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Old 02-15-2011, 11:50 AM   #1
Chuginator
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Default Unwanted "Belgian" flavors - help!

I've been plagued with off-flavors in my beer, and this has been going on for quite some time. Different yeasts, different fermentation temps, different equipment, different water, different residences. The problem keeps following me! So I'm starting again from the ground up with 1-gallon extract batches, trying to get a handle on it.

Recently I did a very simple, very light no-frills extract batch. Still came up with those problems!

Unfortunately I can't tell if the off-flavors are phenols or esters, or both. It has a distinct Belgian wang to it that I cannot get along with. I tend to think a combination of band-aidy, clovey, but the best description I can come up with is "Belgian." I have had Hefeweizens with similar aromas and flavors, which leads me to believe it's more estery than phenolic. However I'm not getting any banana in the smell.

I read up on esters and see that two big factors contributing to their production are underpitching and too high of a fermentation temperature. I suppose the next step might be to try again with a larger slurry and lower the temp?

Recipe and notes are below; I realize dry yeast isn't the best option, but I was trying to start cheap just to see if I could troubleshoot this problem. I've used liquid yeasts in past all-grain batches that came up the same way, so I figured I'd start cheap.

1 lb. extra light DME
1 gallon distilled water
1 oz. US. Tettnang
Boil time: 15 min
OG 1.047
FG 1.011 (4.7%)
Yeast: Munton's dry ale yeast packet, put in 1/3c boiled/cooled water
Pitching temp: 75F
Fermented two weeks, did not do a rack to secondary, not wanting to risk any potential contamination
Fermentation temp: 70-74F
Sanitizer: One Step, soaked clean bottles and fermenter in it, did not rinse

Cheers!

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Old 02-15-2011, 12:25 PM   #2
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So a packet of dry yeast is more than enough cells for a one gallon batch. I would assume you had the correct amount of yeast, but how old was the packet and how was it treated (I.E. was it refrigerated before you used it, etc.)?

The bandaid taste is usually from chlorophenols, but you used distilled water so that shouldn't hurt it either. Do you know if your municipality uses chlorine or chloramines for the water supply? If they use chlorine, then you could go the extreme step and boil your water before you made your sanitizer with it to minimize the amount and see if that helps.

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Old 02-15-2011, 12:35 PM   #3
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Hello, thanks for responding.

I don't recall how old the yeast was, but it had been kept refrigerated up to the point of use.

I'm on well water, so there is no chlorine.

I wish my nose was trained better, so I could without a doubt pinpoint phenols vs. esters, but unfortunately I don't think I can. So, I'm hoping to take a whack at one of the problems, which would be esters - and see what happens?

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Old 02-15-2011, 12:51 PM   #4
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The flavors you are describing are almost always yeast derived. I would let the beer sit on the yeast for a month. If you drop the temperature too soon or rack off the yeast cake too soon, the yeast may struggle to clean up their own by-products. You might also try fermenting at lower temperatures. If ambient temp is 75, then the temp of the wort with the yeast working is higher. High temps will certainly produce more yeast-derived off flavors. My first step would be to ferment at the low end of the range, but certainly below 70.

Also, don't use pure water. Yeast need minerals in water to do their job. I doubt that this would cause "belgain" off flavors, but it is not good.

Good luck!

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Old 02-15-2011, 01:00 PM   #5
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It's hard to say for sure without being able to taste the beer but I would vote for lowering the fermentation temperature. Maybe in the 64-68 range...? So, I haven't used that yeast before but temps in the low 70s do not give the desired flavors/aromas (for non Belgians anyway).

The pitching rate should be fine with that volume. I would have speculated on the water source also but the distilled water should eliminate any water issues...

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Old 02-15-2011, 01:02 PM   #6
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Several options. Your fermentation temperature is a bit high. If you have the means, drop everything to 62-65 degrees and make another batch. Buying a chest freezer with an aftermarket thermostat did wonders for my beer, even when I was still extract brewing. If you're patient, you can find used freezers on Craigslist for less than $100.

Second, oxygenate well. I am an evangelist for pure oxygen (I find it's critical to getting low final gravities), but you can get tolerable O2 levels with an aquarium pump or by shaking the crap out of it. Underoxygenated yeast can pump out off-flavors, especially at high temperatures.

Third, how are you sanitizing? Chlorine or iodine based sanitizers can form halophenols just as well as chlorinated tap water. Your description of the flavors sounds like phenols, not esters.

Finally, ensure that your sanitation practices are up to snuff. I know it's basic, and brewers get insulted when you mention it, but we all cut corners at some point. I know I have, and my beer has suffered for it.

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Old 02-15-2011, 01:19 PM   #7
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I used to have this problem as well. Besides lowering the fermentation temps, I would recommend cutting 1/2 your water with bottled spring water or trying campden tablets in your water. I've done these two things and the off flavor has gone away and my beers are much better. I'm still trying to pinpoint which was causing it though (maybe both?)

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Old 02-15-2011, 01:23 PM   #8
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Chuginator, please keep updating this post. I'm fairly new to brewing and I have noticed that my beers are getting the same flavors that you described. My first couple of brews I dismissed because they were Belgian beers, but since then I have made a Mexican cervesa that had the same flavor in the background. I started using liquid yeast with no change, and the highest my temperature gets in the primary fermentation is 74, and that is all own it own. After the heavy fermentation is over it usually stays around 68. I'm currently brewing a light saison using all DME to see if this will make a difference and I will bottle condition some of these and make note of the change.

I will make note of any changes I notice and post them here as I get them.

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Old 02-15-2011, 01:26 PM   #9
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WOW. Thanks, guys! This place rocks!

I'm using One Step as a sanitizer, figuring that my use of bleach in the past may have been a contributor to phenolics.

I think I will indeed try another batch, but be even MORE paranoid about sanitization (maybe I should wear a mask?!), and drop those fermentation temps. At 64-68F, would I be looking at a two-week fermentation?

Would you also recommend that I rack or not rack after one week? The reason I didn't on this batch is because I didn't want to introduce any more risk of contamination.

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Old 02-15-2011, 01:27 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BellAub View Post
Chuginator, please keep updating this post.
I certainly will!
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