Rubbing Alcohol From the Airlok Sucked Into the Primary

What went wrong? Was this supposed to happen? Should I throw it out? What do I do now?

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Rubbing Alcohol From the Airlok Sucked Into the Primary

Postby manplant » Mon Oct 29, 2007 11:25 am

I recently tried a new cap-type airlock on my primary after brewing yesterday. Upon cooling, 1 tablespoon of isopropyl alcohol was sucked back into the primary. Will this trash the beer, or will the yeasts scrub the off flavors out of my 5.5 gallon batch of Honey Kolsch - All grain?

The fermentation process has begun nicely since the changeover to hose and sanitary off gassing bucket.

Please help!
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Re: Rubbing Alcohol From the Airlok Sucked Into the Primary

Postby billvelek » Mon Oct 29, 2007 12:59 pm

manplant wrote:I recently tried a new cap-type airlock on my primary after brewing yesterday. Upon cooling, 1 tablespoon of isopropyl alcohol was sucked back into the primary. Will this trash the beer, or will the yeasts scrub the off flavors out of my 5.5 gallon batch of Honey Kolsch - All grain? ... snip

Assuming a worse case scenario that the ENTIRE one tablespoon got sucked into a 5.5 gallon batch, that is a ratio of 1:1408 per my BTP calculator. I don't know what sort of chems are contained in the isopropyl; doesn't the law require stuff to be added to make it undrinkable, or am I thinking of something else?

Anyway, given that some stuff is taste/odor detectible at FAR lower amounts than that, I think you _might_ have a real problem there, aside from any toxicity (although I personally would not toss it yet, nor would I drink it either without doing a google to confirm that it is diluted enough to not poison you).

If it appears to be _safe_ to drink, I'd sure test it for taste and aroma before I went to any trouble bottling or kegging it. Sorry to hear about your experience, but let this be a learning experience; in the future you should use vodka or pure ethanol in place of isopropyl. By the way, I've always cooled my wort off enough that I've never noticed any measurable amount of water from my airlock being sucked into it. Also, I use only water and only enough to let the float rise maybe a quarter of an inch, and it's never dried out for me. You might want to re-evaluate your procedures, but I know we all have our own peculiarities.

Good luck.

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Postby manplant » Mon Oct 29, 2007 3:21 pm

Bill,
I appreciate the follow up. Im estimating that 1-2 tablespoos may have gone back in, maybe not. However, the bottle says if ingested, "will cause severve gastrointestinal disruptions", but does not say harful or fatal if swallowed. I will check with poison control.
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Re: Rubbing Alcohol From the Airlok Sucked Into the Primary

Postby jeff » Mon Oct 29, 2007 4:20 pm

manplant wrote:I recently tried a new cap-type airlock on my primary after brewing yesterday. Upon cooling, 1 tablespoon of isopropyl alcohol was sucked back into the primary


If you require that alcohol be used in the airlock rather than water, grain alcohol which is 95% pure ethanol might be considered. This is often sold in liquor stores and you can ask for either Graves Grain Alcohol or Luxco Everclear. It will still kill some yeast if sucked into your beer, but small amounts should not have a noticeable effect on the fermentation.

Ethanol is the alcohol found in alcholic beverages and is less toxic than other types of alcohol. However, grain alcohol should be handled with care and warnings on the label must be observed.
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Rubbing alcohol

Postby slothrob » Mon Oct 29, 2007 5:00 pm

Rubbing alcohol is USUALLY 70% Isopropanol and 30% water, but I've seen it with an added chemical to make it undrinkable. It should be on the label under ingredients.

Isopropanol is slightly more toxic than ethanol, but I believe you need to drink nearly a pint to reach the fatal level (from some emergency medicine website). If it has the third ingredient, I have no idea how toxic that would be.

I just play it safe and only use cheap vodka in my airlock. By the way, 70% ethanol is a more effective sanitizer than 95%, so if you happen to live in a state where you can get Everclear (I don't), you can stretch it and make it more effective by diluting it with a little water.
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Postby manplant » Mon Oct 29, 2007 10:45 pm

I appreciate everyones input. Lessons learned. I actual scrapped the idea of the airlock and went back my old standby hose and sanitary bucket for the airlock.

I also checked with Poison Control and there is no poison risk at these levels. The ratio of wort to alcohol is greater than or equal to 600 to 1. My only concern is off flavoring.

Is it possible that the yeasts may scavnege some the off flavor compounds? Fermentation is going very robustly.
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Postby manplant » Mon Nov 26, 2007 5:24 pm

Cannot taste any off flavors. Excellent brew!
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