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Bad Batch After Bad Batch After Bad Batch!!!

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yeqmaster

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:mad: :mad: The title says it all:mad: :mad: ... I think its up to the last 5 batches that have all gone bad. I started brewing about a year ago. My first 5-7 batches were amazing!!! My first 2 were actually the best. But now, I have seemed to come to a dead end and am about ready to jump out my window. I CANNOT get a good turnout.

All the batches have gone bad in the same way... The beer turns out very clear (so clear it could have been filtered). When I serve into a glass, it comes out all foam. It smells somewhat chemical like. It tastes somewhat chemical like and it just tastes bad. I'm not to good at identifying the smell and taste yet. I went to the local brew shop and they said it has a chemical kind of taste in it. However, they said it did not seem like the band aid smell that occurs a lot.

My process of brewing is as fallows;
I am brewing partial mash kits. Usually the kits contain around 2-5 pounds grain and the rest extract. I use PBW clearner first on everything (Scrub all the carboys, kettle and everything with it). I then use Star San to sanitize and am very thorough with it. I never rinse after. I brew and then transfer to carboy by pouring into sanitized funnel. I then pitch the yeast and plug it up and either use an airlock or blow off tube. After about 2-3 weeks, I transfer to secondary. Next batch that I do, I am going to try the beer at this point. I let it sit another week or so and then bottle.

Previously when I bottled I would cook up the sugar solution, put it in a bottling bucket and then rack the beer on top of it. I would then fill all the bottles with the spigot attachment. After I went to the brew shop, they told me to try eliminating the bottling bucket and try racking the beer onto the sugar in another carboy. I did this and then used the auto-siphon and a bottling attachment to bottle. I have another couple weeks to see how that batch turns out. The first batches that I brewed that were bad I kegged. They were both TERRIBLE so I thought it might have something to do with the kegs since I bought them from somebody on cragislist. But the bottled beer has come out bad too. I have let a friend barrow my auto-siphon a few times during the midst of all the bad batches and his batches came out fine. So i want to say that I can eliminate the transfer hose. However it could not have been cleaned well enough when I did it. Basically... I am frustrated and stumped. I want some good home brew again!!! ahhhh!!! Any help, comments, and suggestions are much appreciated. I am in San Luis Obispo, CA so if any one is located near by it would be awesome if you could try it out. Thanks,
 

stever

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Can you think back to your first bad batch and then remember did anything change in your process from that last good one to the bad one?
 

maltMonkey

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It's probably hard to remember back this far, but can you think of any equipment or procedure changes between your last good batch and your first bad batch?

{edit--beaten to the punch}
 

tranceamerica

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Ok, really there's only a couple things that you could be doing wrong.

1) you have some infection somewhere in your equipment that you're unable to clean

2) there's something wrong w/your technique or ingredients.

the gushers sound to me like a bacterial infection, however...

Try doing this, and see if it eliminates your problem:

1) clean and sanitize all your equipment. If you have anything that might be suspect (perhaps a plastic fermentation bucket w/scratches in it?) you replace it.

2) brew a malt extract batch - keep it simple (see my basic ME recepie). This will help you find out if it might be what you're doing with the grains.

Use bottled water.

Use new ingredients - mostly here I'm thinking that you buy new dry yeast (keep it simple)

be careful between brewpot and yeast pitch. cool your wort as fast as possible, and keep it covered while you are cooling. pitch the yeast asap.

make sure it's covered when you are fermenting. Are you using a plastic bucket or glass carboy?

maybe post some more of your technique at each step so we can see if there's any place that might be suspect.
 

tranceamerica

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looking closely at your post.

do you rinse after using the PBW? you are supposed to rinse after using it. Star san is no-rinse, but PBW is a rinse product.

also, it seems to me that it's somethign that it getting into your fermenter. Really, I imagine that we all get bacteria into the wort before the yeast goes in, but the yeast overpowers it. but if if there's something nasty living in your fermenter (again, this makes me think a plastic bucket w/scratches) then that might explain it.

really, I think after the beer has fermented, it's not so susceptable to infection, because of the alcohol in it & lack of sugar. so, your bottling process isn't the issue, unless the bottles are nasty or have something in them.

...thinkin...
 

The Pol

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Id say this #1 has to do with some chemical getting into the brew, OR that there is a problem between the boil and the fermenter. I agree with the above post, after fermentation, PH and alcohol will protect your beer pretty well against infections. You are not noting any film, mold, or anything VISIBLE that would indicate an infection. Id lean toward some sort of chemical issue perhaps.
 

tranceamerica

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what is your cooling and pitch process? you want to cool fast, and pitch asap too.

I'd say eliminate the PBW. I clean my hot side equipment just like regular dishes (dish soap and rinse), and my cool side get soap and water (if possible) or soaked in starsan (carboy) (of course, before I use them, they get sanitized too) . if I can't really scrub them. I'd rather not get something into my carboy that I can't get out (soap? PBW?)

maybe you need to soak your carboy overnight w/starsan(?)

in my mind, you either have a sanitization issue, or some chemical is getting into the beer (PBW or soap?) or somewhere along the line, wild yeast or bacteria is making it into your fermenter or wort.

but definately try doing a ME batch. Just stick to ME + hops + water & see if you can get a decent batch.

yes, do try sampling your beer along the way. (at racking time & at bottling time).
 

Franzi

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Maybe boiling any loose components that won't melt might help. That way the hot water can get in every little crevice. Can also try filling your buckets/carboys up with boiled water and let it soak?
 

Dr_Deathweed

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What temp were you fermenting at? Are you re-using yeast?


You said you kegged your first few batches that were bad. Have you cleaned these kegs througly (replaced all 5 o-rings, sanitized dip tube, posts, lid, and keg?) When you kegged, did you purge the headspace with some CO2?

Your techniques seems fairly solid, I will keep looking to see if I notice anything blatently wrong...
 

BierMuncher

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Simplify:

  • Reduce your cleaning to using just a mild bleach solution and hot rinse. (I've used it exclusively with no bad batches).
  • Try using bottled water on your next batch.
  • Use your glass carboy as a primary and don't transfer to a secondary.
  • Pitch a fresh packet of dry yeast (don't know what you've pitched before).
  • Return to the boil / cool procedure for your priming sugar.
 

tranceamerica

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BierMuncher said:
Simplify:

  • Reduce your cleaning to using just a mild bleach solution and hot rinse. (I've used it exclusively with no bad batches).
or use just star-san. if you do decide to use bleach, be sure to rinse very well.
 

MikeFlynn74

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I would keg up 3 or 4 gallons of hot water in the keg and push them through with Co2

then keg up some star san solution and push that through.

Id also soak everything in starsan for an hour


this has got to be damn frustrating
 

solbergg

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I may have missed it, but what kind of fermentation temperatures do you have?
 

The Pol

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Id also say if you want to keep it simple +1 on the Star San... dont use bleach if you are having problems, keep it simple and keep the chemicals out.
 

RegionalChaos

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I've heard of infections living in the stoppers or bungs too.. You might think about replacing those..
 

Augie

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I know I am a newb here but are you using the correct ratio of starsan to water? Check all of your ratios on you cleaning/sanitizing make sure you are not over doing it.
 

Scotty_g

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PBW is a great cleaner, but I'm not sure about its sanitizing power.

Our brewing equipment gets rinsed, then washed in hot soapy water before we put it away, and then we throw it all in a big tub of one-step on brew day. Nothing touches the beer outside the kettle if it doesn't come out of the tub of dip. When we bottle, I run the dishwasher clean, then put the bottles in with a tablespoon of one-step instead of detergent. I turn on the hot dry, so between cooking the bugs and one-stepping them, we get nice clean bottles.

We use star-san and its foamy goodness for carboys and kegs.

+1 on ditching all your plastic stuff. Hose and stoppers are cheap.

If you use carboys, make sure they aren't scratched inside. Be careful with the bottle brush if it's got a steel wire...
 

DaleJ

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I'd recommend tasting the beer along the way to find where the taste shows up first.

At flame out draw off a small sample and throw it in the fridge. taste it when it's cooled enough to drink.
After cooling, draw another sample.
After 4 or 5 days in primary, draw some and taste it.
Etc.
Try to isolate at what stage it shows up and the problem at that stage or before.


Lots of suggestions here, but try to only change 1 thing at a time, else 1. you won't know where the problem was, and 2. you may introduce a new problem.
 

BrewDey

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Not really sure, but along the lines of what's been mentioned:
-Skip the secondary
-Get new tubing
-Pitch a starter (I personally haven't had any off-flavors since I've been making starters)
 

Austinhomebrew

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Your problem is that you are using PBW and or Star San and you are not rinsing well enough. I have had a lot of people ruin thier beer by not rinsing these cleaners off. IMHO I wouldn't use such expensive cleaners for normal use. They work well on stubborn stuff.

I can feel your pain. Let me send you a sample of my sanitizer/cleaner that works like hydrogen peroxide to sanitize and clean and you do not have to rinse.

I can send you a beer kit too, just to ease the pain of having lost all of that beer.
What kind of beer do you usually brew? It will be a simple beer as a test batch.

PM me your name and address. While you are waiting for your batch to arrive take a cap full of bleach per 5 gallons and "nuke" all of your plastics. Then rinse and rinse and rinse until you can't rinse any more to get rid of any bacteria and left over cleaners.

Forrest
 

DJCalico

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wow...

I'm now officially getting my stuff from Austin Homebrew... What a community this is!!

:mug:
 

smizak

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Jeez, I thought Northern Brewer was cool for giving me a gift certificate for a bad grain crush, AHBS FTW!!!!!!!!!!
 
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It's awesome to see a shop step up like that Forest! Props to you.

My first thought is also on tubing and stoppers or not rinsing the PBW enough. Definitely take Forest up on his offer and suggestion and try a simple batch with some simple changes.

One other idea that I have heard of before. If you brew indoors try turning off your furnace/AC while you brew until your carboy is sealed. Some people have reported this helped because their furnace was actually blowing mold spores into the air that were infecting the beer.
 

tranceamerica

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Liquidicem said:
One other idea that I have heard of before. If you brew indoors try turning off your furnace/AC while you brew until your carboy is sealed. Some people have reported this helped because their furnace was actually blowing mold spores into the air that were infecting the beer.
that was another thought I had - that there's something "extra special" in the air, a source of lots of wild yeast (lots of fruit or plants nearby?). Didn't think about mold.

I keep a fruit bowl in my kitchen, and also a small bin for compost. The compost bin gets taken to the garage during brew sessions (and the kitchen aired out). I don't worry about the fruit bowl unless I think there's something going bad in it.

I also make sure the kitchen's clean before I start. I don't freak out about it or anything, but I do make sure all the dirty dishes are clean, the counters wiped down (with my starsan in a spray bottle solution) and maybe even scrub out the sink.
 

Sigafoos

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Damn, now I know where to go if I need to order anything online :)

Forrest, when you say you would only use Starsan on stubborn stuff, is it really that powerful? What's the cleaner you use instead? I just started using Its Bubbliness because I wanted a no rinse sanitizer, but if there's a cheaper one that does just as good of a job if not better...
 

fishops

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Austinhomebrew said:
Your problem is that you are using PBW and or Star San and you are not rinsing well enough. I have had a lot of people ruin thier beer by not rinsing these cleaners off. IMHO I wouldn't use such expensive cleaners for normal use. They work well on stubborn stuff.

I can feel your pain. Let me send you a sample of my sanitizer/cleaner that works like hydrogen peroxide to sanitize and clean and you do not have to rinse.

I can send you a beer kit too, just to ease the pain of having lost all of that beer.
What kind of beer do you usually brew? It will be a simple beer as a test batch.

PM me your name and address. While you are waiting for your batch to arrive take a cap full of bleach per 5 gallons and "nuke" all of your plastics. Then rinse and rinse and rinse until you can't rinse any more to get rid of any bacteria and left over cleaners.

Forrest
For what it's worth, I've accidentally dumped an airlock full of starsan in my secondary to practically no ill effect. I would expect his chemical taste is more likely caused by not rinsing the PBW properly, or over-chlorinated water, or a myriad of potential sanitation problems.

I'm not trying to be contentious, I have just never had a problem with five star stuff, and I'd be surprised if this dude's issue is his choice of cleaner and sanitizer. (please send me free stuff anyway :D )
 

mmmbeer

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Ive had this same problem. I bleached all my equipment and then took a spray bottle fulll of bleach solution and sprayed all around where i ferment. I really think this problem is a wild yeast strain.
 
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yeqmaster

yeqmaster

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WOW!!! Sorry for the delay... Thanks so much everyone for all the comments and suggestions, especially Forrest (no offense to the rest of you). I read them all. I definitely took in all the advice that was posted and will try the advice that you have given. To clarify a few things... I rinse thoroughly after the PBW and dont rinse after the star san. I cool fairly rapidly using a wort chiller and keep the wort covered while doing this. hmmm what else...

I ferment my beer always in the same closet (the coolest place in my house) at around 65 deg. I don't know if since I always keep it in this closet, there could be potential problems. Another question; someone mentioned using a starter as a serious advantage and possible solution to my problem. Other thoughts on this matter. I am now thinking that once I get my test batch I am going to try brewing at a friend of mines house. I got him into brewing and now all his batches are turning out fine and mine not. I originally mentioned that he has used some of my equipment (auto-siphon, chiller, etc.) and his batches are fine. So I will try this. The vent fan above my stove has been on during all these batches. Possible contamination because of this??? Anyways thanks again everyone!
 
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yeqmaster

yeqmaster

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Oh and by the way, I just bottled a batch yesterday and eliminated the bucket out of the process. I just racked directly into another carboy on top of the sugar solution and from there bottled using a bottling attachment on my siphon. Hopefully this will HELP! Thanks again for all the posts you guys. The Homebrew community rocks my WORLD!
 

DeadYetiBrew

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tranceamerica said:
something "extra special" in the air

After everything else said about the plastics involved, i'd say that this is one that doesn't get as much attention....

The guy at my LHBS told me about a guy who kept complaining that all of his beers had a really wierd flavor, EVERY one of them had it. He told him to bring him 2 beers to sample. He tasted them and asked about his process in great detail.... Then he asked him how he aerated, he aerated by dumping the Wort with water to aerate and dilute to proper grav (nothing wrong with this btw), and then he asked him if he's been doing anything special in the kitchen, to which the guys eyes light up and he goes "Oh yeah, i've been making sourdough bread." Ta-day the yeast from the bread was in the air and got mixed in with every batch, just enough to impart a flavor before the ale yeast was introduced.

So, what have you been doing in your prep area lately? Try changing locations.
 
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yeqmaster

yeqmaster

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So, what have you been doing in your prep area lately?
hmmm... lets see... i do a lot of cooking. no bread making however. Or anything involving other forms of yeast. My bread cabinet is fairly close to the stove, however cooked bread shouldn't affect it. Sometimes dinner is made on the same stove as the brew during the brewing process... other than that.. I can't think of too much else.
 

DaleJ

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yeqmaster said:
Oh and by the way, I just bottled a batch yesterday and eliminated the bucket out of the process. I just racked directly into another carboy on top of the sugar solution and from there bottled using a bottling attachment on my siphon. Hopefully this will HELP! Thanks again for all the posts you guys. The Homebrew community rocks my WORLD!

Did you sample the beer at this point?
How'd it taste? Any of that flavor present?
 
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