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Old 09-29-2013, 09:56 PM   #11
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Mar 2012
Wichita, Ks
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Top up with tap water . it is clean unless your pipes have some kind of leak letting in dirt . No boiling necessary but it does not hurt . Back off on all that sanitizing . maybe you are leaving bleach or something on your equipment and it just looks like some kind of infection . this is not surgery and all the cleaning in the world is not going to stop the most common bacteria in your house .
I also would suspect the hops since they are out in the open but then again they are being put in alcohol or boiled so maybe not .
do you dry hop everything ? If so try a batch with no dry hop . the hops boiled will not be a problem no matter if they are contaminated or not .

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Old 09-29-2013, 09:58 PM   #12
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Jun 2006
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I've never heard of a "bulk bin" at the homebrew store. That's the first thing I'd change, as hops should be vacuum packed and kept frozen (or at least in the fridge). I'd definitely never buy hops there, and only buy hops appropriately packaged.

One other thing that comes to mind is that you said you dryhopped after three weeks. I assume the beer was in a bucket, and perhaps it had lots of headspace? Maybe that is a source of contamination.

If you want to use a bucket for fermentation (I do), maybe try packaging the beer at 2 weeks old instead of such a long time in a bucket with huge headspace.
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Old 09-29-2013, 11:03 PM   #13
Dec 2012
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Old 09-29-2013, 11:10 PM   #14
Aug 2012
Portland, Oregon
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I know your frustration all too well but from what I have read contaminations this persistent are rare. I have dealt with my contamination problems in several ways. First I always keep head space to a minimum, and I do not even consider a secondary unless I'm filling a carboy to the neck or I'm dealing with at least 6%abv after primary. If I dry hop I don't bag it but will settle out lose hops in a third carboy. I also don't secondary beers with a high fg. If I do see lacto creeping over I will cold crash. Some lacto infections have added off flavors and some have been negligible. I've sterilized and trashed equipment with similar fury and still found infections sneaking up but by following those rules they are few and far between now. Good luck and maybe let one or 2 become sour projects
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Old 09-29-2013, 11:52 PM   #15
Aug 2011
Germantown, MD
Posts: 14

Thanks for all the quick replies,

To cover a few of the concerns brought up:

Regarding timeline: in almost all brews, it tasted great right up until bottling time. I started noticing the film a day or two before my planned bottling day typically, and then could taste it either in samples right before or on bottling day. After bottling, the sourness/thinness and general absence of "beer" taste got progressively worse. If the hops were the cause, could they really cause a pellicle/off flavors after just 5 days? Reading how long lambics typically take to develop a pellicle, I figured the contamination must have been early in the process.

-I'm using a glass carboy (6 gal?) as a primary, and no secondary. There was little headspace in the fermenter (was filled up to where the main body curves inwards)
-I also thought of the dry hops first, but this is the first time I've tried dry hopping. The other three had no additives post boil. It is possible all three had separate sources, but the visible signs/tastes seemed too similar to be a coincidental string of bad luck. I will either not dry hop or buy packaged/sealed hops as suggested for dry hopping
-I will try boiling the top off water (the one batch I had that turned out well I used pre-boiled tap water). I did however first look up water report for deer park distilled (which I have been using for top off) - - sanitation includes distilation, micro-filtration, UV light & ozone filtration. Could be happening in shipping/warehouse storage I suppose. I'm willing to try anything

Do you guys think there is any point in switching fermenters or heat treating the glass carboy (ex. in oven)? I'm assuming a bleach soak should kill anything the glass could be hiding, although is it possible there are scratches etc. that I cannot see harboring the bacteria?

Another thought I had was cooling/pitching outside to eliminate apartment bugs, but I'm assuming that this would introduce a whole new risk factor.

Based on suggestions, I'll try this:

1) nuke my carboy again, and re-use this (possibly after sterilizing in the oven), as it is likely not the culprit. I haven't read anywhere of carboys that carried infections bleach couldn't kill
2) replace plastics again - (frustration combined with drinking near a computer & a credit card caused me to buy stainless equipment wherever possible anyway, so it's just a few items)
3) Use packaged/sealed hops for dry hopping, otherwise use the same method
4) Use dry yeast to eliminate contamination of starter (although I thought that my starter steps were the most sanitary/risk free part of the process, as cooled wort was practically never exposed to anything, including open air).
5) Boil my store bought distilled top-off water as an extra precaution. Should I chill it as I would my wort? or just let it cool and then pour it into my fermenter?

Thanks again for all the help. If this doesn't work perhaps I'll get really into coffee instead.

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Old 09-29-2013, 11:59 PM   #16
Aug 2011
Germantown, MD
Posts: 14


I didn't take any pictures, but I found these online. What I'm having looks very similar (this combined with sour taste/absence of "beer" taste getting worse is what convinces me it's an infection)

This photo shows the "slim on the carboy wall" symptom I've seen in all bad batches

I'm fairly convinced through what I've read that I have something like a lacto infection, although if these symptoms could be something else, I'd love to hear what it could be.


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Old 09-30-2013, 12:23 AM   #17
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Jan 2013
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Originally Posted by gbuttar View Post
... Regarding timeline: in almost all brews, it tasted great right up until bottling time. I started noticing the film a day or two before my planned bottling day typically, and then could taste it either in samples right before or on bottling day....
It takes a few days for lacto to become apparent after infection.

If everything progresses fine up till that day, what did you do right before things changed? Taking samples perhaps?

How do you take samples from your carboy? Turkey baster? Have you checked the rubber bulb? I hate the thought of using those since most bulbs are hard to clean, let stand sanitize. I use a plastic (acrylic?) wine thief. It's a little awkward because it's so long but easy to clean and sanitize.

Before you remove the airlock do you spray Starsan liberally to clean around the airlock and stopper, and the neck of the carboy?

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Old 09-30-2013, 12:48 AM   #18
Jan 2011
oakland, california
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don't put your carboy in the oven! you didn't have to throw out your plastic bucket either. infections can be cleaned off with the regular cleaners and sanitizers available at the homebrew store. someone else pointed out that they got an infection AFTER they replaced their gear so replacing gear won't always solve the problem.

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Old 10-01-2013, 07:44 AM   #19
Jul 2012
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When you clean your carboy, do you use a brush on it to scrub the film off? I know it sounds like a stupid question, but it could make all the difference. That film that you describe may not rinse out even soaking in bleach/water solution. You got to get that crap off the sides. The same thing with your racking cane and tubing. And anything else that you may use.
I taste my beers every time I handle them ( out of kettle, into secondary, into bottles or kegs). I don't however open the fermenter up just to take a sample, because I don't want to run the risk of infection.
More Beer, Northern Brewer sell some nice brushes pretty cheap to scrub the inside of all your equipment. Could be as simple as that. Just one more thought.


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Old 10-01-2013, 10:05 AM   #20
Mar 2011
Lancaster, PA
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alright, a few things.

there's a difference between sterilization and sanitation. a 20 minute boil will sanitize but will not sterilize your gear. from what i've gathered their's a process to sterilize by boiling and it requires at least 3 successive boils over time. there's a name for the process.

you need to sterilze everything. the easiest way is bleach. go old school and bleach all your stuff. pull your fermenters out and mix up a bleach concentration and soak all the stuff you can. run the mixture through your mash tun, kettle, etc. everything. my LHBS guy calls this shocking. get the clorox spray cleaners and wipe everything. break down everything you can etc etc. check out your fermentation area. use a sponge mop on the walls and ceiling/overhanging parts. check your ball valves for corrosion and debris. replace your carboys if you haven't already.

thoroughly rinse everything and then clean it with soap and water or vinegar just to make sure the bleach is gone.

this is gonna suck but it's the the only thing left short of iodine. it may be overkill too but i wouldn't enjoy dumping money into infected brews. if i were in your spot i'd bleach everything i safely could. just go to town.

i'm a bit germophobic so i tend not to have issues with this stuff.

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