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On the verge of quitting.

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cjojola

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This is not how I'd like my first post to go, but I'm really desperate for some answers. So here it goes:

I've been brewing for about a year now, all-grain, and everything was going great until about a month ago. I've had my fair share of not so good brew, especially right after switching to all grain, but I'd never had an infection, and I was even sometimes pretty careless in the beginning.

I've been making 10 gallon batches lately, and things were going fine. Then I moved to a new place and started brewing here. I've made about 4 batches, and every single one has been contaminated. Worse yet, my starters are even getting contaminated. I made one yesterday from a brand new pack of wyeast 1056. Today I come home from work, and it smells like sour apples. The top is covered in really thin bubbles, not anything like the krausen I'm used to seeing.

This is after pressure cooking my flask with the stir bar and cover for 20 mins. I then immediately added DME and filtered water, then boiled. I cooled it in an ice bath, pitched the yeast, and put it on the stir plate.

I've switched between equipment, sanitizers, yeasts, malts, and even tried this in different rooms in my house. All had the same result; a sour, vinegar like "beer". I've looked around, and I think it's acetobacteria, the stuff they use to make vinegar. If that's the case, the autoclave and boiling should have killed it. Is there anything that's airborn that could be causing this? It's the only explanation I haven't ruled out.

Supposedly fruit flies could cause this too, but there are no signs of them anywhere. I know they can be small, but I think I would have seen them by this time. Maybe not though.

Any help is truly appreciated,
Chris
 

david_42

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I'm inclined to agree with your contamination theory, could also be lactobacillus. Getting rid of either can be a major undertaking. Both can cling to walls and become airborne. Designate one room and wash the walls and ceiling with a good commercial cleaner, ditto carpets. Get an ionizing air clearer for the room. If your house has central heat/air, I'd recommend having the ducts cleaned & filter(s) replaced.

I know one brewer who is so paranoid, that he won't let people talk about lambics.
 

the_Roqk

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Could Be:

1. bad yeast
2. room air blowing on uncovered starter
3. unsantized stirbar
4. etc, etc, etc, etc

Try your hand at making some beers that only use dry yeast. Use dry yeast for a change and see how your next batch comes out. Could be you may have gotten an infected stock of liquid yeast. Anything can happen. Just look at this as a minor setback.
 

Brew-boy

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Dont give up just try harder to find the problem. Which sanitizer are you using? I was getting strange flavors from Idophor even though alot of people use this with no problems. I have since switched to Star San and could not be happier.
 

Dude

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First, throw out everything plastic in your brewery--buckets, hoses, etc. This is the only way you can attack this problem for good. Plastic will scratch (even if you can't see it) and harbor bacteria that will infect every single batch it touches.

Anything like a carboy or equipment you use AFTER fermentation, you need to soak in a bleach solution. If you use kegs, take them apart and replace o-rings, and do a quick bleach soak on all the parts. Bleach will damage stainless steel over extended periods, but an hour soak will be long enough to kill the bugs and not do damage.
 

Drunkensatyr

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Something that most people overlook is the Stopper. Go buy some new stoppers while you are changing all the plastic hoses out.
 

Beerrific

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Dude said:
First, throw out everything plastic in your brewery--buckets, hoses, etc. This is the only way you can attack this problem for good. Plastic will scratch (even if you can't see it) and harbor bacteria that will infect every single batch it touches.

Anything like a carboy or equipment you use AFTER fermentation, you need to soak in a bleach solution. If you use kegs, take them apart and replace o-rings, and do a quick bleach soak on all the parts. Bleach will damage stainless steel over extended periods, but an hour soak will be long enough to kill the bugs and not do damage.
I think bleach is a good idea too. You might look into how to use the bleach to get the strongest effect. You may consider listening to the Basic Brewing Radio episode with Charley Talley. He talks about what to do get bleach's maximum sanitizing effect. It is dangerous if done wrong so I don't want to mis-remeber how to do it here.
 

Sir Humpsalot

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Tap water could be another source of contamination. You said you just moved, so.....

Or a water filter. Is there one installed? The filters get wet and can harbor bacteria so even "clean" water will pick up some nasties on the way to your glass (or the carboy).
 

rohanski

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I had this same problem but I didn't move. I went about 8 months after I started with no problems at all, then out of the blue I started getting infections. I started soaking my secondary fermenter in a bleach solution over night and a glass fermenter sanitized with star san. This seemed to fix the problem for a while but it came back. Then I threw away the plastic bucket and started using glass in both fermenters and boiling the stoppers. The beer was better than I can remember even in the beginning. Last night I uncorked my starter and I'll be damned if it didn't smell like it might be infected. I pitched it anyway just because I'm an optimist.

I hear all of these guys bragging how they have been brewing for years and never had a bad batch. Are they really that good, or do they have closet infections? Too macho to admit they effed up a batch?

I keep contemplating quitting also but I can't give it up. I just bought 3 large SS pots to start all grain brewing so I can't stop now.
 

Brewer3401

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Beerrific said:
I think bleach is a good idea too. You might look into how to use the bleach to get the strongest effect. You may consider listening to the Basic Brewing Radio episode with Charley Talley. He talks about what to do get bleach's maximum sanitizing effect. It is dangerous if done wrong so I don't want to mis-remeber how to do it here.
5 gal water, 1 tbl bleach, mix, then add 1 tbl white vinegar. Think this is it.
The vinegar lowers the pH so the bleach is now a sanitizer - before vinegar is not a sanitizer (just makes clothes white)

NEVER add vinegar directely to bleach. It liberates chlorine gas which is deadly.
 

Schlenkerla

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Don't grind your grains in the same place as you do your clean brewing.

The grain dust can linger in the air and work surfaces.

Don't give up, I hope you have better luck on the next batch. I'd give the dry yeast a try too.


:mug:
 

Beerrific

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Brewer3401 said:
5 gal water, 1 tbl bleach, mix, then add 1 tbl white vinegar. Think this is it.
The vinegar lowers the pH so the bleach is now a sanitizer - before vinegar is not a sanitizer (just makes clothes white)

NEVER add vinegar directely to bleach. It liberates chlorine gas which is deadly.
I think it is 1 oz. (1/8cup) per 5 gallons. Add the bleach to the water first then the vinegar to bring the pH under 8. Be careful, if you add to much (or mix the vinegar and bleach first) it will give off chlorine gas (I repeat Brewer3401). If I were going to do this I would make sure I was outside and had others checking in on me.

That leaves chlorine at 80ppm which should not require a rinse.
 

sudbuster

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cjojola said:
------- Worse yet, my starters are even getting contaminated. I made one yesterday from a brand new pack of wyeast 1056. Today I come home from work, and it smells like sour apples. The top is covered in really thin bubbles, not anything like the krausen I'm used to seeing.

This is after pressure cooking my flask with the stir bar and cover for 20 mins. I then immediately added DME and filtered water, then boiled. I cooled it in an ice bath, pitched the yeast, and put it on the stir plate.--------


Any help is truly appreciated,
Chris
Hi Chris...
You can't give up man, even if you want to. This game is like being at Hotel California. :)

I lost three brews in a row a couple years back due to bacterial infection harbored in my filter housing. Fun, Huh? Well, it is fun! It was fun just tracking down the source of the problem. (now you think I'm strange) But, it will pass and all will be OK.

From your note you sterilized your bar, flask, and cover. Then you boiled your starter in the flask. Where was the stir bar, also in the flask with the wort? If so, then there are only two possible sources for an infected starter, airbourn particles, or the yeast. Since you have had previous infections using different yeast, I bet it's the air.

You might try making a starter outside. If it turns out OK, then your new place might have a problem. If you have a box fan, you might try placing a sheet of filter paper on the inlet side for a while, then swab a culture from it and plate it. If the plate funks over fast, you've found the problem.

Good luck, and keep on slugging!:confused:
 

EdWort

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How can a water filter be a source of bacteria when you boil the wort for at least an hour?
 
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cjojola

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Thanks for some of the tips guys. I already threw out all my hoses (they were old anyway), and I'm seriously thinking of starting over on buckets for bottling, etc. I use glass carboys most of the time, so I think those can be saved. As for the stir bar, I actually autoclaved that with the flask. It was in there start to finish. The yeast was directly from a new smack pack, and I've done this with many different yeasts. As for the water being bad, that's possible, but I make sure to boil for long enough to kill just about anything.

The idea to make the starter outside might be worth trying. I would be sad to find out the outside of my house is safer than the inside though :). If lactobacillus and other contaminates really can go airborn, then I might be in a bit of trouble. I have a spare room that I use to store everything, so I might be cleaning it with sanitizer all night.

Oh, also I've tried using bleach w/vinegar (following BBR instructions of course), starsan, and iodophor all seperately to see if that was the problem, and I got the same result with all of them.

Keep the suggestions coming. Maybe there's something no one's thought of yet.

And Oldfarmer, I don't think I ever really considered giving up. I'm too obsessed. I was just standing on top of the building, hoping someone could talk me down :)

Thanks,
Chris
 

Dude

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EdWort said:
How can a water filter be a source of bacteria when you boil the wort for at least an hour?
Exactly. Any equipment used post-boil is what needs to be looked at. Don't even blink, throw the hoses out and replace them. Soak anything else (auto-siphon, thief, etc.) in bleach if you really have to keep it.

And even if your water has bacteria, your sanitizer should kill it.
Might want to get your water tested but I'd guarantee you have a lacto problem in your plastics. The stuff is REALLY hard to get rid of. Bleach.
 

Vermicous

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I had a series of infections a year ago (5-6 batches I think). I had to resort to caustic soaks for all my glass and tossing my plastic. I had bleached my glassware first, but the infections came back after 3 or so batches. I either missed something or didn't let it soak long enough.
 

sudbuster

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EdWort said:
How can a water filter be a source of bacteria when you boil the wort for at least an hour?
My infection came from a wort filter. I seems one thing being overlooked here is the lad is getting his starter infected after sterilization. Hoses and carboys and buckets don't have any connection to the starter. Something got in the flask.......... :confused: :)
 

Zymurgrafi

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Hang in there Chris. I would offer advice but, I have been thinking the same thing lately. 1st 2 AG's I just dumped down the drain yesterday. The 3rd was tasting great but is starting to get a little funky. :(


Hope you figure it out. I'll watch this thread with great interest (and hopefully get some help myself?!)


Man, I am thirsty for some good homebrew...
 

RLinNH

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Another Brewer here that feels your pain. Just last night I brewed my first Batch in over a Year. I had 3 Beers in a row that I poured down the drain. So, with a renewed passion from an AG session last weekend, I replaced ALL my plastic Tubes and Air locks. Also, I found that my problem began when I started using a Yeast Starter. So this time, I poured the Wyeast directly into my Carboy. I have my fingers crossed that this batch is squeaky Clean. With over 15 years of Brewing under my belt, I have NEVER had an issue, until we got into this NEW House and I started using Yeast Starters. So, if this one is infected, I am going to start checking my Forced Hot Air Ducts. But, I hope that I won't have to.:tank:


So hang in there Mate. I think that the taste difference in our Home Brewed Beer is worth the effort of finding out exactly what the issue is and rectifying it. Good Luck!!!
 

dmorris3333

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I went through the same thing. I started brewing and then had a few bad beers in a row and gave it up for a number of years. I would suggest getting rid of as much equipment as you can (racking canes, hydrometers, tubing, etc.) and brewing a simple beer with no starters. Minimize as much opportunity for contamination as much as you can. Don't give up though. There's too much good beer to brew. I just had a friend over today that said "I've never had homebrew that tasted this good." That was enough to keep me brewing for a while.

Darren
 

seanhagerty

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Something you may should check is the air conditioning filter and ducts. Id have some one come clean the ducts out. Lots of nasties could hang out there.

Good Luck

Sean
 

woosterhoot

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EdWort said:
How can a water filter be a source of bacteria when you boil the wort for at least an hour?
Most extract brewer's don't do full boil's. They add water at the end to top of the carboy.
 

EdWort

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woosterhoot said:
Most extract brewer's don't do full boil's. They add water at the end to top of the carboy.
Hmm. When I did extract brews, I topped off with bottled spring water.

I also turn off the AC so there is no air movement when I'm working with yeast or racking.
 
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cjojola

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Thanks for the help guys. I ordered one of those HEPA filter fans off ebay to run in my beer room the day before I brew. It's supposed to remove most wild yeast/mold spores. And I like the idea of turning off the AC (why didn't I think of that?). I ditched all my hoses and soaked every bucket I owned in a bleach/water solution.

The next batch, I'm going to avoid using any plastic other than my new hoses. I also ordered some dry yeast to see if I could get at least one successful batch since I'm running low on beer now. Thanks for all the replies, and I'll post a reply after the next batch.

Chris
 

Willsellout

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knights of Gambrinus said:
Hang in there Chris. I would offer advice but, I have been thinking the same thing lately. 1st 2 AG's I just dumped down the drain yesterday. The 3rd was tasting great but is starting to get a little funky. :(


Hope you figure it out. I'll watch this thread with great interest (and hopefully get some help myself?!)


Man, I am thirsty for some good homebrew...
I hear you...I just quit AG and am back to PM's. AG just wasn't producing what I wanted and all my PM beers are outstanding. I didn't have any infections or anything, but the flavor wasn't there and it was just too much work.



Dan
 

rohanski

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Come on now Dan, I am trying to get into AG and you are discouraging me. Someone please put the wind back in my sail.
 

kornkob

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Another way to approach the problem is to go back through your process and simplify your process to the bare minimum to see if you still have the problem. For instance: you say you are all grain. Back it up and do a extract batch from a pre-packaged kit using a yeast blister pack without doing a starter. That takes out any process related failures.

Also, find a brewer in your area and invite them over on brew day to watch your process. It's entirely possible that you've developed a bad habit that you aren't aware of. A 3rd party is more likely to see what you're doing and point it out.
 
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