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Old 01-06-2012, 04:26 PM   #1
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Default Phenol/Chlorophenol Smell and Taste

Before I begin I want to state that I have read every post on the web site about pheholic off flavors. I am also a 10+ year homebrewer of all-grain beers and very methodical/precise with my techniques. With that being said:

Recently I have been experiencing a metallic, off-flavor in my beers. Never had this problem before, so I am completely confused. I can smell the off flavor and taste it and it really bothers me when i burp and the smell permeates my mouth and sinuses! Yuck...

I have had professional brewers sample my beers and they say its chlorine related. I use water from Watermill Express, a 12 step process that removes everything from the city water supply and leaves almost nothing but high quality drinking water. There is a trace of Magnesium (.1 mg/L) and Sodium (1 mg/L) with a 5.5 ph. NO CHLORINE SMELL OR TASTE.

I sampled my last batch (spiced pumpkin ale) through each transfer from kettle to primary, from primary to secondary, and from secondary to keg. No phenol or other off-flavors detected. I used a closed transfer from corny to corny with a C02 tank and everything on the cornies and hoses were stripped down and cleaned with oxiclean and sanitized with star san.

Just like my previous batch that I put in 100 bottles, this batch, 2-5 gallon corny kegs, had the same nasty phenol/chlorophenol taste as the last few batches. I am stumped... How can this happen after bottling/kegging when everything is clean and sanitized? Could it be something in the C02 tank? Could it be something that is undetectable until the beer is chilled? Please help!! Might have to retire this hobby if I can't find a solution... Thanks, David

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Old 01-06-2012, 04:31 PM   #2
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Chloramine might be be perceived until after fermentation.

Maybe try a batch from another water source? Or add some campden tablets to your water and mix it up right before using.

If nothing else has changed, and experts state their opinion, it's a reasonable place to look.

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Old 01-06-2012, 04:39 PM   #3
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How are you cleaning the kegs? You could have residual chlorine/chloramine from cleaning/sanitizing them if you are using a different water source.

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Old 01-06-2012, 04:57 PM   #4
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How old are your Hoses? My neighbor served me a beer a few weeks ago,and it had a distinctive rubbery/ chlorophenol aroma and flavor. He had just cleaned out his lines with Oxy/Starsan, but we changed out the lines with some new tubing he had anyways, and the flavor was gone. Im not sure how good Oxy/star-san are for beer lines, I've switched to LLC from Five star.

When was the last time you took apart your disconnects too?

To me it sounds like an issue with the kegs, the lines, the faucets or all three.

If you can, hook up a new disconnect with new tubing and a new picnic tap. if its still there, inspect the Kegs and popets.

Sounds super frustration, best of luck.

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Old 01-06-2012, 06:19 PM   #5
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I break down the cornies everytime I fill them. I inspect the inside of the dip tube and run a rifle cleaning pole w/ swab through it to get out any build up. All o-rings are new, the poppets are clean and sanitized, the lines in my kegerator are the new 3/16" accuflex with the glass lining and they are only a few months old. I use star san and don't rinse with city water. I just turn them upside down to drain and when I fill them i always see the foam come out the top. I use the same water for brewing as i do for my sanitizer because the city water makes the star san solution cloudy, and that bothers me.

I can only think of one possible problem, and that would be my sparge water temperature is to hot, maybe in the 180-190 deg range. Could this cause a phenol or other similar effect on the chilled beer that is undetectable at room temperature?

I am quite puzzled my fellow brewers. I appreciate your responses. Any other comments or experieces with this same issue would be very much appreciated! Thanks, David

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Old 01-06-2012, 06:44 PM   #6
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Well, it should be easy to figure out if it is polyphenols that are being extracted from the mash or sparge. Take samples at each stage of the process through kegging, and stick them in the clear plastic cups used for e.g. brewing compeitions, and put them in the fridge covered for a day or two.

Taste each sample and figure out when the flavor kicks in. At the very least, that will help you identify what step to focus on.

If it is caused by infection of some sort, then there will be a bit of a delay between where the problem is introduced, and where you taste it. But from your description, it doesn't sound like an infection.

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Old 01-06-2012, 06:57 PM   #7
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Thanks, but I would be very surprised if it were an infection. I've had to pour out a 5 gallon batch back in the day because I got a little relaxed on my sanitizing methods. Won't do that again, it hurts my heart!

Anyway, when I brew tomorrow I will pay more attention to my sparge water temperatures. Hopefully it's something simple that I stopped doing and have just overlooked. The old saying, "back to basics" maybe very applicable here!

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Old 01-06-2012, 07:17 PM   #8
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As I said, take samples from each step and keep them around in the fridge for tasting.

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Old 01-06-2012, 07:40 PM   #9
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You said you sampled it before it went into the keg right? and there was no off flavor,but after being in the keg you noticed it?

If this is the case, It would seem be something to do with the packaging and dispensing, but not necessarily to do with the brewing process.

May be if you can, releas the pressure from the keg and syphon a little beer directly out of the keg and see if the flavor is still there.

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Old 01-06-2012, 08:08 PM   #10
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I had that same flavor over several consecutive batches. I think I narrowed it down to fermentation temperature. What do you use to control fermentation temps? Are you positive it's holding the temperature you expect? I had the fermentation cooler I use overheat once and blow hot air instead of cold... totally ruined that batch with the phenol flavor I had in my trouble batches. I'm not sure if it was just the temps or if my water chemistry had anything to do with it, but once I got a fermentation chamber and started adjusting water chemistry the off-flavors went away.

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