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Old 03-22-2009, 02:02 AM   #11
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1. Chlorine or Chloramines in the water. RO alone will not remove these. A carbon filter will remove the chlorine, but not the chloramines. Boiling or a campden tablet will take care of the chloramines IIRC.
I never considered this. FWIW, it is "Refreshe" brand drinking water, which is the generic Safeway brand. It says on the label that it is from a municipal source and process by activated carbon filtration, reverse osmosis, and ozonation.

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2. Did you use a garden hose for the water at any point? These are famous for contributing a plastic/phenolic taste to the water.
No garden hose water at any point.

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3. Did you use any bleach that may have not been rinsed completely. Bleach (chlorine) can be detected at very low concentrations.
No bleach, but I'm starting to think that I didn't do a good enough job on the OneStep on the first batch and the Oxyclean on the second.

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4. Scorched extract or, in the case of all grain, scorching in the mash tun if direct fired.
I was pretty careful with the extract but I suppose this is possible. I infusion mashed so no direct fire.

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The most likely culprit is a chloro-phenolics of some kind in your water as these would most resemble a burnt plastic taste. I've also heard it described as plastic resin or burned insulation on electrical wiring. Zero in on your water and you will likely solve the mystery.
I'll look into the tablets and the process for boiling it out. Thanks for the tips.
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Old 03-22-2009, 03:02 AM   #12
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You should be OK with the Safeway processed drinking water, but I personally do not trust those dispensing machines if that is the source. Too much depends on how well those machines are maintained. The vendor could easily delay the maintenance or filter replacement schedule to cut costs. AFAIK, they are not held to any standards and are not inspected by a public officials. I may be wrong on that and it may vary for different locals. OTOH, if detectable chlorine is present I would think that sales would drop off and the vendor would lose his shirt rather quickly. I would try a different water source. Maybe a different store. Is there a problem with your tap water? Water filters are relatively inexpensive to purchase, but most tap water is perfectly OK to brew with. If it tastes OK to drink, it's usually ok to brew with it.

You would see signs of scorching on the kettle bottom if it happened. No burned on extract or scorched marks = no scorching.

It is very important to thoroughly rinse any and all cleaning agents. The one step is a no rinse sanitizer IIRC, but it might have reacted with the Star San if you used them back to back. Rinse well at least three times and more if there is any doubt. It's just not worth the risk to put all this effort into making a beer and having it go south on you for something lacking in the cleaning/sanitation procedures. You've got to do those right or the rest is a waste in a lot of ways.

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Old 03-22-2009, 03:27 AM   #13
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Catt & jolly...That's something we never consider when people decide NOT to use their own tap water, and instead go with jugs of water from stores, the plastic jugs or containers the water comes in, they either come in plastic carboys (usually NOT number twos but 7's, at least up to the bisophenol bans that are occuring) or milk jugs...and some places allow you to bring your own containers (I don't know how you get yours Jolly)

But I know from experience with the nalgene type drinking bottles that I use to drink water from, that as they break down, or get exposed to heat and light over time, they start to impart a crappy taste to the water....I have an old one that got left in the car for a long time in the heat of summer, with water in it, and now any time I use it the water ALWAYS ends up tasting and smelling like plasticy crap...I wonder if the issue is the RO water you've been using. If you are getting it from the same source all the time, maybe it;s their containers or even the way they are stored.

It just occured to me that at my Kroger the 5 gallon carboys of water are actually not in the store itself, but in the "lobby" where the carts are, the area is totally surrounded by glass windows and UV light...I 'm just thinking that perhaps plastic jugs or carboys of "spring water" can sometimes be stored improperly and ep taking on a plasticy taste....

I dunno, just a shot in the dark...but I keep thinking about my backup water bottle (that I should really pitch) because after a couple hours any water in the bottle starts to taste like plastic.....

Another thing...I too thought about Chloramines but then ruled it out becasuse you said you used RO water...but I just remembered something I had found last year about chloramines...they are cuumulative, meaning sometimes they can build up from several sources...not just too much chlorine in water...but can be a reaction of several differnent things, like a little bit of chlorine in rinse water, certain other minerals in the water, certain plastic (maybe plastics that have degraded like the bottle I mentioned,or just the opposite, brand new) and certain cleansers...little pieces in the right combination (or wrong in out case) end up becoming chloramines and tainting the beer....

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Old 03-22-2009, 06:33 AM   #14
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You should be OK with the Safeway processed drinking water, but I personally do not trust those dispensing machines if that is the source.
It was from the plastic jugs inside the store. Some of them were dusty like they'd been there a while but I tasted it first and it was okay.

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Is there a problem with your tap water? Water filters are relatively inexpensive to purchase, but most tap water is perfectly OK to brew with. If it tastes OK to drink, it's usually ok to brew with it.
Phoenix/Scottsdale water is really chlorinated and hard. The LHBS and others on this board have suggested RO. I've got an under sink RO but it is slow and would take a while to give me as much water as I need.

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You would see signs of scorching on the kettle bottom if it happened. No burned on extract or scorched marks = no scorching.
Ok. No scorching then.

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It is very important to thoroughly rinse any and all cleaning agents. The one step is a no rinse sanitizer IIRC, but it might have reacted with the Star San if you used them back to back. Rinse well at least three times and more if there is any doubt.
For the first batch all I used was the one step stuff--more specifically the label said "Single Step No Rinse Cleanser Sanitizes on Contact". I didn't give it time to dry in the fermentor before it touched the beer though. I also used it to clean/sanitize my tubing, etc.

For the second batch I used oxyclean and had a heck of a time rinsing it off the bottles (5+ rinses). I read on the board that Starsan actually does a good job of taking the residue off which I found is true. Maybe what I need to do if I am going to use Starsan to remove the final oxyclean is rinse the bottles in water it to get the mixture of the two off and then do a final sanitation bath or spray in starsan.
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Old 03-22-2009, 07:21 AM   #15
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There's no need to dry the single step sanitizers. I'm not familiar with that particular product, but the procedure is the same for all if they state "no rinse". Yes, the acidic Star San should help remove deposits on the bottles left behind by the Oxyclean. I no longer use Oxyclean on bottles for just that reason. It can leave a white chalky residue if the bottles are left in it too long or if it is allowed to dry on the bottles without first rinsing well. My favorite bottle cleaner is regular ammonia and some Dawn dish detergent. An overnight soak and labels slide right off with little effort. Any label glue residue is easily removed with a blue srubby pad. I dump the entire half gallon of ammonia in a tub of hot water. The ammonia is very low cost so I use it liberally and save the elbow grease.

I've lived in Phoenix, Tucson and Flagstaff at various times years ago before I started brewing. My wife was from Scottsdale near Mummy Mtn. and I graduated from NAU. Arizona is a wonderful state.

Anyway, sounds like you are using bottled water and not refilling from the dispensing machine. That's got to be an expensive way to go. If I were you I would invest in a carbon block water filter and if you have chloramines in your tap water, use the campden tablets. You should be able to run your RO undersink system overnight and collect more than enough water, but that's something that you will have to figure out. I would do that before buying bottled water.

Other than what we have already covered, I don't really know what to suggest. Do what's necessary for cleaning and sanitation and use water that you know for sure is OK. Post back if you get to the bottom of it and let us know what you figured out.

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Old 03-22-2009, 08:07 AM   #16
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A vinegar solution is supposed to get rid of oxyclean residue as well. Not to make things worse/more complex, but what about using strictly idophor as your sanitizing solution? Just rinse out your bottles and carboys very well with plain water, and use an idophor soak for at least a minute, let drip dry and see what that does.

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Old 03-22-2009, 02:01 PM   #17
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I no longer use Oxyclean on bottles for just that reason. It can leave a white chalky residue if the bottles are left in it too long or if it is allowed to dry on the bottles without first rinsing well.
Yeah. Exactly. I may have to rethink this. Incidentally, I've found that Sierra Nevada bottles are amazing. For some reason they come clean of oxyclean better and the labels float right off...well enough that I bet they would do the same with just hot water and a scrubby.

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I've lived in Phoenix, Tucson and Flagstaff at various times years ago before I started brewing. My wife was from Scottsdale near Mummy Mtn. and I graduated from NAU. Arizona is a wonderful state.
Cool. I too have lived in all three cities (as well as CA before coming back).

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Anyway, sounds like you are using bottled water and not refilling from the dispensing machine. That's got to be an expensive way to go. If I were you I would invest in a carbon block water filter and if you have chloramines in your tap water, use the campden tablets. You should be able to run your RO undersink system overnight and collect more than enough water, but that's something that you will have to figure out. I would do that before buying bottled water.
Yeah. The bottled water route is expensive. Just prior to this discovery I was planning on using the water kiosk outside the store...$2 for 10gal versus $10+. There are no guarantees there either though as you point out.

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Post back if you get to the bottom of it and let us know what you figured out.
I definitely will. I'm SO hopeful that the batch I bottle today will not have the same characteristic. In each of the three batches I've tuned the process substantially so I'm hoping that by being more efficient and messing with the beer less, it will take care of itself. I'm an optimist. We'll see. I really appreciate the ideas.
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Old 04-08-2009, 04:09 AM   #18
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I don't know exactly what caused it but my next two brews were delicious. I changed lots of things in my process so it is difficult to point to which one it was but I suspect that controlling my fermentation temp or getting neurotic about getting Oxyclean film off of bottles made the difference.

On my most recent batch I have stopped using Oxyclean to remove the labels. Ivory soap in hot water makes SN labels come off with a little elbow grease.

It turns out that it was not the RO water from the store because batch #2 used the same water as #1 and had fine results. Lastly, it was NOT Starsan which I used copiously in all batches.

Thanks for all the ideas.

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Old 04-08-2009, 10:14 AM   #19
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Two of your factors are things I use on every batch, every style: 1) I use Star San at the recommended dilution (plenty of foam). 2) I use RO water from the grocery store. Neither causes any problem. I hold my fermentation temperatures in the mid-60's, usually 64-65 during the main phase of the fermentation. Scorched extract was mentioned in one post. I've never scorched any extract; I leave the pot on the burner and stir like mad as I'm adding it. Since your last two batches have been OK, I'd just write it off to experience.

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