When to Throw Away a Bad Batch of Beer

Brewing beer at home is a delicate process. Even though the procedures of making home brew beer are followed, there are, however, different factors that can affect the quality of a batch of beer. Two of these factors include bacterial contamination and stuck fermentation. The intended quality of the beer might be compromised.

However, this doesn’t mean that disposing of a bad batch of beer right away is the solution. Depending on the cause, there are still ways to save this bad batch from throwing away. Here are several causes/factors and their respected remedies:

Bacterial Contamination

Unintentional introduction of an unsterilized foreign object such as a brewery item in your batch of beer can be damaging. After all, cleanliness and sanitation must be a priority when it comes to food and beverage making. Also, wild bacteria and yeast may cause the beer to taste different from its intended course. But, before pulling a plug on your homebrew beer, you need to smell and taste it and decide.

When to dump

Dumping a substandard beer due to possible contamination can be done if it has failed during smelling and tasting.  Although the identity of the bacteria and yeast can’t be recognized macroscopically, smelling and tasting can narrow things down.

If black, green, or fuzzy hairy patches are noticed growing in your beer, the most likely culprit is mold. This was possibly caused by adding unsterilized fruit or wood to the fermentor. According to John Palmer, in his book How to Brew, if mold is encountered, a sample of the beer must be taken. If it doesn’t smell disgusting, the mold can be skimmed off. The tasting quality of the beer is not affected and the infection is not threatening. However, according to the USDA, there are a variety of molds that cause health problems such as allergic reactions and may produce poisonous mycotoxins such as aflatoxin (a carcinogenic and deadly toxin). If an unwanted infection has been detected, it’s okay to dump it.

Stuck Fermentations

A stuck or stalled fermentation is a case in which the beer unexpectedly stops fermenting. The possible causes are that there might be environmental changes such as the temperature, the yeast is unhealthy, the quantity is insufficient, or, sometimes, there are no obvious reasons at all. While dumping this bad batch is tempting, the best course of action is to wait. It is recommended to attempt to rack it to a secondary fermenter by first taking the gravity reading first and jot it down. Initiating the rocking motion may provoke some of the yeast and may commence the fermentation process. However, if the recipe requires for dry hopping, it is advisable to hold off on that part until you can validate that the beer needs additional interaction.

When to dump

Don’t throw the beer unless the taste is unpleasant.

Other Errors

Aside from bacterial contamination and stuck fermentation, there are other errors or mistakes that influence the quality of your beer; for example, failing to add a certain ingredient such as

Irish moss or aroma hops or being unable to seal the fermenter well and the lid of the fermenter is blown off.

When to dump

Dumping a beer is necessary depending on the circumstance. But, sometimes, tasting the beer post-fermentation can help in determining if it is indeed necessary to throw it.

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