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Old 02-06-2012, 07:48 AM   #1
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Default Bad flavor in last 3 AG beers

Hello all,

I've been doing AG for about 6 batches now. My first 3 turned out fantastic - far better than the 3 years of extract batches I'd done - and I was sure I had things at least somewhat dialed in. I always hit my initial temp of 152F dead on, let it sit for an hour, and then pour in a constant supply of water at 175F at about the same rate it drains. I usually use about 5-6 gallons of water or there abouts. My efficiency was very high for all three and all was well.

Anyway, the next three batches have had this really REALLY distinct off flavor. I've noticed the hops aroma also disappears as it sits in the carboy for more than about a week (these are IPAs or IIPAs). The flavor only hits you after you have taken a swallow, and then it's on the sides of your mouth with a weird 'old shoe', hot-stale flavor and then gives you kind of a headache in the middle of your forehead (at least for me.) It leaves you feeling a bit car sick and 'bleh.' Hard to explain. Mouth is also slightly puckered, which left me wondering about astringency, except I thought my sparging technique was good and the other flavor doesn't seem like 'astringency' although I'm no expert. I also thought this might just be bitterness from the 70+ IBUs I was expecting.

Anyway, this is my 3rd batch this way. I've become a total nut for sanitization after the first two bad batches, using iodine, a full rinse, and then a soak for everything (even freezer and cabinets etc) with san star. I checked my tap water pH and I'm at 8.2, which seems reasonable. I'm at a total loss and not really feeling qualified to brew any more until I have some sort of a logic to move ahead with. I don't think it's oxidization since it's just after a week in the primary and I haven't changed my method of transfering from pot to carboy (pour it in with a funnel, let it settle, pour in yeast and shake and then leave it be....the way I've been doing it 3 years)

Anyway, thanks for any help!

Dan

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Old 02-06-2012, 09:26 AM   #2
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is it like a band aid flavour? can you smell it a little in the beer after the first tast? phenoles

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Old 02-06-2012, 01:26 PM   #3
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I am by no means a water chemistry expert, but 8.2 seems a little high to me. If what you are tasting is astrigency, I would guess this is your culprit. Next time you brew...test the pH of your mash. I would start by getting some reverse osmosis or distilled water and using it 50:50 with your tap water. I do this on all of my light colored beers and no longer have trouble with astrigency. Adding a dash of acidulated malt can also help get the pH of the mash down to where it needs to be, which is below 6

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Old 02-06-2012, 01:41 PM   #4
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I wonder if your water supply changed, and the water company is using chloramines in the water now.

I'd try using 100% bottled reverse osmosis water for the next batch, with a teaspoon of calcium chloride (and maybe gypsum if you're making an IPA) and not using the tap water to see if that fixes it. If it does, you know it's the water. If it doesn't, you know it is something else.

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Old 02-06-2012, 04:04 PM   #5
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Thanks for the replies!

It's not really a band-aid taste. It's more like a stale, taste...it actually GIVES you a headache to taste it. Also I don't rinse with bleach so unless you can get phenols other ways I don't think that's it.

So it seems like maybe the safest way from now on is to just use RO water from now on so I don't have to worry about the city. So I will do some googling to figure out how much calcium chloride and gypsum to add. Do you add them to your initial 5 gallons of water you soak the grains in (strike water?)?

The only thing that changed between the 'good' AG batches I did first and the 'bad' ones I've just done is that the first 3 ones had like 18 lb of grain each. These latest ones are more like 11-12. Would there be something in my sparging method that would be brought out by the lower quantity of grain?

Thanks everybody for your replies - I've got a 4th batch I made this weekend using same water\techniques, so I'm guessing it's bad to. I was convinced it was an infection due to the bad taste but I cleaned everything so thoroughly that would almost be incomprehensible. 4 bad batches is a very sad thing.

Dan

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Old 02-07-2012, 07:40 PM   #6
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I thought that for posterity I'll post my discoveries here as I find them. I've been doing a ton of digging and just had a long conversation with my water department guy. He was very helpful and is going to give me a breakdown per city well of everything in the water.

I also found a document issued Jan 1, 2012 by the state of Idaho about our city water. One of the biggest things was that we add lots of chlorine and we have 'very large' quantities of ammonia. This forms mono, di, or trichloramine. So yes, it's looking like maybe that's the issue? I'm still not totally clear on why this affects my brews now. He said they randomly turn on and off Well 2 which has the most ammonia, so perhaps I've been getting blasted with that. Or maybe with smaller batches of grain chloramine matters more? As I mentioned above, my DIPA's with 16lb of grain were goin pretty good, it's the 11-12lb batches lately that sucked. It's also possible I'm tasting disolved grain husks because my sparge method is flawed and I'm getting the mash tun above 172....I'll be watching my mash temp from now on (I don't have a ph meter or strips...my dad is gonna donate one soon :-D ) I suspect it's not astringency though since I don't get any major 'mouth pucker', just an awful after taste.

Anyway, now that I've discovered I probably have di or trichloramine in my water, I found out that my local grocery store dispenses RO water for 25 cents a gallon! Not bad, so I think I maybe even just do that for the sake of better water (city water smells and tastes terrible and lingers in your mouth). As far as profile, I'll follow Yooper's advice of 1tsp gyp 1tsp calcium chloride and go from there. I think Burton on Trent is not ideal for my big-ish, American-ish IPAs so my ideal profile will be fun to figure out.

If my next batch turns out less like an old shoe that smacks you in the forehead and mouth I will post.

Cheers!

Dan

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Old 02-07-2012, 08:26 PM   #7
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This is a very helpful tool when you're trying to target water. You can also plug in your previous grain totals vs. your new ones to see how it effects your water/PH.
Hope it winds up being an easy fix for you.

http://www.ezwatercalculator.com/

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Old 02-07-2012, 09:19 PM   #8
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Thanks! I'll be curious how RO affects my efficiency, too. It seems like people always talk about efficiency going down with more pure h2o. I plan on brewing Thursday so we'll see.

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Old 02-07-2012, 09:28 PM   #9
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How long does it take you to sparge? Maybe try a batch sparge if water change doesnt fix the issue. Just spit balling, I haven't been AG brewing long myself so if Im way off here let me know.

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Old 02-07-2012, 09:46 PM   #10
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Yeah that's my next step if this doesn't work. My current method of 'sparging' right now is to ladle in 175F water from a pot on the stove that's on low. I do it in units of about 4-6 cups at a time with a few minutes in between ladles. I know this is probably flawed but I can't IMAGINE it's making my beer taste so awful. Maybe it is tho.

EDIT: Oh and it takes me a long time to sparge. I let it out at a trickle. I'll keep track this time...maybe I'm sparging too slow?

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