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Thread: First batches woes

  1. #1
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    First batches woes

    My partner and I have been brewing several batches to prepare for our opening. We're using 3, 1-bbl systems. We've brewed 10 batches (1, 2 and 3 bbl batches). We've had the same problem with 5 of the 10 batches--sour apple taste during primary fermentation. We've gone to pretty great lengths to address potential sanitation issues (scrubbing, cleaning and sanitizing our brew system, hoses and other transfer equipment, and conicals). We've also tried to limit any exposure of our wort to air during our cooling and transfer. We use a plate chiller and we cool pretty quickly. We don't yet have an in-line oxygenation system, but may at some point soon.

    We have had some of the bad beer tested (with a plate) and it appears we may have a lactobacillus issue. At first I thought this might just all be a acetyldahyde problem that would go away--with time and better regulation of temperature during fermentation. Neither of these strategies (waiting and more carefully regulating pitching and fermentation temperatures) seem to have worked.

    Any suggestions? Our next move is to purge conicals with CO2 prior to filling. (We've been using US-05 and pitching at a rate of 80g/bbl.) Wondering if we might just have lots of bacteria in the air at the new brewery.

    Cheers,

    Tim

  2. #2
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    where is your grain mill at? When I switched breweries I was amazed at all the amount of dust on the tanks. we spent a day cleaning everything the closed the door to the mill room and 90% of the dust was gone confirming it was grain dust. There are some brands of grain that have much more dust and other things in them and it only makes the problem worse. I would also caution that you need proper ventilation in a enclosed grain room and no source of spark. I am sure your building department can help you with that but be prepared for expensive install for explosion proof enclosures
    Mike Eme
    Brewmaster
    Cheboygan Brewery
    Cheboygan Michigan

  3. #3
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    Good idea

    Quote Originally Posted by beerguy1 View Post
    where is your grain mill at? When I switched breweries I was amazed at all the amount of dust on the tanks. we spent a day cleaning everything the closed the door to the mill room and 90% of the dust was gone confirming it was grain dust. There are some brands of grain that have much more dust and other things in them and it only makes the problem worse. I would also caution that you need proper ventilation in a enclosed grain room and no source of spark. I am sure your building department can help you with that but be prepared for expensive install for explosion proof enclosures
    We keep our mill in a storage closet and I mill in our tasting room (not yet open). I was planning to keep milling this way on days we are not open. I generally only mill specialty grains and buy base malts pre-crushed. The fermentation room is separate from our tasting room (with a door). Still, there is likely a good deal of grain dust floating around and on multiple surfaces. I'll be sure to give everything a great scrubbing. We may also move the entire milling operation to our basement, which will save on time and further prevent grain dust from possibly contributing to infections as well. I'll pay close attention to our ventilation wherever we move our mill.

    Thanks,

    Tim

  4. #4
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    Can you elaborate on your cleaning and sanitizing practices? Which chemicals are you using, and at what concentrations? It doesn't take much to get rid of lacto, and brewer's yeast should outcompete it. I make sure all fermentation vessels are sealed when I mill in, even if they're remote from the mill. And everything inside and out gets sanitized as close to brew time as possible.

    What temp are you fermenting at, and how are you controlling that temp? Are you pitching the correct amount of healthy yeast? Is the beer finishing at the expected final gravity? If it really is acetaldehyde, it should be metabolized by the yeast as they ramp down fermentation, unless there isn't enough yeast, or the yeast is stressed by temp problems. If you can't provide enough oxygen for a liquid strain for now, perhaps focus on dry yeast strains, which have much less oxygen requirements starting fermentation.

  5. #5
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    Some details

    Quote Originally Posted by spetrovits View Post
    Can you elaborate on your cleaning and sanitizing practices? Which chemicals are you using, and at what concentrations? It doesn't take much to get rid of lacto, and brewer's yeast should outcompete it. I make sure all fermentation vessels are sealed when I mill in, even if they're remote from the mill. And everything inside and out gets sanitized as close to brew time as possible.

    What temp are you fermenting at, and how are you controlling that temp? Are you pitching the correct amount of healthy yeast? Is the beer finishing at the expected final gravity? If it really is acetaldehyde, it should be metabolized by the yeast as they ramp down fermentation, unless there isn't enough yeast, or the yeast is stressed by temp problems. If you can't provide enough oxygen for a liquid strain for now, perhaps focus on dry yeast strains, which have much less oxygen requirements starting fermentation.
    Thank your for our response.

    Our cleaning process--for kettles, conicals, and brite tanks--involves scrubbing everything with a caustic solution (1 tablespoon of PBW powder per 5 g of water) rinsing everything thoroughly with hot water and then showering all surfaces with a StarSan solution. I believe that is one ounce of StarSan per 5 g of water. We let that air dry without wiping. We do the same for all hoses (running successive solutions through them) and all valves and fittings as well. We had been cleaning and sanitizing the night before brewing and then quickly sanitizing the conicals again the morning of brew day. Then we began doing it all the morning of the brew to better ensure everything was clean and sanitized.

    As for yeast, we're using a dry yeast, SafAle US-05. Pitching 80g per barrel. (We use 1, 2 and 3 bbl conicals.)

    Good idea about making sure all conicals are sealed when milling. I believe they are, but I will be sure to check that.

    As for temperature control, the fermentation room is set for 67 F and remains within 3 degrees of that at all times. We have a small controller hooked up to a small heater and an air conditioning unit. The thermometer on the conicals has reached as high as 72F during active fermentation and as low as 65F afterwards.

    Beer is finishing at expected gravity, between 1.010 and 1.015 for our recipes.

    We'll keep working on our sanitation and temperature control as well as limiting air exposure during transfer to conicals.

    Thanks again for your suggestions.

    Cheers,

    Tim

  6. #6
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    Purging your conicals with co2 will not help protect against lactobacillus. It will survive fine in an anaerobic environment. This will likely just be a waste of gas. Sour and apple are two distinct flavors. Sour would usually be associated with lacto and apple with the acetaldehyde. You could have both, or it may be only one. PBW is not a caustic. It is a non-caustic alkaline cleaner. Star-San and PBW are both fine chemicals and the concentrations of Star-San seems appropriate. PBW should be 1-3oz per gallon pretty sure you are not using enough there. You want to reach a 12 pH or higher.
    http://www.fivestarchemicals.com/wp-...ds/PBWTech.pdf

    What do you mean by "appears" that you have a lactobacillus issue? If media plates show it, then it is most likely the case. You can also microscope it. Take a sample to another local brewery or a college, offer free beer, and have them do a gram stain on it for you. Spetrovits and Beerguy1 are right to ask about milling. Lactobacillus most often comes into the brewery from the grains.

    When do you pick up the flavor? One day in, three days in, 5 days in? It would probably take lacto at least a few days to show up unless you have a huge contamination issue. If you can do plating, plate a sample from your heat exchanger. This is one of the most likely points of contamination. Perform a wort stability test during knock out. What are the results? Are there any factors in common with your 5 suspect batches? All in the same tanks? All after a certain date? All with a certain ingredient? Does the "sour apple" change over time? Get more sour? Get less apple? Does gravity continue to drop over extended aging? Below 1.010? Do you have a means to measure pH? are the post knock out readings steady? Do they lower over aging? 72*F is towards the very top of the ideal ranges. Are you sure you are not tasting fusel alcohols, phenols, or esters instead?

  7. #7
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    Thanks for your thoughts

    Quote Originally Posted by UnFermentable View Post
    Purging your conicals with co2 will not help protect against lactobacillus. It will survive fine in an anaerobic environment. This will likely just be a waste of gas. Sour and apple are two distinct flavors. Sour would usually be associated with lacto and apple with the acetaldehyde. You could have both, or it may be only one. PBW is not a caustic. It is a non-caustic alkaline cleaner. Star-San and PBW are both fine chemicals and the concentrations of Star-San seems appropriate. PBW should be 1-3oz per gallon pretty sure you are not using enough there. You want to reach a 12 pH or higher.
    http://www.fivestarchemicals.com/wp-...ds/PBWTech.pdf

    What do you mean by "appears" that you have a lactobacillus issue? If media plates show it, then it is most likely the case. You can also microscope it. Take a sample to another local brewery or a college, offer free beer, and have them do a gram stain on it for you. Spetrovits and Beerguy1 are right to ask about milling. Lactobacillus most often comes into the brewery from the grains.

    When do you pick up the flavor? One day in, three days in, 5 days in? It would probably take lacto at least a few days to show up unless you have a huge contamination issue. If you can do plating, plate a sample from your heat exchanger. This is one of the most likely points of contamination. Perform a wort stability test during knock out. What are the results? Are there any factors in common with your 5 suspect batches? All in the same tanks? All after a certain date? All with a certain ingredient? Does the "sour apple" change over time? Get more sour? Get less apple? Does gravity continue to drop over extended aging? Below 1.010? Do you have a means to measure pH? are the post knock out readings steady? Do they lower over aging? 72*F is towards the very top of the ideal ranges. Are you sure you are not tasting fusel alcohols, phenols, or esters instead?
    Thank you. Great ideas. Yes, we do have a lactobacillus issue. I can confirm with some lab techs at a nearby college. Great idea. As I think about our processes so far, I do suspect that milling is our issue. We will move all grain operations. As for when we pick up flavor, it is generally 3-5 days after brewing. Active fermentation has started within 16 hours of brewing in all cases. The taste is more sour than apple. (I think I may have been really hoping for apple because I believed that would go away.) We will definitely take a sample from the heat exchanger. Good idea. We have been running PBW solution and water and a sanitizing solution through it on brew day, but still worth checking.

    Gravity has not continued to fall after active fermentation. The bad batches are still hitting expected terminal gravity and staying there.

    As for temperature during fermentation, the room has been fairly stable, between 65 and 70. The readings on the conicals have generally been between 65 and 70 as well, with just one exception--a reading of 72. I don't believe our problem (or at least our main problem) is fusel alcohols, phenols or esters, but I can certainly pay more attention to temperature controls as well.

    I appreciate all your time. This is very helpful.

    Cheers,
    Tim

  8. #8
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    Hi Tim,
    In addition to the very sound advice already given, I suggest you scrub the outside of your tanks with StarSan as well. Throwing in an occasional cycle of Acid 5 in your cleaning between the PBW and StarSan can also help.
    Years and years ago, I worked at a brewery where we had issues with pediococcus. In addition to nuke-cleaning the entire brewery, we would perform yeast counts, yeast viability tests, and acid wash our yeast prior to every pitch.
    Time consuming, but we were able to get on top of the contamination issue. It was a relatively small investment of a microscope, a hemocytometer slide, a few test tubes, a hand pipet, some methylene blue stain, some food grade phosphoric acid, and ice. Simple to learn and it increases your comfort zone.

    Prost!
    Dave
    Glacier Brewing Company
    406-883-2595
    glacierbrewing@bresnan.net

    "who said what now?"

  9. #9
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    Thanks, Dave

    Quote Originally Posted by GlacierBrewing View Post
    Hi Tim,
    In addition to the very sound advice already given, I suggest you scrub the outside of your tanks with StarSan as well. Throwing in an occasional cycle of Acid 5 in your cleaning between the PBW and StarSan can also help.
    Years and years ago, I worked at a brewery where we had issues with pediococcus. In addition to nuke-cleaning the entire brewery, we would perform yeast counts, yeast viability tests, and acid wash our yeast prior to every pitch.
    Time consuming, but we were able to get on top of the contamination issue. It was a relatively small investment of a microscope, a hemocytometer slide, a few test tubes, a hand pipet, some methylene blue stain, some food grade phosphoric acid, and ice. Simple to learn and it increases your comfort zone.

    Prost!
    Dave
    Great advice. We'll get some Acid 5 and start that. We'll look to invest this equipment as soon as we can. Appreciate it.
    Tim

  10. #10
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    Tim,
    Where in Spokane are you located? I make frequent trips through and would love to see your operation.

    Prost!
    Dave
    Glacier Brewing Company
    406-883-2595
    glacierbrewing@bresnan.net

    "who said what now?"

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by thilton View Post
    Great advice. We'll get some Acid 5 and start that. We'll look to invest this equipment as soon as we can. Appreciate it.
    Tim
    We are opening downtown at Riverside and Browne. Let me know when you are in town.

    Cheers,

    Tim

  12. #12
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    Nov 2014
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    All the above comments certainly have a lot of good advice, but I vote to disassemble and check your heat exchanger as the first step. We started our brewery about 2 years ago, and I didn't have good SOPs in place for most of my knock out and cleaning processes, and before I got all that straightened out I gummed up my HX pretty good and started getting some bad beers that I had to dump. When I opened up my HX, it was obvious where the infections were coming from. If your start up process is anything like mine, you might be going through similar issues. So if the first 5 batches were good, and then the next 5 started getting bad, I would look at the HX.

    Since I got good SOPs for knocking out so I have a good whirlpool, good hop cone, and don't get a lot of trub and hops into the HX, I haven't had any issues.

    If you have a smaller nano style HX that can't be disassembled, then look into getting a better one, I have had good luck with Thermaline.

    Good luck.

  13. #13
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    A few more thoughts:

    - Unfermentable is right about the PBW. I use Caustic for most applications, but I still use some PBW and my baseline is 1 oz per gallon of water, and I often use more. Your ratio sounds super low.

    - If I may make a few presumptions, based on your language? If you are "scrubbing" your conicals, brights, and kettle, then you don't have any Clean-In-Place spray balls set up for your kit? And perhaps since you don't have a CIP set up, you only have around small March home-brew style pumps to move liquid around, and you don't have a larger pump in the 1 HP vicinity that you might need to adequately clean your HX? Pardon me if my presumptions are way off, but I have seen nanos suffer from only having little pumps that won't adequately clean hoses and Hxs, and this might be an issue for you as well.

    Good luck.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by backslope View Post
    All the above comments certainly have a lot of good advice, but I vote to disassemble and check your heat exchanger as the first step. We started our brewery about 2 years ago, and I didn't have good SOPs in place for most of my knock out and cleaning processes, and before I got all that straightened out I gummed up my HX pretty good and started getting some bad beers that I had to dump. When I opened up my HX, it was obvious where the infections were coming from. If your start up process is anything like mine, you might be going through similar issues. So if the first 5 batches were good, and then the next 5 started getting bad, I would look at the HX.

    Since I got good SOPs for knocking out so I have a good whirlpool, good hop cone, and don't get a lot of trub and hops into the HX, I haven't had any issues.

    If you have a smaller nano style HX that can't be disassembled, then look into getting a better one, I have had good luck with Thermaline.

    Good luck.
    My suggestion would be to plate samples from the heat exchanger before going through a complete breakdown. I have seen many people have issues with breaking down heat exchangers. Usually you would want to install a new set of gaskets. You also have to make sure that you torque to proper specs, in proper sequence, and that you pay close attention to the pack depth. You should check flow rates before and after.

    I would opt to CIP it in reverse with strong caustic (or PBW), flow in reverse should be like 50% more than your forward usage (150% of operating flow). You can also pulse the flow if you have a valve on the exit side of the HX. Personally, I also like to pack my heat exchanger with PAA between brews. PAA will kill most all organisms (that we typically worry about) after 6 hours, even at an extremely low concentration (5-10 ppm). If you have a braised copper exchanger, then you want to be very careful of any acids you run through. Nitric is very reactive with copper in particular. Thermaline and Alfa Laval both make great exchangers, but you should be able to make good beers with a simple braised copper exchanger if your process is solid. I have used them on pilot systems for many years without issue.

    Usually Lactobacillus will drop your gravity to below 1.010, but it may not in all cases. pH would be another good measurement tool in these cases, but lab information will help as well. Total acidity would be the best measutrement, but few do this process. You can ask whomever does your lab process if they can measure the pH of the sample. Your fermentation temps should not be a major factor if it is in fact lactobacillus. Then it comes down to CIP.

    While malted barley is the primary source of lactobacillus in the brewery, a solid CIP/SIP process should virtually eliminate all the vectors for contamination. Think through every step of the process and find where your highest risk is. Usually this is upon pitching (or propping) yeast for most people. Do you open the fermentor to pitch yeast? Do you pitch in line? Do you propagate your yeast? Do you sanitize the outside of your yeast container? Is your yeast clean? Everyone assumes that an initial pitch from a reputable manufacturer is clean, but you can ask Left Hand brewery about that. Has every surface of your fermentor had adequate time contact with your sanitizing solution? Foam can inhibit contact with surface.

  15. #15
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    Good advice

    Quote Originally Posted by backslope View Post
    A few more thoughts:

    - Unfermentable is right about the PBW. I use Caustic for most applications, but I still use some PBW and my baseline is 1 oz per gallon of water, and I often use more. Your ratio sounds super low.

    - If I may make a few presumptions, based on your language? If you are "scrubbing" your conicals, brights, and kettle, then you don't have any Clean-In-Place spray balls set up for your kit? And perhaps since you don't have a CIP set up, you only have around small March home-brew style pumps to move liquid around, and you don't have a larger pump in the 1 HP vicinity that you might need to adequately clean your HX? Pardon me if my presumptions are way off, but I have seen nanos suffer from only having little pumps that won't adequately clean hoses and Hxs, and this might be an issue for you as well.

    Good luck.
    Thanks, we will be sure to check our heat exchanger pretty thoroughly.

    Cheers,

    TIm

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