UV Sanitation in Homebrewing: Would this work?

Homebrewers typically use chemicals like Star-San to sanitize, but there is more than one way to skin a cat.

Heat is another way that we sanitize via boiling the wort.

But what about ultraviolet sanitiation (UV)?

Riding on the coattails of our country’s germaphobia, UV is all over the place. Turn on the TV and within 5 minutes you’ll see a commercial with Mom blasting her kids’ toothbrushes and stuffed animals with a UV light saber.

While I tend to agree with George Carlin on germs when it comes to personal health, germs have absolutely no place in a brewery (except for bugged beers of course) which leads me to wonder…

Could UV sanitation be used in a brewery?

Obviously you don’t want to expose your beer to UV radiation because that would sunk it, but what about your equipment? Could you..

  • Wave a UV wand over your autosiphon and sanitize it?
  • Put a UV air sanitizer in your brewhouse?
  • Zap your beer bottles and save all of that dunking and draining?

I don’t have the answer  so I’m asking if anyone has experience with this.

I’m sure by posing the question I am the natural fit to be the guinea pig (crap). I’d rather not risk a batch of beer but it would be cool to do a side-by-side with Star-San and UV and then determine in a lab which one is more effective.

Anyone got a lab?

About Billy Broas


He is the founder of The Homebrew Academy, a BJCP beer judge, and the homebrewing expert on the Rocky Mountain PBS television show Colorado Brews. He lives in the fine beer town of Denver, Colorado.

Comments

  1. Interesting question. I don’t have an answer, but I thought I’d leave a comment so that I can subscribe to this thread.

    I suspect that long term use of UV radiation on plastics probably would not be good. I could certainly be wrong about that, so anyone who wants to correct me, feel free.

    Star San has been real good to me, so I don’t see me switching real soon.

    • Billy Broas says:

      That’s a good point about the plastics. I’d have a hard time switching from StarSan and would need some pretty compelling evidence to do so. I still think it’s an interesting topic though and maybe the two methods could be used together, with the UV as just another line of defense.

  2. I wonder if you could use fiber optics to route UV light into bottles via a dowel rod based bottle rack. Of course, this assumes that the bottles are physically clean of beer residue, yeast leftovers, and any mold spores that may have entered the bottle between pouring the beer and sanitizing for filling.
    Because of the need to wash the bottles first, I think UV might be relegated to high-volume brewers and breweries for many purposes, but surface sanitation (counters, buckets, glass carboys) would likely benefit from a swipe of the UV wand. I can see this being a great addition to the process during yeast harvesting and banking, since that operation is very sensitive to sanitation issues.

    • Billy Broas says:

      I love how that first sentence sounds like we’re plotting a covert operation lol.

      Using the wand during yeast handling is a great idea, and like I mentioned to Sheppy maybe it’s just another line of defense in addition to the StarSan.

      I like the bottle sanitation theory as well. Here’s an idea – what if you I could route the UV into the branches on my bottle tree. You could hit a button and light ‘em up!

  3. I’ve always done extract brews with a concentrated boil and late addition of dme. My standard practice is to get some ro water from a nearby source (they add some minerals back afterward). As a final step after filtering, its blasted with UV right in the pipe. I run this directly into a sanitized better bottle, and after my small boil I simply dilute with this (presumably) sanitary water. I’ve done this many times, and never had problems with infection. Of course, data is not the plural of anecdote, ymmv, etc.

    • Billy Broas says:

      That’s cool to hear that UV is used, and I didn’t think about water sanitation. I admit that when I do partial boil extract brews I just use straight tap water for top off. I’m just too lazy to pre-boil it and have never had a problem, but that doesn’t mean I won’t in the future. Sanitizing the top off water with UV could be a good compromise. Thanks for the comment.

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