Month: February 2014

Current Project – part 2 (just the beginning)


My rude awaking began with this culture. Actually, I let this grow for quite some time, long past my observations. However, it confirmed what I theoretically knew; mold, bacteria, and yeast are all around. Visually confirming something you cannot observe without the use of a microscope is powerful. The carpet in the petri dish I produced can be replicated in any but the most sterile lab conditions. Really – there are no visible molds growing ANYWHERE in my house. My lab is in the basement and you cannot smell anything that resembles mold or mildew. The filter on my furnace is 5″ thick and can filter to 3μm, and is equipped with a UV lamp.

So what to do?


1. Assume everything you handle is contaminated with mold, bacteria, or wild yeast. Let your guard down and you’ll be sorry. Very sorry.

2. If you think you’ve cleaned your lab and equipment well enough, you haven’t. Read #1 again.

3. Yes, air moves. Yes, all of those bad bugs catch the wave and ride it until they reach something worth feeding on – like your wort, agar plate, and yeast culture. I read several books and blogs that suggested closing the vents or turning off the furnace / air conditioner. That is one of the best suggestions.

4. Finally, when in doubt, remember this – there is mold, bacteria, and/or wild yeast everywhere you believe is clean. “Indeed, studies of human exposure to air pollutants by EPA indicate that indoor levels of pollutants may be 2 to 5 times – and occasionally more than 100 times – higher than outdoor pollutant levels.” (EPA, 2014). You WILL have contaminated yeast cultures if you believe otherwise.

After seeing the culture, I almost gave up on being a yeast rancher. If this is what I have to look forward to, and have to deal with this every time I culture, then why even try? I did think those thoughts, for about 30 seconds. Then I remembered something – just one of my brain cells can kick any bug’s ass, blindfolded.

Besides, I love the smell of fermentation in the morning – it smells like victory.

EPA. (09/13/2013). Questions About Your Community: Indoor Air.  Retrieve from

Quality Control Experiments

Yes, I need to finish the Current Project blog, however, I am beginning several experiments at the same time. Having found wild yeast and Gram-positive cocci, I am concerned that my seemingly clean lab / brewing area is really a hot-bed for bacteria. It helps that my Universal Beer Agar has about two weeks of shelf life, so why not begin the experiments now. I’ll also be culturing some English Ale yeast to test several storage techniques – I’ll cover that in another blog.

To begin this experiment, I decided to place two open plates on my cabinets. Last night I placed an open UBA plate on my peninsula cabinet and an open agar plate near my test equipment. Believing that both the wild yeast and cocci came from a test tube sitting open in the rack, I hope the air samples can substantiate my hypothesis.

DSC00562                   DSC00563

Tonight I swabbed four areas; the first being the counter where the agar plate was sitting. Although I am judicious and clean my work areas prior to doing anything, for this experiment I did not clean the area with disinfectant prior to swabbing. The second area swabbed was the stove. Circles represent areas that were swabbed.

cabinet                   Stove

The test tube holders are another area as a possible bacteria cesspool, along with the various pieces of lab equipment. The other area, although not used while brewing, is the incubator.

lab equipment                    Incubator

I placed all inoculated plates into the incubator at 80° F and will check them in 72-hours. Assuming each plate grows a culture, I will post the results after they are stained and examined.

R.I.P. Chewy

Although you lived with us for only seven months, the love you showed will last a lifetime. You always looked forward to riding in the car, laying under the dining room table and having your back rubbed by my feet, and sniffing the country air.

I’ll miss our nightly talks, and you barking every night for dinner while mom was making it for you. You hated to see us leave, but always greeted us enthusiastically when we came back. And although it was probably coincidence, it seemed that you understood every word we were communicating to you.

The love you gave will stay with us forever and we will miss you. Have fun exploring the woods and eating a donut every Sunday.

My friend.