From the HBD Archive
From: hisata!doug@gatech.edu
Subject: Sanitation and water
Date: 1989-11-14 11:43:39 GMT

Some thoughts on recent comments about water and sanitation. I have had a
lot of trouble with my homebrew kicking into a late fermentation, resulting
in gushing after being in the bottles for 3 or 4 months. Many of my beers
have a slight sour flavor, which I think is caused by lactobacillis. (Can
someone more knowledgeable confirm this?) I have tried repeatedly to be as
clean and sanitary as I can, but my results are mixed. Some beer is
delicious, some has the slight sour flavor, and a few batches gush. Only 2
of 13 batches have been completely undrinkable (so far).

I asked my friend Robert for advice. Robert is an electronmicroscopist/
microbiologist/chemistry professor/homebrewer. He pointed out that the
usual homebrewer's sanitation practices are just that: sanitation, not
sterilization. He advised sterilizing with a 1:3 bleach/water solution (I
still don't make it this strong). He said NOT to rinse, that you just
recontaminate, unless you're rinsing with sterile water. Once the bleach
solution dries, he says it's mostly inactivated. Also, if you've
sterilized equipment used while boiling the wort, the organics in the wort
should neutralize the bleach.

As far as tap water goes, it is usually quite contaminated, and you're
running a risk using it. He claims even distilled water isn't guaranteed
to be pure, and bottled spring water can have lots of critters swimming in
it. The only way to be sure is to boil it in a pressure cooker,
essentially autoclaving it. If you can't do this, at the least it should
be boiled 10 mins.

So I made two batches of beer on 10/21, one all-grain, and one
grain/extract. I sterilized everything with a very strong bleach solution,
I boiled every drop of water 30 mins (but not in the pressure cooker), I
repeatedly scrubbed my hands with hexachlorophene, I even heated the
carboys--slowly--in the oven to 300 degrees. (Robert assured me that would
also do in any residual chlorine.) The yeast was rehydrated in sterile
water before pitching. (A highly recommended practice.) Both batches got
off to a flying start, fermenting nicely. The grain/extract finished
working and was bottled on 11/4. The raw beer tasted great, without a hint
of bacterial sourness. The all-grain batch, however, is still slowly
working. I've got a very bad feeling about this! This is typical behavior
of an infection. With all I did to insure cleanliness, I have just one
more suspect....

THE YEAST! The latest issue of "Zymurgy"--a marvelous issue, BTW--points
out in a couple of articles how contaminated package yeast can be, as well
as how limited its viability is, depending on storage conditions. Both
batches were made with Edme dry yeast. The last, gushing batch was made
with Munton & Fison. I'm strongly considering culturing my own (see
"Zymurgy" again). Does anyone have any experience with this? Is it a
pain? Is it worth it?

BTW, Robert is a nice guy and brews good beer. (He uses a little instant
coffee in his porter. You couldn't identify it if you didn't know what it
was, but it adds to the "dark" flavor.) However, he's something of a
perfectionist (to be polite), and I would take his advice with a grain or
two of salt. But I was desperate, so followed his advice. Also, he has
offered to take some of my gushing beer to the lab and culture it to let me
know what got in it!

Doug Allison
UUCP: ...!gatech!hisata!doug

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