White clumps around top of stainless fermenter

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WhistlerBrew

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Hey all!

Despite cleaning it thoroughly, I've now had two brews with my Anvil fermenter that have had this growth in the attached picture around the top. I haven't been able to find any pictures that look like mine, so I'm wondering if anyone else has seen this before.

Whatever it is doesn't seem to be floating on top of the beer, just on the sides of the fermenter above the beer and on the lid. They look almost like clumps of wheat flour.

The beer smells totally fine, and the last batch that looked like this had no off flavours. Any wisdom from anyone? Any thoughts on where this stuff might be hiding out in between brews? I've never had this issue in either my Fermonsters or glass carboy.
20220530_121751.jpg
 

VikeMan

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What's your process for adding wort and for adding yeast to the fermenter?
 
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WhistlerBrew

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I'm using a Grainfather system, so wort gets pumped through the counterflow chiller and into the fermenter. I put the lid on, shake for about a minute to aerate the wort, then I either pitch my liquid starter into it or sprinkle the dry yeast onto it and seal it up.
 

VikeMan

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I'm using a Grainfather system, so wort gets pumped through the counterflow chiller and into the fermenter. I put the lid on, shake for about a minute to aerate the wort, then I either pitch my liquid starter into it or sprinkle the dry yeast onto it and seal it up.
An chance your liquid yeast starter is splashing a little onto the sides of the fermenter that are wet fom shaking? Similar question for the dry yeast you are sprinkling. From your picture, it looks like isolated yeast colonies to me.
 
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WhistlerBrew

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An chance your liquid yeast starter is splashing a little onto the sides of the fermenter that are wet fom shaking? Similar question for the dry yeast you are sprinkling. From your picture, it looks like isolated yeast colonies to me.
I usually move the fermenter down into my crawl space after pitching, so I'm sure it's possible that things are getting sloshed around in the process. It's weird, though, since those little things have never appeared on my glass or PET fermenters, just on the stainless.

That looks like an infecton to me. Lacto maybe?
If that's what it is, wouldn't it create a skin across the top of the beer? I've Googled lots of pictures of lacto infection, and I don't (yet) have the pellicles that seem to form.
It's the remnants of the krausen of a top fermenting yeast after the rest collapsed as fermentation stopped. All looks normal.
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Yesfan

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I usually move the fermenter down into my crawl space after pitching, so I'm sure it's possible that things are getting sloshed around in the process. It's weird, though, since those little things have never appeared on my glass or PET fermenters, just on the stainless.


If that's what it is, wouldn't it create a skin across the top of the beer? I've Googled lots of pictures of lacto infection, and I don't (yet) have the pellicles that seem to form.

This is my favourite reply. It involves me doing nothing.

I don't know if that's what it is, but that's what it looks like to me. If it's normal, it won't be the first time I've been wrong.
 

cire

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Possibly this picture might demonstrate the workings of a traditional, open, top fermenting ale yeast.

Open fermentation increases the volume of wort a vessel can hold. With a lid, the yeast would soon be against it and escape. When open, the cool air above restricts the rise and the yeast is returned to the wort by spraying wort onto the yeast cap from the bottom of the vessel, or by other, manual, means. As fermentation slows and the wort approaches racking gravity, the yeast is skimmed to leave a thin covering for protection, the lid fitted and the wort gently cooled.

Here, fermentation took into the 3rd day when it was skimmed to pitch into the next brew, cooled over 2 days to 10C, then 2 days for the beer to fall bright. The picture shows the high mark of the Krausen, the floating covering left for protection and the ring it left, just like that of the OP's. and the clear beer beneath.
R0010823.JPG


Not all yeasts that appear to be top fermenting yeasts, really are.
 

VikeMan

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Not all yeasts that appear to be top fermenting yeasts, really are.

Perhaps you could provide your definition, preferably a rigorous one, of top fermenting, and name some yeast strains that "appear" to be top fermenting but aren't.
 

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Looks within the guidelines of fermentation. Once only ONCE my brew was actually moving and clumps were floating to the top. Smelled like methanol so out it went.
 

cire

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Perhaps you could provide your definition, preferably a rigorous one, of top fermenting, and name some yeast strains that "appear" to be top fermenting but aren't.

All traditional yeasts used for centuries in Northern Europe (and elsewhere for less time) to ferment ales in open topped shallow vessels, and also in specialized systems such as Burton Unions and Yorkshire Squares.

Not all yeasts used for brewing ales are top fermenting. Perhaps you could provide your definition of an ale yeast, if you might disagree.

For ale brewing, I've not used a dried yeast for well over a decade, and all my slants come from known and named breweries, not a local home brew store. Accordingly I can only tell you of my experience of years past, when those I now use were unavailable to amateurs, and many that were, were distinctly bottom fermenting. I'd not be surprised if some of those might have a code and sold by some as a British ale yeast.

I bet there are some out there using Nottingham for lager, wonder just a little.
 

hotbeer

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It's weird, though, since those little things have never appeared on my glass or PET fermenters, just on the stainless.
It's weird to me that you've never experienced this with your other fermenters.

I too think you are just seeing the yeast and trub from the collapsed krausen. If there is anything else in there that we might be missing, you are going to have to point it out with an arrow or something.

Maybe it's more the type of brews you did then as opposed to now. Or maybe it's the specific type of yeast you used. Whatever the reason, I see nothing that would make me think it bad... 'cept maybe the open lid.
 
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D.B.Moody

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The beer smells totally fine, and the last batch that looked like this had no off flavours. Any wisdom from anyone? Any thoughts on where this stuff might be hiding out in between brews? I've never had this issue in either my Fermonsters or glass carboy.
If it isn't infection, conventional wisdom says that you've now ruined the beer by exposing it to oxygen. Don't take chances! Put this in a keg, add CO2, and ship it to me AT ONCE! I will dispose of it properly.

Edit: Looks like I spoke too soon.:confused:
 
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TheMadKing

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So at first I thought you were referring to the normal Krausen ring but then I saw the lighter white dots near the top.. then I saw this chunk in the upper left when it was zoomed way in
Screen Shot 2022-05-31 at 11.32.35 AM.png


The structure of that little colony sure looks like pellicle formation to me, I've not seen yeast colonies form geometric shapes quite like that before. I asked my wife (microbiologist) what that morphology looks like and she said her best guess is a fungal infection based on those shapes.
 

Broken Crow

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Chill. I only own transparent fermenters so far and I've seen this most of the time. It's like cire said; normal.... it's just the yeast that the foam lifted up and then fell back down and settled.
 

cire

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Chill. I only own transparent fermenters so far and I've seen this most of the time. It's like cire said; normal.... it's just the yeast that the foam lifted up and then fell back down and settled.
Mind, I didn't see those white patches until @TheMadKing posted an enlargement.
 

TheMadKing

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So at first I thought you were referring to the normal Krausen ring but then I saw the lighter white dots near the top.. then I saw this chunk in the upper left when it was zoomed way in
View attachment 770425

The structure of that little colony sure looks like pellicle formation to me, I've not seen yeast colonies form geometric shapes quite like that before. I asked my wife (microbiologist) what that morphology looks like and she said her best guess is a fungal infection based on those shapes.
A little research points to Candida Albicans as a good contender

Basically human body pathogenic yeast (wild yeast)

It is capable of producing biofilm which might explain why you are having problems in that specific fermenter. I recommend a very long soak (24 hours) in PBW at a high concentration (2 oz per gallon) in order to break up the biofilm, then rinse with hot water 3-4 times, then sanitize with a good strong iodophor solution, or freshly made star san
 

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So at first I thought you were referring to the normal Krausen ring

Ugh, yes, me too. Nice catch. Umm never mind my "looks normal" thing.

Reading the 1st post again I see the detail there now explaining it as well. I still was thinking the krausen ring at first - like clumps of wet pizza dough. I think the bright white was being called out as the flour.
 

hotbeer

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Regardless of what it is, what do you think can be done for it now?

So with that in mind, just quit opening the lid and proceed as if everything is going to give you great beer.

If you do find out your beer is trash after you open that first bottle, then consider using some stronger sanitizer on all your equipment before your next brew. Clorox is my choice so far for things that Star-San or Iodophor cower from.
 

wsmith1625

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Wouldn't yeast colonies eventually settle? I've had some stubborn colonies that needed a few shakes and swirls to coax them, but they do settle. If it's an infection I would imagine a few shakes and swirls would not have the same result and it would continue to grow. The problem with that approach is that time is not on your side if it's infected.
 

SiriusStarr

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A little research points to Candida Albicans as a good contender

Basically human body pathogenic yeast (wild yeast)

It is capable of producing biofilm which might explain why you are having problems in that specific fermenter. I recommend a very long soak (24 hours) in PBW at a high concentration (2 oz per gallon) in order to break up the biofilm, then rinse with hot water 3-4 times, then sanitize with a good strong iodophor solution, or freshly made star san

That colony morphology isn't really specific to C. albicans but is just generally pseduohyphal yeast-looking. S. cerevisiae (i.e. brewer's yeast) makes basically identical colonies under some growth conditions (pictures from Granek JA, Magwene PM (2010) Environmental and Genetic Determinants of Colony Morphology in Yeast. PLoS Genet 6(1): e1000823. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pgen.1000823)

Not saying it's not some wild yeast, but I don't think one can say from sight that it's not just nutrient-deprived brewer's yeast versus some other unintended one.
 

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TheMadKing

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That colony morphology isn't really specific to C. albicans but is just generally pseduohyphal yeast-looking. S. cerevisiae (i.e. brewer's yeast) makes basically identical colonies under some growth conditions (pictures from Granek JA, Magwene PM (2010) Environmental and Genetic Determinants of Colony Morphology in Yeast. PLoS Genet 6(1): e1000823. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pgen.1000823)

Not saying it's not some wild yeast, but I don't think one can say from sight that it's not just nutrient-deprived brewer's yeast versus some other unintended one.
Totally fair and thanks for the additional info, I've never seen S. Cerevisiae do that, but evidently its possible!
 

SiriusStarr

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Totally fair and thanks for the additional info, I've never seen S. Cerevisiae do that, but evidently its possible!
The only reason I have this useless bit of knowledge is because people periodically freak out when their sourdough starters develop weird, veiny surfaces. (Starters obviously are all wild yeast, but still tend to be mostly Candida and Saccharomyces sp. [or closely-related], so they can do weird things when they get nitrogen-starved.)

I think pseudohyphal growth tends to be much more commonly associated with Candida just because it's (as you noted) clinically relevant, so gets more studied/talked about in that context.

(pics from here and here)
 

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WhistlerBrew

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Thanks everyone for the thorough replies. Thought I'd give an update since I finally had a free keg to transfer this beer into.

Those little white clumps grew a little more, and there looked to be a milky film on the surface of the beer. It was hard to capture with pictures, but I still posted some here as an update. It reminded me of the kham yeast that can grow when fermenting vegetables.

The FG was on target and stable, the beer smelled and tasted fine, and now it's sitting on the gas waiting for a free tap. Looks like I should try some of the "nuclear" options for cleaning this fermenter that some have suggested. Thanks again!
 

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