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cleaning the copper

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  • cleaning the copper

    Ok, maybe i'm just plain lazy, but are there any good alternatives to polishing copper vessels? I use Wright's copper cleaner now.
    Yeah, I don't know. I've heard people tell me about A-B using crazy mixtures of DE, yeast, and what not, so if there are any alternatives, let me know.
    Thanks everybody! Peace.

  • #2
    I should charge for this information!

    Copper is a GIANT pain to keep clean, and an even bigger pain to keep polished...but when it shines WOW!

    Wrights Copper Cleaner contains coarse grit that scratches copper. Wrights Brass Polish works better for brass and copper (present on many showpiece brewhouses). If your BH is not showpiece condition, then try TarnX but the stuff is nasty and it will eat through gloves in a hurry. Next alternative is any acid. ProKleen from Diversy and a green scrubbie pad will turn that copper bright again (do NOT use on mirror polished copper). You can get a foaming unit that turns prokleen into a sticky foam, just spray on, wait 30 min, and rinse off with a hose. Maybe some touch up.

    Now if you own the showpiece....
    1. Wrights Brass Polish & Baby Diapers. Sweat Heavily. Repeat several times per week.

    2. Flitz Metal Polish, Synthetic Polisher & buffing Ball, and sweat also... Use some of the microfiber towels, and maybe diapers as well.

    3. and Flitz. Type in "cyclo polisher" in google and many hits for autodetailing come up. Rocking polisher made to not scratch clear coat finishes. You can use some auto polishes also on mirror copper but most are too coarse.

    4. Combo of above.

    Request extra pay from your boss for keeping the showpiece in such great condition!

    Good luck, B

    PS: Those with copper in their brewery OWE me for this ...


    • #3
      I have the old Hart/T Kemper kettle. My old coppersmith, Fred Zaft, just said the old-timers used yeast and coal ash to polish. I don't have much of that around the brewery, but dark beer yeast (mild acid and reducing agent) works great, especially with an overused limp green scrubby. Probably the abraision of the ash or scrubby could be replaced by DE. It is critical to follow the contour of the vessel or grain of the copper, and never cross your previous stokes at an angle, or it will look like crap. If you use a strong acid, it will just dull over quickly. Maybe fine to take a picture, but a royal pain for function.
      He said to use beer (he preferred Anchor Steam and said Bud didn't work) as a varnish to keep the luster. This is not meant for an impossible to maintain mirror finish, but a warm lusterous glow.
      Phil Loen from JVNW told me of an installation where the copper-clad vessels were taken to an auto body shop and clear coated.


      • #4
        I've heard of using Coca Cola to do the job, not that I've ever used it myself. Just curious, though, why wouldn't you just polish it up and then clear coat right away to save the trouble later? Does anyone actally enjoy polishing the copper?


        • #5
          Early in my career I heard the old time brewers say they used citric acid, yeast, and burlap (from Hop Bags) to clean copper, and threw in some DE if it was really tarnished. Coca Cola would work pretty good, after all it is mostly Phosphoric acid.

          Clear coating is ok if your vessel will never get touched... In practice though, the finish gets dull over time, and inevitably the clear coat gets scratched. Then the scratches get tarnished, and if you polish them, the scratches get bigger, and so in the end it looks good only after it is clear coated, and it is downhill from there.

          Cleaning Copper - Who likes it? If you don't like cleaning you're in the wrong business! Copper takes extra effort, but worth it if the unit is mirror finished. If not make everything stainless.


          • #6
            The copper clad brewhouses I've worked on from DME maintain their beautiful shine for YEARS without any polishing. They use a clear coat of some kind. Just keep strong acids and volatile hydrocarbons away from the brewhouse. I've only used dish soap and a soft rag to keep them spotless and bright. On the other hand, I've worked on a brewhouse that had no such clear coat and it went ugly fast. We tried a clear spray "paint" with limited success. Needed to strip and repaint every 4-6 months. Must be a better product. Try contacting DME for their secret. Cheers!
            Phillip Kelm--Palau Brewing Company Manager--


            • #7
              Copper-Cleaning Chemistry Question

              We're using a few gallons of spent yeast mixed with a few splashes of 96% sulfuric acid. It works well, but I don't understand WHY -- and can't get/find a good explanation. Any insight into the chemistry and/or mechanics of it? Is the yeast "popped open"to get to the good stuff, is there a reaction takes place, and/or is the yeast some sort of low-grade abrasive?


              • #8
                Yeast is very reductive, the opposite of oxidizing...discolored copper is mostly oxidized. Traditionally coppers were brightened with yeast and coal ash from the kettle fire. The ash would have the abrasiveness. I would think a bit of DE with the yeast would provide the mild abrasive that would speed the work.


                • #9
                  We're a production brewery so a bright copper is usually not near the top of my list. But when we've had public events in the brewhouse, I've always used a dilute mixture of StarSan (5 star chemicals) on it. You can literally throw it on, hose it off and see a remarkable difference. For true shine I wipe it on with a green scrubbie.
                  my two cents....
                  Glacier Brewing Company

                  "who said what now?"


                  • #10
                    Not worth it -- our copper looks like crap and we just live with that. Hours of cleaning to make it good, then gets nasty so fast. Forget it! Just my $0.02.

                    (Unless of course someone has a quick way to clean it that lasts more than 2 days... then I'm all ears!)
                    Last edited by Woolsocks; 02-09-2009, 08:38 AM.


                    • #11
                      I have a DME system so the copper is in great shape but i just use Satin Shine from sysco on it. It works on all the metal and keeps a nice coating on it to make any spots easy to remove later. On side of the MT got very discolored in the brewery where it came from so I used Brasso on it and the shine came right back.

                      Mike Pensinger
                      General Manager/Brewmaster
                      Parkway Brewing Company
                      Salem, VA


                      • #12
                        Thanks, Moonlight. Been too long since my chemistry days. Just started brewing over here, and think we do this weekly(??) for the brewhouse and other "antique" copper delights they still use here -- no questions asked by lowly me; just getting my bearings here. But I like the idea of reusing something already highly-available and more-or-less free. Oh, and no DE here. But I'm not positive they don't use a few other "products" as well yet - I was busy on the other side of the place when I first heard of it. Will keep my eyes peeled the next few weeks.
                        Last edited by NinkasiSwain; 02-09-2009, 09:02 AM.


                        • #13
                          It is even more than just reusing...If you use a strong acid to brighten the copper, it will do so immediately, however it will also tarnish almost immediately. If you use something milder so there is a warm glow but not brilliance to the copper, that luster will last far longer.
                          Using a product like Satin Shine or Shiela Shine (usually sold for stainless) will maintain the glow a bit longer. I would guess they are basically an oil that provides shine and slows the oxygen from getting to the copper and re-oxidizing it. Even high final extract beer on the copper will help seal it to some extent.


                          • #14
                            Mother Chrome Polish

                            I have found on most brewpub copper kettles that Mothers Chrome Mag Wheel Polish works better than all brasso type polishing products out there. If the copper is really tarnished try using the mild acid wash previously mentioned then the Chrome mag wheel polish with or without the speed ball. Mirror finnish with some elbow grease even from really bad copper. I then use car wax to coat over the copper leaving a protective layer that helps bead the water that typically starts the tarnishing all over again. Once a month and your shining like new. Thank our local San Diego stainless welding guru Jeff Gregory for the tip!


                            • #15
                              Currently using a product called PEEK on our 10 bbl copper brewhouse. Tried acid washes of various sorts, DE/yeast/acid mixtures, TARNX (which was quite disastrous BTW). Invevitably, we'd come in the next day and the coppers would look 'dirty' again.

                              We work in small areas. One rag to put it on, 10lb bag of rags handy to take it off and buff. Fantastic mirror polish with a little elbow grease. The first time is the hardest (2 persons - 5 hours).

                              Successive times are more of a maintenance thing and are much easier (1 person - 2 hours). Unlike everything else I've tried, shine seems more 'durable'. We also keep clean rags on hand in the brewhouse to wipe up small spills before they have a chance to dry.

                              I think the key to the other acid based methods I've tried is to rinse thoroughly and then dry or buff the copper. Perhaps we would have had better results


                              Liam McKenna