help solving my infection issue

HomeBrewTalk.com - Beer, Wine, Mead, & Cider Brewing Discussion Community.

Help Support Homebrew Talk:

mendlodc

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jun 14, 2007
Messages
69
Reaction score
0
Been brewing for about three years and switched to all-grain this summer. All my partial mashes went great - no infection problems and some decent beer. Then I switched to all-grain…. The first all grain went great and then next three have been infected. You may ask how I know I had infections… well it became pretty obvious as all three beers ended up tasting like vinegar, sour nasty, etc… My mild, ipa, and porter all turned out tasting terrible and went down the drain - I thought about somehow saving them, but once I almost gagged from the smell, I knew I was never drinking that beer. (I actually bottled one porter, left it sit about two months just to be sure - terrible!)

The good news is that I think I have things figured out. Some more background. I brewed my first all grain and the immediately the next day my second. I waited about three weeks and did my 3rd and 4th on the same day. About three days after brew day, the smell from the carboys starting changing form a pleasant fermentation smell to a nasty sour smell. By the time I was ready to rack or bottle the smell was overwhelming. At this point I really started examining my brewing technique, sanitation, and what changed after my first all grain batch to my second and successive all grain batches. There must have been something that happened after that first all grain batch the was now infecting my beer….

Then I took a part my brew kettle and think I found the cause of the problem…. My ball valve. After my first brew I never took the ball valve off and cleaned inside that area, never did before my 3rd and 4th batches either. When I took it off, my gosh, it was full of trub and gunk all the way through the ball valve and back into the coupler. So I am thinking that is the cause of the infection issues. I rack from my kettle into my fermentation carboy by opening the kettle ball valve with tubing attached and draining into the fermenter. I guess I assumed this area was getting sanitized by the rinsing associated with cleaning the kettle and then the heat associated with the boil.

My other thoughts are the tubing I am using to rack to the carboy with, but I used new tubing after batch two. I have also thought about my immersion chiller, but I am careful with the sanitation of that and place it into the boiling wort 30 minutes from the end of the boil as recommended.

Thoughts? Have I figured it out? Is it the dirty ball valve and I am getting the bad guys as I rack to primary through that ball valve as I suspect?
 

scinerd3000

Well-Known Member
Joined
Mar 29, 2008
Messages
2,123
Reaction score
16
Location
Milton
ANYTHING, ABSOLUTLY ANYTHING that touches the wort after the boil needs to be sanatized. The tubing (even new), i spray the ballvalve also, the carboy, funnel and anything else you use. Immersion chiller usually goes in 10 minutes before end of boil but i dont think having it in for 30's gonna hurt you at all. What sanatizer are you using and how are you using it? How long are you soaking etc.
 
OP
M

mendlodc

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jun 14, 2007
Messages
69
Reaction score
0
Yeah, I am pretty confident of my previous sanitation techniques before switching to all-grain.... but there is something I am missing in the all grain process and think it's that ball valve.

The tubing, the carboy, the funnel.... everything is sanitized with a bleach solution except for stainless steel that I am sanitizing with an idopher solution. I soak pretty much everything I am using starting the night before and then on brew day I have a 5 gallon bucket full of non rinse (idopher) and a spray bottle full too for on the spot ssanitation

In general I am VERY careful about sanitation, but something is falling throught the cracks since switching to all grain.... I think it's that ball valve as its the only thing I can think of that was not sanitized properly -- I didn't realize so much trub would accumulate in there and not get rinsed out as a part of normal kettle cleaning -- I was wrong it was filthy.
 

conpewter

Well-Known Member
Joined
Nov 2, 2007
Messages
5,077
Reaction score
58
Location
East Dundee, Illinois
I've run into some infection issues as well. Once I get my setup back together I'll be using a pump to pump boiling wort through my CFC and back into my kettle, this will also help to heat sanitize the ball-valve and all the tubing I'll be using to go to the carboy.

Seems like you have found your source of infection though, I hope your next brew goes well!
 

Yooper

Ale's What Cures You!
Staff member
Admin
Mod
Lifetime Supporter
Joined
Jun 4, 2006
Messages
74,646
Reaction score
12,256
Location
UP/Snowbird in Florida
The only other thing I can think of is your grain storing/crushing procedure. Sour infections sound like lacto infection, and there is a ton of lacto bacteria on grain. That's why you should never crush your grain by fermenting wort. Since you did the batches close together, I'm wondering if your freshly made wort had some kind of contact with grain?

You're right that the ballvalve is probably it- but I'm just trying to think of what else might have changed in your procedure since you went AG.
 
OP
M

mendlodc

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jun 14, 2007
Messages
69
Reaction score
0
a thing i thought i should add to my post is that this kettle / ball valve setup is new for my all grain batches.... before that i had a smaller kettle with no ball valve and was pouring the wort into my carboy thrrough a funnel. since going to all grain i use my new kettle and ball valve with tubing attached and go directly into the kettle. (this is a new variable and one of the reasons i think the dirty ball valve is the problem.)
 
OP
M

mendlodc

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jun 14, 2007
Messages
69
Reaction score
0
The only other thing I can think of is your grain storing/crushing procedure. Sour infections sound like lacto infection, and there is a ton of lacto bacteria on grain. That's why you should never crush your grain by fermenting wort. Since you did the batches close together, I'm wondering if your freshly made wort had some kind of contact with grain?

You're right that the ballvalve is probably it- but I'm just trying to think of what else might have changed in your procedure since you went AG.
thanks for your thoughts.... i am actually bringing home the grain crushed, so crushed grain was sitting kinda near my brewing area (within ten feet).... so is it common practice to keep any crushed grain far far away from wort post boil and then the fermentation? why would it matter if it's near fermentation if that is all airlocked up?
 

scinerd3000

Well-Known Member
Joined
Mar 29, 2008
Messages
2,123
Reaction score
16
Location
Milton
you deffinitly dont want unmashed grain to enter your microbe free boiled wort. I keep mine on a table a few feet away but honestly i use a keggle outside for boils and i dont even have a lid. I have yet to have an infection.
 

Ender

Well-Known Member
Joined
Feb 27, 2007
Messages
245
Reaction score
2
Location
Columbus, Oh.
The ball valve might be your problem, but maybe not. I know my ball valve sits right near the flame and gets very hot. I'm not sure if bad bacteria can survive in that type of environment. I have never taken apart my ball valve or coupler anc cleaned it out.

I use a homemade "Hop Taco" with a pick up tube in the kettle and gravity feed my shirron plate chiller. Put 40 batches thru this set up. Ran a how PBW solution thru it one about 10 brews ago. Probably get a nasty infection next batch now though!

Ender
 

springer

Well-Known Member
Joined
Feb 12, 2008
Messages
4,736
Reaction score
33
Location
Wappingers falls NY
its amazing the amount of crud in the ball valve. I used to just open the valve during the boil and pass about a quart of boiling wort threw a couple of times. Last brew I was cleaning a few carny's and decided to take the ball valve apart took all of 2 minutes. It was gross inside even though I use a hop bag it still was full of crud. I haven't had one infection since I started using the keggle so I guess it was sanitized by the hot wort but I now take it apart to clean.
 

brewjunky

Well-Known Member
Joined
May 23, 2008
Messages
376
Reaction score
4
Location
Winnipeg
I'm doubting it was the ball valve since it is connected to your boil kettle which gets extremely hot. Its most likely the tubing.

It is really hard to properly sanitize tubing. The best way is to either run boiling hot water thru it or use a sanitizer and a easy siphon and pump the sanitizer thru the hose to get all of it contacted.
 

jds

Well-Known Member
Joined
Oct 24, 2007
Messages
1,912
Reaction score
38
Location
Littleton, CO
You might also want to consider storing your keg with the ball valve open, so if there is something in there, it might at least dry out.

I use my boil kettle to heat mash and sparge water, so by the time I get to boiling, I've put a lot of hot water through the valve, and what's gone through it gets boiled. I don't sanitize it before boiling, but I do shoot some iodophor up in there before attaching the siphon tube when it's time to drain.

Remember, dry makes it harder for infections to survive, so store it with the valve open. Just make sure to close it before dumping wort in the next time around.
 
OP
M

mendlodc

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jun 14, 2007
Messages
69
Reaction score
0
I'm doubting it was the ball valve since it is connected to your boil kettle which gets extremely hot. Its most likely the tubing.

It is really hard to properly sanitize tubing. The best way is to either run boiling hot water thru it or use a sanitizer and a easy siphon and pump the sanitizer thru the hose to get all of it contacted.

Yeah, I was thinking the heat would sanitize the ball vlave too and as posted by someone else in this thread I use my kettle to heat mash and sparge water too, but I guess that isn't boiling so perhaps not really sanitizing the ball valve. I will for sure keep my ball valve open during storage going forward - thanks for that tip in this thread.

As for the tubing I use to rack from the kettle to carboy... this is only about 18 inches long and I soak it in a bleach solution over night prior to brew day. Seem sufficient right? Either way, the hose from those three batches has been thrown out.

Thanks everyone.
 
OP
M

mendlodc

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jun 14, 2007
Messages
69
Reaction score
0
I'll be brewing again this Friday. Just gonna go for an easy mild to keep costs down until I solve this thing.

I think it's that ball valve, but I am super cleaning and sanitzing everything else too and using new tubing.

Wish me luck!
 

scinerd3000

Well-Known Member
Joined
Mar 29, 2008
Messages
2,123
Reaction score
16
Location
Milton
get a garden sprayer and fill with starsan and spray everything to be safe. keep posted with the new brew. good luck
 

scinerd3000

Well-Known Member
Joined
Mar 29, 2008
Messages
2,123
Reaction score
16
Location
Milton
it would work...personally i prefer starsan but either one should work.
 

BrewBeemer

Well-Known Member
Joined
Feb 24, 2006
Messages
3,492
Reaction score
28
Location
native islander my paradise
Sounds like the inside of the couplings threads need a bottle brush with chemicals with a good scrub and rinse job. I can not believe the ball valve getting that full of gunk if cleaned and flushed after every brew session.
Get everyone of them critters.
 
OP
M

mendlodc

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jun 14, 2007
Messages
69
Reaction score
0
so went to the local homebrew shop to get ingredients for my next batch and discuss my problem --- all the guys in there think there is no way it's the ball valve as it gets hot enough during the boil.

but when i got home yesterday, the new morebeer catalog had arrived and on 30 it clearly states "morebeer has proven that the heat from the boil does NOT heat the ball valve enough to kill the bacteria."

so, i am sanitizing the piss outta everything and hoping for the best (and still kinda thinking it's that ball valve.)
 

TeleTwanger

Well-Known Member
Joined
Sep 28, 2008
Messages
693
Reaction score
6
so went to the local homebrew shop to get ingredients for my next batch and discuss my problem --- all the guys in there think there is no way it's the ball valve as it gets hot enough during the boil.

but when i got home yesterday, the new morebeer catalog had arrived and on 30 it clearly states "morebeer has proven that the heat from the boil does NOT heat the ball valve enough to kill the bacteria."

so, i am sanitizing the piss outta everything and hoping for the best (and still kinda thinking it's that ball valve.)
I can't believe people don't disassemble the ball valve and clean and sanitize it every batch. This goes againts the first rule of homebrewing: sanitize everything the wort comes in contact with. When I first started homebrewing I was told to not use a kettle with a spigot for the reason that they can harbor nasties. (obviously many people use spigots with no problems)...Never assume somethings clean and sanitised, take it for granted that somethings NOT sanitized. You'd be suprised where nasties can thrive like at the bottom of the sea, salt lakes, inside bleach bottle caps,ball valves, etc;
 

giligson

Well-Known Member
Joined
Oct 1, 2008
Messages
758
Reaction score
4
Location
Vancouver Area - Canada
so went to the local homebrew shop to get ingredients for my next batch and discuss my problem --- all the guys in there think there is no way it's the ball valve as it gets hot enough during the boil.

but when i got home yesterday, the new morebeer catalog had arrived and on 30 it clearly states "morebeer has proven that the heat from the boil does NOT heat the ball valve enough to kill the bacteria."

so, i am sanitizing the piss outta everything and hoping for the best (and still kinda thinking it's that ball valve.)

I think if you do a complete cleanup (tear down and rebuild any components that contact the sterile wort), get every last bit of crud off your fermentors, canes, hoses, airlocks, etc etc, And consider replacing anything that can't be cleaned, your next brew should be trouble free.
best of luck.
 

scinerd3000

Well-Known Member
Joined
Mar 29, 2008
Messages
2,123
Reaction score
16
Location
Milton
honestly ive never really cleaned my ball valve. its a simple 2 piece, not one of the nift3 3 piece teflon doodads. Ive been using it for well over 2 years and i must say i havent had an infected batch yet. Seriously man i doubt its the ballvalve.....Do you use a starter? If you dont, i would start because the added yeast viability will help it beat out anything you have accidentally infected your wort with...
 

RevRon

Well-Known Member
Joined
Nov 6, 2008
Messages
78
Reaction score
2
Location
Southern Ohio
This is kind of off topic but..... Have any of you guys used the McD Sanitizer? My brother got me a whole bunch of it in packets for me. McDonald's uses it for sanitizing various things but I'm not really sure how effective it is and dont want to risk a batch of beer if no one has used it.
 
OP
M

mendlodc

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jun 14, 2007
Messages
69
Reaction score
0
honestly ive never really cleaned my ball valve. its a simple 2 piece, not one of the nift3 3 piece teflon doodads. Ive been using it for well over 2 years and i must say i havent had an infected batch yet. Seriously man i doubt its the ballvalve.....Do you use a starter? If you dont, i would start because the added yeast viability will help it beat out anything you have accidentally infected your wort with...
Of the three infected batches I have brewed, two were from starters and one was nottingham dry yeast.

For my brew day yesterday, I went with dry yeast and brewed a low gravity mild -- trying to keep costs down until I solve this problem.... it's "easier" to throw away $20 worth of beer instead of $35!

Thanks again for everyone's thoughts and support. Had a great brew day yesterday hitting all my temps and volumes. I have 5 1/2 gallons of mild fermenting away. Won't be long now and I will know if the issue has been solved. Wish me luck!
 
OP
M

mendlodc

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jun 14, 2007
Messages
69
Reaction score
0
So at this point in time, I know I need to relax, etc...

But, I just checked out my fermentation progress, gave the carboy a little swirl and really think I am already smelling sour vineger like smells coming up thru the airlock. It's not strong and doesn't smell bad yet and I can't be sure --- hopefully it's just some sort of paranoia based on my last three batches.

If this one is infected, I'll be at my wits end. I can't think of a way to me any more complete and thorough in my sanitation process.

Can someone tell me an infection can't start this quickly so I can put my mind to rest? I pitched Nottingham about 17 hours ago and had airlock activity within 15 hours. It's bubbling away right now and the foaming on top looks normal.
 

giligson

Well-Known Member
Joined
Oct 1, 2008
Messages
758
Reaction score
4
Location
Vancouver Area - Canada
The time between your two posts is rougly 2.5 hrs.
You would have to have an actual high cell count "vinegar starter" to get any sort of decent bacterial growth in that time. It's either a chemical reaction or your paranoia - give it time.
 
OP
M

mendlodc

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jun 14, 2007
Messages
69
Reaction score
0
The time between your two posts is rougly 2.5 hrs.
You would have to have an actual high cell count "vinegar starter" to get any sort of decent bacterial growth in that time. It's either a chemical reaction or your paranoia - give it time.
what do u mean by chemical reaction?
 

giligson

Well-Known Member
Joined
Oct 1, 2008
Messages
758
Reaction score
4
Location
Vancouver Area - Canada
Well, something that shows up within two hours is not biological (not enough biomass yet) - I was just thinking out loud if it was possible that you were getting something reacting to form an acetic acid or similar compound that could give you that smell - afraid I'm out of my league when I start to speculate in that direction.
 
OP
M

mendlodc

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jun 14, 2007
Messages
69
Reaction score
0
Hmmm.... I truly feel like this batch is bad already. It's bubbling away at 69 degrees and the smell coming outta the airlock just isn't right. It smells sour vineger like. It's not overwhelming sour vineger at this point, but I think it's more than just my paranoia now. But, I really hope not! I pitched the yeast 26 hours ago now.

I realize I am probably jumping the gun, but I think this one is infected too. But I still am holding out hope based on a few things. 1.) The support of this board. You all are keeping me sane and helping me think I am not in this by myself. 2.) The fact that this is different than my previous batches in that in the previous batches the smell didn't start to the 3rd or 4th day of fermentation. For this batch I think I smell it on day 1, so hopefully it's just in my head! 3.) People in this thread mentioning that an infection really can't take hold within 24 hrs unless I pitched a big infected starter.... which I did not, I pitched dry yeast straight from the package.

I'm sure many are reading this thinking I am worrying too much and it's too early to tell, but if you smelled my airlock fumes I think you would see what I am talking about (smelling). FYI, there is cheap vodka in the airlock.

Keep your fingers crossed for me. If not I wouldn't mind finding some people in the bay area who can taste my fermented wort next week and help figure out what type of infection I am getting. Maybe that can help me back into the cause. Hope it doesn't come to that, but knowing I have a plan of attack makes me feel better.
 

scinerd3000

Well-Known Member
Joined
Mar 29, 2008
Messages
2,123
Reaction score
16
Location
Milton
Hmmm.... I truly feel like this batch is bad already. It's bubbling away at 69 degrees and the smell coming outta the airlock just isn't right. It smells sour vineger like. It's not overwhelming sour vineger at this point, but I think it's more than just my paranoia now. But, I really hope not! I pitched the yeast 26 hours ago now.

I realize I am probably jumping the gun, but I think this one is infected too. But I still am holding out hope based on a few things. 1.) The support of this board. You all are keeping me sane and helping me think I am not in this by myself. 2.) The fact that this is different than my previous batches in that in the previous batches the smell didn't start to the 3rd or 4th day of fermentation. For this batch I think I smell it on day 1, so hopefully it's just in my head! 3.) People in this thread mentioning that an infection really can't take hold within 24 hrs unless I pitched a big infected starter.... which I did not, I pitched dry yeast straight from the package.

I'm sure many are reading this thinking I am worrying too much and it's too early to tell, but if you smelled my airlock fumes I think you would see what I am talking about (smelling). FYI, there is cheap vodka in the airlock.

Keep your fingers crossed for me. If not I wouldn't mind finding some people in the bay area who can taste my fermented wort next week and help figure out what type of infection I am getting. Maybe that can help me back into the cause. Hope it doesn't come to that, but knowing I have a plan of attack makes me feel better.
you cant really tell smell when its being filtered through vodka....wait and hope for the best. While its going, would you mind posting some pictures of your setup...im curious.
 
OP
M

mendlodc

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jun 14, 2007
Messages
69
Reaction score
0
you cant really tell smell when its being filtered through vodka....wait and hope for the best. While its going, would you mind posting some pictures of your setup...im curious.

hmmm.... I for sure think you can smell fermenting wort aroma coming thru a vodka filled airlock. And damn it - this now smells completely funky, musty, sour. I am fairly certain now this batch has a problem too. I am gonna take a sample of it to the local homebrew shop and see what they think.

As for the pictures, can't do that right now, but can for sure sometime tomorrow. What would you like to see? I have a pretty standard setup. 10 gal polarware kettle, 10 gal igloo MLT, 6 gallon glass carboy.

One thing I am thinking about is how quickly this turned "bad" and people mentioning in this thread that infections can't set in that quickly - so maybe it's something else? Not sure what else it could be?
 

TeleTwanger

Well-Known Member
Joined
Sep 28, 2008
Messages
693
Reaction score
6
sounds like you got infectionitis. I had this after 2 or 3 beers went bad. It seemed like every batch smelled bad for a while even though they weren't...The mind is a terrible thing.
 
OP
M

mendlodc

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jun 14, 2007
Messages
69
Reaction score
0
sounds like you got infectionitis. I had this after 2 or 3 beers went bad. It seemed like every batch smelled bad for a while even though they weren't...The mind is a terrible thing.
really hope you are right! but, I just gave it a swirl and it smells terrible. i mean TERRIBLE.
 

Joe Camel

Well-Known Member
Joined
Mar 15, 2008
Messages
282
Reaction score
4
Location
Charlottetown, PE, Canada
it could be your ball valve, tubing or carboy, anything downstream of the boil that's causing the trouble. Small amounts of caked goo can contain tons of bacteria.

Even things that are visibly clean can still have a biofilm on it that will harbor and protect bacteria from your sanitiser. A carboy can look clean but still be infected, plus biofilms can protect against chlorine, which is why many water companies are going toward chloramine. Try cleaning with something a bit harsher like PBW to strip any biofilms off. Did you clean all the threads on the ball valve too. they tend to resist cleaning and store bacteria

It could also be falling in to your wort while it's cooling, are you doing your chilling where there is a lot of moving air? I think this is less likely if the infection is taking off as quickly as you say it is. Can you cover your pot with a lid or a cover while it cools?

One experiment you can do is to sanitise a few bottles or mason jars for the next batch, after cooling, take some wort into one jar from the top of the pot, fill one straight from the ball valve, one from the tubing connected to the ball valve, then maybe one from the carboy after it's filled. Set these aside and watch for funkiness. The first infected sample in order will be just downstream from the source of the infection.
 
OP
M

mendlodc

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jun 14, 2007
Messages
69
Reaction score
0
So, I have tried to ignore the carboy and hope I am just paranoid.

I am gonna check it out tomorrow and if it still seems bad to me, rack some into bottles and take the unfermented wort to the local homebrew shop for "analysis."
 
Top