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Old 05-26-2010, 03:58 PM   #1
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Default Questioning homebrew norms after persistent phenolic taste

I'm on the verge of quitting homebrewing. Its been about a year, and after many successful brews, recently about more than half of mine have turned out to be crap. I'm really sick of throwing out batches and wasting money and I can't figure out this problem I keep getting.

Like I posted a million times before, I keep getting a phenol taste to my brews (cloudy look, clove-hefe taste). I get this problem with my light beers and my dark beers I get a kinda of pukey smell, hot taste. Yeah I know its nasty.

Now after trying everything and becoming extremely frustrated, I'm beginning to question the norms in homebrewing, even though I might be attacked for doing so.

1.) I use Oxyclean free to clean my stuff. Is this stuff really safe to use? I always rinse thoroughly after using.

2.) I use star san to sanitize and don't rinse. Safe?

3.) Is there such a thing as overcrushing? I usually crush my grain twice.

4.) I leave my brews in primary for a month without secondary. Could this be a problem?

I'm really desperate. Any help would be appreciated.

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Old 05-26-2010, 04:10 PM   #2
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None of those things you listed point to a problem imo. Did you change any of those things you listed between your successful batches and your problem batches?

If you haven't really changed anything but are all of the sudden getting 50% bad batches I'd look at contamination. Any spigots/valves in the equation? If so, have you fully disassembled them and cleaned/sanitized them? Spigots on bottling buckets are 'usual suspects'. I'd consider replacing the easily/cheaply replaced stuff like hoses and nuke everything else (that is compatible) with bleach. Perhaps boil some things that are not compatible with bleach.

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Old 05-26-2010, 04:18 PM   #3
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My first instinct is to blame chlorine. Chlorine in the water supply, or chloramines. Chloramines do NOT boil off, so if your water supplier uses chloramines that can explain the bad chlorophenols. Even if the water supply uses chloramines all the time, my understanding is that the levels can change depending on the water and the weather conditions.

I'd try getting my water ready the day before, and using 1/2 a campden tablet and letting it sit overnight and see if that works. Or, buy some reverse osmosis water (our grocery store has a machine, and it's $.78 cents for two gallons) and add some salts to it to get a good basic water profile.

Do you use plastic or glass? I use plastic, but if it's a contamination issue, you might want to switch to a glass carboy if you're using a bucket, just to see if there is an issue with some of your plastic items.

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Old 05-26-2010, 04:20 PM   #4
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What temps are you pitching/fermenting at? Is the problem just since the weather warmed up?

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Old 05-26-2010, 04:24 PM   #5
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I agree with the above, except for grain crushing twice, I do one, two and four all the time. And have not had any issues.

Phenols can come from 3 major ways
1) Fermentation Temps
2) The cuumulative effect of a reaction with plastics and chlorinated water, and certain minerals in your water. This is kinda tricky because plenty of folks use chlorinated water all the time and don't get it, while others do from the get go.
3) Infection.

Somewhere above is where you problem lie. Not to the things you suggested. Get a handle on which of those and your problem wiil be over.

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Old 05-26-2010, 04:25 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Shoemaker View Post
I'm on the verge of quitting homebrewing. Its been about a year, and after many successful brews, recently about more than half of mine have turned out to be crap. I'm really sick of throwing out batches and wasting money and I can't figure out this problem I keep getting.

Like I posted a million times before, I keep getting a phenol taste to my brews (cloudy look, clove-hefe taste). I get this problem with my light beers and my dark beers I get a kinda of pukey smell, hot taste. Yeah I know its nasty.

Now after trying everything and becoming extremely frustrated, I'm beginning to question the norms in homebrewing, even though I might be attacked for doing so.

1.) I use Oxyclean free to clean my stuff. Is this stuff really safe to use? I always rinse thoroughly after using.

2.) I use star san to sanitize and don't rinse. Safe?

3.) Is there such a thing as overcrushing? I usually crush my grain twice.

4.) I leave my brews in primary for a month without secondary. Could this be a problem?

I'm really desperate. Any help would be appreciated.

1) I use it also, and I also rinse really well (2-3 times with clean water). Oxyclean is kind of like a de-oxygenated bleach, so if it weren't rinsed well enough I'd guess that it could produce some polyphenols and clove like flavors. The taste threshold for polyphenols is very low. As mentioned above, this could also come from using water treated with chlorine or chloramine.

2) I also use star-san without rinsing.

3) There is such a thing as overcrushing. Besides just a stuck sparge, it can also lead to cloudiness, tannin extraction, or a husky/grainy flavor.

4) I also skip the secondary, and primary for anywhere from 4-7 weeks.
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Old 05-26-2010, 04:26 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by YooperBrew View Post
My first instinct is to blame chlorine. Chlorine in the water supply, or chloramines. Chloramines do NOT boil off, so if your water supplier uses chloramines that can explain the bad chlorophenols. Even if the water supply uses chloramines all the time, my understanding is that the levels can change depending on the water and the weather conditions.

I'd try getting my water ready the day before, and using 1/2 a campden tablet and letting it sit overnight and see if that works. Or, buy some reverse osmosis water (our grocery store has a machine, and it's $.78 cents for two gallons) and add some salts to it to get a good basic water profile.

Do you use plastic or glass? I use plastic, but if it's a contamination issue, you might want to switch to a glass carboy if you're using a bucket, just to see if there is an issue with some of your plastic items.

Well I guess I forgot to mention that I brewed a helles with RO water and it turned out good, no off tastes. You think this is the problem? It is hit or miss, but if it varies like you said, the water could be the culprit.

I guess I'm surprised because I live in the forest (NJ forest) and use well water. Thought the water would be good to use.
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Old 05-26-2010, 04:29 PM   #8
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Well I guess I forgot to mention that I brewed a helles with RO water and it turned out good, no off tastes. You think this is the problem? It is hit or miss, but if it varies like you said, the water could be the culprit.

I guess I'm surprised because I live in the forest (NJ forest) and use well water. Thought the water would be good to use.
Yes, I really believe that chlorine and/or chloramines could be the problem, except I don't think well water is chlorinated? I mean, I don't do anything to my well water and I assume most people don't. I've never heard of chlorine or chloramines in well water- that's an additive.

But you could try buying "drinking water" for your next batch. Not RO, since the minerals are removed, but just plain old Poland Springs (or whatever) drinking water. If that fixes the issue, then you know it's your water chemistry.
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Old 05-26-2010, 04:30 PM   #9
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You could do a couple small batches changing each possibility and see what happens.

So do two 1 gallon batches, one with the well water and the other with RO water. Everything else in your method stays the same.

Do another two batches, one with grain crushed twice and one crushed once.

You don't have to mess around with full batches to figure out what's going on. Hopefully you can figure out and correct the issue so you don't have to give up home brewing.

Good luck!

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Old 05-26-2010, 04:55 PM   #10
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Sometimes municipal water supplies will choose to add chloramine on and off during the year, based on ba-dum-dum-dum... Which could explain why the issue popped up for you at once.

Yooper's advice is good stuff... I tend to get two wine buckets and measure out both my mash water and sparge water the night prior, and toss in a quarter teaspoon of potassium metabisulphite. Enough to allow chlorine to evap out and chloramine to precipitate, or whatever that junk does when it gets a snoot-full of campden up its butt.

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