Bad batches or my mistake?

Australia & New Zealand Homebrewing Forum

Help Support Australia & New Zealand Homebrewing Forum:

This site may earn a commission from merchant affiliate links, including eBay, Amazon, and others.

livo

Well-Known Member
Joined
3/10/11
Messages
256
Reaction score
94
About 3 or 4 months back I visited a store and bought 6 Cooper's can kits. 1 Real Ale, 1 Old, 2 Mexican Cerveza and 2 Canadian Blonde. I use 2 of the newer style Cooper's fermenters at a time (the ones with the krausen collar and no air lock) and use the same sterilisation process all the time. As soon as I rack off into the bulk priming vessel, I thoroughly wash and rinse the FVs, dry in the sun when possible. I use Starsan before the next brew. Once I've washed the FV I then proceed with bottling and usually have no problem.

About 6 weeks ago, I made one each of the Cerveza and the Blonde and I was a little suspicious when after 10 days they both appeared to be milky in appearance. I'd been busy and didn't get to check them at 1 week but at 10 days the yeast hadn't dropped, and the beer hadn't cleared. The gravity was down enough to assume they were done so I went ahead and primed and bottled. After 2 weeks of bottle conditioning, which is usually enough, they were dreadful. Sour and with "off" flavours and still milky in appearance. It has been cold, so I put a few bottles of each in my warm fridge for 2 weeks. This doesn't appear to have improved them much at all, but I'd need to do a side by side with the others to really say for sure.

A few other odd things are that the Cerveza appears to be over-primed (very gassy) even though it wasn't over-primed, and both Cerveza and Blonde get a broken "head" of foamy bubbles rise to the surface in the bottle after the first glass is poured off.

After bottling these I immediately did the Real Ale and the Old in exactly the same way. Same FVs, same heat pad, same cover over the top, etc. These brews cleared after a week in the FVs and after 2 weeks in the bottle they are fine. The Real Ale is actually all gone. Very tasty.

I presently have the other Cerveza and Blonde in the FVs where they've been sitting at around 20'C for 8 days and they are both still milky in appearance. I just did a gravity read yesterday and they were down to 1.003 but showed no signs of clearing. They also both have slight "off" flavours (I think) although this time the Cerveza is not too bad (I think). I've made heaps of both Cerveza and Blonde in the past and I usually enjoy them. I've never had this problem before with either of them.

I checked the use by dates on the cans, and they are good till July and October 2024, so they aren't out of date. It's a little early to tell with the second cans of each, but early indications are that they have the same problems as the first ones. Having made perfectly successful batches in the same manner immediately prior to and in between these brews would lead me to believe there was something wrong with the batches. I'm also making batches of the Beermaker's Old for my mate at the same time and these are all working fine. I've done 6 batches of it for him already and they are good, so I don't think I have a contamination problem.

Anyway, yesterday I turned the heat pad off and I'm getting cold nights so I'll go and have a look to see if the yeast has dropped overnight.

Any thoughts on bad batches or is it something I've cocked up?
 
Brewing is all about risk REDUCTION. So sometimes even though you follow same process you may get away with it a few times but the another time you don’t.

What cleaning and sanitising products are you using? When you mix up the batch for the fermenters are you using straight tap water or boiled/cooled water? Are you boiling the extract or using it direct out of the can? Are you sanitising the cans before you open them?

Just a few points where sanitation may have gone wrong, there would be others but they’re the main ones that come to mind.
 
Thanks for your input DJ. Without revealing too much, I've probably made somewhere between 30 and 40 can kit brews this year alone, and easily 80 in the last 18 months I usually do 2 at a time but recently I've been doing 3. I have beer in FVs every day and the usual ferment is 7 - 10 days. I always heat the can in a saucepan of boiling water for around 10 minutes to soften it up for easy pouring. I then do 2 rinses of the can with boiling water pouring into the FV and to this, I add the fermentable sugars and give it a good stir. Water added up to 23 litres is filtered tank / rainwater and the yeast is pitched immediately.

All utensils are sanitised in Starsan (HBS brand whatever it is) along with the FVs and I haven't had an issue that I couldn't pin down to my own error, usually related to temperature control and this was infrequent, now non-existent since I have temperature controlled. I regularly use re-harvested yeast, which in my opinion is my biggest risk factor. For the suspects referred to here, I used the supplied yeast. I have never sanitised the outside of the cans and see no need to. Nothing makes contact with the outside of the cans.

I admit that I may have jumped the gun with this, and I'll have to wait and see if the current brews are the same as the initial ones, but I find it a bit of an odd coincidence that the same 2 kits (4 cans) appear to have behaved in the same manner with other successful brews in between, immediately before, and I would predict immediately after. If the current brews are actually ok, then I'd have to say that I must have cocked the first ones up somehow. It's now a matter of bottling these up today and then wait and see.

I did notice yesterday that after turning the warming pad off and allowing to naturally cool down for 24 hours, the beer seems to have cleared in the FVs.
 
It sounds like you've had infections, probably from at least two different bugs.

Remember, you are sanitising, not sterilising. The aim is to reduce deleterious bugs so that your pitched yeast has a long headstart on them.

Are you adding unboiled water at any time after the boil?

Starsan is not very broad spectrum. You might eliminate risk by using on the fermenter and any other vessels or tubing that contact cold wort a cleaning agent that has good anticrobial properties or else a broad-spectrum sanitiser before Starsan.
 
It sounds like you've had infections, probably from at least two different bugs.

Remember, you are sanitising, not sterilising. The aim is to reduce deleterious bugs so that your pitched yeast has a long headstart on them.

Are you adding unboiled water at any time after the boil?

Starsan is not very broad spectrum. You might eliminate risk by using on the fermenter and any other vessels or tubing that contact cold wort a cleaning agent that has good anticrobial properties or else a broad-spectrum sanitiser before Starsan.
It sounds like you've had infections, probably from at least two different bugs.

Remember, you are sanitising, not sterilising. The aim is to reduce deleterious bugs so that your pitched yeast has a long headstart on them.

Are you adding unboiled water at any time after the boil?

Starsan is not very broad spectrum. You might eliminate risk by using on the fermenter and any other vessels or tubing that contact cold wort a cleaning agent that has good anticrobial properties or else a broad-spectrum sanitiser before Starsan.
Do you remove the bung, pull it apart, clean & sanitise, then re-assemblethat the rubber seal has had the same treatment.
 
Looks like infections to me.
You really must boil all the water that comes into contact with the beer.
For your fermenters, wash them in a dilute solution of bleach or a chlorine-based, food grade cleaner and then rinse with sodium metabisulphite (Campden) solution. You can leave the metasulphite solution in the fermenter until you're ready to use it. It's a sanitiser, bit its function here is to destroy any last vestiges of chlorine from the bleach. Bleach will kill everyhting. StarSan and Metabisulphite won't kill some bacteria and yeasts. I suspect the infection came with the water, though.
 
I do not have the facility to boil 70 litres of water every week to 10 days. Who does? In decades of (mostly) successful brewing have never done so. It takes 50 minutes (summer) to 75 minutes (winter) to raise 25 litres by àround 50'C using a 3 ring propane burner. Bringing the volume of water required to a boil would require raising it by 80'C or more. Heating the volume of water to a boil, holding it there, cooling and storing it for use is unachievable. If my water were infected, the brews immediately before and after should also have been infected. They weren't and neither was the batch of Beermakers Old that fermented at the same time with the same water.

I'll wait to see if the second brews are the same.
 
It’s impossible to say for sure where your infection is coming from but my best guess would be in the tap on your fermenter or bulk priming vessel. Or perhaps the syphon if you don’t use a tap. These are the hardest bits to clean and sanitize/sterilize properly, and given the beers is in contact with them for a limited period could explain why some batches are off and others are fine.
Did you taste the beer when bottling? I drink my hydrometer sample. If it didn’t taste off then it’s probably something picked up after the primary fermentation.
Another (less likely) culprit could be poor yeast health / underpitching, and/or inadequate temperature control during the primary fermentation. Either could throw off flavours. A cool ferment needs more yeast, and you did mention you struggled to hold the target temperature.
 
You really must boil all the water that comes into contact with the beer.
Said who? I've never seen this advised on any forum anywhere, or in brew books. I never did it in 5 years of kit brewing. Never an infection.

Whatever the issue is here, I very much doubt unboiled water is it. Unless you're living in Bali, where you can't drink the stuff.
 
OP mentioned tank/rainwater. That can certainly be a source of microbes that could cause an infection.

Also we SHOULD boil all water for brewing, that’s why wort is boiled in the first place. But as I said earlier, brewing is risk reduction. The brewer chooses how many controls to put in place. You can certainly not boii water but you’re accepting a greater risk. Sure you can get away with a lot of things, but sometimes you don’t. Isolating single steps and changing them is a good way to go about finding the cause.
 
OP mentioned tank/rainwater. That can certainly be a source of microbes that could cause an infection.
That's different. But as he said, it's treated, not straight off the roof. But in this case, some sort of further treatment might be warranted. But it's only a recent issue

Also we SHOULD boil all water for brewing, that’s why wort is boiled in the first place.
No, we shouldn't, not if it's tap water. Not seen any brewing guides mention this - it's not seen as a risk as you claim. You mash at 60+C, and then you boil wort. There's no scientific basis for boiling water twice. Sanitation is important once you get to fermenting stage. A lot of brewers just make up stuff because they think it's a good idea.

I'm no overly sciencey brewer, but I sanitise well and lost count of the brews I've done in 8 years. Not one infection. Some bad beers yes, but that's down to bad recipe choices
 
That's different. But as he said, it's treated, not straight off the roof. But in this case, some sort of further treatment might be warranted. But it's only a recent issue


No, we shouldn't, not if it's tap water. Not seen any brewing guides mention this - it's not seen as a risk as you claim. You mash at 60+C, and then you boil wort. There's no scientific basis for boiling water twice. Sanitation is important once you get to fermenting stage. A lot of brewers just make up stuff because they think it's a good idea.

I'm no overly sciencey brewer, but I sanitise well and lost count of the brews I've done in 8 years. Not one infection. Some bad beers yes, but that's down to bad recipe choices
You’re in the got away with it category then, lucky you. Tap water is not the same thing everywhere.
 
You’re in the got away with it category then, lucky you. Tap water is not the same thing everywhere.
For my entire brewing history? Brewing doesn't work like that, bad practices trip you up quickly. If mine were bad, it would have happened already. If an area's tap water is suspect, it would be known and addressed after an issue occurred.

OPs issue is an odd one, I wouldn't discount the treated rainwater, as different weather can be a factor in the water quality he's getting, even if filtered.
 
Look I stand by the fact things can be a problem one day but not another. It’s microbial, one bad cell can grow/multiply when the food source (wort) is provided.

OP never said treated, it’s filtered rainwater. No mention what filtration type. I’d be boiling that even to drink it personally, seen a friend get a parasite from rainwater tank and it wasn’t good.
 
Said who? I've never seen this advised on any forum anywhere, or in brew books. I never did it in 5 years of kit brewing. Never an infection.

Whatever the issue is here, I very much doubt unboiled water is it. Unless you're living in Bali, where you can't drink the stuff.
I don't know what books and forums you refer to. Many times I've seen the advice in them to boil any water (see, e.g., Palmer, How to Brew). The obvious exception is when the water is mixed with extracts or used in mashing before boiling the wort, though some brewers use that as one method of dechlorination. Some people get away with using unboiled water at all stages, but much depends on your water supply. The bottled stuff is usually sterile. In many cases water is sanitary when it enters a city system, but varies when it reaches taps. Water that contains organic matter in solution, such as the Bairnsdale water I once used, cultures bacteria if left to stand, e.g., for dechlorination.

As I've noted on this site, before, rainwater is not always clean. Folks in Belize, where I've been, call it bird shit water.
 
I've never had any issue with rainwater and brewing. I guess it depends where you live. To address a few question / points.
I never said there was a problem holding temperature in fermentation. The weather has been cold for bottle conditioning, so I put a few bottles in the warm fridge. It didn't help.
The filtration is simple particle filtration first through 25 micron and then down to 5 micron. My wife uses additional carbon filtration for drinking water in the water cooler, but we have been drinking from rainwater tanks for nearly 30 years without issue.
The FVs / taps are the newer style Cooper's ones which you can disassemble and completely clean. My bulk prime vessel tap is barely in contact with the beer for any length of time and they are cleaned and replaced regularly.
Yes, I did taste the beer from the hydrometer cylinder, and it wasn't good.

The good news is that I think it was just a cock up / infection as the second cans of the same type appear to have cleared and tasted ok at bottling, so fingers crossed.
 
Water off the roof could easily contain pathogens, you would need a filter that you probably can't get as a homebrewer to filter out all the nasties. I think the issue here is that livo is brewing from cans. When I used to do this years ago I think all I did was use hot water to rinse out the can and to achieve the right temp for pitching after the cold tap water went in. Same thing for fresh wort kits. I think there is a risk here. When you brew all grain, as I do now, you always mash and boil all of your ingredients, which will kill anything. That is actually one of the benefits of all grain brewing, you don't need to worry too much about sanitizing in the early stages of the brew.
 
If there were a problem with my rainwater, I'd expect to have a failure rate of greater that 2%. 2 infected 23 litre brews out of over 100 is too low a number to suggest the water is the issue. Brewing from cans is nothing more complicated than making a large cup of coffee. Reasonable attention to good sanitation is all that should be required. Cooper's and other kit manufacturers would have been out of the business long before today.

I still need to wait and taste the second brews from this batch but if they are good then it clearly means I missed something with the 2 duds. I seriously doubt it is the water or I'd be having infections every time, and I'm just not.
 
If you're using unsanitised rain-water, then it's really just good luck that any of your brews are not infected. Get up on your roof and lick the surfaces were the birds party up. See if you get crook.(joking) It's easy to sanitise water. Get it up to temperature and cube it.
 

Latest posts

Back
Top