
- The pros and cons of using non-caustic alkaline cleaners versus caustic cleaners.
- Chemicals that startup or craft brewers should always keep in their brewery.
- Basic equipment a brewery should keep to measure chemical concentration.
- Best practices for scheduled sanitation and maintenance for breweries.
- How brewers can clean efficiently and cost-effectively using minimal chemicals.
- Favorite drinks that George and Dana are enjoying at the moment.
- Final comments about reducing dissolved oxygen and reaching out to our guests.
Transcript - Spring Cleaning
EPISODE S.2, E.7
[00:00:09] TT: Welcome to another episode of The BrewDeck. I am your host, Toby Tucker. I’m thrilled to come in and put headphones on and talk in front of a mic every time we do this podcast. But today, I’m extremely excited for a couple of guys that I’m very fond of, and we’re just talking prior to hitting record here how much I miss seeing them and hopefully, in CBC coming up here in December, or I’m sorry, September we can we hang out.
A couple of legends in the industry. First and foremost. Well, let me back up here. We’re talking with the guys from Birko, and I think a lot of people in our industry know of Birko. They’ve been around a while, and honestly, a lot of folks use your product. So, super excited to have number one, Dana Johnson, the Technical Director of Craft Brewing and Distilling from Birko. And then a buddy, who I refer to as Birko George, George Allen, who’s the Business Development Director for Brewing and Distilling over at Birko.
So, what’s up, guys? Dana, let’s start with you. I mean, you guys got some serious rap sheets here, and I’m looking at your bio, and Dana, most people in our industry, know of you. It’s really good stuff. Dana, let’s start with you. Tell us about kind of your background and what you’re doing over there, Birko?
[00:01:20] DJ: Sure. Yeah, I’ve been with Birko pretty much my entire career. I started working there, even during high school, I interned there for a couple of summers. And then, after high school, I started full-time. I was working in the warehouse at that time. Then shortly after that, they moved me to the lab, and this was back in 1979. I worked in the lab for about 15 years. And then in the mid-90s, it was getting a little tired of that; I wanted to do something else, still wanted work for Birko, but craft brewing, microbrewing, as it was called back then, was getting going. I told my boss, “I really going to need to change.” And he said, “What do you want to do?” I said, “I want to call in the brewing industry.”
So, they let me do that. We needed to diversify at the time. Anyway, so I’ve been doing that for the last 25 years, got into formulation, our brewery chemicals and started writing a lot of articles, got involved with the MBA and, of course, BA. So, it’s been a really good ride and even to this day. So now, I’m not sales anymore. That’s why we have George and all the tech reps, but I am now the Technical Director for Craft Brewing for Birko.
[00:02:32] TT: Good stuff. Good stuff. Mr. Birko George, George Allen. How are you doing, buddy?
[00:02:38] GA: I’m doing fantastic. How about you?
[00:02:40] TT: Pretty good. Tell us about yourself.
[00:02:43] GA: Oh, yeah, a little bit about me. So, I was a little bit of a late bloomer to brewing, but I got out of college and was in financial services for a while, but then, of course, had the homebrew calling and did that for a long time and then decided, you know what, I should become a professional brewer. So, quit my job became a brewer at a small, all lager brewery in North Carolina, and kind of the rest is history. But I’ve been doing that. I was a brewer, director brewer, mastery; you name that, owned a brewery for a little bit. So, I’ve been around the block when it comes to breweries. So again, Dana, on the technical side, me on the operation side, got your bases covered, for sure.
[00:03:24] TT: Isn’t it interesting how many people kind of take that leap in our industry from like a sit in front of a computer all day in a cubicle and just go full out and take that plunge into brewing? I see it all the time.
[00:03:38] GA: Oh, yeah. It’s a fantastic adventure as well.
[00:03:41] DJ: I should have pointed out, I’ve been homebrewing since 1989. That’s really kind of where that interest started from of like didn’t want to start my own brewery but found a way to call on breweries. So, it worked out great.
[00:03:55] TT: Yeah, so really awesome to have you guys on. We are talking spring cleaning. I guess that’s what we title this podcast episode is the spring cleaning, and very fitting to have you guys on. We at Country Malt Group actually supply your products in almost, I’d say, almost all of our DCs. But really, if you want to start us up with the basics. I think, something that people overlooked in the industry, and especially consumers, they don’t really invest a lot of time or really think about what goes into cleanliness and the production of that beer as far as start to finish. They just think this is fantastic to drink, but they don’t think about the importance of cleanliness, even to the point of when the brewery gets a new tank or services some new equipment, the intricacies, importance of that in producing beer for consumption later on down the road.
So, I’m super excited to talk about it today and especially try to hopefully educate our listeners and give those seasoned brewers a little bit of insight into what you guys do and some of the things products that they can use. So, let’s start on passivation. We get this question a lot, especially at Country Malt Group. We got people looking at opening brewing or brewing and planning or kind of commissioning some new equipment. And the first question is, well, you know, how do I passivate? Why is passivating in my stainless steel so important? Talk about that a little bit.
[00:05:21] DJ: Yeah, I’d like to take that one. In fact, I wrote an article a few years ago for the New Brewer on passivation and kind of the different methods. And to really kind of answer your question on that, why is it so important, it’s really kind of, in my mind, twofold, the reasons. The first one is when you’re passivating, you’re laying down some kind of layer of something, either chromium oxide is the common one that was used for many, many years. And that’s using something like nitric and then allowing an air dry for 24 hours, and that’s what I call traditional passivation. And then the other one that I’ve written about for many, many years, going back to the mid-90s, is the acid first followed by oxygenated non-caustic, alkaline cleaner. And in that method, it lays down what’s known to metallurgist as a phosphate silicate conversion coating.
So, if you kind of think about it, you are kind of glass lining your tank with that method. It’s very shiny, and you can actually tell the way the light bounces off of that it’s, you know, it’s very, what we call refractive. So, that leads me to my second point on this, and it creates cleaner tasting beer; there are no metallic off-flavors. And when people don’t really realize this, you can’t sanitize a dirty surface. Well, the same is true for passivation; you cannot passivate a dirty surface. And so, before you do any kind of passivation step, whatever, regardless of what it is, you have to make sure that all the iron is out of there and the surface is clean, and that’s very important, because then when that passivation layer is put on there, it will be flavor neutral for the beer. So, it has a huge impact on sensory.
[00:07:15] TT: So, Dana, a lot of what you said is kind of over my head. You guys are some very smart guys and dealing with this every day. Is it similar to, I like to smoke meat, right? I like to cook, and I recently got a new barrel smoker. It’s literally like a 35-gallon drum, and some call it a drum smoker. But before you cook on that, obviously, I go in there and clean it, and then I layer the interior of it with vegetable oil. On a very simple level. Is that what passivating is as far as tanks?
[00:07:47] DJ: Yeah, in cooking, though, what you’re doing in that particular case that you just described, that’s seasoning. Your seasoning the metal, and it’s usually done a good example that is cast iron, you’re just cooking on that, and you’re not really – the food over time kind of just lays down a layer that protects it from the metal. And so yeah, with oil, you’re covering that metal surface. So, it’s going to be kind of protected, in the case of the heat too; when you take an oil like that and subject it to heat, it glamorizes it. And so, it can be very tough to get off, if you ever tried this, to clean them. But yeah, that’s what you’re doing, in that case, is that you’re protecting the metal.
[00:08:34] TT: So, before passivating, you talked about cleaning. What should brewers use to remove rust prior to passivation, and why?
[00:08:42] DJ: Great question. So, on that one, if it’s just a little bit of surface rust, it’s not too bad. Some of the stuff coming over from China can be kind of challenging on this. And citric acid, which we call diacilate at Birko, goes back, you know, decades ago when there was a lot of smoke and mirrors. But you know, with SDSs and everything these days, we’re very open about what is in our products and have to be. But the citric acid is really good at chelating iron, so that is oftentimes used just to get some – and that works on pretty good quality stainless steel; something occurred in shipping.
But what I’m seeing a lot these days is with 304 stainless coming over from China, there’s a lot of iron in it, and it leeches out through the welds, and we’re actually having to use our Ag Tech 100, which is hydrochloric acid-base especially in hot liquor tank cleaning once they get going with that. But that’s pretty extreme, and hopefully, the folks out there buying, you know, equipment that’s in pretty good shape. 316 is not as bad on that. So, normally it’s going to be citric, and sometimes even that got pretty strong phosphoric nitric, like a beer stone remover, we’ll get some of that too. But yeah, worst-case scenario, you got to use hydrochloric.
[00:10:09] TT: Okay. What’s your approach or kind of the best method for overall tank passivation? I know this is kind of an open-ended question. You’ll probably talk all day about it. But we talked a little bit about it already, Dana. Any specific approach to the best method for passivation?
[00:10:23] DJ: Yeah. So, as I mentioned before, and getting back to what I just said about 304 stainless. I no longer recommend, and I wrote in the article about this is that the inferior grades of stainless steel coming over from overseas these days, especially from China, metal is not as good as it used to be back in the ’90s. George and I had this conversation last night about some of that really good metal that was being produced in the mid-90s. That stuff was bulletproof. I mean, it was really good quality stainless. But nowadays, I don’t recommend the acid, followed by an air dry that everybody has always used for years and works, because it will flash rust, and then they’ve got their work cut out for him, and the citric acid won’t pull it. That’s why I wrote that article for the New Brewer on passivation and using our method.
When they go to the nitric phosphoric, something like our Ultra Niter followed by draining it, but not rinsing it. And then going proceeding to the oxygenated, non-caustic alkaline cleaner, something like, you know, breweries or Cellarmaster, either one works. It doesn’t really matter; the active ingredients are the same. And then you’re laying down that conversion coating that is going to seal the metal. And I’ve been able to turn around some pretty suspect metal with that approach and people that have been using that since the ’90s. Their equipment still looks as good as when they put it into use. So, it’s got decades of track record out there.
[00:12:02] TT: That’s good stuff,
[00:12:03] GA: One quick add to that, because to Dana’s point, it’s like, yeah, years of these tanks looking good, and still in great service. The thing to remember about passivation is it’s not a one and done. So, passivation needs to be reapplied on a scheduled maintenance program and things like that. Depending on your water and stuff like that, it could be twice a year or just once a year, but it’s not like I said; it’s not one and done.
[00:12:34] TT: Yeah, that’s a good point. And again, I’m probably bouncing all over the place here. But I’ve got a list of questions from my team; many of them are brewers, so it’s kind of a, they were all like filtering their thoughts and questions through me. So, I might be bouncing around a little bit here. Briefly explained to me how chemicals like caustic and acid work to remove different types of soils.
[00:12:58] DJ: Why don’t you take that one, George?
[00:13:00] GA: Yeah, no problem. And really, when it comes to caustic and acids, I mean, you can pretty much simplify it to caustics are best for your organic materials. So, your heavy proteins and things like that, late hop additions and brew kettle, stuff like that, and your whirlpool, that’s going to pull those off. I know a lot of breweries are adding some interesting items to either the mash tun or the brew kettle at certain times. So, you know, when these oils add up, and other things like that, you’re caustic in here. So, that’s what it’s designed for.
Now, we have a lot of brewery friends out there that have some really hard water. So, they’ll get a lot of scale build-up and hard water stains and things like that. So, that’s where your acids are your best friend. And again, the harder the water, you’re definitely going to want a little more nitric acid in there to help with that. That’s the simple explanation: scale and stone, acid and heavy proteins and organic materials, caustics.
[00:14:07] TT: Yep. Great overview. How is it that surfactants and chemicals lower water tension to better reach microorganisms? I was trying to tell my son about this the other day, how soap works, and I’m not the right individual to talk detail to an eight-year-old about how soap works. But you know, the one thing that came to mind is surfactants. And you know, like, how they can actually get in help release some of the soils. But can you talk a little bit about how those work, surfactants working in chemicals?
[00:14:36] DJ: Sure. Yeah, I’d like to take that one. I think this is probably a good time to kind of go back to the, if you think about the four tenets of cleaning, you’ve got time, temperature, concentration, and then a mechanical action. Well, in that mechanical action, you also need – and that’s basically NCIP cleaning plates, you’re talking about how hard that spray is hitting the surface. But along with that, when you talk about, like George is talking about caustic and acid, though that’s hydrolysis, that means attacked by water. So, you got the pH thing, right? Extremely pH is below 2, with acid and above 12, with caustic.
But the other thing that you really need for cleaning is what we call displacement, and that’s accomplished with, as you said, the surface tension; you need to wet out that soil. And what the surfactants do is they wet out the surface, that soil, so then it can be removed, and it really makes the job of the either caustic or acid a lot easier if you’ve got a little surfactant in there. Surfactant is just kind of short for the surface-active agent. And then it gets into when they test those, the better the wetting, they call it, I believe it’s called dynes per centimeter squared, or something. It’s gets very technical. But the way you can test it is if you take a drop of water and just put it on a slide or something in it, and you get that, the way it bubbles up. But when you have a surfactant in there, it wets out and then just spreads out.
So, that’s how you know. You can see if you’ve got wetting in there by just doing something as simple as that is just, you know, putting it on a surface and see if it wets it out. But it really does help cleaning and rinsing.
[00:16:25] TT: Yeah, for sure. I ended up telling my eight-year-old, just do it. Just wash your hands, man. I don’t need to go into the details.
[00:16:31] DJ: The best thing to do right there.
[00:16:33] TT: Yeah, but you know what, though, especially in these days, too, though, right? He goes to the bathroom and then goes straight to the hand sanitizer. I’m like, come on, man. It’s not the same. You wash your hands, then go to the sanitizer, speak of the devil, here he is. Hear him in the background.
So, Dana, you’ve talked a little bit about citric acid. One of the questions that we’ve gotten is and a question for you guys to kind of compare nitric versus citric acid versus sodium metasilicate passivation methods.
[00:17:05] DJ: Yeah, nitric. Yeah. So nitric is what they call a passivating acid. It’s not a mineral acid. So, when we’re talking about mineral acids, that’s phosphoric acid, and sulfuric and hydrochloric, those are mineral acids. They’re real strong acids. And nitric, what makes it different, it’s not a mineral acid. It’s what we call an oxidizing acid. So, if you look at it chemically, nitric acid is HNO3, you’ve got the hydrogen and nitrogen, and then the three molecules of oxygen. And that oxygen is really important for when you’re doing passivation, you got to deliver that, that oxygen to the surface to get to the chromium oxide layer. So, that’s a big part of that.
When you compare that to citric, well, citric, you know, it doesn’t really have the same effect that that nitric does in my mind, and I’d see that a lot of really good like NASA studies, they’re saying, “Oh, we just need citric acid.” I’m like, “Well, yeah, that’s probably, you’re getting the best metal that’s out there.” Brewers aren’t getting the best meal I’ve ever seen these days, and to George’s point earlier, brewers to think that, “I passivated, what I was doing, we’re good forever.” No, you’re not. I recommend our passivation method at least twice a year. Spring and fall is a good way to do it, and if you lay down that phosphate silicate conversion coating with sodium metasilicate, as I mentioned before, what that does is it kind of lays down that layer of glass, if you think about glass. Well, it’s kind of what’s going on with silicate cleaners. They protect the metal by kind of laying down a little bit of glass, which glass is pretty – there’s a reason that prior to cans, what was the container of choice for beer, glass. Its flavor neutral.
So, with the method that we come up with and use, it’s repeatable, it’s safe, a lot safer than 20% nitric followed by an air dry because that’s the traditional method of passivation is pretty darn dangerous. Especially if you get nitric too hot, it comes out of solution above 140 degrees Fahrenheit, but you don’t want to be reading that stuff. It’s poisonous.
[00:19:23] TT: Good. Thank you. Let’s roll on to just overall cleaning. What do you all see as the most common trouble spots or common mistakes for breweries these days as far as overall cleaning?
[00:19:37] DJ: Yeah, why don’t you take that one, George.
[00:19:39] GA: All right. Yeah. Well, Dana and I again last night, we were at a local brewery and discussing all these topics, and a big one that we had is your heat exchangers. I see them often neglected. I know Dana sees them often neglected. Breweries need to break down heat exchangers from time to time. So, again, and this is part of the I guess, progressiveness of craft breweries is like, everyone is adding interesting items to the mash tun or the brew kettle, or even a whirlpool, whether it’s late edition hops is always a certainty in most cases. But I’ve seen toasted coconut, I’ve seen peanut butter, I’ve seen all kinds of things. And the heat exchanger can only take so much, and you really need to either break it down; we have some interesting products to run through them. But at the same time, you still need to, at some point, break them down, scrub them down, and put them back together, and that’s a big trouble spot. Do you want to add anything to that, Dana, on the heat exchangers?
[00:20:50] DJ: Yeah, I hear a lot of people say, “Well, we’re afraid to take it apart.” And have been working with one wood brewery that is kind of struggling to get theirs clean. I wrote an article for the New Brewer on a brewhouse cleaning using caustic and hydrogen peroxide, and I think this is probably a good time to maybe talk about that a little bit. The addition of hydrogen peroxide at the point of use with caustic is really good. Going back 25 years ago, we were doing it with the, you know, non-caustic oxygenated cleaner when we wrote about breweries in the mid-90s about using that for brewhouse clean. It gets into that displacement cleaning. But yeah, to George’s point, I like the caustic and hydrogen peroxide addition, especially with the amount of late edition hoping that that’s now going on with like New England style IPAs and stuff, there’s a lot of hot material getting into heat exchangers.
I found that like our circulate plus perox, which is nothing more than 34% stabilized, hydrogen peroxide takes about two ounces per gallon of the caustic, of circulating plus, about a half-ounce to one ounce per gallon of cleaning solution of hydrogen peroxide. So, in a barrel, you’re using about a half-gallon of circulating about a quart or a liter of peroxide. The key on that is you need to not add the concentrates together. They are very reactive and will blow upon you. But once you get the caustic in the water and have it mixed really well and you also need temperature. You need to be above 140, and ideally for brewhouse cleaning, the poster I did in San Diego with the MBA on that, 160, 180is really where it’s at for cleaning the heat exchanger with that mixture. But it’s amazing what kind of stuff will come out of that heat exchanger.
[00:22:40] GA: To add to Dana, you know, not to what he just said, but more about the temperatures. That’s another common mistake we see. I mean, your chemical provider, whether it’s Birko, or anyone else, I mean, they should be providing you with parameters for how to use these chemicals. Dosing is definitely important, but also temperature. We see a lot of breweries; they’re like, “Oh, my hot liquor tanks at 190 degrees.” So, they’re assuming that hotter is better. We have a lot of breweries that are cleaning its ambient. So, that will adjust your chemical usage, and hotter isn’t always better; more isn’t always better. So, those are the mistakes, the more common mistakes we see. Two doses don’t mean better and things like that.
[00:23:28] DJ: Above 180, you can actually bake stuff on. So, as I said, with the caustic of hydrogen peroxide, 160 to 180 is optimum.
[00:23:37] TT: Very good. I’m just thinking about some odd items that people have tossed in their beers at some point in the breweries I’ve visited. I talked to somebody a couple of weeks ago, throwing pizza dough in their beer.
[00:23:48] GA: We’ve seen it all. We’ve seen it all.
[00:23:51] TT: I bet. Some of the other things that I’ve got noted here, obviously we talk a little bit about the CO2, and caustic vacuum, serious problems, dead-end pipes tend to be a spot that a lot of brewers overlook CIP shadows. And you know, obviously, you guys mentioned the heat exchanger. So, of those common problems, and it could be anything, but what do you guys typically see in on some of those issues as a final result of the beer itself? What are some of the results if this cleaning is not done properly?
[00:24:22] DJ: So, what I see quite often or hear about from folks that call me up looking for some assistance on that is the beer tastes pretty good when it’s made. But, you know, a couple of weeks later, it starts to go south. It might get some sourness, maybe a lactobacillus thing.
[00:24:42] GA: Oxidation.
[00:24:43] DJ: Oxidation. Yeah, if they’ve got a lot of rust in there, it’s going to cause oxidative staling of the beer. So, it turns to nitinol; the wet cardboard compound might be one of them. But yeah, the other thing and to your point, Toby, about this is like if you’ve got CO2 coming in contact, we all know it can implode a tank in the worst-case scenario, but even in like keg cleaning and things like that, if they’re not getting all the CO2 out of there with before cleaning with caustic, it’s amazing to me how quickly that drags down the pH when you’re using caustic. If the risk and run conductivity, it may look fine on conductivity. But you go, I’m a big proponent of using pH meters, or at least pH test strips, and also titrating. And if you’re doing a caustic test kit and you have CO2 exposure, you might want to use barium chloride. What that barium chloride does is precipitate some of the carbonate in there, so you get a real true feeling if you’re doing a phenol failing in point caustic, it’ll give you an idea, a better idea of how much actual true caustic you have in there. Because as the CO2 builds up in a caustic solution, it reports there is carbonate, which is what we kind of call inactive alkalinity.
So, it’s still holding the pH, you know, for a while. But if it gets bad enough, you’re baking soda pH, which is like eight to nine, and people are like, “Stuff’s are not getting clean, and my conductivity is good.” “Well, what’s your pH?” “I don’t know. We don’t check it.” “Well, you need to.” So, that’s a big mistake that I see of what they do.
[00:26:18] TT: Are you guys like cleaning bloodhounds? I mean, can you go into a brewery and taste a beer and have a pretty good idea of what’s going on in the process? If there is a potential issue with cleanliness or some sort of infection?
[00:26:33] DJ: Yeah. George and I were having this conversation last night. Yeah, well, there there are certain breweries that we kind of avoid. Because of that, I’ve got my favorites in; I tend to frequent them. But the big one I see on that, too, is they’re using kind of the sulfonated oleic acid as a final rinse acid. It’s not a good sanitizer, not only; moreover, it tends to flavor beer. I’m not a big fan of that kind of approach for sanitizing because I think it flavors the beer and can lead to lactobacillus infections, because the acid-tolerant organisms are able to survive that over time and these people who are come out of home brewing, “I’d always worked as a homebrewer, I never had any infections.” Well, you’re on a much bigger scale now, and you know, the equipment’s different. You’re probably not giving it the same attention you did to your homebrew equipment. So, I tried to get him on to use a PAA, peracetic acid, or, you know, chlorine dioxide or something like that, which is more flavor neutral, but more importantly, does a better job of sanitizing.
[00:27:39] GA: And at that point, again, when you were a homebrewer, your hand scrubbing, you’re doing different things like that. So, your stuff is clean. As a professional brewer, now, yeah, again, you may have shadows and some older tanks that were built years ago; your spray balls aren’t working as well as they used to; maybe you need to go to Jets or something like that. So again, it’s just important to remember, don’t just rely on the fact that the mechanical action is what it’s supposed to be. Dana and I, especially, visit a lot of breweries across the country and so we know what the beers are supposed to taste like.
[00:28:20] TT: I guess the easy way to say it, but I grew up in the restaurant business and managing restaurants and bars. One of the things I always got in the habit of doing is tasting every item of food prior to opening the doors. And it’s just to check to make sure everything’s tasting like it should and make sure it’s fantastic before people come in and order it. I’m assuming that’s what happens in breweries; that’s what should be happening. But sometimes, it gets overlooked. So, I think just a constant check of quality and taste and make sure that’s what these brewers are wanting to put out is very important. A whole other argument is actually having a chat with a brewery owner or a brewer and given them your honest, professional opinion. Do we think there’s an issue? Should we point it out to the breweries? They are super proud of what they put out in front of you. So, it’s all-important stuff.
[00:29:16] DJ: Yep. I agree with you about that. Cicerone training is not only, you know, for the people that make the beer, but it’s really important, I think, for the servers, whenever we get in the whole line cleaning thing too on beers. It’s so important. So, the best-made beer can all go awry if the lines aren’t cleaned. So yeah, it’s really important that the people serving the beer are educated on what it should taste like as well.
[00:29:44] TT: Another very good point you brought up there, Dana. You can have a fantastic beer, but it winds up in a keg in a brewery, and the lines are terrible. That one opportunity a brewer has to capture the business and kind of open up the taste buds of someone new to craft beer can ruin their experience.
[00:29:59] GA: Dana, I mean before we move on to something else, do you want to touch on like, you know, since so many breweries now are canning and things like that, you want to talk about [inaudible 00:30:11] and all that fun stuff? Because cleaning tanks is one thing, but again, prepping your beer for longer shelf life. Dana, you can talk to this better than I can.
[00:30:22] DJ: Yeah, good point, George. We have a lot of mobile canners that buy from us. And a big topic that comes up pretty often is, what should I use to rinse the can? Because a lot of people have had to pivot obviously, with a pandemic, and switch to packaging, 12 ounce or 16-ounce cans, aluminum cans, that’s all well and good. The ones that are using PAA that’s probably not the best choice because of the oxidation—so, backing up a little bit higher. PAA at Birko is 5.6% peracetic acid, but of that, it’s over about 25% hydrogen peroxide, which is really good, you know, for sanitizing heat exchangers and fermenters and things like that. The oxygen doesn’t hurt you there. You’re oxygenating your work, anyway, right? So, a little more oxygen won’t hurt you there.
Now, once the yeast is removed, and you got to finish, you want to keep the oxidation low because the dissolved oxygen content, again, that turns into nitinol thing, is a real problem. So, what we recommend to George’s point on the Dioxychlor activated with diacrylate, in which you get a citric acid, that one only takes about one ounce of activated Dioxychlor concentrate for five gallons of water for can rinsing. It’s flavor neutral. It’s been kind of my homebrew sanitizer of choice since I’ve learned about it and wrote about it in the mid to late ’90s is when I started using it. But it’s real flavor neutral. But more importantly, it’s really low in oxygen. So, you only need about 10 to 20 parts per million of chlorine dioxide, which is ClO2, and people hear the word chlorine, and they freak out. But it’s an oxygen odor, but it’s much lower than PAA, and that one works really good, and it keeps the, you know, kind of tramp organisms out of the beer that can spoil the beer down the road.
[00:32:14] TT: Yeah, George, thanks. I’m glad you brought that up. Great, great question. I think I’ll have you sitting in my chair here pretty soon. Let’s talk about HAZMAT shipping. We get questions all the time. Tell the listener what HAZMAT is per the DOT and kind of what that means.
[00:32:32] DJ: Sure. So, when you talk about HAZMAT, so the shipping these days, so caustic, acids, oxidizers. So, those are the three big ones that are brewers are going to encounter. So, anything with sodium or potassium hydroxide is going to carry a corrosive sticker. And when it does that, even something like our BBC, which is a non-caustic alkaline cleaner, but the pH is over 12. So, it’s labeled as a HAZMAT item. When you ship those UPS, there’s a $40 HAZMAT fee per package. So, if you’ve got caustic, that’s 40 bucks, on top of the regular UPS fee, and this is why Country Malt is so great and can save people so much money if you’re putting that on a pallet and not having to pay those exorbitant HAZMAT fees. And then Birko’s is an oxidizer. Again, it’s 25% hydroxide anything over – by DOT, anything over 8% available oxygen ships as an oxidizer. So, that carries the yellow sticker. And acids, again, are corrosive. So, phosphoric, nitric, or nitric phosphoric are going to have a corrosive sticker as well.
[00:33:44] TT: Yeah, I think a lot of people will order an item and then not realize they can bundle up with a lot of our other stuff that they can fit on that pallet, the way we package and put on the center of the pallet. So, I think it’s something that people definitely overlook.
[00:33:59] GA: And Toby, it makes a lot of sense. Because again, a lot of times when we have some smaller breweries, I’ll give an example right now, I just shipped about $300 worth of product for $500 and shipping to a customer because of the HAZMAT fees. So, these are the type of scenarios we see. And again, we try to push to you guys at Country Malt because you guys can help out because the bulk items that you’re ordering from us and delivering to your DCs, make a lot of sense. And it helps out our brewery customers across the country.
[00:34:36] TT: Yeah, very good. Let’s compare cleaning methods and techniques. Iodophor versus parasitic for sanitizing.
[00:34:45] DJ: The reason I wrote originally, I wrote about chlorine dioxide or really, let’s kind of back up a little bit on that one. It’s not really pure chlorine dioxide. So, Dioxychlor should have pointed out is 7.5% sodium chlorite. That’s the precursor to making chlorine dioxide. And I’ll get into PAA too. So, mention that peracetic acid is an equilibrium of hydrogen peroxide and peracetic acid. And the way that one is made is they put the acetic acid, which is a little bit of vinegar, just a few percent with hydrogen peroxide, and then there’s an accelerating acid that you need to drive the reaction. And so, it’s typically either phosphoric or a little bit of sulfuric. It’s better if they use the phosphoric; it’s a lot better on the metal.
And then iodophor is a halogen sanitizer. So, that’s kind of in the same chemical grouping as bromine and chlorine. If you look at the periodic table of the elements, that’s where iodophor is. So, they’re all really good at killing organisms, but some have more flavor profiles than others. And when I get back to the first article that I wrote on acidified sodium chlorite or ASC, so what you’re doing with that with the [inaudible 00:36:12], is you’re dropping the pH of the Dioxychlor solution below seven, and you’re getting what is called activation of the sodium chlorite, So, it’s NaClO2, and then when you hit it with H plus, which is the acid, then you’re forming some chlorine dioxide, ClO2, which is the active killer compound in that one. And then the downside of that one, it does have some salt and some water leftover.
Peracetic acid is good. It kind of just eventually breaks down to hydrogen peroxide and water. And eventually, when hydroxide is gone, and hardness and the PAA, it just breaks down to water. So, that’s probably the most environmentally friendly. The nack on like chlorine-like sodium hypochlorite is kind of really bad, and iodophor would be another one. When those break down in the environment, they form what’s called THM, which is trihalomethanes, and those are carcinogens. They’re not good for the environment, and fish and things like that. Iodophor has kind of a – traditionally, when I’ve got into the industry in the mid-90s, I was seeing a lot of that being used in a kind of like the sulfonated oleic acid ones and the phosphoric and anionic surfactant types that are out there, that are foamier. Those have a real flavor profile to me in beer, and I don’t like it. I judge at the Great American Beer Festival, and really, I can pick those up pretty easily if you’ve got the band-aid from iodophor or the chlorophenolic stuff going on.
You don’t really get that with acidified sodium chlorite; as I mentioned earlier, very flavor neutral and takes a low PPM to get the job done. And peracetic is fine too, as long as you drain or purge it good with CO2 in a keg, for example.
[00:38:19] GA: Hey, Dana, real quick. To go back to iodophor, which we have a product dynamite and if used properly, it’s fine. But, again, going back to like common mistakes, it’s like people think more is better. So, as long as it’s used according to proper dosing, you can certainly use it. But what color do we think an iodophor-based thing to do?
[00:38:46] DJ: Yeah, American light lager. Yeah, it’s one ounce to five gallons. Good point, George.
[00:38:50] GA: Not bright orange. Dark ones.
[00:38:54] DJ: Yeah. And the other thing, too, is I think we used to have a product called Birkodine, which was stable for days on end. It was really good for parts soaking. And that’s kind of what I recommend for iodophor, and it’s fine for that. You have a bath of iodophor. I mean, we’ve all been in breweries where they do that, and I have no problem with that. It’s really good. It’s not as quick as chlorine dioxide and peracetic acid, but it works. And that’s why you’ll see quite often in breweries that I’m using a bath of iodophor, and yeah, to George’s point should look like American light lager.
The thing about iodophor that’s important is that people forget, and I didn’t realize until I started working in the lab when you use an iodophor, there’s only about one part per million of iodine in solution at any one time. The rest is, therefore, to be held in reserve as it gets used up. In our current dynamite formula is not a stable iodine complex. In other words, if you make up a solution today and get it to that nice American light lager color, by this time tomorrow, it’s going to be white. It’s just not stable, and it’s intended that way. Just a quick rinsing, iodophor rinse. That’s why if you do use it in a bath for sanitizing part, that’s fine, but you probably want to check the concentration of it because, after a few hours, I can guarantee it’s going to drop.
[00:40:19] TT: All good stuff. Hey, you know, I was thinking iodine. Do you guys remember, when I was growing up, my grandpa would slap this stuff that we called monkey’s blood on our skin, Merthiolate, I believe it’s called. That has iodine in, and I’m –
[00:40:34] GA: Turns you orange.
[00:40:36] DJ: Yeah, tincture of iodine was the one I remember as a kid. Yeah, household hydrogen peroxide and tincture of iodine. That was a staple in our house.
[00:40:46] TT: Man, that stuff stung too. I hated it when I got hurt. Maybe that was the reason for my grandpa not letting me go out and turn my skin up because I hated getting that stuff. That red hue wouldn’t come out of your skin for weeks—non-caustic alkaline cleaners versus caustic cleaners, pros, and cons.
[00:41:03] DJ: Yeah. So, I think PPE is the big one for non-caustic. And the reason that I really – when got into the brewing industry in the mid-90s, I was going around to breweries in Denver, and it was summertime. And guys were wearing shorts and rubber boots, t-shirts maybe had –
[00:41:23] GA: Flip flops.
[00:41:24] DJ: Well, hopefully, they wore rubber boots, but I didn’t see a whole lot of flip-flops. But I did see a lot of shorts and, you know, t-shirts and these guys using hot caustic. I’m like, I came back to work, and I told the other chemist that I was working with, at the time I go. “I think we need to come up with something that’s non-caustic for these guys because they’re not wearing PPE at all.” Because I was used to yellow slicker suits, and being in the meat industry, it’s like, they’ve got the face shields and the goggles underneath it. Going into the brewing industry is completely the opposite of that.
So, that’s why we developed breweries back in the mid-90s was because of we’re dealing with something that’s pH 11. You can get it on your skin, and it’s not going to cause burns, chemical burns like caustic will. So, that’s the big advantage of that, in terms of – and it still cleans well, because, to your question earlier, in this presentation about surfactants, we’re using the hydrogen peroxide and surfactants to get underneath that soil. Whereas hydroxide comes in a powder. Well, that’s the percarbonate.
So, sodium percarbonate is nothing more than hydrogen peroxide entrained in soda ash, and as you dissolve that in water, people are familiar with oxy cleaners, the active ingredient in that. So, we use that in the non-caustic cleaners to really – it’s why they work so well in brewhouse cleaning is because the temperature you get above 140 with those things, and crazy rings and things like that. It really helps displace that soil off the metal. But caustic, sometimes in like brewhouse cleaning, again, when I wrote that article for the New Brewer on using caustic and hydroperoxide. But we as breweries get really big powders are not that easy to deal with, and getting them to dissolve and pump around and so forth.
So, the caustic and hydroperoxide, we’re able to do that on the liquids, and hopefully, in brewhouse cleaning, you’re not doing a lot of hand scrubbing. What I found with the brewhouse cleaning, especially with caustic hydroperoxide, is when you’re done, it does such an effective job that higher pH and the hydroxide really get underneath the soil. So, it really pulls the protein soils off much better than even the non-caustic ones with the percarbonate. But again, you’ve got to be very careful with the PPE, make sure you know that if something goes or breaks or something, that you’re going to be protected and have an eyewash and shower nearby because you got to get that off of you right away, or it will cause per second, or God forbid, third-degree burns.
[00:44:17] TT: Yep, not good. All right, thank you. A couple of chemicals that are a must in your portfolio that a startup or craft brewers should always keep in their brewery?
[00:44:29] GA: So again, depending on the size of the brewery and depending on the tanks, if they have to do some hand scrubbing or they can do, you know, some CIAP and things like that. I mean, you definitely need a good caustic. Obviously, for us, I mean, our Cadillac of caustics and alkaline caustic is Circulate. It’s got all the goodies in there to attack all those proteins and heavy organic materials and things like that. From a non-caustic, alkaline cleaner, I mean breweries are good. I mean, you still need to use some hot water for that. But again, it attacks those proteins a little bit safer, obviously, than the caustic version. A good strong acid, acid plus, and things like that. So, that would be like Ultra Niter. Again, you get a good nitric kick that can handle any kind of hard water and scale build-up and things like that. Again, some of the DCs at Country Malt offer Espusa, and some don’t. But Espuma is a good detergent additive to add to your acid. And then yeah, you need a good sanitizer.
So, whether you don’t like peracetic acid, I mean, Birko’s preferred method industry-wide, as far as peracetic acid. And if not, you know, dynamite for iodophor and things like that. So, you can keep it simple. It’s a good caustic or non-caustic alkaline cleaner, and then good acid and then a good sanitizer. Keep it simple.
[00:46:11] TT: What do you suggest for basic equipment that a brewery should keep on hand to dose or measure chemical concentration?
[00:46:18] DJ: That’s a really good question. Just test strips. I mentioned, the test strips are a quick and easy way. It’s what my ex-boss, who I worked with for almost 40 years, called quick and dirty determination. Those test strips will get you in the ballpark. And even on, you know, pH test strips, 0 to 14, those will tell you about where you’re at and if you’ve done rinsing or not. But when you’re testing like caustic and acid and sanitizers, in the food industry, where they’re kind of USDA inspected, they have to record all that stuff, and using test kits and making sure that the reagents are not expired is really important. Because people’s lives are at stake, in that case, well, brewers don’t really have that same kind of onus on them. Because there are no known pathogens that can survive in beer, with the pH and the alcohol and the CO2 and all that, but it can go sour.
So, yeah, we sell a lot of test kits and test strips, and that’s really important. And as far as measuring it, just having some kind of either graduated cylinder or plastic, depending on the amount of chemical that you’re using, it’s really important to not just kind of use what we used to call the glug method. And that’s where George’s point earlier about, the iodophor and I think people were using the glug method, just pouring it in and not really measuring. One ounce to five gallons is not a lot. So, on the smaller ends, just getting a beaker like 100 ml beaker, and keeping in mind that one ounce is 30 milliliters, and a quarter cup is 60, and going from there. So, in powders, pints pound world around is usually a good slogan I like to tell people, when they get kind of hung up on whether it’s weight versus volume, just use volume. You don’t have to weigh this stuff but definitely measure it. So, one pint is a pound. So, that’s a good rule of thumb with powders.
[00:48:21] TT: I have a hard time, like, a lot of times remembering what I did yesterday in normal situations, but one of the things that drive me crazy is I can’t even remember when I need to clean my furnace air filters in my house here. It’s not like somewhere where I can go in and open the door and just look and see if it’s dirty. I mean, you got to physically go in there and make sure that you either put it on your calendar, but that’s one of the problems I have, is without looking, I have no idea whether or no it’s dirty or not. And I don’t know about you guys like you’re supposed to trade them out in most situations like every three months. It usually goes like five, six months and I keep telling myself I need to put it on my phone counter, and the alarm goes off. But I don’t do it. And I’m going somewhere with this. So, that leads me to the question about in the brewery best practices for scheduled sanitation and maintenance and what to look for before you can actually see it?
[00:49:14] DJ: Yeah, that’s a really good point. You’re in Texas; I’m changing my furnace filters out in the winter once a month, and I do it right after the first month, plus I’ve got the Ecobee thermostat. It actually tracks that now. But yeah, to your point, the PMs are really good. Brewery hose, I learned recently that if you’re only supposed to get about two years out of brewery hose. I didn’t realize that. And so, what the recommendation was in the webinar on brewery hoses when you get that in services to put an expiration date on it two years out. How many brewers are going way past that on brewery hose a lot, right?
[00:50:00] GA: Way too many.
[00:50:01] DJ: Once those things go bad, and I’ve actually had brewers like, call me up and say, “Man, the hose delaminated. They run that, the nitric phosphoric is too hot, that chlorobutyl stuff kind of just delaminated and goes inside and plates out on the metal.” That is really tough to get off.
So, yeah, to your point, keeping a log on all that stuff and predictive maintenance and just doing preventive maintenance and logging that, really important. So, good point, Toby.
[00:50:33] TT: All right. You know, you talked about sustainability a little bit, Dana, but economic sustainability at the brewhouse, are there particular ways that brewers can maximize the bang for their buck and kind of keeping things clean while minimizing chemical use? Thus, like conserving water, et cetera?
[00:50:51] DJ: Yeah, you want to take that one, George?
[00:50:53] GA: Yeah. I mean, we can tag team this one for sure. I think and Dana and I have talked about this all the time, obviously. But what we see with a lot of breweries is there’s a lot of extra labor, there’s a lot of extra water usage, things like chemical usage, because they’re not – if it’s not clear with what you’re doing, then you’re using the wrong mix of chemicals or temperature, all the things that Dana mentioned earlier. It’s more about your specific needs. If you’re only brewing hazy IPAs, you’re not centrifuging; you’re not doing this, you’re not doing that, you’re different than the brewery down the street is doing all waters. So, it’s not a one size fits all type thing.
So again, it comes into, again, this is why Country Malt offers a lot of different chemicals for a lot of different purposes. And that’s where Birko comes in, as well, as it’s like, “Hey, you have hard water, and you’re only making hazy, and you’re only doing this, and you’re only doing that.” Boom. So, what we see is you need to tailor your needs to your brewery, and a lot of small breweries don’t think that they need to even think about that yet. And we need to remind them; Country Malt does, Birko does, any chemical provider does. It’s like, “Hey, you are special. So, reach out and ask the questions. If it’s not working, and you have to do extra labor, hand scrubbing, things like that, we can help with that.”
[00:52:28] TT: Very good. Moving on to some leisurely stuff here. What do you guys drink these days? Favorite adult beverages at the moment? I mean, beer, in general, is just if somebody asked me, I’ll just like beer. Some specific that you’re drinking these days?
[00:52:41] DJ: With the pandemic, I got to be honest with you, Toby. I’ve really gotten spoiled on lagers within the last year from craft breweries. I think of things like Helles and Kölsch and IPLs, any IPL lagers. I still love my IPAs. George and I consumed several last night and still love that. But to answer your question, what am I drinking these days? And it’s still IPA, but I sure like a great tasting Helles. How about You, George?
[00:53:16] GA: Well, let’s see. Well, I’m a little old school. So, I’m still sticking to a lot of West Coast IPAs for my stint on the West Coast with a couple of brews there and working on a big project for a brewery on the west coast. So, I’m kind of sticking to them. So again, West Coast IPAs, and then I discovered a new affinity for premium tequila. So, been having a little bit of that lately, so that’s where I’m going these days.
[00:53:48] TT: Yeah, we can’t leave all the others out. I mean, realistically, you put anything in front of me, beer, wine, gin, whiskey, bourbon. I mean, believe me, I’ll drink it. I ask most of my guests, what it is they’re enjoying, and it’s a pretty interesting array. Some of the folks that own breweries honestly don’t drink a lot of beer. They love wine, or they like ciders; it’s always interesting here. Guys, any closing statements from either one of you before we hit the road here?
[00:54:22] DJ: Yeah, I guess one thing I would have to mention too, is when we were talking about – we didn’t talk a whole lot, but there’s going to be a lot out there on the internet about acid under pressure cleaning, and I think George brought it up, the Espuma addition to Ultra Niter. And get back to the sustainability thing on saving CO2, and I know CO2 has been kind of hard to come by for a lot of brewers. So, you can actually clean bright tanks and serving tanks as long as they don’t have, I believe, Country Malt sells Nalco 1072, which is the fining agent, that’s silicon dioxide. You don’t want to do that in a tank; you don’t want to run the acid under pressure with that in there.
But if you’re not, that’s really good and especially when you get busy, not only can you save a lot of CO2, but you can also really save a lot of time. I can definitely help people through that. I’ve written an article on the New Brewer on that; it’s called reducing dissolved oxygen. Just wanted to throw that in there.
[00:55:28] TT: No, great point. George?
[00:55:30] GA: I mean, for me, it’s just, we encourage customers to reach out to us, to reach out to you. I mean, we’re here to help. Dana, on the technical side, and me on the operation side. I mean, we’re here to help you make better beer, and that’s it. So, not saying your beer is bad or anything like that, but with the right techniques and right everything, from soup to nuts, I mean, we’re here for you.
[00:55:57] DJ: Absolutely.
[00:55:59] TT: Well, if the listeners haven’t found out by now, the two of these guys are just a complete wealth of knowledge. A lot of it is over my head, but very knowledgeable and very accessible, actually, both Dana and George. And a lot of their products can be purchased through us, but you can certainly reach out to Country Malt Group or George or Dana, for that matter. We’d be happy to answer your question about cleaning, passivation, sanitizing, you name it; these guys are a wealth of knowledge, can certainly help you get on the track right track of where you need to go. So, Dana, George, thank you guys for joining on this episode of the podcast. Hopefully, we’ll see you sooner rather than later.
[00:56:36] DJ: Thanks for having us.
[00:56:37] GA: Yeah. Thanks for having us. We’ll see you at CBC.
[00:56:40] TT: All right. Absolutely. Hey, I appreciate everybody listening to this episode of The BrewDeck Podcast, spring cleaning with the guys from Birko. I’m your host, Toby Tucker. Thanks again. Cheers.