Author Topic: Sour Beer Sanitation  (Read 3694 times)

Offline s rails

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Sour Beer Sanitation
« on: February 24, 2012, 11:36:54 AM »
I'm brewing my first sour this weekend.  Using the Berliner Weiss recipe in Classic Styles.  I am concerned about sanitation.  I would rather not dedicate equipment to sours; especially since this is my first one, based upon results might be my last.  Seems like a waste to buy double equipment at this point for anything that is in contact with the bugs.  I would think as long as I clean with PBW and use StarSan as directed bugs will die.  Isn't that why we use a santizer to kill all the bugs out there?  If santizers didn't work wouldn't we all have sour beer results just from the stuff in the air that lands on equipment?  I just wonder if we all might be paranoid about the ability of these bugs to survive StarSan.  I did a search for sour sanitation on the forum but didn't really get an answer from anyone that has experience just cleaning and santizing rather then have dedicated equipment.  If there is someone out there that has or is just cleaning and sanitizing please speak up and let me know your experieince.
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Re: Sour Beer Sanitation
« Reply #1 on: February 24, 2012, 11:51:04 AM »
The specific type of lacto traditionally used in Berliner Weiss is inhibited by IBU levels of 10 and higher.  If the beers you brew are generally much higher than 10 IBUs then I wouldn't worry about it if you are using the appropriate lacto.  Sorry I can't remember the appropriate type of lacto. 
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Offline jmcamerlengo

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Re: Sour Beer Sanitation
« Reply #2 on: February 24, 2012, 12:12:09 PM »
The specific type of lacto traditionally used in Berliner Weiss is inhibited by IBU levels of 10 and higher.  If the beers you brew are generally much higher than 10 IBUs then I wouldn't worry about it if you are using the appropriate lacto.  Sorry I can't remember the appropriate type of lacto.

That would be lactobacillus.

And a thorough cleaning regimen will suffice! However I would recommend using glass as opposed to plastic for sour beers. I do have dedicated equipment for sour beers but that consists of 2 5 gallong glass carboys as I only make 10 gallons of lambic a year and they have to sit on the bugs for 18 months anyways...so may as well dedicate the 2 carboys to it. When those come out I brew another.
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Re: Sour Beer Sanitation
« Reply #3 on: February 24, 2012, 12:28:41 PM »
really you are talking about some racking hoses which should be replaced every once in a while anyway. a bucket, and it never hurts to have an extra. and maybe a racking cane so it's not really double equipment. you can use the same kettle and mash tun etc. if you use glass fermenters you don't have to dedicate those and even if you use plastic it's an insurance issue more than a have to issue. worst case if you don't dedicate a plastic bucket is that the next batch of non sour beer turns sour and then you have to get a new bucket. I would get new racking tubes after you sour or after you accidentally infect the next non sour anyway.
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Offline s rails

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Re: Sour Beer Sanitation
« Reply #4 on: February 24, 2012, 02:04:40 PM »
Thanks for the input so far.  I'm not really concerned about racking hoses since I only use them once.  I can afford an extra racking cane. I guess my concern is with kegs and keg tubing.  Also, I use Better Bottles but have enough to dedicate one or two to sours.  I have glass carboys for long term fermentation if needed (oaking, souring, etc..).

I just was at my LHBS.  I asked this question while picking up the WLP630 vial for this beer.  The input I got was not to worry about Lactobacillus and Pediococcus because good cleaning and StarSan will kill those bugs off; however, Brettanamyces is not so easy to kill and I need to dedicate equipment to Brett if I'm using it.  I also have been thinking about this...if everyone seems to dedicate equipment to the "bugs" then to avoid cross contamination wouldn't you want dedicated PBW and StarSan?  Is this an issue everyone misses and they're just cross contaminating anyway?  It goes back to my original thought why dedicate anything to sours if PBW and StarSan should be cleaning and sanatizing all of these bugs anyway?  If StarSan can't kill these bugs then aren't we all wasting money on it?  I'm not about to stop using it, just thinking out loud and hoping for someone with experience not dedicating equipment to sours to speak up with their thoughts or experience.  Thanks for the input and keep it coming.
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Offline tschmidlin

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Re: Sour Beer Sanitation
« Reply #5 on: February 24, 2012, 02:20:56 PM »
Your LHBS is wrong.  starsan is very effective at killing brett, you don't have anything to worry about sanitizing a clean non-porous surface.  If starsan didn't work on brett, every beer you make will have a brett contamination.  It's everywhere, all around us, living in my yard right now.
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Re: Sour Beer Sanitation
« Reply #6 on: February 24, 2012, 02:31:58 PM »
The specific type of lacto traditionally used in Berliner Weiss is inhibited by IBU levels of 10 and higher.  If the beers you brew are generally much higher than 10 IBUs then I wouldn't worry about it if you are using the appropriate lacto.  Sorry I can't remember the appropriate type of lacto.

That would be lactobacillus.


The lactobacillus found in Berliner Weiss is different than the lactobacillus found in Lambics.  I believe Wild Brews has a description of the two types.  The one for Berliner Weiss is inhibited by 10+ IBUs and feeds only on glucose (homofermentative) while the one for lambics is not inhibited and is heterofermentative (e.g. can eat dextrins left behind the yeast).

While good sanitation practice is a good idea in and of itself, you don't need good sanitation practice to eliminate infections from the Berliner Weiss lacto; you just need enough hops.
« Last Edit: February 24, 2012, 02:34:10 PM by kramerog »
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Offline ryang

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Re: Sour Beer Sanitation
« Reply #7 on: February 24, 2012, 02:57:57 PM »
I brew lots of sour and wild (brett) beers.

I do not have extra stuff.  In fact, my siphon hose is 4+ years old  :P

Tom's right.  It's not like these microbes are teenage mutant ninja turtles or something... or maybe they are?!  :o

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Re: Sour Beer Sanitation
« Reply #8 on: February 24, 2012, 03:06:02 PM »
The specific type of lacto traditionally used in Berliner Weiss is inhibited by IBU levels of 10 and higher.  If the beers you brew are generally much higher than 10 IBUs then I wouldn't worry about it if you are using the appropriate lacto.  Sorry I can't remember the appropriate type of lacto.

That would be lactobacillus.


The lactobacillus found in Berliner Weiss is different than the lactobacillus found in Lambics.  I believe Wild Brews has a description of the two types.  The one for Berliner Weiss is inhibited by 10+ IBUs and feeds only on glucose (homofermentative) while the one for lambics is not inhibited and is heterofermentative (e.g. can eat dextrins left behind the yeast).

While good sanitation practice is a good idea in and of itself, you don't need good sanitation practice to eliminate infections from the Berliner Weiss lacto; you just need enough hops.

inhibited is quite different then destroyed or eliminated. inhibited just means it will sour things very very slowly.
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Offline Thirsty_Monk

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Re: Sour Beer Sanitation
« Reply #9 on: February 25, 2012, 12:23:43 PM »
Cleaner and sanitisers will do the job on surface where they can get.

One place of concern is where hose meets barb adapter.
Take it apart and check it if you have any residual dirt / sediment there.
That is where the bugs would be hiding.

This is why you would have second set of hoses for sour beers.
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Re: Sour Beer Sanitation
« Reply #10 on: February 25, 2012, 03:30:36 PM »

inhibited is quite different then destroyed or eliminated. inhibited just means it will sour things very very slowly.

If you are talking about the souring needing many years  before it is notice then we are in agreement.  Lactobacillus delbrueckii, the type used in Berliner Weiss, is an insignificant threat to spoil beer because it only eats glucose which is rapidly depleted during fermentation and because it is inhibited by hop levels over 10 IBUs. 
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Offline s rails

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Re: Sour Beer Sanitation
« Reply #11 on: February 26, 2012, 10:51:33 PM »
Thanks for all the great info.  I really enjoy drinking sour beers but never made one due to concerns over cross contamination.  I thought an easy beer to get started with would be a Berliner Weisse.  If all goes well I would like to try a Flanders Red next.   I started this thread because there isn't alot of info on sanitation for sour beers out there.  Everyone seems to agree I should have separate equipment.  As Tom mentioned before these bugs are all around us.  As such we use sanitizers to neutralize them when we follow good sanitation.  No one has really explained why you can't just sanitize to kill the bugs as opposed to using seperate equipment.  I was hoping someone would come forward that follows sanitizing rather then duplicate equipment.   I know anything that can get scratched can harbor bugs; but what about PET bottles (Better Bottles), glass or stainless steel.  Do I have to dedicate a keg to sour beer or can it be cleaned and sanitized?  For all sour beers (not just Berliner Weisse) can the bugs and yeast transfer to another piece of equipment if a "sour" piece of equipment is soaking in the same PBW as the "non-sour" equipment?  Will StarSan kill the bugs if they cross contaminate a piece of equipment while in PBW?
« Last Edit: February 27, 2012, 08:22:02 AM by s rails »
Sean Railing
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Offline tschmidlin

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Re: Sour Beer Sanitation
« Reply #12 on: February 27, 2012, 01:52:06 AM »
Thanks for all the great info.  I really enjoy drinking sour beers but never made one due to concerns over cross contamination.  I an easy beer to get started with would be a Berliner Weisse.  If all goes well I would like to try a Flanders Red next.   I started this thread because there isn't alot of info on sanitation for sour beers out there.  Everyone seems to agree I should have separate equipment.  As Tom mentioned before these bugs are all around us.  As such we use sanitizers to neutralize them when we follow good sanitation.  No one has really explained why you can't just sanitize to kill the bugs as opposed to using seperate equipment.  I was hoping someone would come forward that follows sanitizing rather then duplicate equipment.   I know anything that can get scratched can harbor bugs; but what about PET bottles (Better Bottles), glass or stainless steel.  Do I have to dedicate a keg to sour beer or can it be cleaned and sanitized?  For all sour beers (not just Berliner Weisse) can the bugs and yeast transfer to another piece of equipment if a "sour" piece of equipment is soaking in the same PBW as the "non-sour" equipment?  Will StarSan kill the bugs if they cross contaminate a piece of equipment while in PBW?
Don't worry about cross contamination in PBW or starsan, as long as you can tell the bits apart.  If the o-rings are in good shape you don't need a separate keg for sours, but if they are ratty you should replace them anyway.  You can always just have a "sour" set of o-rings, the stainless will sanitize just fine.

You don't need different glass or metal fermenters, it is really just the plastic bits you need to worry most about.  You can probably get away with using them all for any kind of beer and just following good sanitation procedures, but I don't think it's worth risking a batch when you can just have a separate plastic hose, stopper, and airlock.  And realistically, since I generally add the bugs in secondary, the only thing I worry about is the racking hose (the cane is stainless).
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Offline tomsawyer

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Re: Sour Beer Sanitation
« Reply #13 on: February 27, 2012, 12:29:46 PM »
I suppose you could call me the Pigpen of sours.  I'm in the minority with my opinion, but I have made probably a dozen or more sours and I have reused plastic fermentors with no signs of contamination in subsequent batches.  Its my understanding that wild yeast and bacteria are susceptible to the same cleaning sanitizing regimens that we normally use.  I let my PBW solution sit in the fermentor for a good long while, and use Starsan as well.  Its possible that there is an increased risk associated with this practice, but my experience is that it is definitely not a certainty that you'd get an infection from reusing a plastic bucket.  I do have a dedicated autosiphon, just because I was following conventional wisdom in the beginning and I already have a couple more now for other beers.

Its not a huge outlay to have a dedicated bucket and racking cane, if it makes you feel better.  A lot of the stuff we do by way of cleaning and sanitizing, is more a matter of comfort level than hard fact.  Sanitization, by definition, isn't a really absolute deal.
« Last Edit: February 27, 2012, 12:48:29 PM by tomsawyer »
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Offline s rails

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Re: Sour Beer Sanitation
« Reply #14 on: February 27, 2012, 02:18:54 PM »
Cost isn't my main concern.  My main concern is just keeping track of dedicated kegs and equipment.  I don't want to accidentally use the wrong keg or something and ruin a perfectly good beer.
Sean Railing
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