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Old 09-09-2011, 04:57 AM   #1
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Default negative aroma & flavor changes in bottle-conditioning of certain all-grain ales

I apologize in advance for the length of my post. This subject has been in the back of my mind for nearly two years and now it's time to get some other perspectives by joining this much-loved forum.

Let me summarize the situation I am encountering during bottle refermentation. A substantial negative change occurs in some of my all-grain ales very shortly after they are primed and bottled. A difficult-to-describe staleness appears within a week in the majority of my non-dark, hoppy ales.

This very noticeable degradation in aroma and flavor is not at all evident at bottling, but when the first bottle is opened it is obvious. And once it appears, it usually does not diminish in any reasonable length of time.

The way I've been operating with this mystery is to keep making changes that are better for my brewing in general, hoping that one or a combination of them will extinguish this problem. At some point in the near future, I'll run out of possible fixes so I'm making my first post on homebrewtalk a real monster.

Maybe some brewer out there has experienced something like this and can throw me a lead. So far, my Internet searches on this problem yield nothing really helpful.


These are some details of my thoughts so far...

The change after refermentation seems to be a reduction of previous aroma and replacement with a less pleasant one. Even after nearly two years of recognizing it, I am unable to equate it to any other smell. The closest thing it compares to is a cardboardy aroma, but it is not like oxidized beers that I have encountered. It is almost an absence of hop aroma, replaced by some kind of stale smell. I don't discount the possibility of oxygen damage, even though I'm always careful to avoid oxidation with each of my beers, including blanketing vessels with CO2 before transfer and using oxygen-absorbing caps.

The amount of negative change that occurs varies, but so far has always occurred in a highly-hopped ale, usually on the light side of the SRM scale. I have yet to brew an ale darker than a red that exhibits this issue (though I have made some dark ales flawed in other ways). With the exception of a few split-batches in which I used Belgian yeast to ferment a symptom-free hoppy pale beer, I have not made a hoppy pale that hasn't exhibited some of this behavior at referment.

The change is evident a week after bottling if it is to occur at all. I don't get it–an ale is delicious at bottling, full of distinct hop aromas, and one week later it is almost devoid of aroma. In some cases, substantial time (for an IPA) of either warm or cold storage has improved the situation, to the point that the flaw is unrecognizable and the aroma mostly restored. Of course, 6 months to a year of aging a typical IPA is an unacceptable fix to most people. In some cases, the aroma seems never to recover with time, and it is those beers I dispatch (drink) with great disappointment.

I don't know why so far my Belgian IPAs and Belgian reds are spared this malady. It did get me thinking about yeast strain differences, but the non-Belgian ones I've used (WLP001, 023, 028) behave quite well when used in darker styles. Because I always split a batch into at least three different fermentations, I can compare strain performance while eliminating other differences up to pitching. Perhaps the damage is done no matter what the strain and somehow the more expressive strains are able to mask or contradict it.

Of course, this problem has me thinking about the amount of hops used. Why can I make a sublime wit or saison that keeps its character from fermenter to bottle, but then make an ale to which I add more hops and some California Ale yeast and the bottle refermentation ruins the character? I can't help but think this problem is related to hop usage, at least superficially.

Water chemistry in relation to high hop usage is probably the place to be looking, but it is a big place to look. In my more recent batches I've adjusted my water based on the latest water report for my area. Although I'm pleased with the results overall, I don't believe that it has affected the situation. I have much more to learn in the water department.

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Old 09-09-2011, 06:46 AM   #2
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Welcome funkenhop! I can't venture a guess yet, but maybe you can provide some diagnostic info. What are your fermentation temps? How many times do you transfer before bottling? What volume are you carbing to? What kind of hops are you using?

You saying it doesn't affect your Belgian beers or darker brews makes me think it is yeast or hop type related. Otherwise it could be oxidized or infected. Or you could be overcarbing or using old/weak hops.

As for water chemistry, maybe use a Brita filter on tap water or get bottled water to limit variables.

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Old 09-09-2011, 02:03 PM   #3
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And where are you getting your hops? And how do you store them? (I'm assuming in the freezer in air tight bags, but I want to rule everything out.)

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Old 09-11-2011, 07:01 AM   #4
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Would you describe it as kind of a "sweet resiny" type aroma/flavor?

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Old 09-11-2011, 12:43 PM   #5
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I have the same problem with all hoppy beers, but I noticed the chance in flavor and aroma also in my hoppy belgian ale ( maybe it occurs later with this kind of beer but it happens).

I have also noticed an increase of "alcool taste" so I'm going to try to prime my beers with DME instead of sugar in the future to see if something change.

I think that hops and yeast are involved in this kind of flavor-change.
I've made an experiment using yeast propagated from a bottle ( an IPA fermented with wyeast 1056), the final beer ( an APA with a lot of amarillo hop) had to distintictive change in aroma and flavor. The first change happened, as you wrote, after a week or two, and it is most a change in the aroma, but anyway the beer was still god and I thought that reusing yeast propagated from a bottle was a good solution to save some money. But after a couple of month the beer had a drammatic change in flavor, a bad yeast flavor came out and now the beer has lost any kind of hop flavor.

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Old 09-11-2011, 01:14 PM   #6
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If it tastes like oxidation (stale, cardboard), then it probably is oxidation.

How is your process at avoiding oxidation? Do you rack and bottle "quietly" without any splashing? I would look there first.

The second place that I would look is at water chemistry. Water is a huge part of beer, and in my own case I can use tap water to make a fantastic stout but definitely NOT a lighter colored beer. My kolsch with my tap water is harsh and astringent, as I learned from experience!

What is your water source?

I'm going to think about this some more, just in case I'm missing something else, though!

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Old 09-11-2011, 01:55 PM   #7
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My hoppy ales weren't hoppy at all until I started messing around with my water chemistry. I use Bru'n Water, which is pretty straightforward once you get a hang of it.

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Old 09-14-2011, 03:38 AM   #8
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Thanks for the comments. I'm open to the oxidation explanation, but I don't know how it's being introduced. Also, I've never heard of oxidation damage improving or going away as seems to happen with time in some of my beers.


In response to some of the other comments...

Those of my IPAs that I don't dry-hop, I rack from primary to CO2-filled bottling bucket. When dry-hopping, I add the hops (typically whole hops), to a CO2-filled carboy and then rack the IPA from primary onto the hops.

I use both pellet and whole hops, stored in freezer or fridge. I make sure not to use any excessively-old or cheesy-smelling hops.

Although I've done some ales at too-high temps, the brews in question never went over 70 degrees.

I typically hover around 2 volumes for carbonation, and have used corn and cane sugar to prime.


As for water, the tap water portion I use is carbon-filtered (Brita). I've been referencing Palmer's water spreadsheet using my water report. For my palest beers, I've typically used distilled water for up to 50% of the mash liqueur and made small calcium chloride and gypsum additions, tailored to the beer style.

I will continue to work with the water, since I've just about run out of other things to do. If all else fails, I will probably use packaged spring water in place of my filtered tap water.

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Old 09-15-2011, 07:16 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by funkenhop View Post

As for water, the tap water portion I use is carbon-filtered (Brita). I've been referencing Palmer's water spreadsheet using my water report. For my palest beers, I've typically used distilled water for up to 50% of the mash liqueur and made small calcium chloride and gypsum additions, tailored to the beer style.

I will continue to work with the water, since I've just about run out of other things to do. If all else fails, I will probably use packaged spring water in place of my filtered tap water.
I don't know if it can help, but I've noticed that the use of calcium cloride sometimes can add some strange taste in the final beer.
This was what I've learnd in my brewing production, but of course we start with different kind of water so maybe the problem it's just mine

anyway, don't be afraid to use an "extreme" water (lot of gypsum) for very hoppy ales...
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Old 06-11-2014, 11:53 AM   #10
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Hi Funkenhop, I could have written your first post because I have the exact same problem. I did a few test batches with very hoppy APAs and bottled half and kegged the other half. There was a very noticeable difference between both even though it came from the same fermenter. The keg brew was exactly like a good APA should taste but the bottle conditioned one had lost its aroma and tasted pretty harsh. I have been questioning this for over a year now and was wondering if you had solved your problem, since your post is from 2011. Thanks!

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