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Old 09-17-2013, 12:12 PM   #1
ArcLight
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Default How to get rid on an infection

After my last 2 beers developed an Enteric bacterial infection (it takes a month for the smell and taste to start showing) I want to make sure its gone.

I discarded a 2 year old plastic auto siphon, bottling tubing, bottle filler, spiggot, and stirring spoon.

My questions:

A - Would a 10% bleach solution sterilize, rinsed with a weaker bleach solution (1 gallon water : 1 ounce of bleach) sterilize my remaining plastic equipment? (no bleach on SS). How long does the bleach need to remain in contact?


B -
1 - should I throw away the rubber gaskets, or can I soak them in 10% bleach solution for a while, followed by a soak in the weaker bleach, followed by a soak in StarSan

2 - can I keep my bottling bucket if I wash it with a 10% bleach solution, followed by a soak in the weaker bleach, followed by a soak in StarSan


3 - can I keep my 3 plastic fermentation buckets and lids if I wash them with 10% bleach, followed by a soak in the weaker bleach, followed by a soak in StarSan


4 - I have 2 better bottles - used once. Can I sterilize them with the same 10% bleach solution, followed by a soak in the weaker bleach, followed by a soak in StarSan

5 - I have swing top bottles - used once. Can I soak the rubber stoppers in a 10% bleach solution followed by a soak in the weaker bleach, followed by a soak in StarSan



OR do need to throw away the buckets as well?
What about the Better Bottles?
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Old 09-17-2013, 04:44 PM   #2
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I don't think your infection could have been enteric. IIRC enteric cannot live in beer with over 2% ABV.


Regardless, I would backtrack the exact equipment that you used on the cold side for those 2 beers. Inspect each piece of equipment for any grime that you may have missed and also look for any scratches.

If there is any question with your plastic equipment, I would just replace it. New buckets are cheaper than a batch of beer that has to go down the drain.

What is your bottling process? Are you bottling from a bucket in the kitchen? How long is the lid off the bucket when you are bottling? I would check your process first, as long as your cleaning/sanitizing is sound.
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Old 09-17-2013, 05:20 PM   #3
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I hope the OP doesn't mind me tagging along. I have had 3 consecutive infected batches, the only thing I haven't replaced is my Better Bottle. Is there any way to clean this to insure it is not my source of infection? Can't really afford a replacement; but, I also can't afford to dump beer.
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Old 09-17-2013, 06:09 PM   #4
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I bottled from a bucket in the same room I've used for a while (in the basement) where there are no drafts or vents.
The lid if off the bottling bucket when I start, then I try and put it partially back on, but sometime sits off.
Bottling per se only takes 20 minutes (its the set up and cleanup thats time consuming)

I think it's an Enteric infection because a couple of BJCP judges said it had a baby diaper smell, and I agreed with them. Even if not Enteric bacteria, I think it's something as it taste a lot worse than it did when it was bottled 6 weeks ago.


I have thrown away anything I can't clean well. (tubing, old auto siphon, spigot, stirring spoon)

The last remaining equipment is buckets.
If they need to go, they will, but I kind of hoped they would be easier to disinfect, since they are open. There is no grime anywhere.
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Old 09-17-2013, 06:43 PM   #5
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I would just replace the buckets that you used the last couple of batches. Any kind of small scratch will harbor bacteria that you will not be able to kill effectively.
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Old 09-17-2013, 07:58 PM   #6
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Here's a bunch of bad news. As a general rule, it is best to replace anything made of plastic or other soft materials that contacts infected beer.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ArcLight View Post
Would a 10% bleach solution sterilize, rinsed with a weaker bleach solution (1 gallon water : 1 ounce of bleach) sterilize my remaining plastic equipment? (no bleach on SS). How long does the bleach need to remain in contact?
Its unlikely to work - bacteria tend to accumulate in nooks and crannies, such as microscopic scratches in plasticware. Bleach will kill the stuff near the top, but is unlikely to kill the stuff deeper in the scratch. The kinds of exposure times required to get all the bacteria will also likely damage the plastic - leading all your future batches to taste like cholrophenols (band-aids).

Quote:
Originally Posted by ArcLight View Post
should I throw away the rubber gaskets, or can I soak them in 10% bleach solution for a while, followed by a soak in the weaker bleach, followed by a soak in StarSan
Toss them; like plastics they are excellent harbours for bacteria. Again, it is difficult to chemically sterilize these without irreversibly damaging them.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ArcLight View Post
can I keep my bottling bucket if I wash it with a 10% bleach solution, followed by a soak in the weaker bleach, followed by a soak in StarSan
As a general rule, all plastics need to be tossed if contaminated beer went through them. Bottling buckets are particularly bad, as the hose connecting site offers lots of nooks and crannies for the bacteria to live in. You may have luck tossing the hose and cleaning the bucket & spigot portion really well before replacing the hose - but again, its not a perfect option, and you have to judge for yourself whether the cost of not replacing the plastics is worth the risk of loosing additional batches.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ArcLight View Post
can I keep my 3 plastic fermentation buckets and lids if I wash them with 10% bleach, followed by a soak in the weaker bleach, followed by a soak in StarSan
Again, if infected beer was in them it is best to replace them. High doses of bleach + plastic equals some pretty nasty off-flavours, and offers only a small chance of successfully killing the infection.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ArcLight View Post
I have 2 better bottles - used once. Can I sterilize them with the same 10% bleach solution, followed by a soak in the weaker bleach, followed by a soak in StarSan
Again, if they've contacted contaminated beer they are likely throw-aways.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ArcLight View Post
I have swing top bottles - used once. Can I soak the rubber stoppers in a 10% bleach solution followed by a soak in the weaker bleach, followed by a soak in StarSan
Keep the bottles, but replace the rubber gaskets (which can be replaced cheaply). Make sure to give the bottles a long soak in bleach before replacing the gaskets. Unlike plastics, glass does not offer a nice environment for bacteria to grow in and can be safely cleaned & sanitized.

I know this is not what you wanted to hear, but bacteria are tenacious little beasts. In wort they will form biofilms in any nook or cranny where they can grab hold - and biofilms provide an astounding degree of protection against sanitizing agents. Glass & metal are generally non-supportive of strong films, and a good cleaning with a strong cleanser - followed by a sanitizing agent - will usually make them fermentation-ready. The soft & porous nature of plastics makes them nearly impossible to cleans of biofilms.

And lastly, remember that sanitizing agents like bleach will generally leave 1 in every 10,000 to 100,000 contaminating bacteria behind; they are not sterilizing agents and thus are not generally able to remove serious contamination to the level required for brewing.

Bryan
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Old 09-19-2013, 01:33 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ArcLight View Post
After my last 2 beers developed an Enteric bacterial infection (it takes a month for the smell and taste to start showing) I want to make sure its gone.

I discarded a 2 year old plastic auto siphon, bottling tubing, bottle filler, spiggot, and stirring spoon.

My questions:

A - Would a 10% bleach solution sterilize, rinsed with a weaker bleach solution (1 gallon water : 1 ounce of bleach) sterilize my remaining plastic equipment? (no bleach on SS). How long does the bleach need to remain in contact?


B -
1 - should I throw away the rubber gaskets, or can I soak them in 10% bleach solution for a while, followed by a soak in the weaker bleach, followed by a soak in StarSan

2 - can I keep my bottling bucket if I wash it with a 10% bleach solution, followed by a soak in the weaker bleach, followed by a soak in StarSan


3 - can I keep my 3 plastic fermentation buckets and lids if I wash them with 10% bleach, followed by a soak in the weaker bleach, followed by a soak in StarSan


4 - I have 2 better bottles - used once. Can I sterilize them with the same 10% bleach solution, followed by a soak in the weaker bleach, followed by a soak in StarSan

5 - I have swing top bottles - used once. Can I soak the rubber stoppers in a 10% bleach solution followed by a soak in the weaker bleach, followed by a soak in StarSan



OR do need to throw away the buckets as well?
What about the Better Bottles?

I don't think you need to throw anything away. Ask yourself this: what will I do after the next infection? And the one after that? You'll be spending a lot more in new gear than the value of a batch of beer. Throwing your gear out does nothing other than cost you money unless you are certain this will be the last infection. Infections are managed through good sanitation not tossing gear in the garbage (again, unless you know this is your last infection).
After I bottle my sour beer I often wash the better bottle, shake star san around in it and ferment a pale ale or lager in that bottle, I've never had an infected beer. Soap (non detergent) and star san have yet to meet a bug they couldn't kill on my gear.
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Old 09-19-2013, 01:55 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Warthaug View Post
Here's a bunch of bad news. As a general rule, it is best to replace anything made of plastic or other soft materials that contacts infected beer.


Its unlikely to work - bacteria tend to accumulate in nooks and crannies, such as microscopic scratches in plasticware. Bleach will kill the stuff near the top, but is unlikely to kill the stuff deeper in the scratch. The kinds of exposure times required to get all the bacteria will also likely damage the plastic - leading all your future batches to taste like cholrophenols (band-aids).


Toss them; like plastics they are excellent harbours for bacteria. Again, it is difficult to chemically sterilize these without irreversibly damaging them.


As a general rule, all plastics need to be tossed if contaminated beer went through them. Bottling buckets are particularly bad, as the hose connecting site offers lots of nooks and crannies for the bacteria to live in. You may have luck tossing the hose and cleaning the bucket & spigot portion really well before replacing the hose - but again, its not a perfect option, and you have to judge for yourself whether the cost of not replacing the plastics is worth the risk of loosing additional batches.


Again, if infected beer was in them it is best to replace them. High doses of bleach + plastic equals some pretty nasty off-flavours, and offers only a small chance of successfully killing the infection.


Again, if they've contacted contaminated beer they are likely throw-aways.


Keep the bottles, but replace the rubber gaskets (which can be replaced cheaply). Make sure to give the bottles a long soak in bleach before replacing the gaskets. Unlike plastics, glass does not offer a nice environment for bacteria to grow in and can be safely cleaned & sanitized.

I know this is not what you wanted to hear, but bacteria are tenacious little beasts. In wort they will form biofilms in any nook or cranny where they can grab hold - and biofilms provide an astounding degree of protection against sanitizing agents. Glass & metal are generally non-supportive of strong films, and a good cleaning with a strong cleanser - followed by a sanitizing agent - will usually make them fermentation-ready. The soft & porous nature of plastics makes them nearly impossible to cleans of biofilms.

And lastly, remember that sanitizing agents like bleach will generally leave 1 in every 10,000 to 100,000 contaminating bacteria behind; they are not sterilizing agents and thus are not generally able to remove serious contamination to the level required for brewing.

Bryan
I have to disagree with almost all of this advice. Bacteria and wild yeast can be cleaned off of plastic with the cleaners and sanitizers common to brewing. I don't recommend bleach in home brewing but it is an effective sanitizer. The whole scratched plastic harboring bugs idea has a kernel of truth to it but has been exaggerated into something almost mythic. If you have a deep gouge, think sticking the tip of a sharp knife deep into the side of a bucket, I could see that being a problem. The usual scratches found in virtually every plastic bucket are not harboring anything that soap and sanitizer can't reach.
The best way each person can definitively answer this question for themselves is to try it. Ferment a sour beer in a plastic fermentor, wash, sanitize then ferment a clean beer in the same fermentor. Or you could just believe what you read.
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Old 09-19-2013, 12:41 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by eastoak View Post
I don't think you need to throw anything away. Ask yourself this: what will I do after the next infection? And the one after that? You'll be spending a lot more in new gear than the value of a batch of beer.
He has 2 batches of beer down the toilet already; replacing his plastics is probably about the same price as the cost of those batches of beers. After replacement, the OP will hopefully never have this issue again - infections need not be a regular occurrence in the home brewery.

Lets turn your point around - how many batches should the OP let get infected before replacing his kit?

Quote:
Originally Posted by eastoak
I have to disagree with almost all of this advice. Bacteria and wild yeast can be cleaned off of plastic with the cleaners and sanitizers common to brewing
Actually, it is very difficult to rid equipment colonized by bacteria; a bit of contact time with a sanitizer is not sufficient. There is a reason why the standard advice for persistent infection in nearly every brewing book, internet forum & newsletter is "get rid of the soft stuff". Frankly, if one good cleaning doesn't fix the problem that you're merely wasting time & money trying again.

Quote:
Originally Posted by eastoak
The whole scratched plastic harboring bugs idea has a kernel of truth to it but has been exaggerated into something almost mythic
Hardly. Biofilms on plastic surfaces are a serious problem in a number of industries - medical, food prep, brewing, etc. Finding ways to address this is a billion dollar industry, and a major area of research in academic labs. Nearly every case of factory-derived food poisoning you hear of in the news is due to bacteria being transferred from a biofilm on plastic to a food product.

Bacteria stick to surfaces like plastics in what are called 'biofilms'; aggregates of bacteria 'glued' together by polysaccharides glues. These glues are the strongest adhesives known to human kind - indeed, I am a partner in a biotech company seeking to synthesize some of these glues for use as industrial and (hopefully) surgical adhesives. They are all but indestructible, being immune to most oxidative compounds (i.e. bleach) and acid degradation (i.e. star san). This quality also protects the bacteria in them. For example, bacteria in a biofilm are ~3000 times more resistant to bleach than are free bacteria:

LeChevallier, W.M., C.D. Cawthon and R.G. Lee. Inactivation of biofilm bacteria. Appl. Environ. Micro., 54:2492-2499. 1988.

Frank, J.F. and R.A. Koffi. Surface adherent growth of Listeria monocytogenes is associated with resistance to heat and sanitizers. J. Food Protection, 53:550-554. 1990.

On a smooth surface, biofilms can be easily removed; the bacteria hold together, but the biofilm just slides off the surface. But microscopic imperfections - just slightly larger than the bacteria themselves - can increase the adhesive force of the biofilm by a factor of tens of thousands. A scratch which is visible will support a biofilm adhesion that is actually stronger than the plastic itself. A bit of bleach and elbow grease is unlikely to address that.

But hey, what do I know. I'm only a microbiology/immunology professor who is part-owner of a company that works with this stuff...

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Old 09-19-2013, 01:02 PM   #10
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For what it's worth, I had 2 infected batches. 1st one was obvious after 2 weeks in bottle. 2nd took a little while to develope. Could not remember which batch was in which bucket. I did a bleach-oxyclean soak. Last brew day used both buckets, no problems at all. One of the beers was a citrus wheat and it tasted clean with no off tastes.
I know the oxy/bleach combo is extreme, but it worked great.
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