Persistent fermentor infections

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Narapoia

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I've had two of these so far in my time brewing. One with a brand new plastic fermentor that ruined two batches - one tasted terrible and the net was drinkable but still twangy.
The next infection struck in a very similar fashion with two recent batches from a formerly trusty older fermentor.

Basically:

Batch 1 - Fermentor 1: Infected
Batch 2 - Fermentor 2 but racked to and bottled from Fermentor 1 as F2 does not have a tap - Fine and no infection
Batch 3 - Fermentor 1: Infected

Used all the same cold side gear for all three batches otherwise so has led me to conclude Fermentor 1 is the issue and there is some deeply ingrained nasty in a scratch or in the plastic itself given it is porous. It seems to be manifesting in the beer only through extended exposure during fermentation indicating it takes a bit of time to get established as bottling from fermentor 1 produced fine beer. No idea how it got in there, cleaning regimen is clean with a soft cloth and detergent, hot sodium percarbonate wash and then sanitising with stellarsan prior to wort transfer and has worked for 30 batches previously.

After reading a bit I am going to chuck the fermentor - The infection is noticeably less bad in Batch 3 but I don't want to risk 10 hours of brewing and bottling and $50 plus on the ingredients. Have read a bunch and people recommend cleaning with bleach - or chucking gear. I am going to replace but has anyone had similar experience and how did you deal with it?
 

YAPN

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This happened to me but I was brewing kits at the time. Switched to all-grain, no problems. Agree with chucking the fermenter. Pretty cheap fix.
 
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Percarb is good for cleaning, but the skinny on Starsan is that it is effective, but not across the full spectrum of threats, especially not against wild yeasts and molds. Most, but not all, brewers find Starsan alone is effective.

You would kill troublesome microorganisms with bleach. Two caveats if the fermenters are plastic: (1) rinse very thoroughly, and (2) some sources say repeated use leads to a buildup of chlorine compounds in the plastic (I'm skeptical).

An alternative that would also work against any infection is iodophor, say, Betadine solution or products sold for home brewing. Dilute to an amber colour, keep away from light while you use it, and allow extended contact time on possibly contaminated plastic. It can be used a a no-rise sanitiser. Or you could follow up with Starsan if you're worried about a lingering iodine flavour.
 

Feldon

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You're not mistaking ye olde homebrew twang for infections are you?

Two fermenters, one brand new, and you say you're getting infections from them.

Are you brewing kits? What yeast you using, and how much do you pitch. What OG are you asking it to ferment? Why do you think "extended exposure" of the beer in the fermenter makes the infection take hold?

Hope you find a remedy.
 

Narapoia

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You're not mistaking ye olde homebrew twang for infections are you?

Two fermenters, one brand new, and you say you're getting infections from them.

Are you brewing kits? What yeast you using, and how much do you pitch. What OG are you asking it to ferment? Why do you think "extended exposure" of the beer in the fermenter makes the infection take hold?

Hope you find a remedy.


Brewing all grain (BIAB) and the second recent infection is in a recipe I have made 14+ batches of without issue - house brew so I know the flavour very well. Use US05 - 11g per 25 liters or so from 1051 to 1010. The first infected batch was also US05 from about 1047 to 1010 - both blond ales.

Have had this same thing occur twice.
First time was with a brand new fermenter about a year ago. First batch made with it after the usual cleaning and sanitising routine was very twangy and a couple bombs. Second batch milder off flavours but definitely wrong. I ditched the fermenter after the second batch.

This time - same thing but with an older fermenter that I have made 20+ batches in. First bad batch noticeably off but not as bad as what happened with the other fermentor, second batch is mild off flavour but definitely there. Super frustrating. Maybe I left it overnight before cleaning after the batch before things went wrong but I have done that before once or twice.

These are the only instances of having anything go wrong in 30+ batches - so I don't think my cleaning and sanitising is an issue - generally speaking.

I currently use two fermenters, Fermenter 1 is the infected one. But my second Fermenter doesn't have a tap so when I use it I rack to fermenter 1 and bottle from there. I did this in-between the two infected batches that were brewed in Fermenter 1 without issue - which lead me to conclude that whatever has taken up residence requires prolonged access to the beer to take hold as 45 minutes to 1hr during bottling was not sufficient when it was used as a bottling bucket.
 
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How long are you bottle conditioning, what kits are you using?, My first kit was Morgan's dockside stout with a can of malt. It tasted like shit but I left for another week and it was delicious after another week, I then switched to all grain after (robobrew) and I will be sampling my Irish Red ale today. I cannot imagine how a new fermenter could be infected deep scratch or something?
Sorry didn't read properly your biab
 
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Narapoia

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Initially I condition for 4 weeks at 20 degrees or so then 2 weeks in the fridge. Ideally longer but sometimes I get thirsty.

The brand new fermenter that had 2 bad batches confused the crap out of me as well, figured something had gone wrong during shipping or handling at the LHBS, though that also seems like a stretch but didn't want to risk any more wasted effort so just ditched it.
 

philrob

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Are you using new taps?
If not, do you dismantle the old taps and clean them inside and out?
Same with the bottling wand and the little gadget at the end.
You'd be amazed what can hide in there after only one batch if you don't take them apart.
I dismantle and clean all my taps every batch, and haven't had an infected batch over 15 years brewing. (I know, MHB will tell you every homebrew batch is likely infected to some degree, but you know what I mean).
 

An Ankoù

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What does the infected beer smell and taste like?
I had an issue ages ago just after moving (change of water supply) and cleaned my fermenter, taps etc with strong bleach and rinsed with sodium metabisulphite to destroy any residual chlorine. Turned out that it was chloramine in the tap water and it only needed half a Camden tablet to cure it.
Later on my fermentations started smelling like old drains. Same cleaning regime, no luck. Strangely the smell didn't get worse after bottling in fact it gradually disappeared in most cases. Turned out that all I needed was a teaspoonful of yeast nutrient in the fermenter and I've never had the problem again. I'm not talking about the sulphury smell that some lager yeasts can produce, I'm ready for that one.
 

Narapoia

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I've made a bunch of batches since moving to the central coast, chloramine in the water but I use campden tabs to treat the water pre mash.

The taste is like a strong funky yeasty\meaty\band Aidy aftertaste. Gets stronger the longer the beers are left out of the fridge.
 
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Narapoia

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Are you using new taps?
If not, do you dismantle the old taps and clean them inside and out?
Same with the bottling wand and the little gadget at the end.
You'd be amazed what can hide in there after only one batch if you don't take them apart.
I dismantle and clean all my taps every batch, and haven't had an infected batch over 15 years brewing. (I know, MHB will tell you every homebrew batch is likely infected to some degree, but you know what I mean).

Bottling wand dismantled and cleaned - tap soaked in oxy wash and stellarsan but not dismantled. Thought about this, and got some new taps but it's weird that the middle batch with no infection was bottled through the same tap. (Hence my theory about whatever it is requiring prolonged exposure to the beer in the fermenter)

As an aside I looked up how to dismantle the taps, do you find they leak after you take them apart at all? The process looks like itt might flatten the plastic lugs that hold the taps together (assuming they are the cheap cylindrical ones)
 

philrob

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[QUOTE="Narapoia, post: 1575994, member: 99456"
As an aside I looked up how to dismantle the taps, do you find they leak after you take them apart at all? The process looks like itt might flatten the plastic lugs that hold the taps together (assuming they are the cheap cylindrical ones)
[/QUOTE]

I do it all the time. I use a piece of dowel which fits inside the tap body. I hold onto the tap and give the dowel a sharp whack against a solid surface. The tap will dissemble, a little difficult the first time, but easier the following times. No, mine do not leak when reassembled, and I do it after multiple batches with the same tap.
 

Narapoia

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I do it all the time. I use a piece of dowel which fits inside the tap body. I hold onto the tap and give the dowel a sharp whack against a solid surface. The tap will dissemble, a little difficult the first time, but easier the following times. No, mine do not leak when reassembled, and I do it after multiple batches with the same tap.

Yep that's that method I saw and tried it on an old tap - was worried about leaks developing so didn't do it regularly but will going forward as was easy enough. Cheers.
 

An Ankoù

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I've made a bunch of batches since moving to the central coast, chloramine in the water but I use campden tabs to treat the water pre mash.

The taste is like a strong funky yeasty\meaty\band Aidy aftertaste. Gets stronger the longer the beers are left out of the fridge.
Sorry to labour the point, but are you treating your sparge water as well?
The band aid flavour comes when the chlorine compounds are boiled with the hops.
I've never dismantled a tap, I must admit.
I think I'd be inclined to get a brand new bucket and ferment a batch in it. If the problem persists, then it's not a sanitation issue.
 

Narapoia

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Sorry to labour the point, but are you treating your sparge water as well?
The band aid flavour comes when the chlorine compounds are boiled with the hops.
I've never dismantled a tap, I must admit.
I think I'd be inclined to get a brand new bucket and ferment a batch in it. If the problem persists, then it's not a sanitation issue.

No worries - good to check. I have not uniformly treated the sparge water as well. Of the dozen batches in the new house 10 have not had the same off flavour. It could be that the water quality / chloramine level has fluctuated though. Will definitely let you know how the next batch goes in the new fermenter.

Interesting regarding the chlorine compounds - will treat the sparge water from here on as well to cover bases. Sucks to spend all that time and have batches where all you can taste is a flaw.
 

An Ankoù

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No worries - good to check. I have not uniformly treated the sparge water as well. Of the dozen batches in the new house 10 have not had the same off flavour. It could be that the water quality / chloramine level has fluctuated though. Will definitely let you know how the next batch goes in the new fermenter.

Interesting regarding the chlorine compounds - will treat the sparge water from here on as well to cover bases. Sucks to spend all that time and have batches where all you can taste is a flaw.
I reckon that's where the problem lies as your cleaning regime looks faultless. It took me a few wasted batches to find out what was going on as they don't always chlorinate the water, instead they give it an occasional blast to clean the pipes So I was getting some good and some bad batches.
 

djebel

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Another thought to consider: is there any other variation to your brewing routine? ANYTHING!

At one point I had (seemingly random) plasticky band-aid flavours, but only in some batches of beer. Drove me nuts for ages. Eventually tracked it down to a non-food grade hose that was sometimes used to fill the mash tun and HLT with water for brewing.
 
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Are you using new taps?
If not, do you dismantle the old taps and clean them inside and out?
Same with the bottling wand and the little gadget at the end.
You'd be amazed what can hide in there after only one batch if you don't take them apart.
I dismantle and clean all my taps every batch, and haven't had an infected batch over 15 years brewing. (I know, MHB will tell you every homebrew batch is likely infected to some degree, but you know what I mean).

In 13 years brewing I have never had an infected batch and have only occasionally disassembled a tap. Instead I soak them in iodophor in the dark and for days along with a dash of dispersant. The decision to disassemble is based on examination by eye (of plastic taps).
 

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