How To Clean A Big Fermenter Without Scrubbing

What I hate about winemaking

Once I pressed the Merlot, it was time to watch airlocks bubble as the wine fermented out and then slowly cleared. It was also time to clean the fermenter. This is on the list, along with washing bottles, of my least favorite things about making wine. The best way to do this is to get someone else to do it, maybe a friend or loved one. This isn’t as easy as you might think, so sometimes we must take drastic action. Yes, there are times when we have to do it ourselves.

If you gotta do it, do it the easy way

So how do you clean a 24 gallon fermenter? It’s big enough that bending over, or tipping it on it’s side and crawling in, to scrub the inside and bottom will be hard on your back and knees. Besides, why scrub when you don’t have to? I like to rinse it with a garden hose right after I’m done with it, that way nothing has a chance to dry and harden on the surface. Next, I fill it with water and a detergent, I like to use Oxiclean. You’re not going to want to move it while it’s full, so make sure it’s in a good spot before you fill it. You’ll want it someplace where you can leave it for a long time, someplace where you can tip it on its side, to drain, without getting it dirty, and someplace near a garden hose. The garage, just inside the door to the driveway, works for me. I like to let it soak for several hours, often overnight. After soaking, I’ll drain it and rinse with the garden hose. After I’ve rinsed thoroughly and I think I’ve gotten every bit of detergent, I’ll fill it with clean water and let it sit for a while (again, several hours or even overnight). I want to make sure there isn’t a thin film of detergent on the bottom or on the sides. I drain it after that and turn it upside down to drip dry over my utility sink.

Not as bad as it seemed

As you can see, this process can take several days, but for most of that time, the fermenter is just soaking. It takes very little time and effort on your part, leaving you free to make more wine!

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2 thoughts on “How To Clean A Big Fermenter Without Scrubbing

  1. Carla

    Honestly- what you need is an assistant winemaker (their job is to clean the fermenter). If you have a local Cash & Carry or URM there are some great cleaners that you can get much cheaper than a homebrew store and they are pro strength. I use drain line cleaner that has to be rinsed, but doesn’t need hot water (which oxiclean does). I don’t know what kind of fermenter that you have, but I use Rubbermaid Brute garbage cans (they are food grade and very inexpensive- they hold about 170 lbs of must). Loved the blog- tomato wine, huh?

  2. Erroll Post author

    Hi Carla,

    I’m delighted that you’ve volunteered for the position of assistant winemaker! You’ll find this extremely rewarding – um, one of us will anyway 🙂

    Seriously though, drain line cleaner? I’m imagining you pouring Drano or Liquid Plumr into your fermenter – that can’t be right.

    I’m glad you liked the tomato wine articles. There will be more to come, and just wait ’till bananas go on sale!


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