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View Full Version : Health Hazards of Delayed Fermentation?



wide-raft
08-09-2013, 01:03 AM
Quick question.

I'm trying a couple of different wild fermentations.

Because I have not added a yeast packet, I am relying on either airborne wild yeast or yeast in the honey or on the spices.

The obvious risk is that I can't control the quality of the eventual brew. It may not be strong, it may have off flavors, etc. I am doing this because I'm curious and hopeful.

My question is:
What are the health hazards of a delayed fermentation? If it sits for a week or more without beginning primary fermentation, are there invisible bad things going on? Could there be? I would think that a mold would be visible, and I'm not sure that something like botulism would occur, but I don't know. Could weird bacteria multiply without producing any visible sign (like bubbles)?

I want to experiment with this, and so I'm going to be patient with each batch. But I wonder if anyone can point me in the direction where I can research potential microbiological issues with this? Honey itself is pretty stable, but when it's been watered down, what then?

I have brewed meads in the past with some very superb results. I used ec1118 yeast on those. Initially it tasted all right, and then about a year or two after bottling the flavor of those batches were phenomenal. I'm interested in wild fermentation as a process and I'm open to what results.

Here is my mead log / recipe of the brews in question:

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It feels so wrong to do all this work and then put into the primary fermenter. It seems so dubious and certain to spoil.

8/3/13
First Mead: Whole Comb Honey and Water

We bought a whole comb from somebody who keeps bees nearby. I unwrapped this and dropped it into the jar. Then I added distilled water.

1 comb with honey
Distilled Water

First I put distilled water in the saucepan with lid on and boiled for a few minutes. Then I added the glass jar, turned upside down, and let boil for a few minutes. Then I poured the water into the jar, sloshed it around, and dumped it out.

I did not use the rubber seal that came with the hinge-top jar, because I did not want the glass to break once fermentation began. I kept this jar in a brown paper bag inside our cabin. Temperature fluctuation probably 65-85 F.

8/5, new moon - I moderately swirled it (did not open the container). Maybe there are a few yeasty bubbles. Maybe not.

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Second Batch: 1 Gallon plus a quart remainder

Using large brew kettle, 1 quart blackberry honey from local source and many spices.
(cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, mace, fennel pollen, vanilla extract)

Sterilized cookpot and gallon bottle in similar manner as above. Brought 1 gallon of distilled water to a boil and then as it cooled I added the honey and the spices. Left in there for a bit, and then drained into gallon jug with airlock. Not all the spices were coming through the brew pot's spigot, so I added more directly into the jug. The remainder went in the honey jar with lid screwed on loosely and a bit of distilled water added to bring the total toward the top. Fingers crossed. Same feeling as before: Certain failure?

8/5; - To the carboy, I swirled it and shook it up vigorously for awhile. Every day since then I have vigorously shaken both the jar and carboy to encourage yeast action.

To the jar, I shook vigorously and added a slice of ripe peach (mostly skin). I am wondering whether the peach skin has enough wild yeast on it to get the thing going.

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akueck
08-09-2013, 10:55 PM
As a general rule, if it smells and tastes ok it should be fine. Spoilage of mead will create nasty-tasting things, but no pathogens should be living in there.

I did some wild yeast capturing awhile back as well. You might need to repitch whatever you collect a few times before you get a stable, nice-tasting batch.

wide-raft
08-11-2013, 12:09 AM
As a general rule, if it smells and tastes ok it should be fine. Spoilage of mead will create nasty-tasting things, but no pathogens should be living in there.

I did some wild yeast capturing awhile back as well. You might need to repitch whatever you collect a few times before you get a stable, nice-tasting batch.

Repitching in this case would be ... pouring it into a pot and then back into the carboy? Since I'm not adding any yeast?

I have since then successfully collected some wild yeast on some peach skins and another just using a few crushed grapes in distilled water. But I was going to wait on using this as a starter for the mead. Is it possible that it might take several weeks before the wild yeasts start doing something within the mead? I'm guessing that there aren't many folks who have much experience with letting a stuck mead sit and then coming back several years later to find that it all turned out well. It's hard to be patient!

WVMJack
08-11-2013, 06:49 AM
Bees dont mind walking on dog poop and going right back to the hive, just something to consider when you want to collect natural yeasts. WVMJ

akueck
08-11-2013, 09:18 PM
Perhaps repitching was not the best word to use. What I meant was that you might need to make a small batch, collect the yeast from that and pitch into another small batch, ... lather rinse repeat.

Your first go will contain lots and lots of different organisms. Some will not survive through to the end of fermentation (due to lack of CO2 or alcohol tolerance, most likely). So you will end with a different culture than you started with. Pitch this into another batch and you will get some more population shifts. Eventually the culture will stabilize, but it might take a few passes.

Passing the culture through several batches before turning it into a "good" batch also gets rid of nasties that die off in that first one or two batches.

mannye
08-11-2013, 11:32 PM
From what I remember, pathogens don't survive the process of fermentation. That does not mean that they won't contribute nasty off flavors, but they won't make you sick. So even though something nasty might be lurking in there before it ferments, afterwards it will be dead.

Here's a lame source, but it kind of says what I said.

http://science.howstuffworks.com/innovation/edible-innovations/food-preservation6.htm

wide-raft
08-12-2013, 01:26 PM
Bees dont mind walking on dog poop and going right back to the hive, just something to consider when you want to collect natural yeasts. WVMJ

There should be some way that I could do a job interview before hiring those guys.

wide-raft
08-12-2013, 01:29 PM
Perhaps repitching was not the best word to use. What I meant was that you might need to make a small batch, collect the yeast from that and pitch into another small batch, ... lather rinse repeat.

Your first go will contain lots and lots of different organisms. Some will not survive through to the end of fermentation (due to lack of CO2 or alcohol tolerance, most likely). So you will end with a different culture than you started with. Pitch this into another batch and you will get some more population shifts. Eventually the culture will stabilize, but it might take a few passes.

Passing the culture through several batches before turning it into a "good" batch also gets rid of nasties that die off in that first one or two batches.

Oh, cool. Yeah, I didn't understand that from your first post. When you mention nasties, is there any way of knowing what those might be?

wide-raft
08-12-2013, 01:35 PM
From what I remember, pathogens don't survive the process of fermentation. That does not mean that they won't contribute nasty off flavors, but they won't make you sick. So even though something nasty might be lurking in there before it ferments, afterwards it will be dead.

Here's a lame source, but it kind of says what I said.

http://science.howstuffworks.com/innovation/edible-innovations/food-preservation6.htm

So even if something sits for a couple of months without fermenting, (the dog poo goo invisibly growing in the stale honey-water?) the nasties would be burned off over time? This is the question. Admittedly, it's a broad question, but it seems like an important one for those interested in conducting wild fermentation experiments.

akueck
08-12-2013, 09:09 PM
If you do get fermentation, the alcohol should kill off things that will make you sick. However, if it takes months before fermentation gets going, it is likely that other things (bacteria most likely) will have worked on the must and done weird stuff to it. It won't taste good, and then you won't drink it. Problem solved!

Ideally you want to get fermentation going quickly. Since yeast reproduce much slower than bacteria, start with a small volume so that the total number of cells needed is small. Once you get the small batch to ferment (it might take a few tries), then you can step it up in size. Chances are good you will get bacteria in the culture as well, even after many passes. Again, the bacteria that survive won't hurt you, but they might not make lovely flavors either. If it gets funky on you, throw it out and try again.

When I did some wild capture a couple years ago, I started with about a pint of wort. You should see something happening within a few days. Any longer and you're likely to get mold formation, which is thankfully obvious and obviously wrong.

FYI, viruses which infect humans don't live in wort or must, since humans don't live in those things either. ;)

The "nasties" you might be concerned about are spoilage bacteria and molds. It's not that they will "burn off" over time, but rather if you get a healthy culture that ferments your sugars into alcohol and/or acid, the spoilage organisms tend not to survive in that kind of environment for very long. Some might be there after the first pass, so you pitch the culture into new wort/must and hopefully fewer of these guys survive to the end of the second fermentation. Again, flavor/aroma will tell you most of what you need to know in terms of "is this good to drink?". If it tastes off, it's off. Millions of years of evolution are good for something. ;D

wide-raft
08-14-2013, 01:42 PM
If you do get fermentation, the alcohol should kill off things that will make you sick. However, if it takes months before fermentation gets going, it is likely that other things (bacteria most likely) will have worked on the must and done weird stuff to it. It won't taste good, and then you won't drink it. Problem solved!

Ideally you want to get fermentation going quickly. Since yeast reproduce much slower than bacteria, start with a small volume so that the total number of cells needed is small. Once you get the small batch to ferment (it might take a few tries), then you can step it up in size. Chances are good you will get bacteria in the culture as well, even after many passes. Again, the bacteria that survive won't hurt you, but they might not make lovely flavors either. If it gets funky on you, throw it out and try again.

When I did some wild capture a couple years ago, I started with about a pint of wort. You should see something happening within a few days. Any longer and you're likely to get mold formation, which is thankfully obvious and obviously wrong.

FYI, viruses which infect humans don't live in wort or must, since humans don't live in those things either. ;)

The "nasties" you might be concerned about are spoilage bacteria and molds. It's not that they will "burn off" over time, but rather if you get a healthy culture that ferments your sugars into alcohol and/or acid, the spoilage organisms tend not to survive in that kind of environment for very long. Some might be there after the first pass, so you pitch the culture into new wort/must and hopefully fewer of these guys survive to the end of the second fermentation. Again, flavor/aroma will tell you most of what you need to know in terms of "is this good to drink?". If it tastes off, it's off. Millions of years of evolution are good for something. ;D


Beautiful! Thanks for this answer.

wide-raft
08-14-2013, 01:47 PM
It would be useful to have an app which determines microbiological activity. Just snap a photo and have the answer.

akueck
08-14-2013, 10:14 PM
It would be useful to have an app which determines microbiological activity. Just snap a photo and have the answer.

If you're into kitchen biology, you can swab samples onto agar plates and see what grows. Add a cheap little microscope and you're in business!

wide-raft
08-15-2013, 01:13 AM
If you're into kitchen biology, you can swab samples onto agar plates and see what grows. Add a cheap little microscope and you're in business!

My guess is that the invisible globs will grow into fur, and the fur will grow into bigger stinky globs. At least, at my stage of scientific understanding, that is what I would see. But it sounds interesting, and I hope to be able to identify these things someday.