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Old 09-03-2013, 06:31 AM   #1
AT-JeffT
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Default Rethinking My Sanitation Practices (Persistent Infection)

Hey HBT,
I'm currently battling a persistent infection and could use some opinions. I have a seemingly lactic infection that I would like to get rid of. Its infected 5+ of my batches now. My pale ale (30ibu) is gushing 2 weeks after bottling; IPA's (75ibu) take about 3 months.

Symptoms:
Gushing
Thin mouthfeel
Sour / Fruity aroma

I believe it is a lactic bacteria. The beer is not hazy or has a pellicle in the fermenter. However a forced wort (beer) test sampled before bottling indicated that the beer was infected before bottling.

I've had the opportunity to try a boatload of different things to eradicate the infection but so far no success.

I've moved locations (different residence entirely)
I've upgraded from BIAB partial boils to 3 vessel AG full boils
I've used fresh yeast, and fresh dry packets too
I've tried a new racking cane
I have 3 different fermenting buckets

What I've tried:
Bleach bomb; all fermenters, autosiphon, grain bag.

I was previously using a (sanitized) grain bag around my auto siphon to filter hop particles when bottling. I figured residual grain particles to be the source. The latest batch I boiled the nylon bag to try and sanitize it better. This batch used repitched yeast so this could be an inconclusive result.

I was taking OG measurements in the fermenting bucket with a sanitized hydrometer. I have stopped this practice in favor of a hydrometer testing tube.

I have been using the same plastic spoon for 3 years now. It's very stained. I leave it in the boiling wort for at least a few minutes before flame out and use it to whirlpool. Sanitary or questionable?

I have used the same immersion chiller for all batches. I toss it in 15min before flame out. I know this is common practice but is it a possible source?

My beers that are kegged do not suffer from this infection. I believe this is probably due to the constant cold storage.

Plan of Action:
New fermenting bucket, lid, airlock
New spoon (stainless?)
New (again) racking cane
No repitching yeast

Sorry for the wall 'o text. I am eager to hear any and all opinnions.


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Old 09-03-2013, 07:12 AM   #2
BigdogMark
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What are you using for sanitizer? How are you cooling your wort? No accusations in the question, just wanting a clearer picture.

You mentioned something about forced wort sample. What do you mean? I've experienced infections a number of times in my kegged beer so not sure what you might be having with bottling as opposed to kegging, unless your bottling technique is unsanitary for some reason. Personally, I typically bottle from the keg, rather than try bottle conditioning. But I know sanitation has been the key to solving my infection issues in the past.


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Old 09-03-2013, 07:18 AM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AT-JeffT View Post
This batch used repitched yeast so this could be an inconclusive result.
This isn't inconclusive. If your beer was contaminated at bottling, you don't repitch the yeast.

I'd say replacing the spoon is a good idea, though. I always put my wort chiller in for the last 15 minutes of the boil because a momentary splash of boiling liquid just isn't enough.
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Old 09-03-2013, 09:43 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AT-JeffT View Post
I've moved locations (different residence entirely)
That's a bit extreme!

I don't like the idea of boiling your plastic spoon, but I doubt that is the source of your infection. Nevertheless, try to find a stainless steel spoon.

You've already replaced your racking cane once, so getting a new one won't help.

Just to clarify: you've used 3 different buckets. Were they new buckets? If not, that could be the problem, though it seems unlikely.

When you sanitize your buckets, do you soak them in sanitizer, or just spray them down? Look for scratches inside them.

Also, consider replacing the gaskets around the spigots in your buckets. I had a problem with those once.
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Old 09-03-2013, 07:09 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BigdogMark View Post
What are you using for sanitizer? How are you cooling your wort? No accusations in the question, just wanting a clearer picture.
No problem, I'm using star san and not rinsing of course. 1/2oz in 2.5gal. I've been using the same sanitizing tub for years now. I know that would be crazy but I'll add that to the list of sources.


Quote:
Originally Posted by BigdogMark View Post
You mentioned something about forced wort sample. What do you mean? I've experienced infections a number of times in my kegged beer so not sure what you might be having with bottling as opposed to kegging, unless your bottling technique is unsanitary for some reason. Personally, I typically bottle from the keg, rather than try bottle conditioning. But I know sanitation has been the key to solving my infection issues in the past.
I took some beer from the fermenter directly in a sterilized jar. This was to see if my beer was infected during the bottling process. After a few weeks, The beer in the sterilized jar was sour just like the bottled beer. This tells me that the beer was infected before bottling. I looked back at my notes and found I used repitched yeast. This could have been the source. I know which batch this yeast came from but I am still waiting to see if that batch is infected.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Kerin View Post
This isn't inconclusive. If your beer was contaminated at bottling, you don't repitch the yeast.
See above. I had no reason to believe that the batch I harvested from was infected. Now I know there is a good chance that it is. I'm still waiting on confirmation as it was an ipa bottled only a few weeks ago.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kerin View Post
I'd say replacing the spoon is a good idea, though. I always put my wort chiller in for the last 15 minutes of the boil because a momentary splash of boiling liquid just isn't enough.
Yup, same practice here. I wonder if 15 is enough though.


Quote:
Originally Posted by hercher View Post
That's a bit extreme!

I don't like the idea of boiling your plastic spoon, but I doubt that is the source of your infection. Nevertheless, try to find a stainless steel spoon.

You've already replaced your racking cane once, so getting a new one won't help.
Haha, I'm not taking any chances here (the move was actually non brewing related)

Spoon is going in the trash.


I figure that the racking cane has been exposed to infected beer. I know its a bit extreme but those things have lots of difficult area's to clean. I don't want to be buying new racking cane's every time but I'm alright with buying one after new procedures have been implemented.

Quote:
Originally Posted by hercher View Post
Just to clarify: you've used 3 different buckets. Were they new buckets? If not, that could be the problem, though it seems unlikely.

When you sanitize your buckets, do you soak them in sanitizer, or just spray them down? Look for scratches inside them.

Also, consider replacing the gaskets around the spigots in your buckets. I had a problem with those once.
Yes 3 different buckets. All of varying age. They all got a bleach bath recently though. One is 3 years old and has a bit of staining. The other is under a year. The third is brand new. I haven't had a beer ferment just in the new bucket with new yeast yet.

I put the 2.5gal of star san in the bucket and work it around upper part of the bucket with a paper towel for 30sec at least two times. Just checked my buckets they don't have scratches. The old one has what I would call a rough patch though.


I bottle out of primary, so I don't use a bottling bucket/spigot.
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Old 09-03-2013, 10:46 PM   #6
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Also I will be switching to iostar next batch.
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Old 09-04-2013, 09:51 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AT-JeffT View Post
Yes 3 different buckets. All of varying age. They all got a bleach bath recently though. One is 3 years old and has a bit of staining. The other is under a year. The third is brand new. I haven't had a beer ferment just in the new bucket with new yeast yet.

I put the 2.5gal of star san in the bucket and work it around upper part of the bucket with a paper towel for 30sec at least two times. Just checked my buckets they don't have scratches. The old one has what I would call a rough patch though.


I bottle out of primary, so I don't use a bottling bucket/spigot.
If I could suggest, when you sanitize your bucket, completely fill it with your sanitizing solution, and leave it for quite some time. I've been using the same bucket for 15 years without an issue, and that is how I sanitize. Typically, as soon as I've mashed in, I fill the bucket with my solution, along with any necessary parts (transfer hoses, aerator, etc.) and let it soak. When I'm done with my boil and have started to chill the wort, I drain the bucket and let it air dry. That is typically about a 3 hour soak. It could be that you just aren't exposing your bucket etc. to the sanitizer long enough.
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Old 09-05-2013, 05:48 AM   #8
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Last night I swabbed and plated on LMDA plates the following after (attempting) sanitizing them:
Hydrometer
Oldest (most suspect) fermenter
Inner part of auto siphon
Inside of autosiphon

They are currently incubating and will post the results.


Today I picked up the following:
IO Star
New Fermenter, lid, airlock
SS Spoon
New Tubing, racking cane
Fresh Yeast S-04

Those are all the equipment/ingredients/etc I could think that contacts the wort/beer after cooling. If anyone can think of another piece of equipment that contacts the wort after cooling (besides the chiller) please speak up.

I'm considering going back to an ice bath to eliminate my immersion chiller this next brew.





Quote:
Originally Posted by hercher View Post
If I could suggest, when you sanitize your bucket, completely fill it with your sanitizing solution, and leave it for quite some time. I've been using the same bucket for 15 years without an issue, and that is how I sanitize. Typically, as soon as I've mashed in, I fill the bucket with my solution, along with any necessary parts (transfer hoses, aerator, etc.) and let it soak. When I'm done with my boil and have started to chill the wort, I drain the bucket and let it air dry. That is typically about a 3 hour soak. It could be that you just aren't exposing your bucket etc. to the sanitizer long enough.
I will incorporate this into my next brew.
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Old 09-05-2013, 02:52 PM   #9
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Another thought. .. Do you mill grain where you brew? The chaff is full of lacto from what I've heard. Get enough of it in the air, makes sanitizing all the more difficult.

chill with lid on?
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Old 09-05-2013, 03:33 PM   #10
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Just a thought... How often are you removing the bucket lid during the entire fermentation?

I make sure everything is clean and sanitized (same equipment for a few years now) then put on the lid. I usually don't even think about opening the fermenter for 3 weeks or more.

OMO

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