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Old 07-17-2012, 05:56 PM   #1
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Default Chlorophenols in primary

I am frustrated by chlorophenols! I have had these boogers pop up in some batches..and confirmed by judges in competition. I'm talking about the plasticy aroma and flavor version of phenols. I have treated my last 6 or 7 batches with campden and they have been pretty clean. However, after some time in the bottle, my last batch began showing some chlorophenolic character in addition to being very overcarbed. This appeared in some of my remaining bottles, but not all of them. None of the bottles opened earlier showed this character. My most recent batch, after 1.5 weeks in the primary , is smelling very plasticy in the primary. WTF? I sanitize with iodophor, brew either extract or partial mash, and ferment in a better bottle or glass carboy. I typically do not secondary and bottle after three weeks. All of my bottles are rinsed and brushed after using and are then cleaned, rinsed, and sanitized on bottling day. Am I picking up an infection somewhere along the way? Is it showing late in the bottle in the previous batch and showing sooner in the batch that's in the primary? (The previous batch was a lager, btw, and pretty tasty until last week). Do infections show themselves as chlorophenols? I treat every bit of water that touches anything with campden. Could the iodophor play a role? Help!!! Any ideas, suggestions, advice would be greatly appreciated!

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Old 07-17-2012, 06:05 PM   #2
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Chlorophenols are tough, as they do have several causes. In addition to chlorine/chloramines in brewing water, infection does indeed cause those plastic flavors. I know one time that I had an infection that caused my off-flavor. I did a 10 gallon batch, and split it into two fermenters. One came out great, and one came out with such bad phenolic character that I had to dump it. It reminded me of the chlorophenols that come from chlorinated water and I would have thought that was the cause, except the other fermenter had perfect beer. It had to have been a bacterial infection in the one bucket.

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Old 07-17-2012, 06:09 PM   #3
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It could be your water. Campden should clear that up, but if your water is ver thigh in chlorine and/or chloramine that could be the cause. I've also heard that bacteria can create a phenolic flavor/aroma, but infections are rare and it sounds like your sanitation is up to par. When I first started brewing, I noticed a slight phenolic taste in my lighter beers and narrowed it down to my over treated city water. Since then I've either pre boiled my brewing water and used campden or used bottled spring water for my brews and it's never popped up again. I'd do some trouble shooting, maybe focus on the water, and see if you can't narrow it down. Make sure you keep your sanitation up to par so you can eliminate the possibility of contamination. Good luck, this sort of thing can be really frustrating to figure out.

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Old 07-17-2012, 07:20 PM   #4
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any suggestions on approach?

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Old 07-17-2012, 09:51 PM   #5
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are you using any hoses, especially garden hoses, to get your water for brew day? Also, not all the bottles showed this flavor? That almost sounds like a bottle born infection which has now made it into your primary equipment.

step 1, I'd make a small batch with store bought spring water.

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Old 07-17-2012, 10:48 PM   #6
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Yeah....I think that's the direction that I am going to head. No hoses for water - straight from the tap into a 4 gallon plastic carboy with a hunk of campden tab. I use that water for everything...including sanitizer....then refill and more campden as needed. I guess if I do a batch with r/o water that will point me in a direction. This batch in my primary that smell plasticy hasn't touched any transfer hoses or anything....boil kettle...cooled with immersion chiller.....pour into carboy through plastic funnel. So...unless it's an airborne infection.....I think the funnel or carboy are most likely where something could be hiding. The carboy seems least likely of the two, and the funnel seems unlikely as well. So maybe the campden just isnt doing the job on my water. I'll whip up a small batch next with r/o water and see what happens.

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Old 07-17-2012, 10:57 PM   #7
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Not all phenolic compounds are chlorophenols. Chlorophenols depend upon exposure to chlorine. Phenolics can come from contamination/infection. You seem to have dealt with the chlorine exposure side of it. Consider a wild yeast infection. Consider a recent experience I had: I had a beer that just would not clear in primary. I fined it with gelatin and it cleared and I bottled. I sampled and tasted a few between three and nine days in the bottle. At nine days it was delicious and nicely carbed. At ten, it was phenolic and distastefully spicy with a plastic aftertaste. I began to open and sample bottles and, sure enough, they were all ruined. After reviewing my notes and looking at my equipment and process, i narrowed it down to a wild yeast infestation in my fermentation chamber. The development of the off flavor in the bottle, along with the overcarbing, are almost a dead giveaway. You have an infection, and if it's phenolic, probably a wild yeast infection. Might have been limited to this batch and then again it might be in your equipment.

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Old 07-17-2012, 11:18 PM   #8
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I can smell it in the batch in my primary right now. Unless I'm ragingly paranoid and it's just fermentation byproduct poo smell....but it sure smells like plastic to me. I agree on the bottle infection part....but none of the bottling equipment has been used on the batch in the primary right now....except the carboy.

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Old 07-17-2012, 11:21 PM   #9
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The fact that it GREW in the bottle doesn't mean it wasn't exposed earlier in the process. In my case, the infection occurred while in the fermentor when I was dry hopping, but it didn't progress to perceptible levels until days after bottling. If it's an infection it might have inocculated your wort anytime after the boil. While chilling, racking to fermentor, in fermentor. I noticed a pattern in my case. I was getting the off flavor ONLY in my dry hopped beers, and it was in ALL of my dry hopped beers. That allowed me to narrow down the source. Look at everything post boil.

Another clue in the primary is if the beer just won't clear. Wild yeasts are mostly non-flocculant.

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Old 07-18-2012, 01:45 PM   #10
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I'll keep an eye on the batch in the primary. It is suppose to be dry hopped...I might just skip that at this point and see how it progresses or digresses. Man...post boil...that's only the yeast (rehydrated in boiled, cooled water; the chiller; the funnel; the carboy. That's it. Could it be the funnel?

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