View Full Version : The Unfortunate Vinegar Debacle

05-20-2010, 01:53 AM
Yes, yes, I have already succumbed to this most dastardly of demons....the Mother!

However, *wipes forehead*, not due to anything mead-related, but rather a stupid set of mistakes while malting barley....

It goes like this: I had 3 pounds of barley and 2 pounds of wheat on hand, and i thought, "hey! I should malt these suckers and make a braggot!". So I proceeded to do all the rinsing, soaking, and draining prior to setting the little babies out to sprout...and sprout they did! The wheat was done in 2.5-3 days, and the barley was doing great...but then....it slowed to a halt. Hmmm, I wondered, what's wrong? And why does there seem to be a bit too much moisture in the barley containers? A few whiffs let me know something was terribly wrong.

The wheat was drying in preparation for kilning, so I had to deal with sorting that out first. Once that was all tucked away neatly, I pulled out the barley to deal with it. Oy. If that isn't a vinegar smell, I don't know what is! As sad as I was, I knew I needed to deal with it, because being in an 800-sq. ft. apartment, that's not any buffer room at all between a possibly horrific acetobacter infection and my meads! (Especially my beloved poltorak!) So I rushed like a madman: I sorted out the barley, and was intent on at least drying some of it out (at the very least I could end up making malt vinegar), when I had finished the first 1.5 lbs and turned on the second. Well, here's the culprit! Before long, I have some rather mysteriously firm, slimy balls in my hands. I immediately ran to the bathroom and grabbed a jar from under the sink (I have few places to store collected glassware :p), threw them in, covered them in brandy and some water and ran outside with it as fast as I could. It's sitting on the porch now. I the proceeded to frantically grab all the barley from that container, thrust it in the trash and stick that by the door. The remaining barley went immediately into an oven on warm for some flash-drying, and I was back in a flash with a bowl of bleach-water and a sponge! After wiping surfaces down like a madman, and dashing the trash out to the dumpster, I had finally removed and isolated as much of the bacteria-exposed substances as possible.

Since I could breathe, I took some pictures of what I captured. Now, I know that Acetobacter (and I'm fairly certain that's what I've got) doesn't like high ABV, and given the brandy I put it in is rather high, even though I diluted it, I'm not sure if the culture will survive. After all this hard work at spoiling my barley, I may want a good vinegar out of it. ;) By the way, it smells really, really good!

So anyways, I'm going to be a bit on edge for the next few days that that bacteria doesn't end up in my meads, since I have active aerating I need to do!

My theory: there was too much water left with the barley, combined with bad sanitary practice (yeah, yeah, i didn't have lye or anything....*slaps wrist*) and too much open air exposure led to some feral yeast fermenting the converted sugars, and the present acetobacter began its magical work.

Here's some pictures of what I caught in the wild (it's bit firm, but covered in barley):

Medsen Fey
05-20-2010, 09:52 AM
I doubt it will survive in brandy (but hey, it could surprise me). Putting in in a bottle with some mead (diluted) or beer or cider would probably be better for propagating it.

Don't worry about your meads. Just practice good sanitation when manipulating them, and make sure there is no air in the headspace (or no headspace). Without air, acetic acid bacteria cause no harm.

05-20-2010, 03:55 PM
From my short experience with malting, mold (or etc) contamination control is very important. Using sulfite in the water for soaking helps, and keeping the grain stirred to prevent any one spot from getting too waterlogged is also good.

My oven still smells funny from the batch of millet that went off. I don't think what I had was acetobacter, I got more of a lactic sour smell plus the funk of mold.

05-20-2010, 07:40 PM
From my short experience with malting, mold (or etc) contamination control is very important. Using sulfite in the water for soaking helps, and keeping the grain stirred to prevent any one spot from getting too waterlogged is also good.

Yes, the sad part is I know that :p Hehe, but I was just not thinking straight. *sigh*, at least barley's cheap as they come. Now I have some Quinoa and Amaranth to experiment with.... :p That would make an...erm..interesting braggot (wheat, quinoa/amaranth)

05-20-2010, 08:50 PM
I just like saying quinoa. :)

05-20-2010, 11:44 PM
Quinoa and amaranth make good beer. Quinoa malts pretty easily too.

05-22-2010, 11:43 PM
Oh the suspense!
You tell it with such a dramatic flourish it made me get nervous and start biting my fingernails.

I wouldn't worry too much about contamination of your batches as long as you practice good sanitation. I have made vinegar alongside batches of mead before with no problems. It's just acetobacter it's not the "Predator."