Author Topic: 30 brews in, issues with racking and bottling plus some other junk.  (Read 1246 times)

Offline nofunsally

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I’ve got about a 30 brews under my belt.  Recently I have some new problems along with the persistent ones.

Persistent Problems:
I bottle my beer.  My last two beer were most likely infected (bottle geysers, one was more sour than the other though).  Out of the 30, I have had about a third of the beers suffer from some degree of geyserness.  It wasn’t always every bottle in batch so I thought it could be improperly mixed priming solution.  However, these last two definitely appeared to be infected.  

To stomp out the infection issue I’ve since purchased a bottle tree, vinator and new fermenting buckets.  Unfortunately, I haven’t kept notes on whether I’ve fermented in glass or plastic to see if that was the issue.  I also bought a stainless steel racking cane thinking this could be kept clean better.  I rinse it after every brew with fairly high pressure water and usually run some starsan through it and rinse again.  However, the other day I found it was really gross just out of the normal sight line (i.e. about an inch in with tan, stubborn sludge).  I have since cleaned out the gunk.  I think the cane may have been the problem.

Recent problems:
When I was looking for the infection source, I bought new tubing too.  Nevertheless, I am getting extreme cavitation and am having a really hard time getting the siphon to start.  Not only is it hard to start, but also over time the wort is mixed with more and more air, until it eventually stops.  I never had this siphoning problem before the last few beers when I switched the tubing.  I am using a metal hose clamp and two zip ties to reduce the cavitation but it’s not enough.  It is incredibly frustrating especially towards the end of the brew day.  How do you all siphon?  Has anyone else combated this issue?


I recently purchased a refractometer (with automatic temperature control) and have been checking my pre- and post- boil gravity (via brix).  When calculating my efficiencies my pre is always better than post.  I am talking like ~20% difference.  My volumes are not precise, (definitely within a quart).  Any ideas on what might be causing this discrepancy.  I check the refractometer with distilled water frequently, I believe its measurements are correct.  I am shooting for 65 – 75% efficiency.

Finally, how much wort is usually left in the brew pot after transferring to the fermenter?  I haven't really got that down when planning recipes (I am using BeerSmith).

I’d appreciate assistance on any of these issues.

Thanks,
Mike

Offline nateo

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Re: 30 brews in, issues with racking and bottling plus some other junk.
« Reply #1 on: July 20, 2011, 02:36:31 PM »
I'm not sure about some of those, but I've had similar issues with bottle infections. I had a run of infections I traced back to both expired starsan and a house bug. Now I use softened water and check the pH with a meter every time I use the starsan. I also alternate between starsan and a pH adjusted bleach solution. 1oz bleach and 1oz vinegar per 5gal. The pH should be between 6.5-7.5. I'll use starsan for the primary, bleach-water-vinegar for secondary/bottling, then switch it up the next batch, bwv for primary, starsan bottling, etc.

I like to use clear plastic tubing so I can easily inspect it for gunk. After a year or so it'll have enough little scratches in it that I'll replace it. But it's pretty cheap.

A long time ago I figured out the spigot on the bottling bucket can be taken apart and cleaned, and I found a bunch of gunk in there, but I couldn't tie that directly to any infection issues.

I probably lose 1/4-1/2gal in the bottom of the kettle. I don't worry too much about that.
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Offline morticaixavier

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Re: 30 brews in, issues with racking and bottling plus some other junk.
« Reply #2 on: July 20, 2011, 03:21:26 PM »
If only some of the bottles are gushing it is most likely either incorreclty mixed priming sugar or infected bottles. I assume you are reusing bottles. I have been putting my bottles in the oven the night before bottling and heating them at 350 for 20 minutes or so then leave them there until I bottle. Don't know if it makes a difference.
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Offline Will's Swill

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Re: 30 brews in, issues with racking and bottling plus some other junk.
« Reply #3 on: July 20, 2011, 04:29:51 PM »
I'd bet on that racking cane for your infectious problems.

As to your siphon bubbles, given the extremes you've used to seal the tubing connection, I'd guess that the bubbles are CO2 coming out of solution.  I get that when my siphons are flowing slowly.  How do you start your siphon?  Does the racking cane have a blockage?  You might try running a dip tube brush through your racking cane to see if there's anything else in there.  I use an autosiphon and if I get bubbles I just give it a couple more pumps to really get the flow going and the bubbles stop.  Of course, you need a good height difference, too.

I only leave about a tablespoon behind in the boil kettle, though sometimes I lose maybe a cup more to my hop bags.  Perhaps this is the source of your change in efficiency?  Are you measuring your gravity after transfer to the fermenter and thus your leaving significant wort behind?  Are you letting your refractometer settle?  I know that many have ATC, but my ATC refractometer will give an incorrect reading if I use it immediately with hot wort.  If I put a few drops on it and let it sit for a couple of minutes, the reading will match that of my hydrometer in a cooled sample, but will read way low otherwise.
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Online Jimmy K

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Re: 30 brews in, issues with racking and bottling plus some other junk.
« Reply #4 on: July 21, 2011, 05:39:56 AM »
When I get bubbles in my racking tube like that, I pinch the flexible tube right where it connects to the racking cane. A slight constriction does something (increases liquid flow rate?) at that spot and causes the bubbles to travel down the tube and into the bucket. Once they are gone they don't usually come back. It probably is CO2 coming out of solution like Will said and they seam to self propogate - one bubble causes turbulence that causes more to form.
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Offline majorvices

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Re: 30 brews in, issues with racking and bottling plus some other junk.
« Reply #5 on: July 21, 2011, 06:09:22 AM »
First: A suggestion. Splurge a little and buy yourself a kegging system. Draft beer is easier, and IMO, bettter that bottle beer for many reasons. One, it's way easier to get carbonation dialed in properly. Also, it's way easier to keep oxygenation issues under control because you can purge w/co2.

Second: I really like my autosiphon. Yes,. it's plastic, but I have never lost a batch to contamination from it. Ever. I replace it about once every 18 months or so, usually because I break it (which they make a SS version). I use a gear clamp on the tubing, but I don't over tighten or it will break. This takes care of the aeration problem and takes care of the "vaccuum fail" issues. I swear by mine and love it and couldn't rack without one.

Third: Hard to say if your "contamination issue" is contamination or over carrbing or, perhaps your racking a beer that has not finished fermenting (racking to secondary too soon?).... there's just too many unknowns. Do you refrigerate you bottled beer after carbonation? If not, that could partially be your problem.
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Offline nofunsally

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Re: 30 brews in, issues with racking and bottling plus some other junk.
« Reply #6 on: July 21, 2011, 12:41:11 PM »
Hello All,
Thanks for the information and thoughts.

- The picture above with the bubbles is out of the kettle, so I don't think this is CO2.  I used an auto-siphon in the past and then I broke 2, and I switched to stainless. I think I am going to go back.  I still don't know why this cavitation has only become a issue recently.  I might try the pinch method too.

- I usually only wait about 30 seconds for the refractometer, I will wait longer before taking a reading now.

- Kegging, I mean to get start that sometime. I am moving across the country soon and didn't want to gear up before the move. I did buy four used corny kegs about six months ago though.

- I probably leave about a half gallon in the kettle. I have never used a hop bag. Should I?

Thanks,
Mike

Offline morticaixavier

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Re: 30 brews in, issues with racking and bottling plus some other junk.
« Reply #7 on: July 21, 2011, 12:45:33 PM »
is it possible there is a fault in the tubing? or the cane? like a little crack or cut of something that is letting in air along the route?

what is the ID of the tube in comparison with the OD of the cane? all the clamps and such should make that moot but it's a thought.
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Offline Slowbrew

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Re: 30 brews in, issues with racking and bottling plus some other junk.
« Reply #8 on: July 21, 2011, 01:24:24 PM »
is it possible there is a fault in the tubing? or the cane? like a little crack or cut of something that is letting in air along the route?

what is the ID of the tube in comparison with the OD of the cane? all the clamps and such should make that moot but it's a thought.

I was going to ask about tubing sizes too.  I had some tubing that I was sure was the perfect size.  It went on nice and easy and fit like a glove.  A loose glove with big air leaks but a glove non the less.  8^) 

The next smaller ID tubing will fight you when you put it on the cane but it won't leak air.

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Offline majorvices

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Re: 30 brews in, issues with racking and bottling plus some other junk.
« Reply #9 on: July 21, 2011, 01:35:28 PM »
Sorry, the picture didn't load the first time I viewed your post so I didn't see the gear clamp. Weird that it's doing that. Maybe try some foodgrade silicone spray or some food grade lube and see if that doesn't help.
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Offline Will's Swill

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Re: 30 brews in, issues with racking and bottling plus some other junk.
« Reply #10 on: July 23, 2011, 08:21:34 AM »
Hmmm, that's out of the kettle, eh?  Well, then you're right, it's not CO2.  Weird.  I wouldn't think that air would get past your hose clamp, but that's the only thing left isn't it?  And that's a lot of bubbles.  Is the tubing relatively stiff?  I had some stiff tubing that had a slight gouge on the inside of one end that would do the same thing when I siphoned.  I think the gouge came from jamming it on my counterflow chiller which has an end a lot like your racking cane...  Hmmm...  I actually used it for a while on purpose to aerate my wort going into the fermenter.  :)  Is your wort cool coming out the kettle?  Just consider it bonus aeration!
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Offline thcipriani

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Re: 30 brews in, issues with racking and bottling plus some other junk.
« Reply #11 on: July 28, 2011, 09:49:12 PM »
Quick thought on the siphon - sometimes my hose clamps will poke holes in my tubing - have you removed the hose-clamp recently and checked the tubing? Try replacing the tubing with some tight-fitting tubing (5/16" ID) and ditching the hose clamp maybe?

As far as the gushers are concerned, my only nugget of wisdom is to make sure you're stirring really well - not fast or vigorously - just thoroughly - get the sugar solution nice and even. Maybe try carb drops - limit your variables.

If you really think you have an infection try a Wort Stability test - collect wort from the kettle into a sterile container and see how long it takes to start spontaneously fermenting. If your wort makes it 4-5 days without showing signs of fermentation then your infection's somewhere on the cold-side, else, it's in your chilling or racking to the kettle.
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