contamination problems

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

Moderator: slothrob

Post Reply
alt lover
Posts: 1
Joined: Thu Dec 30, 2004 1:45 pm

contamination problems

Post by alt lover » Thu Dec 30, 2004 2:12 pm

I am an extract/partial mash brewer on my 12th batch. My first 8 batches turned out excellent (all were various golden, amber, and dark ales). My last 4 have turned out sour and over carbonated. The first bad one was altbier, second was guiness clone, and last 2 bad ones were a generic pale ale. All the bad ones had the same sour, overpowering taste to them. The taste seemed to start somewhere between the primary and secondary fermentation. I bottled all of them wishfully thinking the taste would get better. All the batches seemed the ferment great and gravity levels were all in there.

Since the first bad batch I have been extra cautious with sanitation and the last 2 batches I even sanitized everything twice (first I soaked the fermenters in a mild bleach solution overnight then I would rinse and soak in a onestep solution) My syphoning equipment and utensils are only soaked in onestep. The only thing that I might suspect is my imersion wort chiller, I boil it in the wort for 10-15 min at the end of the boil but during the cooling phase the top of the hoses were not imersed in the wort and it is done outside. Also I have only brewed one good batch with that wort chiller (8th) and the first 7 were cooled in a sink full of ice. Other than that I have not changed anything in my brewing process.

Is it likely my wort chiller could cause contamination? What are some of the most common culprits of contamination? Do you have any detailed suggestions on how to fix my problem?

Strong Ale
Strong Ale
Posts: 472
Joined: Tue Dec 25, 2001 12:05 am
Location: Vancouver, BC, CA

Likely not the immersion chiller

Post by jayhawk » Thu Dec 30, 2004 11:50 pm

I remember having a similar problem when I was at your stage of brewing. I was so pumped about making beer that I got over my head with too many batches going at once and ended up cutting corners and losing a few batches. I feel your pain :wink:

Since you are boiling the chiller I would rule that out right off the bat. That leaves a few variables left, and I would like you to give us some more details about your brewing process so we can help track down the problem.

Please detail your entire boiling, chilling, transferring, pitching and fermenting procedure. Please tell us what kind of yeast you are using, whether or not you prepare a starter solution, what temperature you pitch the yeast at, whether or not you add any water to the wort to top off the volume. What is the brand name of the sanitizer solution you use, and how fresh is it when you use it? We need lots of details, so don't hesitate to tell us even the most seemingly insignificant thing.


Azorean Brewer
Strong Ale
Strong Ale
Posts: 326
Joined: Sun Dec 16, 2001 1:31 pm
Location: Greenville SC

I too, feel your pain

Post by Azorean Brewer » Fri Dec 31, 2004 6:05 am

Dear Alt Lover,

Chris has some great points, we need details. I had the same problems back in 1992-1993, I ended up pouring 4 - 5 gallon batches down the sink from the secondary ... I was ready to give it up. My problem was that I was using cheap / old dry yeast. I asked for help (no forum back then) and my HBS "suggested" I try one more batch using liquid yeast with a one litre starter. I had never made such good beer before ... I learned quickly how important the yeast is to the rest of the batch, and I am suspecting that might be the issue here without enough information. We will spend big bucks on Extracts / grains / hops, but cut corners on the most important ingredient (yeast). Give us full details (as stated).

Also are you boiling or cleaning your chiller AFTER you are done with it? What is your process ? We all here (combined) have years of experience and we'll help you out if we can OK?


"I drink therefore I am"

User avatar
Imperial Stout
Imperial Stout
Posts: 1527
Joined: Sun Jan 09, 2000 8:16 pm
Location: Hollywood, SC

Suspicious wort chiller?

Post by jeff » Fri Dec 31, 2004 2:35 pm

I agree with jayhawk, that the problem is likely not the chiller, but I wouldn't rule it out completely right away.

I made my own immersion wort chiller out of soft copper and I hook it up to a couple lengths of vinyl tubing to feed and dump the water flow. My first version of the chiller was designed poorly because the tubing connected to the copper directly above one side of the coil. It functioned fine but since the clamps and other hard to sanitize parts were over the wort during the chilling process, the unboiled portion of the chiller formed condensation which dripped into the wort. I have never noticed a problem with infection but I can see the potential. I have since extended the copper tubes to hook over the lip of the kettle and the unboiled portion of the chiller is easy to sanitize.

So before you completely rule out the chiller, check for the possibility of condensation drawing bacteria into the wort and plan ahead for it. Enjoy!
Jeff Staff

Post Reply