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Old 11-04-2009, 07:58 PM   #1
Gremlyn
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Default Help me find my oxdiation issue!

After reading my score sheets from the HBT competiton, one thing is apparent to me...I have an oxidation issue! 5 of the 6 score sheets I got back dinged me for oxidation (thats with 3 different brews). I submitted an ESB, Irish Red, and a Dunkelweizen; these three beers were brewed specifically for the competition and had sat a total of about 2 months total before being judged (only 1/2 of that time in the bottles). I thought it took a lot of oxygen to cause a noticeable problem, and I don't think that much is getting in for me, but obviously it is somewhere. Here is as in depth a run down of my brewing process as I can manage to give:

1. I do 5 gallon batches, full boil on my electric stove top with the help of a single heat stick. My kettle is an 8 gal Megapot with a bargain fittings weldless valve and sight glass.
2. I batch sparge, usually two equal sized batches at ~180-185F.
3. To transfer my wort to the boil kettle, I just open up the valve on my MLT (5 gal Rubbermaid with brass ball valve) and let it flow, after vorlaufing of course. It probably flows in from a height of 18" at most, obviously the height reduces as the kettle fills. The does cause a lot of splashing.
4. I boil generally for 60 mins, though I am now thinking of going for 90 after my Irish Red was dinged for DMS.
5. I cool the wort with my 25 ft 1/2" IC, usually down to 80-85F in about 20-30 mins. Once there, I transfer to my plastic bucket fermenter. I was doing this with a short piece of tubing that helped to aim the wort into the bucket but have since gotten a longer piece of tubing that actually rests in the bucket to minimise splashing (because it would make a mess). I take my spoon and give it a good sloshing around to get some air into the wort.
6. I pitch my starter, usually ~0.5L pitching the full volume or 1L that has settled and been decanted.
******
7. After fermenting for 3-4 weeks (and given the occasional swirl to rouse yeasties), I bring the bucket into the kitchen for bottling. I take a small sample with ym wine theif for gravity measurement.
8. Boil a couple of cups of water and mix up my sugar. Pour that into the bottle bucket.
9. On these three batches I rigged up a little tube that let me cleanly suck the beer up the racking cane and into the tubing until I was confident I could pinch it off and then let it flow into the bucket and maintain the vacuum. When I do this, a little air is inevitably mixed in initially as the wort starts to fill the bucket. Once the wort is going, it submerges the end of the tube and the wort is now flowing (theoretically) without air getting in.
Note: Sometimes the tube doesn't fill all the way up and the beer flows in the tube for a few seconds with some airspace. If I briefly pinch off the tubing, this airspace goes away.
10. Towards the end of the racking to the bottling bucket, I tilt the bucket a little to get the last of the beer. Some of the loose yeast cake is also pulled in, which I figure doesn't matter much and just aids in carbing the beer quicker. As the dregs are racked out, the cane starts to gurgle and I pull it out to avoid getting too much air mixed in, though I know some does.
11. Once transferred to the bottling bucket, I consider it mixed enough as it flows in from the bottom up. I do no stirring or anything at this point to the beer directly.
12. I have a very short piece of tubing on my bucket's spigot that is just long enough to stick my bottling wand in and hold it in place. I open the spigot all the way and let the wand fill. I use the spring loaded wand.
13. Now I start bottling, just put the bottle under the wand, push up a little and fill until it is just at the top with the wand still in the bottle. When I remove the wand this leaves a nice and small amount of headspace. When the filling starts it does sound like it sprays a little and I'm sure a little more air mixes in, but what can you do about that?
14. Now I cap the bottles (I don't use the better O2 sealing caps as the beer doesn't sit around that long). They get put into the bottle boxes and stored in my closet until carbed up.

So please tell me, how am I getting enough O2 in my beers to get noticeable oxidation (not that I've ever noticed it, but it seems that it isn't smack you over the head noticeable, just present as a flavour. I also don't know what it really tastes like, so maybe I am just missing it).

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Old 11-04-2009, 08:23 PM   #2
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I am interested in hearing what the more seasoned veterans will have to say, but I did notice you are transferring to a bucket once the wort is cooled to between 80-85. All of my notes indicate 80 as the highest acceptable temperature (80+ is oxidation, 80- is aeration).

See http://www.howtobrew.com/section1/chapter6-9-3.html

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Old 11-04-2009, 08:37 PM   #3
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I didn't see any problems jump out at me as you related your process.

Aeration prior to adding yeast is good.

The part about stirring your yeast to rouse it...I usually grab my bucket at the base (while on a counter) and swirl/drag it in a circle without the base leaving the surface. This way I'm not stirring it by dipping a spoon into it.

As for your priming process...I never add water to my beer once the wort is topped off and yeast added. I rack off 1-2 cups of beer and boil my priming sugar in it then add it to the bottling bucket.

That's all I have to offer.

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Old 11-04-2009, 08:37 PM   #4
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I'm convinced that your "oxidation problem" problem isn't really a problem. The judges probably just didn't like your beer so their go-to answer is ding you for oxidation. I get dinged for oxidation all the time, and I've never once tasted it in any of my brews. I did notice some off flavors coming from a batch that I used the "bad" nottingham on though. "They" called it oxidation.
I'm curious what any seasoned judges would have to say about all of this.

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Old 11-04-2009, 08:42 PM   #5
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I get dinged for oxidation all the time, and I've never once tasted it in any of my brews.
If you're looking for papery, cardboardy flavors oft ascribed to oxidation, you might be missing it. When I taste oxidation (and I've tasted it both in commercial and HB beers), the beer often just seems rather flat and lifeless rather than those classic descriptors. Oxidation can actually be complementary in some beers, particularly big beers like barleywines etc, as a sherry-like or vinous character.

Oxidation does exist, I assure you.

Gremlyn1 - there's nothing about your process that suggests oxidation in any way, so I'm afraid I can't offer much help here.
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Old 11-04-2009, 10:35 PM   #6
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I think your process looks solid, and especially with bottle conditioning you get a short extra round of fermentation that should clean up the beer in the bottle.

That said, the problem could be bottle conditioning, some time yeast in suspension can cause off flavors. With comps you don't have much control over how the bottle is handled, so the yeast at the bottom might get disturbed and might not have had a chance to settle back to the bottom before the judge tastes it.

I'm not sure if this is a problem though, Sierra Nevada bottle conditions their beers, and I don't notice them being yeasty.

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Old 11-04-2009, 11:20 PM   #7
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How aggressively do you "rouse" your yeast, and at what stage in fermentation?

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Old 11-05-2009, 12:09 AM   #8
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How aggressively do you "rouse" your yeast, and at what stage in fermentation?
I pick the bucket up and give it a gentle swirling circular motion for 30-60 seconds about a week into the fermentation. Maybe again two weeks in.

I'm glad everyone else thinks I'm doing this right... I was starting to wonder if I was crazy :P
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Old 11-05-2009, 12:27 PM   #9
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The only things I see that could cause it (but still seem unlikely) have already been mentioned. I.E. the cooling before racking to the fermenter...and the rousing the yeast...especially sort of 'late' in the fermentation. At that late stage there isn't much CO2 being produced and it would be easier to let air in...but that still seems unlikely. It shouldn't be necessary to rouse it to hit your FG anyway.

I had some slight oxidation in two of my HBT brews too. Sherry-ish in one and vegetal in another. I never really noticed the vegetal note just knew something was off. Now I went back and tasted that brew and I can taste it.

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Old 11-05-2009, 03:00 PM   #10
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The only things I see that could cause it (but still seem unlikely) have already been mentioned. I.E. the cooling before racking to the fermenter...and the rousing the yeast...especially sort of 'late' in the fermentation. At that late stage there isn't much CO2 being produced and it would be easier to let air in...but that still seems unlikely. It shouldn't be necessary to rouse it to hit your FG anyway.

I had some slight oxidation in two of my HBT brews too. Sherry-ish in one and vegetal in another. I never really noticed the vegetal note just knew something was off. Now I went back and tasted that brew and I can taste it.
I had one of my ESBs last night night and couldn't pick up the oxidation, but I could taste all the rest of the notes pretty well. I also remembered I had made the dregs of my ESB into a 12-oz bottle that I purposely shook the crap out of to oxidise it. When comparing the two, I could taste that the shaken one was definitely not right, but I couldn't peg 'cardboard' as the flavour, it was just off from the 'good' ESB.

As for the swirling, I wouldn't imagine that O2 is getting in, and I wouldn't think oxidation would be possible without O2 As far as I can tell my fermentors seal well. I've never had a lack of airlock activity that would indicate one is leaking significantly. Really the only reason I swirl is to off-gas the CO2 trapped in the yeast cake, which I assume/think/hope/expect gives me a tighter packed cake. Could be complete bollucks, but it makes sense (to me).
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