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Home Brew Forums > Home Brewing Beer > General Beer Discussion > Can homebrew be toxic?
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Old 04-09-2012, 08:33 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by bernerbrau View Post
So... just to clarify...

If I can a Real Wort Starter improperly (say I just boil it, I don't pressure-heat it to 250 for 15 minutes), and then some months later I use it to create a yeast starter which I pitch directly into unfermented wort, you guys are saying there is absolutely no risk of botulism?
just not in prison...

http://foodct.com/2011/10/10/utah-in...n-brewed-beer/
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Old 04-09-2012, 08:38 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by bernerbrau View Post
So... just to clarify...

If I can a Real Wort Starter improperly (say I just boil it, I don't pressure-heat it to 250 for 15 minutes), and then some months later I use it to create a yeast starter which I pitch directly into unfermented wort, you guys are saying there is absolutely no risk of botulism?
I wouldn't recommend doing that experiment, but it is my understanding that the botulism toxin is destroyed in the boil.

That said, if you start out with toxic water, you may or may not get toxic beer. It depends on the type of toxin. Landfill seepage isn't going to magically become harmless because you add malt, hops and yeast to it.
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Old 04-09-2012, 08:39 PM   #13
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This is interesting, it's from BYO, and it traces the history of the "botulism in real wort starters" worry.

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Mr Wizard

Can botulism spores grow in concentrated extract with its high sugar content?
Issue November 2007
Extract storing solutions

The recent discussion in Brew Your Own of preserving starter wort and the safety of the practice has raised (in my mind) several questions on the safety of my malt extract storing practice. Shortly after beginning brewing 18 months ago, I discovered that extract could be purchased in 15-kilogram plastic jugs for half the price per pound of canned extract. Being of a frugal nature, I immediately began buying in this quantity. After opening a jug to make a batch of beer, I pour the excess in plastic tubs and top with a splash of vodka to inhibit mold growth and store in my fridge at about 40 °F (4 °C). Can botulism spores ever grow in concentrated extract with its high sugar content? I assume the jugs I buy are not pressure canned because they are plastic. Quality questions aside, how long can I safely store extract in this manner? Would freezing have any effect on its quality?

Ken Graffis
Hendersonville, Tennessee

Before answering this question about malt extract storage I want to remind our readers that there are no safety issues concerning the storage of wort that has been properly canned in a pressure canner. This whole topic began in 2006 when an article was published in the September issue of Brew Your Own describing canning wort using a boiling water bath instead of a pressure canner. Although the topic of botulism was addressed in the original article, Brew Your Own received a reader letter with stronger warnings and this was printed in the November 2006 issue. To sum all of this up, if you want to can wort and use it for yeast starters, go buy yourself a pressure canner and you will be just fine. I have written about the many uses of pressure canners in previous columns and think every serious brewer and cook should have at least one of them!

Now with that out of the way let’s discuss why brewers do not to spend any time at all worrying about the growth of Clostridium botulinum in the malt extract. Malt extract, whether liquid or dry, is concentrated by removing water. One key attribute of food products used to gauge their susceptibility to spoilage is a property known as water activity or AW. Pure water has a water activity of 1.0 and as solids content increases the AW decreases. The definition of AW is not important here, but relates to equilibrium relative humidity. If you want to read more there is a bunch of information about water activity online and in food science books.

At any rate, Clostridium botulinum is not a problem in foods with an AW less than 0.93 because it doesn’t grow. The water activity of liquid malt extract (LME) is somewhere around 0.60 depending on its concentration. Honey has an AW between 0.55 and 0.60, so it stands to reason that liquid malt extract with a similar concentration is going to be in the same range. Dried malt extract has an AW of about 0.20 making it very shelf stable from a microbiological view. You are correct that liquid malt extract is not pressure canned because there is no safety concern requiring it to be.

Molds and yeasts can grow on the surface of containers of liquid malt extract that have been opened. One would figure that if the fungi can grow on the surface they should be able to grow throughout the bulk of the LME, but they don’t. The reason for this is that the AW of foods products is not homogeneous once the package has been opened because water from the air (humidity) changes the AW at the food-air interface. This is why LME can have mold colonies form on the surface. Covering the surface with vodka is one way to keep the surface clean. Another method is to repackage your 15 kilograms of LME in convenient sized portions using zipper storage bags so that the air can be eliminated from the headspace of the bag, keeping the AW homogeneous.

So from a safety stance you can store LME indefinitely, although the quality may change. To be realistic, if you store it in a clean refrigerator that does not contain a lot of smelly food that could impart odors into the LME, the shelf life is likely to be well over a year. If you really want to toss your LME into a freezer because you have more freezer space than refrigerator space you will certainly do no harm to it and will completely eliminate the possibility of any mold growth.
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Old 04-09-2012, 08:44 PM   #14
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The only other two articles on this topic, clarify that this was "Pruno"

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The Utah State Prison inmates were infected by the botulinum toxin by drinking alcohol made in a plastic bag hidden in a cell. The prison moonshine is often referred to as "cell-brewed pruno."

While botulism can be deadly, with medical treatment most survive. Botulism can bring on paralysis and respiratory failure that requires weeks on a ventilator in order to recover.

The cell-brewed hootch is made using fruit, water and sugar in plastic bags often hidden in toilet tanks. This creates an "anaerobic environment" without oxygen, also a recipe for breeding botulism.

According to "Modern Drunkard Magazine" the recipe for "classic pruno" requires fruit, fruit cocktail, sugar cubes, ketchup and water.

One sip contaminated with botulism is enough to make someone sick. Blurred vision, dry mouth, and trouble swallowing are the initial symptoms. Paralysis will typically start at the shoulders and work its way down.
I'm gonna bet that the bag in the toilet was just as likely to have had botulism on it than the actual hooch, and they came into contact with it on the surface of the bag. If I decide to "keister" a bottle of homebrew and you drink out of the bottle, it's more than likely your gonna get sick from contaminants on the bottle, than the actual beer itself.

I'm just sayin.....
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Old 04-09-2012, 08:47 PM   #15
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The only other two articles on this topic, clarify that this was "Pruno"

I'm gonna bet that the bag in the toilet was just as likely to have had botulism on it than the actual hooch, and they came into contact with it on the surface of the bag.
I know. Hence the
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Old 04-09-2012, 08:49 PM   #16
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I know. Hence the
Yeah, but you just gotta make sure folks know that you're being facetious, you know every scared new brewer is hovering over this thread wanting to make sure they're not going to die from their first batch of beer. That's why I take this s**t serious. (see what I did there? )
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Old 04-09-2012, 08:55 PM   #17
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This is a beat to death dead horse. NOTHING, UNDER ANY CONDITIONS where a fermentation happens over 2% ABV, can harm a human in any way.

It may taste worse than anything you have ever put in your mouth but it is safe to drink.
Not true - although quanties of brew to be hazardous are not generally found - aka bathtubs, swiming pools. After all if you can drown in water, you can drown in Beer. As to bacteria, I think others have answer this.
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Old 04-09-2012, 09:03 PM   #18
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interesting link on C. Botulinum http://www.fsis.usda.gov/Factsheets/...inum/index.asp

What I noticed is that ph of 4.6 prevents growth (aka high acid) this means wine musts are generally safe from an acid point of view. Wort from just the acid however wouldn't be (5.2?) However as already mentioned the higher O2 of aeration, and the addition of yeast, later lack of sugars, the yeast acidification (drops it to below 4.6 I think) would kill the bacteria.

Again, strictly speaking about the acid, not the other requirements for the bacteria - which requires the right temp, ph level, Oxygen levels, sugar levels, etc. I suspect that if that were really a problem, drinking beer for 1000's of years wouldn't have been the route to clean drinking fluids that it has been.

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Old 04-09-2012, 09:16 PM   #19
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I bottled a mini-batch yesterday. It was in a small container, so I couldn't get my auto-siphon in the neck. Instead, I did the old suck siphon.

It occurred to me after the fact that I've been sick with a cold for 3 days. I presume no one will get sick from drinking that batch, but maybe I'll keep that one to myself... hah.

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Old 04-09-2012, 09:18 PM   #20
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After all if you can drown in water, you can drown in Beer.

Lest we forget those 9 souls who went out with a smile on their faces in the Great Beer Flood of 1814.

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Beer Flood Claims Nine Souls

On October 17, 1814, over 100 years before the Boston Molasses Flood, a very unfortunate beer-related incident occurred in London. A huge vat which held over 135,000 gallons of fermenting beer succumbed to the wounds of age, and let its bounty loose with explosive force. The impact caused several other vats in the same building to rupture, and almost instantly the combined 323,000+ gallons of ale crashed through the brick structure and poured into the London parish of St. Giles, a slum area.

The impact of this massive wave of beer was disastrous. Men and women were caught in the wave, tossed against walls and buried in debris. The beer completely destroyed two homes, and flooded many others. A wall at a nearby pub crumbled under the force, burying a barmaid there for several hours. Nine people were killed by the drink that day, all but one due to drowning. The ninth died of alcohol poisoning. Most of the victims were poor individuals who either lost their lives, or everything they owned.

Soon after the flood, survivors rushed in to save what they could of the precious ale, collecting it in pots, cans, and kettles. Some simply used their cupped hands to lap up the tepid pools of dirty beer.

It took weeks for the stink of beer to completely fade from the area. The brewery was later taken to court over the accident, but the entire event was determined to be an “Act of God” by the judge and jury, leaving no one responsible.
This is commemorated on college campuses and frat houses across the land to cries of "Chug it!" And survives in an arcane ritual that we know today as the "beer bong."



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