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I'm Discouraged - Bottle Infections Suck

Posted by homebrewdad on 9/02/2014 at 03:34:09 PM

As I look back over my time in the hobby, I realize that I have come a long way - if you'd like to confirm, I dare you to jump back to my first few posts on this blog (man, they hurt to read). Back then, I was as green as any newbie brewer, but I immersed myself in the craft, and I have learned a lot.

If I objectively consider my beer, I can state without a bit of exaggeration that it is consistently quite good. It's been more than a year since I've brewed a beer that I felt was anything less than very good, and that one was a freebie kit with some suspect ingredients (apparently expired dry yeast, for one).

Recipe design is one of my absolute favorite aspects of brewing, and I feel like I have a real knack for it - by and large, the beers I create seem to flirt with excellence; even my failures seem to turn out to be pretty tasty, though they may be not quite the beer that I intended to brew. My flaws seem to be in small details; maybe a beer has a bit of a chill haze or a head rentention issue, but by and large, I can find and correct the causes behind these flaws pretty easily.

When I share beer (and I give away a good bit more beer than I drink), the reviews are consistently extremely positive. I've had multiple people ask me if I have plans to start doing this professionally; a couple have been quite serious about that. My company has asked me to brew a couple of batches of my beer for a very important business function, as they feel that it will make a truly unique impression on our business partners. Even more flattering is the fact that they refuse to give me any liimitations on what to brew - I've been told that they trust my judgement, and know that I will provide superior beer.

With all of that being said, I am rather discouraged right now. It seems that, no matter what I do, I keep ending up with bottle infections. The beer will be very good for a few weeks, but invariably, the bottles will start gushing when opened.

This is not a priming question. I use the priming sugar calulator here on the site (which, by the way, lines up with other calculators online). The bottles carb up nicely, then seem to be stable.

However, a few weeks in, they start to gush. There aren't any real off flavors associated with this, but I'll notice much larger than normal bubbles in the beer's head, and the body of the beer sees to thin out. I have confirmed by taking gravity readings - something is indeed continuing to ferment my beer, but only after it has been bottled (I leave most beers four weeks in the fermentor).

I starsan religiously. Last time around, I soaked all the bottles for 24 hours in a PBW solution, then rinsed then, then santiized them via vinator/stan san at bottling. I took a full "scorched earth" approach to my bottling gear - soaked everything for several hours in a double strength bleach solution, rinsed very well, soaked several hours in PBW, rinsed very well, soaked several hours in star san solution. That *should* have killed anything, but no.

This weekend, I opened a bottle of my bock, and it gushed. I hoped for a one off; after all, it's possible that something fell into that one bottle only, right?

So I chilled another one... same thing. We grilled for labor day, and one of the items was beer brats. I used a bottle of the bock for that... yep, it gushed, as well.

I haven't seen this in the IPA that I bottled that same weekend, but I expect it will end up gushing, as well.

So yeah, I'm discouraged. I put tons of time, effort, and energy into making the best possible beer I can make. I feel like I make some really good (excellent?) beer... but it keeps getting ruined.

At this point, I feel like the only thing left for me to do is to replace all of my bottling gear. This means a new bottling bucket, auto siphon, and bottling wand (at the least). I would think that my silicone tubing should be fine; after all, I can always boil it (which I will do). Surely the vinator and bottle tree are okay?

If that doesn't fix the issue, I'm not sure what I will do. It's very frustrating to have to toss what seems to be perfectly good gear, but I don't know what else to try at this point.

Tags for this post: infection, infections, bottle, beer, brewing

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spend close to the same amount of money and get a counter pressure filler or a blichmann bottling gun, man. it minimizes the risk of contamination so much.

posted by chirodiesel on 9/02/2014 at 11:21:54 AM

Hi, if you've nuked all your kit to that extent could it be the environment you're bottling in?

posted by Phil on 9/04/2014 at 07:31:31 AM

I would suggest looking earlier in your process- is there anything you do before the wort goes in the fermentor, or perhaps when your are sampling, that can let in any bugs?

posted by gestalt162 on 9/07/2014 at 11:35:17 PM