Pictured: 8 Oz Star San – via Amazon
Star San is my homebrew sanitizer of choice. When mixed properly, it’s food safe and no rinse. Required contact time is one minute. It has worked very well for me for quite some time and I’m convinced that it’s one of the most economical solutions available if you’re using the “Spray Bottle Method” outlined here.
Cleaning, Sanitizing and… Sterilizing
The first step in sanitizing is cleaning. Cleaning and sanitizing are two separate steps. Cleaning physically removes dirt and large contaminants. After your item is physically clean it can be microscopically sanitized. Sanitization kills many (but not all) germs, bacteria and microorganisms on an already clean surface. I typically use a mixture of PBW for cleaning. Sanitizing and Sterilizing are different. Sterilizing is killing every living thing. In home brewing typically, we’re not interested in sterilizing, we’re only interested in sanitizing.
The Spray Bottle Method
The key benefit of this method is using what you need. That fact of the matter is… there’s no need to submerge your equipment in gallons and gallons of this stuff. The open space in the middle of your carboy does not need to be sanitized. Just the surfaces do.
Fill up a spray bottle with properly diluted Star San solution and you’re good to go. Liberally coat all surfaces and parts in need of sanitizing. If you have a larger job, like a keg or a carboy, use what you need to sanitize (already clean items) and pour the Star San mixture back in the gallon jug for re-use. That’s it. Spray liberally, let stand and drain any excess.
1 Gallon of Star San – How much Star San do I use for 1 Gallon?
I mix up one gallon of Star San at a time. Just add 6 CCs of Star San to one gallon of distilled or soft water. How did I come up with 6 CC/ml? Dosing rate for Star San is 1 ounce per 5 gallons. That’s .2 ounces for 1 gallon. .2 ounces = 5.91 ml. I round that up to 6 CC/ml.
I use a glass gallon jug for storage. It takes a while but Star San will eat through thin plastic gallon jugs. I’ve had it happen and it’s not cool.
Measuring 6 CCs/mLs
I use a syringe to measure the 6 CCs needed. I’ve used a couple different models over the years. Some with luer locks and some without. If you get some with luer lock connections, there’s no need to put anything on the luer lock.
10 cc/mL seems to be a good size. It allows you to measure 6 CCs and have a little room left over.
Search 10 ml syringes on Amazon
What’s the Shelf Life of Star San?
The shelf life of Star San concentrate is 1 to 2 years. Your bottle should have a manufacture date on it.
The shelf life of diluted Star San mixture is a bit more tricky. The official answer is probably… you should mix a fresh batch each time you use it. To really test the effectiveness, you need to titrate the solution and test the PPM.
Practically speaking, many homebrewers use and re-use Star San. If you’re going to do that, the solution should be relatively clear and the mixture should have a pH of under 3.5. See: What’s the Shelf Life of Star San? – Testing Star San’s Effectiveness from more information
From “Better Safe Than Sorry” Department: If you doubt a mixture it’s better to be safe, dump it and make a fresh batch
If you’re going to re-use diluted Star San mixture, you may want to test your solution to make sure it’s under a pH of 3.5. If you source pH test papers for this, make sure they read in that range and, preferably, have a reference point right at 3.5. I recommend the Micro Essential Labs strips linked below. They are also featured in my post on Star San Effectiveness.
pH Strips and Meters…
- Micro Essential Labs Hydrion Pro Ph Strips (Ph 0.0 To 6.0) Item 9200 100 Strips
- Apera Instruments PH60 Premium Waterproof pH Pocket Tester, Replaceable Probe, ±0.01 pH Accuracy, -2.00-16.00 pH Range
- Milwaukee MW102 PH and Temperature Meter
- Amazon’s Best Sellers in Lab pH Meters
Considering the shelf life of Star San concentrate is 1 to 2 years, If you’re using the Spray Bottle Method outlined here, I generally recommend an 8 ounce bottle. 8 ounces of concentrate yields about 39 gallons of mixed solution. Let’s say you use 1/4 gallon (which I personally think is high) for each batch, the 8 ounces size yields enough for around 157 batches. If you brew more than 157 batches per year, maybe get a bigger bottle. Otherwise, 8 ounces is probably good. 🙂
Star San – 8 oz via Amazon
Spray Bottles to Use With the Spray Bottle Method
As mentioned previously, Star San can dissolve plastic over time. Look for a chemical and acid resistant spray bottle. The ACC130 is a professional quality, chemical resistant bottle and sprayer. Check out my [Hands on Review]
Some spray bottles…
- Chemical Guys ACC130 Professional Chemical Guys Chemical Resistant Heavy Duty Bottle and Sprayer – 32 oz.
- Rubbermaid 32oz Heavy-Duty Spray Bottle
Good Sanitation Starts with Cleaning – Finding PBW Homebrew Cleaner
An important part of sanitizing effectively is starting with something that’s already clean. I use PBW also from Five Star Chemicals.
Unlike Star San, I go through a lot of PBW. Under the premise of, buy things in bulk that you use in bulk, I suggest buying the largest size of PBW that makes sense for your budget.
Finding Star San
1 Gallon Glass Jug for Star San Storage
- Glass Jar – 1 Gallon (Green) FE300 and Plastic 1 Gallon Jar Cap FE303 at MoreBeer
- 1 Gallon Glass Water Bottle INCLUDES 38 mm. Metal Screw Cap via Amazon
- 4 x 1 Gallon Glass Water Bottle INCLUDES 38 mm. Metal Screw Cap via Amazon
Note: This section uses the 32 oz size for estimations. I generally recommend purchasing the 8 ounce size for most homebrewers. See: What Size Star San Should I Buy? for more info.More Info on Savings Estimations
Let’s use the 32 ounce size of Star San for estimation purposes. 32 ounces = about 946 Milliliters. At 6 mL per gallon, 32 ounces of concentrated Star San yields about 157 gallons of properly diluted sanitizer. This is true whether you use the Spray Bottle Method or the old Deluge Method (filling everything up to the brim with Star San).
Let’s say you use a quarter of a gallon per batch using the Spray Bottle Method – I’d make the case that you’d actually use less, maybe significantly less, but let’s be conservative and say 1/4 gallon (32 ounces diluted solution). At that rate, 32 ounces of concentrate would be enough to sanitize around 628 batches of homebrew.
Compared to the Deluge Method: For estimation purposes, let’s say the typical brewer would fill a 6 gallon carboy completely full of Star San, use that to sanitize the fermenter and use that same Star San to sanitize everything else that needs sanitized for that batch. Let’s say that 6 gallons is used up and discarded during the course of finishing each batch of beer from fermentor to bottling or kegging. Assuming all of that is true, 32 ounces of concentrated Star San lasts for about 27 batches of homebrew. Compare that with my estimation of a whopping 628 batches using the Spray Bottle Method.
Cost Savings: Let’s say the a 32 ounce container of Star San costs $25 for estimation purposes.
- Spray Bottle Method – estimated 628 batches sanitized for $25
- Deluge Method – estimated 26 batches sanitized for $25.
- To sanitize the same 628 batches using the Deluge Method, you’d have to purchase about  32 ounce bottles of Star San at a cost about about $600 if each bottle is $25.
- $25 or $600? With these assumptions and estimations, the Spray Bottle Method saves the average brewer about 96%
If we take this one step further and say… you can get a full batch out of 1/8 gallon or 16 ounces, which I think is very possible the numbers start getting crazy. 1,256 batches per 32 ounce bottle of Star San. Using my same parameters, you would need to purchase 46 bottles to sanitize the same number of batches using the Deluge Method. That would be $25 in cost vs $1,200. Or, a $1,175 savings.
Frankly, I think most homebrewers can sanitize an entire batch, from fermenter to keg or bottle using 1/16 gallon of Star San or 8 fluid ounces of diluted sanitizer. Those numbers become even more crazy.
Want to plug in your own numbers to figure savings? Online Calculator Star San Cost Estimates – “Spray Bottle” vs “Deluge” methods
In fairness, you could realize similar savings by re-using the 6 gallons of Star San (that’s produced by the Deluge Method) over and over. However, you’d have to store that and lug it around as necessary and you’d be re-using sanitizer. If we take our 1/4 gallon estimation and say that that’s the amount that actually gets used up each time, that would mean some of this 6 gallons would have been used 24 times before it’s finally discarded. The Spray Bottle Method has you using fresh Sanitizer whenever you need it and discarding it after use.
Now I know why my first bottle of Star San lasted well over a half a decade. If you use 16 ounces of diluted Star San per batch, a 32 ounce bottle lasts for 1,256 batches using these estimates. At 2 batches per month the bottle would last for just over 52 years. Practically speaking, it’s probably not going to last that long with keg cleaning, line cleaning and so on, but it really does last a long, long, long time using this technique.
Star San is an acid. You should be careful with Star San, especially in its undiluted form. It can cause damage to clothing [See: Lesson Learned, Don’t Do This with Star San], countertops, aluminum items and more. Make sure materials you use are compatible and rated for your intended application. Contact manufacturer with questions about suitability or a specific application. Always read and follow manufacturer’s directions. Always read and follow manufacturer directions.
What is Star San?
Star San is a self-foaming acid sanitizer ideal for brewing, dairy and other food and beverage equipment. It is an extremely effective bactericide and fungicide and is not affected by excessive organic soils. Star San also reduces water spotting and can be used without rinsing under the proper concentrations. STAR SAN is a blend of phosphoric acid and dodecylbenzenesulfonic acid. This synergistic blend provides a unique killing system that is unaffected by excessive organic soils. STAR SAN is also a self-foaming sanitizer. It can be applied through a foamed to produce self-adhering sanitizing foam for external sanitation. STAR SAN is also an excellent sanitizer for hand application. Sanitizing with STAR SAN on a daily basis will leave equipment in an acid condition that will eliminate water spotting.
Star San Material Safety Data Sheet
StarSanMSDS1 – MSDS Dated 6-6-12
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