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How to spot an infected beer

by Jordan Hart July 06, 2021 2 min read

How to spot an infected beer

Ever thought about skipping the middleman and trying home brewing?

But felt cautious due to not knowing if it’s turning bad?

Batch beer is a tricky process, but worth it for that glorious reward of beer. Most importantly it’s key to be able to spot if it’s contaminated and infected.

Fermentation could look different depending on the batch however there are signs that can make you think “ew no something’s wrong here”. It's very important to inspect your homemade science experiment (I mean beer) just so you don’t waste a perfectly good brew on a few bad bubbles!

Fermentation gives the appearance of foamy bubbles resting on the top, so it may seem like something is a bit wrong, but it's natural!

Spoiling happens when bacteria or wild yeast increase in population, causing damage to your beer. This can be for a multitude of reasons, such as cross contamination or just bad luck. So don’t put yourself down buddy!

Now, you’re probably thinking, well how do I spot it? I’ll tell you!

A first step would be to look for mould, simply just the classic mouldy bread kind of look. Those vile white, green or blue fuzzy dots, they’ll be resting just atop of your concoction, in this case, dig deep below the surface and have a taste to check its not sour, if it is, toss it. If it isn’t, scoop the mould you can see and carry on fermenting. This usually is a problem when you’re leaving it for too long, so as long as you try to avoid that it should be okay!

Next is if you see a pellicle forming. This is a chalky looking layer on the top, sometimes wavy looking or sometimes tiny bubbles sitting on the surface. This is due to it coming into contact with oxygen, it’s formed as a way for the wild yeast/ bacteria to protect itself from the oxygen present. If it's too sour, once again chuck it!

Alas, there’s no pellicle or mould, hurray! But wait.. it still tastes awful? This means a step along the way could have been contaminated by an unsterile piece of equipment. So it’s time to try again, but practice makes perfect remember.

These can be easily prevented such as making sure the entire process and space it’s created in is clean and sanitised as any bacteria can jeopardise your wild yeast so it's definitely important for you to ensure things are sanitary for a nice uninfected beer. Unless you’re certain it’s a bad batch and definitely infected, don’t throw it out and waste the yeast. It takes time and patience in order to get a successful brew.

So most importantly, regular observation over your beer is very important so you can see all these changes if they occur and you can nip them in the bud straight away. However beer is a very sturdy chemical balance so a little issue won’t throw the entire batch into a tailspin, just keep at it and you’ll be great at it in no time!

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