If like us at Suburban Brewing, you fell head over heels for those shiny little stainless steel fermenters at the local home brew shop, we've got a couple of tips to help you maintain them.
Passivate your stainless steel. This is essentially forcing a chemical reaction that will give your stainless steel it's rust resistant properties. It's a good idea to do this the day you buy your fermenter, and every 12 months there after. Also, don't leave any non stainless steel items (ie: tools, screws, clamps etc) in contact with your fermenter, as rust can be introduced this way.
For tips on Passivation, checkout the link below from SS Brewtech on passivating stainless steel, and remember, leave the fermenter (or any other stainless steel equipment for that matter ) exposed to the air for at least half an hour afterwards to ensure effective passivation has taken place.
Clean the fermenter down fully immediately after use. It's of course super tempting to leave cleaning off all the dried krausen and weird looking trub for future Stu (or future Paddy, or even future new brewing buddy), but be warned, it's a plan fraught with danger:
- There's the chance that you'll forget the clean up never happened and fall behind schedule on your next brew day
- There's the risk that you rush the cleaning job next time you use the fermenter and miss something, infecting your future brew
- Worst case scenario, you could even introduce rust to improperly passivated stainless steel over time, which in effect renders your equipment useless
Above all else, cleaning is at its easiest when as much of the protein and general gunk left over after brewing is still wet. 5 mins of cleaning now can save you 30 mins of scrubbing later (Not to mention any scrubbing should be done with a soft microfiber cloth). Don't use any abrasive materials to clean your fermenter or you risk scratching the stainless steel and creating an environment for nasty germs to thrive and infect your future brews.
Disassemble taps and ball valves. It's easy to overlook this during your clean down, but if you have any valves or taps that can be pulled apart, remove them from the fermenter and break them down for thorough cleaning (Or if they cannot be broken down, remember to empty the cleaner and sanitiser through the tap).
You can find some tips on cleaning a ball valve here, and these same principles apply to any taps that can be dismantled also.
Lastly, be sure to pull out any removable seals and o-rings and clean both them and the area where they are in contact with the fermenter.
Hopefully these tips will help keep your stainless steel fermenter in great condition. FYI they also apply to most other stainless steel brewing equipment. Happy brewing!