I have my recovery batch in the secondary now, and just about ready to bottle it. I have done some research on this.
1. The Gusher Bug: This is likely to be one or both of two types of bacteria, lactobacillus of which the two main types are acidophilus and pediococcus. The names of both of these sound pretty gross but according to my hour or two of research, not only will they not kill you, they are both considered "probiotics" and actually will help your digestion. They do make your beer taste funny and cause a mess on your lazy boy though. The thing about both of these are that they are ubiquitous: present everywhere in nature, so it is hard to completely eliminate them without pasteurizing the beer, which is something I would never do.
Acidophilus is also present in your mouth, and vagina, if you have one, therefore could be transmitted during siphoning...since I am (or was) siphoning by mouth.
2. My bottle cleaning method: I did not tell you earlier that I am 100% diligent in rinsing out my bottles right after I drink them, so as to minimize the build-up, but I am taking this seriously, as I will explain below.
2. Bleach vs. Oxy Clean: I did some research on this question: The pH of bleach is about 12, the pH of Oxy Clean is about 11, and I do not have my log chart with me but each higher unit of pH is 10X higher in OH- concentration.
So for sheer crud removing power, the bleach is better. If I wanted to I could go to lye, which is sodium hydroxide, which is around 13, depending on concentration but I really like the skin on my hands and would prefer not to take it off with the same stuff that Granny Clampett used to use to make soap.
The benefit to the OxyClean is that it has some fizziness to it, and a look at the MSDS sheet says that the fizziness is probably due to the Sodium Carbonate, better known as "baking soda" that goes into it, is way cheap, and can be bought elsewhere in the store if it were to float my boat to do so.
3. Normal yeast cake: I cannot totally rule this out, because some of the beer I kept around for sampling purposes is still drinkable (pretty good, actually).
4. The possibility that I flipped out and over-reacted to the problem and dumped my stout prematurely: Likely. Live and learn.
5. The yeast: No one mentioned that, but come to find out that the fact I was recycling the yeast could be the cause of the problem as well.
according to this reference, there is some bacteria present in all of this stuff, and I can imagine that since I was on my fifth or sixth batch with that same yeast culture, this is another source of infection. For my recovery batch, I started over on IPA yeast and may make it a corporate policy (when I start my corporation) that I will put a limit on the number of generations I use the yeast. There is apparently a method to acid-wash your yeast with phosphoric acid or some similar stuff, but every time you transfer this crap into another vessel is another opportunity to contaminate it so I am leaning toward just replacing it occasionally.
6. My bottle washing method: I was filling and shaking my bottles in bleach solution, and then into Star San solution. Here is where I screwed up. Since the bleach is a base, and the Star San is an acid, I basically defeated the purpose of both by washing one after another. Chances are if I had used either by itself it would have been better.
I do inspect my bottles for crud.
But, from now on, I will use my brain and do one or the other.
7. I need to check the temperature of the "heated dry" on my dishwasher but I am pretty comfortable with that as a method of killing off at least some of the bacteria.
According to this reference, pediococcus is viable up to 65C, which is 150 degrees F, so it is likely that the dishwasher will indeed kill this stuff if it gets hot enough. It is also likely that it it is not surviving my boil, because I am transferring the wort directly into the carboy instantly at knockoff, since my wort cooler works so efficiently. It could pretty easily be living in my wort cooler, though....
8. My wine. I told you I was doing some wine in the same equipment: According to one of these references, the sulfites used in wine kills this stuff off, so I am optimistic I did not taint that stuff. I am bottling that this weekend too.
9. I built a little bottling station. I found a cheap used sink on Craigslist, and have plumbed that thing up with an old water pump I have to draw out of a bucket, which will allow me to blast a solution of anything I want, including oxyclean or bleach or starsan or PBW directly into my bottles at 75 PSI, thus hopefully blasting any crud off of the inside of the bottle before I try to bottle this batch.
Leaving aside the question of how I am going to sanitize that thing, I will throw it open to the forum the question of what I will use to blast my bottles.
Tomorrow is bottling day....
9. The batch I bottled 3 weeks ago, when I first panicked and disposed of a lot of beer... that is the best batch of beer in the 8000 year history of brewing, so I will take your advice and not let that sit around too long.
10. Some of my retained samples from that time frame or before have been opened up and not gushered, which says that at least I probably contained my problem, and can start giving this stuff to the neighbors again.
11. The Oktoberfest thing: According to that reference the overnight incubation for pediococcus is 37 C which is 100 degrees F , so guess what: I am not going to bottle beer in fricking Atlanta in July and August anymore. The monks knew something all of those years ago when they made it illegal to brew between March and September. Also, this says that my wort chiller needs to be working really efficiently to cool my next batch all the way down to sub-ambient so as to keep the bacterial growth down to a minimum.
12. There is a guy doing some work on different extracted hop oils as a natural anti-bacterial agent, and what this suggests is that some hop types will be more resistant to the bacteria than others...
gotta love hops.
This is the second year I've had a problem. Last summer it was Acetobacter.
Learning experiences are everywhere.