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Old 09-02-2009, 02:43 PM   #1
kscomp0
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Default Diagnosis help

OK. This is partially me thinking aloud, but I could really use some input or suggestions.

Average water profile:
HCO3: 83 ppm
Ca: 47 ppm
Mg: 8 ppm
Sulfate: 110 ppm
Cl: 25 ppm
Na: 30 ppm

First few beers were problem free. Basic Hefeweizens, a Kolsch, and a Berliner Weiss acidified with lactic acid. No off tastes.

Used WLP300, 1007, and WLP029.
Was adjusting water with CaCl2

Decided to try using 1272 as my house yeast last fall.

Since making the switch, batch after batch has had bad, somewhat harsh aftertastes. They have had some solvent flavors in a few batches, and the beer has all been very estery, fragrant.
I adjusted the first few with CaCl2, but then started acidifying with acid malt.
I used several new packs of 1272.

I started treating the water with campden tablets in addition to carbon filtration to rule out chlorophenols.

I decided to switch back to 1007 to see if the problem was the 1272. My latest batch, however, has the same estery, fragrant smell and a harsh, unpleasant taste.

Procedure:
Grains are ground right before brewing in a roller mill.
Water is run through a carbon filter and then treated with a campden tablet at 1/2 tablet per 5 gallons.
Water is allowed to sit for a few hours or overnight.
I have been doing a 144 (35 min) rest.
I then add 200+ degree water to raise the temperature to 158 (35 min).
I continuous sparge with max 168 F water. The sparge lasts about 1 hour.
I boil for 90 minutes.
I have mainly been using Perle hops for my bittering additions (The hops were purchased last year and have been stored in the freezer), but some of the additions have used hops purchased more recently.
I chill with an immersion chiller, which takes about 20 minutes.
My first few batches were fermented in corny kegs, but I switched to using glass carboys. I did produce beers that were problem free in the glass carboys last summer. The beers are all fermented in a temperature controlled water bath, and they have all been done in the low 60's.

I use silicone tubing for my transfers and boil the tubing to sterilize it.

I always use starters. I let the starter go to completion and then chill it in the refrigerator, sometimes for a few days. I pour off the starter beer down to a point where the starter has 50% packed yeast and 50% volume of starter beer remaining. I swirl this and pitch according to hybrid rates on the Mr. Malty yeast calculator using a yeast concentration of 2.2. Most of the pitches are 75 ml.
I have not noticed the estery smells in my starters.

I have aerated with pure oxygen for 15, 30, and 60 seconds and have used an air pump with an inline filter for 15 and 30 minutes.

I transfer from the carboy to a corny keg (purged 3 times at 5 psi CO2) by pushing with CO2. I force carbonate. The smell and flavor are present out of the fermenter, but do seem to be accentuated once the beer is carbonated.

I clean my carboys and fermenters with oxyclean.

--Basically, I cannot figure out the source of the esters and the harsh, unpleasant tastes. The 1007 gave me a very clean beer last summer, so something is clearly wrong. My only ideas are that:
Maybe the tubing or fittings on my kettle are harboring some spore-forming little nasty.
I don't see how my use or non-use of CaCl2 would have led to these smells, flavors, unless the sulfate levels in my water are not being balanced.
The campden should eliminate the possiblity of any chlorophenols.
Could the glass carboys be harboring some nasties? I could dry-heat sterilize these in the oven.
This just seems like it has to be some type of crazy infection.



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Old 09-02-2009, 02:59 PM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kscomp0 View Post
Decided to try using 1272 as my house yeast last fall.

Since making the switch, batch after batch has had bad, somewhat harsh aftertastes. They have had some solvent flavors in a few batches, and the beer has all been very estery, fragrant.
I adjusted the first few with CaCl2, but then started acidifying with acid malt.
Is the harsh aftertaste astringent? If so, have you checked your mash pH? CaCl2 is more effective at lowering the mash pH than acid malt.

As far as the estery, fragrant aromas, that sounds like wild yeast. You may have a house wild yeast infection or you may be exposing the wort to wild yeast during cooling and/or transfer to the fermenter. May folks have had problems with exposure because of fans in the garage, etc. Based on your comments, you've isolated the problem to the fermenter, so check your process before that.

What do you use to sanitize?


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Old 09-02-2009, 03:06 PM   #3
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If you think it's infection, I'd disassemble every tiny little gizmo and pieces part and sterilize/sanitize, like you said in your kettle fittings or wherever else. I wouldn't think glass could harbor anything unless you have a bit off stubborn muck on it somewhere, but it couldn't hurt to check it out. I understand when they take hold these bugs can be hard to get rid of.

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Old 09-02-2009, 03:13 PM   #4
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Thanks, Lamar,
I am using oxyclean to sanitize. I do brew indoors, but I also chill next to the kitchen sink. My chiller doesn't let me put the lid on the boil pot, but I could cover it with a towel or some plastic while chilling.
Could such a small amount of infective bacteria add these pronounced esters in the face of the amount of yeast that I am pitching?

The interesting thing is that the ester smells and unpleasant taste have been similar across the batches with different yeasts, so this would support a common source.

On another note, I have a hard time believing that I am under pitching. My understanding is that decreasing yeast growth decreases fusel and ester production -- but maybe I do need to pitch more yeast.

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Old 09-02-2009, 03:26 PM   #5
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I am using oxyclean to sanitize.
Well, there's your problem. Oxyclean is not a sanitizer, it's a cleaner.

Pickup some iodine (any pharmacy or tractor supply), quat (Sam's Club, Costco, or food service suppliers), or StarSan (homebrew shop). Be sure to sanitize everything that touches the wort after it has cooled.

Personally, I use a quat to sanitize my fermenters, counterflow chiller, and silicone tubing and iodine for everything post fermentation (e.g., kegs, bottles, and racking equipment). A quat is a more effective sanitizer but has a lower taste threshold.

Quote:
Originally Posted by kscomp0 View Post
I do brew indoors, but I also chill next to the kitchen sink. My chiller doesn't let me put the lid on the boil pot, but I could cover it with a towel or some plastic while chilling.
You should be able to reach ~100F pretty quickly with your chiller. Once it gets in that range, I would recommend covering the pot to prevent airborne yeast/bacteria from accessing the wort.
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Doggfather Brewery

Planned: Lambic, American IPA
Fermenting: 6 gals of 1.090 stout (Belgian) & 6 gals of 1.090 stout (English)
Tapped: Berliner Weisse, Black English IPA, German Pils, & Live Oak Primus

Last edited by lamarguy; 09-02-2009 at 03:30 PM.
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Old 09-02-2009, 05:18 PM   #6
kscomp0
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Lamar,
I forgot to say that I do spray my carboys with Starsan and rinse with hot water prior to transferring from the kettle to the fermenter, but I may try your quat suggestion. I am also wondering if I need to be more aggressive about cleaning the shutoff valve on the kettle.

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Old 09-02-2009, 05:53 PM   #7
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I forgot to say that I do spray my carboys with Starsan and rinse with hot water prior to transferring from the kettle to the fermenter
StarSan is designed to be a no-rinse sanitizer. If you're rinsing with tap water, you're defeating the point of sanitizing.

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I am also wondering if I need to be more aggressive about cleaning the shutoff valve on the kettle.
Yes, the valve should be cleaned/flushed after every brew session, but sanitation should not be an issue after an hour long boil. The valve should get hot enough to be considered sanitary (minimum 161F).
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Planned: Lambic, American IPA
Fermenting: 6 gals of 1.090 stout (Belgian) & 6 gals of 1.090 stout (English)
Tapped: Berliner Weisse, Black English IPA, German Pils, & Live Oak Primus
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Old 09-02-2009, 06:01 PM   #8
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I am rinsing with boiled water.

Does this still scream infection to you?

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Old 09-02-2009, 06:11 PM   #9
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I am rinsing with boiled water. Does this still scream infection to you?
No, that is ok, it's just unnecessary.

So, to recap, it sounds like the astringent taste may be a mash/sparge pH problem. The ester problem is likely wild yeast, so proper cleaning/sanitation procedures are important for anything that touches the wort after it has cooled. Also, limit exposure to open air during the transfer process.

Good luck!
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Planned: Lambic, American IPA
Fermenting: 6 gals of 1.090 stout (Belgian) & 6 gals of 1.090 stout (English)
Tapped: Berliner Weisse, Black English IPA, German Pils, & Live Oak Primus
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Old 09-02-2009, 06:31 PM   #10
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Thanks for the replies, Lamar.
I started rinsing the Starsan with boiled water to eliminate residual sanitizer as a cause of the unpleasant taste.

I may pick up some iodine cleaner and work everything over a few times. I would just be amazed that a wild yeast could outcompete my pitch and cause such a problem, but I can't see any other possibilities.



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