Compost bucket sour?

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mashdar

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I have a ~2gal compost bucket which gets emptied weekly. Early in its life, the food would frequently mold, smell bad, etc. For years now, there's no mold and the smells are generally limited. There seems to be yeasty slurry at the bottom of the bucket every week.

This bucket has seen everything, including sourdough starter, beer yeast cake, etc, so it's possible it's mostly saccharomyces? But whatever it is, it's the king of the mountain.

I've long been tempted to throw some wort in there for a few hours, transfer to glass, then repeatedly dilute & ferment until I have an established culture.

What do experienced people think? Worth a try? How would you suggest using it? Try in post-primary beer for a first batch? Or throw it in apple juice first for a cheap and easy experiment?
 
I’ve seen a compost bucket. I have a compost bucket. I ain’t eat’n nuttin’ that was propagated in there!

Hope that works out for ya. 🍻
I feel like it can't be worse than environmental flora! The only difference is knowing where it's coming from. I imagine if you could trace the innoculants for open fermentation, it would be even less pleasant than food scraps.

But IDK what kind of bugs thrive in a mostly sealed compost bucket. If it's a bunch of pediococcus, it may not be to my liking.
 
I have no valuable advice to offer, but I do offer my encouragement to a brewing pioneer.

And I really wish I could see metrics like "number of views" for a thread, because with the title of "compost bucket sour," I'm sure I'm not the only one who absolutely had to see what this was all about! 😁

I'm definitely following this one, because if it generates good conversation, it should be an amazing read! (Even if there's no way that I'd be brave enough to try something like this, myself.)

Best of luck to you, sir!
 
Hey, I’m all for pioneering and living on the edge. I’m the guy that posted about eating a newly emerged cicada raw, but even John the baptizer did that, so nothing new. I make sauerkraut, beer, wine, vinegar, country sausage, bratwurst, can garden vegetables and eat sourdough bread. There’s some risk in each of these.

I’m just saying that with all the various recipes out there that are tried and proven, I’m not diving into my food waste bin looking for something good.
On the other hand, I guess there had to that first guy who looked at a tobacco leaf and asked himself; “I wonder what it would be like if I picked that leaf, dried it, rolled it up, stuck it in my mouth, set it on fire, and sucked the smoke into my lungs!” 🤔

Maybe you’re on to something. 😁
 
Ok, proposed strategy below. Let me know if anyone has ideas for modification.
  1. Prepare ~5 canned quart ball jars with 900g water + 90g DME. Pre-making so it's less hassle later. Referring to these as "starters".
  2. Empty and clean compost bucket per standard weekly process.
  3. Dump 1 starter in bucket
  4. Wait 4-6 hours.
  5. Dump bucket contents into 1gal demijohn with air lock.
  6. Wait until clear signs of fermentation peak. (First one may take a while.)
  7. Stir and dilute 1:9 with new starter in new demijohn.
  8. Repeat steps 6-7 for several cycles to get a vigorous culture.
  9. Crash, decant, and pitch into 3 gal unprocessed apple juice.
  10. Wait for $time
  11. Fill 2 demijohn for aging, bottle remainder.
  12. ...
  13. profit?
My though with repeated propogating at peak is that I'll get a relatively fast fermenting primary, (and presumably some more interesting microbes along for the secondary).

I'm a little concerned that proper aging will take 1-2 years, based on past ciders, but it will hopefully be clear if it's a dumper earlier.
 
Number 12 isn’t “collect underpants” by any chance, is it?
 

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All joking aside, random food spoilage organisms may not be sensible things to deliberately ingest.

If any animal products are part of your compost, I strongly urge you to drop this, erm, creative idea. And even if not, it seems highly dubious. Should you proceed, use greater caution than usual in tasting - the way we would in the wild when evaluating a new berry or mushroom for edibility.
 
I really wanted this to be feasible, just because. I looked into it some and at least one very tangible concern comes to mind. There wasn't much about humans eating compost (go figure) but dogs definitely do. There were several articles about effects of neurotoxins produced by fungi called tremorgenic mycotoxins. Here's one link for example.

https://riverroadveterinary.com/compost-toxicity-in-dogs/

It's a real potential and it's not a long Google journey to find a paper from the NIH talking about these mycotoxins causing everything from mental confusion to tremors and death in humans.

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/2867895/#:~:text=Tremorgenic mycotoxins induce neurologic symptoms,significant central nervous system activity.

The dose makes the poison, so it's not just the source but the concentration here. I can't say I'd be willing to mess with it. Regardless, I'd say proceed with an extreme abundance of caution. And maybe hop it a bit to cut down on the acidity. I bet that bucket is loaded with bacteria.
 
In theory I like the idea, but given the 'globalization' of bacteria of the last hundred years or so and the bacterial evolution that has arisen, I'd be deeply concerned about ingesting a potentially fatal load of antibiotic resistant organisms.
Have you tried just doing the 'open ferment', where you just set out an open vessel of wort and let the airborne microbes go to work? Less risky and I think there's some threads here on the subject.
 
I have a ~2gal compost bucket which gets emptied weekly. Early in its life, the food would frequently mold, smell bad, etc. For years now, there's no mold and the smells are generally limited. There seems to be yeasty slurry at the bottom of the bucket every week.

This bucket has seen everything, including sourdough starter, beer yeast cake, etc, so it's possible it's mostly saccharomyces? But whatever it is, it's the king of the mountain.

I've long been tempted to throw some wort in there for a few hours, transfer to glass, then repeatedly dilute & ferment until I have an established culture.

What do experienced people think? Worth a try? How would you suggest using it? Try in post-primary beer for a first batch? Or throw it in apple juice first for a cheap and easy experiment?
Go for it!

With wort, not some juice. The culture needs the longer sugars being present.
 
Or, maybe clean your compost bucket. Not everything in the natural environment should be ingested. Open fermentation with wild whatnot is one thing. But those Belgian monks didn't put spoiled food waste in their fermenters.
 
Or, maybe clean your compost bucket. Not everything in the natural environment should be ingested. Open fermentation with wild whatnot is one thing. But those Belgian monks didn't put spoiled food waste in their fermenters.
You have no idea how this lambic thing might have started....

.... a looooot of "whoopsie!"s in the drunken monastary! :D
 
I'm pretty conservative about safety, but I'll be diluting a very small initial inoculation by millions of times and selecting for fast propagation in unhopped wort. I think the risk is lower than any conventional open wild ferment.

But it might taste terrible.

Maybe I'll acidify the first few propagation steps for extra safety. Apple juice will start below pH 4.5, and wont have residual short chain carbs, so it's an ideal first beverage.

I'll post some updates. The process will probably take 3-4 weeks just to get the culture going.

edit:
I should reiterate that the bucket will be rinsed out and basically clean prior to putting wort in it. It's a plastic bucket, and presumably whatever grows lives in a few scratches.

Also, this is the bucket that food sits in for up to 7 days prior to going in the compost pile outside. The food is not particularly rotten unless it was already in trouble going in. You wouldn't want to eat it, but it's not compost.
 
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All I can say is, just read a little about salmonella and botulism and make your own decision.

I make beer, wine, kraut, vinegar, roast coffee, pickle eggs, can vegetables, etc. The number one thing I do is try to eliminate any possible risk of crossing the line into something toxic. With all the viable options out there for making good, safe beer, why in the wide, wide, world of sports you’d go diving into the compost bucket looking for something different is beyond my comprehension.

However, I am a live and let live guy. If you want to go there, help yourself! If it goes great, more power to you. Otherwise, I won’t be standing behind you in line at the LHBS. 🤷🏻‍♂️
 
this kind of reminds of a post long ago about someone propagating yeast from their pet cat hair (the animal). what ever happened to that one.
I would be more interested in hearing about the one where someone was propagating yeast from their pet cat hair (not the animal). 😳
 
I'm pretty conservative about safety, but I'll be diluting a very small initial inoculation by millions of times and selecting for fast propagation in unhopped wort. I think the risk is lower than any conventional open wild ferment.
Yeah, that's exactly what I was thinking when I said the dose makes the poison. Maybe I missed the part about you fully rinsing the bucket. That definitely makes a difference to me. I probably still wouldn't mess with it, but I'm not you. Seems clear you're not an idiot, so you do you. Just pointing out that you're playing with a line some, but I believe you know that. Truthfully, pre-acidifying the first few steps might help but I don't know that it will matter much. I think it's going to be a weird one.

I'm along for the ride if you're doing it. Waiting for the updates.
 
Signs of life at 48 hours. Here's a 72 hour photo. Looking promising if the goal is run of the mill beer infection film.

PXL_20240508_173448990.jpg


I decided not to acidify the starter. I'd like to confirm that whatever grows can promptly drop the pH by itself. If it can't, I probably don't want to drink it. However, that makes early batches more potentially dangerous, so I'll add a few more propagation steps.
 
Update:

This photo was taken just 7 hours after the first one I posted. (~79 hours from inoculation)
PXL_20240509_004334843a.jpg


Based on some very questionable google searching, it visually looks like a bunch of pedio with a touch of lactobacillus.

At day 6, it looked like this:
PXL_20240511_120546287a.jpg


Mixed and transferred about 5% into a 1gal container with 750ml of unhopped starter. Measured pH of leftovers. 3.5. Smelled sour and very slightly fruity.

Thoroughly shook the 1 gallon container. There may have been too much O2, or perhaps there's just so much more surface area that it had a hard time forming a full pellicle. Here it is on day 4
PXL_20240515_124055882a.jpg

(edit: brown floaties are break material from the malt extract.)

Not much yeast, and only a few bubbles. Debating going back to the quart jar, as the pedio seemed happier in that.

This is looking like not primary fermentation material, but maybe a secondary inoculant.
 
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You cannot determine what causes the pellicle just by the looks of it. It is basically everything, bacteria and yeasts. Usually...

And you are right, the more o2, the quicker the pellicle formation. Usually... at least :D But this certainly does not tell you anything about wether or not the MOs are happy.
 
Yeah, that just looks like a mix of micro. High O2 is giving you a quick pellicle. It looks like what I usually see called kahm yeast in lacto fermentations. If you only transferred 5% I wonder if it would take some time to further colonize. Going to a vessel with less surface area might help minimize O2. Either way, I say give it some time to stabilize. I'm so out of my depth, though...

Edit: Please keep the updates coming. This is fun!
 
I'm waiting for OP to post something about an extended hospital stay then to drop off the map... It's not what I'm hoping for, but it's what I expect though maybe they are a trash panda as the profile pic suggests and have a different tolerance?
 
I'm waiting for OP to post something about an extended hospital stay then to drop off the map... It's not what I'm hoping for, but it's what I expect
Everything is covered with microbes, including us. If bugs that feed on trash were lethal we never would have made it past the hunter/gatherer stage.
 
looks like what I usually see called kahm yeast in lacto fermentations
Seconding this. I've gotten it once in a beer too that I put a bunch of vegetable matter into as an experiment. As far as I know, not dangerous, but I think I can notice an off-flavor in my vegetables once it forms, but more importantly if I leave it long enough, mold can actually grow on the pellicle that wouldn't have grown in the liquid. With vegetables, a higher salt concentration in the brine is usually what I need, but I doubt that's helpful in this case 😅 Do you know the specific gravity of your starter? I'm curious if higher sugar content would help stave it off long enough for the ferment to acidify.

From a health perspective, seems like it shouldn't be any different than straight-up wild fermentation if you do enough propagation batches, right? I'm not a scientist. I do feel super invested in this working
 
I have to admit that I find this experiment sufficiently fascinating that I ordered a copy of this:

https://books.google.com/books/about/Food_Spoilage_Microorganisms.html

I suspect this is going to come down to a question of if something that can drop the pH quickly enough can grow and not taste bad.

One question: why unhopped wort for the starter? I just got back from Brussels (and a tour of Cantillon). They say they use aged hops specifically for anti microbial properties without bitterness. A bit of hopping might give the yeast more of a fighting chance against any nasties.
 
I have to admit that I find this experiment sufficiently fascinating that I ordered a copy of this:

https://books.google.com/books/about/Food_Spoilage_Microorganisms.html

I suspect this is going to come down to a question of if something that can drop the pH quickly enough can grow and not taste bad.

One question: why unhopped wort for the starter? I just got back from Brussels (and a tour of Cantillon). They say they use aged hops specifically for anti microbial properties without bitterness. A bit of hopping might give the yeast more of a fighting chance against any nasties.
Actually, the opposite is the case. Without hops, lactos are free to roam and they can drop the ph almost in an instant beyond anything that the usual spoilage mos can take.

Pair that with the alcohol from the yeast plus the anaerobic environment and you're basically good.
 
Hops originally went into beer because they were a preservative against spoilage by wild yeasts/bacteria. They may also drop the starting pH a bit (I'm not sure about that).

There are hop resistant strains of yeast and various bacteria (lacto, pedio). In this case, whatever keeps the bucket smelling nice doesn't deal with hops except occasionally, so I don't want to make life too hard on them initially.

If they can't handle hops at all, maybe it'll be good for cider. TBD!
 
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