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Old 04-28-2014, 03:19 AM   #1
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Default Is water adjustment enough to change a beer completely?

About 2 years ago, I brewed a brown ale that was pretty much a copy of Surly Bender. It was awesome with great notes of chocolate and coffee. When I brewed it, I was using Ice Mountain Spring water as my brewing water.

I now use carbon filtered water, dilute with distilled, and adjust my water using BruNwater spreadsheets. All of my other recent beers with this method have come out just as good if not better than the same brew using bottled water.

So a few months ago, I decided to brew this recipe again. I used the brown balanced water profile in BruNwater and adjusted based on that. Following the same recipe and procedures, all I did was change the yeast from Wyeast 1318 London ale to safale 04 (english ale). I could not imagine that these yeasts are a completely different flavor profile, so I used the dry yeast as it was cheaper and available at the time I brewed it.

After bottle conditioning, the beer was nothing like the original beer. It was yeasty and had the banana/clove flavor that many Belgians have. I was terribly disappointed, but passed it off as a Belgian brown ale and got great reviews.

So a couple weeks later, I brewed it again trying to match the original version, and went back to the Wyeast 1318 yeast that I used in the original batch. Same exact recipe just different yeast. Today I bottled it, and again it had the same flavor profile as the previous batch. It was yeasty and had the Belgian flavor. I guess it could condition out in the bottle to taste better, but I am really worried about this batch ending up like the last.

The only thing I can think is that the yeast is reacting differently with the water nutrients. The only other change that has been made is that the original batch was fermented in a glass carboy, and now I am using the Brew Bucket by Ss Brewtech. I can not imagine that changing the flavor of the beer.

I need to hammer this out because I have to brew 30 gallons of this for my brother-in-laws wedding in the next couple of months and they are expecting the beer to be like the original recipe, not a Belgian brown. Can someone with more knowledge on this help point me in the right direction?

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Old 04-28-2014, 03:23 AM   #2
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If you think it's the water, then just switch back to spring water and brew it again.

Sounds to me like it's more likely your fermentation temps were different on the different brews. Clove and Banana are esters and usually accompany higher ferm temps. Those yeasts will put off esters anyway, but if you keep the temps at the lowest of the recommended range you get a less estery result.

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Old 04-28-2014, 03:32 AM   #3
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All 3 batches were fermented in my temp controlled freezer at 64*. That is what is throwing me for a loop.

I may have to try going back to the spring water, but I want to figure out if water can have this effect on it. To brew 30 gallons with bottled water is going to be pretty expensive. I think the water is the issue, but I am not educated enough in the chemistry side of water and yeast to know if the water can be this big of an issue.

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Old 04-28-2014, 03:34 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by formula2fast View Post
All 3 batches were fermented in my temp controlled freezer at 64*. That is what is throwing me for a loop.

I may have to try going back to the spring water, but I want to figure out if water can have this effect on it. To brew 30 gallons with bottled water is going to be pretty expensive. I think the water is the issue, but I am not educated enough in the chemistry side of water and yeast to know if the water can be this big of an issue.
But you said you changed your fermenters. It's unlikely that the internal temp in your new fermenter is the same as it would be in your old one, but if you're convinced that's not the issue, then the spring water is your only option. My answer? No, I doubt the water created banana and clove esters.
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Old 04-28-2014, 03:38 AM   #5
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That is a good point as well. However, I would think that if that was the case with the stainless fermenter, the temp would be lower on the last two batches as the stainless would remove heat better than the glass fermenter. Does my thinking make sense?

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Old 04-28-2014, 01:02 PM   #6
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There is no way for a change in water chemistry to produce the traits you mentioned. I'd be inclined to say it was some sort of infection or cross-contamination.

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Old 04-28-2014, 03:56 PM   #7
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What temp was wort when you pitched yeast? The esters are created during the early stages of fermentation and if the wort was not cooled enough it could throw esters...

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Old 04-29-2014, 02:59 AM   #8
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I chill with a dual coil immersion chiller and always chill my wort to 70*, then drain through my kettle right into the fermenter, then aerate with pure oxygen for 1 minute through a .5 micron stone, and then pitch yeast. I use a blow off tube until vigorous fermentation stops, then switch to an airlock.

I have a bit of OCD when it comes to cleaning and sanitizing, so I am hopeful that it is not my sanitizing process.

My aeration stone is a bit on the older side, but I soak it in starsan for at least 20 min before aerating. Maybe there is some junk in that causing the issues, but then I would think it would be causing the issues in the other beers I have been brewing as well.

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Old 04-29-2014, 03:26 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by formula2fast View Post
My aeration stone is a bit on the older side, but I soak it in starsan for at least 20 min before aerating. Maybe there is some junk in that causing the issues, but then I would think it would be causing the issues in the other beers I have been brewing as well.
O2 stones can harbor bacteria better than just about any piece of equipment that you have. The stone is made up of a zillion tiny holes, most of which will plug with all sorts of things that bacteria find appetizing. I boil mine EVERY time before I use it - It goes in the same pot with the plate chiller (another bacteria haven).

Not likely the cause of the issue you mention here, but good practice.

How are you measuring fermentation temps now vs before? Details please.
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Old 04-29-2014, 03:45 AM   #10
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Simple water chemistry.... Your filtered water is not going to add esters or phenolic flavors besides chlorophenols (chlorinated brewing water). So as far as your water adding banana or clove. It's a no to that.

The clove note is a phenol... and it comes from POF + yeast. The London and s-04 strains are all POF - yeast. In other words, you are not going to get that flavor from that yeast, unless it mutated. Contamination could be an issue. And I would bet that it is.

Have you brewed any Belgians lately? Any sours? How old are your plastics? How old was the yeast?

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