One thing that's vital when homebrewing is the need for sanitisation. It's easy enough to clean things with soap and water and that's a good start, but it doesn't remove germs that you can't see - to do that you need chemicals to sanitise..

Why would you need to do this?

Simple, the wort you ferment is sugary and ideal for yeast to grow in. If a microorganism such as yeast can thrive in it, then so can bacteria and harmful fungi. The last thing you want is for an entire batch of beer to be ruined due to a lack of sanitisation, so in short it's vital.

There's a huge amount of products you can use but the most common are:
  • Ammonia - use one cup to 5 gallons of water. Rinse thoroughly in hot water afterwards and wear gloves when using it.
  • Chlorine-based powders - this is very common for homebrews. 3-4 teaspoons to 10 litres of water - leave for 10 mins and it should be done. Rinse thoroughly in cold water. Wear gloves when using it.
  • Chlorine-based bleach - use diluted thin bleach and rinse thoroughly in cold water and use gloves.
  • Sodium Metabisulphite - this is less common these days. It's effective but can give off sulphur dioxide so if you have asthma, be careful if you use it.
Remember with the chlorine-based products to only ever use cold water. If you use hot water, you may well create chlorine gas which is a known chemical weapon...

You'll need to clean and then sterilise anything that comes into contact with the beer: the fermenting bucket and lid, the paddle, the hydrometer, syphon, even the bottles you put your brewed beer into. Sanitise your kit no more than an hour before you use it - bacteria can quickly return to something that's been sanitised, so don't think that by making something sterile it'll remain that way overnight etc.

Luckily the sanitisation agents are quite cheap - I use the powder which works out as about 5 for 500g. Here's a photo of the one I use - Click on the image below for larger...

Sterilising powder