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Old 01-06-2010, 12:56 PM   #1
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Default Please HBT community, help me before the SWMBO forces me to quit!

Alright, I'm at my wit's end here (no pun intended). If I can't figure this out I may have to give up this hobby entirely because the SWMBO will not let me keep dumping money into beer that no one will drink.

To sum up: two batches, different beers, same soapy taste. Batch A = True Brew Amber, batch B = NB Irish Red Ale. Both batches seem to have gone smoothly. They both looked beautiful, carbed well, cleared and carbed. No off-smelling aromas. The Irish Red in particular looks and smells delicious, although the yeast didn't seem to flocculate as much as I'd hoped. Could be the strain (Wyeast 1272 American Ale II).

based on what I've seen in other threads, here are the possible causes I can determine:

  1. Soapy equipment - already ruled out. Didn't use any dish soap or anything like that on my equipment/bottles for second batch
  2. Cleanser/sanitizer - batch a i used one-step, batch b i used B-Brite to clean and Star-San to sanitize.
  3. Trub - "How To Brew" has an entry on leaving beer on the trub too long. Both batches I racked to a secondary fermenter after 8-10 days. Only thing I can think of here though is that when I bottle a week or two later, there's about 1/2in - 1in of sediment in the secondary as well.
  4. Yeast - two different types of yeast (can't remember batch A, batch B used Wyeast 1272 American Ale II). I'm almost leaning towards the idea that the yeat is dying though... see previous note about the amount of sediment in the secondary, could this be an issue?
  5. Water - I guess this could be somewhat ruled out. First batch I used tap water (our water tastes pretty good), second batch I used distilled water I got at the store for the full 5 gal. My father in law used to brew back in the day using well water and their beer never tasted soapy
  6. Fermentation Temps - Maybe? First batch was left in a closet and it got fairly warm (lower 70s). Second batch was fermented in the basement, average temp 65-68F

I will gladly ship a bottle to anyone who can help me identify the cause of the soapy flavor, or if you are local to north-central West Virginia I'll bring you a bottle myself. I would love to continue brewing, but it's very discouraging when your first two batches are failures, yet no one can pinpoint exactly why. I've seen this problem posted several times on several forums, but rarely is it solved. Actually, i've yet to find a thread where the brewer came back and said "THAT WAS IT!". Batch A did improve at one point, but then went straight to hell later on. Batch B, I gave an additional 6 weeks to bottle condition and after tasting last night it seems like it's getting worse.

Please HomeBrewTalk community... save me! Gather your spirits and pray to the brew gods that they should bestow upon me the same good fortune that so many of you experience!

Why hast thou forsaken me, brew gods?!? WHY?!?
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Old 01-06-2010, 01:03 PM   #2
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How long has it been since you brewed these beers? Extract or AG? What is your procedure?

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Old 01-06-2010, 01:03 PM   #3
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My only 2 thoughts are:

A. Did you make a yeast starter? If you didnt, the yeast would likely be stressed. Im not sure if autolysis (yeast suicide) could occur that fast if they were stressed, but its possible. One of the characteristics of autolysis can be soapy/fatty flavors. http://www.amg01.info/PDFfiles/Learn...0Autolysis.pdf

B. I think you arent leaving the beer in the primary long enough. I have begun leaving my beers in the primary for 3-4 weeks. Then I either rack to a keg, or secondary (only if needed) and havent had any issues. You should be giving the yeast at least 2 weeks in the primary. There are a lot of compounds produced during fermentation and the yeast needs time to clean them up. 8-10 days is pretty fast for racking (even tho starter kits say its okay).

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Old 01-06-2010, 01:07 PM   #4
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And how long are you letting them bottle condition before you start drinking them?

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Old 01-06-2010, 01:12 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by thatjoshguy View Post
[*]Trub - "How To Brew" has an entry on leaving beer on the trub too long. Both batches I racked to a secondary fermenter after 8-10 days.
What was the gravity at that point? Next time leave in the primary for 2-3wks -> check gravity before doing anything else.


Quote:
Originally Posted by thatjoshguy View Post
[*]Water - I guess this could be somewhat ruled out. First batch I used tap water (our water tastes pretty good), second batch I used distilled water I got at the store for the full 5 gal. My father in law used to brew back in the day using well water and their beer never tasted soapy
Next time use 50/50 tap spring water not distilled water.


Quote:
Originally Posted by thatjoshguy View Post
Fermentation Temps - Maybe? First batch was left in a closet and it got fairly warm (lower 70s). Second batch was fermented in the basement, average temp 65-68F
What temp did you pitch the yeast? how did you check the wort temp?
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Old 01-06-2010, 01:20 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by broadbill View Post
How long has it been since you brewed these beers? Extract or AG? What is your procedure?
Batch A - honestly can't remember.

Batch B :
-Brewed on Oct. 3rd. 2009
-Distilled water
-Boil Volume = 1.5 Gallons
-Steeped Grains for 15 min as water heated up, starting at 90 Deg. F
-Once boiling, added Gold Malt (LME)
-added 1/2 gallon water.
-Total boiling volume now 2.5 Gallons
-brought back to boil
-set timer for 60 min.
-added Willamette
-at t-30min, added East Kent Goldings
-chilled wort in sink of ice to 70 Deg
-added 2.5 gallons of pre-boiled, chilled purified water for final volume of 5 Gallons
-temp 61deg F
-aerated for 30min. using new aquarium pump and stone
-pitched yeast at 62deg F
-Primary: 6 days @ 66 degrees F
-Secondary: 14 days @ 66 degrees F
-O.G. 1.040
-F.G. 1.010


Notes on yeast: this was one of the wyeast smack-packs. It was quite swollen when I pitched it into the wort.

I usually test beer as it ages, one bottle a week after 2 weeks, to get an idea what is going on. the flavor is always there, although it varies from bottle to bottle. This batch has been aging quite a while now, I bottled right before Thanksgiving.

I pitch to secondary when the gravity is at my target (1.010 in this case) for two days straight, as according to How To Brew". Should I wait longer?
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Old 01-06-2010, 01:20 PM   #7
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More information is needed. Don't give up we all have had similar problems but you will overcome them. Tell us what your brew day is like and your process.

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Old 01-06-2010, 01:20 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by thatjoshguy View Post
[*]Trub - "How To Brew" has an entry on leaving beer on the trub too long. Both batches I racked to a secondary fermenter after 8-10 days. Only thing I can think of here though is that when I bottle a week or two later, there's about 1/2in - 1in of sediment in the secondary as well.
Actually too long is MONTHS not days.

There's been a big shift in brewing consciousness in the last few years where many of us believe that yeast is a good thing, and besides just fermenting the beer, that they are fastidious creatures who go back and clean up any by products created by themselves during fermentation, which may lead to off flavors.

Rather than the yeast being the cause of off flavors, it is now looked at by many of us, that they will if left alone actually remove those off flavors, and make for clearer and cleaner tasting beers.

You'll find that a great many folks, maybe even the majority on here these days, leave their beers in primary for 3-4 weeks, skipping secondary. Many of us even dry hop in primary, and only rack to secondary if we are adding oak or fruit, or had fruit in the boil or primary and left lots of trub behind.

Even John Palmer talks about this in How To Bew;

Quote:
Originally Posted by How To Brew
Leaving an ale beer in the primary fermentor for a total of 2-3 weeks (instead of just the one week most canned kits recommend), will provide time for the conditioning reactions and improve the beer. This extra time will also let more sediment settle out before bottling, resulting in a clearer beer and easier pouring. And, three weeks in the primary fermentor is usually not enough time for off-flavors to occur.
And this;

Quote:
John Palmer

As a final note on this subject, I should mention that by brewing with healthy yeast in a well-prepared wort, many experienced brewers, myself included, have been able to leave a beer in the primary fermenter for several months without any evidence of autolysis.
People have left it as much as six months.

This is where the most up to date brewing wisdom and ideas can be found...In fact a lot of stuff has been started on here, and made it into byo or zymurgy or podcasts...in fact BYO DID a piece on no secondary/long primary, along with the BASIC BREWING PODCAST and even they said that there were no issues/harm with doing it and in some beers it did actually improve the flavor and clarity. And I believe that really WAS influenced by the discussion we have had for the last couple years on here.

After a month in primary your beer is crystal clear, very clean and crisp tasting. And when you rack to bottle you leave behind a really dense yeast/trub cake.

Believe me, after three years of doing the long primary/ no secondary I find no need to go back to doing it any other way. The quality of my beers has upped 10 ten fold.

I'm pretty sure that's where your issue is, you're rushing it off the yeast before it has a chance to clean up after itself, and that's where your off flavor is more than likely coming from.
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Old 01-06-2010, 01:22 PM   #9
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The only beer I ever made that tasted soapy ended up being infected. The bottles started gushing like 6 months later (when I opened them up to dump them out because I needed the bottles) and it tasted funky (not sour) at that time. When they first tasted soapy there were no signs characteristic of infection, that showed up much later.

Thats my only guess. Anything else that could have caused you problems you cleared up on the second batch where you were using a good cleaner and sanitizer, water that won't have caused a problem, good yeast and a reasonable fermentation temperature.

Are there potential sources of infection where you brew? Kitchens are full of bacteria, but a lot of people get away with brewing in them. Any window air conditioners near where you brew or ferment?

You could try being extremely diligent about sanitation and brewing at a different location next batch to rule out infection.

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Old 01-06-2010, 01:24 PM   #10
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Quote:
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Notes on yeast: this was one of the wyeast smack-packs. It was quite swollen when I pitched it into the wort.
You didn't make a starter? That's another issue, and potential source of off flavors. There are only enough cells in a tube or smack pack to easily ferment a beer with an og of 1.025 or less....anything over that, which is most beers, a starter is needed.

This calculator will show you how big of a starter you need to pitch.

http://www.mrmalty.com/calc/calc.html

That's a two fold issue, if you are stressing your yeast out by under pitching, and then not letting the yeast clean up their stress caused mess, then you ARE bound to get off flavors.
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