I've got an infected brewery! Help!

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Kungpaodog

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I really need to figure this out quickly since I'm brewing tonight, and brewing AND bottling tomorrow, so thanks to anyone who reads all this and offers any help.

My IPA that I made in December and Bottled in January turned into a foamy mess after 6 weeks in bottles, and I think that the Pale ale I made in January and bottled last month is starting to show some of the same signs. They both had what looked like flocculated yeast on the side of the bottles and gave enough foam to fill a glass and then some. One thing they had in common was dry-hopping, but I doubt that different packages of hops would do this to different batches. I'm also pretty sure that they may have been in the same fermenter, but I can't be sure since I don't keep track of which beer is done in which fermenter.

The good news is that I made a stout and a wheat between those batches and they don't show any signs of this infection. The bad news is that I have no idea what else might be harboring bacteria: autosiphon, bottling bucket, bottling wand, etc.

I've got a batch in what I think to be the suspect ale pail that has began bubbling again after 10 days with no activity, and I know that the airlock is not a good indicator, but I wonder if this is the infection going to work on another batch.

There's all the info, so here's the question:

What do I need to replace? (I know I could replace everything, but I sure don't wanna) Is there any good soak I could do on my equipment, or am I screwed?
 

brewmasterpa

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i would think a good hardy sanitizing with a staunch dose of iodophore and HOT water would do the trick.
 

Pi Kapp Beer Guy

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From what i'm reading how are you cleaning out your bottles? If your not using a bottle brush they are not getting clean enough. In most cases and to my understanding if your brew is not showing any signs of infection until bottling then i would examin that. Unless your dealing with low gravities it should be hard for a bug to take hold of a beer that is almost fully fermented unless it is a substancial amount of bugs. As far as the dry hopping is concearned the use of hops acts as a preservative. If it is an infection the words of advice i have seen around here is to eliminate any possible supects (auto syphon, bottling wand, scratched buckets, ect.)

Thats my two cents and sorry to hear of your luck and i hope you can turn it around.
 

Castawayales

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I would check the sg in your ale pail. If it is dropping, it probably is the culprit. If the Ale Pail is suspect retire it. I write on the inside bottom of the bucket so there is no mistake.

Most contaminated beers I have made have a very low final sg from the offending bug breaking down the nonfermentables.

Good Luck,
Barry
 
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Kungpaodog

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PodunkAZ- From what I understand, infected plastic can harbor stuff that can't ever be eliminated, but I'd love it if that would work. Can anyone second that idea?

Pi Kapp- I don't think it is the bottles since it was the same in every bottle of the IPA, and I haven't seen it in any other beers. My bottles usually get an Oxyclean soak when removing the labels, starsan right before bottling, and a good rinse with hot water immediately after being emptied, but all my empties are going to get a good cleaning before I put any more beer in them again.

Castawayales- That's a good idea. I usually only check my FG once when I bottle, and I've never had a batch outside of the predicted range. I'll check the gravity now and a week from now.
 

llazy_llama

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Furthermore, Kungpaodog's suspicions are partially correct. Most of the time, plastic equipment that becomes scratched is likely to harbor infection within those scratches. Even modern sanitation techniques won't remove that. The only thing that will is autoclaving, which would destroy plastic equipment anyway.

I hate to be the pessimist here, but if beer catches an unwanted infection in a plastic fermenter, then travels through plastic tubing pumped by a plastic racking cane, and into a plastic bottling bucket, the only 100% surefire way to rid your brewery of that infection quickly would be to dispose of all that plastic. It sucks, that much is true. Then again, $10 for a plastic bucket, $15 for a bottling bucket, $16 for a racking cane, and $5 for new tubing adds up to about $46.

One or two ruined batches, even low priced batches using cheap yeast adds up to at least $50.

However, the main thing that leads me to believe that this brew is not infected is that the OP never mentioned the beer tasting like complete crap. Taste the beer, age it a bit, then taste it again before you convince yourself it's an infection.
 
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Kungpaodog

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AZ-IPA- I didn't think that was recommended, and I don't use Idophor anyways.

Thanks for chiming in, Llama. The IPA is all gone now since I wanted to drink it all before any awful tastes developed, and I didn't want to risk any bombs by keeping it around. I don't really know what an infection should taste like, but the description of the beer gaining new carbonation after 6 weeks, and every bottle only getting worse sounds like some of the gusher infection descriptions I've read around here. There was no real off taste, but again I don't know what I should have been tasting for.

The bottles were conditioned at about 68, and I always have pretty consistent results with my batches. The IPA was doing well after a month in bottles and tasted great. Still tasted good with all the foam.

You forgot the bottling wand in your list, but I might just got pony up the $70 or so for the peace of mind, unless I can get some other good reasons that I might not be infected. I'd just hate to toss all the gear I've got when it might not be bad.
 

Saccharomyces

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Sounds like Brettanomyces.

How do you chill your wort?

Soak all of your equipment in a solution of oxyclean 1 scoop per gallon overnight, and soak for 15 minutes in sanitizer. That should zap anything.

If you use an autosiphon do you take it apart and clean it every time? If you have a bucket with a spigot do you take the spigot off and soak it in sanitizer every time you use the bucket?

I would +1 getting a new ale pail, and toss your racking tubing as well. After I had a brew which got wild yeast in it I turned the fermenter into a grain bucket. Racking canes etc. which are hard plastic should be fine to soak.
 

SpanishCastleAle

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Soak all of your equipment in a solution of oxyclean 1 scoop per gallon overnight, and soak for 15 minutes in sanitizer. That should zap anything.
This is what I would do...for every batch. I use PBW for cleaning. I think the alkaline cleaning combined with the acidic sanitizing is a good 1-2 punch. Rinse well between the cleaner and the sanitizer since the cleaner will tend to neutralize the sanitizer. I also switch santizers every now and then and instead of Starsan I occasionally use bleach pre-fermentation and Iodofor post-fermentation.
 

conpewter

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I had infection issues and traced it to my auto-siphon. I ended up getting all new tubing and a new autosiphon. I use glass to ferment in so I didn't need to replace that, just a lot of cleaning.
 

mciaio

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If it didn't taste like "Satan's Taint", I am not 100% sure it was infected. Seems like you drank the whole batch. Was it the possibility of too much bottling sugar? The first ones were OK, but then the later ones started to get worst. I don't know I am just throwing my $.02
 

Revvy

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I had the same thing last summer...it too traced it to the autosiphon (actually it was my fault I originally broke the tube at the bend, and just slapped the hose on it with a clamp and never dissasembled it.

I had a porter that had bottle gushers no less...during judging at a contest...I was lucky though I had two patient judges...they let the first one gush, then asked for the second...it gushed as well...but they let the gushing stop and actually judged the remaining beers...

AND THEY LOVED THE FREAKIN TASTE!!!!!

They said on my judging sheets that had it not gushed I would have prolly placed in the top 3...and they were stymied, because they wrote in my evals, that there were absolutely no off flavors..

It sucked because I drank plenty of those beers (most of the cases) with no problem...but out of the last 6 were where the contest entries were...and I was home on the weekend of the judging, and when I opened one...right around the time I knew they were judging, I pretty much crapped in my pants...especially since I opened a second one and it gushed too....

I left the other two alone for several months in my fridge...and they gushed as well..

1 important thing I learned (and recently Chris Colby of BYO suggested the same thing on a podcast) is to switch up your sanitizer for awhile (I now alternate) a "house" bug can mutate to become accustomed (like with pennicilin) to your sanitiziation regimen. So switching, at least temporarily will knock it for a loop.

Also replace all plastic hoses and other doohickeys such as your bottling wand, Autosiphon, maybe even the bottling spigot....and hand feel all your buckets to see if you can detect any noticable scratches....


Honestly, it ain't a big deal, it happens to us on occasion.....On Craftbrewer radio they said it usually happens around the 10th, the 30th and the 50th batch...even the pro's deal with it (the Brewer at New Glarus said in an interview on Basic Brewing once, that a commercial brewery operation gets a 3 year grace period before their first infection)

It's called a house germ...and it develops over time...
The hosts of the podcast in Australia have 60 years of brewing experience...This is a very good discussion on infection and infection control.

They talk about the "timeframe" of infections, and how it is less likely for a first batch to be infected...it tends to occur around the 10th batch and the 50th...When the equipment gets more used up, and "house germs" start to build up. They used the term "house mouth" in the discussion, how we may not even notice, because we're sort of used to the taste of our beers, it's usually NOT a regular drinker of our beers that notices it.

December#2,2006

“What is sour mashing?” I hear you ask. So said our brewmaster as he guides you thru this most interesting of ways of making a beer. In a nice compact show, we also cover feedback, Kit and Kilo infections, our beer superhero turns “gay”, and a faviourite beer song is requested yet again. Not enough, well also hear about WHO stuffed up his brew day.

http://radio.craftbrewer.org/shows/December2-06.mp3
It's a pretty good discussion...Good luck!
 

smizak

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1 important thing I learned (and recently Chris Colby of BYO suggested the same thing on a podcast) is to switch up your sanitizer for awhile (I now alternate) a "house" bug can mutate to become accustomed (like with pennicilin) to your sanitiziation regimen. So switching, at least temporarily will knock it for a loop.
+1

Although I don't totally switch my sanitizer(Starsan), every third batch I "scorched earth" sanitize/disinfect all of my brewery pieces with a tblsp per gallon bleach and hot water solution. I let them soak overnight, rinse well, then let them soak overnight again in plain hot water. I let everything dry, then a nice soak from the spray bottle of Starsan, dry again, then put away for storage.

People may disagree, but I think it's important to sanitize your equipment before you store it. Lessen the chance of any bugs surviving till the next brew day.
 

brewmasterpa

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well, i wasnt aware that infections were able to imbed in plastic and i use btf and ive read the bottle before and never saw the no hot water label, i will have to read it again. ive always used hot water and a double dose and never had an infection. i guess the nasties havent found a way to imbed in my plastic yet. i suppose it might be beneficial to trash your plastics and replace then.
 
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also check and clean your bottling wand nozzle -- the spring and plastic pieces can get pretty gummed up with crud and bacteria
 

hammacks

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I just recently came out from under the grip of a terrible infection. I bleached the hell out of everything. I used about a 10% bleach solution. I also believe I traced it back to using a common area for grinding grains and everything else, so it may never have really dug into my equipment.

One thing I didn't see anyone mention - DO NOT USE HOT WATER ON YOUR SIPHON! Hairline fractures will form all over. Seriously, I don't even use anything above about 90 degrees when cleaning my siphon. I ruined two before I figured it out.
 
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That's why I replaced mine, oh that and the tip fell down the garbage disposal and got mangled....
And if I had actually read your whole post instead of skimming it, I could've saved myself a post! EDIT: 2 posts! :D

Also replace all plastic hoses and other doohickeys such as your bottling wand, Autosiphon, maybe even the bottling spigot....and hand feel all your buckets to see if you can detect any noticable scratches....
 

GAbrewer

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also check and clean your bottling wand nozzle -- the spring and plastic pieces can get pretty gummed up with crud and bacteria
+1. Not too long ago I had a problem with a big piece of trub getting sucked up into my bottling wand and jamming it up. In my case I was able to disassemble it and push the tip to remove the spring, which made it much easier to clean. I'd think its a good idea to do this regularly.
 
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Kungpaodog

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Thanks for all the input everyone. I bit the bullet and bought new gear at the LHBS today, including a fermenter with lid, bottling bucket, hoses, bottling wand, auto-siphon, and some Iodophor in case I have bred some Starsan resistant bugs. (Crap, I just realised I forgot the stick on thermometer. I wonder If I can peel off and re-use an old one?)

I was pleasantly surprised that the total was only about $52, not quite what I was expecting to blow. Of course I got a new fermenter last week and I'll have to replace the last one next time I brew, but the peace of mind was worth it since I'm making graduation brew for SWMBO, and I'd hate to have a bunch of people over:

"Try this, but keep sucking since it'll keep foaming." That won't fly.

If I get another infection like this soon It will be destiny, and I will be forced to make SWMBO help me pay for an off-premises brew hut.:D

On a bright note, I found the adapter I needed for my home-made IC. I got the tygon (rubber high temp good stuff) tubing on, ahem, surplus from work, a local Ace is closing so I got the copper for %40 off ($12), and the faucet fittings were about $5. Let's chill some wort!:mug:
 

ewbish

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+1

Although I don't totally switch my sanitizer(Starsan), every third batch I "scorched earth" sanitize/disinfect all of my brewery pieces with a tblsp per gallon bleach and hot water solution. I let them soak overnight, rinse well, then let them soak overnight again in plain hot water. I let everything dry, then a nice soak from the spray bottle of Starsan, dry again, then put away for storage.

People may disagree, but I think it's important to sanitize your equipment before you store it. Lessen the chance of any bugs surviving till the next brew day.

Spot on right there. Every half dozen batches or so............ALL my brew equipment gets the "scorched earth" treatment. I use more bleach than you though..........I fill the bathtub up with straight hot water and dump to full cups of bleach in..............and let everything soak over night in it.

Also, the other guys referring to scratches in the plastic.........yep, they can trap bacteria.......but a proper soaking in bleach will still kill it in most cases. Even so........a brew bucket should be replaced if you have any deep scratches or gouges in it. If you don't want to/can't replace......then use a razor blade to shave it out. Tubing, siphons, wine thief, hydrometer, thermometers, everything that comes into contact with the wort post boil........I store in the freezer of my lager fridge, this prevents bacterial growth. Also, if you have the means to control temps in your fermentation enviroment..........keep it under 65 degrees. 65 degrees is a bacteria barrier......it's a magic number that dramatically reduces growth, spreading, and contact contamination (you wonder why hospitals are always freakin' cold?). It won't stop it, just slows it down and makes it far easier to control infection.
 

maltMonkey

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I have the same problem right now....last 6 batches have been WAY overcarbonated, but tasted fine. I am going with the "scorched earth" philosophy and buying all new buckets, siphon, etc. This started up around my 48th batch, so there may be some truth to the stuff Revvy posted.
 
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