Black Flakes, Starter Infected?

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Yjie91

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Hey People!

I've recently started brewing all grain and making starters and all, and I think I have made a huge and stupid mistake.

I basically made a 3.5L starter for a lager, and I accidentally let some of the burnt crud on the pan which I boiled my DME into the flask when pouring the wort.

I'm guessing the crud was years of burnt grease sitting on the outside of the pan.

I then pitched the yeast (WLP830) into the wort, and now here we are, with black flecks of crud swirling in my starter.

Am I screwed, and do I have to make another starter?

P.S.: Please help, I'm really anxious now hahaha.
 

IslandLizard

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I accidentally let some of the burnt crud on the pan which I boiled my DME into the flask when pouring the wort.

I'm guessing the crud was years of burnt grease sitting on the outside of the pan.

I then pitched the yeast (WLP830) into the wort, and now here we are, with black flecks of crud swirling in my starter.
If it's burnt on grease and whatnot, and only a few flakes, let it be. Won't go anywhere. It should settle out in your fermenter.
RDWHAHB!

Makes me wonder though, how stuff from the outside of the pan got inside your flask. That points to a not so sanitary transfer. You've got to keep that in check.

Use a clean(ed) pan next time?
I scrub my stainless pots I use for starter wort very clean. Even use some BKF if there's any tarnish or tenacious deposits. 5 minutes well spent to save a brewday, 1-3 weeks of fermentation and such, and a batch of beer.
 
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Yjie91

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If it's burnt on grease and whatnot, and only a few flakes, let it be. Won't go anywhere. It should settle out in your fermenter.
RDWHAHB!

Makes me wonder though, how stuff from the outside of the pan got inside your flask. That points to a not so sanitary transfer. You've got to keep that in check.

Use a clean(ed) pan next time?
I scrub my stainless pots I use for starter wort very clean. Even use some BKF if there's any tarnish or tenacious deposits. 5 minutes well spent to save a brewday, 1-3 weeks of fermentation and such, and a batch of beer.
I use starsan for all my fermenting work.
Haha truth be told, i guess my hands were weak.
When I was pouring the wort into the flask with a funnel, the sides of the funnel scraped the outside of the pan which I used to boil the wort, and the scraped flakes went into the flask as I poured the wort.

Yeah infection is also another concern too, but I will evaluate tomorrow. If its infected I will probably use dry yeast.
 
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Yjie91

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Starter is short money. Make a new one. The only thing worse than making an error is propagating it.
Yep, I was considering that too, but my brew day is gonna be this coming saturday and considering that this starter is for a lager yeast, making a fresh starter tomorrow might not finish in time.

I will have to evaluate on Thursday night and see if I should consider using dry yeast.
 

IslandLizard

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I use starsan for all my fermenting work.
You can only sanitize surfaces that are clean in the first place. IOW, you can't sanitize dirt.
Clean ==> Sanitize

That pan with starter wort was boiled on top of the stove, I gather.
So the outside of the pan and those flakes were at least 210F, the outside, near the bottom, possibly much hotter due to being exposed directly to the heating source. If that was kept clean and sanitized as such, very little worries.
But if you put it into a (dirty) sink to chill... those odds maybe changing depending on what got scraped off.

infection is also another concern too, but I will evaluate tomorrow. If its infected I will probably use dry yeast.
One day is much too short for a (small) infection to become visible. They usually show up much later unless it's huge from the get go.

Now 3.5 liters is a big starter for a first round using a single sleeve of yeast. I hope the best by date was at least 3-4 months out.
BrewUnited's Yeast Calculator
 
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Yjie91

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You can only sanitize surfaces that are clean in the first place. IOW, you can't sanitize dirt.
Clean ==> Sanitize

That pan with starter wort was boiled on top of the stove, I gather.
So the outside of the pan and those flakes were at least 210F, the outside, near the bottom, possibly much hotter due to being exposed directly to the heating source. If that was kept clean and sanitized as such, very little worries.
But if you put it into a (dirty) sink to chill... those odds maybe changing depending on what got scraped off.


One day is much too short for a (small) infection to become visible. They usually show up much later unless it's huge from the get go.

Now 3.5 liters is a big starter for a first round using a single sleeve of yeast. I hope the best by date was at least 3-4 months out.
BrewUnited's Yeast Calculator
The yeast was QCed on 23 March 2021, so very fresh.

I agree that you cannot sanitize something that is inherently dirty.

My procedure is to immediate pour in the hot, boiled concentrated starter into the flask (thats' where the flakes went in), then pour in chilled mineral water.

This way i hit my target starter pitching temperature very easily without the need to chill.

Hope thay sheds some light to my procedure.

Will I be able to tell if my starter has an infection after the end of 2.5 days?
 

IslandLizard

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Hope thay sheds some light to my procedure.
It surely does!
Process is everything.

My procedure is to immediate pour in the hot, boiled concentrated starter into the flask (thats' where the flakes went in), then pour in chilled mineral water.
That procedure definitely increases the odds that your starter is A-OK safe and sanitary!
Hot, near boiling wort will sanitize any flakes and whatever other little bits scraped off the outside of the pan. Besides, as I wrote before, the outside of that pan was pretty hot too during the boil. There's not much that will live past that.

RDWHAHB!

Will I be able to tell if my starter has an infection after the end of 2.5 days?
If your starter is working as it should, the yeast is multiplying faster, crowding out the few bugs that may have gone in. Once the starter beer's pH drops, due to the yeast growing in numbers, starting to ferment it, it makes it very difficult for another organism to get a foothold.

I doubt there were any more bugs transferred from your flaky pan than any other clean pan procedure would have.
In homebrew environments perfect sanitation is impossible, we just increase the odds for the ones we want. Making good size starters, so we can pitch large cell counts is part of that philosophy.
 
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Yjie91

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It surely does!
Process is everything.


That procedure definitely increases the odds that your starter is A-OK safe and sanitary!
Hot, near boiling wort will sanitize any flakes and whatever other little bits scraped off the outside of the pan. Besides, as I wrote before, the outside of that pan was pretty hot too during the boil. There's not much that will live past that.

RDWHAHB!


If your starter is working as it should, the yeast is multiplying faster, crowding out the few bugs that may have gone in. Once the starter beer's pH drops, due to the yeast growing in numbers, starting to ferment it, it makes it very difficult for another organism to get a foothold.

I doubt there were any more bugs transferred from your flaky pan than any other clean pan procedure would have.
In homebrew environments perfect sanitation is impossible, we just increase the odds for the ones we want. Making good size starters, so we can pitch large cell counts is part of that philosophy.
Oof that was really damn reassuring hahaha. I was so anxious i even got a headache out of it.

Just one final question, will the years of piled of burnt grease flakes in the yeast starter cause issues in the flavour of the starter and flavour the actual beer later on?
 
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Yjie91

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Oof that was really damn reassuring hahaha. I was so anxious i even got a headache out of it.

Just one final question, will the years of piled of burnt grease flakes in the yeast starter cause issues in the flavour of the starter and flavour the actual beer later on?
By the way, yes, those flakes are really comprised of years of burnt grease, no joke man.

Its not a lot, the flecks are small but they are definitely visible.

IMG_20210413_231518.jpgIMG_20210413_231336.jpgIMG_20210413_231518.jpgIMG_20210413_231527.jpg
 

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IslandLizard

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Oof that was really damn reassuring hahaha. I was so anxious i even got a headache out of it.

Just one final question, will the years of piled of burnt grease flakes in the yeast starter cause issues in the flavour of the starter and flavour the actual beer later on?
I understand, things like that can be worrisome. No need to lose sleep over it. You did everything right, except your realized the little glitch, but you had your bases covered, hot wort, hot pan, pour into (sanitized) glass flask. That's good sanitation.

BTW, after pouring a pint of (very) hot wort into your flask, do you swirl it around to acclimate (warm up) the glass? Then again with an additional pint or so?
I'd be a little concerned about temp shock cracking the glass. It's borosilicate alright, but there is some heat stress involved.

I doubt the few little flakes will cause any perceptible problem, there's just not enough of them. We make bigger mistakes in brewing and it still turns out well.

Call it Pan Fried Lager. There! ;)
 
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Yjie91

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I understand, things like that can be worrisome. No need to lose sleep over it. You did everything right, except your realized the little glitch, but you had your bases covered, hot wort, hot pan, pour into (sanitized) glass flask. That's good sanitation.

BTW, after pouring a pint of (very) hot wort into your flask, do you swirl it around to acclimate (warm up) the glass? Then again with an additional pint or so?
I'd be a little concerned about temp shock cracking the glass. It's borosilicate alright, but there is some heat stress involved.

I doubt the few little flakes will cause any perceptible problem, there's just not enough of them. We make bigger mistakes in brewing and it still turns out well.

Call it Pan Fried Lager. There! ;)
Yep, did everything you mentioned. Swirling, pour could water in, swirl again, and finish topping up water.

I've read about cases in which the flasks basically crack (mild cases) and shatter due to expansion and then sudden contraction.

I like my flasks, and I hate cleaning up, so that is why I swirl eveytime i make a starter.

Fried Pan Lager it is then!
 
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Yjie91

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Well, things got weirder 29 hours in for my starter. My starter somehow grew "eyes" that float to the top and sink back down... only to float back up again on repeat.

Has anyone gotten this before?!

Edit:
My brother and I tasted it and we thought it smelled like sulphur, which is okay considering the yeast is WLP830. What we differed on is the taste. My brother thought it was mildly tangy, and i thought it was sour.

But yeah, i would really like to know if anyone has gotten these floating "eyes" before.

IMG_20210414_210647.jpg
 
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IslandLizard

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Can the fish eyes be little undissolved clumps of DME?
Or any millet, left in the pan? Those have little eyes too.

Maybe you can fish one out and take a closer look?

BTW, is your starter on a stir plate? I don't see any signs of "swirling." Or much foam at all.
 

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If it's burnt on grease and whatnot, and only a few flakes, let it be. Won't go anywhere. It should settle out in your fermenter.
RDWHAHB!

Makes me wonder though, how stuff from the outside of the pan got inside your flask. That points to a not so sanitary transfer. You've got to keep that in check.

Use a clean(ed) pan next time?
I scrub my stainless pots I use for starter wort very clean. Even use some BKF if there's any tarnish or tenacious deposits. 5 minutes well spent to save a brewday, 1-3 weeks of fermentation and such, and a batch of beer.
I do the exact same thing with the BKF, love that stuff for the pots and pans. Got a good deal on a set of decent weight SS pans and it keeps them nice and shiny. I find just keeping the BKF handy near the sink and scrubbing the bottoms every few washes makes it a manageable process.
 
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Yjie91

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Can the fish eyes be little undissolved clumps of DME?
Or any millet, left in the pan? Those have little eyes too.

Maybe you can fish one out and take a closer look?

BTW, is your starter on a stir plate? I don't see any signs of "swirling." Or much foam at all.
Hey! So sorry for the late reply. Work and whatnot...

It was on a stir plate for approx 30 hours. After that, I turn led the stirplate.
However, i do know that there was some krausen, probably happend while i was at work, because there is a ring of persistent scum just above the starter.

It couldnt have been DME because the DME I used was old ad very hard (I live in a very hot and humid country), and I boiled the wort to kill of germs on said old DME.

As I only use DME and nothing else, it could have been other grains like millet, etc.

I will try to fish 1 out, but no guarantees, as the starter is 3.5L in a 5L flask.

I've attached an image of the flask just before i started the fridge for cold crash.
 

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Yjie91

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I do the exact same thing with the BKF, love that stuff for the pots and pans. Got a good deal on a set of decent weight SS pans and it keeps them nice and shiny. I find just keeping the BKF handy near the sink and scrubbing the bottoms every few washes makes it a manageable process.
Ehh, im considering getting my own pan just to make DME. Shouldn't be too much of an investment.

Then my worries of crud and grime getting into my starter will be over!!
 

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I started reading, then joined, this board during last year's lock down. I've been amazed at all the clever new techniques and ideas I've learned during that time and I've scrubbed many of my old SOPs as a result. With that in mind, I'm sure there's a good reason why folks are boiling their starters in a sauce pan, but I'll be damned if I can figure it out.

Assuming you have a quality flask that is rated for boiling and augmented cooling, isn't boiling in the flask the gold standard for sanitation? Why use a sauce pan when both the media and the vessel can be nuked from orbit at the same time? I'll concede that there is a wort volcano concern when boiling in a flask, but Fermcap is a fine, cost-effective product and a one-way sanitary valve is cheap as chips.

I'm not trying to be snarky. As mentioned above, reading this forum has prompted me to alter many of my old SOPs that were based upon the received wisdom of twenty years ago. This one, however, has me scratching my head.
 
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Yjie91

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I started reading, then joined, this board during last year's lock down. I've been amazed at all the clever new techniques and ideas I've learned during that time and I've scrubbed many of my old SOPs as a result. With that in mind, I'm sure there's a good reason why folks are boiling their starters in a sauce pan, but I'll be damned if I can figure it out.

Assuming you have a quality flask that is rated for boiling and augmented cooling, isn't boiling in the flask the gold standard for sanitation? Why use a sauce pan when both the media and the vessel can be nuked from orbit at the same time? I'll concede that there is a wort volcano concern when boiling in a flask, but Fermcap is a fine, cost-effective product and a one-way sanitary valve is cheap as chips.

I'm not trying to be snarky. As mentioned above, reading this forum has prompted me to alter many of my old SOPs that were based upon the received wisdom of twenty years ago. This one, however, has me scratching my head.
No snark taken.

Generally the practices were not improved due to limited space. Simply put, my house does not have enough space to accomdate a dedicated pan.

The flask is not a quality flask. It is just a vessel to hold liquids and I wouldnt trust it sitting on top of a stove. I only bought it because it was cheap.

I didn't mention this info at the start because I thought it was too much information, but yeah, this is the circumstances that I'm living in now.
 

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No snark taken.

Generally the practices were not improved due to limited space. Simply put, my house does not have enough space to accomdate a dedicated pan.

The flask is not a quality flask. It is just a vessel to hold liquids and I wouldnt trust it sitting on top of a stove. I only bought it because it was cheap.

I didn't mention this info at the start because I thought it was too much information, but yeah, this is the circumstances that I'm living in now.
I understand.

Send me a PM.
 

IslandLizard

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Assuming you have a quality flask that is rated for boiling and augmented cooling, isn't boiling in the flask the gold standard for sanitation?
Not all flasks are created equally, keep that in mind.
A cracked flask due to thermal stress from direct heating creates a big mess you may want to avoid.
We have had more than just a few posts on those small catastrophes.

I think using good cleaning practices of the flasks, followed by a good sanitation regimen, can be as good or possibly better than steam sanitation by direct heating, with far fewer risks of cracking the glass.

I've always boiled starter wort in a (smooth) well cleaned stainless (9 liter IKEA) pot, taking care of good sanitation, the lid, the rim, and such.

I chill the tightly lidded pot in a plastic tub with cold water, or in the sink. Halfway through I refresh that now warm water jacket with cold water (or Starsan).
Cleaned and Starsan immersed/soaked flasks are filled through a funnel by pouring directly from the pot, or by scooping the wort out with a pint size glass measuring cup (with a handle). The scooping is likely the most infection prone step in the process, but I rarely encounter starter infections, and the few I get, are not consistently linked to that.
 
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Yjie91

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Don't bother, leave it be.
Tinkering with starters can cause infections. Not much you can do about or change anyway now.
Well, for the record, I don't have anything long enough to get the "eyes", so there's that.

Anyway, I will be brewing this coming Saturday, and I took a whiff and tasted some wort (decanted out, of course).

It smells of rotten eggs ans tastes bland for thr most part, so I think things are looking okay (I hope!) on the "yeast" front.
 

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I started reading, then joined, this board during last year's lock down. I've been amazed at all the clever new techniques and ideas I've learned during that time and I've scrubbed many of my old SOPs as a result. With that in mind, I'm sure there's a good reason why folks are boiling their starters in a sauce pan, but I'll be damned if I can figure it out.

Assuming you have a quality flask that is rated for boiling and augmented cooling, isn't boiling in the flask the gold standard for sanitation? Why use a sauce pan when both the media and the vessel can be nuked from orbit at the same time? I'll concede that there is a wort volcano concern when boiling in a flask, but Fermcap is a fine, cost-effective product and a one-way sanitary valve is cheap as chips.

I'm not trying to be snarky. As mentioned above, reading this forum has prompted me to alter many of my old SOPs that were based upon the received wisdom of twenty years ago. This one, however, has me scratching my head.
The flasks available aren't always lab quality. It's upwards of $20 to find that out and messy. I cracked one once, it was a small 500ml one on an electric stove. Also they scorch easy which makes them more difficult to clean.
 

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I've been married for 45 years (to the same woman ;)) come this April 16th. I bought her the designer kitchen and dining room she always wanted just a couple of years ago. There is no friggin' way I am risking all those "plus side points" boiling starters in e-flasks on her fancy SS gas range, thanks...

Cheers!
 

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I have a collection of flasks, all pyrex except for a couple of kymax; I boil in all of them carefree but don't ever subject them to a cold water dip or running faucet to speed cooling. Thermal down-shock is #1 cause of lab glass failure. Boiling actually puts very little stress on them.
 
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Yjie91

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Hey all, I'm back again.
So for an update...

My lager basically fermented out in 4.5 - 5 days, and I almost thought I missed the diacetyl rest. I bumped the temps up to 20°C and luckily the beer droppwd another 1 or 2 gravity points.

But I recently read that LED light is bad for beers and causes it to be light struck (skunking).

I basically use my mobile's rear LED camera flash to look at my brew, take pictures, and check carbonation and clarity when the beer's in the bottle.

To make things worse, I did the carbonation/clarity check by pressing my mobile rear LED camera flash in torchlight mode for a bit.

I would say the checking during fermentation is about 2 - 3 times a day, each lasting about 1 or 2 minutes, and the bottle checks are like 30 sec to 1 minute per sampled bottles (not all bottles get the same treatment).

What do you guys think?
Do I have to get ready for skunks for those beers I checked, or should I dump?
 

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I would say the checking during fermentation is about 2 - 3 times a day, each lasting about 1 or 2 minutes, and the bottle checks are like 30 sec to 1 minute per sampled bottles (not all bottles get the same treatment).

What do you guys think?
Those exposures are so minimal, nothing to worry about. Also brown bottles filter out any UV and (high energy) blue light waves.

For comparison, I had a (clear) glass of IPA get skunky within 5-10 minutes while drinking it in bright sunlight. I started to smell it. Not totally undrinkable, but I now keep them in the shade.
I also noticed that beer in brown bottles stored on or near the top shelf in beverage coolers such as used in liquor stores, can get a bit skunky too, due to their proximity to the fluorescent lights in there. But they're exposed to that probably 24/7 for weeks at end.

I'd seriously doubt your LED lights have anywhere near the intensity or high energy spectrum of sunlight. And with the relatively short exposures, RDWHAHB!
 
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Yjie91

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Those exposures are so minimal, nothing to worry about. Also brown bottles filter out any UV and (high energy) blue light waves.

For comparison, I had a (clear) glass of IPA get skunky within 5-10 minutes while drinking it in bright sunlight. I started to smell it. Not totally undrinkable, but I now keep them in the shade.
I also noticed that beer in brown bottles stored on or near the top shelf in beverage coolers such as used in liquor stores, can get a bit skunky too, due to their proximity to the fluorescent lights in there. But they're exposed to that probably 24/7 for weeks at end.

I'd seriously doubt your LED lights have anywhere near the intensity or high energy spectrum of sunlight. And with the relatively short exposures, RDWHAHB!
Oof, that's really reassuring!
Alright, I will chill, and will post an update when I crack one open for a taste test!
 
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