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Home Brew Forums > Home Brewing Beer > General Techniques > Need help, 6 (7) bad batches in a row (Long)
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Old 10-20-2007, 03:00 PM   #1
JnJ
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Default Need help, 6 (7) bad batches in a row (Long)

So here is the deal, I’ve had 6 (possible 7, one in the fermenter now) bad batches in a row. The first 2 were mini-mash kits from AHBS, the next two were simple extracts with steeping grains, next was an extract with steeping grains from More Beer, and the last was a partial mash recipe of my own. The biggest problem is I cannot identify the off flavor. I look at all of Palmer’s off flavors and can’t pin it down. Anyone local want to try it?
The first four would not get lower than 1.020 and I notice in batches 3 & 4 that the closet I was fermenting in was warm, about 75 degrees. So I figured the high temp was the problem and I stopped brewing at that point. Then I picked up an old freezer on Craig’s list and set it up as my fermenter cabinet. So batch 5 I maintained a temp of 68 degrees and still had the bad taste. I use “Easy Clean Cleaner/Sanitizer” from AHBS. Here is what they say about it:
“Easy Clean is a no rinse cleaner and sanitizer. It sanitizes on contact. It is an alternative to One Step at lower price. Usage: 1 tablespoon per 1 gallon warm water. 30 second contact time.”
So when five turned out bad, I eliminated the ferm temp as the problem and started focusing on the sanitizer. For batch 6 I soaked the fermenter (bucket) in bleach, then rinsed, then used the normal sanitizer. So when 6 was bad also, I decide for batch 7 to use the normal sanitizer and then rinse it with boiled water. 7 is currently in the fermenter at 10 days I checked the FG and it was down to 1.012 but the taste seemed to be bad again. I left it in the fermenter to crash cool to 32 degrees.
I ruled out the water because it’s the same water (tap from hose) that I have used for every batch and before these 6(7) I made very good beer. I typically primary in a bucket then secondary in a Better Bottle. The off taste started in the primary (I tasted it before transfer to secondary) so the last few batches I only used the primary and nothing touched the wort after cooling (it went right to the fermenter) so this rules out hoses and other equipment. I use a IC cooler that goes in with 15 minutes left in the boil so I rule that out also. This batch (7), if bad, is in a better bottle and never saw a bucket. For the next batch I will use a glass carboy to rule out my plastic stuff all together.
I brew in my garage near the open garage door and I do full boils.

Any ideas?

BTW, I’ve worked in the food safety/sanitation industry for many years so this is kind of embarrassing that I can’t figure this out……

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Old 10-20-2007, 03:08 PM   #2
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Do you have a 6.5 gallon carboy to ferment in? I'm reaching a bit in suggesting this, as it sounds like you properly cleaned your fermentation bucket, but it seems to me that you've covered just about everything else.

Are you using an airlock or a blowoff tube?

Do you put water or liquor in your airlock?

If you use a blowoff tube, do you put the other end of it in a bucket of sanitized water?

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Old 10-20-2007, 03:19 PM   #3
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Gotta pin down what the off flavor is, man, that's the only way to truly figure this sucker out. Any sort of description you can place on it?

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Old 10-20-2007, 05:11 PM   #4
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There are so many variables to work out.

Sanitation (sounds ok)
Ferment temp (now ok)
Mash Temp
Sparge Temp
Steeping Temp
Chilling method
Aeration method
Primary ferment time (10 days sounds good)
Secondary time
Bottle priming method

You know, are you sure you're not just tasting green beer? What's the oldest batch you have that still tastes wrong? Have you tried one of those after refrigerating for about a week?

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Old 10-20-2007, 05:50 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ohiobrewtus
Do you have a 6.5 gallon carboy to ferment in? I'm reaching a bit in suggesting this, as it sounds like you properly cleaned your fermentation bucket, but it seems to me that you've covered just about everything else.

Are you using an airlock or a blowoff tube?

Do you put water or liquor in your airlock?

If you use a blowoff tube, do you put the other end of it in a bucket of sanitized water?
I have used my 6.5 gal buckets (I have two) and now my 6 gal Better Bottle.

I have used airlock on most, but twice I used a blowoff tube with the other end in sanitizer.

I use my sanitizer in the airlock.
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Old 10-20-2007, 05:58 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ó Flannagáin
Gotta pin down what the off flavor is, man, that's the only way to truly figure this sucker out. Any sort of description you can place on it?
Ya, that is the most frustrating part. My notes for one of my early batches first describes it as extremely bitter or astringent. Because of this I thought maybe my thermometer was off (steeping at to high of a temp), I bought a new one and compared all my thermometers together and they were all within 1 degree… One time when I was trying a batch I had some Bridgeport ESB and Boddingtons pub ale and I thought I could taste the same taste in them but it was way stronger in mine. I’ll taste it again and try to better describe it.
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Old 10-20-2007, 06:04 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bobby_M
There are so many variables to work out.

Sanitation (sounds ok)
Ferment temp (now ok)
Mash Temp
Sparge Temp
Steeping Temp
Chilling method
Aeration method
Primary ferment time (10 days sounds good)
Secondary time
Bottle priming method

You know, are you sure you're not just tasting green beer? What's the oldest batch you have that still tastes wrong? Have you tried one of those after refrigerating for about a week?
I believe sanitation is good. Fermenation temp is good. On the partial mashes my mash temp was 150. On the sparge recipes my sparge was 155-160 (depending on recipe). As stated above, I made sure my thermometers were correct. Chilling method I used an IC. Primary ferm time varied based on recipe but ranged from 10 days to 3 weeks. The batches that I used secondary the time varied from 1 week to 3 weeks. These were all keg except for the last batch, I bottle a 12er using the tabs and kegged the rest.
I'v tasted every batch and none of my 8 or so prior batches had this taste. Green beer might no taste great, but it's usually not bad enough to make you want to spit it out. I have keep some as long as 2 months and still no better. And, each batch was a different beer type, but they all had the same flavor, expect the Hefe which had the off flavor along with a little banana.
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Old 10-21-2007, 12:45 AM   #8
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What kind of water are you using? City tap water? if so, chlorine may be the culprit. If well water, it could also be causing problems. if you have not tried bottled water...do that. It could very well be your culprit. Even if your beer was fine before these last batches, the water may have changed since then.....

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Old 10-21-2007, 05:25 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JnJ
Ya, that is the most frustrating part. My notes for one of my early batches first describes it as extremely bitter or astringent. Because of this I thought maybe my thermometer was off (steeping at to high of a temp), I bought a new one and compared all my thermometers together and they were all within 1 degree… One time when I was trying a batch I had some Bridgeport ESB and Boddingtons pub ale and I thought I could taste the same taste in them but it was way stronger in mine. I’ll taste it again and try to better describe it.
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Astringent
Astringency differs from bitterness by having a puckering quality, like sucking on a tea bag. It is dry, kind of powdery and is often the result of steeping grains too long or when the pH of the mash exceeds the range of 5.2 - 5.6. Oversparging the mash or using water that is too hot are common causes for exceeding the mash pH range. It can also be caused by over-hopping during either the bittering or finishing stages. Bacterial infections can also cause astringency, i.e. vinegar tones from aceto bacteria.

The brown scum that forms during fermentation and clings to the side of the fermentor is intensely bitter and if it is stirred back into the beer it will cause very astringent tastes. The scum should be removed from the beer, either by letting it cling undisturbed to the sides of an oversize fermentor, or by skimming it off the krausen, or blowing off the krausen itself from a 5 gallon carboy. I have never had any problems by simply letting it cling to the sides of the fermentor.
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Old 10-21-2007, 05:50 AM   #10
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I feel your pain, man....most of my early batches were bad, and I still have that fluke batch every now and then. My 2 cents:

1. Switch sanitizers. Go with Star-San, it is tried and trued; you will be able to eliminate this variable for sure if you mix Star-San properly.

2. How are you measuring fermenting temps? You want to know the temp of the wort itself, NOT the ambient air temp in the freezer. There can be up to a 10 degree difference during early primary fermentation. This will easily put you close to 80F, and definitely create all kinds of fusels/off flavors. Get a thermowell, or do what alot of us do: tape the probe to the fermenter itself. I noticed an immediate change in my beer after doing this.

Hope that helps!

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