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The other day, I was with my friend getting ready to bottle a batch of modified cream ale (our second homebrew so far). We were using an auto-siphon to transfer beer from fermenter to the bottling kettle, however at some point I had to use only a hose to transfer (don't ask). So I took a mouthful of vodka, gurgled in my throat vigorously, spit out, then pulled on the hose to start pulling the beer out of the fermenter. Not being cautious, a little bit of beer ended up in my mouth, and before I managed to swallow, I accidentally spit it out straight into the kettle.

So we had a good laugh about it and proceeded with bottling, but I kept on wondering whether this event can alter the beer in the end. I will know for sure what happened as soon as I open the first bottle after conditioning (will add updates here). Did anybody have any similar experience or know how any mouth or stomach borne bacteria may affect the beer during conditioning. My relief is that the beer is quite alcoholic (7.9% ABV), is quite hoppy, and has 1 oz of grated ginger in last 15 minutes of boil, so hopefully the flavor won't change much.

I am a 27-year old, healthy, male human.

EDIT: We just had one after a week of bottle conditioning. It is excellent. Can't wait to have some after few more weeks of conditioning. Thanks all for great answers, especially the siphoning tips, it will sure improve my brewing.

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Regardless of the beer being affected or not, I recommend keeping this one quiet from any drinkers until the batch is gone. –  Wulfhart Jul 6 '12 at 18:42
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4 Answers

up vote 6 down vote accepted

Oh, if only you were 28, then I'd all be fine. Just kidding. I'd be surprised if this accident noticeably affects the beer, regardless of your age or state of health. Beer is a pretty unpleasant place for most bacteria, and that combined with the yeast activity in the bottle that scavenges any available oxygen, and the bacteriostatic nature of the beta acids in the hops helps ensure the bacteria do not multiply and affect the beer.

If you want to avoid doing this again, then next time, use a small piece of garden hose slipped over the end of your siphon hose. This avoids your mouth coming into contact with anything that touches the beer. If you do accidentally suck in some beer, just grip the siphon hose an inch or two down, and pour out that inch or two of beer. Since you've maintained the siphon, you can then lower the end as normal to start the siphon.

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While it isn't done post fermentation, there is a style of beer that requires a little human spit.

It's called Chicha & the spit is used when chewing to convert the starch.

Check out the BrewMasters episode linked on this page: http://dsc.discovery.com/tv/brew-masters/ or the Wikipedia article here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chicha

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It's true, the bacterial cultures in your mouth would not be "used-to" the high alcohol content, and most importantly the acidic environment of your beer. However, make no mistake about the fact that you did contaminate your beer!!!! You will most likely see no difference in taste, however you may find that the beer doesn't age as well, the storage time may be diminished. By that I mean, you might not be able to keep this beer for longer then 6 months (you might be fine too). I siphon with my mouth, because I feel it's the best overall method! All the gizmo's to aid your siphoning, waste beer, are hard to clean and are another item to sanitize. I start the siphon and allow a few dribbles into a "run off pail". Then I sanitize the end and sides of the tube using 70% isopropyl alcohol, while maintaining the siphon. It works for me!

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Right before bottling, the beer is really hard to contaminate. First because there is alchool in it, but mostly because there is not a lot of sugar left in your liquid. And you don't need to rinse your mouth with vodka : I always used a normal siphon, and never had problem.

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Your primary statement is completely false. If you spit in any brew, even 12%ABV brew, its still contaminated. What happens after that depends on residual gravity, the composition of the worts non fermentables and storage temp. It is extremely easy to contaminate ANY brew. –  brewchez Jul 1 '12 at 19:33
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