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Thread: Forgot to sanitize thief

  1. Default Forgot to sanitize thief

    Forgot to sanitize the thief when checking gravity. I just dipped the tip in about 2-3 inches before I notice and yanked it out.

    Gravity wound up being 1.01. Should I rack to a new carboy? Am I done for?

  2. #2

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    Ryan, don't sweat it! You can't take back the moment, but not every moment like that is a kiss of death.

    Best sanitation practices are the key to successfully reproducible healthy fermentations, and it sounds like you're conscious of this. There'll probably be a half dozen non sanitary moments that you won't even notice and chances are your mead will still come out fine.

    We don't know what gravity you started with, or what yeast, but if you're going for a standard strength mead then at 1.010 you've already got an ABV that is somewhat inhospitable for invaders (not impervious). Carry on and let it finish its ferment. Racking wouldn't do anything for you regarding infection.

    When it's done (based on several consecutive gravity readings), rack it and sulfite it to harvest all the oxygen and make it unattractive for bacterial growth.

    Jeff

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    Many people dont know this but when the ferment is underway (and its a healthy ferment) the sheer number of yeast cells basically make impossible for anything else to live there. as long as your dog did not lick the wine thief or you rubbed it in mold (you get the idea) its practically impossible that anything bad will happen. Most problems usually happen once the fermentation is over. And even then, using clean tools will suffice, sanitizing (as with bleach or sulphites) is usually not necessary for things that have not been exposed to germs.

  4. #4

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dadux View Post
    Many people dont know this but when the ferment is underway (and its a healthy ferment) the sheer number of yeast cells basically make impossible for anything else to live there. as long as your dog did not lick the wine thief or you rubbed it in mold (you get the idea) its practically impossible that anything bad will happen. Most problems usually happen once the fermentation is over. And even then, using clean tools will suffice, sanitizing (as with bleach or sulphites) is usually not necessary for things that have not been exposed to germs.
    I've heard people reason like this, but unless there's any proof that the number of yeast makes that much of a difference I like to err on the side of caution. My impression is that unless the yeast are competitive, the only advantage you get from an active ferment over an inactive one would be the amount of Co2 generated which makes finding air for wild yeast to grow close to impossible, as well as lowering the ph a bit to make it more difficult.
    I am unaware of a maximum cell count of yeast per volume that would make the growth of foreign yeast more difficult. I have thought about this in a previous post where I played with the notion that perhaps there is a maximum since this might explain why the growth phase might end despite there being no clear indication to why.
    I would not be surprised, with the knowledge I have so far, if I learn that mold spores (for example) introduced in an active ferment lay dormant or their effect is not seen until the ferment ceases and you see mold at the top of your carboy

    Having said all this, I believe you should be safe unless you are truly unlucky. Just try not to slacken if you get away with it this one time. I think that might easily lead to the slippery slope where you become more and more lazy until you really botch a batch and have to throw the whole thing away
    Last edited by Stasis; 05-19-2017 at 12:13 PM.
    "Shouldn’t we say wine is a mead-like beverage made with grapes substituted for the honey?" - Steve Piatz

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    Quote Originally Posted by Stasis View Post
    I've heard people reason like this, but unless there's any proof that the number of yeast makes that much of a difference I like to err on the side of caution. My impression is that unless the yeast are competitive, the only advantage you get from an active ferment over an inactive one would be the amount of Co2 generated which makes finding air for wild yeast to grow close to impossible, as well as lowering the ph a bit to make it more difficult.
    I am unaware of a maximum cell count of yeast per volume that would make the growth of foreign yeast more difficult. I have thought about this in a previous post where I played with the notion that perhaps there is a maximum since this might explain why the growth phase might end despite there being no clear indication to why.
    I would not be surprised, with the knowledge I have so far, if I learn that mold spores (for example) introduced in an active ferment lay dormant or their effect is not seen until the ferment ceases and you see mold at the top of your carboy

    Having said all this, I believe you should be safe unless you are truly unlucky. Just try not to slacken if you get away with it this one time. I think that might easily lead to the slippery slope where you become more and more lazy until you really botch a batch and have to throw the whole thing away
    You are part right part wrong. Even if the yeast does not have competitive factors it will displace any other organism because the yeast is already there, it leaves no room for intrueders so to speak. Even dry yeast is said to contain around 1 bacteria cell for every million of yeast cells. But nothing ever happens. Because they are so outnumbered. And the competitive factor on many yeast only actually works against other yeast, but i would not bet that it helped against mold, acetobacter, and other.
    However dont mistake this as advocating for not sanitizing things or as an excuse to just put dirty things in your mead. But for hydrometers or wine thiefs, if you clean them with dishwasher soap like you would any plate, rinse them and use them. it is fine. you dont need to sanitize them every time, specially glass and metal items. Plastic is more prone to hold bacteria, i think.

    I think the same, yeast has a population ceiling, based on SG, volume, and partially in the pitched ammount.

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    Let me put it to you this way...

    Once about a year or so ago I was sampling my already finished traditional high gravity BOMM ... coming in at about 17-18% after a step-feeding process that amazingly took Wyeast 1388 to new heights that I never thought possible. I was testing blends with sweet JAOM and cider blends (by the way, JAOM and a nice dry tart cider...yum I think that's called a honey badger or a snakebite or something) ANYWAY... I was wasted and I had an active ferment going in a bucket. So I staggered over to the shelf, got the thief and carefully sanitized it, rinsed etc... then carefully walked over to the bucket with the thief in the sanitized beaker, carefully took the thief out of the sanitized beaker and slowly put it in the foaming bucket.

    Then I don't know what happened and I dropped the stupid thief in the bucket. And then guess what i did? Yep, reached in with my bacteria riddled arm and searched the bottom of the bucket until I found it and pulled it out. Should have left it in there. I had 16 pounds of Orange Blossom honey in there along with spring water and $8 worth of yeast!!!

    Guess what.... despite all the doom and gloom I professed the next day, I kept feeding and degassing as normal all the while fearing that the next day I would open the bucket and get a blast of cabbage or sulfur or some other off odor, but it kept chugging along until a few days later, it hit 1.004 and stopped. Tasted fine the whole time.

    So don't panic... don't do anything different unless you start smelling or tasting something awful. You're probably fine as long as you followed a good cleaning and sanitation protocol and your concern about a paltry two inches of possibly tainted glass tells me you have.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Stasis View Post
    I've heard people reason like this, but unless there's any proof that the number of yeast makes that much of a difference I like to err on the side of caution. My impression is that unless the yeast are competitive, the only advantage you get from an active ferment over an inactive one would be the amount of Co2 generated which makes finding air for wild yeast to grow close to impossible, as well as lowering the ph a bit to make it more difficult.
    I am unaware of a maximum cell count of yeast per volume that would make the growth of foreign yeast more difficult. I have thought about this in a previous post where I played with the notion that perhaps there is a maximum since this might explain why the growth phase might end despite there being no clear indication to why.
    I would not be surprised, with the knowledge I have so far, if I learn that mold spores (for example) introduced in an active ferment lay dormant or their effect is not seen until the ferment ceases and you see mold at the top of your carboy

    Having said all this, I believe you should be safe unless you are truly unlucky. Just try not to slacken if you get away with it this one time. I think that might easily lead to the slippery slope where you become more and more lazy until you really botch a batch and have to throw the whole thing away
    I've also heard this often. I haven't yet found a white paper or some other scientific explanation that proves an active ferment is immune to contamination and explains why. As you can see by my drunken misadventures, I was either very lucky or there is something going on in the must that prevents the development of other organisms during a vigorous fermentation.

    But by the same token, there have been plenty of times when I was completely sober and followed a rigorous protocol of sanitation and got infected anyway, no reaching in with my arm needed. This could be due to a host of other factors like bad pH, a temperature spike, a screw up during the hydration of the yeast; I could go on and on about all the things that can go wrong.

    All any of us can do is try to follow the recipes and keep to the basics. Good sanitation protocol, read, follow and understand the instructions that come with whatever sanitizer you're using; temperature control, pH balance, nutrients, and use good water. This is supposed to be fun! And if you slow down, don't panic and make sure you're prepared for "pitching day" and then "ferment week" which are really the only active times when you have to be on top of your mead, you will make delicious mead!

    Just try not to get drunk when you're pulling out a sample... and if you do, wear a t-shirt so you're sleeve doesn't unroll into the mead while you're fishing out a thief from the bucket... did I forget to mention that part lol

  8. #8

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    The acidity of your average alcoholic beverage, even before fermentation, is enough to deter most bacteria. When fermentation begins, oxygen is removed from the must by the yeast, and they produce alcohol to combat other microbes. This creates a very toxic environment for anything that's not yeast. There's millions of species of bacteria out there, but only about 200 that can survive in either an active ferment or an alcoholic beverage. Which might sound like a lot, but good luck finding them in the everyday world.

    Keep in mind that people have been making alcohol for thousands of years, and sanitizers have only been around 100 or so. The vikings used to dip a ceremonial stick into their must asking the gods to bless the beverage (little did they know the stick was covered in yeast but probably also tons of other things). People fermented in clay pots left in the sun exposed to all the elements without an airlock. They stomped grapes in an elevated pit in their bare feet. People may be neurotic about sanitation these days, but if you create an environment favorable to yeast, they'll take care of themselves and anything else that's in there with them (for the most part).

    A note should also be made that none of us really work in a sanitary environment. Sanitation is like pregnancy. You're either pregnant or you're not. And unless we're in some sort of lab with filtered air and hazmat suites, none of us is in a sterile, fully sanitized environment. It's about creating an acceptable level of other bacteria. So we do our best.
    That's all not to say, don't sanitize. DO sanitize. I would bet that people back in the day tossed more batches than we do, since infections can usually be determined by smell. But you're more than likely fine. I find cat hairs in my must all the time since if you have a cat, you cannot escape them.

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    Quote Originally Posted by mannye View Post
    I've also heard this often. I haven't yet found a white paper or some other scientific explanation that proves an active ferment is immune to contamination and explains why. As you can see by my drunken misadventures, I was either very lucky or there is something going on in the must that prevents the development of other organisms during a vigorous fermentation.
    l
    I mean, i dont even know what to searh for exactly but i can tell you how it works because its pretty simple. Most bacteria or fungus that is likely to invade your must during ferment is anaerobic, like yeast. And it will share the resources with it (that is, the sugar). Since population growth is exponential, what happens when lets say you introduce a couple million bacteria in your must? well it happends that you should have around millions or billions of yeast cells per militer already there. the new bacteria might live but its going to be nearly imposible to replicate. This is related to something we call population dynamics. So im not saying that the bacteria die, just that they cant get enough resources to cause a problem because they have to compete with the yeast. When the ferment is over, most microbes cant live there but the door is open to the ones that metabolize alcohol (acetobacter), acids (malolactic bacteria in wine) and aerobic bacteria or fungus that will grow on top (even some yeast strains do this, and its used in winemaking)

    If im not wrong in the compleate meadmaker or some other paper/post of schramm he analyzed some meads and found some bacteria cells there, but that is normal.
    Remember every time you open the lid or take out the airlock, bacteria are there waiting. And every time you breathe... Also honey has a shitton of stuff. Try putting some honey in a jar with some water and leave it there for a month, closed. I grew a beautiful blue fungus like that once (and i did do it in a sterile enviroment, so it definetely came from the honey). As dingurth say, microbes are everywhere and we are not usually in sterile enviroments. But with some propper care all goes well.

  10. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by mannye View Post
    Let me put it to you this way...

    Once about a year or so ago I was sampling my already finished traditional high gravity BOMM ... coming in at about 17-18% after a step-feeding process that amazingly took Wyeast 1388 to new heights that I never thought possible. I was testing blends with sweet JAOM and cider blends (by the way, JAOM and a nice dry tart cider...yum I think that's called a honey badger or a snakebite or something) ANYWAY... I was wasted and I had an active ferment going in a bucket. So I staggered over to the shelf, got the thief and carefully sanitized it, rinsed etc... then carefully walked over to the bucket with the thief in the sanitized beaker, carefully took the thief out of the sanitized beaker and slowly put it in the foaming bucket.

    Then I don't know what happened and I dropped the stupid thief in the bucket. And then guess what i did? Yep, reached in with my bacteria riddled arm and searched the bottom of the bucket until I found it and pulled it out. Should have left it in there. I had 16 pounds of Orange Blossom honey in there along with spring water and $8 worth of yeast!!!

    Guess what.... despite all the doom and gloom I professed the next day, I kept feeding and degassing as normal all the while fearing that the next day I would open the bucket and get a blast of cabbage or sulfur or some other off odor, but it kept chugging along until a few days later, it hit 1.004 and stopped. Tasted fine the whole time.

    So don't panic... don't do anything different unless you start smelling or tasting something awful. You're probably fine as long as you followed a good cleaning and sanitation protocol and your concern about a paltry two inches of possibly tainted glass tells me you have.
    And there we have it everyone. When nobody is looking Manny takes a bath in his mead.

    Loved the story Manny. Thanks for sharing.

    One time at Mead Camp, when nobody was looking, I took my thief and I put it... er... nevermind.

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    Quote Originally Posted by dingurth View Post
    I find cat hairs in my must all the time since if you have a cat, you cannot escape them.
    Cat hairs! Phhht! I find entire bees and plenty of bee parts in my primary. I'm lucky enough to work with a local beek that gives me his honey unfiltered and often contains bees, wax and even the larvae of wax moths. The only thing I can say about that is that since I've been using that kind of raw organic unfiltered honey my mead has just gotten better and better. The honey seems to resist my attempts to screw up the mead.

    I've even tried to preserve the odd complete bee to place in my bottle after ferment a la mezcal, but they haven't yet held together during the ferment.

    However, I do have to stress that no matter what, you should always sanitize and be obsessive about it. Despite my seemingly flippant attitude, I do adhere to strict sanitation habits brought about by my 2 decades of beer brewing. I'm convinced that it's because I keep to the beer brewing attitude towards sanitation rather than the more lax (in my opinion) wine and mead attitude that I've been "lucky" when it comes to primary ferments.

    It's my lax attitude afterwards that screws up batches that would have been very nice but oxidized to heck. Just ask kudapucat about my 5 gallons of "sherry" which is destined for the distiller one day when it's legal...

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    Quote Originally Posted by jeffvenuti View Post
    And there we have it everyone. When nobody is looking Manny takes a bath in his mead.

    Loved the story Manny. Thanks for sharing.

    One time at Mead Camp, when nobody was looking, I took my thief and I put it... er... nevermind.
    This is why my skin is so soft and my ummmmm thief holder is so ummmmmm accommodating? haha accommodating made me laugh.

  13. #13

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    Quote Originally Posted by dingurth View Post
    Keep in mind that people have been making alcohol for thousands of years, and sanitizers have only been around 100 or so. The vikings used to dip a ceremonial stick into their must asking the gods to bless the beverage (little did they know the stick was covered in yeast but probably also tons of other things). People fermented in clay pots left in the sun exposed to all the elements without an airlock. They stomped grapes in an elevated pit in their bare feet. People may be neurotic about sanitation these days, but if you create an environment favorable to yeast, they'll take care of themselves and anything else that's in there with them (for the most part).
    I'd have to disagree with yeast taking care of themselves. Sometimes maybe they do, but sometimes they definitely don't. In any case the reasoning that yeast will take care of themselves will inevitably someday bite someone in the ass. If it doesn't happen to you then it will happen to some new mazer reading the post and this is why I refrain from giving information which might be detrimental.
    I totally understand, and I'm quite sure many mazers are more lax than they might give the impression here, me included. But for the sake of saving some mazer from wasting gallons of mead I try advising the ideal practices.

    Mannye: At last someone who admits they made sherry out of mead. Over the years there have been so many posts saying mead is very difficult, if not impossible, to oxidize mead that I was starting to feel awkward preaching anti oxidation practices.

    Dadux: The thing I tried looking for was the maximum yeast population in a given volume in a ferment. Didn't find anything, but surely if this is a thing something could be found? Maybe changing the wording or maybe I didn't search vigorously enough or maybe I even found a paper but skipped over it because the title did not seem promising enough
    "Shouldn’t we say wine is a mead-like beverage made with grapes substituted for the honey?" - Steve Piatz

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    Quote Originally Posted by Stasis View Post
    I'd have to disagree with yeast taking care of themselves. Sometimes maybe they do, but sometimes they definitely don't. In any case the reasoning that yeast will take care of themselves will inevitably someday bite someone in the ass. If it doesn't happen to you then it will happen to some new mazer reading the post and this is why I refrain from giving information which might be detrimental.
    I totally understand, and I'm quite sure many mazers are more lax than they might give the impression here, me included. But for the sake of saving some mazer from wasting gallons of mead I try advising the ideal practices.

    Mannye: At last someone who admits they made sherry out of mead. Over the years there have been so many posts saying mead is very difficult, if not impossible, to oxidize mead that I was starting to feel awkward preaching anti oxidation practices.

    Dadux: The thing I tried looking for was the maximum yeast population in a given volume in a ferment. Didn't find anything, but surely if this is a thing something could be found? Maybe changing the wording or maybe I didn't search vigorously enough or maybe I even found a paper but skipped over it because the title did not seem promising enough
    If you bulk age with a lot of headspace its easier to get oxidation but i found you have to do it for a very long time, or open the carboy or whatever. I've got mead oxidezed, however i use buckets and i've never got oxidized mead there. It happens when i get the last of the mead into a bottle, but fills only about halfway. After some months it starts to get oxidized, but always survives nearly intact a couple of months at least. I dont think its about being impossible to oxidize, just that compared to wine beer and cider that are made with oxidizable products, its way harder. Honey itself does not rot or oxideze, but the fruits/malt does.

    About the population thing, im sure there is. Will give it some read in a day or two (if i remember), if i find something i'll post it.
    Edit: just did a quick quick search, http://www.wyeastlab.com/yeast-fundamentals. Read about it, you can get a few things about that (in the sections log phase and stationary phase) and other things from there (about ester production and such)
    Last edited by Dadux; 05-21-2017 at 07:03 AM.

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