Should I passivate my homebrew equipment?

So you have just bought a brand-new homebrew set up and are looking to make sure you take care of it as best as possible. Amazing! Congratulations on your new tasty beverages! If you’ve been doing your homework, you have probably come across something that is called passivation. You can find some information here: https://www.gormansmith.com/blogs/news/passivating-stainless-steel

Well, if commercial brewers need to do it, should homebrewers do it? The short answer is no. The long answer is that it may be detrimental to your homebrew system as a whole and it may be better for you to not passivate your equipment. Most homebrew equipment has already been electropolished. Electropolishing is passivation’s big brother, instead of simply treating with an acid, the stainless steel is submerged in a bath and an electrical current is passed through. It results in a mirror-like finish with the stainless steel. This can be difficult to do on a commercial scale and it also results in a surface that can be prone to cosmetic damage more common in an industrial environment. Most often than not, because of the smaller piece size of homebrew, your equipment has already had some form of treatment.

There are several things that could be harmful to your new brewing equipment. Firstly, the harsh chemicals used for passivation are extremely detrimental to elastomers such as all the gaskets in your brewing system; so much so that they could fail shortly after passivation. Secondly, commercial brewing systems run on centrifugal pumps where homebrew systems use magnetic drive pumps; this might not seem like a lot of a difference but all the metal deposits that the acids pick up will build upon your pump drive eventually causing it to prevent the pump from spinning. Finally, homebrew systems are much more likely to use brass and copper components in order to keep parts economic for the home market; unfortunately, the passivation acids will dissolve parts made from brass or copper such as your heaters and your valves.

If you are looking to keep your homebrew equipment in great order for years to come, keep it clean with products similar to Powdered Brewery Wash and Barkeeper’s Friend and replace gaskets as necessary. So in the words of the famous Charlie Papazian, "Relax, don't worry, have a homebrew."


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