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-   -   First time brewing. Bitter taste out of Primary, is something wrong? (http://www.homebrewtalk.com/f163/first-time-brewing-bitter-taste-out-primary-something-wrong-273461/)

msharki 10-09-2011 05:04 PM

First time brewing. Bitter taste out of Primary, is something wrong?
My first brewing project is 5 gallons of pumpkin ale which I sampled today out of my primary before racking to secondary. There is a bitter taste at the back of my tongue. I'm not sure how else to describe it. It doesn't make it undrinkable exactly but it's definitely not a flavor you would want in a finished product. It smells perfectly fine (in fact my wife hate the smell of beer and found the pumpkin and spice aroma pleasing), but there is still that taste that worries me. Is this something that is common at this point in fermentation, or is something wrong?

I will provide those of you who would care to take the time with more detail.
My ingredients:
12 pounds of roasted pumpkin
1 pound of Vienna malt, 4L
pound crystal malt, 40L
pound malted wheat
6.6 pounds amber malt extract
1 cup brown sugar
cup molasses
1 ounce Mt. Hood hops (boiling)
ounce Hersbrucker hops (finishing)
teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon each cinnamon, nutmeg and ground cloves
note: I do not remember the yeast. It was a dry yeast the brew shop owner selected, American ale maybe.

My grains were introduced to 3 gallons of room temperature distilled water until heated to 155 degrees. I kept it almost exactly at 155 for 25 minutes. Removed grains, rinsed with 2 cups boiling water. brought water to boil and added boil ingredients. I added my malt slowly (with help) and mixed well. (no burning to bottom of pot. Boiled one hour adding my finish hops at 45 mins and my spices at 55 mins. At flame out I removed most of the pumpkin with a strainer and cooled my wort to 80 degrees in 11 minutes. Dumped my wort through a strainer to my primary (a brand new "ale pale"),added water to bring it up to 5 gallons, aerated by sealing and shaking vigorously for 3 minutes, reopened pitched yeast in, sealed bucket and put in air lock. I stored it in my basement. My basement is semi-humid and stays around 62-65 degrees. 8 days later (today) is when I tasted it, found the bitterness and racked to my secondary. If it makes any difference I obtained my sample by using a small glass and taking some from the top.

note: All my equipment is brand new and I cleaned it very thoroughly using hot water and anti-bacterial dish soap never using anything abrasive, simply shaking and rinsing vigorously.

944play 10-09-2011 05:33 PM

Now you know what green beer tastes like. Taste it again in two weeks.

Assuming 12 lbs pumpkin should be 12 oz?

luke2080 10-09-2011 05:35 PM

Congrats on the first brew!

I haven't done a partial mash like this, so I wonder about rinsing the grains with boiling water. But I think this is a case of RDWHACBWYWFYFHB*.

My first Pumpkin Ale was the same. I'm afraid I have some astringency in my beer, possibly my sparge water got too hot. But after the boil it wasn't sweet like I would have expected, and after 4 weeks in the primary, it had the same bitter taste in the back of the tounge you are describing. It has since been another week getting carbed, and it is already tasting much better.

You may need to age this for 6-8 weeks to let the flavor mellow to where you want it. Let it sit in your secondary at least 3 weeks, bottle it, and after 2 more weeks, taste a bottle every so often. This is when taking notes becomes handy, to make the note "for this recipe, peak flavor was at week 'x'."

*Relax, don't worry, have a craft brew while you wait for your first home brew

msharki 10-09-2011 05:53 PM

Thanks guys, I'm feeling a little better about it. I was really starting to worry. 944play, somewhere around 12 pounds of pumpkin is what I used. I saw many recipes online varying quite a bit, but I did not find one that called for less than 6 pounds and the average was around 9-10. Also I'm thinking about conditioning with brown sugar (I'm thinking 2/3 of a cup?) and also adding some lactose sugar to sweeten it up a bit and bring out more of the pumpkin and spice flavors. I'm currently dry hopping it with 2 cinnamon sticks. Any thoughts on these ideas? I'm not sure how much lactose sugar to put in. I have a pound of it, but I was thinking more like a cup would do.

luke2080 10-10-2011 04:34 PM

I used 7.5 pounds of Pumpkin, but for a 10G batch. So I'd say you are on the high side too but I've only really looked at a few pumpkin recipes.

For priming, brown sugare would be good. I personally wouldn't start mixing in another sugar, only due to worries about over priming/carbing the beer. Adding a full cup of another kind of sugar just doubles that, and will really over carb it. And in fact in looking up lactose sugar, I read it is mainly used in milk stouts, which doesn't really fit this profile, I'd leave that out. Make it more complicated on your second time around.

If you want to sweeten/spice it up more, make a little tea using 1/2 or 1 tsp of pumpkin pie spice and add that to the secondary. I wouldn't do more then that until after you've drank your first batch. Its easy to over spice something.

jbug440 10-10-2011 06:22 PM

The anti bacterial dish soap is screaming out in your post. I would recommend not using that. Try oxyclean instead.

Revvy 10-10-2011 06:25 PM

You can't really judge a beer until it's been in the bottle at least 3 weeks. It's not even carbed yet, and that, along with conditioning goes a long way to giving you a true picture of what the beer will be like. Which more than likely will be fine.

It doesn't really matter what a beer tastes like halfway through fermentation, most of mine taste like ****...so I don't bother tasting them at that point. And I suggest to new brewers to do likewise, or else they start threads like this...because it's not halfway through fermentation that is a representation of the finished product....it's after the beer has been carbed and conditioned for about 6 weeks, that is an accurate representation of what a beer tastes like.

Carbonation and conditioning go a long way in a beer's final taste, including hoppiness, taste, aroma, etc. The CO2 lifts the flavors...And bitterness mellows with time.

Read this;


Originally Posted by Revvy (Post 2437057)
Singljohn hit the nail on the head...The only problem is that you aren't seeing the beer through it's complete process BEFORE calling what is probably just green beer, an off flavor.

It sounds like you are tasting it in the fermenter? If that is the case, do nothing. Because nothing is wrong.

It really is hard to judge a beer until it's been about 6 weeks in the bottle. Just because you taste (or smell) something in primary or secondary DOESN'T mean it will be there when the beer is fully conditioned (that's also the case with kegging too.)

The thing to remember though is that if you are smelling or tasting this during fermentation not to worry. During fermentation all manner of stinky stuff is given off (ask lager brewers about rotten egg/sulphur smells, or Apfelwein makers about "rhino farts,") like we often say, fermentation is often ugly AND stinky and PERFECTLY NORMAL.

It's really only down the line, AFTER the beer has been fermented (and often after it has bottle conditioned even,) that you concern yourself with any flavor issues if they are still there.

I think too many new brewers focus to much on this stuff too early in the beer's journey. And they panic unnecessarily.

A lot of the stuff you smell/taste initially more than likely ends up disappearing either during a long primary/primary & secondary combo, Diacetyl rests and even during bottle conditioning.

If I find a flavor/smell, I usually wait til it's been in the bottle 6 weeks before I try to "diagnose" what went wrong, that way I am sure the beer has passed any window of greenness.

Lagering is a prime example of this. Lager yeast are prone to the production of a lot of byproducts, the most familiar one is sulphur compounds (rhino farts) but in the dark cold of the lagering process, which is at the minimum of a month (I think many homebrewers don't lager long enough) the yeast slowly consumes all those compounds which results in extremely clean tasting beers if done skillfully.

Ales have their own version of this, but it's all the same. Time is your friend.

If you are sampling your beer before you have passed a 'window of greeness" which my experience is about 3-6 weeks in the bottle, then you are more than likely just experiencing an "off flavor" due to the presence of those byproducts (that's what we mean when we say the beer is "green" it's still young and unconditioned.) but once the process is done, over 90% of the time the flavors/smells are gone.

Of the remaining 10%, half of those may still be salvageable through the long time storage that I mention in the Never dump your beer!!! Patience IS a virtue!!! Time heals all things, even beer:

And the remaining 50% of the last 10% are where these tables and lists come into play. To understand what you did wrong, so you can avoid it in the future.

Long story short....I betcha that smell/flavor will be long gone when the beer is carbed and conditioned.

In other words, relax, your beer will be just fine, like 99.5%.

You can find more info on that in here;

Of Patience and Bottle Conditioning.

Just remember it will not be the same beer it is now, and you shouldn't stress what you are tasting right now.

Our beer is more resilient then most new brewers realize, and time can be a big healer. Just read the stories in this thread of mine, and see how many times a beer that someone thought was bad, turned out to be fine weeks later.


I would just relax, get the beer carbed and conditioned, and then see if you truly have an issue.

msharki 10-12-2011 09:38 AM

Man, this is the first time I've checked back in a few days, and I have to thank all of you who took the time to really inform me on this part of the process. Before I started this I did much research on how to brew beer, but I never thought about these types of things that I would have to know, or would eventually learn about the fermentation process, thanks again.

P.S. luke2080, I thank you for taking the time to post twice. In addition I wanted to continue the conversation about lactose sugar. In all the research I have done my results have come back that lactose sugar is non-fermentable, and therefore should not cause extra carbonation in the conditioning phase... Have I been led astray? I AM; however, aware it is mostly used in milk stouts. My research on it began when I was looking for how to go about what I wanted to make as a Christmas brew (an eggnog stout) My searching always brought me back to lactose sugar to give a sweet creamy complement to the bitterness of the imperial stout. My thoughts then turned to my pumpkin ale sitting in primary. I thought,... pumpkin pie is also sweet and creamy, so.... hey, I'll throw some in there and see what happens. If nothing else it will be different than all the other pumpkin ale's.

Obviously, in the end, I would still like it to be a good drinkable beer. I would love to hear any more thoughts on what I have added here. Still don't think it will work? I am definitely willing to listen to reason. I really would like to find out the truth about lactose.

luke2080 10-12-2011 12:28 PM

I stand corrected. I hadn't used it, didn't think it would be non-fermentable. But the Internets are saying it pretty clearly.

I would still leave it out and taste it when it is fully carbed, conditioned, and really ready to taste, as Revvy said. Experiment further the next time you brew this, so you have something to compare it to.

msharki 10-12-2011 01:05 PM

Thanks man, glad to see you came up with the same results. Hm... I think what I'm going to do is compromise with my original idea. I didn't get into brewing to play it safe, but I don't want to jump off a bridge either. I think I'll prime the whole five gallons with 2/3 cup brown sugar, bottle 3/4 of the brew leaving a quarter of the brew to experiment. I'll figure out what I would have used in lactose sugar, take 3/4 away and mix the remaining quarter of lactose in the remaining quarter of beer and bottle that. Then if it's terrible I will only have to stomach through 1 and a quarter gallons instead of the whole five.

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