How old is your Star San?

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bwible

I drink, and I know things
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I’ll post this here so others can learn from and laugh at this mistake.

I’ve been fighting infections and off flavors in some of my beers pretty regularly for some time and I think today I had an epiphany.

I owned a homebrew store from 2000-2004. When I closed my store I kept just a few things for myself. Among them were multiple 32 oz containers of Star San, which I have been using up over the years and I still have one or two full ones left.

Yeah, I closed my store in 2004. So these containers of unmixed Star San are now almost 19 years old. 5 Star recommends replacing bottles that are *2* years old.

I’ve been going crazy trying to track this down. I can’t find a date anywhere on these, but I know where they came from and I haven’t bought any since.

The stuff I have has seemed normal, foaming and all, but I’m guessing this has probably been my problem the whole time. I’m going to have to get some fresh stuff.

I guess we can put this in the “don’t do that” department. Don’t use bottles of Star San that are between 17 and 19 years old.

Argh
 
Interesting. And thanks for the 2 year thing, I don't recall that ever being mentioned, and my 32 oz bottle has a '012819C' "Lot Code", which could be the third batch made on January 28 2019. But the year sounds right in any case. There's no mention of expiration on the bottle otherwise.

I believe the pH does the killing but the surfactant allows it to penetrate the bugs. I wouldn't know how to test that the surfactant is still viable, but one can test the pH for pH < 3 (and closer to 2 in my experience when using RO water). If it doesn't make that metric then it'd definitely be tossing time. That said, I've never had an evidently infected batch and certainly don't want to start now, so I'll be ordering a fresh bottle...

Cheers!
 
I was so focused on the process and thinking about everything coming in contact with the beer I never even thought about it. I mean it’s Star San right?
 
It surprises me (old) age being the issue. How dark is the concentrate now compared to a new bottle?

My gallon jug of Starsan is from 2017-2018, IIRC, and a bit past half empty now. It may be a tad darker than originally, but at 5-6 years old it still behaves and seems to work as fine as it always has.
 
055B2EE5-6413-4ECE-877C-C9C50E4F5B41.jpeg


DE4E1A2E-08B8-454F-8A68-52A56F7A011C.jpeg


You can see their bottles don’t even look like this now. Sure I take the 2 year thing with a grain of salt - they sell sanitizer. But 18 or 19 years I think I’m well outside the recommendation.
 
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Good question I forgot to ask!
I gotta get a beer anyway, I'll take a pic of my bottle while I'm in the brew space.
Hang on a tick...

starsan_3yo.jpg



I can't remember what it use to look like. I don't think it looks that dark though.
Looks about the same as yours....

Cheers!
 
Sure I take the 2 year thing with a grain of salt - they sell sanitizer. But 18 or 19 years I think I’m well outside the recommendation.
Looks fine, just like mine. ;)

Could be worth doing a small, but controlled test between fresh and 18-year old, before you dump good-old stuff that may still be A-OK.
I dunno if DodecylBenzeneSulphonic Acid breaks down over that long a time, being mixed in with concentrated (75%) Phosphoric Acid.
 
@bwible, you mentioned that it still foams, so sounds like the surfactant component is still working, which gets the sanitizer into the nooks and crannies. The other consideration is pH. Are you able to measure that and see if its <3 in the diluted mixture?

If you've been struggling with infections (been there, done that), and it's frustrating. Have you gone over everything in your cold-side process and gear? Fermenters, tubing, packaging, etc. I had a couple back-to-back infected batches, and determined the tubing used in racking to the bottling bucket, and/or the bucket spigot were the culprits. Replaced those and no problemo since. It might be something just as "minor" causing the trouble.

I get it that you might question the StarSan, and you're just being systematic. Maybe get a small bottle of fresh StarSan and see if that cures the problem.
 
Looks fine, just like mine. ;)

Could be worth doing a small, but controlled test between fresh and 18-year old, before you dump good-old stuff that may still be A-OK.
I dunno if DodecylBenzeneSulphonic Acid breaks down over that long a time, being mixed in with concentrated (75%) Phosphoric Acid.
I thought about that. I want to get some new stuff to try anyway and really hope this was my problem. If its not I have no idea where to go next. I don’t have any ph test strips to test it.

In the past year I brewed 3 red ales and 5 or 6 tries at bitter, English pale ale, and blonde ale - all chlorophenol. I’ve been able to do good stouts, maybe because its been covered up.

Whats interesting is I made 3 great clean lagers but all of those went in kegs. All the beers that were off were bottle. When a bottle batch goes its every bottle. But not all bottle batches go - I get good ones. I also have tried Iodophor on some batches so at this point its all mixed up.

Its been frustrating so I hope this is the answer.
 
@bwible, you mentioned that it still foams, so sounds like the surfactant component is still working, which gets the sanitizer into the nooks and crannies. The other consideration is pH. Are you able to measure that and see if its <3 in the diluted mixture?

If you've been struggling with infections (been there, done that), and it's frustrating. Have you gone over everything in your cold-side process and gear? Fermenters, tubing, packaging, etc. I had a couple back-to-back infected batches, and determined the tubing used in racking to the bottling bucket, and/or the bucket spigot were the culprits. Replaced those and no problemo since. It might be something just as "minor" causing the trouble.

I get it that you might question the StarSan, and you're just being systematic. Maybe get a small bottle of fresh StarSan and see if that cures the problem.
When I trace back where this started, our club got a 15 gallon bourbon barrel and 3 of us brewed an old ale and aged it in the barrel. That was in the fall of 2021. The barrel was not first use, it had been used twice before (which I did not know when i got in). The beer I got back was terrible and I ended up dumping most of it. Third of fourth use barrels usually end up being used for sours for a reason. But by my notes it all seems to go back to that beer.

Whether its some tough bug I just can’t kill or a certain carboy that has it, etc. Still trying to figure that out but that makes sense because the 3 lagers were done in a 7 gallon Fermonster and thats all I use that for because I don’t brew 5 gallons except for keg batches. All my bottle batches are 3 gallons which go in a 5 gallon glass carboy.

I’m about to start bleach bombing if this doesn’t work
 
When I trace back where this started, our club got a 15 gallon bourbon barrel and 3 of us brewed an old ale and aged it in the barrel. That was in the fall of 2021. The barrel was not first use, it had been used twice before (which I did not know when i got in). The beer I got back was terrible and I ended up dumping most of it. Third of fourth use barrels usually end up being used for sours for a reason. But by my notes it all seems to go back to that beer.

Whether its some tough bug I just can’t kill or a certain carboy that has it, etc. Still trying to figure that out but that makes sense because the 3 lagers were done in a 7 gallon Fermonster and thats all I use that for because I don’t brew 5 gallons except for keg batches. All my bottle batches are 3 gallons which go in a 5 gallon glass carboy.

I’m about to start bleach bombing if this doesn’t work

That barrel sounds like the likely culprit for the source. You may have gotten a "house bug." Maybe bleach bombing gear is the answer. Don't use bleach on any stainless steel or aluminum, as it's corrosive. Or try iodophor mixed at the disinfecting level (~100ppm or so). That will require rinsing, but it is better at killing stubborn bugs than StarSan. At <25ppm, iodophor can be used no-rinse as a sanitizer.

Replace plastic and rubber tubing--that's cheap. If you use a bottling bucket, maybe it's time to replace, especially if it has lots of scratches inside. Does the Fermonster have a removable plastic spigot? Store it in a jar of Starsan between uses. I do the same with my bottling bucket spigot. Having it spend a month or so submerged in Starsan keeps the bugs at bay.

You mentioned chlorophenols. That's usually due to chlorine/chloramines in tap water. Try building your water from the ground up, using reverse osmosis water as a base. A lot of grocery stores sell RO water out of a dispenser for like 30 cents a gallon. Then add your water salts.

I feel for you. Sucks to be caught in that merry-go-round of infections.
 
fwiw, for killing pernicious bugs one can use chlorine bleach diluted to 600ppm with a short dwell time (minutes) before a thorough rinsing without worries about stripping chromium oxide passivation.

Normally a sanitizing solution would be 200ppm but this sounds like a good case for going nuclear. Again, the key is to keep the dwell time minimal and rinse thoroughly...

Cheers!
 
One more on fighting possible infection sources: The kettle valve(s).
Take them apart (3-piece) for inspection and thorough internal cleaning. Pediococcus is a hardy, persistent bug(ger).
 
Or try iodophor mixed at the disinfecting level (~100ppm or so). That will require rinsing, but it is better at killing stubborn bugs than StarSan. At <25ppm, iodophor can be used no-rinse as a sanitizer.

Iodine sanitizers work well too.
I was going to suggest this also… I occasionally use iodophor every 4th or 5th time to add extra protection.
 
Lol! I have at least half of a 32 ounce bottle of Iodophor still remaining though I don't enjoy orange hoses...or skin. But it has oft been said that varying sanitation solutions is a sound brewhouse practice, which is why I tolerate the stuff and periodically rinse my cold side (but not dispensing) gear with it...

Cheers!
 
I seriously doubt it's the Star San unless it was exposed to some severe heat or other kind of damage. I would buy a small bottle of Star San as suggested and try that. I've used 5 to 6 year old Star San without any problems.

DMF
 
Interesting. And thanks for the 2 year thing, I don't recall that ever being mentioned, and my 32 oz bottle has a '012819C' "Lot Code", which could be the third batch made on January 28 2019. But the year sounds right in any case. There's no mention of expiration on the bottle otherwise.

I believe the pH does the killing but the surfactant allows it to penetrate the bugs. I wouldn't know how to test that the surfactant is still viable, but one can test the pH for pH < 3 (and closer to 2 in my experience when using RO water). If it doesn't make that metric then it'd definitely be tossing time. That said, I've never had an evidently infected batch and certainly don't want to start now, so I'll be ordering a fresh bottle...

Cheers!
I just want to know how you guys make it last so long. (bottle of StarSan, that is).
 
I use my RO water (tds 6~7). The pH never seems to rise over even 6 months or more, which is my primary "goodness" metric, and it'll still coat my big SS spoon, so there's some amount of surfactant left after that many months as well. In truth I dump it from debris loading (as observed lying on the bottom of the white bucket) before it apparently loses its mojo...

Cheers!
 
I bought 4 32oz bottles in 2007 and am still using the last of it today with no issues.
Another positive pin in the chart. That helps keeping my mind at ease.
I mean that.

I have noticed that working solutions of Starsan start to lose their thick foaminess, after a month or so, when applied with a dedicated (small) washcloth. That's when I make a fresh solution. It usually coincides with grime settling out on the bottom, or the solution starting to look grayish.
 
the solution starting to look grayish.

I've never had that happen using RO water. A water chemistry thing?
I almost always end up replacing bright mix that might have some visible bits of debris on the bottom but never to the point that the solution has a tinge...

Cheers!
 
Numbered from the left, 1 and 3 are from homebrew lots, 2 is a mixture of 3 and a bottle I purchased new a few years ago, although it might have come from an older lot as I have been reusing that little bottle (Yes I know, not recommended.) Number 4 was purchased sometime last year. After I ordered a new bottle, I bought the lots that 1 and 3 were in. I ended up mixing number 2 because the cap on number 3 is busted. Number 1 has a lot code of 082317 while number 4's is 2213630. No code on 3 and 2 is a mixture. Number 1 is probably the oldest. Number 3 the print is right onto the bottle but no code.
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I just want to know how you guys make it last so long. (bottle of StarSan, that is).
Well I had 6 or 7 of them (32 oz) to start with. I do re-use it a couple times, like I also use mixed pbw a couple times. I start with fermenter #1 filled with pbw. Then I syphon the pbw from fermenter 1 to fermenter 2, which at least in theory somewhat cleans the syphon and tube. Then I fill fermenter #1 with star san. Then we go down the line again, transfer pbw to fermenter #3, star san to fermenter #2. Then fermenter #1 and syphon and tubing are clean and sanitized and ready to use. Each carboy gets a soak in pbw first followed by a soak in star san before use.
 
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I converted from Iodophor to StarSan when a bloke at my LHBS pointed out that StarSan was highly reusable. I want to believe, so the pH strip color @bwible posted is very reassuring. Haven't had infections, which also helps me keep the faith. And I've got some pH strips somewhere...
 
@bwible I buy the 32oz containers. Lasts me several years. I haven't had an infection in forever. I don't think pH is going to change in starsan over time when contained, so I think your problem lies elsewhere.

You might describe the problem better. What are you tasting in your beer?
 
I buy the 16 oz bottles that last quite a long time. Mixed with RO water the ph is stable.. it does its job… stays foamy… etc. … but after some time it turns a funky color due to all the crap I’m sanitizing.. I probably replace it before it’s actually necessary.
 
@bwible I buy the 32oz containers. Lasts me several years. I haven't had an infection in forever. I don't think pH is going to change in starsan over time when contained, so I think your problem lies elsewhere.

You might describe the problem better. What are you tasting in your beer?
^^ correction. I buy the 16 oz containers.
 
Pretty sure mine is from 2010. I got it from someone moving 2 years ago. Still use it, still kills ants on contact :)
 
Current bottle is almost empty. Bought it very recently... probably 2019. I use it very liberally for a lot of stuff and rarely reuse it.
 
@bwible : do you take apart the bottling bucket spigot? The barb/handle piece that turns typically slides up and out of the threaded body piece. Ages ago I had some bottling issues due to nasties hiding in there.

Same idea for ball valves, as mentioned above. I used to insulate the ball valve on my boil kettle with a towel to let it heat up during the boil.
 
We were just talking about this in another thread...
View attachment 828158
Those white ones are much easier to (dis)assemble than the old red handles ones. The body being one piece is nice, too. The body of the red handle ones is 2-piece to allow swivelling. I threw out all the red ones shortly after trying my first white one.

If anyone is still using the red ones and is annoyed by cleaning them, try the all-white ones.
 
For those with old bottles of StarSan, does it smell off? My first bottle did. It had a weird smell to it. The smell lingered even after it was mixed. The gear I used it on would have reminents of that smell too. I got a lot of years out of using that first bottle (32oz) before that smell started. I've been brewing since 2012, so I finally replaced the first bottle 2-3 years ago with a smaller 16oz bottle. The new bottle definitely had a "fresher" scent than the old, but I never had an infection using the old bottle either. Since I only had less than 4oz left, I just chucked it in the trash.
 
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