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Nightmare on Brew Street

Aussie Home Brewer

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Have you successfully banished a brewery infection?

  • No - I went thermonuclear and to no avail, ended up replacing plastics etc.

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • Yes - Went to town with bleach/vinegar, starsan, fire and brimstone and beat it and it never returne

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stakka82

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Hey guys,

From time to time I read about member's brewery infection issues, and think 'thank god that's not me'.

Except this time I think it is me. ****.

I have had a lack of hop aroma in the last 5 or so brews with a slight chemical smell. Initially I thought it was the Keg King sanitiser but now I think it might be infection. I switched to starsan and the last couple of beers have actually been a lot worse.

Hard to describe, but an old boot/slight chemical smell, and the worst one was basically undrinkable (keghopped the bejesus out of it and fed it to drunk mates at a party though, waste not, want not) but they have all exhibited similar characteristics. Beers with heavy late hopping and heavy dry hopping have about 10% the aroma they should, with the aforementioned smell. That worst one had the same taste as the smell in droves... and lack of malt/hop taste too.

I remember reading some infections strip hop aroma so after eliminating my sanitiser as the issue I figure it must be infection. The only other thing I can think of is that someone (can't remember who) recently posted that they had a drop of stale beer in a gas line that was fouling all their beers and it might be that, although I think I can taste a slight version of the issue in the fermenter (might be, not sure, could be dreaming).

I have had 40 odd AGs prior to this without an issue. Generally I think my sanitation is pretty good. I am honestly pulling my hair out now, and the next step will be to go to Grain and Grape tomorrow and buy a new fermenter, gas and beer lines, transfer hose, and disassemble keezer and sanitise everything.

Thoughts on what it could be?

Should I bother trying nuke my other 3 fermenters? Has anyone actually successfully cleared a chronic brewery infection? I don't want to run the risk of reinfecting new stuff I buy tomorrow.

Also, is bleach ok to use on stainless? Kegs taps etc.

Thanks.
 

manticle

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Keep sodium hyperchlorite (chlorine bleach) away from stainless.

Definitely get a new fermenter and lines. Also, after cleaning and sanitising the bejesus out of everything, try something simple like adding yeast directly to a fresh wort kit and fermenting in it.

Pull apart all taps, clean with hot sodium percarb then sanitise. Anything plastic can get bleach treatment and a boiling water rinse, followed by a good dose of starsan.

As for identifying the infection, it's hard to say. Lacto can strip malt and hop flavour, some wild yeasts can give medicinal flavours as can unrinsed chlorine.

Lacto can be common due to its presence on grain - any grain dust flying around your fermenting area?

By the way - I did have a spate of infections I managed to get rid of but never identified the exact cause.

I got rid of it by cleaning everything, then rinsing with boiling water, then all plastic/non metals were soaked in bleach solution, then rinsed with boiling water, then hit with sodium metabisulphite, then rinsed with boiling water, then starsanned. I also started fermenting directly in the no-chill cube.
 

labels

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I had an infected keg once. I did use bleach sucsessfully to clear the infection. However, I read somewhere a few years back that bleach used in an acidic solution can be as much as ten times more potent. I used a weak solution of bleach in a solution of about pH 2.5 using phosphoric acid - you can use Starsan here as it is phosphoric based.

Just guessing but the lower chlorine levels combined with the acid did not have any affect on the stainless whatsoever. I think the acid was the protecting factor.

Steve
 

Beersuit

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I had an infection in my brewery about 7 months ago. Ever beer I brewed tasted foul. It spread from cube to cube and into all my fermenters.
Turned out to be a couple of specks of grain stuck in my pump and mash tun tap.

Filled my kettle with a heavy dose of sodium hydroxide and water and one by one submerged every piece of kit I had in it at 80 degrees for 15 mins. Fermenters cubes the whole lot. Rinse, starsan and use.

It hasn't come back yet but now when ever I'm starting brews I hit every fermenter and cube with boiling water before I starsan and use.
Mash tun tap and pump pulled apart after each brew.
 

jc64

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I have never pulled apart my mash tun ball valve, just give it a good rinse and it should be fine. I run sod perc through the pump and boil kettle for about 30 minutes after use, then rinse with hot water for the same amount of time. I would have thought this would be enough to ensure that at least the wort from my kettle into fermentor is sound. Grain can't stick in a March pump can it?
 

manticle

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Should be fine right up until you get an infection. If you never get one then it stays fine. OP however has one, a persistent one so it's not fine.
When that happens pull out all stops, check in every hidey hole.
 

stakka82

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Yeah that's gotta be the order of the day unfortunately. You're gonna do something, do it properly hey. I have nightmares of this shit still being an issue 3 months from now and I will do everything in my power to get rid of it, within reason.

Thanks for the heads up on stainless manticle. I've never used bleach prior to this so that can't be it. I don't know about lacto, but I've had aceto (and probably still have) from the tap drippings in my garage. Is aceto known to do the same? Don't know if it could be wild yeast, but I wouldn't describe it as medicinal, although some people could I guess.

No grain floating around my fermentation/kegging area. I brew stove top big w style in the kitchen, mill my grain in the living room in a blender, and ferment in a fridge in the garage, which is where my keezer is. I'm also going to bomb the fridge with bleach and boiling hot water over the garage floor. This is hell.
 

stakka82

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The worst part is I have a 50l braumeister sitting here in my living room, and I just got the 15 amp socket done for the garage.

But I'm not going to touch it until I get this sorted, 50 litres of shit is much worse than 19.
 

jc64

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I was just curious as to how the tap on my mash tun could lead to infections? Everything's boiled after it exits that and than I recirculate the boiling wort through the pump. If I get infections issues I was thinking it would be on the fermentor side I may have to reconsider

Sorry my initial reply was not at the OP but the comment about the grain stuck in the pump. Cheers
 

manticle

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Boiling won't necessarily kill everything. Anyone who suggests to me that they don't clean because it will get boiled anyway I ask - if you worked in a kitchen would you clean the beef stockpot after use or leave it manky because, after all, it gets boiled for 24 hours.

And besides - even if it's not 'microbially' active, why would you want the off black crusty shit anywhere near your beer?
 

jc64

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I scrub the boil kettle obviously, and wash out the mash tun. Are touch saying that you disassemble your march pump along with your ball valves after each brew?

No black crusty Shit anywhere near my beer that I'm aware of. Maybe I wasn't clear last night.
 

goomboogo

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jc64 said:
I scrub the boil kettle obviously, and wash out the mash tun. Are touch saying that you disassemble your march pump along with your ball valves after each brew?

No black crusty Shit anywhere near my beer that I'm aware of. Maybe I wasn't clear last night.
I disassemble my ball valves after every brew. This includes the mash tun. It may be overkill but I feel better for doing it.

Stakka82, when was the last time you changed all the seals on your kegs?
 

Beersuit

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jc64 said:
I was just curious as to how the tap on my mash tun could lead to infections? Everything's boiled after it exits that and than I recirculate the boiling wort through the pump. If I get infections issues I was thinking it would be on the fermentor side I may have to reconsider

Sorry my initial reply was not at the OP but the comment about the grain stuck in the pump. Cheers
I used to recirculate with PBW and rinse with hot water but as Manticle mentioned once its there it's hard to get rid of. When I pulled it all apart I could smell that that's where it came from, putrid manky socks comes to mind.

The wort has already been in contact with a huge population of something nasty for 90 minutes while mashing and recirculating so its had a nice head start to get to work leaving an astringent flavor. You may kill the bugs in the wort by boiling it but its too late. The damage has been done.
 

WarmBeer

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jc64 said:
I have never pulled apart my mash tun ball valve, just give it a good rinse and it should be fine. I run sod perc through the pump and boil kettle for about 30 minutes after use, then rinse with hot water for the same amount of time.
Maybe give it a try, and let us know the results of the "sniff" test. For science.

Yes, it's pre-boil, but could definitely contribute "off" flavour into your kettle which wont be boiled away.

I pull mine apart every 2 or 3 brews, just to be sure. It's only a 5 minute job once you've got it figured out in your head.
 

Nick JD

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Do you dismantle and clean your fermenter taps?
 

jc64

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WarmBeer said:
Maybe give it a try, and let us know the results of the "sniff" test. For science.

Yes, it's pre-boil, but could definitely contribute "off" flavour into your kettle which wont be boiled away.

I pull mine apart every 2 or 3 brews, just to be sure. It's only a 5 minute job once you've got it figured out in your head.
I've put my cleaning process down in another thread, all I can smell is PBW. I really didn't think everyone took apart their ball valves that often.
 

manticle

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jc64 said:
I scrub the boil kettle obviously, and wash out the mash tun. Are touch saying that you disassemble your march pump along with your ball valves after each brew?

No black crusty Shit anywhere near my beer that I'm aware of. Maybe I wasn't clear last night.
My system is a lot simpler - no march pumps and I have simple ball valves. Them and fermenter taps pulled apart, soaked in hot sodium percarbonate every brew and starsanned.

If you're not getting off flavours then your process is working for you. If you get some then you go through, step by step to find and eliminate possible causes.

As mentioned above I once had a spate of infections and it's pretty damn disheartening mashing and boiling for 4 hours, nursing for a couple of weeks and tipping the lot down the drain. Do that multiple times and you consider giving up.
 

Bribie G

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If you are going to replace all your fermenters I'd recommend the Bunnings square 30L models and grab a few $2 taps while you are there. That way you'll have a "virgin" system when you get to fire up the Braumeister.
 

stakka82

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goomboogo said:
I disassemble my ball valves after every brew. This includes the mash tun. It may be overkill but I feel better for doing it.

Stakka82, when was the last time you changed all the seals on your kegs?
I built my keezer about 9 months ago, and got all new seals for kegs at that point. So the age of the seals probably ranges from 6-9 months.



Nick JD said:
Do you dismantle and clean your fermenter taps?
Nah, not regularly and I know I should. The last time I did was probably 6 months ago. I will certainly be doing that today though.

I don't have any taps on my kettle which is also the mash tun ala BIAB.





manticle said:
As mentioned above I once had a spate of infections and it's pretty damn disheartening mashing and boiling for 4 hours, nursing for a couple of weeks and tipping the lot down the drain. Do that multiple times and you consider giving up.
Yeah that sums it up really.
 

manticle

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Definitely break apart the fermenter taps. I do every brew and it's dead simple. Always a touch of crud in there.
 

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