Chasing down an infection

Discussion in 'Beginners Brewing Forum' started by SabreSteve, Nov 17, 2020.

  1. SabreSteve

    SabreSteve Well-Known Member

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    So I hardly consider myself a champion at sanitation but I'd like to think I'm pretty careful and that I've tried to correct things after each batch. I have a SMaSH Blonde I bottled over a month ago that I was really proud of, my best brew to date. However the last 3-4 bottles I've had have been infected, I typically suffer through but last night I poured one out. The best way to describe it is that the beer appears over carbonated and has a bit of astringency and an intense bitterness. I had a similar issue in a few bottles of my first batch but since then I've tried to step things up with the bottle cleaning and sanitizing. It worries me though that it's in so many consecutive bottles. I soaked both my buckets in PBW since discovering this, I previously cleaned them with just dawn dish soap and hot water. I have another blonde going right now and I'm just hoping it doesn't suffer the same fate. I've read all about the risks with buckets and I'm looking to upgrade my fermenter but if I have to replace them now I'm ending up with another bucket or two. I'm really hoping I can get through maybe 4-5 more batches in what I have. Thinking back it's maybe possibly I missed sanitizing a few bottles but I don't think that's super likely. Basically I'm feeling like I'm kinda screwed and I'm hoping for any kind of peace of mind you guys can offer.

    Also forgot to mention I did just buy a bottle sprayer that will be here before I bottle the current batch
     
  2. Nosybear

    Nosybear Well-Known Member

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    As long as you haven't scratched the buckets, they are unlikely to be the cause. I'd look at spigots, autosiphons, any place with corners and crannies to hide specks of dried wort and their attendant bacteria. One thing you can do if you can get your hands on some sterile centrifuge tubes is run some wort into them and let them stand for each step from chilled wort in the kettle to pitch. If you're seeing fermentation signs in the beer, assuming the yeast has not been pitched, before about three days, the step immediately before you took the sample is where the infection is happening.

    Buckets are no more or less risky than any other fermentor. Missing sanitizing the bottles (or caps) is more likely, or a speck of goo somewhere in the bottling wand or spigot.
     
  3. SabreSteve

    SabreSteve Well-Known Member

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    I always sanitize any caps that aren't coming out of a sealed package (so all of them for that batch) any suggestions for cleaning tubing? I do my best to run my cleaning solution through them but I worry cause there doesn't seem to be any good way to completely eliminate moisture inside when hanging them up to dry.
     
  4. J A

    J A Well-Known Member

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    I agree with the second statement but not the first. The very nature of the material makes plastic more susceptible to infection. It's easy to get surface imperfections from handling and cleaning that are hard to see. Even just storing one bucket inside another can cause small scratches.
    The bottom line is that as long as you're using the same equipment after you have an infection, you're taking a risk. Anything that's not completely impervious (stainless steel or glass) is suspect. Just weigh the investment in ingredients and time for a couple of dumped batches against the cost for replacement equipment and you'll find it's usually better to bite the bullet and upgrade or replace sooner rather than later.
     
  5. SabreSteve

    SabreSteve Well-Known Member

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    Like I said upgrading at this point isn't an option, not until early next year. If I replace equipment right now it's going to be for like equipment. I have 2 buckets which (probably irresponsibly by me) I've used interchangeably for fermenting and bottling and haven't really tracked which I use for what on what batch. If this next batch doesn't turn out I will replace both. In the meantime I'm trying to do whatever else I can to eliminate the threat of infection this time.
     
  6. Nosybear

    Nosybear Well-Known Member

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    Let me add another clause and see if JA agrees: Treated correctly, buckets are no more likely to cause an infection than any other fermentor. Scratch your stainless and guess what, you have a potential safe harbor for bacteria in you $300 fermentor, as would a bad weld or a gasket around a spigot provide. I have years-old buckets that still produce good beer when used as a primary fermentor but the only thing that has ever seen the inside of them is plastic spoons, hot water and soft cotton cloths. When I remember it, I take the spigots apart or off and soak them in bleach solution as well as cleaning the port thoroughly.

    Steve: Check the interior of the buckets for scratches, even small ones caused by abrasive cleaners. If you see a scratch, replace the bucket. Remove the spigots and clean them thoroughly, soaking in a dilute bleach solution is a good way of doing so. Make sure you clean the gaskets and any residue around the hole. If you think you have soiled tubing, replace it. I clean mine immediately by running hot water through it after use. Even my stainless never sees anything more abrasive than a bar mop. Examine every piece of equipment that touches your wort for scratches or deposits of gunk. If it's scratched, replace it, clean the gunk. Procedurally, avoid opening the bucket during fermentation. Make sure your airlock has solution in it or your blow-off tube is submerged. If you take samples out of the spigot, make sure you clean and sanitize it afterward. Simple stuff and I assume you know it.

    It was years before I bought a stainless steel fermentor. I use it pretty frequently now, but also use plastic fermentors. I really don't see a difference in results, shelf life is roughly the same for both, no infections. So my recommendation stands: Inspect everything that touches your wort for scratches or dirt. Replace everything scratched. Anything soiled, if you can't clean it, replace it. And limit exposure to microbes by keeping the lid on, the airlock full and cleaning the spigot any time you run wort through it. Should fix your problem.
     
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  7. Zambezi Special

    Zambezi Special Well-Known Member

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    I'm just wondering:
    Maybe fill the buckets with a strong chlorine solution. That should surely kill everything, even if something is hiding in a scratch. Soaki for a while. Then rinse and rinse and rinse with hot water and use straight away.
    It would be hard to see how a virus or bacteria can survive anything like that.
    But I could be totally wrong....
     
  8. J A

    J A Well-Known Member

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    Yes, it's possible to compromise a stainless fermenter but the nature of the plastic makes it far more likely to get scratches in the first place. Even a simple scrubbing pad can ruin a bucket but it takes serious damage, probably more than even a deep scratch, to really cause problems with stainless.
    Yes , treated correctly, plastic can have a long useful life in your brewery but if you develop an infection in your system, it's gotta be the first thing to go.
     
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  9. Steve SPF

    Steve SPF Well-Known Member

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    Rinsing with hot water is asking for trouble. If we rinse with untreated water we need a terminal sterilant before use. I think Starsan is the go-to but we can't get that here. We have products like Chemsan, I just switched to a Perbac solution, but I see a terminal sterilant as a must.

    I don't regard myself as an expert either, had a chastening summer in the brewshed and know how dispiriting it is dumping beer.
     
  10. Nosybear

    Nosybear Well-Known Member

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    If you can get food-grade phosphoric acid, it does just as well as Star-San. In fact, the acid is the active ingredient. Star-san has a surfactant, that long-named acid, to help it get into cracks and crannies. I just looked at the data for Chemsan - it is not even close to Starsan. Chemsan is quaternary ammonium, near-neutral pH. Star-san works at a pH around 3, acidic. I see it listed as an acid sanitizer on some UK homebrew sites: It isn't. It may work as a terminal sanitizer but I don't think it was intended for beer and brewing.

    Note I'm basing my comment on Chemsan's data sheets, not what I could see in the homebrew store sites. It looks like a good product and a potential replacement for Star-San, it just doesn't work the same way.
     
  11. Steve SPF

    Steve SPF Well-Known Member

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    It's sold here as no-rinse, chemsan that is, in the homebrew sector. I don't particularly trust it and prefer Paerbac myself but that isn't widely available. I'm happy to use Chemsan if I don't have perbac made up, like for sanitising hop socks for dry hopping, but use perbac mostly.I do believe that a terminal sterilant is a must these days though
     
  12. Zambezi Special

    Zambezi Special Well-Known Member

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    Should have been clearer:
    I meant to say: rinse with hot water j(ust off the boil).
    Or don't and accept the chlorine smell. A bit of chlorine left shouldn't bean issue as most of the world chlorinates its water.
    You can alwsys throw in a campden tablet.
    I still don't see how anything can survive a prolonged stay in a chlorine solution, even if there would be a scratch on the surface
     
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  13. Nosybear

    Nosybear Well-Known Member

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    The reason is without a surfactant (think dish detergent, a wetting agent), the water's surface tension can keep it out of a scratch. So while it's surrounded by the bleach solution, the volume within the scratch can stay completely dry.
     
  14. Zambezi Special

    Zambezi Special Well-Known Member

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    Thanks Nosy
    Thats clear
     
  15. SabreSteve

    SabreSteve Well-Known Member

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    I try to do most of that. I don't necessarily think the tubing is soiled but it does have water spots and I guess that worries me
     
  16. Nosybear

    Nosybear Well-Known Member

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    Water spots are mineral deposits - nothing to worry about. Rinse with Star-San and it's gone.
     
  17. thunderwagn

    thunderwagn Well-Known Member

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    I take my hoses outside and hold by one end and swing in circular motion about as fast as I can. I hang all my hoses by the end so no moisture settles in them in pockets anywhere. Works really well. Any star san droplets left are basically harmless.
     
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  18. Hawkbox

    Hawkbox Well-Known Member

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    Honestly if you only got issues on the last few bottles I'd wager you problem had dirty bottles or caps, or you touched something in that time frame. Clean everything yes, but don't necessarily panic.
     
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  19. SabreSteve

    SabreSteve Well-Known Member

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    Then a 5th bottle today...
    I'm going to take a break from the blonde for a few days. Still have some of my brown ale which isn't infected and I picked up a chocolate cherry imperial stout today. Finding infected bottles is just stressing me out about my current batch
     
  20. Hawkbox

    Hawkbox Well-Known Member

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    Oh I misunderstood, I thought it was the last 4 of the batch not the last 4 you've tried in general.
     

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