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Old 06-30-2010, 04:57 PM   #1
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Default Acetaldehyde question

I recently got the results of a local homebrew contest back. The category was Blonde Ale. I was a little surprised. All 3 judges had indicated they found various levels of acetaldehyde in my beer. I had noticed a “fruit aroma/flavor” when drinking it, but it was by no means unpleasant to me. I had actually chalked it up to a component of the yeast. The BJCP style guide calls for a light fruit note to the style so I figured it was expected.

I hate the smell and taste of green apples, so I thought I surely would have noticed the flaw. But 3 judges noticed it so I am not about to argue. I am focused on prevention at this point.

I did a little reading and found 3 consistent causes of acetaldehyde (sanitation, under pitching, pulling the beer off the yeast before it’s finished “cleaning up”)

I’ll argue sanitation all day. I replace my hoses every few beers and soak everything that comes in contact with the beer post boil in Star San for at least 15-30 min, followed by a scalding hot water rinse.

Under pitching could be it. For this beer, I made a 200 ml starter from a single white labs vial. It went into the flask of aerated starter wort and onto a stir plate. The only change from my usual process was the amount of lead time I gave my starter. I usually give the starter 2 days before brew day. This time, I pitched yeast into the starter Friday night at around 10. I finished brewing and pitched the starter into my wort at 7:30 pm Saturday. So this time it had less than 24 hours lead time. That being said, I still had full krausen in less than 12 hours.

The more I read though, I think I may have pulled the beer to the secondary too soon. I have been brewing the same way for years. 1 week in the primary. Rack to the secondary. One week there. I leave it a little longer if I need to dry hop or if the gravity has not fallen to its expected level. It’s almost always given me great results and it fits with my work schedule.
This beer, however, was the first ale I have ever brewed under refrigeration. I kept it at a solid 65F for the first week in primary. I went another week in secondary at 65F. I’m wondering if I moved to the secondary before the yeast was done? I’ve seen a number of “causes” for acetaldehyde on various forums. But one comes through with consistency. Acetaldehyde is always produced during fermentation, as an intermediate step of the sugar to ethanol conversion. But in most cases, given enough time on the original yeast bed, the yeast will convert the acetaldehyde into ethanol.

Is it possible that at 65F (about 5-7F lower than my traditional fermenting area), that everything proceded much slower and the yeast did not have enough time to scrub the acetaldehyde?

If anybody needs this info, it was an all grain batch (I can post the grain bill if needed). I used WLP East Coast Ale in a starter as mentioned above.

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Old 06-30-2010, 05:24 PM   #2
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The first thing that I see is your "soak everything that comes in contact with the beer post boil in Star San for at least 15-30 min, followed by a scalding hot water rinse". You shouldn't be rinsing after using StarSan, it's a No Rinse Sanitizer.

The only other thing I can see is possibly pulling the beer off the yeast early, I leave most of my beers in the primary for 3+ weeks before I even touch them.

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Old 06-30-2010, 05:25 PM   #3
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I'd blame racking after one week. If you want you could experiment with leaving your beers in the primary for 2-4 weeks depending on gravity, and you may be happy with the results. In my experience conditioning is much more efficient in the primary. I find my beers actually clear better when I leave them in the primary. In fact, the only time I use a secondary now is when I need extended conditioning such as with a lager or a beer with very high gravity.

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Old 06-30-2010, 05:27 PM   #4
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Also, +1 on not rinsing Star-San. The foam and residue dilute greatly when it contacts the beer and become yeast nutrient.

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Old 06-30-2010, 05:35 PM   #5
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I'm far from an expert and I'm sure more experienced people will chime in here, but IMHO I'd say the answer to your question is "yes". When I started temp controlling (to lower temps) my fermentations took a a couple extra days and everything I have read backs this up. Also, I've started letting my beers sit in the primary for 3-4 weeks and they have been much cleaner tasting. I only rack to a secondary for bigger beers that I want to bulk condition or for lighter ones that I want to clear out some before bottling. I probably shouldn't even do that, but I sometimes rush things like wheat beers so I have some around to drink.

I've learned by reading here that yeast are best left alone to do their work with minimal effing around from us humans. Give them the right conditions and let them clean up after themselves.

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Old 06-30-2010, 05:47 PM   #6
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Also, +1 on not rinsing Star-San. The foam and residue dilute greatly when it contacts the beer and become yeast nutrient.
The foam scares the crap out of me on StarSan. Are you saying that even with the bubbles, I am good to rack right into a starsan sanitized carboy? That goes against everything I have ever thought about sanitation. I would hate to have that "other" flaw pointed out ... i.e., "I taste sanitizer"
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Old 06-30-2010, 05:49 PM   #7
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Quote:
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The foam scares the crap out of me on StarSan. Are you saying that even with the bubbles, I am good to rack right into a starsan sanitized carboy? That goes against everything I have ever thought about sanitation. I would hate to have that "other" flaw pointed out ... i.e., "I taste sanitizer"
Don't fear the foam! http://www.homebrewtalk.com/f85/stup...r-foam-127044/
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And I'd like to see my 1.080 beers ready from grain to glass in a week, and served to me by red-headed twin penthouse pets wearing garter belts and fishnet stockings, with Irish accents, calling me "master luv gun," but we can't always get what we want can we? :)
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Old 06-30-2010, 06:14 PM   #8
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+1 for too short of a primary...even without temp controlling, I've found that my beers are *worlds* better when I learned to take a more laissez faire attitude towards my primaries...I usually leave them at least 3 weeks if not 4. Is this amount of time "necessary" with all beers? Probably not, but it sure doesn't hurt any....

Oh, and I also agree w/ "don't fear the foam!"

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Old 06-30-2010, 06:17 PM   #9
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One more..."don't fear the foam". Every bottle/carboy that I fill forces foam out the top; I look at it as sanitation assurance!

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Old 06-30-2010, 09:48 PM   #10
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Thanks to everybody for their quick replies. One more "don't fear the foam" question. I've noticed that plastic tubing soaked in StarSan occasionally turns cloudy. Is that still safe to use or do I need to treat it somehow? Or is it just time to pitch anything that turns cloudy after contact?

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