For those who are new to homebrewing, towels may seem an unlikely addition to your kit. However, new and seasoned homebrewers alike know all too well of the messes, sometimes gigantic, that can happen on a brew or bottling day. Since brewing indoors on a stove top presents many challenges, having some trusty clean-up technology can make the process less dramatic, especially when you’re trying to learn or perfecting a new creation. In this Apartment Brewing Tech post, I run down some simple tips to improve your brewing process with the use of some old (but clean) towels.
Why might I need towels in apartment brewing? Kitchen floors and stove tops aren’t designed for homebrewing in mind. If they were, my apartment brewery would be much nicer (and have a built-in floor drain). On brew or bottling day, messes are likely. The bigger the batch, the bigger the mess: more wort, more beer, more cleaners and sanitizers to jump deck and hit the floor. Wort/beer left on the floor gets sticky fast. Cleaners and santiziers leave the floor slick and unsafe. Cleaning these spills quickly will make your life easier, and hopefully, clean and safe.
What you need? Easy, towels!
What type of towels? Any type of absorptive cleaning technology will do. I use old (washed and clean) bath towels.
Are messes likely during the brewing process? Short answer, yes! Here is a list of the messes that can happen during the brewing process:
Mess Type 1: Boil over. This is where boiling wort spills over the brew kettle (for some reason or another). This is one of the worst things that can happen to you, especially on a stove top. Check out this epic stove top boil over pic here. In case of boil over, I keep a heavy duty towel nearby to throw onto the sticky mess to prevent hot wort from permanently sticking and scorching the stove top. Trust me, paper towels will not do this job properly. On a side note, never leave a boiling wort untended, especially during hot break and hop additions. Also, be careful as you can easily burn yourself in this situation.
Mess Type 2: Sanitizer spillage. I get this all the time. I keep 5 gallons of pre-mixed Star San around since you can re-use it a number of times. Star San has the propensity to foam as you can see in the pictures above. When pouring sanitizer from carboy to carboy, the carboy bottleneck pushes the foam build-up over and onto the floor. This is no problem if you brew in a garage, outside, or any place that has a floor drain. However, in my third floor apartment kitchen, this is not possible. Since I don’t want my second floor neighbor to get his ceiling soaked with Star San, I keep towels nearby to mop it up as it happens.
Mess Type 3: Wort transfer. When wort is at pitching temperatures, it’s transferred from the brew kettle into a newly sanitizer carboy or bucket. There are many ways to do this (funnel, funnel + wire mesh, siphon, etc.), but no matter which transfer method is used, I always get some wort on the kitchen floor for some reason or another (usually the siphon tube pops out of the carboy). This is where towels are a must to avoid sticky kitchen floors. Keep some towels nearby; I use the previously used Star San towels to mop up any spilled wort so I don’t have to clean a zillion towels after brew day.
Mess Type 4: Bottling bucket or keg transfer beer spillage. Same as the cooled wort transfer. I don’t usually get much of a beer mess while kegging. I do however usually get sanitizer all over the kitchen. In my bottling days, I used to spill beer on the floor via slow drips from the bottling wand or spigot. In either case, towels help big time.
Other considerations? Improved apartment living! If you have a roommate or partner living with you, I’m sure they will appreciate a clean, un-sticky kitchen floor/stove top burner. I know this from personal experience.
How do you handle spills in your apartment brewery? Leave those helpful brewing tips in the comment section below! As always, cheers, and happy brewing!