Infected Brew – Homebrewing

As a homebrewer who has escaped without a contaminated or infected brew, until now, I consider myself to be doing OK.  I know other homebrewers who have been getting along fine and then being hit by a couple of infected brews in succession.  My AG#14 American Brown Ale has gone ‘wrong’ somewhere and while I can’t diagnose the exact source, I can try to learn from the disappointment of losing a batch of beer. For anyone interested, it ended up with sticking plaster / medicinal off flavours and aroma. If you adhere to best sanitation practices then you can say that you have done your best, but there are many other factors to consider when trying to stay one step ahead of a potential contamination or infection.  There are many sources of information on this, but I think that we are most likely to look for this information as a reactive rather than preventative measure.  While there are factors that you cannot control completely, there is much you can do to reduce the chance of a contamination or infection in your homebrew.  Something I need to renew my focus on to avoid a repeat of my AG#14 fail. Below is a cause and effect diagram (analyse phase to find potential root causes and improve phase to find solutions) that I’ve put together, most definately not the complete article, but hopefully a resource I can glance at and add to with any suggestions you might have?  (I’ve had fun and games converting a word document to jpeg, so the image may be unreadable, but will hopefully launch to view the large image). As usual this is for me and I don’t expect everyone to agree, but for anyone who would like to use it, or contribute to it, then be my guest.

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6 thoughts on “Infected Brew – Homebrewing

  1. It’s a shame you’ve had an infection in your brew, and can’t figure out the exact cause, however I don’t think all is lost. I personally believe you get better by making mistakes and learning from them. Next time you will be meticulous with your brew.

  2. I was reading a blog post on that very off-flavour the other day and it seems like it could take a while to discover the source of the problem.
    Perhaps its the yeast strain?

  3. At least you didn’t send some contaminated homebrew to Fergus at Adnams like I did! I didn’t treat the water in anyway and while I knew there was something not right, I didn’t really get it until he pointed out to me that it asked of TCP. The next brew will have a campden tablet added to the HLT… 😉

  4. Dave, I’m sorry to hear that this went wrong for you. We made the mistake once of using grains that were way beyond their best use date. If I recall correctly, the culprit was Munich malt. You may be able to rule out that problem, because I think you brew more regularly (we can do 100 l batches, so don’t “need” to brew that often). We’ve now bought a grain mill, so hoping to mill the grains prior to the brew, ensuring freshness.

  5. We had a batch with the medicinal thing recently (completely out of nowhere) and think we traced it back to a sudden, temporary increase in the amount of chlorine in the local water supply — enough that our usual campden tablet couldn’t cope.

    They often dump extra chlorine in the water if there’s been a lot of rain and flooding.

  6. Dave, further to Bailey’s comment, do you treat your water? We have, but after some more research, are deciding that we probably don’t need to chuck in nearly as much as we have. In our first brews, we never added anything, and they were great. Then, we played around with additives, and are not convinced by the results, especially the use of gypsum. You can ask your water provider for details on your water (you probably already have…). We have very soft water, which allows for “tweaking” — though not always for the best.

    By the way, just received our order from Malt Miller today! 🙂 #brewday imminent.

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