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How safe is brass for brewing?

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Post Sun Nov 14, 2004 6:07 am

How safe is brass for brewing?

I have always wonder about this from different articles that I have read and ran across this link from the FDA read para 4-101.14 http://www.servingsafefood.com/foodcodechapter4.htm
From what I understand it is perfectly ok to use brass.


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Post Sun Nov 14, 2004 7:52 am

From what I understand about brass if you are worried about lead content it can be pickled before use. This is done by soaking it in a 3 to 1 solution of vinegar and household peroxide. After it will be dull. I assume there is a layer of oxidation on it, coating it and makig it safe. Doesn't take long for brass to get that way doing nothing to it.

How much brass do you suppose we have in all of our plumbing fittings anyway? I sure hope it is safe, I have a bunch of fittings in my brew system.


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Post Sun Nov 14, 2004 10:33 pm

I've posted this before, but for the benefit of those who missed it:

I have a 15 gallon keg with brass fittings, including the valve. I did not pickle the fittings. I've used the keg for years, and many dozen batches of beer.
In addition to brewing beer, I am also involved in target pistol shooting.
To save money, I reload my own ammunition, including casting my own bullets from lead. It' mostly scrap wheelweights. I melt the lead once to seperate the wheelweight clips and other crap from the lead. I then melt the lead again to cast the bullets. I handle these lead bullets as reload my ammunition. I do most of my shooting in an indoor range, increasing my potential lead exposure even more.
So I probably handle lead more often than most of the people I know outside of my shooting buddies.
I have my blood tested for lead evey couple years, for obvious reasons.
It's going on 8 years or so, and my lead level is well within the accepted safe limits.
So in my experience, the risk lead problems with brass fittings is estremely low.


Post Mon Nov 15, 2004 10:17 pm

Plumbing brass fittings can have up to 8% lead (without which the brass won't cast properly) this can and does leach into drinking water and presumably wort.

I have seen studies that indicate pickling makes things worse by removing protective scale and oxides and presenting fresh metal.

It will only be an issue if the wort is left in conact with brass for extended periods of time (i.e. the fittings are used in a fermentor) especially since wort is acidic.

Lead is a cummulative poison so you want to limit your exposure to it - one source is not by itself critical, many are.

My conclusions: avoid using leaded brass fittings in fermentors. Don't pickle brass fittings. If you have them in your sytem don't worry unless the wort/beer is sitting in contact for extended periods.

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