By Brendan McClatchey, Professional Brewer

Whether you’re a homebrewer or a professional craft beverage magician, cleaning in place and soaking equipment parts are commonplace for day-to-day operations. It is a good idea to give small parts some extra care from time to time to increase their longevity, efficiency, and, most importantly, to keep your brew days a smooth operation.

Not all small parts require the same treatment. Many parts have plastic, brass threads, aluminum casings and other materials that make them less than ideal for a submerged soak in caustic or strong acid solutions.

Below are a few tips for cleaning items such as clamps, reducers, elbows, splitters, and gauges.

Initial Cleaning
All small parts should receive an initial cleaning to remove mineral buildup and any other debris. Nylon or brass brushes and an appropriate detergent, such as PBW, mixed at a standard rate, are great for manually cleaning small parts.  If you’re cleaning gauges, glycol fittings of PVC, and around solenoids, do not submerge; simply use a spray bottle to apply cleaning solution.

  • Mix ¾ of an ounce of PBW per one gallon of 140’F water (hot liquor if possible).
  • Manually scrub with your nylon or brass brush to remove debris.

Increase PBW rate of use to 1 or 2 ounces per gallon depending on debris load. Always be sure to rinse parts and don’t let PBW air dry. The stainless side of a tank with female threads can be cleaned as per CIP SOP’s and with a manual bristle brush cleaning to remove any potential gunk such as residual teflon tape.

Detergent Soak
A standard soak works well for clamps and other all-stainless parts. Chlorinated Manual Cleaner (CMC) is a great option and can be used for many CIP and manual applications in a brewery.

  • For CMC, mix 1-2 ounces per gallon at a temperature of 60°-100°F.
  • Allow contact for at least 5 minutes with parts.
  • Rinse off before the next chemical application.

Ultrasonic Cleaner
Once your parts are clean, prepare an acid bath at passivation strength for the ultrasonic cleaner. The purpose is to remove scale and buildup in and around the hard to reach places like clamp threads and TC fittings.  For stainless parts, especially clamps with a healthy patina on their threads, the ultrasonic cleaner with a warm acid bath can bring them back to full efficiency and remove any scale buildup left after a detergent cleaning. Standard commercial jewelry ultrasonic cleaners are a worthwhile purchase for any cellar. Look for one with a decent drop basket and frame that is sturdy enough to handle the parts you have in mind (i.e. do not buy a cheap plastic one).

  • Mix a solution at a rate of 1 ounce of Acid #5 to one gallon of warm water (100-120’F, hot liquor if possible).
  • Soak in ultrasonic cleaner for 45 minutes, operating at the recommended frequency based on your particular machine. Higher frequencies work better for more delicate parts.
  • Periodically turn off the ultrasonic cleaner and use stainless tongs to rotate parts and threads, if needed, to allow full exposure. Turn the machine back on and continue.
  • Remove the basket and allow parts to air dry.
  • Sanitize all parts before use.

This cleaning method will leave your small parts passivated; thus extending their life span and maintaining optimum performance. If cleaning parts with nicks or scratches, be sure to pay close attention to their cleanliness as scale build-up and bacteria is harbored in those blemishes.

If in doubt…clean…clean again…and sanitize.  It’s worth it, for that delicious beer!


About the Author
Since 2009, Brendan McClatchey has made the sauce for breweries such as the Liberty Brewery and New South Brewing in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina as well the River Horse Brewery in Ewing, New Jersey and Ska Brewing in Durango, Colorado. He has also worked as a consultant for wineries, cideries, distilleries, coffee roasters, bars and distributors throughout the Northeast Tri-state area and the American West. Lately he has been making cannabinoid seltzer’s for Oh Hi Beverages in Colorado. Nonetheless, beer will always reign supreme.