Thin white layer on top of secondary

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mgregg

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I have a thin white layer of something that formed on top of my barleywine after about 3 weeks in secondary. I left it in primary for 4 full weeks and my final gravity was 1.015(o.g. 1.1, nottingham yeast) so I'm sure fermentation was complete. I've never seen this before and was wondering if anyone might have any idea if this is an infection or something normal. Here's a couple pictures:

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Gavin C

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Looks like a pellicle. There is massive headspace and plenty of oxygen in that secondary. Ideal conditions for the culturing of oxygen loving microbes.

A secondary if you use one should be filled to the neck. A wide mothed vessel like you have is entirely unsuited to being used a secondary.

Bad luck.

A correctly filled secondary vessel

 

Johnnyruk

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That looks like a pellical to me. Unfortunately it is probably infected
 

slym2none

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Yep, that looks like a pellicle caused by an infection.
 
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mgregg

mgregg

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I took the top off to try a sample and an incredibly strong sour smell struck me in the face. Dumped the batch. Going to toss the fermentor too. That was my last plastic bottle, going to stick with glass from here on out.
 

Gavin C

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I'm not sure why you feel plastic to be the problem.

The fermentor material is not at issue here.

The error was in your choice of vessel size and shape, not material.

If you want rid of it, I'm sure you'd be able to sell it locally for a few $$.

A good clean and appropriate sanitizing is all that's needed.
 

madscientist451

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If you are going do a secondary, don't use one of the wide mouth fermenters, use that for primary. If you can add a blast of C02 to the top, that can help.
 

Elkobrewer

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I agree I use plastic only. Have never used glass. Most of the time when a brew gets infected it's due to insufficient sanitizing or from being transferred to a secondary vessel.
 
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mgregg

mgregg

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When i transferred this batch to secondary i thought I noticed a slight sour taste. It wasn't strong, so at the time i just chalked it up to being a very hot high alcohol brew. Thinking back though I'm almost positive that i picked up whatever infection i got during primary.
I know that the wide mouth fermentors aren't the ideal vessel for secondary, but I've used them many times without any issues before this. I have always used them when i have a beer i plan on aggressively dry hopping to make clean up easier. I do purge them with co2. I have learned my lesson though. This will be the last time i use a wide mouth for secondary. Dry hopping will be done in a keg from now on.

As to the getting rid of plastic, that is just my personal preference. I don't think the infection was caused by the vessel, I just prefer glass. I don't like my food or beer sitting in plastic for any longer then necessary. We don't even have plastic tupperware in the house.
 

eastoak

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I took the top off to try a sample and an incredibly strong sour smell struck me in the face. Dumped the batch. Going to toss the fermentor too. That was my last plastic bottle, going to stick with glass from here on out.

what are you going to do when you get an infection in the glass fermentor, go to stainless? it's your money but you could just wash out the fermentor and try again.
 

brrman

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This will be the last time i use a wide mouth for secondary. Dry hopping will be done in a keg from now on.
I just dry hop in primary. I never do secondaries anymore unless I am fruiting. With fruiting I get a secondary fermentation which means head-space is not such a concern since it will fill with CO2.
 

beergolf

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Any idea what the infection is? I've got a Dubbel that looks like that.
It is impossible to determine the type of infection from looking at a pellicle. I brew sours quite often and each pellicle can be unique. Even using the same bugs the pellicles can look quite different.

All we can tell at this point that it is an infection.
 

signpost

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Let's be clear. The amount of headspace and shape of the fermenter did not cause the infection. A wide opening and exposure to oxygen can be good conditions for an infection to take hold, but it isn't the cause.

Of course, just the process of racking a beer into secondary can create enough oxygen exposure for an already present infection to create a pellicle.

The correct conclusion is that somewhere in your process, there was something that needed to be sanitized that didn't get the attention it needed. Period.
 

slym2none

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Looking back, I don't see anyone saying the large head-space caused the infection. Only that it lent itself to helping one along & creating a pellicle.
 

slym2none

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I am referring to this thread only. Pardons for not clarifying.
 

LostBoyScout

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While there is no question it's infected, if you're lucky it's a brett infection and the barleywine could come out tasting pretty darn good.

While I agree that ideally you should fill up secondary to the neck, I highly question the need to do so. Oxygen doesn't produce bugs, it's just one of the several things it will enjoy taking advantage of. Also, if you are able to CO2 purge before transfer, then you're really fine.
 
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mgregg

mgregg

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Thanks everyone for the replies and tips. Now that I'm a few days out from dumping this batch and the sting of losing a $50 barleywine that I had high hopes for has subsided a little bit i've got a couple of questions:

1) The reason I originally mentioned tossing the fermentor is that I read somewhere on here that people kept their sour fermentors separate because the bacteria was extremely difficult to kill off and that the chance of infecting future batches was higher because of this. Is there any truth to that? Should I toss this fermentor or will a good cleaning and sanitizing make it safe again? I don't want to lose another batch over a $20 fermentor.
2) I know the wide mouths aren't the ideal vessel for secondary and I don't plan on using them again, but if I do a good co2 purge(which I have always done before secondary) and co2 is heavier then oxygen wouldn't the oxygen exposure be at a minimum even with the larger area?
 
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