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Old 01-04-2013, 07:42 PM   #1
RBlagojevich
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Default troubleshooting: dms-like flavor problem (husky, grainy, cabbagelike?)

Hi everyone,
I have been a homebrewer for many years. I moved to new york recently, and since the move all of my beers taste "off". I would describe the unwanted flavor compound as sort of grainy, husky, and sometimes cabbagey.

I immediately blamed the problem on DMS, and have taken the following steps to get rid of the problem:
-moved to 2-hour boil times
-using maris otter instead of american 2-row as my base malt in all beers
-restricting mash time to no more than 60min

Still, the off flavor persists. Are there any suggestions about how to remedy the problem?

Here are some possibilities about what could be going wrong:

a. I have some kind of bacterial infection
b. there's something new/weird about the NYC water supply that's bringing out different flavors than I'm used to
c. My new local homebrew supply shop (brooklyn homebrew) has a weird grain mill that's grinding the barley up too finely and adding husky characteristics.

Here's a possible clue:
My first batch after moving to new york, a session-strength scotch ale, was brewed in early november. My first impression was that it had a ton of DMS in it. After several months of aging in the bottle, however, that flavor has mostly subsided and it's now quite clean and pleasant. To me, this points toward c.

After all, real DMS doesn't age out... and if it was a bacterial infection it would be getting worse over time rather than better, am i right?

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Old 01-04-2013, 07:47 PM   #2
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I'd get a water report or start by brewing a batch with bottled or RO water.

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Old 01-04-2013, 09:04 PM   #3
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Definitely look at the water. Next batch use bottleed or RO and see if the problem goes away, then you know it's the water

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Old 01-04-2013, 09:08 PM   #4
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I agree about trying bottled water. Even if the grain is crushed to a powder, you shouldnt get any grainy/husky flavor if the water is ok. Particularly, I am thinking about your mash pH - do you check it?

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Old 01-04-2013, 10:37 PM   #5
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- if it's the water, what in the water would bring out that flavor? just a ph that's too high?
-I am not in the habit of testing the mash ph. should I check ph immediately after mashing in, or do I have to wait a bit for the ph to stabilize?
- I've heard that NYC's water is soft, and good for brewing. Have any NYC brewers experienced the same problem as me?


I am brewing a batch tonight using all bottled spring water. I'm hoping to have better results! tested the ph at mash-in and got a reading of 5.0 which is a bit low.

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Old 01-04-2013, 10:40 PM   #6
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Anything I should look for here in particular?

Drinking water and quality report

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Old 01-04-2013, 10:59 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RBlagojevich
Anything I should look for here in particular?

Drinking water and quality report
The PH listed is pretty high, ideally you want it to be 5.0-5.2 for the mash for sure. Test it about 15-20 minutes into the mash IMO. It's possible your grain bill will drop it to ideal levels but it might not and if its remaining high it could be a contributing factor
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Old 01-05-2013, 12:56 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by duboman View Post
The PH listed is pretty high, ideally you want it to be 5.0-5.2 for the mash for sure. Test it about 15-20 minutes into the mash IMO. It's possible your grain bill will drop it to ideal levels but it might not and if its remaining high it could be a contributing factor
5.0 to 5.2 is low for mash pH, anywhere from 5.2 to 5.7 is fine, but the ideal range after 15 minutes is 5.3 to 5.6 roughly. Tons of info on water in the brew science forum.

That water report looks really good. Very soft water like you said. I would be mostly concerned about any amount of chlorine or chloramines in the tap water. If your bottled water batch turns out good you can probably get by with using a chloramine tablet in your tap water and your beers will turn out great. IMO chlorine and chloramines cause chlorophenols which cause a range of off flavors and weirdness.
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Old 01-05-2013, 11:21 AM   #9
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My concern with mash pH is that if it is too high you will extract more tannins, which will add an astringent, husky character. It's not really the same as DMS, so I'm not certain that is where your problem lies, but I can't think of anything else since you are doing everything else correctly if it was actually a DMS problem.

I use EZ Water Calculator for estimating my mash pH and have had good success with it. You can download it free (it's just an excel spreadsheet) and plug your water report numbers into. You then add in your recipe and it gives you an estimate of mash pH, as well as Ca, Mg, Na, Cl, and SO4 levels - which you can adjust with brewing salt additions.

I also use the Color pHast strips to make sure the mash is in range. I use a touch of acidulated malt to help get the pH down in my lighter beers. Generally, darker beers don't need it since the roasted malts help acidify the mash on their own.

At the very least, I would download the EZ Water spreadsheet and see where things are with your water.

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Old 01-05-2013, 01:44 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RBlagojevich View Post
Hi everyone,
I have been a homebrewer for many years. I moved to new york recently, and since the move all of my beers taste "off". I would describe the unwanted flavor compound as sort of grainy, husky, and sometimes cabbagey.

I immediately blamed the problem on DMS, and have taken the following steps to get rid of the problem:
-moved to 2-hour boil times
-using maris otter instead of american 2-row as my base malt in all beers
-restricting mash time to no more than 60min

Still, the off flavor persists. Are there any suggestions about how to remedy the problem?

Here are some possibilities about what could be going wrong:

a. I have some kind of bacterial infection
b. there's something new/weird about the NYC water supply that's bringing out different flavors than I'm used to
c. My new local homebrew supply shop (brooklyn homebrew) has a weird grain mill that's grinding the barley up too finely and adding husky characteristics.

Here's a possible clue:
My first batch after moving to new york, a session-strength scotch ale, was brewed in early november. My first impression was that it had a ton of DMS in it. After several months of aging in the bottle, however, that flavor has mostly subsided and it's now quite clean and pleasant. To me, this points toward c.

After all, real DMS doesn't age out... and if it was a bacterial infection it would be getting worse over time rather than better, am i right?
It is very unlikely that the NYC tap water is the source of your problem as it is some of the purest in the country. If the flavor goes away with aging then it is also unlikely that an infection is present and the general flavor you describe does not sound like astringency (which is not a flavor but more of a sensation). First step might be to review some literature on beer off-flavors and see if any match up closely to your problem. http://www.howtobrew.com/section4/chapter21-2.html


Without more information regarding specific recipes and brewing procedures it's only possible to guess as to the cause of your perceived problem.

Water: As is the NYC water is close to distilled and because its sources are so pure it probably receives minimal treatment and chlorination compared to many other supplies. However, it is also extremely low in several helpful brewing ions particularly Calcium, Ca+. I would strongly consider adding a brewing Calcium salt to your mash to bring the Ca+ level up to a base of 50-75ppm.

Procedures: If you are boiling covered the DMS products can condense and reenter the kettle. If you are not chilling the boiled wort quickly this has the potential to enhance off-flavor problems. Other common problems to check for are proper temperature control of the fermentation and proper yeast pitching quantity. It never hurts to re-check all cleaning and sanitation procedures as well as equipment.

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