ruh roh… could be the 1st infected batch

So, I could be dealing with my first infected batch of homebrew. I’ve told myself a million times it was bound to happen eventually. I’ve been lucky it hasn’t happened already. Yada yada. Last night, I pull the black t-shirt off that’s been covering the 5 gallon plastic carboy containing my dry-hopped rye IPA, about to rack it to the bottling bucket, and I see this

first time for everything


Is that mold growing on top of my precious beer?!


Now, the flash from my iPhone makes the picture look worse than it did in person. The steaks running down the inside of the carboy from the neck are nothing but hop remains, as is much of what’s around the edges. However, it’s the little off-white circles floating on the surface that have me concerned. I take a gravity sample and find it to be unchanged from what I got a week ago, prior to cold crashing it.

)I tweet out the pic and my concerns, as I’ve got the bottles prepped and ready, the priming sugar boiled and ready to add, bottle caps soaking in Star San. Ugh!! First I hear back from is Nathan Smith (@nathanhomebrew), homebrewer extraordinaire from the Brewing Network, who logically asks “how’s it smell/taste? I bet it’s fine”. Ah, reassuring words, if nothing else, help to diffuse my panic. Then Ryan Bell, (@spiderwrangler), from the BN forums, chimes in “as long as it tastes and smells good, bottle it. Try not to suck up the floaties.”

Everything’s been prepped, the bottles had run through the dishwasher with heat dry to sanitize, might as well. I ended up with about 4.5 gallons, and I primed for 5, so hopefully they don’t over-carbonate. Should be around 2.65 volumes instead of 2.5 volumes. Shouldn’t be a big deal.

The amount of break material and hops in this brew leads to a loss of volume transferred to be bottled. Happened the first time I brewed this as well. Seems like the rye malt leads to a lot of solids in the wort. It wouldn’t drop and clear after chilling the boil originally and a lot gets transferred into the fermenter. I assume this is due to rye’s high beta-glucan and protein profile. Eventually, as fermentation slows, it settles to the bottom. When I racked from the primary 6 gal carboy to the 5 gal secondary for dry-hopping, a lot of trub is left behind and that’s where I lost a lot of beer. And then I lose a bit more due to the dry hops. Should have known from the first batch to expect 4.5 gal vs the normal 5.

So, it’s all in bottles. Used a combination of 12 oz bottles (1 case) and the rest in 22 and 16.9 oz bottles. Left now to praying that there’s no infection in those bottles. Last thing I need are bottle bombs exploding!


5 comments on “ruh roh… could be the 1st infected batch

  1. Doesn’t really look like infection or mold to me. Just krausen left overs, if that makes sense.

    • But I didn’t have any on the surface like that a week ago when it went into the fridge to cold crash. I took it out of the fridge for a 2-3 days (at around 65° ambient in the basement) prior to bottling, but I never removed the t-shirt covering it when I pulled it from the fridge, so not sure when they appeared. Hoping that coming up to ambient temp, the existing yeast may have gotten a little active and caused it, but not sure if that’s realistic.

  2. This is fascinating! Exactly what I’m always afraid of when I goof around and “home brew” something (I use quotes because I’m nowhere near the level of a real home brewer). Always shocks me that contamination isn’t more common.

    • The first thing I heard (from many sources) was cleaning and sanitization are the most important keys to brewing. If the proper steps are not taken, it doesn’t matter the recipe or the ingredients… it’s going to go bad. Thankfully, I followed some great info from the brewing network and some solid books, started simple and focused on the right steps from the start. All that said, I KNEW there would come a day when I have a batch go bad. Still hoping it’s not this one!

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