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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, 09:20 PM   #21
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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.
It should be possible for botulism toxin to make it through that. You'd have to have a pretty unlikely set of circumstances to get there - oxygen-depleted wort with botulism introduced, allow it to sit for days or weeks, oxygenate it, innoculate it with yeast, and hope there's enough nutrients for the yeast to thrive. The alcohol would kill off the botulism if the oxygen didn't get it first, but the toxin it made would remain.

Like I said, unlikely. So much that you'd probably have to intentionally do it for it to have a chance. But within the realm of imagination.
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Old 04-09-2012, 09:20 PM   #22
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Lest we forget those 9 souls who went out with a smile on their faces in the Great Beer Flood of 1814.
Ho-ly crap...
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Old 04-09-2012, 09:25 PM   #23
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Ho-ly crap...
It could be worse. The Great Molasses Flood of 1919

Much rather go out by beer. Which reminds me of this joke, my co-minister told in church on the Sunday after St. Patty's Day.

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Old man Murphy had worked down at the brewery for years, but one day , he just wasn't paying attention and he tripped on the walkway and fell over into the beer vat and drowned.

The foreman thought it should be his job to inform the widow Murphy of her old man's death. He showed up at the front door and rang the bell. When she came to the door, he said, "I'm sorry to tell you, but poor old Murphy passed away at work today when he fell into the vat and drowned."

She wept and covered her face with her apron and after a time, between sobs, she asked, "Tell me, did he suffer?"

"I don't think so," said the foreman: "He got out three times to go to the men's room.
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Old 04-09-2012, 09:25 PM   #24
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I can see the usual and traditional brewing process eliminating all risks of it. But my one reservation would be a new brewer using one of those no-boil canned kits with a damaged can, and not aerating or anything like that. Would the alpha acids if the can is prehopped be enough alone to guarantee no botulism growth? Is there enough oxygen just from mixing the extract with water to ensure no growth? How fast is the production of the toxin during growth? Could there be enough growth to produce the toxin before fermentation takes hold? Even if the bacteria/spores are destroyed by fermentation or alcohol produced by it, is the harmful toxin destroyed as well? The fact that the spores can be present in honey (hence why you're never supposed to give honey to an infant as they can grow in the intestines and lead to infant botulism poisoning), leads me to believe they could be present in poorly canned extract/wort or a damaged can.

As far as I know, canned extract is a relatively recent creation, and the argument about brewers from 1000 years ago really doesn't apply.

I'm just hesitant about making any blanket "absolutely no risk under any circumstances what-so-ever" kind of statement.

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Old 04-09-2012, 09:27 PM   #25
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Lest we forget those 9 souls who went out with a smile on their faces in the Great Beer Flood of 1814.
Sounds like an intro to a Jameson commercial....

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The flood killed 9, but not John Jameson
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Old 04-09-2012, 09:28 PM   #26
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I can see the usual and traditional brewing process eliminating all risks of it. But my one reservation would be a new brewer using one of those no-boil canned kits with a damaged can, and not aerating or anything like that. Would the alpha acids if the can is prehopped be enough alone to guarantee no botulism growth? Is there enough oxygen just from mixing the extract with water to ensure no growth? How fast is the production of the toxin during growth? Could there be enough growth to produce the toxin before fermentation takes hold? Even if the bacteria/spores are destroyed by fermentation or alcohol produced by it, is the harmful toxin destroyed as well? The fact that the spores can be present in honey (hence why you're never supposed to give honey to an infant as they can grow in the intestines and lead to infant botulism poisoning), leads me to believe they could be present in poorly canned extract/wort or a damaged can.

As far as I know, canned extract is a relatively recent creation, and the argument about brewers from 1000 years ago really doesn't apply.

I'm just hesitant about making any blanket "absolutely no risk under any circumstances what-so-ever" kind of statement.
Highly unlikely. Wort has a AW of .6. Boutulism needs an AW of .93. AW a fancy way of describing how 'liquid' the liquid is. water is a 1.0 Syrups are too 'dry' for bacteria to grow in.

Look at honey, we store it in cupboards for years without a problem, same basic AW. And it has been around for 1000's of years (mead). that said, surfaces where water (humidity) can gather can be breading grounds.
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Old 04-09-2012, 09:29 PM   #27
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I can see the usual and traditional brewing process eliminating all risks of it. But my one reservation would be a new brewer using one of those no-boil canned kits with a damaged can, and not aerating or anything like that. Would the alpha acids if the can is prehopped be enough alone to guarantee no botulism growth? Is there enough oxygen just from mixing the extract with water to ensure no growth? How fast is the production of the toxin during growth? Could there be enough growth to produce the toxin before fermentation takes hold? Even if the bacteria/spores are destroyed by fermentation or alcohol produced by it, is the harmful toxin destroyed as well? The fact that the spores can be present in honey (hence why you're never supposed to give honey to an infant as they can grow in the intestines and lead to infant botulism poisoning), leads me to believe they could be present in poorly canned extract/wort or a damaged can.

As far as I know, canned extract is a relatively recent creation, and the argument about brewers from 1000 years ago really doesn't apply.

I'm just hesitant about making any blanket "absolutely no risk under any circumstances what-so-ever" kind of statement.
You can be hesitant if you want to, but as I quoted above, Mr Wizard of BYO magazine explained it pretty well.

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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.
Not to mentioned as also previously covered the fermentation aspect/creation of alcohol would be the final nail in the coffin of fear.

I'll say it again, Nothing Pathogenic to humans can survive in beer.
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Old 04-09-2012, 10:12 PM   #28
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Not to mentioned as also previously covered the fermentation aspect/creation of alcohol would be the final nail in the coffin of fear.

I'll say it again, Nothing Pathogenic to humans can survive in beer.
What no one has answered is whether or not the toxin will survive in beer. The spores/bacterium will not survive, I get that. But those aren't the harmful part. The toxin is not a living organism that alcohol can kill. Will the fermentation process destroy the toxin? Boiling will destroy the toxin, but if something is never boiled (pre-hopped no-boil extract or self-canned wort), you're confident enough to 100% guarantee that there is ZERO chance that at some point, there was enough appropriate conditions for spores to create the toxin? Most beers are boiled, zero problem. But I don't think you can make that guarantee if it's not boiled. Insignificant odds of having enough of the toxin to have an affect, or even having it at all? Fine. But impossible? I'm not convinced.
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Old 04-09-2012, 10:46 PM   #29
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So the general consensus is that pressure canning wort for starters is overkill?

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Old 04-09-2012, 11:10 PM   #30
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What no one has answered is whether or not the toxin will survive in beer. The spores/bacterium will not survive, I get that. But those aren't the harmful part. The toxin is not a living organism that alcohol can kill. Will the fermentation process destroy the toxin? Boiling will destroy the toxin, but if something is never boiled (pre-hopped no-boil extract or self-canned wort), you're confident enough to 100% guarantee that there is ZERO chance that at some point, there was enough appropriate conditions for spores to create the toxin? Most beers are boiled, zero problem. But I don't think you can make that guarantee if it's not boiled. Insignificant odds of having enough of the toxin to have an affect, or even having it at all? Fine. But impossible? I'm not convinced.
Let me see if I have this right.
Hypothetically there is a can of LME that is 'bulging'... yeah maybe there is some botulism living ON it if and only if there is a whole in the can.
If the Botulism was in the Wort that was BOILED down to LME, from what is here, the boiling destroys the toxin. No problem. Has to be an introduction of the The Bacteria can't grow in the LME (sure surface if the can isn't sealled correctly - maybe a severly damaged can - and there is condensation bringing the water around)

So our poor sap who got this can that no quality control will ship because it looks bad goes and makes a no boil kit with it.... Hmm.. Maybe this is possible, but the plausablity is so remote because the can itself would have to be damaged or left openned.... and a source of contaminant come about... yeah not seeing this happen.
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