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Old 12-07-2013, 04:48 AM   #1
laststandbrewery
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Default Haven't use fermenter buckets in a while, are they still safe?

Hey everyone I haven't been able to brew a beer in a while and I am ready to get back to brewing. However, my fermenter buckets have stuck in my storage celler for the time being and it can get kind of dusty and dirty in there. Also I have noticed very tiny scratches in the bucket (hairline like). Just wondering if these buckets are cleaned and sanitized will they be ok to brew with or should I buy new equipment.

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Old 12-07-2013, 05:09 AM   #2
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I think people make too big a deal over scratches in plastic. It's hard for me to imagine how you could get a colony of bacteria that are so well isolated in a scratch that the StarSan wouldn't reach them, but are also able to jump out into the beer and procreate.

I'm still using the fermenter that I got with my starter kit 6 years ago (along with some others). I don't clean with a scrubby or anything, but I don't go out of my way to keep the surface pristine, either. It's been idle for months at a time and routinely stacked with other buckets. Haven't had an infection yet (knock on wood), so I think you'll be ok.

But hey, if you're going to be consumed with worry over it, 12 bucks for a new one is cheap peace of mind, no?

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Old 12-07-2013, 01:15 PM   #3
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1st answer: If you're not sure it's safe, assume it is not and replace it.

2nd answer: If you choose to use it, be thorough about cleaning and sanitizing it. Fill it with a hot OxyClean Free or PBW solution and leave it overnight. This is to remove surface dirt and break down organic deposits which may hide nasties. Then rinse it thoroughly and treat with the sanitizer of your choice. If you use Star San, or another acid sanitizer, the thorough rinsing is important since OxyClean and PBW are alkaline.

With all respect to Gr8shandini, those kind of testimonies make me think of the guy who says smoking is perfectly safe because his grandfather lived to ninety and smoked two packs a day. It's your beer. You know dirt and wild microbes are bad for beer, so why not take every reasonable precaution to make your beer the best it can be?

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Old 12-07-2013, 01:48 PM   #4
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I just started brewing again after a 10 year hiatus. My buckets where dusty and dirty, and I've always had scratches in them when I pulled then out. I scrubbed them out with oxyclean and a non scratching pad, spray starsan and scrub every time I brew anyhow. On my 6th brew in them now and use one other for ciders/beer. Knock on wood, no issues. I'll be snagging 2 new ones down the road so I can brew more often.

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Old 12-07-2013, 02:56 PM   #5
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There are two kinds of brewers: those who have had an infection, and those who are going to have an infection. I'd venture that many of those who have had infections are more likely to advocate more meticulous cleaning and sanitation than those who have not - and I count myself as one of the former.

I'll also say that I believe that most brewers who claim to have never had an infection actually have, but never noticed it. How can that be? Believe it or not, the vast majority of infections will not have you dry heaving on the floor from your first sip. Nor will they make all your bottles explode after a week. If you've ever found a beer in the closet that you'd forgotten about from a year ago and it had a slightly tart flavor you don't remember; or if it foamed up so much that you had to pause a few times while trying to pour it into your glass; or if it foamed in the bottle when you opened it, churning up bottle trub then you've had an infection. If you're drinking your beers quickly or getting them in the fridge as soon as they're ready you may have dodged the bullet by not letting an infection mature enough to be noticed, but that doesn't mean it wasn't there. If you like citrusy IPAs, you can likely tolerate a moderate level of souring before thinking there's something awry.

It's a matter of probability. Meticulous cleaning and sanitation (not the same thing, BTW, but both essential) will go a long way towards making sure your beers are on the "probably not" side of the curve. Thinking that since you've brewed for 3 years without an infection, so therefore your scratchy buckets and old hoses are fine, is going to move your beers more towards the "probably" side.

We see to many posts here from brewers wondering how their fruit beer got soured when they didn't pasteurize the fruit. From brewers asking how they got bottle bombs when their bottle were brand new, and they didn't bother to sanitize them. I've gotten too many unintentionally soured beers from friends - who always say they are meticulous in their cleaning. And as I said, I have had infections myself.

In my case, about three years ago I had an IPA go sour. I broke everything down, bought new hoses, cleaned and sanitized everything (I thought). next batch was a stout that also soured. Repeat the whole overhaul process to find the one thing I'd neglected to clean: my bottling spigot. Replaced that and make sure I keep it in my cleaning and sanitizing routine. I haven't had an infection since. Having to dump two batches was a humiliating lesson. But it taught me to never take the cleanliness of any of my equipment for granted. There is no "probably okay," there is no "good enough." Making beer you're proud of isn't a matter of blind luck.

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Old 12-07-2013, 09:37 PM   #6
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A new 6.5 gallon fermenter bucket is cheaper than just one ruined batch of brew. If in doubt, replace it.

Certainly replace any old tubing even if you don't replace the buckets.
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Old 12-07-2013, 10:04 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BigFloyd View Post
A new 6.5 gallon fermenter bucket is cheaper than just one ruined batch of brew. If in doubt, replace it.

Certainly replace any old tubing even if you don't replace the buckets.
Ya my old tubing I tossed and replaced just about everything cept the buckets. I am super anal about sanitization as well.
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Old 12-08-2013, 05:59 AM   #8
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Captain,

I'm sorry to hear that you had a bad experience a while back. I didn't mean to imply that anyone should be cavalier about cleaning an sanitization. I replace tubing on a regular basis as it is very difficult to get completely dry and can harbor all kind of nastiness.

However, I think it's kind of unreasonable to expect a bucket to remain scratch-free for more than a few batches. One of the major advantages of using buckets is that they're stackable when not in use. It is pretty much impossible to stack a bucket without scratching the "catcher". If the possibility of scratches is that great of a concern, I suggest switching to glass carboys.

So, I think my original post is still valid. There's a 95+% chance that nothing will happen, but if you're still worried, buy a new one.

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