Bitter, Undrinkable Bottles

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NobleNewt

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Hey all! I think I probably know the answer to my own question, but back around the middle of April, I brewed an ESB, and in May (2 weeks later) I brewed a Citra Pale Ale kit from Austin Homebrew. Primed, bottled, stored, etc. Both beers were excellent up until about 2 or 3 weeks ago (mid-August). I usually keep my bottles in a closet then add a six-pack or two (or several 16 oz bottles) every week as I have room in my dedicated beer mini-fridge. It's been a blazing hot summer, and my "room temperature" in my house during the day is 78 degrees, but we crank the AC down at night to 68. That said, the bottles have been in warmer temperatures as they've conditioned.

All that said, BOTH batches developed this soapy, bitter, estery off-flavor only over the past couple of weeks coupled with a noticeable increase in carbonation and some very obvious cloudiness when they were otherwise crystal clear. There aren't many bottles left, but the ones that remain are undrinkable. Just bad compared to what they were when they were fresh. I assume that I picked up an infection during bottling or possibly during primary that is just now showing itself 3 months on, but I also wonder if conditioning them slightly warmer could have affected them as the summer rolled on.

Again, the beers were TERRIFIC when they were fresh, then turned pretty trash pretty fast. All said, I've got a Spotted Cow-ish clone in primary as of yesterday, and I'm wanting to avoid this problem again. Since both batches had the same issue, I'm wondering if I need to do thorough bleach sanitation of some of my equipment or just get new stuff entirely on the post-fermentation side.

Any thoughts or advice would be helpful.

Cheers!
 

ncbrewer

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I had an infection a few years ago. The fermenter was a plastic bucket. I bleached it twice but couldn't get rid of the infection - then replaced the fermenter. I just bleached the bottles and they were ok - glass can stand a more intense bleach treatment.

I've read other accounts of bleaching plastic fermenters successfully. What I gather is that the specific bacteria makes the difference. Also, I've read that a longer bleach treatment is ok for plastic - you can set it out in the sun after and it will supposedly eliminate the resudual chlorine.

I hope that helps. Good luck.
 

doug293cz

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I had an infection a few years ago. The fermenter was a plastic bucket. I bleached it twice but couldn't get rid of the infection - then replaced the fermenter. I just bleached the bottles and they were ok - glass can stand a more intense bleach treatment.

I've read other accounts of bleaching plastic fermenters successfully. What I gather is that the specific bacteria makes the difference. Also, I've read that a longer bleach treatment is ok for plastic - you can set it out in the sun after and it will supposedly eliminate the resudual chlorine.

I hope that helps. Good luck.
A campden treatment might also neutralize any chlorine residue in the plastic. Has anyone tried this?

Brew on :mug:
 
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NobleNewt

NobleNewt

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I had an infection a few years ago. The fermenter was a plastic bucket. I bleached it twice but couldn't get rid of the infection - then replaced the fermenter. I just bleached the bottles and they were ok - glass can stand a more intense bleach treatment.

I've read other accounts of bleaching plastic fermenters successfully. What I gather is that the specific bacteria makes the difference. Also, I've read that a longer bleach treatment is ok for plastic - you can set it out in the sun after and it will supposedly eliminate the resudual chlorine.

I hope that helps. Good luck.
Thanks! Since both batches share the same equipment, it could be anywhere along the line. Meaning, the current batch could be compromised too. Once I get it bottled, I’ll try some bleach treatments. Probably need to replace the plastic fermenter. Hate to do that because of plastic recycling challenges, but might be my only option.

Also realized BEFORE yesterday’s brew day how nasty my Anvil Foundry’s SS spigot was. Yuck! Cleaned it thoroughly and bleached before I started brewing.
 
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NobleNewt

NobleNewt

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A campden treatment might also neutralize any chlorine residue in the plastic. Has anyone tried this?

Brew on :mug:
That makes sense. I can’t imagine that bleaching at Palmer’s levels would leave too much residue or residual bleach, but campden makes sense to me!
 
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NobleNewt

NobleNewt

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I think “solvent” may be the most accurate flavor description I’ve seen in doing a little more research. Oxidation and high fermentation temps are common culprits. Considering that the beer was excellent young, I can only assume that it came from oxidation or high conditioning temperatures. That, of course, is assuming this isn’t something bacterial.

Solvent Flavors in Beer – Off-Flavors in Homebrewed Beer

Off-Flavor: Solvent
 

bwible

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Also realized BEFORE yesterday’s brew day how nasty my Anvil Foundry’s SS spigot was. Yuck! Cleaned it thoroughly and bleached before I started brewing.
Yes I ran into this also. You have to clean that every time. I use one of the little airlock cleaning brushes. Works great.
 
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NobleNewt

NobleNewt

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Yes I ran into this also. You have to clean that every time. I use one of the little airlock cleaning brushes. Works great.
Yep. That’s pretty much what I did. I had read multiple accounts of people not cleaning those and having issues… It’s just the LAST thing on my list after a long brew day.

I’m leaning towards picking up an infection post fermentation only because I’ve never seen any obvious signs of infection in primary. Not that it isn’t possible, but I’m going to go through an extensive bleach treatment of my bottling bucket and hoses.

Also, I realized that I’ve been using old Star San to sanitize bottles and equipment. Never knew that was an issue until I did some research. Makes sense, but I won’t be making that mistake again.

Overall, just need to be more conscious of cleaning and sanitizing.
 
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NobleNewt

NobleNewt

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Bit of an update.. I’ve discovered that some of the bottles are still drinkable while others aren’t. I think I’ve narrowed it down to dirty bottles. Not nasty, but tiny bits of debris inside the bottles that didn’t get properly scrubbed.

The bottles that were bad seemed to have tiny bits of stuff in them where the brush bristles just missed the debris.

For those wondering, I switched back to US-05 after using Kveik strains in my first couple of years since returning to brewing. The Kveiks I’ve used have been notorious for sticking on the sides of the bottles and require massive amounts of scrubbing whereas US-05 almost never sticks and can mostly just be rinsed out.

Hope that helps anyone having similar problems.
 

ncbrewer

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Bit of an update.. I’ve discovered that some of the bottles are still drinkable while others aren’t. I think I’ve narrowed it down to dirty bottles. Not nasty, but tiny bits of debris inside the bottles that didn’t get properly scrubbed.

The bottles that were bad seemed to have tiny bits of stuff in them where the brush bristles just missed the debris.

For those wondering, I switched back to US-05 after using Kveik strains in my first couple of years since returning to brewing. The Kveiks I’ve used have been notorious for sticking on the sides of the bottles and require massive amounts of scrubbing whereas US-05 almost never sticks and can mostly just be rinsed out.

Hope that helps anyone having similar problems.
In Papazian's Complete Joy of Home Brewing, he recommends 2 oz of bleach in 5 gallons of cold water as a really good cleaner (as opposed to its normal use as a sanitizer) - let it soak overnight. I started doing this for my bottles a couple of years ago and have had super results, without scrubbing. It takes a really good hot water flush to get all the bleach out - I use a jet washer.
 

madscientist451

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Bit of an update.. I’ve discovered that some of the bottles are still drinkable while others aren’t. I think I’ve narrowed it down to dirty bottles. Not nasty, but tiny bits of debris inside the bottles that didn’t get properly scrubbed.

The bottles that were bad seemed to have tiny bits of stuff in them where the brush bristles just missed the debris.

A good bottling routine should include inspection of each bottle by pointing the bottom of the bottle towards a bright light and looking inside. If you rinse your bottles immediately after pouring the beer out, crud accumulation won't be a problem.
This isn't always possible if you are having a few brews by the campfire, or otherwise out of the house, but if you remember to clean your bottles when you get back, there won't be as many problems.
I use PBW or oxy-clean on bottles that are dirty, soak for a while, then any bottles that don't easily come clean with a small amount of brushing are recycled.
All bottles are completely immersed in a bucket of star-san and filled with beer right after dumping out the sanitizer.
Everyone has a bottling routine that works for them, and you may get away with cutting corners, but with all the work that goes into brewing and bottling a batch of beer, its worth the extra effort to do it right.
 
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NobleNewt

NobleNewt

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A good bottling routine should include inspection of each bottle by pointing the bottom of the bottle towards a bright light and looking inside. If you rinse your bottles immediately after pouring the beer out, crud accumulation won't be a problem.
This isn't always possible if you are having a few brews by the campfire, or otherwise out of the house, but if you remember to clean your bottles when you get back, there won't be as many problems.
I use PBW or oxy-clean on bottles that are dirty, soak for a while, then any bottles that don't easily come clean with a small amount of brushing are recycled.
All bottles are completely immersed in a bucket of star-san and filled with beer right after dumping out the sanitizer.
Everyone has a bottling routine that works for them, and you may get away with cutting corners, but with all the work that goes into brewing and bottling a batch of beer, its worth the extra effort to do it right.
Thanks for the reply. I have a bright LED right above my kitchen sink and usually visually inspect bottles as I clean them. The problem I have is that SWMBO just rinses the bottles and sets them aside despite me pleading with her to let me clean them instead. (One would think she would be tickled to have me do some extra dishes, but no.)

I have a jar of Oxyclean/TSP next to the sink and usually pitch about a 1/4 tsp in each bottle before scrubbing it out. Like I said, most of my bottles with US-05 clean up with no scrubbing at all, but I've run across several where the Kveik yeast is still clinging to the sides of the bottles.

Otherwise, I do what you say and scrub with cleaner, Star San soak, etc. One thing I realized early in this problem was that I was keeping a bucket of Star San from brew day that I would use again for bottling day. I know mixed Star San has a shelf life, and it's a little bit up for debate on whether or not you can re-use it for more than a few days, but I'll definitely be mixing fresh Star San on bottling day moving forward.

Finally, with these last few batches, I've gone ahead and scrubbed the bottles visually clean and sprayed a heavily concentrated bleach solution into each bottle, let it sit while I do other things, then rinse thoroughly. My hope is that with enough bleach in the solution and clean bottles, I can get them as close to sterilized as possible.

Again, thanks for the reply. I appreciate the feedback.
 
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NobleNewt

NobleNewt

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In Papazian's Complete Joy of Home Brewing, he recommends 2 oz of bleach in 5 gallons of cold water as a really good cleaner (as opposed to its normal use as a sanitizer) - let it soak overnight. I started doing this for my bottles a couple of years ago and have had super results, without scrubbing. It takes a really good hot water flush to get all the bleach out - I use a jet washer.
That's a good idea. I found that chart on the internet with Papazian's (or maybe Palmer's) ratio of bleach to water as a cleaner or sanitizer. Once I clean my fermenter on bottling day with Oxy/TSP solution, I rinse it, inspect it, then do a bleach/water solution to finish off my cleaning before rinsing again and drying everything. Seems to be a good/safe solution.

I also learned from the EPA that you can actually add tiny amounts of bleach to drinking water in the event of a boil water notice (assuming you can't boil) without any ill effect on your health. Didn't know that. Not a huge surprise considering municipal water usually has chloramine in it but didn't know you could do the same with regular chlorine bleach.
 

brewSJ

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I also learned from the EPA that you can actually add tiny amounts of bleach to drinking water in the event of a boil water notice (assuming you can't boil) without any ill effect on your health.
That's an old back-packing trick too. Doesn't take much bleach either, 2 drops (2 ml) of bleach per quart (liter) of water is the usual recommendation.
 

ncbrewer

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One thing I realized early in this problem was that I was keeping a bucket of Star San from brew day that I would use again for bottling day. I know mixed Star San has a shelf life, and it's a little bit up for debate on whether or not you can re-use it for more than a few days, but I'll definitely be mixing fresh Star San on bottling day moving forward.
There was a podcast with Charlie Talley (inventor of Star San and former company president) where he discussed shelf life of the solution: https://hwcdn.libsyn.com/p/3/9/0/39...63138752&hwt=b1b31de9b909f589d9b5b7b0adb4c6ab
He stated that although the EPA requires a new batch each time it is used, if it is made up with deionized water, it will stay active for months. That is at about 37 minutes. The whole podcast is worth a listen.
 

Dancy

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I rinse and clean the bottle at my kitchen sink immediately after pouring a beer and the let it drain in the dish rack. Eventually, it ends up the box with the others until the next time I bottle when I bake the bottles in my oven the day before bottling. I sit on a chair next to the open oven door and pull out a bottle a time to fill it, put it on the kitchen counter with the others and then cap them all. No bottle based infection, ever.
 

Zenmeister

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There was a podcast with Charlie Talley (inventor of Star San and former company president) where he discussed shelf life of the solution: https://hwcdn.libsyn.com/p/3/9/0/39...63138752&hwt=b1b31de9b909f589d9b5b7b0adb4c6ab
He stated that although the EPA requires a new batch each time it is used, if it is made up with deionized water, it will stay active for months. That is at about 37 minutes. The whole podcast is worth a listen.
I use and re-use my Starsan for six months or more at a time. But I run a pH test on it regularly to verify its acidity. No issues at all.
 
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NobleNewt

NobleNewt

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I rinse and clean the bottle at my kitchen sink immediately after pouring a beer and the let it drain in the dish rack. Eventually, it ends up the box with the others until the next time I bottle when I bake the bottles in my oven the day before bottling. I sit on a chair next to the open oven door and pull out a bottle a time to fill it, put it on the kitchen counter with the others and then cap them all. No bottle based infection, ever.
What temp and how long do you do the oven thing? I assume you put the bottles in at room temp then let the oven heat?
 

Dancy

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What temp and how long do you do the oven thing? I assume you put the bottles in at room temp then let the oven heat?
I do 305F for 2.5 hours. I got the idea from Palmer’s How to Brew. There’s a table of other temps and times.
 
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NobleNewt

NobleNewt

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Hate to say it, but just popped a bottle from my most recent batch and I’ve got the same issue…..

Hydro samples tasted amazing. Bottled nearly two weeks ago and tried a bottle after about a week. Phenolic, bandaid, borderline **** beer. Not undrinkable yet, but not good at all especially when the hydro samples were so good.

Something is happening in my bottling line somewhere. Used a new spigot, same bottling bucket, and same wand. Makes me think I need to ditch the wand, replace all hoses, and (at this point) ferment with a fresh pitch of yeast.

At a loss. This beer was so good before bottling and it’s turned to an almost dumper in about a week.
 
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