We’ve Taken Cleaning to the Next Level with Ozone!

Cleaning and sanitizing are part of daily life at the cidery. It’s required when getting a fermentation tank ready for juice to arrive, transferring the must (fermented cider) to a racking tank, kegging a finished batch or just washing the floor. For most of our lives as cider makers, we’ve used steam, StarSan, and peracetic acid (PAA) to do the job.

All these products work well but take time, money, and require special handling, especially for the disposal of StarSan and PAA. StarSan is a blend of phosphoric acid and dodecylbenzenesulfonic acid. Peracetic Acid or PAA is an organic peroxyacid that forms an equilibrium mixture with hydrogen peroxide and acetic acid (same as in vinegar). They sound scary, but in proper ratios, they’re fairly mild, food safe, have little impact on the environment, and don’t require rinsing prior to adding finished cider. These products are used by breweries, wineries, and cideries around the world. They do the job and are fairly cost effective, so why did we switch to ozone?

We were first introduced to ozone for cider operations at CiderCon in 2017. John McClain of McClain Ozone was standing at his booth in the vendor zone of the conference. We introduced ourselves to learn more about the process and equipment. Thirty minutes later we walked away excited about the possibility of someday being able to move forward with the purchase of an ozone generator. Mid last year we were able to make this a reality.

Producers around the world, including some of the largest breweries and wineries in the US, are transitioning to ozone as a key part of their sanitation procedures. It took some time for the adoption of ozone to catch on but given those companies’ strict requirements for consistency we were confident it was worth a deeper look. Ozone is formed when oxygen is exposed to a high-energy field causing some oxygen molecules (O2) to break down to oxygen atoms (O). The oxygen atoms (O) then react with the oxygen molecules (O2) to form ozone (O3). Once O3 enters into an environment it is then reactive and unstable. This instability is what makes ozone an effective sanitizer. The unstable third oxygen atom attaches to other molecules including odor, bacteria, and viruses. This extra oxygen molecule then breaks apart those pollutants and reverts back to oxygen. Hooray! 

To make it work for us, we had to justify the upfront cost of the machine:

  • Where could we use ozone in production processes? Anytime we need to sanitize!

  • What were the efficiencies in time gained by using ozone instead of chemical sanitization? Time doesn't really change in using it versus the PAA sanitizing process.

  • What were the cost impact of those efficiencies on our water and chemical usage? We would be able to buy less chemicals and the water usage would greatly decrease. 

After doing the math and looking at our long-term goals, it all seemed to add up. Turns out that the ozone saves us about 20 minutes and 20 gallons of water per full cleaning cycle, per tank. (We have 10 tanks that each need cleaning more than once a week) This doesn’t seem like much, but over the course of a year, this will mean over a hundred hours of labor and thousands of gallons of water saved. 

In the long run we’ll be able to use ozone to sanitize kegs, pre-rinse cans, sanitize barrels, and even destroy any airborne bacteria in our cold room and in the cidery as a whole. For more details on ozone Click Here!

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