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Managing Mixed Culture Fermentations

We turned to an accomplished brewer and a sanitation microbiologist to learn the best approach to avoiding contamination in a mixed culture environment.

Dave Carpenter Mar 6, 2016 - 9 min read

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Brewers readily acknowledge that they’re janitors first and brewers second. Maintaining clean, sanitary equipment is job number one for those who want to make great beer every time, but brewers who work with bugs such as Brettanomyces, Lactobacillus, and Pediococcus have to be even more careful to avoid contaminating those clean Saccharomyces brews.

We all know we need to sanitize, but what’s the best approach in a mixed culture environment? How much contact time is needed? How much vigilance is good enough, and where do we draw the line between responsibility and paranoia? We turned to an accomplished brewer and a sanitation microbiologist for answers.

A Brewer’s Perspective

Crooked Stave Artisan Beer Project in Denver, Colorado, is famous for its funky, sour, Belgian-inspired ales. Founder and Brewer Chad Yakobson, an expert in 100 percent Brettanomyces fermentations, could easily include the title “yeast whisperer” on his résumé. His Master of Science dissertation, Pure Culture Fermentation Characteristics of _Brettanomyces Yeast Species and Their Use in the Brewing Industry,_ analyzed Brett in depth.

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