On the odd chance that I have any readers left after my four months without a post (sorry), I’ve decided to get back into the swing of blogging with something really basic. I haven’t been doing nearly as much brewing as I would like—I had planned to brew each of the last three weekends, for example, but life got in the way—but I have been reading several beer-related books, magazines and tweets, and listening to some informative podcasts. I wanted to highlight something I heard on Basic Brewing Radio about a method for testing your sanitation skills. Since I have yet to be completely happy with a beer I’ve brewed, I’m going to give it a try next time.
Wyeast Labs’ David Logsdon suggested that anyone suffering off-flavors in their beer, or otherwise concerned about their sanitation practices, conduct a “wort stability test.”
First, I should mention that Basic Brewing Radio has archived all of its podcasts dating back to its debut in July of 2005. The titles for these weekly podcasts referenced the most foundational topics in homebrewing—yeast, hops, the malting process—so I started from the very beginning. I’m almost to 2006 now and have learned a lot from host James Spencer’s discussions with representatives who are very knowledgeable about their respective fields.
For example, Spencer spent three episodes (Oct. 27, 2005; Nov. 3, 2005; Nov. 10, 2005) talking about yeast with David Logsdon, a co-founder of Wyeast Laboratories, Inc., who among other things invented the “smack packs” that so many homebrewers use as their source of yeast for a beer. Logsdon shared a ton of great information on yeast and its use in a homebrewing setting, but he also shared the following very generic tip as well. Something so simple that I wondered why I hadn’t thought of it myself.
He suggested that anyone suffering off-flavors in their beer, or otherwise concerned about their sanitation practices, conduct a “wort stability test.” Here’s how:
Wort Stability Test
- In addition to your normal brew day routine, clean and sanitize a jar or flask.
- Make your beer as usual but take a sample (in this case, a couple ounces of wort) before you add yeast to begin the fermentation process. Add this to the flask prepared in step 1.
- Cover the jar or flask with foil and set the sample on your counter.
- According to Logsdon, the wort sample should remain stable for three or so days if the wort is free of bacteria. Otherwise it will ferment on its own, producing phenolic odors and a cloudiness in the sample. If the latter happens, you need to reconsider your cleaning habits and think about pitching some bacteria-harboring buckets or tubing.
I consider myself a pretty thorough cleaner and I just purchased a brand new (read: scratch-free) plastic six-gallon bucket for fermentation, but this simple test could turn out to be pretty enlightening. Or just plain embarrassing.
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