Author Topic: How Common Are Infected Batches?  (Read 1867 times)

Offline svejk

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How Common Are Infected Batches?
« on: September 04, 2010, 07:56:44 PM »
Another thread got me thinking about how many batches of beer actually get infected. I've been brewing over 10 years and never had one.  Over the years I have heard horror stories of huge lapses in sanitation that didn't result in infections. Early on somebody pointed out to me that we sanitize our equipment, rather than sterilize it. 

Another piece of advice that I really like is that the farther along in the process you are, the less important sanitation becomes (highest priority to making starters or yeast slants and lowest priority to bottling or kegging).  I have even heard that some homebrewers don't even sanitize their bottles as long as they are clean.  I'm not that brave and don't mind going through the extra effort to give myself some peace of mind, but it is reassuring to know that my efforts may be above and beyond what is necessary.

How about you?  How long have you been brewing and how many infected batches have you had?  Any batches that you thought should have been infected, but weren't?

Offline Thirsty_Monk

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Re: How Common Are Infected Batches?
« Reply #1 on: September 04, 2010, 08:06:03 PM »
50 batches and 0 infection.
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Offline tschmidlin

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Re: How Common Are Infected Batches?
« Reply #2 on: September 04, 2010, 10:54:03 PM »
I've had a couple get contaminated with something nasty, but invariably it is because of neglect.  My most recent one was a 2.8% ABV Scottish that sat in the fridge for months and the airlocks dried out - shocker, it got moldy.  And even then it took a long time at that low of a ABV.

I've never had one go bad when I followed any kind of reasonable sanitation practices, especially when it was a stronger beer.
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Offline svejk

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Re: How Common Are Infected Batches?
« Reply #3 on: September 04, 2010, 11:09:13 PM »
Wow - 2.8%?  Do you remember the OG and FG for that beer?  I've been getting into low ABV brewing lately, but I tend to get better efficiency than I plan for. I know that I can dilute to my target, but I never end up doing it.

So far the infection rate is really low. I'm almost tempted to throw caution to the wind and brew a "keep things clean, but no sanitizer" beer.  Might be a fun experiment.

Offline tschmidlin

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Re: How Common Are Infected Batches?
« Reply #4 on: September 04, 2010, 11:25:10 PM »
It was something like 1.031 an 1.011.  I've made it before, it's very easy drinking, a really good beer to sober up with :)

That batch though, ended up as nothing more than fertilizer.  It sat for more than 6 months.
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Offline svejk

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Re: How Common Are Infected Batches?
« Reply #5 on: September 04, 2010, 11:40:10 PM »
Interesting.  I guess if I do try a batch without sanitizer, I should go for a beer with an average ABV and drink it quick.

Offline tschmidlin

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Re: How Common Are Infected Batches?
« Reply #6 on: September 04, 2010, 11:48:48 PM »
As long as you're drinking it quickly, don't worry about the ABV.  Just think about how beer used to be made, way back in the days before Pasteur and Hansen.  Way back.  They had no starsan, no PBW.  Make a beer, drink it.  If you want to talk really primitive, a 3 day fermentation and then drink what you've got.  It would make for a fun party I think. :)
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Offline svejk

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Re: How Common Are Infected Batches?
« Reply #7 on: September 05, 2010, 12:01:51 AM »
Good point. Sometimes it is easy to forget that homebrewing isn't a new craft.

Offline tschmidlin

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Re: How Common Are Infected Batches?
« Reply #8 on: September 05, 2010, 12:28:30 AM »
No, not new, although I suspect it is easier to make good beer now that we understand the process better.  But that doesn't mean the ancient beer wouldn't bee good, I think we just won't ever know.
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Offline MDixon

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Re: How Common Are Infected Batches?
« Reply #9 on: September 05, 2010, 04:45:26 AM »
I've often thought every batch may have some level of contamination. The question is whether it becomes perceivable at any point before the entire batch is consumed. I've had beers like Barleywines go years and never exhibit contamination flaws, but I still wonder if there isn't some level of bacteria or wild yeast present.

As contamination rendering an undrinkable beer, I've had it happen twice. Both times it was acetaldehyde and was due to contamination from some undiscovered source. Once it presented very early and the other time it grew over time.
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Offline uthristy

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Re: How Common Are Infected Batches?
« Reply #10 on: September 05, 2010, 05:18:10 AM »
I've often thought every batch may have some level of contamination. The question is whether it becomes perceivable at any point before the entire batch is consumed.

I have to think every batch has some level contamination, none of us work in sterile labs thus theres always going to be a `bug or two that finds its way into the process. But that said most batchs can & do last for extended times without  showing signs of a nasty infection.


Just think about how beer used to be made, way back in the days before Pasteur and Hansen.  Way back.

I would bet the farm most of us wouldn't drink beers from wayy back then, sorry but I have little romantic notions of the good old days re: beer.
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Offline majorvices

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Re: How Common Are Infected Batches?
« Reply #11 on: September 05, 2010, 06:22:48 AM »
Been brewing for over 15 years and I have had an occasional infection - most commonly this time of the year from fruit flies getting into buckets. I've heard of really crazy things happening, like people dropping tools or aquarium pumps into their wort and turn out drinkable beer. But nothing that crazy has ever happened to me.

I did pick up a "super bug" once on a third or 4th pitch of WLP007 that was able to ferment beers incredibly dry in only a couple weeks. It was pretty impressive, took a 1.065 IPA down to around 1.002 very shortly.
« Last Edit: September 05, 2010, 06:30:42 AM by majorvices »
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Offline bluesman

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Re: How Common Are Infected Batches?
« Reply #12 on: September 05, 2010, 06:27:39 AM »
I had one about three years ago when I tried a brewing experiment out in my garden shed.  :-\

Bad idea.  :D

Live and learn.   ;)
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Offline mthogan1997

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Re: How Common Are Infected Batches?
« Reply #13 on: September 05, 2010, 07:01:52 AM »
"But that doesn't mean the ancient beer wouldn't bee good, I think we just won't ever know."

I think we can be sure that most beer was crap in the good old days. Don't believe it, try brewing without a thermometer, sanitizer, yeast, electricity/propane and stainless steel. Get your water from the nearest creek, river, pond or lake. It would probably be a good idea to pee in the water to replicate the good old days lack of sewage treatment. If there were sewers, somebody else's untreated "discharge" was probably just far enough upstream to not see "floaters."

People will eat, drink, smoke, and inject anything to kill a few brain cells.





Offline jeffy

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Re: How Common Are Infected Batches?
« Reply #14 on: September 05, 2010, 07:35:05 AM »
"But that doesn't mean the ancient beer wouldn't bee good, I think we just won't ever know."

I think we can be sure that most beer was crap in the good old days. Don't believe it, try brewing without a thermometer, sanitizer, yeast, electricity/propane and stainless steel. Get your water from the nearest creek, river, pond or lake. It would probably be a good idea to pee in the water to replicate the good old days lack of sewage treatment. If there were sewers, somebody else's untreated "discharge" was probably just far enough upstream to not see "floaters."

People will eat, drink, smoke, and inject anything to kill a few brain cells.
I don't think so.  How long would a local brewpub last if it made an undrinkable product?  Think of the ancient brewers/brewsters as local brewpubs who learned their craft from generations of experimentation.  After a while you've got to hit on the right formula.
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