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Home Brew Forums > Home Brewing Beer > Equipment/Sanitation > What's the most likely cause of infection here...?
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Old 01-12-2011, 08:19 AM   #1
brewhan
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Default What's the most likely cause of infection here...?

Somehow or other, my beer always ends up getting infected. Can anyone spot where I'm going wrong?

I mash and boil in a large aluminium pot which does have quite a lot of scratches and black-looking indentations in it, as is typical of old aluminium pots, although I figured this would be ok since it's getting boiled for an hour?

After boiling, I leave the pot to cool (sometimes I put it in a bath of cold water). I put clingwrap around the edges of the lid to stop excessive airflow.

After the wort has cooled, I transfer it to my glass carboy, which is quite old and does have some very slight scratches on the inside. I first soak the carboy, filling it right up, in a cleaning solution made of "chlorine and cleaning soda" (sometimes for around 24 hours), then sanitise with star-san - I don't fill the carboy right up with that, just swish it around a lot so all the surfaces get a lot of it on them. I use the same cleaning and sanitization products on my syphoning hose, rubber bung and airlock.

I then pour in my yeast, straight out of the packet, seal up with the airlock and bung, and it's ready to ferment.

Already by this stage, I believe, my beer is infected. I think this because it's always all my bottles which go bad - never just some, suggesting the infection takes place before bottling - and I've come to notice the "infected" taste at bottling time.

One last thing - my house and kitchen are generally quite dirty - I live in a student flat - but I'm careful to clean and sanitize everything that will come into contact with the beer.

If anyone has any advice or feedback, it would be much appreciated!


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Old 01-12-2011, 11:24 AM   #2
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It sounds like you are ok to the point that you have described - i.e. fermentation. Now, what process/equipment are you using for bottling the beer?

Just a note: You might be at risk if you are using a typical LHBS bottling bucket. It is almost impossible to sanitize the plastic valve on those buckets.



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Old 01-12-2011, 01:08 PM   #3
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What exactly is this "infected" taste? Please describe and maybe someone can help. How long do you age your product and what ingredients do you use. Ingredients and fermentation practice can produce some pretty "green" beer that might be mistaken as infected, your sanitation seems pretty decent.
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Old 01-12-2011, 02:55 PM   #4
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I take my spigot apart, the plunger valve, and boil it for a while. I think the boiling will clean / sanitize if done right.

What are our options for spigots if sanitizing is tricky?
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Old 01-12-2011, 03:16 PM   #5
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First, I would get rid of the bleach, unless you are rinsing VERY well. Even then, I wouldn't use it. It could be the source of the flavor you attribute to infection.

Maybe try some different water? If your water has certain chemicals in it, they can really show up as an odd flavor in your beer.

Also, I would get a new spigot for the bottling bucket and try that. And take it apart and clean it after each use.

You may also think about buying a fermentation bucket, just to see if the "infection" goes away. I think you can get a bucket and a lid for less than $15.
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Old 01-12-2011, 03:38 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ultravista View Post
I take my spigot apart, the plunger valve, and boil it for a while. I think the boiling will clean / sanitize if done right.

What are our options for spigots if sanitizing is tricky?
I discovered the problem years ago when I started getting infected batches. It took a lot of careful looking at all of my process and equipment to discover the source. It was the spigot on the bottling bucket as I mentioned in the diagram above. My method for cleaning the spigot is to remove the valve assembly from the bucket and then remove the spout. Next step is to soak the valve body in scalding hot water for several minutes. Once hot the 2 part body can be pulled apart and cleaned. It can be reassembled cold without problems.

There is another type of bottling spigot that does not have this design issue as it is a one piece unit.





(This is all said without knowing exactly what the OPs problem is. I'm just suggesting issues that I've experienced.)
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Old 01-12-2011, 08:46 PM   #7
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Thanks for the replies! No I don't actually use a bottling bucket, I just siphon from my carboy straight into the bottles, with no secondary fermentation either - I've tried to minimize my steps as much as possible to try and weed out the problem.

I'm convinced that my problem is indeed one of infection because I've had three batches which have, quite randomly, turned out absolutely delicious, while all my other attemps, without any significant difference in my routine or ingredients, have turned bad.

My infected batches taste quite vinegary.

Here is my bottling procedure, just in case the problem is here, although I'm fairly sure I can detect the "infected" taste already at bottling time:

I clean all the (glass) bottles - I've done this in various different ways, including: scrubbing with a bottle brush and detergent after soaking in water (maybe insufficient?); sitting some cleaning solution ("chlorine and cleaning soda") in the bottom of the bottles and shaking them so it makes contact with all surfaces (probably insufficient?); and what I now do, which seems like the safest option, is filling the bottles right up with the "chlorine and cleaning soda" solution and letting them sit for about an hour before rinsing.

I then sanitize all the bottles with star-san, not putting much at all into each bottle, but shaking so it touches all surfaces.

I clean and sanitize my siphoning hose and all crown bottle caps in the same way.
I carbonate by either: pouring boiled-then-cooled sugar in water straight into the fermenter (when I was using a plastic fermenter with a wide opening - I did this on one of my few batches that worked); or distributing the still-boiling sugar in water straight into the bottles with a metal measuring spoon (cleaned and sanitized).

Then off comes the rubber bung from my carboy, and I siphon the beer straight into the bottles, and put the lids on.

I've been mashing malted barley, using muslin cloth bags to mash, hop pellets, and Safale yeast - just keeping it really simple until I can get my beer consistently working.

So no one thinks the potentially dirty indentations in my boiling pot, the tiny scratches in my glass carboy, or my generally dirty kitchen are likely culprits?

Oh, one other thing, my glass carboy appears to have a very slight milky residue on the inside surface, visible only under very bright light, which a 24-hour soak in the "chlorine and cleaning soda" has no effect on. Problem?
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Old 01-12-2011, 09:14 PM   #8
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How are you starting your bottling siphon?

Why aren't you using StarSan to clean your carboy?
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Old 01-12-2011, 09:17 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hex View Post
How are you starting your bottling siphon?
I fill the siphoning hose up with star-san, and use that to start the siphon.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Hex View Post
Why aren't you using StarSan to clean your carboy?
I am.
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Old 01-12-2011, 09:21 PM   #10
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what is cleaning soda? can you share the active ingredient names? and is this product recommended for use with bleach? How thoroughly do you rinse between cleaning and sanitizing?


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