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Today's brew was completely cursed

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Buford

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Man, I had no luck today. I was attempting to make a roggenbier.

First sign of trouble was a stuck mash. It's okay, I can deal with that - it's just a real pain in the ass.

Next issue - the heatstick pops the GFCI outlet's breaker during the boil. I check it with a multimeter, but everything seems to be kosher with the wiring. I reset the outlet and use another heatstick instead. However... the first heatstick's element is covered in black burnt crud. Uh oh.

I finish out the boil, and the second heatstick's element is also coated in black crud. This didn't happen at all with last week's brew, a hefeweizen. The wort does seem to have a burnt smell to it, but I can't tell if it's scorching of if that's just what rye smells like. I've never used it before, and it made up 50% of the grist. I start the chiller.

Chiller takes forever, and even with all the ice in the freezer I can only get to 80. Whatever.

Sample the wort. Definitely tastes odd. Can't tell if it's burnt or if that's just a quality of the rye. Hell if I know. There are black burnt bits scattered all over the bottom of the pot. Debate dumping it and just saving the yeast for another day... decide to give it a shot.

Grab the starter flask, and... something isn't right. It had blown its top several times on the stirplate over the past few days and I had to keep replacing the foam stopper. Oh boy. Vinegar. :cross: Smells just like vinegar. Take a taste... sour. The starter just decided for me... it's dumping time.

Man, that was a lot of work today with nothing to show for it. At least one good thing came of it, I guess... I did a decoction and managed for the first time to actually nail the amounts I needed to get the temps right upon adding it back to the main mash. At least that's something I guess.
 

EvilTOJ

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Uugh I hate those Murphy's Laws brewdays. What's even worse is a month from now when you're sampling it and it's one of the best beers you've ever tasted, yet NEVER want to go through all that again to make it.
 

Special Hops

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I had one of those brew days a few months ago. In the end it turned out to be my best batch ever. Go figure?
 
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Buford

Buford

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I just had to dump this, it was just nasty. Lesson learned - use a lot more rice hulls than 1/2 lb if I'm using 50% rye. 1/2 lb of hulls is the amount I usually use for wheat. Having to stir the mash so much to get water through it probably let a lot of coagulated protein through which should get left behind on top of the mash it it had drained properly, and that's likely what scorched to the heatstick elements. I've used the sticks in a wheat beer boil before without issue. The wort was just milky cloudy with protein.

The starter getting infected was just the icing on the cake, though. The yeast had gone nuts and kept pushing the foam stopper out the flask, so I had to keep replacing it. I'm going to have to boil the hell out of that stopper before I try using it again, who knows what nasties are in it now. The starter smelled good early on, but it had started looking weird and that stopper just reeks of vinegar.
 

david_42

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All things considered, better one totally hosed brewday, than having each of the problems on a separate batch.
 
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Buford

Buford

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Yeah, it gives me time to reevaluate the method, particularly if I try using rye again. I'm going to wait on my hefeweizen (made the weekend before) to see how it turned out using my new method with heatsticks before I do another batch. That was an absolutely beautiful brewday and almost everything went perfectly. I want to make sure the finished product is without flaws before I use the method again though. Thus far it has been one perfect day and one utter disaster. You can't have true success without failure, since you have never experienced things that make you fix your issues otherwise.

Granted, I think another issue was that my parents were visiting the day I attempted the roggenbier so my mind was in two places the whole time.
 

Evan!

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So you're using a stopper with a stirplate? Doesn't that defeat the purpose (introducing oxygen into the wort)? As I understand it, the whirlpool on a stirplate is supposed to pull oxygen in while offgassing co2...except a stopper/airlock doesn't let any outside air in...which is why people use aluminum foil. I'm no expert (I just got my first stirplate in the mail yesterday), so maybe I don't know what I'm talking about, but that's how I understood it. At the very least, get yourself a handful of universal bungs, they're very good about staying put, much better than the foam ones.

What's the deal with the heatstick anyway? Is that how you're boiling your wort?
 
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Buford

Buford

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The stopper is made of foam, so air can get through it while providing a barrier for nasties. The issue was the starter going bonkers and the kraeusen reaching the stopper, which gunked it up and no air could get through it. The CO2 pressure kept pushing it out of the flask. I've only had that happen twice, once with WLP300 and once with WLP400 (usually there's very little kraeusen when using a stirplate, in my experience). The WLP400 starter seemed fine that time, but this latest one was completely hosed. I blame my lax sanitation when replacing the stopper this time, and I should have boiled the thing before I used it. The stopper was crusty when I went to use the starter.

I started using a heatstick to supplement the stove since I was having some DMS issues. The boil wasn't vigorous enough.

I can't blame the equipment for this failure, I just f'ed it up. I wasn't focused at all.
 

Evan!

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So you were using a solid stopper then? Is that really enough permeation? I'd say, next time, either rig up some kind of blowoff tube inside the stopper, or get some fermcap drops.

Also, how are you crushing your grains?

Anyway, sorry to hear about that mess. On the bright side, at least you didn't have to go through fermentation and carbonation and aging before you figured out it was screwed up...right?
 

Evan!

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No, the stopper isn't solid. It's a honeycomb foam, think of it like an air filter. It's the first item on this page: http://pivo.northernbrewer.com/nbstore/action/search-do?searchTerm=foam+stopper.
Oh, I thought you meant like a typical rubber-foam stopper. I've never seen those before. Sounds pretty cool, just get yourself some fermcap or defoamer 105 so you don't have to worry about starter krausen next time.

I'm using a Barley Crusher to crush grain. I have it set a little tighter than factory setting, but it's the same setting I use for everything, including wheat.
Yeah, that's why I didn't touch the factory settings on my BC. I never use rice hulls, never get a stuck sparge, even with grists that have 50%+ wheat, and I routinely have 80%+ efficiency. Have you thought about widening the gap a touch?
 
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Buford

Buford

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My efficiency was poop with the standard setting so I tightened it up a tad which helped things. I've only had one other stuck sparge (on an all-barley beer), but it was a really thick mash with a lot of grain. I do use rice hulls with wheat but those mashes never seem to have an issue. That rye, though, man that stuff was like trying to get water through wet concrete.

I fear resetting the mill because my numbers have been consistent since I reset it, and my eff is high 70s for single infusions or low 80s if I do a decoction. More rice hulls may be the simple answer for my setup if I use rye again (unlikely), and that's dirt cheap. I don't really want to muck around with something to fix an outlying issue if everything else seems to be copacetic.

A reset may actually help but I don't want to go into a batch with an unknown variable since everything has been reasonably consistent on the current setup. It'd feel like getting far in a video game and then losing your save file.

I've never used Fermcap before mainly because I had never had stirplate starters go wacko on me like that. Does it add any off-tastes?

From another thread someone said that their stirbar got thrown and offcenter once and their starter started doing that. Normally stirplate starters are well-behaved. Maybe I should keep the speed down - I had it on max.
 
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