One of the most critical steps in winemaking or beer making is sanitising and sterilisation.
Failing to do these steps properly or eliminating them can ruin your results.
Every piece of equipment that comes in contact with the concentrate or finished wine/beer must go through these processes. It should be done just before every step.
To Sanitise, use a pink chlorinated solution of VWP to clean all the equipment. Remember not all dirt is visible, so even equipment that appears clean must be sanitised after sanitising your equipment rinse thoroughly with hot water.
Sterilising is not just to clean the equipment but also to kill any bacteria on clean utensils, it can be done with a solution of metabisulphite and then rinsed.
If the inside of the pail is scratched or if the plastic is severely discoloured, it may be time to change it. When these types of symptoms appear, cleaning or sterilising is usually not enough.
If you store your carboys corked with a little solution of sulphite in them, they'll be ready next time you need them. Just swirl to coat the inside, rinse, and you're ready to go.
Clean and sterilise the lid of your primary first, then you can place it upside down on a clean surface and put your smaller items on it (floating thermometer, stirring spoon, hydrometer,) until ready to use.
Filtering equipment should be cleaned and sterilised before use and between each batch as you filter, as any yeast cells which would attach to the plates will transfer to the next instalment.
Clean your glass carboys with warm water and Ritchies Steriliser. Do not use hot water; this can cause the carboy to BREAK.
When you are sterilising, get a trigger spray bottle and fill it with your stock solution of sulphite. When it is time to sanitise, you can quickly spray the inside and outside of fermenter, racking tubes, syphon hose, spoons to name just a few of the items you may use, varying the spray to liberally coat large surfaces or directing a straight stream down your racking tube. If you have a one-litre spray bottle, you can mix your sulphite solution directly in the sprayer, using two level teaspoons of sulphite to one litre of water.
In beer production, nothing is more important than sanitation. Commercial breweries and wineries put a lot of their resources and time into it. Furthermore, poor hygiene causes the majority of home brewing problems. Be liberal with your sanitising solution, when in doubt, scrub it, soak it and sanitise it.