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03/18/09 12:28 PM  
Sampling from a plastic bucket
I've heard from a couple people (Vinnie from Russian River, for one) that some commercial brewers use a stainless steel nail hammered into their barrels to sample their beers while they age.

I've been thinking about how to do this with an HDPE bucket. Maybe drilling a small hole and using silicon tentacle from a baster brush? I've seen one that has a little ball shaped portion at the end, which seems promising for leakage prevention. Or possibly sticking a small nail through one of them? I'd hate to do this wrong and be unexpectedly swimming in beer.

Has anyone tried something similar, or have another solution? I'm pretty new to sour beers, and want to be able to sample occasionally to monitor acetic acid production and get an idea the flavor development of the beers through their aging. I have two Flanders Red's going at the moment.


03/18/09 01:01 PM  
Re: Sampling from a plastic bucket
Most bucket lids have a hole for the airlock, why not go in through that?
Al B
03/18/09 02:07 PM  
Re: Sampling from a plastic bucket
I've had 1 red go acetic on me (Vinnie's chips in fact) where the air lock went dry and there was no Brett pellicle protecting it.

Probably the best solution is to age in corny kegs. Sample by pushing some out w/ CO2. Or better yet, using best practices to minimize Acetobacter contamination - the biggest culprit of acetic acid production. Without a pressurized corny keg, some O2 will permeate inside over time through rubber, plastic or wood.

03/19/09 10:41 AM  
Re: Sampling from a plastic bucket
I hope it wasn't actually from Vinnies chips, I pitched some just this past weekend!
03/19/09 11:15 AM  
Re: Sampling from a plastic bucket
There's acetobacter everywhere!

Uncap a bottle of near-sterile Budweiser and immediately rubberband a square of sterile gauze over it. Then age for a year. I think the odds it will go acetic are high. There's just too much acetobacter floating around, even if Vinnie's chips are nowhere in the picture.

I really think acetic acid control is more about controlling oxygen (easy), rather than organisms (very hard).

03/19/09 11:19 AM  
Re: Sampling from a plastic bucket
SteveG: That's my current plan, but I'm concerned about disturbing the pellicle (is this unfounded, I have no experience in this arena), and also sampling through the airlock hole means mixing up sanitizer for a racking cane. Having a side port seems more conducive to small, effortless samples.

Al B: I actually want some acetic acid production; it's a flavor I like in Flanders Reds. So, I want to know when there is enough for my taste, and then rack it into a corny and crash cool to stop any further activity. My impression is the brett and pedio will ferment faster in a bucket because of them oxygen diffusion, as well. Then there will be a point where they stop up taking oxygen, and acetic acid production could start. This is the transition I want to catch, and then monitor acetic character afterwards. Have you guys found sequence of events to be the case?

Thanks for the replies.

03/19/09 12:36 PM  
Re: Sampling from a plastic bucket
If your plan then is to use a bucket next time (I assume you don't plan to drill into it while it contains beer!) I think you should look into getting one with a built in spiggot at the bottom. Then the hole and inserted part would be factory precise. Maybe you could extend the draw for the spiggot with a tube or something so it draws from a few inches up and not from ther gunk at the bottom.

As far as racking it when you like the taste, I wouldn't recommend it. Here are some snipits from a PPT Vinnie made for the 07 NHC:


Be patient.

Donít look or taste every day.

A brewer of funky beers has little control over the fermentation, barrel aging, and the final product.

The beer will tell you when it is ready, not the other way around.

Leave the pellicle in tact.


So the idea is not you rack it when you are satisfied, you rack it when it is done. As far as using plastic, the O2 that will permiate is through the roof. Measured in O2/L/Year a glass carboy containing 5.3 gallons rates a 17 for permeation. A plastic bucket rates a whopping 220. Be careful what you wish for...

Al B
03/19/09 02:53 PM  
Re: Sampling from a plastic bucket
<<My impression is the brett and pedio will ferment faster in a bucket because of them oxygen diffusion>>

Actually Pedio is anaerobic. It does not like alot of oxygen. Pedio doesn't produce acetic acid, but instead lactic & diacetyl.

My experience w/ Brett does not produce much acetic to be noticable, and if it did, may be turned into ethyl acetate before long. For an acetic "bite", one must be careful - it can turn into vinagar quickly. I would take a small portion out for this and blend it back in later under CO2 (and easier to control, you don't need much acetic acid to be noticable). Otherwise, you may have alot of salad dressing to deal with!

That said, I would not get wrapped up in acetic acid production until you get a good base beer first.

03/19/09 03:31 PM  
Re: Sampling from a plastic bucket
Steve: I'd thought about using a bottling bucket, but it seems like a sanitation nightmare with all it's edges and connections. I know that the critters I've pitched will probably end up in the plastic anyway, so my concern is pretty illogical. And obviously, these buckets are designated for bugs now, and will have nothing else in them. Have you heard of anyone using a port like that?

How'd it go?

What factors do you take into account as far as beer readiness if not taste?

Al: Great idea about leaving keeping a portion to blend back for acetic character. I like that a lot.

03/19/09 03:45 PM  
Re: Sampling from a plastic bucket
I havn't, I was just trying to roll with your question!

As far as readiness, as Vinnie has said the beer will tell you. It gets sick, forms a pellicle, the pellicle disapates and the beer is done. That does sound like it is out of your hands, but to repeat a Vinnie quote:

"A brewer of funky beers has little control over the fermentation, barrel aging, and the final product".

I believe you need to let nature take its course. If you want to tweek the final product prepare it for longer term storage, brew more and blend (you can do more than tweek acetic character by blending). As far as controlling the process, I think the best bet is to develope quality "yeast" handling skills and knowledge. That increases the odds that your efforts will produce quality beer. Of course that takes time. But then, I'd have to quote Vinnie again:

"Be patient"

If there was a fast track to producing great funky beer everyone would be doing it. Well, at least everyone who wanted to!

03/23/09 10:33 AM  
Re: Sampling from a plastic bucket
Thanks for the feedback guys.
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