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Old 11-28-2012, 04:17 PM   #1
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Default Plastic fermenters and pedicoccus

I've had 2 of my last 3 batches of beer go sour. The sour batches were in two different plastic fermenters. Pedicoccus is the likely suspect (due to slime in the infected beer and a sour flavor). Lactobacillius is also suspect.

I did not catch the 1st infection until the beer was already bottled. I had already washed and repitched the yeast from that first soured batch.

Amazingly, the batch I pitched that yeast into has never shown signs of souring. It is a Kolsch, so the delicate flavor should easily show souring if any were there. It's now ready to drink and delicious! This kolsch was fermented at room temp for a week and then laggered. It has been kept cold ever since.

Since that batch didn't go sour, I believed it was safe to wash and repitch yeast from that batch into my latest batch, which went sour before 2 weeks. (At room temp.)

Since the souring appeared separately in two different plastic fermenters about a month apart from each other, I want to blame the washed/repitched yeast. But the batch in the middle seems untainted.

I already tossed the third batch down the drain, along with the remaining washed yeast I still had in jars. I want to believe that my fermenters are clean and free of blame, but I absolutely loath the idea of dumping another batch. Do I really have to retire my plastic fermenters? What would you do?

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Old 11-28-2012, 04:28 PM   #2
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Long soak in PBW, hot water rinses, soft cloth to wipe everything down, and an overnight soak in Star san for all of your equipment that comes into contact with your cooled wort.

Then, brew a simple batch, say an APA paying special attention to sanitation the entire time. Especially your wort chilling device, I hear more and more infection issues with ICs, CFCs, and PCs because of poor cleanliness.

If this simple batch gets infected too, it will be a process of elimination from there. I would start with the fermenters and chiller....

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Old 11-28-2012, 05:01 PM   #3
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Thanks FourSeasonAngler!

I was wondering about my wort chiller. It's all copper, so I figured even the parts that poke up out of the pot/never touch the boiling wort would still be clean due to the antimicrobial properties of copper.

However, yesterday I reshaped my wort chiller a bit to help make it more fully submersible and reduce the length of tubing that pokes out and above the wort. I've never felt comfortable with the dripping water that condensated on the chiller during the cooling phase. That part of my chiller looks oxidized. Maybe I should boil it in a 10 gallon pot of water...

I guess all that's left is to super sanitize the ever living bacteria out of my equipment and do a trial run like you suggest. I read TopherM's suggestion on a similar post to just use a half gallon of wort in a potentially infected fermenter, shake it up so it touches everywhere in the fermenter, and give it a week to see if the infection reoccurs.

Thanks again!

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Old 11-28-2012, 05:10 PM   #4
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I would probably replace any and all hosing you use for transfers and sanitize all of the more expensive stuff. The buckets are probably trash based on what I have heard from people who have had this problem.

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Old 11-28-2012, 07:57 PM   #5
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I would probably replace any and all hosing you use for transfers and sanitize all of the more expensive stuff. The buckets are probably trash based on what I have heard from people who have had this problem.
This is exactly what I am concerned about. Trashing the buckets is also what my LHBS guy told me to do. After all the time and work of sanitizing and testing, buying a new $10 bucket and $3 lid seems much more sensible. Especially when considering the peace of mind.

Hosing was used when I bottled the first soured batch. As was a bottling bucket. The in between batch that didn't sour also used the bottling bucket with apparently no ill effects.

What an unpleasant mess to be unsure of pretty much all my brewing equipment! Very discouraging. Damnosus!
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Old 11-28-2012, 11:15 PM   #6
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What about the environment that you are brewing? Not to say that you have an unsanitary space for brewing, but maybe something nearby is harboring the offending bug? For example, a damp corner or a basement, some hidden mold in the garage, etc. It might not be your equipment at all, but maybe something that happens to be floating around in frequency near you?

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Old 11-29-2012, 06:37 PM   #7
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What about the environment that you are brewing? Not to say that you have an unsanitary space for brewing, but maybe something nearby is harboring the offending bug? For example, a damp corner or a basement, some hidden mold in the garage, etc. It might not be your equipment at all, but maybe something that happens to be floating around in frequency near you?
exactly. of course a homebrew store would recommend trashing the bucket so they can sell you another one, and when you get another infected batch guess what they'll say? you got it, fork over another $13! even if your bucket is somehow contaminated with something infectious (that skips batches?) you can decontaminate it very easily. a few of my early batches got some sort of infection and i finally had a soap, bleach and star san party in a tub for all of my gear and have never had another infection even though i brew sour and clean beer with the same gear/fermentors (all plastic). for my auto siphon i use silicon hose that i boil before each use and i boil all of my silicon hoses on a regular basis. my plate chiller gets back flushed with boiling water after each brew session. the fermentors get washed and hit with star san. easy.
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Old 11-29-2012, 09:50 PM   #8
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All great points! I brew in my basement, and last night I began wishing I was a fireman from the book Fahrenheit 451! So I studied my notes hard, and looked over previously overlooked possibilities. I decided that trying to sanitize my fermenter was worth the effort. At a minimum I could find out for sure if that's where my problem lies. (I don't think it is and here's why...)

When I started this thread, I forgot/overlooked a lager that I began in between the two infected batches. The same fermenter that held the first infected beer was subsequently used to make a lager that I brewed on Nov. 4th. Yesterday, I transferred that lager to a brand new bucket and witnessed zero signs of infection.

The second infected batch was in a different fermenter. I figured this batch was infected from yeast that had been washed from earlier batches, but that doesn't quite add up. As I mentioned above, the yeast came from the 1st infected batch and was reused in a batch that never showed signs of infection, then rewashed and repitched again into the 2nd infected batch.

It's looking more and more like the infections are/must be coming from some as of yet unidentified source. I brewed both a lager and a kolsch successfully in between the two infected batches. All of the equipment that I've used in the infected batches has been used in successful batches giving me no clear distinction as to the source of the infections. (With the exception of the fermenter that got the 2nd infection).

Maybe it is just in the environment where I brew... My mind keeps going back to torching everything in my house and thinking, "It was a pleasure to burn."

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Old 12-03-2012, 04:24 PM   #9
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Last week, I soaked my fermenters in bleach water solution overnight, PBW over a second night, and then for a couple days in star san.

Yesterday, I boldly charged forward throwing caution to the wind. Instead of doing a small test batch like a careful smart person, I decided to gamble and put 5 gal of hefe in one fermenter and 5 gal of oktoberfest in the other. All or bust!

I'll post back with my results.

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Old 01-25-2013, 03:14 PM   #10
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The hefe turned out just fine, but the Oktoberfest not so much. It's not yet carbonated in the bottles, but I'm tasting a very funky and intense sweetness. I've also brewed a scotch ale and now I'm finding some of those bottles are infected. One of the bottles gushed out so hard that it shot a foot high! There's obviously something wrong with my sanitization process, but it's not looking like it's the plastic fermenters. Thanks again for all the help!

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