How important is sanitation on your path to better beer? Very! Something so important and so easy, should be so simple.
I worked with threaded components on my brew kettles for too long. I had two piece valves threaded into self drilled holes in my boil kettle, mash tun and hot liquor tank. I'm talking about the standard 1/2" stainless steel threaded fittings, sealed using various 1/2" o-rings and flat silicone gaskets. The seals were difficult to get right, and once everything was installed without dripping, the last thing I wanted to do was take it all apart again for cleaning. So they were cleaned only using a CIP method of circulating an oxy-based cleaning solution though the kettle and valve assemblies after each brew session.
At the time this was good enough for me, and much better than having to fumble around with the gaskets to get them to seal again. But after 15-20 brew sessions I finally decided to disassemble my brewery for a thorough cleaning. Uh-oh!
Much to my surprise, the valve was still wet after sitting on the shelf for almost a month since the last brew session. The smell inside the valve was reminiscent of dirty old socks, and there was gunk stuck to the ball and seals that I would definitely not want in my beer! Even worse is what I found on the bottom and inside of the threaded 90 elbow that I used as a dip tube. So much for CIP!
A very dirty elbow!
What happens in the ball valve, stays in the ball valve
Now this is definitely now how you make your best possible beer. Honestly I felt a bit ashamed for being so lazy and letting myself, my family, and my friends drink beer made with these parts! This is in fact, what launched me on the path to starting my own business based on sanitary, hygienic easy to clean Tri Clamp components.
Don't believe me? You don't have to. Go down to your brewery right now and take apart those ball valves. Even if its been on the shelf for months, you will be surprised with what you find inside!