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Old 12-01-2011, 01:41 AM   #1
Pascal
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Default new home curse...6infected batches and counting

I just moved to a new city and have everything set up new here. The week I moved in I brewed two batches so I could get something into the keg fridge. Shortly thereafter, within two days in the primary, the first batch turned for the worst. I have never seen an infection spread and kill a beer in the time span and violent nature that this happened. It appeared, at first, to be the most active fermentation I’d ever seen. But it wasn’t the yeast. Dumped, and decided to ditch that primary. It had been with me a long time, was stained and I could never really get the beer smell out any more.

Background: I figure I have averaged around a batch of beer a week for the last two years. I use a bucket primary and then into glass carboys after 4-7 days. I usually went with 7; Saturday to Saturday. I have lost 3 batches in the last two years, two with slow starts that became infected and one choc cherry stout that I clearly didn’t deal with the raw fruit correctly.

I have been here almost a month and I just dumped my fourth batch of beer into the toilet. I have two batches I kegged directly from the primary to see if I could save them but I suspect they will follow down the ****ter.
All 6 batches I have brewed in this apartment have turned south. This is after a very clean brewing record. This is killing me!!

What I do and what I’ve changed:
The first two batches were mini-mash recipes I’ve been using for quite some time. Used regular mash & hop scheduling, cleaning regiment, cooling with chiller, etc. Both dead. Cleaning: I cleaned and sanitized everything with sani-brew, then rinsed. Never had any issue with the rinse so had no concern. Also, since I’m doing a mini-mash, I top up with tap water to get to 5gl. Also, never had any issue so never had any concern before.

Next three batches: I was out of supplies so hit the local brew shop. Apparently they had no more supplies than I had. Lame. So I bought 4 Brew House kits. Never used these before but I had heard good things in passing. I “brewed” three of them. One was clearly f&@#$ the next day and the other two seemed questionable after around a week. I kegged the two since they seemed on the cusp. Not sure to what end, we will see. For these bathes I bought all new equipment. Like I said above, my old primaries had been used for years so it seemed like a good time to replace. Still cleaned and sanitized these with sani-brew and rinsed.

My last batch (the one I just flushed) fermented for three days before turning south. It was an adaptation of an old recipe (to utilize stuff I had), smelled fine yesterday and filled my apartment with the rotten stench I’m sadly becoming used to by the time I was home from work today. I had switched to sanitizing with star-san (no rinse) and, as one might imagine, my cleaning & sanitization scrutiny has increased exponentially with every batch lost!

The only consistent factor I can see is the tap water. I have altered my cleaning/sanitization practices as this brewing nightmare has unfolded, but to no avail. However, I have topped up the primary to 5gl with tap water for all batches. I currently have no way of treating the water (charcoal filter) and I’m on transit so bringing spring water to my fourth floor walk-up is not a practical solution.

So what are your thoughts, could this be something in the water here? (I’m now in Edmonton, Alberta, Ca) I know they have cloramine in the water here but that shouldn’t cause infection. What else could it be? Something in the air?

My next brew will go directly into a glass carboy in order to avoid ANY chance of airborn contamination and I think I need to go with filtered or bottled water but I’m not sure how I can manage that.
I desperately need to find the cause of this so I can brew!

Pascal

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Old 12-01-2011, 02:08 AM   #2
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I'm no pro, but the first thing I would try is using boiled then cooled water to top off with.

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Old 12-01-2011, 02:09 AM   #3
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If water is the only common factor you can find, you need to eliminate that.

I use straight tap water for top-up now, but for a while I was ultra paranoid and when I had the wort cooling in 1 pan, I had a second large pot boiling with water, and in it was also any strainers, glass jugs, ladles that I would use on the wort after it had cooled.

After removing everything from the boiling water, I cooled it with my immersion cooler that I took straight from the now cooled wort did a great job of cleaning the immersion cooler.

Boiling the water will also get rid of the cloramines. If you don't have an IC, you can boil the water the night before and let cool with the lid on overnight. If you only have 1 large pot, you can add the cooled water to the sanitized fermenter before brewing.

It may be something else, but until you eliminate this as a potential problem, it will always be on your mind.

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Old 12-01-2011, 02:11 AM   #4
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I have heard of air vents in brewing rooms causing situations just like this, is there forced air in your apartment. Edmonton should have supplies somewhere you could also try a "regular" batch as its all brewhouse kits that have gone bad if I read that correctly?

Are you using a different yeast? An old kit yeast?

I would start there. Good luck!

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Old 12-01-2011, 02:19 AM   #5
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Chloramines cannot be removed by boiling, try treating your water with a Campden tablet to remove them. I'd still suggest boiling all water that goes in your beer however.

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Old 12-01-2011, 02:29 AM   #6
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Thanks folks,

I'll try the boil as it should hopefully kill anything that would cause this but from what I've read it won't touch cloramine as it is much stabler than clorine. (Not that I'm that worried about it, just a thought)

I guess one of my key questions is: could there actually be anything in water that is treated with cloramine that could live through that process and cause infection in beer?

@ Finnagann - I have brewed (or tried to) different brews in different spots in the apartment without any gain. A few different yeists depending on batch. 3 kit batches, 3 batches from ingredients (mini-mash style).

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Old 12-01-2011, 02:33 AM   #7
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I did use Campdem for one of the brews (brewed from ingredient, not kit) but it turned just as quick. For that batch I had added Camdem to ALL my brewing water; that needed for boil and that for top-up. Didn't help with this infection.

Also, I have cleaned this place out very well between these failures to try and avoid any sort of spread but it hasn't seemed to help.

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Old 12-01-2011, 02:36 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Snicks View Post
Chloramines cannot be removed by boiling, try treating your water with a Campden tablet to remove them.

Actually, then can be removed by boiling; extended boiling.

From wikipedia:

Home brewers use reducing agents such as sodium metabisulfite or potassium metabisulfite to remove chloramine from brewing fermented beverages. Chloramine, like chlorine, can be removed by boiling. However the boiling time required to remove the chloramine is much longer than that of chlorine.

Chloramine - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Topping off with tap water is the culprit here. Boil some topping-off water the night before and toss the pot in the fridge, or use distilled bottled water. Toss all your tubing and replace it with tubing that can be boiled... it's cheap insurance in the long run.
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Old 12-01-2011, 02:39 AM   #9
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wow it sounds really bad, i would be very upset if this happened to me so good luck with solving it. I see you suspecting water as a source of contamination and from the info provided looks like its very possible so i would work on this first, boil it or use bottled/filtered water (i would just go for groceries filtered water for about $1 per gallon) also bleach your carboy use fresh starsan dilution (i sometimes reuse the same solution), make sure all your equipment is dismembered and sanitized (aeration, racking, cooling, spigots ect)
Does all the contaminated batches look the same, is it the same bug?, how does it look like r its just smell?, is there a way to identify contamination (post the picture of your contamination on lambic forum maybe?)
good luck

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Old 12-01-2011, 02:40 AM   #10
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just a stupid question, what is your indication that the batches are infected. 7 days would be pretty quick for an infection to take over a proper pitch of yeast i would think.

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