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Southernhighlander

Possible Mash Infection, Need Help

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Yeah SCD has it covered here. Lots of unfermentables with that mash protocol and lots of love for bacteria.

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1 hour ago, Silk City Distillers said:

Ok, lots of work to do here.

 

Silk City is 100% right.  I can not believe that is the amount of bacteria that grew in 5 days!  Either their cleaning is way substandard, their enviornment is filthy or the corn is covered in mold, or everything combined.  That looks like a sour beer after a month of festering in a barrel, not a 5 day ferment.  I've said I have had some infections before, but it's never been so bad that I've been able to see the cultures. That is naaaasty!

19 brix to 4 brix is a complete fermentation. Southern, do you understand how a brix refractometer works?  The alcohol distorts the readin and you need to use a calculator to convert it from brix to SG.  That FG is under 1.0

Also, heating the vapor temp to 200 is way too high. He's surely smearing.

And I know all this is wrong despite my great grandfather building cars and not distilling.

 

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47 minutes ago, Silk City Distillers said:

In addition to the mineral additions, he should try using 5-10% liquid backset/stillage to help boost mineral and nutrient content.

No. Not until he gets the basics down.  Right now the customer is way over his head and needs to hire a consultant or go to a school.  If he starts doing stuff like adding backset he's going to screw this up even more.

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From my very limited knowledge this all makes sense.  Silk City nailed it.  Thanks to everyone on here, great place to learn.

 

Adam

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Silk City,

 

Thank you very much for taking the time to help.  I will pass this along to my customer.  I learned a lot from your info myself.

 

Jeffw,  I will pass your info along as well.  Thank you.

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2 hours ago, MGL said:

Silk City is 100% right.  I can not believe that is the amount of bacteria that grew in 5 days!  Either their cleaning is way substandard, their enviornment is filthy or the corn is covered in mold, or everything combined.  That looks like a sour beer after a month of festering in a barrel, not a 5 day ferment.  I've said I have had some infections before, but it's never been so bad that I've been able to see the cultures. That is naaaasty!

19 brix to 4 brix is a complete fermentation. Southern, do you understand how a brix refractometer works?  The alcohol distorts the readin and you need to use a calculator to convert it from brix to SG.  That FG is under 1.0

Also, heating the vapor temp to 200 is way too high. He's surely smearing.

And I know all this is wrong despite my great grandfather building cars and not distilling.

 

MGL,

You should reread what silk city wrote.  It does not appear that there is a cleaning problem mold problem or anything like that.  I think my customer will take silk city's advice and run with it. 

I will let everyone know how things turn out.

  Thanks again Silk City.  You should do some distilling workshops or classes at your distillery.  I know that I would certainly attend.

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A lot of great information here. I learned some new and helpful things here myself.

Looks like it's been zeroed in on as the problem, but I didn't see it mentioned anywhere whether they're grinding their grain in the same room they ferment. I'd advise doing that in a separate room or outside if possible. Worth considering in addition to everything else.

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28 minutes ago, Sator Square Distillery said:

A lot of great information here. I learned some new and helpful things here myself.

Looks like it's been zeroed in on as the problem, but I didn't see it mentioned anywhere whether they're grinding their grain in the same room they ferment. I'd advise doing that in a separate room or outside if possible. Worth considering in addition to everything else.

Thank you.  I will let them know.

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56 minutes ago, Southernhighlander said:

MGL,

You should reread what silk city wrote.  It does not appear that there is a cleaning problem mold problem or anything like that.  I think my customer will take silk city's advice and run with it.

Ok, if you want to believe that much bacteria magically got in there then you go ahead and just believe that.  Basic science says otherwise.

I've had one of my assistants forget to pitch yeast for two days and there wasn't a hint of detectable growth. Your customer has a massive infection after only a couple days. Ther are more problems than just the initial mash.

But what do I know? I only make asnd sell a few hundred full size barrels a year. You're the expert because your great great great granpappy made a little shine.

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2 minutes ago, Southernhighlander said:

I will let them know.

Why? According to you there is no contamination going on.

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33 minutes ago, MGL said:

Why? According to you there is no contamination going on.

I never said that.  What I said, if you distill it down:D, was that the open top fermentation of corn is a common and acceptable practice and that it has been done that way for a very long time.

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1 hour ago, Southernhighlander said:

MGL,

It does not appear that there is a cleaning problem mold problem or anything like that.

 

 

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7 minutes ago, MGL said:

Ok, if you want to believe that much bacteria magically got in there then you go ahead and just believe that.  Basic science says otherwise.

I've had one of my assistants forget to pitch yeast for two days and there wasn't a hint of detectable growth. Your customer has a massive infection after only a couple days. Ther are more problems than just the initial mash.

But what do I know? I only make asnd sell a few hundred full size barrels a year. You're the expert because your great great great granpappy made a little shine.

My friend the main problem was the RO water that my customer was using.  Silk city figured that out for us.  This guy keeps a very clean distillery.  My customers problem has been solved.  I have no interest in arguing with you.

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Yes, I most certainly said: "It does not appear that there is a cleaning problem or mold problem".  That is a very different statement than "there is no contamination going on".  

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Grinding your grain, particularly a great deal of it, in the same room you ferment has the potential to cause problems. It's not necessarily something that you could easily mitigate just by a cleaning regime as all that fine particulate gets airborne. It doesn't mean it has anything to do with the problem at hand even if they're doing that (which they may not be). But if he's working with his customer to take a hard look at their operation, it's just a good idea to be as comprehensive as possible. I would think that would be fairly obvious, but what do I know.

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14 minutes ago, Sator Square Distillery said:

Grinding your grain, particularly a great deal of it, in the same room you ferment has the potential to cause problems. It's not necessarily something that you could easily mitigate just by a cleaning regime as all that fine particulate gets airborne. It doesn't mean it has anything to do with the problem at hand even if they're doing that (which they may not be). But if he's working with his customer to take a hard look at their operation, it's just a good idea to be as comprehensive as possible. I would think that would be fairly obvious, but what do I know.

Thank you,  I don't know if they are grinding their grain in the distilling area or not, but I did take your advice and I emailed them, letting them know that they should not do that.

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While it certainly seems like the main issue has been identified, another possible problem could also be caused by using RO water. 

If they have an RO system anything like mine, it probably runs pretty slow.  Are they by any chance making RO water in advance of mashing, and then letting it sit untreated for any period of time?  If so this could provide extra time for bacteria to grow in the water prior to mashing.  At my distillery we remove the chlorine/chloramine about a day prior to mashing and store this in a tank.  As I am concerned about bacteria growth in the time between de-clorinating and mashing, we run all the mash water through a UV light immediately as it enters the mash tun.  This is a fairly cheap and simple upgrade with the only maintenance being a change of bulb once a year.

They might also want to grab a bacteria test kit, and check the RO water they are making to confirm its not letting bacteria through either because it is not installed properly or needs new filters, etc.

Just a few more thoughts to pass on to these folks! :)

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Bit late, but I'll throw in my 2 cents (disclaimer, I have not read every post on this thread, so apologies if I am repeating others). As Silk City pointed out, your water and mashing protocol are likely both causing problems, which are having a knock-on effect on your fermentations.
 - You should definitely be remineralizing water.
 - You need to completely revamp your mashing protocol. Not sure what enzymes you are using, but they are not working because you need to gelatinize your starch (corn has a high gelatinization temp) before they can do their job. If you have a bit of good malt and a good protocol, you shouldn't need any exogenous enzymes or nutrients at all. I would expect your current mash to have very poor conversion. You can confirm this with a simple iodine starch test (should also be evident by just tasting it). Your mash pH is on the high side, but not necessarily problematic on its own. 

- There is likely lactic acid bacteria in your ferments, but that is not usually a bad thing, and it's not what's causing that pellicle. Your ferments are a very inhospitable environment for most bad bacteria due to the acidity, alcohol and minimal O2. Microbial problems are more likely fungal, not bacterial. That pellicle also does not look bacterial or like kahm yeast. It looks like textbook Brettanomyces, which is a different genus of yeast (standard distillers, brewers and bakers yeast is Saccharomyces cerevisiae, including Red Star DADY). This would be consistent with your mashing problems, as many strains of Brett are capable of producing amylase enzymes, allowing them to use some of the longer chain saccharides left from the poor mash that S cerevisiae cannot use. Depending on the strain(s) and conditions, Brett is capable of producing some lovely flavors, but also some terrible ones. I would also recommend lowering your starting fermentation temp, not letting it get up to 90F, and possibly aerating it a bit, but more data on it would be useful. If you are still having issues after correcting your water and mash problems and really want to dial in on the faults, I would take gravity, pH and temperature readings every 8 hours, also noting the aroma, flavor, appearance and vigor of the fermentation each time.

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On 2/13/2018 at 10:30 AM, MGL said:

Yeah,  you chime in every single thread with your business pitch.

 

It does get a bit tiresome doesn't it.

 

 

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3 hours ago, Southernhighlander said:

My friend the main problem was the RO water that my customer was using.  Silk city figured that out for us.  This guy keeps a very clean distillery.  My customers problem has been solved.  I have no interest in arguing with you.

You're customer already solved his problem and has distilled a successful batch since last night? You're dang good!

(Note to self: never reach out to Southernhighlander for any sort of distillery consulting)

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Indyspirits,

 

To address your concerns: So on the plastic stainless totes thread.  I posted that I have new metalcraft 350 gallon stainless totes for $1,920 and that I have 550 gallon stainless totes for $2,400.  Since I posted that yesterday i have sold 4 of the 550s and i have another customer who is getting ready to pull the trigger on 6 350s.  The 350s of the same brand normally sell for as much as $3000.   the guy who bought the 4 was really happy and thanked me profusely for posting on ADI.  I help people like that on here almost everyday, and people thank me for it almost every day.   I am here for my customers.  If you don't like my posts you can simply ignore them. Unless the powers that be tell me to stop helping people on here with their equipment needs, I will keep offering my equipment.  But thank you for the input:D

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1 hour ago, MGL said:

You're customer already solved his problem and has distilled a successful batch since last night? You're dang good!

(Note to self: never reach out to Southernhighlander for any sort of distillery consulting)

I never said that he ran a successful batch, but he and I believe that silk city is correct and that the RO water is the problem. If you have any positive input I am sure that he will be interested in hearing it.  My customer will be signing up to ADI and will be posting some more questions on this thread.  If you have anymore questions or concerns about his process you can ask him directly.  He really appreciates the help that everyone has given him

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2 hours ago, SpiritedConsultant said:

Bit late, but I'll throw in my 2 cents (disclaimer, I have not read every post on this thread, so apologies if I am repeating others). As Silk City pointed out, your water and mashing protocol are likely both causing problems, which are having a knock-on effect on your fermentations.
 - You should definitely be remineralizing water.
 - You need to completely revamp your mashing protocol. Not sure what enzymes you are using, but they are not working because you need to gelatinize your starch (corn has a high gelatinization temp) before they can do their job. If you have a bit of good malt and a good protocol, you shouldn't need any exogenous enzymes or nutrients at all. I would expect your current mash to have very poor conversion. You can confirm this with a simple iodine starch test (should also be evident by just tasting it). Your mash pH is on the high side, but not necessarily problematic on its own. 

- There is likely lactic acid bacteria in your ferments, but that is not usually a bad thing, and it's not what's causing that pellicle. Your ferments are a very inhospitable environment for most bad bacteria due to the acidity, alcohol and minimal O2. Microbial problems are more likely fungal, not bacterial. That pellicle also does not look bacterial or like kahm yeast. It looks like textbook Brettanomyces, which is a different genus of yeast (standard distillers, brewers and bakers yeast is Saccharomyces cerevisiae, including Red Star DADY). This would be consistent with your mashing problems, as many strains of Brett are capable of producing amylase enzymes, allowing them to use some of the longer chain saccharides left from the poor mash that S cerevisiae cannot use. Depending on the strain(s) and conditions, Brett is capable of producing some lovely flavors, but also some terrible ones. I would also recommend lowering your starting fermentation temp, not letting it get up to 90F, and possibly aerating it a bit, but more data on it would be useful. If you are still having issues after correcting your water and mash problems and really want to dial in on the faults, I would take gravity, pH and temperature readings every 8 hours, also noting the aroma, flavor, appearance and vigor of the fermentation each time.

   It is actually one of my customers that is having the issues.  He will be on here in the next day or so.  I'm sure that he will really appreciate your input.

Thank you very much for the help.  I just gave you a thank you point:D

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16 hours ago, Silk City Distillers said:

 

3. The mash protocol sucks (sorry, it does), I'm not sure who trained him on that approach, or if he developed it himself, but it's suboptimal.  We don't know the total grist used to hit 19 brix.  If it's around 500lbs (per 265g batch), it might be ok.  I'm not going to dwell here except to say that the way the mash is being done, it will create lots of unfermentable dextrins, which are loved by non-yeast bacteria as food (like brett), and will likely result in what looks like a stuck fermentation.

This is the issue.  It's not water (although that needs fixing, too). it's not sanitation.  Your customers simply aren't liquifying the corn.  It's why the hydrometer isn't dropping to zero.  If you're making a bourbon, if you drop a hydrometer ranged 12-0 Plato in the "finished" fermenter and the hydrometer doesn't sink to the bottom of the fermenter after all those enzymes you added...something is wrong.

The starch in corn/barley/rye is surrounded by a cell wall made up of proteins, lignins, beta glucans etc. in varying amounts.  You need to dissolve the cell walls with heat (gelatinization) before you get to the starch.  What you're looking at is a lactobacillus pellicle.   All that lactobacillus comes in with the malt, which is rife with lactobacillus.  The 90F fermentation you're citing eggs it on.

As for the "Super sour, astringent, skunky, medicinal, and also metallic flavor in distillate especially at higher proofs.  Sometimes the skunk works it’s way out once we settle into a lower proof, sometimes it stays through the whole run"  Here your customer is describing acrolein...also known by industrial vodka producers as "the peppers".  Essentially the lactic acid bacteria is metabolizing glycerol in the mash, which yields acrolein in the distillate. 

Warning:  If the level gets to high...they might have to evacuate the shop.  Acrolein is a strong irritant that was actually used as an irritant gas in World War I.  So your customers need to fix this, pronto.....and, of course, not distill mash that looks like the one pictured.

Tell them to add their corn at the higher temperatures listed FIRST to liquify the cell walls, and work their way backwards to the lower temperatures and THEN add the enzymes to saccharify the starch.  They are mashing backwards, essentially.  Their fermentations are filled with starch, which the lactobacillus is more than happy to consume because the yeast can't eat that starch and therefore isn't competing with the lactobacillus...which is why the infection is happening so fast.   If they need to know the gelatinization temperatures of corn, rye, barley....Google.

Silk City....good advice, and I like your Bourbon Labels.....

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Denver Distiller,

 

Wow, talk about missing the obvious.   When this customer told me that they were having problems the first thing that I asked is if they were liquefying their mash and they said yes and so then I sent them over to the distillery in VA that does our distilling workshops.  They did not take the workshop but they did spend a couple of hours asking questions and learning the process at that distillery, so I figured they were using the correct mashing procedure after that but there must have been a misunderstanding.   Anyway, I was really busy when the customer sent over a description of the process and so I did not read before I posted it here, because I assumed that they were mashing correctly, after visiting the other distillery.  I just read it and I see what you mean.   

My process for corn and the process that I suggest to my customers is to add the enzymes to liquify the mash between 120 and 130 F and then heat up to 185 and cook, then crash cool to 150 to add the starch to sugar conversion enzymes and or Barley, then allow starch to sugar conversion to take place than crash cool to 83 f and add the yeast then ferment in an open top fermenter, keeping the temp at between 75 and 85.  I think now with what Silk City told us about the RO water (which i did not know because I had never used RO water)  and what you just pointed out, the problems should be solved.  Thanks a bunch for pointing out the obvious.

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