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Old 08-29-2007, 02:20 PM   #1
cjojola
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Default On the verge of quitting.

This is not how I'd like my first post to go, but I'm really desperate for some answers. So here it goes:

I've been brewing for about a year now, all-grain, and everything was going great until about a month ago. I've had my fair share of not so good brew, especially right after switching to all grain, but I'd never had an infection, and I was even sometimes pretty careless in the beginning.

I've been making 10 gallon batches lately, and things were going fine. Then I moved to a new place and started brewing here. I've made about 4 batches, and every single one has been contaminated. Worse yet, my starters are even getting contaminated. I made one yesterday from a brand new pack of wyeast 1056. Today I come home from work, and it smells like sour apples. The top is covered in really thin bubbles, not anything like the krausen I'm used to seeing.

This is after pressure cooking my flask with the stir bar and cover for 20 mins. I then immediately added DME and filtered water, then boiled. I cooled it in an ice bath, pitched the yeast, and put it on the stir plate.

I've switched between equipment, sanitizers, yeasts, malts, and even tried this in different rooms in my house. All had the same result; a sour, vinegar like "beer". I've looked around, and I think it's acetobacteria, the stuff they use to make vinegar. If that's the case, the autoclave and boiling should have killed it. Is there anything that's airborn that could be causing this? It's the only explanation I haven't ruled out.

Supposedly fruit flies could cause this too, but there are no signs of them anywhere. I know they can be small, but I think I would have seen them by this time. Maybe not though.

Any help is truly appreciated,
Chris

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Old 08-29-2007, 02:31 PM   #2
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I'm inclined to agree with your contamination theory, could also be lactobacillus. Getting rid of either can be a major undertaking. Both can cling to walls and become airborne. Designate one room and wash the walls and ceiling with a good commercial cleaner, ditto carpets. Get an ionizing air clearer for the room. If your house has central heat/air, I'd recommend having the ducts cleaned & filter(s) replaced.

I know one brewer who is so paranoid, that he won't let people talk about lambics.

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Old 08-29-2007, 02:39 PM   #3
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Could Be:

1. bad yeast
2. room air blowing on uncovered starter
3. unsantized stirbar
4. etc, etc, etc, etc

Try your hand at making some beers that only use dry yeast. Use dry yeast for a change and see how your next batch comes out. Could be you may have gotten an infected stock of liquid yeast. Anything can happen. Just look at this as a minor setback.

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Old 08-29-2007, 04:00 PM   #4
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Dont give up just try harder to find the problem. Which sanitizer are you using? I was getting strange flavors from Idophor even though alot of people use this with no problems. I have since switched to Star San and could not be happier.

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Old 08-29-2007, 05:03 PM   #5
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First, throw out everything plastic in your brewery--buckets, hoses, etc. This is the only way you can attack this problem for good. Plastic will scratch (even if you can't see it) and harbor bacteria that will infect every single batch it touches.

Anything like a carboy or equipment you use AFTER fermentation, you need to soak in a bleach solution. If you use kegs, take them apart and replace o-rings, and do a quick bleach soak on all the parts. Bleach will damage stainless steel over extended periods, but an hour soak will be long enough to kill the bugs and not do damage.

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Old 08-29-2007, 05:20 PM   #6
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Something that most people overlook is the Stopper. Go buy some new stoppers while you are changing all the plastic hoses out.

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Old 08-29-2007, 05:27 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dude
First, throw out everything plastic in your brewery--buckets, hoses, etc. This is the only way you can attack this problem for good. Plastic will scratch (even if you can't see it) and harbor bacteria that will infect every single batch it touches.

Anything like a carboy or equipment you use AFTER fermentation, you need to soak in a bleach solution. If you use kegs, take them apart and replace o-rings, and do a quick bleach soak on all the parts. Bleach will damage stainless steel over extended periods, but an hour soak will be long enough to kill the bugs and not do damage.
I think bleach is a good idea too. You might look into how to use the bleach to get the strongest effect. You may consider listening to the Basic Brewing Radio episode with Charley Talley. He talks about what to do get bleach's maximum sanitizing effect. It is dangerous if done wrong so I don't want to mis-remeber how to do it here.
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Old 08-29-2007, 05:45 PM   #8
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Tap water could be another source of contamination. You said you just moved, so.....

Or a water filter. Is there one installed? The filters get wet and can harbor bacteria so even "clean" water will pick up some nasties on the way to your glass (or the carboy).

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Old 08-29-2007, 05:47 PM   #9
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I had this same problem but I didn't move. I went about 8 months after I started with no problems at all, then out of the blue I started getting infections. I started soaking my secondary fermenter in a bleach solution over night and a glass fermenter sanitized with star san. This seemed to fix the problem for a while but it came back. Then I threw away the plastic bucket and started using glass in both fermenters and boiling the stoppers. The beer was better than I can remember even in the beginning. Last night I uncorked my starter and I'll be damned if it didn't smell like it might be infected. I pitched it anyway just because I'm an optimist.

I hear all of these guys bragging how they have been brewing for years and never had a bad batch. Are they really that good, or do they have closet infections? Too macho to admit they effed up a batch?

I keep contemplating quitting also but I can't give it up. I just bought 3 large SS pots to start all grain brewing so I can't stop now.

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Old 08-29-2007, 05:49 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Beerrific
I think bleach is a good idea too. You might look into how to use the bleach to get the strongest effect. You may consider listening to the Basic Brewing Radio episode with Charley Talley. He talks about what to do get bleach's maximum sanitizing effect. It is dangerous if done wrong so I don't want to mis-remeber how to do it here.
5 gal water, 1 tbl bleach, mix, then add 1 tbl white vinegar. Think this is it.
The vinegar lowers the pH so the bleach is now a sanitizer - before vinegar is not a sanitizer (just makes clothes white)

NEVER add vinegar directely to bleach. It liberates chlorine gas which is deadly.
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