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General Category => Equipment and Software => Topic started by: gmac on June 03, 2011, 12:56:02 pm

Title: Extending the life of Star-San
Post by: gmac on June 03, 2011, 12:56:02 pm
My water is fairly hard and as such, when I add Star-San to it, it clouds almost immediately.  I've read on the forum that once it goes cloudy, it loses its' effectiveness.  I've put 2.5 gal in a glass carboy and added Star-San and watched it turn milky in seconds.  I've not yet encountered any noticable contamination issues but I only use the sanitizer once.  I've gone through almost a full container in a couple months.

I don't have access to RO or distilled water that is convenient to get.  Is there anything I can do to my regular water to help extend the life of the sanitizer?  For example, would adding citric acid to lower the pH help?  I've also "double dosed" the water with more sanitizer (less than label rate) the next day if I have something to sanitize.  Not sure if this is a good idea or not but it seems to have worked.

Is there a different no-rinse sanitizer that would be better in my situation?  I've started using an acidic dairy wash to clean my carboys etc so I think that helps but I don't use it for siphons, bungs etc.  Any advice would be appreciated.
Title: Re: Extending the life of Star-San
Post by: ajk on June 03, 2011, 01:27:34 pm
Do you or one of your neighbors have a water softener?  My hot water runs through one, and I use that water to make StarSan solution.  A water softener is technically just an ion replacement system, but it seems to effectively remove watever ions StarSan reacts with, resulting in a shelf-stable solution.  I make up 5 gallons in a Corny keg and sanitize kegs by pushing it from keg to keg with CO2.  I also dispense some to a spray bottle for ad hoc use.  It stays clear (and at a low pH) for months.

It sounds as though you've looked into it, but around here RO water is easy to get at any grocery store.  They have kiosks where you can fill and refill 5-gallon jugs of the stuff.  I use it to dilute my (very alkaline) tap water to make my brewing liquor.
Title: Re: Extending the life of Star-San
Post by: hopfenundmalz on June 03, 2011, 01:39:32 pm
I thought it was the alkalinity that was the problem, as that raises the pH.  I have a softener, and the SS turns cloudy after a couple of weeks, maybe less.  Softeners take out the hardness, which is the Ca and Mg.  Softeners leave the bicarbonate, HCO3, which my water is loaded with, and the soft water is liquid Tums.  Never tried the hot water for the SS, as some of the HCO3 will drop out at higher temps (which is why I drain 5 gallons off of the bottom every quarter, so the water heater life will be longer than the 7 years for the last one).

RO water is my solution.   Too bad gmac can't find it conviently.
Title: Re: Extending the life of Star-San
Post by: ajk on June 03, 2011, 01:42:49 pm
I thought it was the alkalinity that was the problem, as that raises the pH.

Well, that does make a lot of sense.  I'm not sure why my StarSan lasts so long, then.
Title: Re: Extending the life of Star-San
Post by: denny on June 03, 2011, 02:32:04 pm
I believe that I've heard of people adding acid to their water for Starsan.  Graham, try contacting Charley Talley at 5 Star and see what he says.
Title: Re: Extending the life of Star-San
Post by: bluesman on June 03, 2011, 02:43:44 pm
Are you anywhere near a Walmart as they carry Distilled water. I always keep some on hand for last minute needs like this.
Title: Re: Extending the life of Star-San
Post by: gmac on June 03, 2011, 03:11:34 pm
There's a Wal-mart about 35 minutes away.  Next time I'm in that area I'll see if they have distilled.  I will look for a neighbour with a softner too as suggested.  There is a place that sells RO water near me but I don't do business there (all kinds of problems with friends getting ripped off for gas...).  I guess I could swallow my pride and go buy a few gallons just this once.

I have beautiful soft water running around my house (I've mentioned this before) but I'm not sure how clean it is (bacterially  i mean, it looks very clean and its very cold).  I may try to boil a couple gallons of this for a while and then add some Star-San and see what happens.  I'd love to use this to brew with but its so shallow that even if I got a good water report back, I'd be afraid of a rain washing contaminants into it.

Thanks for the suggestions.
Title: Re: Extending the life of Star-San
Post by: dano14041 on June 03, 2011, 05:30:39 pm
I have the same problem with the star-san becoming cloudy right after it is mixed. I was concerned about it so I test it with a pH strip until it reads above 3, then I mix more. It usually last 2 wks to a month.

Title: Re: Extending the life of Star-San
Post by: richardt on June 03, 2011, 06:12:24 pm
Try your local big-chain grocery store--many of them have RO water dispensers out front (you need to bring your own 5 gallon homer bucket--if you're making StarSan solution, or water jug(s)--if you want brewing water to build).  I get 5 gallons for $1.50 (30 cents/gallon).
Title: Re: Extending the life of Star-San
Post by: thomasbarnes on June 03, 2011, 06:30:32 pm
Probably a dumb idea, but would adding acid to the water to reduce alkalinity help? Since you're not worried about flavor, you could use something cheap like white vinegar.
Title: Re: Extending the life of Star-San
Post by: tschmidlin on June 03, 2011, 06:34:49 pm
I don't think that's a dumb idea, it might work.  I'm not sure vinegar is a strong enough acid to help much though, especially at 4% acetic acid like most store bought vinegar.  It would be cheap enough for someone with hard water to test though.
Title: Re: Extending the life of Star-San
Post by: euge on June 04, 2011, 01:27:13 am
The easiest thing to do is locate some RO or distilled water. The stuff will last practically forever- especially in a spray bottle.

The "pure" stuff around the casa ought to be boiled and maybe put through a Brita-type pitcher or filter.
Title: Re: Extending the life of Star-San
Post by: ibru on June 04, 2011, 02:32:58 pm
I'd try the Brita water. I just got my water tests back. My tap water hardness (CaC03) is 198. I also sent in a sample of my Brita filtered water, it was 71.

As for the rest of my test, it looks like I'll be buying a lot of bottled water for brewing....
Title: Re: Extending the life of Star-San
Post by: hoser on June 04, 2011, 02:46:06 pm
I would go RO or DI water.  I guess you could always try phosphoric acid since it is essentially tasteless.  I think the lactic and vinegar flavors may be left behind?
Title: Re: Extending the life of Star-San
Post by: mabrungard on June 04, 2011, 05:01:48 pm
I'm betting that its the complexing of hardness ions that's causing the problems since at a pH of 3 and less, there is very little alkalinity (technically there is no methyl orange alkalinity since the pH is below 4.3). 

I just started a test using my house's softened water that I know runs about 2 or 3 ppm Ca and Mg.  That is as low as my RO system puts out.  The softened water still has high alkalinity since those ion exchange softeners do not alter alkalinity.  I'll see if it clouds up in a few days and report back.
Title: Re: Extending the life of Star-San
Post by: Will's Swill on June 05, 2011, 06:00:18 pm
Is the cloudiness really a problem, or is StarSan really still good to go as long as the pH is below 3.4 regardless of cloudiness?
Title: Re: Extending the life of Star-San
Post by: bonjour on June 05, 2011, 06:13:55 pm
The issue is pH, not cloudiness. 

Cloudiness is an indication that some of the acid in Star San has reacted with your water. in and of itself is not a problem.
Title: Re: Extending the life of Star-San
Post by: denny on June 05, 2011, 06:24:55 pm
Is the cloudiness really a problem, or is StarSan really still good to go as long as the pH is below 3.4 regardless of cloudiness?

I believe it's 3, not 3.4.
Title: Re: Extending the life of Star-San
Post by: tubercle on June 05, 2011, 07:44:03 pm
If you're having problems getting distilled or RO water just sit a bucket outside the next time it rains. It won't have any minerals in it plus you will get a jumpstart on the low pH.
Title: Re: Extending the life of Star-San
Post by: a10t2 on June 05, 2011, 08:40:06 pm
I believe it's 3, not 3.4.

You are correct sir!

Also, mixed per the label instructions with my tap water, which is darn near distilled to begin with, it comes in at about 1.8 pH and takes a couple weeks sitting out in an open bucket to get above 3.0.
Title: Re: Extending the life of Star-San
Post by: thomasbarnes on June 06, 2011, 07:42:09 am
If you're having problems getting distilled or RO water just sit a bucket outside the next time it rains. It won't have any minerals in it plus you will get a jumpstart on the low pH.

Assuming you're someplace that gets a fair bit of rain and that the local air quality is decent. While rain water is pretty clean, it can pick up small amounts of airborne dust and other pollutants - although the air would have to be very foul for there to be so much contamination that you can't brew with it.

Also, if the bucket isn't food grade, or if you let it sit with water in it long enough for algae to grow, then you could get off flavors from those sources.
Title: Re: Extending the life of Star-San
Post by: Will's Swill on June 07, 2011, 01:07:27 am
I believe it's 3, not 3.4.

You are correct sir!

Also, mixed per the label instructions with my tap water, which is darn near distilled to begin with, it comes in at about 1.8 pH and takes a couple weeks sitting out in an open bucket to get above 3.0.

Y'all may be right.  I thought I heard the 3.4 number in the interview with the owner of Five Star on The Brewing Network, but I may misremember that.
Title: Re: Extending the life of Star-San
Post by: Kit B on June 09, 2011, 06:31:21 pm
I would go RO or DI water.  I guess you could always try phosphoric acid since it is essentially tasteless.  I think the lactic and vinegar flavors may be left behind?

Isn't Starsan made from phosphoric acid?
Title: Re: Extending the life of Star-San
Post by: tschmidlin on June 10, 2011, 05:13:22 pm
I would go RO or DI water.  I guess you could always try phosphoric acid since it is essentially tasteless.  I think the lactic and vinegar flavors may be left behind?

Isn't Starsan made from phosphoric acid?
Among other things, including a surfactant (soap).
Title: Re: Extending the life of Star-San
Post by: cheba420 on June 10, 2011, 11:59:08 pm
This is a great topic. I've had the same issue. I'll use some RO this weekend and see how it works.
Title: Re: Extending the life of Star-San
Post by: Will's Swill on June 11, 2011, 06:52:30 pm
I believe it's 3, not 3.4.

You are correct sir!

Also, mixed per the label instructions with my tap water, which is darn near distilled to begin with, it comes in at about 1.8 pH and takes a couple weeks sitting out in an open bucket to get above 3.0.

Y'all may be right.  I thought I heard the 3.4 number in the interview with the owner of Five Star on The Brewing Network, but I may misremember that.

Well, I was close.  Jon Herskovits of Five Star Chemicals on the Brewing Network says Star San works below pH 3.5.  For bleach water he said below pH 9.  The show is here: http://www.thebrewingnetwork.com/shows/469
Title: Re: Extending the life of Star-San
Post by: denny on June 11, 2011, 06:55:02 pm
Interesting.  I'm pretty sure I heard 3 from Charley Talley at 5 Star.
Title: Re: Extending the life of Star-San
Post by: a10t2 on June 12, 2011, 03:49:27 pm
It could be that the "real" answer is 3.5 but they say 3.0 in the literature to give their customers a margin for error.

http://www.fivestarchemicals.com/wp-content/uploads/StarSanTech-HB2.pdf
Title: Re: Extending the life of Star-San
Post by: Will's Swill on June 14, 2011, 12:48:52 am
I'd buy that.  On the show, Jon also mentioned that the contact time needed is only 30 seconds even though the label says, what, 3 minutes?
Title: Re: Extending the life of Star-San
Post by: Tristan on June 21, 2011, 02:06:20 am
I'm in the same boat that you are with tap water/Star San solution becoming cloudy.  For a long time I had to go out of my way to get RO water.  I purchased this an RO system a few months ago.  I did a ton of research and considered having a company put a system in.  I settled on a  Watts brand unit.  It was really easy to install.  I'm so glad I put this in and I wish I would have done it much earlier.  It's been worth every penny to have easy access and being able to get RO on demand for brewing water and to make sanitizer.  Plus, it gets rid of chloramines and the water tastes fantastic.  The filters are super cheap at Sam's Club when you need to replace them.  Here is the system I use:

http://www.amazon.com/Watts-WP5-50-Five-Stage-Manifold-Treatment/dp/B000E77I04
Title: Re: Extending the life of Star-San
Post by: gmac on June 21, 2011, 04:21:49 am
I found distilled water at the drug store so I've got 12 L of Star-San mixed up.  We'll see how long this lasts but I'm happy to know that I can find water that will work.
Title: Re: Extending the life of Star-San
Post by: mabrungard on June 21, 2011, 12:38:11 pm
I'm betting that its the complexing of hardness ions that's causing the problems since at a pH of 3 and less, there is very little alkalinity (technically there is no methyl orange alkalinity since the pH is below 4.3).  

I just started a test using my house's softened water that I know runs about 2 or 3 ppm Ca and Mg.  That is as low as my RO system puts out.  The softened water still has high alkalinity since those ion exchange softeners do not alter alkalinity.  I'll see if it clouds up in a few days and report back.


Its been a couple of weeks now and the StarSan solution mixed up using my house's ion-exchange softened water is completely clear, just like the batch mixed up with RO water sitting next to it.  Both are sitting in open water glasses on my work bench.  Both were mixed to a starting pH of about 2.  

I'd say that using water softener water for StarSan is one of the few uses that salt-based softened water has.  It looks like the clouding effect is due to the hardness ions in the water. 

 
Title: Re: Extending the life of Star-San
Post by: Hokerer on June 21, 2011, 02:02:42 pm
Speaking of water for mixing StarSan, is this likely/possible? - At the start of a brewday, I fill two 5-gallon water jugs with filtered and dechlorinated water for brewing.  After brewing there's usually some left over.  Lately, I've used this water to mix up my StarSan.  What I've noticed a couple of times is that the first spritz or two of StarSan give a big whiff of sulphur odor.  Since the water hasn't been boiled and it does have Campden, could that be where the sulphur is coming from?
Title: Re: Extending the life of Star-San
Post by: tschmidlin on June 21, 2011, 03:56:13 pm
That seems likely assuming you've never smelled sulfur in your water before, and I know I've never smelled sulfur from starsan before, and campden tablets contain sulfur.