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Recurring Infections with MiniBrew Fermenters

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brundage

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I have a MiniBrew 15-gallon plastic conical and my beer keeps getting infected in the fermenter. Could you help me figure out the source?
  1. Before each batch I disassemble the fittings and boil them for 10 minutes.
  2. I wrap the fittings with fresh teflon tape and soak in idophor.
  3. After assembling I fill the fermenter with idophor and circulate with a pump.
  4. I fill with chilled wort and aerate with a (sanitized) paint stirrer fitted to my hand dril.
  5. I pitch my yeast, often a 1 lliter starter.
  6. I seal up both top ports and put the lid on the fermenter.
The beer undergoes primary fermentation okay. Infections usually come after the gravity has stablized. When I take samples I first spray the port with diluted bleach, take my sample, then spray again.


Where could the infection be coming from? I've ruined a few batches of beer now and I'm about ready to toss my two MiniBrew fermenters.


Thanks,
--Dean
 

Anthony_Lopez

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I would stop using bleach for a number of reasons. Switch to something like Star San, where you can rack right onto the foam. The foam also gets into the grooves and scratches. Your process sounds fine, however the only question I'd have is what kind of paint stirrer you are using and how easy it is to sanitize.
 

Thirsty_Monk

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I'm about ready to toss my two MiniBrew fermenters.
Hey when you toss it out I will be at your trash can :D

First cleaning and then sanitizing. You can not sanitize dirt.
There was a great show on Brewing network about cleaning
The Brewing Network.com - :
and sanitation:
The Brewing Network.com - :

1) Rinse fermenter with worm water and get all the big stuff first.
2) Let it soak with warm water for little while.
3) Drain it and make it "looking clean"
4) Mix some PBW and worm water 120F and put it into fermenter.
Agetation,
Contact time,
Temperature are factors how effective PBW will be.
5) Empty fermenter and rinse it with worm 120F water.
6) Give it some Star San love.

Put some Star San into Spray bottle and use it instead of Bleach.

That should be it.
 
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I would stop using bleach for a number of reasons. Switch to something like Star San, where you can rack right onto the foam. The foam also gets into the grooves and scratches. Your process sounds fine, however the only question I'd have is what kind of paint stirrer you are using and how easy it is to sanitize.

I agree, your process looks good, I suspect the paint stirrer.

If you are getting infections from both fermenters, I'd look elsewhere for the source. You're already cleaning the threads and fittings each time so I doubt it's there. I would also really inspect the interior of the fermenter for scratches. One nice thing about the Mini-Brew is if there are scratches, you can remove them by drawing a razor over them and scraping/cutting them right out, but again what are the odds they both have a scratch you can't clean and sanitize?
 

springer

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If its both fermentors that get infected then something prior to them is the reason maybe the paint stirrer maybe not . How do you transfer the wort to the conical? It may be somewhere between the kettle and the fermentor .
 

Lil' Sparky

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Hey Dean. Good to see you on here, although it sucks you're fighting an infection problem!!! Glad this wasn't the one we did last weekend. If you need to find a new home for your conicals...

I wonder if maybe you're catching something between chilling the wort and sealing it up the conical. Your fermenter sanitation technique sounds good.
 

JVD_X

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I have the same fermenter. The difficulty is in properly sanitizing the large cover. During active ferment you will notice significant condensation on the inside lid, which I suspect has caused an infection for me as well. My solution was to sanitize thoroughly by spraying the lids with StarSan and then never open the lid until you are ready to clean the fermenter.
 

lamarguy

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I have a MiniBrew 15-gallon plastic conical and my beer keeps getting infected in the fermenter.

Where could the infection be coming from? I've ruined a few batches of beer now and I'm about ready to toss my two MiniBrew fermenters.
Can you describe the infection (off flavors)? Is it mold, lacto, wild yeast? If you can describe the infection, that would be helpful in diagnosing where the off flavor(s) are originating from.

If it's wild yeast, it could be that you're leaving the fermenter lid off in a dusty environment while filling/aerating the wort. A little dust goes a long way...
 

Marquez

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Your infection is common to both fermenters.

In my bug hunt I had an infected counter flow wort chiller.

How do you chill your wort?
 

BargainFittings

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Look around the area you chill. If you are whipping in some nice dirty/dusty air with your paint stirrer, then thats your problem.

Do you mill anywhere near your fermenter? Dust will hang out in the air for quite awhile and land on everything.

Physically clean your transfer tubing or use clean in place chemicals to ensure they are clean before you sanitize.

Hope you figure this out.
 
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brundage

brundage

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Thanks everyone for the replies. There were some questions so I'll answer them all at once.
I would stop using bleach for a number of reasons. Switch to something like Star San, where you can rack right onto the foam. The foam also gets into the grooves and scratches. Your process sounds fine, however the only question I'd have is what kind of paint stirrer you are using and how easy it is to sanitize.
The paint mixer is a squirrel brand mixer. (SquirrelMixer) It's plastic and I soak it in idophor at the same time I sanitize the fermenter.
springer said:
If its both fermentors that get infected then something prior to them is the reason maybe the paint stirrer maybe not . How do you transfer the wort to the conical? It may be somewhere between the kettle and the fermentor.
I wonder if maybe you're catching something between chilling the wort and sealing it up the conical. Your fermenter sanitation technique sounds good.
Hi Clint! I use the same pump (and chiller) that I used to circulate the idophor in step 3 above. I use the pump to transfer the sanitizer out, then immediately hook it up to the kettle at flame-out. Next time I will try your technique of recirculating the boiling wort ten minutes before flame-out.
I have the same fermenter. The difficulty is in properly sanitizing the large cover. During active ferment you will notice significant condensation on the inside lid, which I suspect has caused an infection for me as well. My solution was to sanitize thoroughly by spraying the lids with StarSan and then never open the lid until you are ready to clean the fermenter.
Thanks for the tip. I drain a good portion of the sanitizer on to the lid. Maybe StarSan would be a better choice. And I never open the lid - just the ports to peek at the beer. (This practice could be the source.)
Can you describe the infection (off flavors)?Is it mold, lacto, wild yeast? If you can describe the infection, that would be helpful in diagnosing where the off flavor(s) are originating from.
First of all, the current infected beer is very cloudy. I'm going to stick a sample under the microscope and have a look at what's floating around. It is a little sour and vinegarey in the nose. The biggest off-flavor is like vinegar, not so pungent. Might be lacto or wild yeast.
Your infection is common to both fermenters.

In my bug hunt I had an infected counter flow wort chiller.

How do you chill your wort?
I use a copper counterflow chiller, sanitized as I mentioned above. After the brewday is done I run PBW through it and the pump, then rinse with clean water and drain by gravity.
Look around the area you chill. If you are whipping in some nice dirty/dusty air with your paint stirrer, then thats your problem.

Do you mill anywhere near your fermenter? Dust will hang out in the air for quite awhile and land on everything.

Physically clean your transfer tubing or use clean in place chemicals to ensure they are clean before you sanitize.

Hope you figure this out.
This is likeliest since I aerate outside. The only thing that makes me think twice is that the beer ferments out pretty well and the infection doesn't come on 'til about 10-15 days after I pitch. However that could be the lag time for a small amount of contaminate. I also aerate my carboys outside and they never came down with a bug. (I have moved a few times since ditching carboys on the other hand.)

Thanks everyone for the tips. Anything jump out in the answers?

--Dean
 

Anthony_Lopez

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I'd start by detaching all tubing that connects with your chiller. Clean everything while the system is disassembled. It's quite possible that your cleaner and sanitizer aren't getting into all the "nooks and crannies" of your system. Also, how about trying a different aeration method. Do you have any friends that own an O2 kit?
 
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