Chalky Film

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

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Chalky Film

Postby andytv » Fri Aug 16, 2002 3:14 am

I took the lid off my fermentor yesterday to check a few things out and was surprised to find a thin chalky film on top of the beer. I tried to remove the film with a sanitized spoon, but it is very tough to remove. The beer tastes OK, no wierd flavors or anything. My plan is to filter the beer when I keg, or otherwise keep the funky stuff out. Any ideas what this is?? Note that I noticed the beer (belgian wheat ale)was too warm and dropped the temp about 8 degrees last week. Could this be the cause??

Andy
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Questions....

Postby Mesa Maltworks » Fri Aug 16, 2002 11:57 am

This "film".... was it bonded together like a thin version of the leathery film that paint can form.... or was it broken up in little floaters ?

Is this Belgian Wheat a Wit with Curaco, sweet orange peel or corriander ?

Reply with the answers and I'll take a guess what is up.

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Answers

Postby andytv » Fri Aug 16, 2002 4:05 pm

Thanks for the interest Mesa,

The film is bonded together and appears "dry" as if it were a dusting of flour.

No, this isn't a wit, no raw wheat or adjuncts.

I've never seen it before, and am at a loss; hope you can help.

Andy
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I am guessing Mesa. Is it yeast?

Postby stumpwater » Sun Aug 18, 2002 6:31 am

Hey Andy, I had the same thing happen to a batch but it only happened in one of the two carboys I filled. The one with a lot of headspace by the way. I reread a post called "My Mead" from this site and it sounded like the same thing, so I figured it was just the yeast doing something FUNKY. I drank the batch with no detrimental effects. It actually turned out to be really good beer. I hope that you find the same results and I am interested to see what Eric's assessment is.
I read in a Dave Miller book that there are no bacteria that live in beer that will harm us as the bacteria that attacks yeast cultures are different then the ones that attack humans. I sure hope he is correct as I am now resolved to drink from every batch of beer I make. BTW, if ever I stop posting for a length of time, you can probably figure out that Mr. Miller's advice was incorrect, god forbid.
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Yeast is a possibilty but....

Postby Mesa Maltworks » Sun Aug 18, 2002 2:00 pm

If the "film" you see is the consistency you reported, it could be yeast, but wild, not cultured. If you have taken good care of the beer and don't have excessive headspace, this is a remote possibility.

My assessment without scoping it is that is is a bacterial infection. If the beer still tastes ok, it is either a very slow metabolizing strain that in time may impart problems, or it is not a wort spoiler (only looks funny). Some of these wort spoilers are insideous in the fact that you can't tell they are there until the beer has been packaged and stored. The do their damage at this stage of the game because they only act once their environment has become completely anaerobic (devoid of oxygen).

The good news is that there are no known pathogens that can live in beer (due to low pH) that will harm humans. So, if the taste is good, drink it quickly in case the strain is a wort spoiler instead of dumping it !

Just for your info: The reason I asked if it was a Wit with corriander or peels is that the former contains alot of fatty acids and oils and can leave a sheen on the top of the beer that can trap yeast cells, keeping them afloat and resulting in an appearance like you described. The use of the latter can produce fine "floaters" due to the leaching of waxes from the skins. The question I asked if it resembled a "paint skin like appearance" was to assess whether it was caused by bacterial infection by a certain group of acetic and lactic bacteria that are used to produce malt and other vinegars. This layer is referred to as a "mother" by the vinegar producers and shares similarities with the cultures used to produce sour dough bread as well.

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Will drink quickly!

Postby andytv » Mon Aug 19, 2002 5:54 am

That advice sounds good to me. I actaully kegged it up yesterday, I used a course filter just in case, but the film actaully stuck to the sides of the fermenter, and the beer was very clean and tasted pretty good. Hope it tastes good next month when I tap it.

Thanks All,

Andy
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Avoiding wort spoilers???

Postby Fraoch » Tue Aug 20, 2002 2:52 am

Mesa, i believe that when you talk about spoilers omly being dtected when the beer is packaged and stored, you may be describing the problem i am experiencing at the moment. I suppose it could be described as a chalky deposit ( whitish/grey line at top of beer) but looks rather like soap scum. If this is a spoiler and i feel it may be. How and why did it get into my beer,what precautions should be taken? I have used the same strain of yeast one other time again before discarding it ( figured i was probably pushing my luck). I shall watch these botles to see if the same thing happens.
Thankjs in advance,

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Term Correction (whoops!) & Beer Spoiler Avoidance....

Postby Mesa Maltworks » Wed Aug 21, 2002 7:39 am

The beer spoilers (sorry I mistyped this term in my last post as "wort spoilers") are anaerobes that hide until the media (in this case, finished beer) becomes devoid of oxygen. These bacteria are called this to differentiate them from wort spoilers which have different effects, operate at different temperatures and can infect in the presence of oxygen. The wort spoilers do their damage while still in fermenters.

The sanitization proceedures required to make and package beer properly are designed to reduce the chances of infection pre and post bottling.

One of the most common sources of infectory agents is from grain dust. Therefore, you should never store equipment, bottles or fermenters in the same room as grain. NEVER expose any of these items to the dust produced by milling because the friable fractions of the malt that become airborne carry the most risk.

As far as wort spoilers... the most common sources of these agents are improper mashing techniques, inadequate boil or/and poor sanitization. These bacteria can become entrained in the wort by mashing at too low of a temperature for too long or worse, allowing a mash to drift downward in temperature over an excessive amount of time. This lax technique is very common among homebrewers due to poor brew day planning that did not allow sufficient time for batch completion. I have heard of brewers that started a mash too late in the day and simply turned off the heat and let it sit overnight ! ALWAYS complete a mash in the proper amount of time and boil the liquor to completion on the same day and you should never run into this problem.

Another hedge against any infectory agent is pitching the appropriate amount of fresh, high viability yeast at a temperature below 75 degrees F. Since bacteria propagate at a minimum of 8 times that of yeast, this is why the right pitching amount of highly viable yeast is critical. Temperatures at 75 degrees and above make bacteria grow faster and can cause yeast to mutate or sometimes die. Since yeast action can raise the wort temperature by up to 11 degrees, it is recommended to pitch 8 to 11 degrees BELOW the temperature at which you plan to ferment the beer. The overall idea here is to create so much competiton for resources that the bacteria do not become the dominant organism.

Note: There are some styles of beer that are fermented above 75 degrees (Freon's "Bananna Weitzen" @ 85 deg. F. is one example). This is OK to do, but the yeast should still be pitched when the wort is below 75 Deg. F. and kept at that temperature until the yeast is vigorously fermenting, then allowed to rise to the high fermentation temperature. This ensures that the yeast had the best chance to dominate the wort.

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