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Rmoore2012 11-16-2012 04:14 PM

Strong "Alcoholy" smell and strange substance on top of wort!
5 Attachment(s)
Hey all,

I'm a beginning brewer and after my first batch (which turned out awesome), I have had 2 bad batches in a row. The last two batches had a really strong alcohol smell and seemed to be over-carbonated. I went to my local homebrew store and they suspected an infection and instructed me to use a new fermentation bucket. I purchased the new fermentation bucket but I still seem to be having the same issues. I've attached the pictures which were taken 12 days after the boil (this is a single malt single hop extract recipe). I sanitized my fermentation bucket like a mofo and the temperature of the water in my swamp bucket has not gone over 67 or 68 degrees (I haven't taken the temperature of the actual wort). I'm not sure what I have done wrong but any help or advice would be appreciated. If anyone has ever seen this on the top of their I would like to know what it is and what has happened.


Stout-n-Braggot 11-16-2012 04:22 PM

Looks totally normal.

Are you using extract and adding corn sugar? Sometimes the ratio of corn sugar to malt can make for a more "boozy" smell, even in lower alcohol recipes.

Also, sometimes opening bottles too soon in the conditioning process can make them seem overcarbonated. How much priming sugar do you use per batch?

501irishred 11-16-2012 04:40 PM

Have you bottled your other "bad" batches yet? Depending on your recipe, there may not be anything wrong here. I've found the darker the specialty grains and higher the ABV, the closer it comes to your description out of the primary. One reason these beers are to be aged longer. If the above is true (would have to find out what was included in your extract), you might think about making a pale ale or common your next go round and see if conditions follow. It may be just a case of learning what to expect from different recipe's.

thughes 11-16-2012 04:41 PM

Yup, that's a perfectly normal looking fermentation as far as I am concerned.

Do you disassemble and clean both the spigot for your bottling bucket and you bottling wand? (those are good places for infections to hide)

tre9er 11-16-2012 04:44 PM

Smelling or tasting beer before it's completely done can lead to some misconceptions about what you have. First, the smell is often burning with Co2. I've scorched my nose hairs on numerous occasions. Also, beer often doesn't smell or look good at all when it's fermenting. Sulfur can produce a rotten-egg smell, but it disappears later in fermentation. Other times you'll get a sour, bready smell, totally normal.

Best thing you can do is be patient, don't open it up for 2 weeks, take gravity at that point for 3 days and make sure it's stable, then go ahead and bottle. Then be patient again and wait 3 weeks, then 48hrs. in the fridge, then try it. Betting it will be great.

Rmoore2012 11-16-2012 05:25 PM

I have been following the priming sugar instructions that come with my recipe, which I don't have in front of me. On the 1st batch I made which turned out well it stayed in the fermenting bucket for just over four weeks. With the two "bad" batches I bottled after two weeks. Is it possible that I simply bottled those batches too soon? If I opened a warm bottle of the previous batches it would "erupt" from the bottle, whereas if I chilled it I didn't get the "eruption" but there were still off tastes.

I have been very particular in making sure that everything is sanitized throughout the process.

tre9er 11-16-2012 05:29 PM

Probably. Two weeks is "generally" enough time, but not always. Gravity readings would tell the entire story of if it's "done" before bottling. Also, what sugar are you using, how much, and are you sure the volume of beer you bottled was a full 5g (or whatever was prescribed)?

You want to see how much beer you'll have after you rack off the trub in the bottom, then use that number. Different sugars work differently, too. Use an online calculator to be sure you get the right amount based on beer volume and sugar type. If the calculator has a temperature to input, use your lowest fermentation temperature the beer experienced, not the current beer temp.

If the bottles still have an off taste, I'm guessing they weren't done.

RmikeVT 11-16-2012 05:32 PM

Couple questions
What have the starting gravities of your beers been?

What style was the 'good' beer, what styles were the bad beers?

Do you know anything about your water profile?

Do you take steps to eliminate chlorine/chloramine if present?

I don't think 2 weeks is long enough for most styles before bottling. I would give it 4 weeks in primary and 2-3 weeks to bottle condition.

Rmoore2012 11-16-2012 05:53 PM

I haven't yet become adept at using the hydrometer.

The 'good' beer was a pale ale, and the 'bad' beers were pumpkin beer recipes. I believe it was a medium bodied ale and then pumpkin was supposed to be added in.

I don't really know much about my water profile but I've used purified water from the grocery store.

How do you eliminate chlorine/chloramine?


Mainebrew 11-16-2012 06:01 PM

Relax don't worry have a home brew!!

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