Sep 17, 2014

Posted by Shanell Calloway in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Brew Fittings

Brew Fittings

Choosing Home Brew Fittings

There are many different elements to consider with home brewing setups, and making educated decisions on every aspect of your brewery is the best way to ensure your beers consistently come out tasting great. One of the major discussions in home brewing circles is the choice between stainless steel and brass brew fittings, as both present advantages and disadvantages. While there is no clear general answer, as each brew setup is unique, there are a few points we want to address before you make your decision.

Stainless Steel Pros and Cons

Stainless steel is an iron alloy that contains chromium and nickel, in varying amounts. Stainless steel is a popular choice for brew fittings due to its durable nature and easy cleaning, but tends to be more expensive than other types of fittings. Stainless steel has a much lower thermal conductivity than other commonly used metals in brewing (roughly one tenth that of aluminum). One concern with stainless steel is corrosion – while most of the alloys used in brewing (304 and 316 being most common) are not affected by beer, improper cleaning procedures or other mistakes can trigger corrosion and cause problems with a brew.

If you want to invest in stainless steel, it’s worth knowing how to take proper care of it. Never use steel wool or scrubs on stainless steel – there are plenty of cleansers designed for use with stainless steel, such as Bar Keeper’s Friend, which can be used to clean stainless steel brew fittings with a soft scrub. Breaking up beerstone deposits with a light caustic and following this up with acidic cleansers (CLR, for example) will help prevent oxidation as well.

It is worth mentioning that stainless steel also does not interact with the liquid in beer, meaning that it tends not to produce any unexpected or “off” flavors. If a metallic taste similar to blood is found in brews using stainless steel, corrosion is likely present and the equipment should be cleansed.

Brass as an Alternative

Brass sometimes gets a bad rap because of the lead content, but there are other more realistic concerns that can affect your choice. Brass brew fittings are made with an alloy of copper, zinc, and less than three percent lead (well under potentially harmful levels), though some brewers are uncomfortable with any level of lead in their plumbing.

Other potential issues with brass is that the copper can act as a sort of double-edged sword when it comes to liquid interaction – it helps during fermentation, but can oxidize alcohol post-fermentation, forming aldehydes. Brass tends to be cheaper than stainless steel by a healthy margin, so if you are willing to take some care in maintaining and setting up with brass, it can be worth the savings.

 

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