Probably A Lost Batch: But What Can I Learn?

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bcp

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This is my first real failure.

Brewed a hefeweizen - good efficiency, OG 1.052 and tasted fine going into the fermenter. Had an old test tube of #3068 (over 12 months old kept in fridge) - added wort to the test tube, then up to about 200ml, 500ml on a stir plate. I didn't think I observed a lot of activity in the 500ml, but since we were going away for a week, I pitched it because i'd run out of time. I use a paint stirrer, so conditions were fabulous even though I realised i was underpitching. #3068 in wheat is usually a monster.

8 days later (because i was away).
temp: constant 17c to 18c.
Gravity: 1.042.
Taste: 'Smells like burnt brown sugar' (my wife's description) a little sweet and a little tangy, a tad sour. Sorry, i'm no BJCP judge. Overall, certainly not nice.
Look: Very little krausen activity. When I gave it a light stir, that 'krausen' looked a little waxy in part.
Actions: i had an old packet of cooper's yeast that i've thrown in. I'm not spending $11 on a liquid yeast if it's already dead. I'll see what happens, but i'm not sure i'll bottle it. "Life's too short for bad beer" (Ross)


hefeweizen.jpg

LESSONS
1. I assume it was firstly under pitching. But the yeast did give a bit of krausen in the first two steps, so I assume it was viable, I just failed to step it up sufficiently(?) Or perhaps my test tube was also infected or not really viable. I couldn't really tell by taste at the time.
2. Is that an infection? If so, what? And how radically will I need to clean that fermenter?
3. Anything else I should think about?
 

manticle

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The sour descriptor and what I can tell from that photo don't suggest good things. I'd expect healthy 3068 (which I doubt yours was) to munch through a 105ish wort quicker than that.

Buy another fermenter - yes you can clean it but even 1 batch re-infected is more money and time down the drain than you will spend on a new plastic drum.
 

rbtmc

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Wow, that beer looks hectic.
 

Thefatdoghead

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I don't know if you did but it's a good idea to taste the starter before pitching the yeast. A forced wort test is a good idea if you could be bothered or worried about the next batch. Where did you get the yeast from? An old batch? Did you sterilise the test tube before you collected the yeast?
 

bcp

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Yes, I sterilised the test tube, sterilised everything... but sitting in the home fridge I'm a little unsure of the treatment it had.

Forced wort test - i hadn't come across that before, good suggestion. I have a batch of west yorkshire i'm about to test today. Once bitten...

And although it's my favourite fermenter - the one that came with the cooper's kit - agree i'd rather spend $15 on another fermenter than the disappointment of wasted time and ingredients in case there is something a little bit tenacious in there...
 

daemon

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Yep, that's an infection (search for the infection thread to learn which one).

Possible reasons are the under pitching and therefore giving something else a chance to establish itself or the starter itself was infected.

While I haven't had too many infections, I simply throw away the tap and soak the fermenter in a bleach solution (using vinegar to adjust the PH) for a few days, then starsan. This is after first soaking with nappisan first.
 

eamonnfoley

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Your 12 month old reused yeast might have been infected. I assume it wasn't wyeast packet as you said test tube. They really shouldn't be kept that long. Not worth the risk. If you want to keep yeast that long, its time to start a yeast lab and plate a few strains.
 

cdbrown

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As mentioned - try to smell and taste the starter next time. At least that will either rule that out as the cause or save you from pitching an infected starter into a good wort. Always handy to have dry yeast packets as back up if the infected starter does occur. Be aware that the smell from a starter vessel can seem like it's infected when it's not - pouring a sample into the hydro tube can help get a truer smell (and you can confirm with a taste as well).
 

mikk

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Wheat beer yeast is a 'live fast, die young' kinda yeast. I'd be wary of repitching it even if it was only a month old, & at 12 months old i'd have binned it for sure...
 

manticle

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And although it's my favourite fermenter - the one that came with the cooper's kit - agree i'd rather spend $15 on another fermenter than the disappointment of wasted time and ingredients in case there is something a little bit tenacious in there...
Another thing you can do is clean it from top to toe, chemically blast it from here to Nigeria, then ferment a cheap basic kit in it just to see if it re-infects or seems clean.

Seems odd to be sentimentally attached to a plastic fermenter but I still have my Dad's old one that I'm loath to throw, even though I don't use it on account of a leaky tap thread (and I ferment in cubes now - my fermenters are for bottling buckets and ciders mostly).

No guarantee with the above but it it might give an indication on whether it is salvageable without wasting so much time and ingredients.
 

Lecterfan

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Another thing you can do is clean it from top to toe, chemically blast it from here to Nigeria, then ferment a cheap basic kit in it just to see if it re-infects or seems clean.

Seems odd to be sentimentally attached to a plastic fermenter but I still have my Dad's old one that I'm loath to throw, even though I don't use it on account of a leaky tap thread (and I ferment in cubes now - my fermenters are for bottling buckets and ciders mostly).

No guarantee with the above but it it might give an indication on whether it is salvageable without wasting so much time and ingredients.

I have been lucky to never (yet - fingers crossed) have dealt with the kind of pernicious and persistent infections that I hear about, but at the start of 2010 I had 3 batches in a row over multiple fermenters that were infected (I think it was the yeast).

Each (incl. taps pulled apart) got a good soak in bleach (I now use bleach/vinegar as per the article from this site), rinsed with boiling water, soak in napisan, rinsed with boiling water, starsan and I haven't had a problem since (and I brew on average 4-5 batches per month).

Having said that, this site has opened my eyes to the marvels of cheap fermenters and my local Bunnings has heaps of suitable vessels for next to nix, so if it happened again now I wouldn't be so naive as to think I had to buy another fermenter from the LHBS. Just my 2 cents - pissed on a Monday arvo, you know how it is...
 

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