How to effectively clean electric heating elements
Removing all solids from electric heater elements after brewing a batch of beer is just as important as removing solids from the bottom of flame-fired pots and kettles. If the solids are not removed, they may scorch during the next batch and cause unpalatable burnt notes to appear in your beer. Even small amounts are important to clean since if they are left behind they can have a domino effect whereby once started, the scorched material can spread by grabbing more material as it passes by, causing the amount of scorched material to grow.
Cleaning electric elements is not difficult, especially with the BREWHA system where an element can be easily removed from the vessel simply be removing the clamp that holds it in place. Once removed, rinse away all the yeast or other solids that are on the element, then use a coarse scrub brush to remove the remaining solids (a plastic scrub pad like the 'Worlds Best' euroscrubby works great). If using a stainless steel compatible scrubber be certain it won't damage the steel (even microscopic scratches can cause problems). Brushes or thick pads can be used, but thin pads allow for better and quicker cleaning as they can be wrapped around an element rod and slid up and down cleaning the sides closest to the other rods where brushes have a hard time accessing. Generally a quick pass and a final rinse is all that is necessary to clean the elements but give a close inspection to ensure all solids are removed. For elements where scorching has occurred, a more vigorous rubbing may be required. 100% copper scrub brushes can also be used, as copper is softer than stainless steel so will not damage it (always test a new scrub brush on a small area before cleaning the entire element to ensure it isn't scoring the steel).
Once familiar with the method, it only takes a few seconds of easy effort to clean each element and have assurance that your beer will taste its best.
Hi Sam — copper is softer and more reactive than stainless steel so you might want to consider our stainless water heaters. That said, ascetic acid (vinegar) particularly at low concentration is not that aggressive of an acid. According to Cole Parmer, ascetic acid has ‘good’ compabitility with cooper (‘minor effect; possible slight corrosion or discoloration’)
Will soaking copper heating elements in vinegar for a long period of time damage the copper?
Hi Bubba, that is the magic of the BREWHA system — the wort is boiled in the same vessel it is fermented in, providing perfect, chemical-free fermenter sanitation. So once the beer is removed at the end of fermentation, there likely will be yeast on the heating elements.
You would never clean yeasts off a heating elements after brewing. Only wort and water solids will get on the heating element during a boil.