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View Full Version : Sulphite as a disinfectant...



Jord
05-20-2010, 03:54 PM
So I've been calling around to local LHBS to see if I can locate some Star San as it seems like a really quick and easy way to disinfect my hydrometer, tubing, etc without having to soak and rinse with the pink stuff or bleach. I went to one shop and the gentleman there (actually he seemed like a bit of a jacka$$ but anyway) told me that they just use a sodium metabisulphite solution in spray bottles to disinfect things at their wine making store.

Now, I should point out that the guy's attitude really rubbed me the wrong way so I may be overly skeptical of his explanation based on disliking him but he stated that it is the SO2 gas that is the disinfecting agent and that spraying it on to the equipment is all that is necessary. He also said that rinsing was not required.

Is this true? Will this work in a similar way as Star San?

d.j.patterson
05-20-2010, 04:37 PM
I have not done it myself, but I have heard of this practice. On the front of the bag my K metabisulfite came in it actually gives the dosage of 2 oz to a gallon of water for sanitizing.

I have also know of some people (AKA my parents) using this solution to sterilize their wine bottles prior to bottling. They just leave the bottles sitting out to dry, so I don't believe there is any need to rinse.

Medsen Fey
05-20-2010, 04:55 PM
You are correct. 2 oz in a gallon makes a solution a bit stronger than 1% and is more than enough to use as a no-rinse sanitizer. People often use the Sodium Metabisulphite for this purpose as it is cheaper than the Potassium form. If you add a teaspoon or two of Citric acid or acid blend, the lower pH will enhance the activity of the sulfite. The solution can be stored for later use and as long as it smells like sulfite, it can be used.

IrishMonk
05-20-2010, 05:03 PM
I use K metabisulphate to steralize everything. You can put it in a spray bottle if you wish... I just fill my hydrometer test tube with water, add a tsp of K meta, then just let the hydrometer soak in it for 5 min or so...same with the turkey baster I use.

From what the local shop dudes told me, the recomended 2 oz per gallon is WAY too much. ( but he may have been drinking too much :) )

d.j.patterson
05-20-2010, 05:05 PM
I knew that either could be used but I didn't know about the acid blend. :) Thanks Medsen. That is great info.

Jord
05-20-2010, 06:22 PM
Awesome! Thanks guys.

Now I have a use for the bag of sodium metabisulphite....

EDIT: Another question....what kind of contact time am I looking at if using a spray bottle? Immediate? A couple of minutes?

Thanks

Medsen Fey
05-20-2010, 06:55 PM
With a dilute sulfite solution, a couple of minutes.
With a 1% sulfite solution, it should be less but most sources will probably still say 2 minutes.

Chevette Girl
05-20-2010, 09:37 PM
From what the local shop dudes told me, the recomended 2 oz per gallon is WAY too much. ( but he may have been drinking too much :) )

The jar of k-met that I got ("Must Source" brand) recommends 1 Tbsp per gallon so I usually put just shy of a teaspoon for my 1 L mason jar.

Been meaning to try it in a spray bottle but my lungs get irritated enough just leaning over a bucket while I'm rinsing it with the k-met sanitizing solution so perhaps not such a great idea for me... although I'll often pour a bowl of the stuff made a little stronger than usual and use a thin dishcloth to wipe down things that don't fit in the jar like racking tubes.

My process is that I use the pink cleaner (same brand, same concentration) for scrubbing anything dirty (it's especially good for getting plastics to stop smelling like the last thing they were used for), and then any equipment gets sanitized with k-met solution before it touches wine. If it's the kind of thing that might go icky if it's left wet (I can't always get all the water out of my carboys) I'll swish them with k-met and leave it to dry like that, and if I'm bottling something that's already been sulphited I'll also not rinse the wine bottles with water, but if I'm bottling something that's never seen sulphites (other than what's created naturally) I do rinse my wine bottles with water just before putting the wine in them. And I boil all my corks (makes 'em go in easier unless they're coated) and use metal tongs (dipped in the k-met jar) to put the corks in the corker (I also wipe or drench the business end of the corker too).

Medsen Fey
05-21-2010, 08:26 AM
And I boil all my corks (makes 'em go in easier unless they're coated) and use metal tongs (dipped in the k-met jar) to put the corks in the corker

Boiling corks actually damages them and may lead to their premature failure. If you get a new bag from the manufacturer, they are packaged with SO2 gas and you do not need to do anything except put them in the corker. If they are purchased in smaller quantities from a reseller, I will give them a quick rinse in a sanitizer (usually sulfite, but I've also rinsed with iodophor or Star-San which also work just fine) though it is probably not necessary.

I will clean out bottles with iodophor or Star-San before bottling.

Chevette Girl
05-21-2010, 10:07 AM
Boiling corks actually damages them and may lead to their premature failure.

I did a quick bit of checking around on the forum and on da internets about that, seems it's a matter of preference as long as you don't boil the coated corks, or boil uncoated ones long enough to make soup stock with them... For uncoated corks, I turn on the heat just as I start filling bottles, so they only just get to boil, then I turn it off so they're not saturated all the way through and they're not sitting in hot water for hours or anything, in about half an hour after bottling most of my corks are dry enough to write on with a ballpoint pen. I hate using the coated corks because I can't get them into the stupid bottles without performing acrobatic manoeuvers over my hand corker, but a warm wet uncoated cork slides right on in, and I'm going on 6 years winemaking with no failures (not including refermentation!). I keep the coated corks on hand though in case I miscount, then I dip those in sulphite solution.

My LHBS sells corks in small batches and they count them out by hand. I don't trust ANYONE ANYWHERE to properly wash their hands before touching my corks so I always sterilize them, and IMHO, it's safe to assume that your fresh bag of corks is no longer sterile once the package has been opened.

Medsen Fey
05-21-2010, 11:39 AM
I did a quick bit of checking around on the forum and on da internets about that, seems it's a matter of preference as long as you don't boil the coated corks,


Virtually all the cork manufacturers are coating the corks now (it is a very thin, virtually invisible coating). From what source do you get them uncoated, and what manufacturer makes them?

The tradition of home winemakers boiling cork probably goes back to the dark days when supplies of fresh cork for homeys was nonexistent and the corks you could get were old and dry. A little boiling softened them up and they were good to go.

Boiling causes swelling of the cork which may actually make them more difficult to insert. It damages the lignins that make up the cork cells and may cause the cork to crumble early. This is probably not an issue for homeys because we rarely age things long enough for this to become a big problem but if you plan to make some Polish style meads (or others designed to age for 10+ years) you may want skip the boiling.

Chevette Girl
05-21-2010, 08:09 PM
DeFalcos has the whole gamut of corks from coated composite to uncoated natural, I have been getting uncoated composite corks from a brew-it-here place called Corks, I believe both of these are chains (Corks actually has "Corks" printed on their corks), and there's a stand-alone brew-it-here place near me called Wine Station that sometimes has uncoated. I used to be able to get uncoated ones from the hardware store too but last I checked they're all coated now, much to my chagrin :)

fatbloke
05-22-2010, 08:05 AM
-----%<-----

Boiling causes swelling of the cork which may actually make them more difficult to insert. It damages the lignins that make up the cork cells and may cause the cork to crumble early. This is probably not an issue for homeys because we rarely age things long enough for this to become a big problem but if you plan to make some Polish style meads (or others designed to age for 10+ years) you may want skip the boiling.
And have to buy any alternatives from one of the blood sucking leaches here in Europe.

Ha! I can get screwtop enclosures easily, but getting new screwtop bottles isn't so easy (cork bottles aren't a problem).

The thing that makes my bloody boil, is the 360 that it costs for the hand crimping device. If the bloody suppliers would just standardise on a certain size seal/bottle/crimper then it'd be a breeze as people do appreciate "easy".

Even bottles are a bit of a nuisance i.e. I can buy a pallet full (just over 1000 bottles) of bottles (standard bordeaux green glass 750mls) for about 200 plus the sales tax (I can collect them myself so no shipping) so they'd work out about 0.22 each.

Now I understand about %'s and markup, but to more than double the price for smaller quantities is blatant usury! Damn I wish there was a "parasite/usury sniper team" available here, that'd make the prices drop....:angry7::angry7::angry5:

Oh well, I suppose I'd better get off me soap box hadn't I.........

regards

fatbloke

fatbloke
05-22-2010, 04:04 PM
And have to buy any alternatives from one of the blood sucking leaches here in Europe.

Ha! I can get screwtop enclosures easily, but getting new screwtop bottles isn't so easy (cork bottles aren't a problem).

The thing that makes my bloody boil, is the 360 that it costs for the hand crimping device. If the bloody suppliers would just standardise on a certain size seal/bottle/crimper then it'd be a breeze as people do appreciate "easy".

Even bottles are a bit of a nuisance i.e. I can buy a pallet full (just over 1000 bottles) of bottles (standard bordeaux green glass 750mls) for about 200 plus the sales tax (I can collect them myself so no shipping) so they'd work out about 0.22 each.

Now I understand about %'s and markup, but to more than double the price for smaller quantities is blatant usury! Damn I wish there was a "parasite/usury sniper team" available here, that'd make the prices drop....:angry7::angry7::angry5:

Oh well, I suppose I'd better get off me soap box hadn't I.........

regards

fatbloke

p.s. Oh and as far as using sulphites for disinfectant/sanitisation, I tend to use a bleach based one for carboys/demi-johns, but for general use and to "re-sanitise" bottles that have been cleaned/sanitised it's a mix of 5 x campden tablets crushed, 1 teaspoon of citric acid, dissolved in 1 pint/550mls of water. That's in a spray and I allow a minimum of 3 minutes contact time.......

SurlyFace
05-29-2010, 10:41 PM
Not really on topic, but I just started using sulfite to clean/sanitize my hydration pack bladder.. Especially if I'm extra lazy or forgetful and it does some time in the car or house while full..

tycoon
06-23-2011, 08:43 PM
According to a wine technology book I bought (Concepts in Wine Technology, by Yair Margalit (great book, BTW!) , corks should be rinsed in a water solution of 1000 ppm sulfur dioxide (1.75 g of K metabisulfite) for a few minutes, then rinsed and allowed to dry for an hour before corking time so as to avoid soaking the cork too much (avoiding the risk of getting the cork to leak lignin from cork into the mead). I am not sure how many minutes is best, though.

After trying lots of other things (bleach, PBW, water-ethanol mix, etc), I use iodophor to sanitise almost everything else.