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bobbytuck 07-12-2010 06:41 PM

After Bottling My Beer tastes sweet (yuck)
 
I've had this problem on and off for the past two years: straight out of the fermenter, my beer tastes fine. I just brewed the blue moon clone here (for example) -- and out of the fermenter it was dry with a mild grainy taste. To me, this was fine, and I went ahead and bottled it. Two weeks later, it's got a weird, sweet "homebrew flavor." It carb'd up fine -- but the sweet taste is there -- and over the top prominent. It's not cidery -- and not even "hot" from alcohol -- it's straight up sweet and "homebrewy."

What's driving me crazy is that not every batch I bottle has this flavor. Only one out of every two or three batches. But it's not consistently consistent -- I can go three batches, and I don't get the taste. The only thing that's consistent is the sweet taste. I've made batches that don't have the taste -- and are superb (at least to me and beer drinking buddies). But every two batches or so I get the sweet taste -- and then I know all the bottles are ruined.

So, a few additional details:

- Mashed with my HERMS at 150F. Temp was stable for 90 mins. Mash-out @ 170F. I've checked my thermometers in my system, and all calibrate fine.

- Boiled wort for 90 mins. Cooled to 62F with cleaned and sanitized therminator.

- Pitch yeast @ 62F. For the batches that tend to be sweet, I'm using Safale-04 but for this blue moon clone, I used Safale-05. The packages are in date, but I've noted this as a possible culprit -- dry yeast. But wait -- there's more.

- Fermented @ 60F for 21 days with water in cooler and ice bottles. In dark basement. Swap out ice bottles morning and evening. Temp never gets above 61.5. Never below 59F.

- I've been using Cooper's carb tabs. This *might* be the culprit. However, I've had two recent batches with Cooper's carb tabs (2 tabs per 22oz. bottle) that are fine (with Safale-04!) (Date on carb tab bag -- all the bags I have -- are listed as Date of manufacture: 11/09) I store the carb tabs in my cool basement -- unopened bags.

- All equipment is cleaned and sanitized at bottling. (Cleaning day before in OxyClean free then santizing for 15 mins in StarSan. Bottles soaked the week before in OxyClean, sanitized the day of bottling with StarSan. I never use the same tubing twice.)

Anyway, I'm vexed. Could it be that the Safale-04 yeast is pooped out in the bottle and all I'm tasting is the sugar from the Coopers Carb Tabs? The sweet taste over the past two years is always the same. The beer out of fermenter is always fine -- I always pour myself a half-pint to sip after I've finished bottling. I'm avoiding bulk priming due to the possibility of moving beer from fermenter (Better Bottle) to bottling bucket -- but I think this is what I'm going to do from here on out.

I don't think it's an infection because the sweet taste usually shows up after three or four days. (And it's always the exact same taste. No cider, no butter -- just weirdly sweet.) Doesn't an infection usually take a while to develop? Is it possible to develop immediately in the bottle?

Next batch I plan to split up the batch with carb tabs in 6 bottles/Munson's tabs in 6 bottles/pouring a teaspoon of sugar in each of 6 bottles and leaving six bottles without any added sugar or carbonation whatsoever.

Any ideas? Would popping the caps and adding a grain or two of yeast (Safale-05, for example) help eat away that sugar?

Initially, I thought it was from mashing too high. Then I got a HERMs, and my mash temp has been exactly stable since dialing it in.

Then I thought it was from too high fermentation, so I got the 60 quart coolers and did the whole ice bottle thing.

I've had the taste with brand new bottles (22oz) and from washed bottles. Taste is always the same. Taste never goes away once it's in the bottle. I've tried a few I bottled last year with the taste -- and it's right there. Not stronger -- not weaker. It's exactly the same.

Help!

PS -- I bottle condition in a basement at 64F and in a closet at 75F. The only difference I've noticed is that the sweetness takes 2-3 days to develop in the closet and maybe 6-7 days in the basement. (Don't want to keg until I figure this out.)

WTF? !

PPS -- Are Cooper Carb tabs just plain crappy?

Hammy71 07-12-2010 07:37 PM

I've never used the tabs, just the bottling sugar mixed into my bottling bucket. From what you've written above, I would start by not using tabs to carbonate and see what happens.

DrinkNoH2O 07-12-2010 07:44 PM

Why would you use those carb tabs anyways? Just do what everyone else does - boil up a little corn sugar and pour it into a bottling bucket. Carefully siphon on top of it then bottle.

"I'm avoiding bulk priming due to the possibility of moving beer from fermenter (Better Bottle) to bottling bucket"

^ I don't follow

jgln 07-12-2010 07:56 PM

Not sure I understand this:

PS -- I bottle condition in a basement at 64F and in a closet at 75F. The only difference I've noticed is that the sweetness takes 2-3 days to develop in the closet and maybe 6-7 days in the basement. (Don't want to keg until I figure this out.)

Are you saying your beer gets sweeter as it ages? Can't imagine that happening. Taking longer to lose the sweetness in the lower temps makes sense though. And only two weeks may be too soon to taste test especially at lower temps.

bobbytuck 07-12-2010 08:22 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by jgln (Post 2156349)
Not sure I understand this:

PS -- I bottle condition in a basement at 64F and in a closet at 75F. The only difference I've noticed is that the sweetness takes 2-3 days to develop in the closet and maybe 6-7 days in the basement. (Don't want to keg until I figure this out.)

Are you saying your beer gets sweeter as it ages? Can't imagine that happening. Taking longer to lose the sweetness in the lower temps makes sense though. And only two weeks may be too soon to taste test especially at lower temps.


Yep. The beer gets sweeter as it ages -- but only up to a point.

In other words, after 6-7 days in the basement -- it's carb'd but also overwhelmingly sweet.

After 3 days in the closet, same thing -- fully carbed but fully sweet.

But this is what I don't understand: if it's the sugar tabs (and pooped out yeast), wouldn't the beer be *flat* but sweet? In other words -- wouldn't the yeast in the bottle *not* consume the sugar? I've got beer with great head retention, pours great, looks great -- but taste it and it's got the sweet taste.

The bottles in the coolish basement take longer to get the sweet taste -- but it's there. It's absolutely crazy. After a couple weeks, the beer is overwhelmingly sweet. It doesn't start out sweet. It starts out dry and decent. But give it a week, and BLAM -- the sweetness hits. Ditto for the beer in the closet. A day or so (I tried it) and it's fine -- flat, but fine. After 6 days -- BLAM -- sweet.

WTF?!

Yeah, I'm ditching the carb tabs for sure. I think they're part of the problem. I tried them to save a bit of time from racking beer from Better Bottle to bottling bucket and then into bottles but goddamn it's now driving me crazy.

I tested it on my SO, btw. She tried a sample straight out of the fermenter on bottling day. Loved it. Dry, a little grainy -- but flat of course. Same beer from 6 days in the basement -- all sweetness. Absolutely no character whatsoever -- just sugary "homebrew." Then I gave her a sample from a year ago. Different style of beer -- but one that I knew had the sweetness. She tried it and agreed that the tastes were identical. No malt flavor, no hops -- just sweet. (Of course, out of the fermenter I can taste the malt, smell the hops, and detect the back bitterness.) It's as though the beer in the bottle loses absolutely all character but the sweetness -- but carbs up beautifully.

What's crazy is that the sweet flavor is always the same. It doesn't matter what kind of beer it is -- I've had it happen on 1.060 beers, on a 1.100 barley wine, and a recent 1.040 Kolsch.

All had the *exact* same sweet flavor.

Must be the carb tabs. You'd think they'd be foolproof -- I mean, how can $&%&%@ sugar cubes (essentially) be an issue.

If it's not the tabs, I'm going to go bonkers. I can't think of what else to zero in on.

modernlifeisANDY 07-12-2010 09:15 PM

Save yourself the headache, and grab some corn sugar (you can calculate how much you need in BeerSmith or here), boil it in a cup or two of water, and rack your beer onto that before bottling. I wouldn't rely on those carb tabs completely.

jgln 07-12-2010 09:45 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by bobbytuck (Post 2156403)
Yep. The beer gets sweeter as it ages -- but only up to a point.

In other words, after 6-7 days in the basement -- it's carb'd but also overwhelmingly sweet.

After 3 days in the closet, same thing -- fully carbed but fully sweet.

But this is what I don't understand: if it's the sugar tabs (and pooped out yeast), wouldn't the beer be *flat* but sweet? In other words -- wouldn't the yeast in the bottle *not* consume the sugar? I've got beer with great head retention, pours great, looks great -- but taste it and it's got the sweet taste.

The bottles in the coolish basement take longer to get the sweet taste -- but it's there. It's absolutely crazy. After a couple weeks, the beer is overwhelmingly sweet. It doesn't start out sweet. It starts out dry and decent. But give it a week, and BLAM -- the sweetness hits. Ditto for the beer in the closet. A day or so (I tried it) and it's fine -- flat, but fine. After 6 days -- BLAM -- sweet.

WTF?!

Yeah, I'm ditching the carb tabs for sure. I think they're part of the problem. I tried them to save a bit of time from racking beer from Better Bottle to bottling bucket and then into bottles but goddamn it's now driving me crazy.

I tested it on my SO, btw. She tried a sample straight out of the fermenter on bottling day. Loved it. Dry, a little grainy -- but flat of course. Same beer from 6 days in the basement -- all sweetness. Absolutely no character whatsoever -- just sugary "homebrew." Then I gave her a sample from a year ago. Different style of beer -- but one that I knew had the sweetness. She tried it and agreed that the tastes were identical. No malt flavor, no hops -- just sweet. (Of course, out of the fermenter I can taste the malt, smell the hops, and detect the back bitterness.) It's as though the beer in the bottle loses absolutely all character but the sweetness -- but carbs up beautifully.

What's crazy is that the sweet flavor is always the same. It doesn't matter what kind of beer it is -- I've had it happen on 1.060 beers, on a 1.100 barley wine, and a recent 1.040 Kolsch.

All had the *exact* same sweet flavor.

Must be the carb tabs. You'd think they'd be foolproof -- I mean, how can $&%&%@ sugar cubes (essentially) be an issue.

If it's not the tabs, I'm going to go bonkers. I can't think of what else to zero in on.

Again, I think you are taste testing too soon. Give them at least a month before you judge sweetness.

Another thought is are you tasting your beer BEFORE you add the tablets? That would explain why it is "getting sweeter" and tasting too soon explaining why they taste sweet at all.

I never used those tabs you are talking about so I can't comment there.

boo boo 07-12-2010 09:50 PM

[QUOTE=jgln;2156532]Again, I think you are taste testing too soon. Give them at least a month before you judge sweetness.

Another thought is are you tasting your beer BEFORE you add the tablets? That would explain why it is "getting sweeter" and tasting too soon explaining why they taste sweet at all.
QUOTE]

I think this is the case here also.

I did a batch for my brother-in-law which I bottled. We tasted it a week into carbonating them and it was unbearably sweet. A week later it was perfect.

Yooper 07-12-2010 09:52 PM

Sweetness can come from being underhopped, or underattenuated. Can you give a sample OG/FG and a sample recipe where the sweetness is there?

Another source could be water. If your IPAs are the ones that are too sweet, maybe it's a lack of sulfate in your water. (Sulfate really enhances the "bite" of hops). Have you done any water testing, or additions?

If the carb drops ferment out, I can't imagine them causing any sweetness. If the beer is kept at 70 degrees or above for at least 4 weeks, they should be fermented out.

ChshreCat 07-12-2010 09:58 PM

Some of my beers taste cloyingly sweet when they're young, especially my brown ale. Another few weeks and it goes away. Meaning, 3 weeks in the bottle and they're carbed and sweet. 6 weeks in the bottle and they're good.


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