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Well, It Finally Happened


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After more than a year of constant brewing, I got infected. I wouldn't say it's something that I slipped up on, that I suddenly made a mistake. It's more a case, I guess, of a less-than-perfect sanitizing routine that seemed to be working just fine, but finally caught up with me.

What happened? A couple months ago I made a new batch of the Belgian Lager. I hadn't brewed this one for almost 6 months, and when I tasted prior to bottling, it struck me that I didn't recall it being quite so tart. That perception was reinforced a few weeks later when I opened a bottle to drink. Meanwhile, of course, I've been brewing. The next one out of the droid was a Cooper's XPA, and again, at bottling it seemed distinctly tart. 

That's when my internal Uh-oh light went on. 

So, after bottling the XPA, I made it a point of doing a deeper clean on the droid, looking for, and finding, a bit of nasty crap. It was under the lid gasket, so I concentrated there, doing an extra-special clean of the lid and gasket. Figuring it was all behind me, I started a Lawn Mower Lager.

Along about then, the Belgian had waited long enough to drink a couple. Tart, sure enough. Not terrible-awful-dump 'em all out sour, but for-sure...tart. And then, of course, the XPA was just as bad, and to make matters worse, a pre-bottling taste of the Lawn Mower showed that the ordeal wasn't over. So, once again, I cleaned the droid, then sanitized. And then I cleaned it again, and sanitized again. After that, the only thing to do was start a new batch. 

@Rob Courtney, that's when I started your Golden Balls Lager. I had to brew something, and I was anxious to try this one, so in it went. For the next week, we drank up a bunch of the tainted beers. Like I said, they weren't terrible, they just weren't terribly good.

Well, when Rob's GB Lager was ready to bottle, I was a little nervous to take that first sip. Bride was their with me and we both had a sip, and it was...better? We thought it was, but...? Okay, we tried to be optimistic, and again I did a thorough clean/sanitize, before starting an Abbey Dubbel. 

Today I bottled the Dubbel, and it seems like my infection has been cleaned up. Fearing the worse, though, I had spent some time researching the best possible process for cleaning up an infected droid, so that's what's going on right now. After bottling, I pulled all the tap parts and the gasket and washed them in hot water with dish soap, the soaked them in a mild bleach solution. I washed out the droid and the lid with the hot soapy water, rinsed, then took out my LED flashlight (torch) and inspected every nook and cranny. Next I reassembled the lid and tap, then filled the droid with that bleach solution. Shortly, I'll drain it, rinse it, then let it soak for a couple hours with sodium percarbonate. Finally, I'll drain it, spray it all down with StarSan, and start a new batch.

Next step, of course, will be when we open our first bottle of The Balls. We are cautiously optimistic that it'll be fine, and if not, then hopefully the Dubbel. And beyond that, I can't imagine anything foreign surviving the procedure I'm going through right now. At the end of the day, only time will tell.

I think my point here is that I can't really nail down anything specific that I did wrong. For over a year I had done things exactly the same way every time without a problem, and I guess I got a little lazy about it. Going forward, I will absolutely spend a bit more time with my cleaning. 

Sorry for the long post. Slainte!

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Sorry to hear about your infection troubles.  However, I think the regimen you have described should cure the problem.  So far, I have been lucky with just doing a two-hour Star-San soak of the droid and cleaning the spigot and its pipe into the droid as well as attention to the lid.  You were also correct in cleaning the lid gasket.  It is tempting to ignore this because it is tedious to re-install the gasket.  Again, a two-hour soak in Star-San for the gasket, and spigot should be enough.

One potential trouble spot is too vigorously scrubbing the droid.  Only soft cloths or wet paper towels should be used on the surface while cleaning off the gunk - and use lots of warm water to keep the cleaning cloth soft.  Rough cleaning pads can leave micro scratches in the surface.  Obviously, these can harbor bacteria, and make it difficult to effectively sterilize the droid.

Best wishes on your success in eliminating the infections.  After all, you need the beer.

🙂 Happy brewing.

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@Steve Gyldenvand sorry to hear of your infection troubles as well.

May I ask, what products are you using to clean and sanatise your Droid?

As @Thagomizer said, as did the legend himself @Captain 3 Droids , always make sure you use a soft cloth to clean the inside surface of the Droid as any scratches, no matter how small, can harbour nasties that can cause an infection.

@Thagomizer, do you not clean, only sanatise?

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3 minutes ago, Wazza_wantsbeer said:

@Steve Gyldenvand sorry to hear of your infection troubles as well.

May I ask, what products are you using to clean and sanatise your Droid?

As @Thagomizer said, as did the legend himself @Captain 3 Droids , always make sure you use a soft cloth to clean the inside surface of the Droid as any scratches, no matter how small, can harbour nasties that can cause an infection.

@Thagomizer, do you not clean, only sanatise?

The only thing I use for cleaning is paper towels and soft, clean dish cloths. Normally, I have just used warm water for washing. I'm not sure where the notion came from, but I've pretty much gone under the assumption that any kind of soap or detergent was not recommended. However, for me water consumption is no problem. My house water source is actually  an artesian spring that flows clean and pure year round. So, yeah, lots and lots of warm water, rubbing with the soft cloth until I can't see or feel any remaining krausen or residue.

I used to use the droidcleanse tabs for the recommended 2 hour soak every time, but have mostly been using a StarSan spray-down procedure lately, after reading that it worked just fine, but now I wonder. I also wonder if I was giving enough attention to the rim/lid-seal area of the droid body, as well as the seal groove on the lid itself.

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12 minutes ago, Steve Gyldenvand said:

The only thing I use for cleaning is paper towels and soft, clean dish cloths. Normally, I have just used warm water for washing. I'm not sure where the notion came from, but I've pretty much gone under the assumption that any kind of soap or detergent was not recommended. However, for me water consumption is no problem. My house water source is actually  an artesian spring that flows clean and pure year round. So, yeah, lots and lots of warm water, rubbing with the soft cloth until I can't see or feel any remaining krausen or residue.

I used to use the droidcleanse tabs for the recommended 2 hour soak every time, but have mostly been using a StarSan spray-down procedure lately, after reading that it worked just fine, but now I wonder. I also wonder if I was giving enough attention to the rim/lid-seal area of the droid body, as well as the seal groove on the lid itself.

@Steve Gyldenvand from your response, you're definitely doing the wipe down part right and absolutely correct in that you don't want to use anything with soap/detergent but wow, I am not surprised that you are experiencing infections if you were just spraying down with StarSan.

As someone who's trained in Microbiology, I always do a 3 step clean with my Droid after each brew.

At a highlevel, that is:

1. Surface Clean - cleaning all the visible stuff using warm water and a soft (preferrably microfibre) cloth
2. Deep Clean - I use an Australian produced PBW (Powerful Brewery Wash) called StellarClean from Kegland but I know there are many similar products in most countries. The primary ingredient is sodium percarbonate but have other ingredients such as non-soap surfactants that remove all of the small micro particles that you can't see when doing step 1.
I will use PBW and depending on how messy the brew was, I might even add some additional sodium percarbonate as well for an extra heavy duty clean.
This means adding a few litres of warm water, add the PBW and then stir with a plastic spoon (so as to not scratch the interior surface of the Droid) until the PBW is disolved. Then top up with warm/hot'ish water to the very top of the Droid so it's right at the spew port level. Then I let it sit for around 2 hours.
Then a quick rinse to remove any residue of the PBW.
3. Sanatise - Using Stellar or Star San, as in above, add warm water but this time to near the top of the droid, add 22.5-25 ml of StellarSan (@ 1.5ml/l for the 15l or so to fill the Droid) and again, making sure it's right to the top of the Droid spew port.
Then let sit for a minimum of 1 hour but preferrably 2+ hours until you are ready to add water and ingredients.

In Steps 2. and 3. above, I'll make sure I do like the Droidcleanse tablets suggest, I run about 200ml our of the tap at about the halfway mark of the intended time to soak.

As well, when emptying the Droid, I will capture enough of the liquid to then soak the lid, tap and bung whilst it finishes draining as these are likely places where infections may begin.

As I use my Droid near the kitchen sink (ah the life of an apartment brewer), I capture the StellarClean and then the StellarSan in the sink and place lid, tap and bung into the liquid.

Finally, one thing I cannot reccomend enough is just before you close the lid after pitching yeast, spray the lid underside and sides with Stellar/Star San to ensure it get's one final hit of santising as the lid can sit there exposed to air and therefore all sorts of nasties as you add the ingredients.

Apologies if I'm being quite detailed and pedantic but I've experienced 2 infections, one from failing to clean/sanatise well enough which is where the above routine resulted and the second from making a hard seltzer using Yuzu Syrup that I didn't pasturize first.

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2 hours ago, Wazza_wantsbeer said:

@Steve Gyldenvand sorry to hear of your infection troubles as well.

May I ask, what products are you using to clean and sanatise your Droid?

As @Thagomizer said, as did the legend himself @Captain 3 Droids , always make sure you use a soft cloth to clean the inside surface of the Droid as any scratches, no matter how small, can harbour nasties that can cause an infection.

@Thagomizer, do you not clean, only sanatise?

I clean by first dislodging the scum from the sides of the droid by soaking and gently wiping with a soft wet cloth or wet paper towel.  This is with a lot of rinsing warm water.  When the sides and bottom are free of clinging crud, I spray with Star-San, wipe again, then fill and soak with a Star-San solution for two hours.  The lid gets the aforementioned treatment of soaking the gasket and wiping and spraying the previously cleaned lid bottom with Star-San.  I believe as I mentioned before that attention to the spigot* and the channel through the droid to the spigot must also be cleaned.  The previously cleaned spigot also gets soaked with the parts and the lid gasket.

And then, the droid is filled to within a centimeter of the top with hot Star-San solution and soaks for at least two hours.  Shortly after that, the droid is drained, refilled, and a new brew is launched with a clean start.

So far, these procedures have worked for me.

* Obviously, the spigot gets its soaking first.

🙂 Happy brewing.

Edited by Thagomizer
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In saying that, yes you get away with a rinse with water, spray with stella for a long time and then you cop it.

I'm on the Wazza train, I use PBW too. As I am most likely to bottle in the evening, I wash the droid out (I have the extendable taps with the pressure nozzle, wipe it down then fill the droid with warm water, try not to go over 40 degrees C as it can affect the plastic. Don't be too anal about the temp but just think "is it too warm to dip my balls in?" if you think it is, then add some cold water. For the love of god though, don't give it a try to see if it is too warm, there is no amount of explaining to the wife why you are pantsless, on the sink, crouching over the droid if she walks in unexpectedly into the kitchen.

Anyways, I leave it overnight, drain it in the morning, rinse it and then a sanitise spray and I will let it sit until next time.

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Thanks to @Wazza_wantsbeer, I am now adding PBW to my cleansing routine.  It will enhance and support my "elbow grease" effort with wet paper towels and warm water for removing gunk.  Also, microfiber cloths are now replacing the paper towels.  There will still be the two-hour soak in hot Star-San solution at the end.  So now, an effective cleanser precedes the sterilizer.

This topic has certainly upped my game and really justifies the forum.

🙂 Happy brewing.

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  • 2 weeks later...
Posted (edited)

June 5 update.

Well, it looks like I have it under control. I'm afraid Rob's Balls quality may have suffered a touch; it seems just a mite tangy, but still very drinkable. It was after bottling that one that I essentially nuked the droid before laying down an Abbey Dubbel. That one hit 2 weeks yesterday, and I sampled one to check it. Since it seemed just fine, I opened another strictly for quality control purposes, and am now convinced that my issue has been resolved. 

Good news/bad news of this experience:

The good; I learned not to get too confident, which can lead to carelessness. It is impossible to get the damn equipment too clean or too sanitary, so take the extra time to overdo it a bit.

The bad; as I said, I had a few bad batches that were a bit tart, but still drinkable. However, I had one entire batch of Lawn Mower that was essentially vinegar and had to be dumped. (Side note on that one: when I opened all those bottles to dump them, they pretty much all exhibited that explosive over-carbonation that I mentioned elsewhere on the forum recently, so I have a hunch the two issues were both a result of a growing infection problem.)

Anyway, thanks to all for your input. Happy brewing, and...

Slainte!

Edited by Steve Gyldenvand
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On 06/06/2024 at 4:26 AM, Steve Gyldenvand said:

June 5 update.

Well, it looks like I have it under control. I'm afraid Rob's Balls quality may have suffered a touch; it seems just a mite tangy,

There is a very good joke in there...

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