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Majikcook

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Hey all, brewing 1st batch and have read enough to know contamination is not a good thing for your beer. Everything seems to be to plan and just got into secondary. But.. how do you know if it's contaminated?
Is it a taste thing or anything visual?
All replies appreciated!
 

NUCC98

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Majikcook said:
Hey all, brewing 1st batch and have read enough to know contamination is not a good thing for your beer. Everything seems to be to plan and just got into secondary. But.. how do you know if it's contaminated?
Is it a taste thing or anything visual?
All replies appreciated!
I think you can tell from the smell. But one of the vets could shed more light on that....
 

Janx

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Put it this way: You can tell.

Sometimes there are visual clues (scummy layer on top, greasy looking bubbles). Often it will smell funky (tangy, piney, etc, etc). Usually it'll taste really REALLY nasty. Like you wouldn't want to drink it.

There are a bunch of different "flavors" of infection. I don't know their names, but I've run into several of them over the years and can tell them by smell. In the end, you won't want to drink your beer because it tastes so bad. That means it's infected.

If you were careful, your beer isn't infected. With good sanitation and a big yeast pitch, it rarely goes wrong.

Janx
 

Witbier

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I've had a couple of yeast starters go bad. They had a odors that left no doubt that they had gone bad... very foul smell. As long as your batch smells ok, 99.9% chance it is.
 

Janx

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Nope...you probably wouldn't be able to drink enough of it at any rate...

Now, if you choke down a gallon or two of the stuff, you may feel queasy, but it's one of those things that usually doesn't get that far. ;)

As far as I know, you can't get a truly toxic infection (salmonella, etc) in beer. It's just not the right environment.
 

NUCC98

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Janx said:
Nope...you probably wouldn't be able to drink enough of it at any rate...

Now, if you choke down a gallon or two of the stuff, you may feel queasy, but it's one of those things that usually doesn't get that far. ;)

As far as I know, you can't get a truly toxic infection (salmonella, etc) in beer. It's just not the right environment.
We used to ferment Cider up at school using raisins in gallon milk bottles. Couple friends of mine fermented a bit too long, and I think they ended up with cider vinegar...but, well, being desperate college kids in the middle of nowhere, they drank it anyway...I'm pretty sure there was some degree of sickness involved...I mean, not counting the mental amount...heheh...
 

tipsymonkey

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I just moved my batch from the primary to the secondary, and when i move it I took a smell and it was the first time that I've made a batch and seriously thought it had been contaminated. It didn't smell bad, but it didn't smell good either, so I moved it over and in the process got a bit in a cup to taste. It didn't taste horrible, but what it did taste like was watered down. its sitting now in teh secondary hopefully it will turn out ok.
 

Janx

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Watered down flavor is no biggie. The taste of infection is usually a horrid horrid thing. Like just freaking awful. I bet you're OK if it wasn't outwardly disgusting.
 

rightwingnut

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OK, so how do the Belgians get away with it with their Lambics? They leave the wort (prononuced "wert"...ick!) exposed overnight to be "spontaneously fermented" by wild yeast and bacteria. What, they just have really yummy bacteria over there? That's not fair! I have a homebrew buzz right now, and I think I like it. :D
 

Janx

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Yep. They just have tastier bacteria. You could move to Lambeek :D

It's definitely not fair. Not fair at all. Especially since they just leave it sitting out and get the best beer in the world.

If you're ever in Brussels, DEFINITELY go to the Cantillon brewery. It is an amazing example of old-school lambic technique and what not to do (unless you're making Lambic in Belgium). They make the beer once a year in the Fall, presumably because the wild yeasts are right then. The mash is done in the open. The wort is pumped into a shallow pan in a dusty, dirty room, where the roof is leaky and open to the outside world. There are bags of hops sitting around open and oxidizing at room temp. The brew is put into barrels that are not really cleaned and certainly not sanitized. They foam and gush all over one another and the whole place reeks of lambic. It's a delightful mess! :)

And then they let you sample the nectar of the good that is the result of all this. It's really something.

I'm enjoying a pale ale we made a few weeks ago right now. We have a pilsner and a porter on tap too. The porter is on the nitrogen tap. I'm pretty sure I have a homebrew buzz, too, and I KNOW I like it ;)
 

Dark_Ale

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rightwingnut said:
OK, so how do the Belgians get away with it with their Lambics? They leave the wort (prononuced "wert"...ick!) exposed overnight to be "spontaneously fermented" by wild yeast and bacteria. What, they just have really yummy bacteria over there? That's not fair! I have a homebrew buzz right now, and I think I like it. :D
I had a batch get contaminated one time, it kinda looked like well lard or greese floating on top, since it was just on top, I bottled it leaving about an inch in my secondary, and the beer was awesome. I have a batch right now in the secondary, that well seems to have a very faint light white stuff on top. I am beginning to worry, but its a strong beer and needs to go at least another week. Hopefully it will turn out ok, I am not about to pull the airlock to smell but the other beer that was contaminated still smelled good. Then I read somewhere that sometimes mold gets on top, but the beer underneath is still good. I do have patches of bubbles in the middle and throughout the top, I hope its just a sign that its fermenting still, but I guess I will let you know in another week.
 

Janx

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I've seen that same "scum" infection you describe.

It sure seems to be a mostly visual thing. The beers I have seen it occur with turn out fine. Maybe it is some sort of surface mold or something? It really doesn't seem to affect the flavor. With the bad infections, you can tell right away from the taste. This one looks bad, but doesn't seem to affect the flavor at all...

Anyway, good luck! I bet you'll be OK :D
 

Dark_Ale

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Janx said:
I've seen that same "scum" infection you describe.

It sure seems to be a mostly visual thing. The beers I have seen it occur with turn out fine. Maybe it is some sort of surface mold or something? It really doesn't seem to affect the flavor. With the bad infections, you can tell right away from the taste. This one looks bad, but doesn't seem to affect the flavor at all...

Anyway, good luck! I bet you'll be OK :D
I guess its more of a film than anything. Just a film on top, but to be sure I will leave the film behind.
 

Angie

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When will you know, by smell or taste or whatever, that you have a contaminated batch?

Thanks
 

LaFours

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You mentioned a piney flavor Janx. This leads me to believe that my first batch was infected. I still have a ton of bottles from that first batch, I was thinking it would age and taste better but it just doesn't taste good. Pine flavor is too much.

Now my second batch on the other hand is awesome! An Irish red that came out a little darker than expected, but tastes great. Love the roasted barley that was used in it.
 
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