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Old 10-19-2012, 03:56 AM   #1
megadave5000
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Default Green Apple / Acetaldehyde

Good evening all,

First of all I want to say that this forum has been a hugely helpful resource to me – I’ve been brewing since this past 4th of July and I don’t know where I’d be without this place. A hearty THANK YOU!

I have a curious problem going on whenever I brew a beer in a particular one of my fermenters. I was given some brewing equipment to start with in July – one piece being a plastic 10-gallon capacity carboy with a lid that doesn’t seal completely. Instead of an o-ring and an airlock, the lid just doesn’t seal completely to the bucket. I don’t know if my description makes sense or not, but basically CO2 can get out but bugs would have trouble getting in. Also, since then I've been upgrading equipment (what brewer doesn't buy new stuff every now & again?).

I brewed my first batch in this fermenter – a Two Hearted clone from Northern Brewer. My O.G. was 1.062 and final was 1.007 (I believe my F.G. measurement to be inaccurate, it was probably somewhat higher, but this is what I wrote down all those months ago). Unfortunately, there was a big acetaldehyde smell and taste – serious green apples! My craft beer buddies and another home brewer friend of mine could pick it up when I pointed it out. I thought it was overpowering but I guess you are your own worst critic sometimes. For reference, the temp during fermentation was too high – basement was ~69-70 over the 4th of July weekend and I’m sure that didn’t help. I’m much more conscious of temp during fermenting now, not so much back then. In all honestly, I don't recall if I used 1 or 2 packs of SA05 dry yeast, but I know it was at least 1 entire pack of SA05 (I did not record this, but I really want to say that I used two, I just cannot be 100% sure on the number of packs but I am 110% sure it was SA05 since that is what the kit recipe called for). I chalked up the green apples to being a new brewer and bravely forged ahead.

After this batch, I bought two 6.5 gallon plastic carboys - each with the o-ring lid seal and 3 pc airlock. I haven’t had a problem with acetaldehyde in these fermenters at all, at least not that I can tell with my taste buds and nose and neither can anyone else who drinks my beers (unless they're just not being forthcoming). Since the first apply IPA, I have brewed a Russian Imperial Stout, a nut brown, a double IPA, and an oatmeal nut brown all in those new carboys with the o-ring sealing lids. Then, at the onset of September, I brewed a Founder’s Porter clone in the old non-sealing carboy and guess what? Yup, green apples up the wa-zoo. So this fermenter is 0 for 2 at this juncture in my tale.

The O.G. target was 1.067 and I hit 1.061 – the F.G. target was 1.017 and I got to 1.015. To me, this seems pretty good, but I’m still a rank amateur at this. Oh yea, did I mention the green apples? I should have left this alone for longer than 17 days in the primary, but I stupidly moved it into a secondary where it sat for two weeks before being bottled. Two solid weeks in the bottles and that darn taste was there yet. The other day, this is now 20 days after bottling, I popped another bottle and – to my shock and surprise – tasted pretty good, relatively speaking. There’s still a hint of apples, but I think the apple smell/taste is subsiding. My plan is to let these puppies sit for a few more weeks at ~66 and hope for the best. I’m encouraged that the off-flavor taste seems to be fading; it’s a really good beer otherwise.

So at this point, I thought that I might have an aeration problem. It’s hard to aerate a beer in this fermenter in question since the lid doesn’t seal all the way - I’ve found that beer spills out of the top very easily when I shake it (gushes out is more like it). So, to combat this, I bought an aeration stone (2 micron) and hooked it up to an O2 tank and proceeded to brew an IPA somewhat similar to the Two Hearted clone (only different types of hops and liquid yeast). Here is my recipe, comments are welcome everyone, I literally threw this together on a whim at my LHBS:

Wyeast 1056 smack pack into a 1 L starter 15 hours before brewing
Wyeast nutrients 1tsp dumped into starter
Diammonium phosphate 2 tsp dumped into start

6 gallons of store-bought spring water
Caramel 20L 1 pound steeped for 20 min while water heated
9.15 lbs gold LME for full 60 min
Columbus 1oz at 60 min
Centennial 1.5 oz at 15 min
Whirlfloc ½ tab at 15 min
Citra 1.5 oz at 5 min
Citra 1.5 oz dry hop (not there yet)
I used a wort chiller to get from boiling to 70 degrees in ~30 min
My measured O.G. was 1.0538
I did not measure pH - should I do so for extract?
I did a full boil in my 10 gal kettle and used the aeration stone for 70 seconds before pitching

This has been in my basement all week – it is considerably cooler there now vs. the summer. Using a digital thermometer, I’ve taken the temperature of a bucket of water sitting directly beside the fermenter twice each day. Once when I wake up and once when I get home from work. The temp has not been above 62 and has not fallen below 60. Tonight I moved the fermenter to a room in my basement which is a shade warmer – presently it’s 66 - to finish its fermentation.

I brewed this IPA on 10/14/12, this past Sunday. I couldn’t resist, tonight I lifted that no-sealing lid and I’ll be damned - there’s green apple smell in there. Took a sample and my gravity is now 1.012, I think that’s pretty much where it should be, maybe a bit lower but not much? I guess I have to buy BeerSmith to get a better idea. FYI there is still foam on the beer, and there was a much higher krausen as evidenced by the crud on the sides of the bucket - but that’s all gone now, it’s just some ugly looking yellowy-brown foam.

Interestingly, I tasted the sample and couldn’t really smell the apple nor taste it in the small glass I poured it into after the gravity test – so maybe it’s just when I have all 5+ gallons of it in my face that it’s so noticeable. In any case, I really want to know if this apple smell & taste is due to my process, if there’s something wrong with the fermenter, or what. First, this beer is pretty young – it’s technically not even 5 days away from being called “wort.” Perhaps this is going to turn out just fine, but I am growing impatient and becoming suspicious of my cleaning/sanitizing technique even though I think I'm being at least adequately good about killing germs, it's tough to tell when you're doing this all alone. Second, maybe there is just something about this fermenter that doesn’t mix with my brewing style and I should toss it to the curb and move on. Maybe there's a scratch in the plastic that I can't see, can a fermenter just go "bad?" Well, I'm sure you've noticed that I'm a detail wonk, I like puzzles, and I want to get to the bottom of this. I am convinced that there is an explanation here and I would like to one day turn out a batch of some awesome beer from this bucket so I feel like I was able to overcome whatever was messing up the beer (even if it’s my own methods).

I would appreciate any help / ideas / suggestions with this situation. Is it the fermentor, cleanliness, aeration, something else? Thanks in advance and please let me know if you have questions that I can answer. I eagerly await your responses.

Dave



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Old 10-19-2012, 04:18 AM   #2
DrawTap88
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There's a couple reasons that this could be happening. The most likely culprit is stressed yeast. That can happen from not pitching enough yeast, pitching while the wort is still too warm, taking the beer away from the yeast too soon (sooner than 14 days), or not aerating enough (but I think you've covered the aeration thing). The only other thing that I can think of is that the previous owner brewed cider in it and the plastic got saturated with the taste and is leaching into your beer, but that's a long shot.



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Old 10-19-2012, 04:23 AM   #3
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Draw -

Thanks for the reply, interesting thought on the cider. Next time I talk to the previous owner I'll inquire about that. I pitched the 1056 when the temp of the wort was 70, I tried to make sure it was cool enough not to shock the little suckers into submission. In retrospect, I should have just used two packs of SA05 just to be as certain as possible that there were no yeast problems, but I've been having a lot of fun with liquid yeast lately. Maybe I didn't get enough yeast like you suggest. I did 1L of water to start with. Added 1/2 cup DME, boiled for 10 min, put into (sanitized) flask, cold water bath to cool off, pitched the smack pack. Then I dumped in the nutrients and diammonium phosphate. I'll definitely be keeping tabs on this batch and let you know how it smells & tastes on day 14.

Dave

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Old 10-19-2012, 02:26 PM   #4
AmandaK
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Quote:
Originally Posted by megadave5000 View Post
I have a curious problem going on whenever I brew a beer in a particular one of my fermenters.
Maybe this is just too obvious to me, but if I had a problem with one fermenter, I would retire it before I waste another batch on it. If I get one hint of an off-flavor from one of my Better Bottles, it is retired to sour beer production.

That being said, there are five causes for acetaldehyde:
  • Premature racking
  • Premature yeast flocculation
  • Bacterial infection
  • Insufficient O2
  • Oxidation

Of these things, the only thing that would make sense based on what you described is "Bacterial Infection". Add in the fact that you are not the first owner of a plastic bucket, and I would bet that is your issue.
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Old 10-19-2012, 05:08 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AmandaK

Maybe this is just too obvious to me, but if I had a problem with one fermenter, I would retire it before I waste another batch on it. If I get one hint of an off-flavor from one of my Better Bottles, it is retired to sour beer production.

That being said, there are five causes for acetaldehyde:
[*]Premature racking[*]Premature yeast flocculation[*]Bacterial infection[*]Insufficient O2[*]Oxidation


Of these things, the only thing that would make sense based on what you described is "Bacterial Infection". Add in the fact that you are not the first owner of a plastic bucket, and I would bet that is your issue.
+1 to this plus I'll add that these flavors are associated with green beer or beer that is still just a bit young and needs more conditioning time, especially if any of the above factors played in the process.
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Old 10-19-2012, 11:48 PM   #6
megadave5000
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AmandaK View Post
Maybe this is just too obvious to me, but if I had a problem with one fermenter, I would retire it before I waste another batch on it. If I get one hint of an off-flavor from one of my Better Bottles, it is retired to sour beer production.

That being said, there are five causes for acetaldehyde:
  • Premature racking
  • Premature yeast flocculation
  • Bacterial infection
  • Insufficient O2
  • Oxidation

Of these things, the only thing that would make sense based on what you described is "Bacterial Infection". Add in the fact that you are not the first owner of a plastic bucket, and I would bet that is your issue.

Amanda,

Thanks for the reply. That makes a lot of sense. I also understand why you recommend retiring the fermenter - but I was uncertain whether or not fermenters actually "go bad" or not. I just got my stir plate in the mail today, it's big starters from here on out if not dry packets.

Can you explain more or can I message you about sour beers? If I can breathe some new, interesting life into this cursed fermenter I'd be very intrigued. Thanks,

Dave
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Old 10-19-2012, 11:49 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by duboman View Post
+1 to this plus I'll add that these flavors are associated with green beer or beer that is still just a bit young and needs more conditioning time, especially if any of the above factors played in the process.
Thanks, indeed I'll give a post-mortem after this fermentation is finished. Won't be for a couple of weeks yet, but will let you know how it goes.

Dave
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Old 10-20-2012, 03:10 AM   #8
DrawTap88
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Yeah, fermenters do go bad...especialy the plastic ones. But that's a whole other subject, just like sour beers (you'll need a whole other set of equipment for the cold side of brewing).

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Old 10-20-2012, 05:12 AM   #9
megadave5000
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Originally Posted by DrawTap88 View Post
Yeah, fermenters do go bad...especialy the plastic ones. But that's a whole other subject, just like sour beers (you'll need a whole other set of equipment for the cold side of brewing).
Christ, just when I thought I was just about done buying equipment. Ok well thank you for letting me know that this problem may not be due to anything I am causing. I will continue to monitor this beer As it ferments and let you know the outcome.

Thanks,
Dave
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Old 10-21-2012, 09:14 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by megadave5000

Christ, just when I thought I was just about done buying equipment.
Ha. You're never done buying equipment. Especially plastic stuff, once it gets the tiniest scratch in it, it can harbor nasties in it for good.

As for the sour beers, it's quite a large topic. I would recommend picking up a copy of Wild Brews or reading through the Lambic section of the forum here. Any specific questions, pm away!


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