Persistent fermentor infections

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Narapoia

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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.

Hah, wow. That would have driven me nuts as well.

Only recent changes:
Put a 2 piece ball tap into my brew pot to change it into a kettle with a no-weld fitting. I take apart the no weld components without disassembling the two piece tap itself between brews; percarbonate soak all the pieces - usually wrap new teflon plumbers tape around the connecting screws and spray stellar san into the cold side prior to transferring the cooled wort to fermenter. This change does precede the bad batches but there's no consistency - plenty of good batches along with these two bad ones. I'll be more careful when setting the tap up - wear gloves rather than handle any of the components with bare hands during assembly. Couldn't be the teflon tape could it - maybe some exposed on the hot side? But seems unlikely given the strength of the off flavour in the first bad batch. It tastes like a funky belgian but turned up to 11. No excessive carbonation at this stage but I did put them into the fridge relatively early on.

The hose I use to transfer is clear food grade tubing from the brew store.

Other change was hot side - stainless steel basked to augment the mash bag and make sparging/mash out about 50 times easier but that is pre boil and also used for several good batches.
 

philrob

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Might be a potential issue with a 2 piece ball valve. Do they dismantle into individual components? Taps on a kettle don't necessarily get hot enough to sterilise them. I use a 3 piece and strip it every brew. You'd be amazed at the crud in there at times even after flushing it.
 

Narapoia

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Might be a potential issue with a 2 piece ball valve. Do they dismantle into individual components? Taps on a kettle don't necessarily get hot enough to sterilise them. I use a 3 piece and strip it every brew. You'd be amazed at the crud in there at times even after flushing it.

They can be taken apart I believe, so could be that. Read a bit before buying that vs a 3 piece. So many people talked about never really taking theirs apart and it being fine, but maybe I got unlucky. Will boil the ball valve component before next batch as well just to be sure.
 

An Ankoù

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Never boiled, let alone dismantled, a tap in my life. My fermenters get done with bleach and a toothbrush in situ. eNever had a problem apart from those mentioned earlier, which had nothing to do with sanitation. As for the kettle the ball valve tap gets flushed through at cleaning time and that's it, crud or not. If 60+ minutes boiling isn't enough to sterilise it then I don't know what is. It certainly reached the same temperature as the wort. I think we're clutching at straws here.
This is my 51st year of home brewing and the very few chuck-away batches I've had have not been down to taps.
 

djebel

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Hah, wow. That would have driven me nuts as well.

Only recent changes:
Put a 2 piece ball tap into my brew pot to change it into a kettle with a no-weld fitting. I take apart the no weld components without disassembling the two piece tap itself between brews; percarbonate soak all the pieces - usually wrap new teflon plumbers tape around the connecting screws and spray stellar san into the cold side prior to transferring the cooled wort to fermenter. This change does precede the bad batches but there's no consistency - plenty of good batches along with these two bad ones. I'll be more careful when setting the tap up - wear gloves rather than handle any of the components with bare hands during assembly. Couldn't be the teflon tape could it - maybe some exposed on the hot side? But seems unlikely given the strength of the off flavour in the first bad batch. It tastes like a funky belgian but turned up to 11. No excessive carbonation at this stage but I did put them into the fridge relatively early on.

The hose I use to transfer is clear food grade tubing from the brew store.

Other change was hot side - stainless steel basked to augment the mash bag and make sparging/mash out about 50 times easier but that is pre boil and also used for several good batches.
It did, for quite a while, because there were plenty of good beers in between the shockers. I was chasing sanitation/cleaning issues, when it was a chemical contamination problem.

It's not so much changes you have made to your setup that I'm talking about, it variations in your brew day routine. Do you use a different hose when you use stored rainwater for cooling as opposed to tap water :BTDT:? Different hop strainer? Keep an eye on your brew day procedures, and try to note any variations between what you did for the good brews and the duds.

As for the tap debate: I have 3 piece ball valves, that were never disassembled (only flushed after use) for a decade. I only pulled them apart when I was re-arranging the plumbing, just because I could -- no problems. There wasn't a spec of muck anywhere to be seen in 4 ball valves. YMMV.
 

Narapoia

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It did, for quite a while, because there were plenty of good beers in between the shockers. I was chasing sanitation/cleaning issues, when it was a chemical contamination problem.

It's not so much changes you have made to your setup that I'm talking about, it variations in your brew day routine. Do you use a different hose when you use stored rainwater for cooling as opposed to tap water :BTDT:? Different hop strainer? Keep an eye on your brew day procedures, and try to note any variations between what you did for the good brews and the duds.

As for the tap debate: I have 3 piece ball valves, that were never disassembled (only flushed after use) for a decade. I only pulled them apart when I was re-arranging the plumbing, just because I could -- no problems. There wasn't a spec of muck anywhere to be seen in 4 ball valves. YMMV.

Well done on the detective work. What a nightmare!

I haven't changed anything in the process, other than the new bits of kit, as have things more or less worked out now. I put down a Stout over the weekend in a new fermenter (Plastic). Percarbonate soaked everything, down to the bucket I use for stellarsan, then sanitized. So will report back how it goes.


Side note: Can anyone give any thoughts on why they make the plastic taps with a thread length that means the tap cannot be oriented in the correct position to take samples? It's crazy - on the two most recent ones I have bought the taps don't orient properly, end up pointing up instead of down and trying to turn the tap round pops the thread so you can't get a seal. Ended up just using the bungs which is such a pain for sampling vs the tap.

Whole experience has left me wondering if I don't just get a stainless steel fermenter. Was looking at this: 35L SS Bucket Buddy Fermenter with Integrated Heating Element

I've spent half that on plastic fermentors when issues like this strike, I'm just wondering whether it is worth paying a bit more for a conical?
 

djebel

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Side note: Can anyone give any thoughts on why they make the plastic taps with a thread length that means the tap cannot be oriented in the correct position to take samples? It's crazy - on the two most recent ones I have bought the taps don't orient properly, end up pointing up instead of down and trying to turn the tap round pops the thread so you can't get a seal. Ended up just using the bungs which is such a pain for sampling vs the tap.
Some taps don't work with some fermenters. Not sure which one is different, but identical looking components will fit no problem.

Just buy another couple of taps from different sources (they're cheap enough), find one that works and keep the rest in the spares box.
 

Narapoia

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A bit of an update. The stout that I brewed last week has come out clean in the new fermenter - is great.
So not sure if it was the new fermenter, or de-chlorinating the sparge water that did it. I didn't end up boiling the tap, but did oxywash & it put on fresh plumbers tape.

Made another batch of blond ale this weekend in the old fermenter that wasn't causing trouble - is currently fermenting away.

One thing I noticed with the stout was that once the fermentation was done all airlock activity stopped (5 days), but the bad batches had slow bubbling out to 10-12 days which may have been a wild yeast eating the sugars the US-05 couldn't. Have been thinking about the off flavour, and I know I described it as band-aidy but after drinking a couple more of them it is more 'Yeasty' - like the flavour of the yeast cake in the bottom of a bottle when you get a mouthful of it, but much stronger in the first bad batch. The second it's an off-flavour but you can still taste the hops and enjoy the beer till the yeast notes hit late.

Thanks for all the recommendations and advice - will update on the new batch when I check the gravity on the weekend.
 

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