New member, worried my latest batch is contaminated?

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Hi all, just joined up to the forum as I need a bit of advice on my latest pale ale batch.

I've brewed several kits before now, but this is the first one where I have used brew helper and a premium yeast. It's on day 5 so I just did my first tap to find the SG, and noticed there were a lot of chunks of silt coming out.... in the past it's always been virtually clear. SG was at 1.020. It doesn't smell or taste particularly bad, but it's definitely different from previous batches and my palette is not refined enough to know if this is due to the premium ingredients or something going wrong.

So I decided to risk taking a look inside, and I found this (image attached): a brown sludgy layer over the entire surface. Again, never seen this before... aside from the odd small island of yeast, all previous batches have had a clean surface.

Can anyone tell me if this batch is contaminated, or if this is "normal"?
Thanks a bunch,

Infections are normally easy to spot. It would obviously taste/smell bad.

If you are unsure then proceed as normal and see what you end up with.

What yeast did you use?
I'm afraid I don't know the type of yeast, I don't have the empty packet anymore. But if the picture doesn't strike you as horribly abnormal, I'll just let it finish and hope for the best.

Is there a method to dealing with surface scum like this at bottling time? I don't fancy having that much sludge in the final product, if I can avoid it.
Looks like pretty normal krausen to me. If you’ve used a better quality yeast you’ve probably had a stronger ferment and the yeast has taken off a bit more and left some residual stuff floating on the beer (all totally normal).

If it’s tastes and smells fine then you’re probably sweet.
Is there a method to dealing with surface scum like this at bottling time?
I bottle my beer (no kegs) so this advice only applies if you also bottle.

This brown sludge may fall to the bottom of the fermenter so you'll have no problems.
Most likely it's only floating on top of the brew, not suspended throughout, so you'll only get a bit of sludge in your final bottle or two.
I've never worried about any type or quantity of sludge in my bottles. I put them in a warm (16-22 degrees), dark cupboard for a few weeks before chilling and pouring the good stuff into a jug.
If this stuff is still around in a week, I would recommend racking for a few weeks before bottling.
Hard to tell from the photo... but it looks like normal krausen.

As a few others have said an infection is really obvious in the taste usually.

I wouldn't recommend "racking" - this involves transferring the brew of the year to another fermenter. I think the risk outweighs the potential gain.

It would require thorough sanitisation of the secondary fermenter and any transfer hoses. You also risk oxidation in the transfer.

So my 2 cents would be let it ferment out to final gravity, give it a few days after that to both ensure it's finished and to let the yeast clean up any possible off flavors. Then chill for a few days before bottling/kegging.

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