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Old 09-19-2012, 10:09 PM   #1
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Default Bad Aftertaste/Water Report Included

I have been getting an off flavor in some of my all grain brews and I am trying to nail down the possible culprits. The off flavor is more of an after taste, and I would describe it as kind of bitter but not hoppy bitter. It really comes through most when you burp and I may even call it astringent or burnt. None of those terms quite describe it perfectly though. The taste is also detectable by smell (plasticy maybe). Here is my brief brewing history.

After my first 2 batches I found out one step was not a sanitizer, so I started using star san on everything post boil. I am very thorough with cleaning all equipment using the one step and then after rinsing, leaving everything wet with star san.

My 3rd batch I decided to start using a brita filter to remove chlorine (my local utility does not use chloramimine). I allow the water to very slowly trickle from the bottling bucket through a brita to an empty bucket over the course of many hours (4-5) before I heat strike water. I am now wondering if maybe the brita is not removing the chlorine very well.

I am using a bucket with water and frozen jugs during the first few days of fermentation to keep temps reasonable (65ish normally).

Batches that contained the off flavor:
1. Brown Ale (no brita)
4. Bee Cave Haus Pale Ale
6. 10lb Munich/2lb Vienna Hopped w/Tettnang

Batches that did not contain the off flavor:
2. Brewers Best Extract IPA (no brita)
3. Hefeweizen
5. Saison

My ward labs water report (Berea Ohio)

pH - 9.0
Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) Est, ppm - 341
Electrical Conductivity, mmho/cm - 0.57
Cations / Anions, me/L - 5.4 / 5.3
Sodium, Na - 70
Potassium, K - 5
Calcium, Ca - 29
Magnesium, Mg - 10
Total Hardness, CaCO3 - 114
Nitrate, NO3-N - 2.5 (SAFE)
Sulfate, SO4-S - 23
Chloride, Cl - 106
Carbonate, CO3 - 6
Bicarbonate, HCO3 - 28
Total Alkalinity, CaCO3 - 33
Total Phosphorus, P - 0.29
Total Iron, Fe - 0.02

Sorry for the long post, just wanted to be thorough. Appreciate any advice.

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Old 09-20-2012, 02:00 AM   #2
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A couple of things for you to consider: If your water company does not use chloramine then simply letting your brew water sit overnight in an open vessel will let all the chlorine escape. Pouring back and forth between a couple of pails or agitating vigorously with an oar/paddle will insure that it gets an opportuninty to escape.

Brita pitchers do contain activated carbon which will remove chlorine and chloramine but they also contain ion exchange resins which remove almost everything else.

As Brita pitchers are intended for small volumes of drinking water I would expect the resins to become exhausted pretty quickly. Thus you may in fact have quite a bit of mineral coming through after 1 or 2 brews. It is not, therefore, clear to me what your water picture really is and I cannot make a diagnosis based on what you have told me.

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Old 09-20-2012, 11:23 AM   #3
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Thanks for the feedback. I think I will ditch the brita on my next batch and use the water straight from my tap. I will either use a partial campden tablet on my water or let it air overnight.

I will also add some gypsum to the mash to increase the calcium. While playing with ez water calc spreadsheet, I noticed the chloride/sulfate ratio changes depending on the amount of gypsum. Would I be aiming for the balanced range for a pale ale?

Is there any concern with the sodium, sulfate, or chloride numbers listed above? They are all within Palmer's reccomended range, but seem a little higher than a lot of the reports I have seen here.

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Old 09-20-2012, 12:31 PM   #4
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The sodium and chloride levels are a bit high but not disastrously so. The sulfate level is too high for beers using noble hops but not as high as many people like when doing British and American style ales. But we don't really know that these are correct levels given the uncertain effect of the Brita pitcher. Certainly they wouldn't be lower without it but if it was near, as I suspect, exhaustion they might not be too much higher.

The consequence of the highish chloride is that you don't have the opportunity to supplement caclium much with calcium chloride. That leaves gypsum which means increasing sulfate as the only means and that limits the sort of beers you can brew. Today there is an option that was not really open to home brewers until relatively recently and that is RO water. I would, in your situation, give that serious consideration.

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Old 09-20-2012, 12:41 PM   #5
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The water report is straight from the tap. I did not use the brita pitcher.

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Old 09-20-2012, 12:48 PM   #6
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The Na, Cl, and SO4 concentrations are somewhat elevated and could be a little troublesome in more delicate styles. The flavor character that the OP mentions in the beers can be attributed to those ions since they tend to become antagonistic with respect to flavor when all levels get higher.

From the look of the water report, it appears that Berea gets their water from wells and they then partially soften the water with ion-exchange. The water profile is not typical of Great Lakes water.

I see that the water utility takes the alkalinity fairly low. I can only assume that the elevated Cl or SO4 are from acidification via hydrochloric and/or sulfuric acid. I would not be surprised if the water system was operated with high hardness and alkalinity and now some of the pipes are partially clogged. They may be trying to reverse the scaling in the piping by reducing the alkalinity via acid.

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Old 09-20-2012, 03:52 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mabrungard View Post
They may be trying to reverse the scaling in the piping by reducing the alkalinity via acid.
They're not doing a very good job. Saturation pH is 8.51 and water pH 9.
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Old 09-20-2012, 04:15 PM   #8
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They upgraded the water plant earlier this year, and I know they draw water from a river that is surrounded by a couple of old sandstone quarries. If I remember correctly they had a bunch of huge trucks dropping off carbon when the upgrade was completing. The taste and appearance of our water greatly improved after the upgrade.

My small city is the only one I am aware of in our region that doesn't use Cleveland municipal water (lake Erie). Cleveland water is uspposed to be decent for brewing beer. According to a PDF on the local clubs site, so I can just grab water from a family member locally for free even closer than the lhbs.
http://www.beersnobs.org/recipes_tools/water-09.pdf

I was really hoping my household water would have been adequate, but I feel like I could be more consistent just grabbing Cleveland water.

Thanks for all the feedback!

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Old 11-14-2012, 09:30 PM   #9
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Nobody has mentioned the possibility of high mash ph of sparge reaching 6+ ph.

Also I have had a similar taste to beer that had alot of hops (especially aroma) with my chloride to sulfate ratio near yours.

I am very new to water chemistry, but playing with ez water and your numbers, I would try Ed Worts Haus again and add 6 grams of Gypsum to the total water (mash and sparge) or 3 grams to mash and 3 grams to boil kettle.
The latter doesn't address the possible sparge ph problem though.

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Old 01-08-2013, 02:12 PM   #10
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I have now brewed two 10 gallon batches with cleveland water, and both have turned out fantastic with no astringent off flavor/odor. One was a cream ale and the other was a brown ale with a similar grain and hops bill to the first batch I brewed with the off flavor. The culprit definitely seems to be the berea water. Luckily I have plenty of 5 gallon buckets I can fill with cleveland tap water on brew days going forward!

Thanks for the advice everyone!

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