Author Topic: pH question - dead lacto?  (Read 888 times)

Offline jlevensailor

  • 1st Kit
  • *
  • Posts: 20
  • Engineer at Heart
    • View Profile
pH question - dead lacto?
« on: January 06, 2015, 11:47:45 PM »
So I was using those ph strips and brewing sour beers. In the midst of my lacto starter I realized this was a mistake and ordered one of those electric ph testers. My tap water with the strips was 5.4 to my eyeball, it was 8.6 (more reasonable sounding) with the tester.

Anyways I was trying to hold out as long as possible with my lacto on the stir plate with heat applied (around 7-10 days) before i got a chance to brew and i pitched it on sunday. 48 hours later and it appears with the gun, my wort+lacto is only at 5.6. Shouldn't this be much lower? Mid 3s? Again, I was trying to hold out and get a chance to test the wort pre-pitch but I could not for fear the lacto would be dead. For those that eyeball everything, I will say the lacto out of the pack was mildy sour smelling, the starter after 10 days was not and my beer thus far does not smell sour at all. Should i pitch a new lacto pack?

Network Engineer by day, Beer Engineer by weekend.

This is my retirement plan

Offline morticaixavier

  • I must live here
  • **********
  • Posts: 7782
  • Underhill VT
    • View Profile
    • The Best Artist in the WORLD!!!!!
Re: pH question - dead lacto?
« Reply #1 on: January 07, 2015, 03:30:25 AM »
48 hours is not much time. what temp are you holding the wort at?
"Creativity is the residue of wasted time"
-A Einstein

"errors are [...] the portals of discovery"
- J Joyce

Offline jlevensailor

  • 1st Kit
  • *
  • Posts: 20
  • Engineer at Heart
    • View Profile
Re: pH question - dead lacto?
« Reply #2 on: January 07, 2015, 01:44:39 PM »
Room Temp. Should I turn up the heat?
Network Engineer by day, Beer Engineer by weekend.

This is my retirement plan

Offline duboman

  • Senior Brewmaster
  • ******
  • Posts: 1576
    • View Profile
Re: pH question - dead lacto?
« Reply #3 on: January 07, 2015, 02:10:39 PM »
I hold lacto at 90oF for 3-5 days, raise the temp
Peace....Love......Beer......

The Commune Brewing Company-Perfecting the craft of beer since 2010

Offline reverseapachemaster

  • Official Poobah of No Life.
  • *
  • Posts: 3135
    • View Profile
    • Brain Sparging on Brewing
Re: pH question - dead lacto?
« Reply #4 on: January 07, 2015, 03:09:42 PM »
Yeah you need to warm that starter up. Lacto performs better at warmer temperatures at a limit around 115-120F. I would try to get up around 100F if you could.
Heck yeah I blog about homebrewing: Brain Sparging on Brewing

Offline kramerog

  • Senior Brewmaster
  • ******
  • Posts: 1809
    • View Profile
    • My LinkedIn page
Re: pH question - dead lacto?
« Reply #5 on: January 07, 2015, 03:14:45 PM »
I think you should pitch another pack due to issues with your starter based on this and past threads.  FYI, when the lacto gets going the pH can drop from the 5s into the 4s overnight, but it can take much longer to get the pH below 4 because the pH scale is logarithmic.

I agree with what everyone else is saying about warming to the 90s or 100s.

Offline Pinski

  • Senior Brewmaster
  • ******
  • Posts: 1944
  • Portland, Oregon
    • View Profile
Re: pH question - dead lacto?
« Reply #6 on: January 07, 2015, 03:17:43 PM »
I wouldn't use a stir plate either. Oxygenating may inhibit the lacto.
Steve Carper
Green Dragon Brew Crew
Clubs: Oregon Brew Crew & Strange Brew
BJCP Certified

Offline kylekohlmorgen

  • Senior Brewmaster
  • ******
  • Posts: 1363
  • Saint Louis, MO
    • View Profile
    • The South House Pilot Brewery
Re: pH question - dead lacto?
« Reply #7 on: January 07, 2015, 03:51:11 PM »
I wouldn't use a stir plate either. Oxygenating may inhibit the lacto.

Oxygen doesn't bother the lacto. The stirring action will help bring nutrients to the cells and carry away byproducts, as well as keep heating even.

Warmer is better. I don't think there is much difference between 90-120F, so just keep it as warm as you can without significant fluctuation. Consistent temp (just like with yeast fermentation) is important.

Don't trust your pH meter unless you can calibrate with standard solution(s). The colorpHast strips for mash pH (the expensive ones) are fairly consistent, and they can tell you if your pH has dropped below 4.8.

Depending on hopping rate, gravity, and starter culture health, 10 days isn't a terribly long time at ambient temp.
Twitter/Instagram: @southhousebrew

Recipes, Brett/Bacteria Experiments: http://SouthHouseBeer.com/

Offline jlevensailor

  • 1st Kit
  • *
  • Posts: 20
  • Engineer at Heart
    • View Profile
Re: pH question - dead lacto?
« Reply #8 on: January 07, 2015, 05:30:21 PM »
I had it 7-10 days on stir plate at 110F. I pitched into my wort and held for 48 hours at room temperature. I just put on the belt and set at 40.5C (my thermostat is on the metric system, which IMO everything should be, but I still hate that I don't know it as well)

The recipe i was following (which was from mad fermentalist) had the starter at 100-110F but pitched at room temp. Having a hard time understanding when to apply what temperature.
Network Engineer by day, Beer Engineer by weekend.

This is my retirement plan

Offline morticaixavier

  • I must live here
  • **********
  • Posts: 7782
  • Underhill VT
    • View Profile
    • The Best Artist in the WORLD!!!!!
Re: pH question - dead lacto?
« Reply #9 on: January 07, 2015, 05:59:38 PM »
I had it 7-10 days on stir plate at 110F. I pitched into my wort and held for 48 hours at room temperature. I just put on the belt and set at 40.5C (my thermostat is on the metric system, which IMO everything should be, but I still hate that I don't know it as well)

The recipe i was following (which was from mad fermentalist) had the starter at 100-110F but pitched at room temp. Having a hard time understanding when to apply what temperature.

so right now is there anything but lacto in the full batch? if there is sach yeast and lacto in the batch at the same time you wouldn't want to elevate the temperature. but if it's only lacto I would still want to see that temp get up there.

Someone else mentioned hop rates. some strains of lacto are more susceptible to hop acids than others.
"Creativity is the residue of wasted time"
-A Einstein

"errors are [...] the portals of discovery"
- J Joyce

Offline jlevensailor

  • 1st Kit
  • *
  • Posts: 20
  • Engineer at Heart
    • View Profile
Re: pH question - dead lacto?
« Reply #10 on: January 07, 2015, 09:28:51 PM »
I pitched another pack of wyeast 5335 lacto and brought heat up to 100. there is no Saccharomyces and the IBUs should be under 10. My dude at Atlantic Brew Supply here in Raleigh said to be patient and check the pH every week or two. 
Network Engineer by day, Beer Engineer by weekend.

This is my retirement plan

Offline Pinski

  • Senior Brewmaster
  • ******
  • Posts: 1944
  • Portland, Oregon
    • View Profile
Re: pH question - dead lacto?
« Reply #11 on: January 08, 2015, 04:03:44 PM »
I wouldn't use a stir plate either. Oxygenating may inhibit the lacto.

Oxygen doesn't bother the lacto. The stirring action will help bring nutrients to the cells and carry away byproducts, as well as keep heating even.

Warmer is better. I don't think there is much difference between 90-120F, so just keep it as warm as you can without significant fluctuation. Consistent temp (just like with yeast fermentation) is important.


Referring specifically to lacto buchneri which is the WY5335 strain mentioned in the OP, here is the source of my understanding.  Paraphrasing from Wyeast's Jess Caudil and Solera Brewing's Jason Kahler presentation at NHC 2012 A Perspective on Brewing Berliner Weisse-style Beer.

@45:48 The presence of oxygen will slow down the growth of this bug (WY5335). That’s why we… well… that’s not 100% why we purge a tank with CO2 prior to adding the wort and only the lactobacillus. It doesn’t help it, having oxygen present doesn’t help it. It will grow in the presence of oxygen for sure. But the main reasoning behind not having oxygen in the wort with only lactobacillus is you still have a lot of sugars sitting there for days and they start to brown up if you have a lot of oxygen there and that makes the beer oxidized and brownish.

Jason goes on to say later in the presentation-
No, there is no oxygenation at all at any point in the production of the beer. Actually a lot of care was taken to avoid any air being introduced. We pitched much higher rates so the oxygen free environment wouldn’t be a big deal.

I don't mean to be argumentative Kyle, you have much more experience with sours and various lacto strains that I do. Not sure if the OP is going for a BW, I  just wanted to clarify where I was coming from and what makes sense to me from sources that I trust.  To your point about nutrients and byproducts, to address that I gently swirl my flasks once or twice a day to mix things up a bit. Regarding even temperature, my flasks are in a fermentation chamber at steady temperature rather that a warming pad or band. Any further comments or insight on this would be greatly appreciated.
Steve Carper
Green Dragon Brew Crew
Clubs: Oregon Brew Crew & Strange Brew
BJCP Certified

Offline kylekohlmorgen

  • Senior Brewmaster
  • ******
  • Posts: 1363
  • Saint Louis, MO
    • View Profile
    • The South House Pilot Brewery
Re: pH question - dead lacto?
« Reply #12 on: January 08, 2015, 04:15:51 PM »
I don't mean to be argumentative Kyle, you have much more experience with sours and various lacto strains that I do. Not sure if the OP is going for a BW, I  just wanted to clarify where I was coming from and what makes sense to me from sources that I trust.  To your point about nutrients and byproducts, to address that I gently swirl my flasks once or twice a day to mix things up a bit. Regarding even temperature, my flasks are in a fermentation chamber at steady temperature rather that a warming pad or band. Any further comments or insight on this would be greatly appreciated.

We're not arguing - its collaborative discussion!

That talk is an awesome reference for lacto fermentations. Good point on oxygen in the fermentor. I was referring specifically to the starter. Sorry I didn't specify. Oxygen is bad for the main lactic fermentation, whether its increasing the risk of aerobic bacterial infection or just oxidation.

Thinking back on it, I may have had oxidation issues with long lacto ferments in the past. I'll definitely be purging my lacto fermentor from now on!

For the OP - I wouldn't worry too much about it. Your LHBS was right - be patient, check it in a few weeks, and then react if needed. Sour beer is all about patience and RDWHAHB.
Twitter/Instagram: @southhousebrew

Recipes, Brett/Bacteria Experiments: http://SouthHouseBeer.com/

Offline jlevensailor

  • 1st Kit
  • *
  • Posts: 20
  • Engineer at Heart
    • View Profile
Re: pH question - dead lacto?
« Reply #13 on: January 09, 2015, 02:30:24 PM »
So 48 hours after pitching another lacto pack and applying 95F and I haven't checked the pH but the top of the wort just looks sour to me, if that makes any sense. I have a bung on the carboy. I should have seen way more activity in the flask with that little bit of weak wort but i had a piece of foil loosely on top and spun it for a week. I think that's where I went wrong. IMO Lacto doesn't need a starter.

This was also my first all grain batch - I did a "no sparge" single infusion with 7.5 gallons of water, ended up with 1.034 OG but after the first boil of 90 minutes i ended up with only about 2.5-3 gallons in my carboy.

I think I should sour this to death - wait until its on the other side of 3, then combine with 2.5 gallons of fresh wort in a boil, then pitch beer yeast. that would come out to a 5 gallons of 4ish pH (plenty sour IMO).

Thoughts on that combined old beer/new beer process? OR thoughts on where I went wrong only losing 5 gallons in my brewing process?
Network Engineer by day, Beer Engineer by weekend.

This is my retirement plan

Offline kylekohlmorgen

  • Senior Brewmaster
  • ******
  • Posts: 1363
  • Saint Louis, MO
    • View Profile
    • The South House Pilot Brewery
Re: pH question - dead lacto?
« Reply #14 on: January 09, 2015, 08:03:35 PM »
So 48 hours after pitching another lacto pack and applying 95F and I haven't checked the pH but the top of the wort just looks sour to me, if that makes any sense. I have a bung on the carboy. I should have seen way more activity in the flask with that little bit of weak wort but i had a piece of foil loosely on top and spun it for a week. I think that's where I went wrong. IMO Lacto doesn't need a starter.

This was also my first all grain batch - I did a "no sparge" single infusion with 7.5 gallons of water, ended up with 1.034 OG but after the first boil of 90 minutes i ended up with only about 2.5-3 gallons in my carboy.

I think I should sour this to death - wait until its on the other side of 3, then combine with 2.5 gallons of fresh wort in a boil, then pitch beer yeast. that would come out to a 5 gallons of 4ish pH (plenty sour IMO).

Thoughts on that combined old beer/new beer process? OR thoughts on where I went wrong only losing 5 gallons in my brewing process?

RE: Brewing Process
2.5-3 gal sounds about right if you started with 7.5 gallons and didn't sparge. If you're not using it already, download BeerSmith and start tracking your recipes and process. Measure volumes and gravities throughout so you can input your brewery's specs (efficiency, volume losses, boiloff, etc).

RE: Souring/Blending
This is a great idea and a process I often execute for split batches. Since you're exploring sour brewing, all-grain, AND split batch blending at once, it will be tough to duplicate or diagnose. But I'm not one to tell a homebrewer to slow down or stop doing weird s***. Rock on.

Definitely taste it before adding it back to fresh wort - if there are off-flavors, just dump it and start over with your second batch.

RE: Beer pH
Beer pH is only one of a few factors in gauging a beer's acidity. Tasting is more important. Also - lacto will only take the pH down to 3.2 - 3.6, depending on strain, health, and conditions.
Twitter/Instagram: @southhousebrew

Recipes, Brett/Bacteria Experiments: http://SouthHouseBeer.com/