Author Topic: First Infection in 5 Years  (Read 932 times)

Offline SilverZero

  • Cellarman
  • **
  • Posts: 37
    • View Profile
First Infection in 5 Years
« on: March 19, 2017, 02:59:10 PM »
Time makes fools of us all!

I was fermenting a 1.25 gallon pale ale for my single-hop lineup (Chinook this time), in a 2.5-gallon glass jar with a crappy thin metal screw top. Using WY1764 that was repitched from a Simcoe beer that really came out great in the same vessel. I did not pitch onto the cake, but... honestly, I can't remember what I did! Maybe I have some notes in Beersmith.

Anyway, two weeks and a few days later, I decided it was time to bottle. This was probably the first batch ever that I didn't test it for gravity at all, so I never opened the jar to smell or taste it. It spent 2 days in my bathtub under a paper bag to block out light, then I moved it to my fermentation fridge that had been full of bottles from another brew. I also left it out in my garage for a few days after I moved it to make room for 3 new 1-gallon batches. I thought I'd bottle that day but didn't.

And so, bottling time! Removed the lid, took a whiff... Nail polish remover and nothing else. Took a taste... Sour as all get-out, just pure vinegar. I'm thinking acetobacter!

So, I'm now evaluating all the things I've been doing wrong: Milling in my kitchen, lax sanitization, open-ish fermentation... Time to give my gear a deep clean and tighten up my brew day routines!

Offline SilverZero

  • Cellarman
  • **
  • Posts: 37
    • View Profile
Re: First Infection in 5 Years
« Reply #1 on: March 19, 2017, 06:31:22 PM »
I decided to check on my 3 other batches. They're all acetic. Down the drain they go. I'm pretty sure it's either a carryover from repitching yeast or an infection in my fermentation chamber. I've got some 1st-gen yeast that should be okay, I think it's the same crop that went into my last good batch. I'll give it a whirl with a re-do of one of these sometime this week. And I'll clean my fridge.

Online dannyjed

  • Senior Brewmaster
  • ******
  • Posts: 1009
  • Toledo, OH
    • View Profile
Re: First Infection in 5 Years
« Reply #2 on: March 19, 2017, 09:41:28 PM »
I had two batches go bad this last fall. They were from the same yeast cake from an earlier batch. They had a bad, phenolic taste and they must have gotten contaminated. This was the first time I had this happen in 10 years. So, I broke down and cleaned my equipment really good.  Hopefully, you find the culprit.








Dan Chisholm

Offline SilverZero

  • Cellarman
  • **
  • Posts: 37
    • View Profile
Re: First Infection in 5 Years
« Reply #3 on: March 20, 2017, 01:22:32 AM »
My best guess is it's from the grain being milled in the kitchen where I had my fermentation vessels and did all my brewing. That or it's in my fermentation fridge. I don't think it's an oxidation issue, but it could be.

Cleaned everything today so here's hoping.

Offline Stevie

  • Official Poobah of No Life.
  • *
  • Posts: 6858
    • View Profile
Re: First Infection in 5 Years
« Reply #4 on: March 20, 2017, 01:38:10 AM »
Acetobacter requires oxygen, so you might have an oxygen issue as well. It's required for both reproduction and acetic acid production.

You mention open fermentation. Where are you doing this? Do you take any precautions to prevent bugs from contacting the wort? Do you seal up the vessel as co2 productions tapers off?

Offline SilverZero

  • Cellarman
  • **
  • Posts: 37
    • View Profile
Re: First Infection in 5 Years
« Reply #5 on: March 20, 2017, 02:48:42 AM »
Not really. The vessels aren't standard sizes by any means, so I can't really fit airlocks to them, at least not without being more clever. The smaller 5L jars I use have glass snap-down lids that I drilled some holes in, but the diameters are a bit too large for airlocks. I can use vinyl tubing as blowoffs for those, but I wasn't on these current set of batches that I just dumped today (1 week old). I just had foil over the lids. I repitched some yeast onto those and oxygenated the wort pretty well. They didn't start forming a krauesen for 48 hours or so, so any bugs had plenty of time and dissolved oxygen to take over.

The larger jar is 2.5 gallons so it had a lot of head space and a simple tin (?) lid that's hardly air-tight. It was also oxygenated but had a quicker start to fermentation like normal, but again, if it was already in the slurry it could have taken hold alongside the yeast.

I'm fully aware of the right way to do it. My big batches are fermented in a sanke sealed with a custom spunding valve. They never see any oxygen until bottling, and the kegged portions are oxygen free until they're poured into the glass. I've just been flying by the seat of my pants with these new small batches, and it caught up to me. Fortunately, it's a totally separate set of equipment than my larger brewery, except for the ferm chamber which is getting a cleaning as well.

I'll be fitting some tubing airlocks for future small batches as well, and milling in a separate place away from anything that comes into post-boil contact with wort along with some more mindful sanitation overall. Hopefully that covers the most likely sources of infection.

Offline swampale

  • Cellarman
  • **
  • Posts: 99
    • View Profile
Re: First Infection in 5 Years
« Reply #6 on: March 22, 2017, 10:49:20 AM »
My ESB went south last December. I really wanted it for Christmas. My last one was back in 2012. Stunk my basement up when I dumped it for hours. Whew!! I seem to get a bad one every 5 years or so.

Offline SilverZero

  • Cellarman
  • **
  • Posts: 37
    • View Profile
Re: First Infection in 5 Years
« Reply #7 on: April 14, 2017, 04:19:59 PM »
Well, just to come back to this another batch later. I scrubbed and sanitized my fermentation fridge as best I could, I cleaned all my gear, I think I did everything possible to avoid infection from transferring and fermentation, but I got another batch of vinegar. I'm pretty sure it has to be the yeast. Everything has come from my initial harvest of 1764 that I've just built into starters along the way.

I'll try a new pack of yeast for my next brew to see if I can prove it one way or the other. Glad these are only 1 gallon batches I'm dumping. :(
« Last Edit: April 14, 2017, 06:44:10 PM by SilverZero »

Offline santoch

  • Brewmaster
  • *****
  • Posts: 883
  • North Bend, WA
    • View Profile
    • WAHA
Re: First Infection in 5 Years
« Reply #8 on: April 15, 2017, 01:47:06 AM »
sounds like you need to replace the plastic/rubber in your system, and hit all of your equipment with an alternate sanitizer from what you are already using.  Then, the new yeast and you should be ok. 
Mt. Si Brewing Society
Washington Homebrewer's Association (WAHA)
BJCP GM2/Mead Judge

Offline SilverZero

  • Cellarman
  • **
  • Posts: 37
    • View Profile
Re: First Infection in 5 Years
« Reply #9 on: April 15, 2017, 01:52:53 AM »
Nice try, slick. ;)

Kidding. The thing is, this is an ad-hoc kitchen system with no plastic. I mash and boil in a 3-gal kettle on the stove top, then chill in the sink and pour into a glass 5L fermenter. Then straight to the ferm chamber.

I have been thinking of switching from StarSan to Iodophor, I might do that as well just as a matter of course.

Sent from my 2PS64 using Tapatalk