Most people brew beer as often as they can but life doesn’t always allow us to brew constantly things happen and life gets in the way.
In most cases, that would mean that ingredients that aren’t properly stored can go off. But does that apply to the non-organic substances in the brewhouse?
A lot of brewers also use Star San to sanitize their brewing area and equipment. As Star San is sold in larger quantities than you actually need at any one time, is it something you’ll need to replace that often?
Star San is a reusable sanitizer. Undiluted Star San has a shelf life of 1-2 years as long as the PH level is below 3. Diluted Star San stored in an open container should be used within an hour or so. When stored in a sealed container it should last you 3-4 weeks with a PH level of less than 3.
As with many consumer goods, it is often much cheaper to buy Star San in bulk. This may just mean opting for the 32oz bottle over an 8 oz bottle, but it’s still a lot of sanitizer given the ratios you need to mix it in.
Even if you could brew every day, you may never make it through the largest bottle of star san available on the market.
I’ve read a lot about this while really researching this article and I’ve found a lot of inaccuracies and common misconceptions.
So, if you want to know exactly how long your star san will last, please read on.
How does Star San work?
I am guessing that you have arrived at this page because you want to learn more about homebrewing, whether you are a seasoned homebrewer or new to this fantastic hobby.
So let’s start off on the same page here.
Star San is an extremely popular sanitizer used in the cleaning field and homebrewing.
The job we use it for is to minimize the risk of bacterial infections in our home-brewed beer and when used correctly it does this perfectly.
The bit that makes it really handy for homebrewers though is that it is a no-rinse sanitizer. This means you don’t have to add an extra and sometimes messy step to your brewing process.
Three of the five main ingredients in Star San are antibacterial agents (phosphoric acid, alkyl benzene sulfonic acid, sulfuric acid). Scientifically speaking the compounds within Star San can and should target bacteria and other micro-organisms. As bacterial can ruin a whole batch of beer, Star San going to be your new best friend.
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What makes it a no-rinse sanitizer?
One of the fears I’ve heard people express is that being an acid-based sanitizer, Star San may not be safe to ingest unless you rinse it off your equipment.
This isn’t the case because of the PH level and the dilution ratio that we should be aiming for.
If you are at all worried about Star San affecting the taste of your beer or being unsafe to ingest in any way, please have a look at my in-depth article on this issue here.
How long does it last in the bottle?
According to the manufacture (5 Star), it says that it has a shelf life of 1-2 years, so this probably means no more than 2 years.
I am sure under the right conditions it would last longer, but I doubt with normal use or it sitting around your garage is optimal for it.
ThIs is why I would recommend buying smaller bottles like the 8oz and using the spray bottle technique (basically using it as a spray). It will save you time and money.
If you haven’t every bought Star San yet, you can get it from a local homebrew shop which may be a bit more expensive than Amazon, or go just get it online and delivered straight to your door.
However, it’s not really the timescale that counts, it’s the PH level. So even if you have an old bottle knocking around from your first teenage foray into homebrewing, test the acidity and if it’s lower than 3 you’re probably good to go!
It does not matter what type of bottle you have or how old it is. You should periodically test to see if the Star San is viable, and you will want to use ph indicator strips to do this.
You can get there from your local homebrew shop, online (see Amazon), or at school supplies stores (science classes).
The best ph indicator strips to get are ones with levels in .5 increments. This way you can see between 3 and 3.5 more easily.
The whole number of ones can be hard to differentiate between the colors and you do not want to have it be ineffective when you are brewing and ruin the whole process.
You can research online and buy a few to compare against, some are easier to read than others.
Alternatively, you can just go digital. A good PH level reader will help you with a lot of tasks in homebrewing, from checking your Star San to your actually brewing water (which is something you don’t need to worry about on day 1)
In that case, I’d recommend getting something like this, which you can find on Amazon or in your local homebrewing store.
What if my Star San looks cloudy?
When you have cloudiness in Star San, it may have been caused by age (over a year old) or hard water minerals have interacted with the solution causing this reaction.
Do not worry, it may still be able to be used. Get you those ph indicator strips and check the ph level and dilution of the Star San. If all checks out, it’s ready to use.
If it is borderline (just above a ph level of 3), I probably would not take the risk, you could ruin your whole brew.
Some brewers will say it is still usable under a ph of 4, and this may have worked for them, but I would stick to the manufacture’s guidelines.
The Star San is brand new and still cloudy
If it is always cloudy it could be your water supply, especially if you are using unfiltered city water or even well water.
I know a lot of brewers buy RO (reverse osmosis) water or distilled water from the store and some even get a RO system for their houses.
Check out this unit on Amazon for a price reference and inspiration.
All three options are relatively cheap but if you brew a lot and are worried about your water supply look into a RO system for your home they are pretty small and could be a good addition to your brewing arsenal.
Also, between RO and distilled water, the RO water is superior. RO water has all the volatile chemicals removed as well and the minerals.
What if there are floaties in my Star San?
This could be from the water that you are using (as we mentioned before) or bits and particulates have been picked up from the air or containers.
If you’ve used the solution and put it back in the bottles, it may be better to chuck it. Even if the ph level is fine this could lead to issues in your brewing.
Ideally you don’t want to introduce any organic material into your brew, especially when you have already just cleaned it and are at the sanitizing stage.
Some braver and thrifty brewers that I know, rack there Star San off to another bucket. They then leave behind the last inch and toss it.
This should take care of the larger stuff that has settled but not sure about the smaller particulate. Some also decant off and toss the floaties as well.
I have not tried this and do not plan on it so I can’t really recommend the practice.
How should I store my Star San?
It will depend on if it is diluted or not. If you have not diluted it yet, a cool dry place that is not in direct sunlight would be best. Under the sink, basement or garage are most commonly used.
If you have already diluted it put it in the same place but the bottle should be airtight. Check your o-rings regularly as these are usually the first to go and let air in the containers.
Why is Star San used so often?
Because it has a lot of great qualities that other sanitizers do not possess. Some positives are listed below.
- You can test to see if a batch is still usable. With ph strips, if the batch is at 3 or lower it should be able to be used again.
- A batch can last if taken care of properly 3-4 weeks, so if you brew every weekend you would only need to make one batch a month.
- It is made from food-grade acid and is safe for people and the environment, which is green and ecofriendly.
- It also is self-foaming, and that helps it to penetrate cracks and crevices in all of your equipment and surfaces.
- Being odorless and flavorless is yet another reason that brewers love it. As long as you dilute it properly.
- Star San does not need to be rinsed as long as it is diluted correctly.
- You can use it in a variety of ways, and easily put it in a spray bottle for easy use.
Does star San need to be rinsed?
No, it should not need to be rinsed. That is one of the reasons that you buy Star San.
You should be careful and adhere to the dilution levels that are recommended. If you add too much you may need to worry a bit.
At the right dilution, the Star San should break down into sugar and dissolve as an extra nutrient in the beer. But if If you have added more than 1 oz for an average batch of beer you have gone over the 300ppm recommendation.
It could give phenolic flavors to your beer and probably best to just toss it to be safe there are some acids that could be harmful too.
How much Star San to use?
Your Star San should come with the instructions on the label, but just in case you’ve lost it:
What size bottle should I buy?
For the average homebrewer that brews even every week, I would recommend the 8oz bottle of Star San (see Amazon) at a time.
Some may say that you should mix a fresh batch each time you use it, but I feel that it is overkill and if you properly store and test and take care of the Star San you should not need to.
You will always want to test the concertation and the ph to be sure but practically speaking, most homebrewers use and re-use Star San several times.
If you’re going to do that, the solution should be relatively clear and the mixture should have a pH of under 3.
If you’re using the spray bottle method this should last you about a year. If you get any larger of a bottle the 16oz or 32oz it could work for longer periods, but as the bottle says 1-2 year shelf life and that is in the best conditions.
So, buying in bulk may seem like a good idea but may hurt you in the long run as you might have to toss it out and buy it again costing you more money, time, and effort.
Alternatives to Star San
I have used most methods to sanitize brewing equipment there are, I just love that no-rinse element. However, you can’t always get your hands on the stuff.
So, if you are reading this and just realized that your Star San is giving you a higher PH level that 3 and it’s got more than a few floaties in it, you may need something to finish your brew day with.
If yo are in this situation then probably the best bet is to reach for your household bleach. However, there are some other methods.
I go into a lot more detail in this article about alternative brewing sanitizers to Star San.