Showing posts with label campden tablets. Show all posts
Showing posts with label campden tablets. Show all posts

How to tell if your brew is infected by bacteria

Thursday, October 26, 2023

There's a super simple way to determine if your beer brew is contaminated

Ready for hot tip?

You taste it. 

If it tastes like the scummiest thing you've ever put in your mouth, it's infected.

tasting infected beer

If the sensation mirrors that of the foulest thing you've ever tasted, it's tainted. If it induces nausea, it's tainted. A sulfur bomb that smells of rotten eggs aroma? Infected. An explosion reminiscent of a rigorously shaken bottle upon opening? Likely contaminated due to over-carbonation from rogue yeast or bacteria. Don't confuse this with the aftermath of adding excessive sugar during priming, known as a beer bomb.

Remember, if you're questioning whether your beer is contaminated, it probably is.

Before bottling, consider visually inspecting your beer. Keep an eye out for a 'pellicle' or yeast raft at the wort's surface, signaling a congregation of microbes. Though not every infection results in this formation, its presence is a clear sign:

infected beer wort in fermenter drum

Discovering such an infection is undeniably disheartening. You've not only lost time and resources, but your hard-earned efforts have gone down the drain.

Yet, this misadventure is an invaluable lesson in the essence of brewing:


Having learned my lesson, it's been years since I encountered an infected batch. Cleaning may seem laborious, but if you crave a perfect pint, it's non-negotiable.

Root Causes of Infection

The primary culprit? Lack of cleanliness. Any remnants offer bacteria a haven, escalating the risk of infection. Every piece of equipment, from fermenters to mash tuns, requires meticulous cleaning. Hot to boiling water paired with a reliable cleaning agent, like Powdered Brewery Wash, will serve you well.

Then comes sanitization. Sodium percarbonate is a top choice. It's not only effective but also conveniently found in everyday laundry soak.

For bottling or kegging, the same rules apply. Clean, then sanitize. A nifty trick for bottles is to rinse them thoroughly, then cycle them through a dishwasher on its hottest setting. This annihilates any lingering microbes. Store them in a pristine container, and on bottling day, a brief soak in sodium percarbonate ensures they're ready.

If only a few bottles from a batch taste off, the problem likely lies with individual bottles, not the entire batch.
mega pellicle for an infected beer batch
This "mega Pellicle' was from a beer brew that was found to be infected.

Addressing the Rotten Egg Smell Mystery 

The signature rotten egg aroma can be a telltale sign of contamination. Yet, it doesn't always spell disaster. Some yeast strains naturally exude this scent. Bottle-conditioned beers, if opened prematurely, can also exhibit this aroma. Over time, as yeast continues its work, the odor dissipates.

In areas with water high in sulphate, like Burton-on-Trent, England, this scent is inherent – the famed 'Burton Snatch'. But if bacteria are the cause, the aroma, combined with an unpleasant taste, confirms your beer's unfortunate fate.

For wine or cider enthusiasts, fruits' natural yeasts can be disruptive. Many cider makers employ Campden tablets to neutralize wild yeast, substituting with yeast strains better aligned with their desired product.

Using Campden tablets combat infection when brewing cider

Monday, October 23, 2023

The 'Old School' Secret to Better-Tasting Beer

In the world of brewing, Campden tablets have long been revered as an 'old school' method to enhance the quality of beer. But what makes these tablets so special? 

Let's delve deep into the fascinating world of Campden tablets and their multifaceted uses in brewing.

using cambden tablets with beer brewing

Understanding Campden Tablets: The Super Pill of Brewing

At first glance, one might wonder if Campden tablets are some kind of super pill. Their primary components are potassium metabisulfite or sodium metabisulfite. Their primary function? To react with chlorine (or chloramine) when added to beer, cider, or wine, effectively removing it from the solution.

The best part? This entire process takes place without imparting any unwanted flavors to the beverage.

  • Dosage and Application: How Many Campden Tablets Should I Use? For this purpose, 16 tablets per gallon are recommended.
  • Removing Chlorine from Water: Half a tablet for every 5 to 6 gallons is sufficient, breaking down the chlorine in under 10 minutes.
  • Stabilizing Apple Juice for Cider Production: One crushed tablet per gallon of juice is ideal. Remember to wait for approximately 24 hours before introducing the yeast.
  • Combatting Infection in Cider or Wine: In cases of infections, 1 or 2 crushed tablets can be dissolved in the product. It's worth noting that the success of this method can vary.

Safety Concerns: Are Campden Tablets Safe to Use?

Absolutely. Over the years, these tablets have proved to be safe for consumption. A common query revolves around the release of sulfur dioxide. While it's true that sulfur dioxide is introduced into the water, its concentration diminishes massively by the time the beer is consumed, ensuring that the beer remains safe to drink.

Campden Tablets and Cider Production: A Crucial Relationship

Cider producers are well-acquainted with the threat of acetobacter bacteria contamination. Fortunately, while yeast remains resistant to Campden tablets, acetobacter is not, making these tablets a vital tool in cider production.

The Role of Campden Tablets in Wine Production

Campden tablets serve dual purposes in wine production:
  • Preventing Bacterial Growth: They deter stray bacteria from affecting the wine.
  • Acting as an Anti-Oxidizing Agent: Especially useful when transferring wine between containers, ensuring that any oxygen introduced is effectively neutralized.

Debunking Myths: Can Campden Tablets Halt Fermentation?

Contrary to popular belief, Campden tablets cannot be used to stop the fermentation process in wine or beer. Attempting to do so would require an excessive amount of tablets, rendering the beverage undrinkable.

campden tables for brewin beer ph

A Glimpse into History: The Origins of Campden Tablets

The story of Campden tablets dates back to the 1920s when the solution was developed by the Fruit and Vegetable Preserving Research Station in 'Chipping Campden', England. Its popularity soared when the Boots UK pharmacy chain introduced it in tablet form.

To Use or Not to Use: Are Campden Tablets Essential for Brewing?

The decision to use Campden tablets is subjective and depends on individual preferences and regional water quality. In places with high chlorine content, like Havelock North, New Zealand, the tablets come highly recommended. However, there are alternative methods available for those who opt against them, such as active carbon filters for removing chlorine and chloramine, and other sanitizing agents like sodium percarbonate and Powdered Brewery Wash for equipment sterilization.

campden tablets for beer making

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