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Home Brew Forums > Home Brewing Beer > General Techniques > Help ID bitter off-flavor (taste like tonic)
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Old 09-17-2012, 06:43 PM   #21
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I keep thinking back to your comment about a number of "gushers" you have had. I have had this happen to me once. This is caused by wild yeast, a bacterial infection or low fermentation temps. If your beer tastes good at bottling as you stated , then I would tend to side with suspecting your bottling equipment having some type of bug living in it.

My solution was to re-purpose my bottling bucket to hold grain and discard all the hose,the bottling wand and the auto siphon. The cost of replacing you bottling equipment is a small price to pay if your beers are turning out with an off taste and gushing.

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Old 09-18-2012, 06:39 PM   #22
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That much shaking is way overkill, especially for a 1.048 beer. Try 30 seconds of shaking and see if that helps. It could be fusels caused by too much oxygen in the wort. I only say this since it is a fairly low gravity. Normally you can't over oxygenate by shaking. According to Greg Doss of Wyeast, 40 seconds of shaking will get you 8 ppm of dissolved O2. That should be plenty for a 1.048 beer. The fact that the off flavor goes away after leaving it out for a while further supports that it could be fusels.

1 pkg of yeast should be fine for this gravity. You could do a starter, but I don't think that is the issue.

I still don't think infection is the issue either. Don't use bleach. It can cause more harm than good and can damage your equipment. There is no need for anything stronger than PBW and starsan for cleaning and sanitizing. I soak my hoses in warm PBW or Oxyclean Free for a few hours. Then rinse with hot water. When i'm ready to use them, I soak in Starsan for a few minutes. Definately clean right after you use your equipment. I have never had an infection when doing this.
I didn't think it was possible to over oxygenate the wort using regular air... hmm. I should mention that I've had this off-flavour with 1.056 OG batches and only started shaking the wort because I was trying to rule out poorly-oxygenated wort as a factor. Maybe I'll reduce my shaking to 1 min. I'd love to actually, since shaking is darn tiring.

The amount of bleach I was thinking of using was only 1 oz per 5 gallon, fully diluted in water with the same amount of vinegar added subsequently. This is the concentration I've most seen discussed on the forum and I recently heard endorsed by the maker of Starsan. I recall that guy even said it could be used as a "no-rinse" sanitizer, but I plan to rinse with campden-treated water anyway. I'm not planning on making this part of my regular regimen, but just to hopefully kill any remaining bugs after PBW cleaning. I'll continue to use Starsan prior to brewing.

It might be an infection or it might not (I suspect it is at least in part). I've never been very good with fully dissembling and cleaning my bottling gear in PBW, usually just using starsan. Lesson learned! My next planned batch should have a tonne of tweaks based on everyone's feedback and my own research so I'm hoping any infection will be gone and my process/recipe will be sufficiently refined. I'm actually optimistic that THIS batch will finally meet my expectations.

Thanks for all the feedback. It's great to have everyone's support. It's really helps.
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Old 09-19-2012, 06:29 PM   #23
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Originally Posted by brewzombie View Post
I didn't think it was possible to over oxygenate the wort using regular air... hmm. I should mention that I've had this off-flavour with 1.056 OG batches and only started shaking the wort because I was trying to rule out poorly-oxygenated wort as a factor. Maybe I'll reduce my shaking to 1 min. I'd love to actually, since shaking is darn tiring.
I agree. I don't think you can over oxygenate with just air for a 1.056 beer. At least that is the common wisdom. You could try 1 min of shaking. That should be plenty. Not sure what the problem is. Someone else suggested adding calcium. That is a good idea also. Good luck and let us know what you find out. I have seen similar threads and I have not seen a difinitive solution. Maybe you can help crack the code.
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Old 10-10-2012, 12:43 AM   #24
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Hey Brewzombie - I am having this precise issue. You have hit the nail on the head when you say it tastes like tonic. I was battling to describe it initially as its not exactly like astringency, but jeez its ordinary.

I first noticed it when I switched from BIAB to an electric brewery about 6 or 7 batches ago and it has been present in all of them except 1. The switch coincided with me using a different grain mill for the first time so at first I blamed that, but then I switched back to an old trusted mill and the problem persisted.

I think its either...

1) sparge related
2) mash related
3) boil related (increased hop utilistation in elec boil perhaps?)

Im going to use my mates mash tun from his 3V rig this weekend to see if that changes anything. If its still there, I will try boiling in a different kettle. If that also doesnt fix it then I will be completely stumped.

I have done dozens of batches prior to this and am almost certain its not a fermentation issue. Im familiar with the gamut of off flavours that poor ferments can make and its not one of those. I think its a form of astringency related to something I am doing wrong.

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Old 10-10-2012, 03:15 AM   #25
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Hey Brewzombie - I am having this precise issue. You have hit the nail on the head when you say it tastes like tonic. I was battling to describe it initially as its not exactly like astringency, but jeez its ordinary.

I first noticed it when I switched from BIAB to an electric brewery about 6 or 7 batches ago and it has been present in all of them except 1. The switch coincided with me using a different grain mill for the first time so at first I blamed that, but then I switched back to an old trusted mill and the problem persisted.

I think its either...

1) sparge related
2) mash related
3) boil related (increased hop utilistation in elec boil perhaps?)

Im going to use my mates mash tun from his 3V rig this weekend to see if that changes anything. If its still there, I will try boiling in a different kettle. If that also doesnt fix it then I will be completely stumped.

I have done dozens of batches prior to this and am almost certain its not a fermentation issue. Im familiar with the gamut of off flavours that poor ferments can make and its not one of those. I think its a form of astringency related to something I am doing wrong.
Hi YZ250,

I'm bottling a batch this weekend, which has a slew of tweaks to my process based on forum feedback and my own research. I'll report back with an update when I have some news...I'm cautiously optimistic, but I'm already planning additional future modifications. Describing the exact taste of the off-flavor has been a challenge for sure. My thinking is to try to assume that the flavor is a combo of things and I'm doing my best to correct any imperfections/short-cuts found at all stages in the process. Let us know how your next batch goes and I'll do the same. Maybe our issues are related, maybe they're not, but the lessons learned should make us better brewers regardless.

The "bitter" aspect to the flavor flags several possibilities to me, which may be present in any combination:
a. fusel alcohols (hot fermentation, too much exposure to trub/break material, etc)
b. astringency (non-optimal mash pH, oversparging too hot, poor grain crush, etc)
c. astringency (over-hopping)
d. astringency (infection)
f. solvent flavors (hot fermentation + oxidation)
g. ?bitter? flavors from stressed yeast (underpitching, low/hi oxygen, insufficient calcium?)

My recommendation is to learn as much as you can about each of these possibilities and perfect your process to address each. From what you've said, mash pH and over/hot sparging seem likely culprits, but you never know.

The other option is to have someone with a trained palate taste your tonic-beer. I haven't done this yet, but may do so if this batch fails.

Good luck!
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Old 10-10-2012, 08:27 PM   #26
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In my opinion you should try to brew a batch using only RO water (and adding some minerals of course). I'm especially sure of that when you mention that you brew mostly pale beers. Don't just measure PH because chloride to sulfate ratio is also important in perception of bitternes and aftertaste. If this doesn't work then(but I bet it would) then change you equipment(hoses, buckets etc)

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Old 10-10-2012, 11:54 PM   #27
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Hi Brew Zombie,

I am having a mate over this weekend who is a member of my brewclub to see what he thinks. I might end up taking some in for further distribution to see if anyone else can pick the fault, im almost certain they will all just say astringency though. I actually have a batch fermenting out now (crash chilling at the moment) and upon first taste it doesnt seem to have the fault...so heres hoping. I can always pick this fault up out of the fermenter too, which rules out something happening in the bottle or keg. Are yours faulted out of the fermenter or not until bottling is complete?

YZ

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Old 10-11-2012, 01:46 AM   #28
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Take a very close look at your water, in particular Sodium, Sulfate, and Chloride....also your alkalinity. Also get a pH of your mash. Acidifying your sparge water to between 5-6 pH also helps. You have tried a lot of things and it appears water is the common factor.

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Old 10-11-2012, 02:25 AM   #29
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If you go with bleach (and you might as well try before pitching everything) here is what we were told by the EPA to use to disinfect equipment and for sampling: 30 mls bleach in 1 gallon is around 400 mg/L. This will not harm faucets or fixtures, but will disinfect very well. It rinses easily and can be used throughout brewing area in case air born yeast/bacteria are elevated. Making a five gallon batch will let you soak everything overnight.
Also, try getting a hydrometer reading at bottling, then do a hydro reading a month later on a bad batch. See if your number drops much lower. This could help you discern if it is a bacteria/yeast that is the cause.

Do your bottles develop a ring around the inside of the neck at the beer level?

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Old 10-11-2012, 04:47 AM   #30
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Originally Posted by YZ250 View Post
Hi Brew Zombie,

I am having a mate over this weekend who is a member of my brewclub to see what he thinks. I might end up taking some in for further distribution to see if anyone else can pick the fault, im almost certain they will all just say astringency though. I actually have a batch fermenting out now (crash chilling at the moment) and upon first taste it doesnt seem to have the fault...so heres hoping. I can always pick this fault up out of the fermenter too, which rules out something happening in the bottle or keg. Are yours faulted out of the fermenter or not until bottling is complete?

YZ
YZ250: My off-flavour is most detectable after bottling and seems to worsen with age, which is indicative of infection, although I've heard some flavours worsen with carbonation/cold temps. I'm going to bottle soon and will pay close attention to see if I detect it.
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