Author Topic: My "house" bug is taking over! Sanitation help needed  (Read 1352 times)

Offline nateo

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My "house" bug is taking over! Sanitation help needed
« on: April 08, 2013, 10:06:47 AM »
Hey folks,
I've been cultivating a "house" sour bug mix for just about two years now. It's cultured from grain, so it's probably a mix of lacto and other stuff. Anyway, I've maintained separate plastic goods (tubing, racking, bottling, etc.) but my last couple clean beers got infected. I guess the house culture is airborne? I'm not really sure how they got infected.

My main concern is how do I get rid of the bug in my brew buckets? I'd rather not buy new buckets. In the past I've used a vinegar/bleach mixed that seemed to work OK. I've thought about doing a concentrated PBW soak too. Starsan is worthless against these creatures.

Any ideas?
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Offline BrewArk

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Re: My "house" bug is taking over! Sanitation help needed
« Reply #1 on: April 08, 2013, 10:13:37 AM »
Hey folks,
I've been cultivating a "house" sour bug mix for just about two years now. It's cultured from grain, so it's probably a mix of lacto and other stuff. Anyway, I've maintained separate plastic goods (tubing, racking, bottling, etc.) but my last couple clean beers got infected. I guess the house culture is airborne? I'm not really sure how they got infected.

My main concern is how do I get rid of the bug in my brew buckets? I'd rather not buy new buckets. In the past I've used a vinegar/bleach mixed that seemed to work OK. I've thought about doing a concentrated PBW soak too. Starsan is worthless against these creatures.

Any ideas?

Don't mix vinegar & bleach.  While each has its merits, they deactivate each other.  You'd be better off using them sequentially w/a water rinse between.  You definitely need a two step, clean then sanitize.  Hot PBW for the clean.  Followed by a bleach sanitize (no bleach for stainless though).  You can use another sanitizer but follow the instructions.
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Offline kylekohlmorgen

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Re: My "house" bug is taking over! Sanitation help needed
« Reply #2 on: April 08, 2013, 10:18:44 AM »
For plastic (and buckets especially), once infected, always infected IMO. You can try to get by with a long sanitizer soak, but don't plan on those beers staying clean.

Speaking of - if a prior batch was infected, and you took samples or transferred it with your "clean" gear, that may be where the infection is coming from. When did you notice the infection?

My guess is that, unless you're doing a lot of open fermentation, its not airborne and you're using an infected piece of equipment on the cold side.

Easily mixed-up soft parts: Bucket lids (and gaskets), airlocks/blowoff tubes, thief, plastic covers for racking cane, kettle valve/pump, plastic stir spoon, oxygen stone (plastic connection tubing and/or worm clamps that may harbor bugs).
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Offline nateo

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Re: My "house" bug is taking over! Sanitation help needed
« Reply #3 on: April 08, 2013, 10:26:49 AM »
Speaking of - if a prior batch was infected, and you took samples or transferred it with your "clean" gear, that may be where the infection is coming from. When did you notice the infection?

Easily mixed-up soft parts: Bucket lids (and gaskets), airlocks/blowoff tubes, thief, plastic covers for racking cane, kettle valve/pump, plastic stir spoon, oxygen stone (plastic connection tubing and/or worm clamps that may harbor bugs).

It takes a while for the infection to show up in a clean beer. Like, a few weeks after primary is done. I probably mixed up a lid or something. The other plastic gear is marked, so I wouldn't mix them up. But, if my "clean" gear is infected now, I'm not sure. I guess I'll just stick to sour beers for a while.

In a fully-fermented beer, it doesn't make it noticeably sour or drop the pH. It does cause really slow gushers after about 6 months or so in the bottle. Other than that, it's not a huge deal.
« Last Edit: April 08, 2013, 10:30:08 AM by nateo »
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Offline bbkf

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Re: My "house" bug is taking over! Sanitation help needed
« Reply #4 on: April 08, 2013, 10:29:54 AM »


Don't mix vinegar & bleach.  While each has its merits, they deactivate each other.  You'd be better off using them sequentially w/a water rinse between.


not true. 

Bleach is sold at a pH that "stabilizes" it.  If you reduce the pH (via vinegar) it becomes one of the most effective surface sanitizers you can buy (or make in this case).  However, the life of acidified bleach is reduced.

just make sure you never confuse vinegar with ammonia. 

Offline majorvices

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My "house" bug is taking over! Sanitation help needed
« Reply #5 on: April 09, 2013, 05:39:32 AM »
Just buy new fermentors. It's not worth the risk of all the work of a brewday not to mention cost of ingredients.
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Offline AmandaK

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Re: My "house" bug is taking over! Sanitation help needed
« Reply #6 on: April 09, 2013, 05:49:39 AM »
Just buy new fermentors. It's not worth the risk of all the work of a brewday not to mention cost of ingredients.

These are my feelings as well. At the very least, you have more sour fermenters now!  ;D

That being said, I had a couple batches go south due to what I found to be a "bottle cleanliness" issue. I threw out all the empty bottles from those batches and never had a problem again. It was a slight phenolic, somewhat of a gusher after a couple months in the bottle kind of infection.
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Offline garc_mall

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Re: My "house" bug is taking over! Sanitation help needed
« Reply #7 on: April 09, 2013, 07:58:18 AM »
Just buy new fermentors. It's not worth the risk of all the work of a brewday not to mention cost of ingredients.

These are my feelings as well. At the very least, you have more sour fermenters now!  ;D

That being said, I had a couple batches go south due to what I found to be a "bottle cleanliness" issue. I threw out all the empty bottles from those batches and never had a problem again. It was a slight phenolic, somewhat of a gusher after a couple months in the bottle kind of infection.

Totally had this infection as well. Unfortunately one of the bottles that was infected went to a comp.  :-[
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Offline bwana

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Re: My "house" bug is taking over! Sanitation help needed
« Reply #8 on: April 09, 2013, 08:28:18 AM »
I feel your pain. In two buckets I tried 24 hour iodine soak then boiling water and more iodine. After dumping 10 gallons of ale I got rid of all plastic in my brewery and bought new. No more infections.

Offline reverseapachemaster

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Re: My "house" bug is taking over! Sanitation help needed
« Reply #9 on: April 09, 2013, 09:32:16 AM »
Are you using "clean" yeast that you've washed several times? That was a source of chronic infection in my clean beers a couple years ago. It's highly probable one batch of beer was infected and the washed yeast has spread the opportunities for contamination.

After I had that run of infections I went through and gave everything a long oxyclean soak. I started off with a week long soak of everything in a very strong oxyclean solution. Oxyclean is very good about breaking down organic material so if something has found a home in your equipment and covered itself with a biofilm that's protecting it from a sanitizer the oxyclean will break it down. Then I soaked everything in a highly concentrated star-san soak for another week. That worked for me. I have my clean beers next to several gallons of sour beers and no infections since. If star-san isn't getting anywhere I'd probably look at PBW or bleach for a second or third soak.
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Offline dmtaylor

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Re: My "house" bug is taking over! Sanitation help needed
« Reply #10 on: April 09, 2013, 10:03:07 AM »


Don't mix vinegar & bleach.  While each has its merits, they deactivate each other.  You'd be better off using them sequentially w/a water rinse between.


not true. 

Bleach is sold at a pH that "stabilizes" it.  If you reduce the pH (via vinegar) it becomes one of the most effective surface sanitizers you can buy (or make in this case).  However, the life of acidified bleach is reduced.

just make sure you never confuse vinegar with ammonia.

Not true.  Mixture of bleach and any acid generates toxic chlorine gas, which can kill more than just the bugs in your plastic -- it can kill YOU.

http://chemistry.about.com/od/toxicchemicals/a/Mixing-Bleach-And-Vinegar.htm

Regarding the OP's dilemma... if it makes you feel any better (ha ha), I too have had a lot of unintentionally soured batches over the years due to permanent plastic and hose contam issues, to the point that I have recently converted 100% to glass carboys for all my fermentations.  Never a plastic bucket again for me.  Hoses are stored in sanitizer solution and will just need to be replaced every so often.  You might want to consider the same, at least for your non-sour batches.  Thankfully they do make 3-gallon carboys for the smaller batch dudes such as myself.
Dave

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Offline nateo

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Re: My "house" bug is taking over! Sanitation help needed
« Reply #11 on: April 09, 2013, 11:51:08 AM »
If star-san isn't getting anywhere I'd probably look at PBW or bleach for a second or third soak.

I never reuse yeast. I'll try the long PBW soak and see how that goes. I have a few beers (like a wit) I'm planning on brewing that won't be ruined by a bit of sourness, so I'll test the effects on those.
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Offline kylekohlmorgen

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Re: My "house" bug is taking over! Sanitation help needed
« Reply #12 on: April 11, 2013, 08:55:54 AM »
...I guess I'll just stick to sour beers for a while...

Good thinkin'.

You've got a bunch of 'questionable' buckets - might as well use them to build up a backlog of the sour/funky stuff.
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