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Old 07-02-2009, 01:47 PM   #1
BrokenBrew
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Default Fermenting too warm

This is a little bit rant, with a couple questions thrown in for good measure.

The rant:
I've been brewing now since last November. Just did my 14th batch (2nd AG) so I've got a few under my belt. Some actually turned out pretty good - friends have told me - "Dude, this is better than Redhook's ESB!". So overall I've been pretty pleased.

With nearly all of my batches there has been this slight undercurrent of flavor that I always blamed on "Extract Twang". Kind of a cider, alcohol flavor is the best I can describe it. Sometimes almost imperceptible, sometimes more pronounced. I'd even talked about it with the guys at my LHBS, and they agreed that when I moved to AG, it'd go away. The flavor didn't detract too much, but seemed to always be there.

I recently brewed two batches (a Honey Wheat, and a Pale Ale) for an upcoming July 4th party we host every year. I've got about 20+ people coming over and wanted to have some good homebrew on hand. The Pale Ale, I've been told, is 'one of the best beers I've ever had!'. So I was excited to have it on hand.

A few days ago I cracked one of the Pale Ales. It'd been bottled for just over two weeks. The cider/alcohol taste was pretty strong. Later I opened the Wheat, and close to the same thing. Both had that strong taste. The same I'd tasted before in many of my other batches, but much, much stronger.

After extensive research on this board, I think I've been fermenting too hot all along. Since I started brewing, my LHBS has told me to ferment at about 70 otherwise it'd never finish. Then yesterday I read Yooper's post on high fermentation temps, as well as tons of others, and from that I've figured out I've been fermenting too hot all along. I'd even made a fermentation chamber with a low-watt light bulb to keep the temp about 70. Thus the slight undercurrent of that cider taste.

Since the summer hit, the reading on my fermometer has been 72 - 74, meaning the actual temp was probably closer to at least 78. Thus, the stronger taste of what I'd always thought was 'extract twang'.

What will be very telling is I've brewed two AG batches that fermented high also. If they have that flavor, it's temp, not twang. And I'm certainly not going to ask that LHBS for any more advice!

I had to actually BUY some beer (the horror!) for our party. At least it gave me an excuse to grab a bottle of Russian River's Pliny the Elder - drinking it tonight!

Now the questions:
1) I generally wash my yeast, and one of the batches (fermenting COOLER now, but initially high) is the one I was going to wash from. This yeast will be fine, right? It's WL Calif. Ale. It hasn't mutated into some creature of the black lagoon and should be thrown out, correct?

2) Will the cider / fusel alcohol flavor will go away with time? I'm assuming a few weeks sitting in the corner will fix it.

3) I made BM's Centennial Blonde last Saturday, and it fermented a little high until last night when I moved it to a water bath with a t-shirt. It's now at 69. I'm assuming it's too late for this one since it started high and fermented high for 4 days, and I'll most likely have that off flavor again. Correct?

Thanks for all the helpful advice and postings. This is definitely a great place to get info and answers.

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Old 07-02-2009, 02:02 PM   #2
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I don't have any advice, but just wanted to say that I have been having the same problem with that "twang" you're referring to, kind of a fruity, muddled undercurrent to all the beer I've been brewing so far.

My last batch I finally got a refrigerator control. I started fermentation at 70 and then bumped it down to 68. Moved it to my secondary and bumped it down to 66 and I plan to let my bottles condition at 66 as well. Hopefully this level of temp control fixes the problem.

Looking forward to seeing what the experts have to say on this one.

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Old 07-02-2009, 03:03 PM   #3
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Yeah, temperature control and pitching the proper amount of yeast are the two most important ways to improve your homebrewing, in my opinion.

Sometimes, you want a little fruitiness from the yeast- Belgians, and hefeweizens notably, but other times, too. Nottingham yeast is particularly nasty fermented about 70 degrees, in my opinion, but awesomely clean and attenuative at 60 degrees. (This is fermentation temperature, not ambient room temperature).

Try it! Try a recipe that you've already done, and use the WLP001 (washing that is fine) at 62 degrees. See the differences, and if that takes care of your off-flavor.

I've heard other brewers say that the fusels/esters do improve with time. In my experience, that hasn't been the case, though. Maybe some dryhopping can help cover it up.

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Old 07-02-2009, 03:07 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by YooperBrew View Post
Yeah, temperature control and pitching the proper amount of yeast are the two most important ways to improve your homebrewing, in my opinion.

Sometimes, you want a little fruitiness from the yeast- Belgians, and hefeweizens notably, but other times, too. Nottingham yeast is particularly nasty fermented about 70 degrees, in my opinion, but awesomely clean and attenuative at 60 degrees. (This is fermentation temperature, not ambient room temperature).

Try it! Try a recipe that you've already done, and use the WLP001 (washing that is fine) at 62 degrees. See the differences, and if that takes care of your off-flavor.
Question I have had about this - can you start fermentation at that temp? I have read/heard that you should start around 70 and then drop it. Would be a lot easier if I could just hit 62 for the whole process.
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Old 07-02-2009, 03:20 PM   #5
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Question I have had about this - can you start fermentation at that temp? I have read/heard that you should start around 70 and then drop it. Would be a lot easier if I could just hit 62 for the whole process.
I don't start at 70 and drop it- mainly because I don't want fermentation to start at 70, if my fermentation temperature is 62, or 64, or whatever. It's harder to regulate the temperature if you're adjusting it down, while it's fermenting and producing heat.

I generally pitch my yeast into my wort at the correct temperature. I make starters for liquid yeast, to increase the cell count, and pitch the yeast into wort that is either the same temperature, or the wort up to two degrees warmer than the yeast starter.

Some yeast strains do better at slightly higher temperatures, so make sure you consult the yeast manufacturer's website (they have ALL of the info on there) for the optimum temperature for that strain. I ferment at the cooler end of the yeast's optimum range.
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Old 07-02-2009, 04:57 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BrokenBrew View Post
1) I generally wash my yeast, and one of the batches (fermenting COOLER now, but initially high) is the one I was going to wash from. This yeast will be fine, right? It's WL Calif. Ale. It hasn't mutated into some creature of the black lagoon and should be thrown out, correct?
Over multiple propagations your yeast will mutate, whether said mutant is of the creature of the black lagoon or X-man variety is up to the beholder.

Quote:
Originally Posted by BrokenBrew View Post
2) Will the cider / fusel alcohol flavor will go away with time? I'm assuming a few weeks sitting in the corner will fix it.
Probably not go away but it might fade into the background. You will likely get better results out of the Pale especially if it has a big hop profile i.e. other flavors you do want to mask the ones you don't

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Originally Posted by BrokenBrew View Post
3) I made BM's Centennial Blonde last Saturday, and it fermented a little high until last night when I moved it to a water bath with a t-shirt. It's now at 69. I'm assuming it's too late for this one since it started high and fermented high for 4 days, and I'll most likely have that off flavor again. Correct?
Maybe, maybe not. If it does give it time. Yeast is a funny creature. It will often consume many of the components it produces as it runs out of fermentable sugars. Point in case Redhook actually crashes their tanks early. If they don't, as it end ferments their yeast will remove all of the diacetyl it produced. Taste the Blonde when it appears to have end fermented if it has those flavors give it a little more time. If that doesn't help try dry hopping it to mask them.

Generally speaking the warmer you ferment ale yeast the more esters it will put into your beer. Sometimes that is desirable (see most Belgians) sometimes it's not. Also fermentation is very exothermic, so unless you have an active cooling system starting your fermentation at 70 in a room at 67 will cause fermentation (especially if it's vigorous) to take place above 70.
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Old 07-02-2009, 05:02 PM   #7
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I always try to pitch at or near the temperature I plan to ferment at. Usually that's 63-66 this time of year. My LHBS tried to tell me the same thing - to keep it at 70 or above at least until it starts fermenting. I had already pitched and fermented a few awesome batches in the low 60s so I already knew better (thanks to HBT!).

Temperature control during the first 4-5 days of fermentation was far and away the number one thing that improved my beer - to the point where I won't even start a batch if it's really hot and I don't think I can keep it under 70 for those critical first few days.

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Old 07-02-2009, 11:03 PM   #8
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Thanks for all the advice. I'm going to taste the Centennial Blonde and dry hop if it's got the diacetyl taste. I over-hopped it last time (oops) and it turned out great, so dry hopping would probably be pretty good.

I'm also looking at buying a mini fridge for lagers and cooler ale fermentation.

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