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Old 11-17-2007, 12:30 PM   #1
kmudrick
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Default first 2 batches of my life, ended up with plastic / band aid taste

Hey all,

I recently started homebrewing and my first two batches came out with a plastic / band aid taste. Both were extract with steeped grains - first was an IPA, second was a belgian wit. Both worts were cooled via an immersion wort chiller relatively quickly. Both were in a food-grade bucket for primary and racked to a 5 gallon carboy for secondary via an autosiphon. Sometime in secondary, both beers ended up developing the offtaste. I'm not sure what I did wrong. I use idophor for sanitizing and have been pretty conscious of letting things soak (and not rinsing, just air-drying.) Both fermented in the desired temp range in my temperature-regulated chest freezer.

I've read that this taste is often caused by chlorine in the water or bleach residue. Since I don't use bleach, that can't be it - however, my city (Philadelphia) does use chloramine in its water, which does not boil off or go away like chlorine. If that is indeed the culprit here, how long would it take for that flavor to develop? Would I see the nastiness of chloramine wreaking havoc on my beer fairly immediately?

My LHBS guy thinks there was something in the air around here during late summer / early hot fall that led to a more than average number of infections (he's had many complaints.) He thinks it is an infection, not due to the chloramine in the water.

Both batches dropped in gravity the expected amount in primary and pretty much no drop whatsoever in secondary (as expected.) If I introduced an infection when I racked to secondary, would I have seen a gravity drop due to the wild yeast or bacteria feeding on the beer?

Any suggestions on what else it might be or supporting/dismissing the theories here? I really want to try another batch soon but I am not so optimistic about blowing more time and money (since I am extract brewing, the money part really adds up.) My next planned batch is papazian's "dubbel your pleasure" from the Joy of Home Brewing, which does not suggest even using a secondary vessel. I also bought several gallons of spring water to use this time also.

I also want to do a starter but I fear yet another possible source from infection. The first batch, I did no starter, pitched white labs wlp023 and had to add a second vial 4 days later after no activity. The second batch, I did a starter with a 1L pyrex flask, boiled the wort in it, cooled down in ice bath with the opening covered with tin foil, and pitched a swollen wyeast smack pack - which worked very nicely.

Thanks,
kevin

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Old 11-17-2007, 01:00 PM   #2
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I think the band aid taste is attributed to aeration. I would suspect it is probably in you racking or bottling technique.

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Old 11-17-2007, 01:06 PM   #3
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Sorry I think that is a cardbord taste... talking outta my butt this morning.

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Old 11-17-2007, 02:13 PM   #4
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Default Go w/ just the primary for now - you can still make good beer infection-free.

kmudrick,

I'd try your water idea w/o the 2ndary. At least this way you can get some satisfaction out of what you made not to mention some reward for the effort. I only use bottled water myself. Walmart Spring Water - Don't use the fill your own system.

How do you clean your 2ndary?

When I'm done using my carboy I fill it 3/4 full with water add 2 shots of bleach and then top it off with water once I get it to it storage spot. (5 gal size) The bleach removes all sediment in the neck virtually overnight. I let that sit in the carboy until I'm ready to use it again. - Then when I'm ready to use it, I rinse like crazy with my jet bottle washer. I rinse until there is no bleach smell whatsoever. Inside and out. The outside only because it retains the bleach smell and I don't want dust being a factor. This does the trick for me. I have a bottle brush but never use it at all. I follow that up by sanitizing with idophor or one-step.

Make sure you sanitize the syphon hoses well and make sure your spigot on your fermentor is really clean. I syphon my sanitizer back and forth from a sanitizing bucket to the carboy/primary to make sure the hoses are good to go too. I also run sanitizer thru the spigot as well.

If you have a smack pack. Don't make a starter, smack it 4-8 hours before you start. Make sure its puffed before you start brewing. Sanitize the outside of it well along with your sissors. Then pitch it in after you add everything to the fermentor and its at the right temp for pitching.

If its not one of these things make a list of everything you do and be critical of each step. You might figure it out on your own.

If you have friends that HB ask them over when you brew or go to their place on brew-day. If this isn't an option maybe somebody on HBT can get you in touch with a local HB club in your area.

Good Luck! - I'm sure you can get past this!!

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Old 11-17-2007, 02:44 PM   #5
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Schlenkerla is right...switch it up.

Use bottled water.
Skip a secondary process and age exclusively in the primary.
Switch to a mild bleach solution.

I use bleach exclusively. Never had a problem.

Just take a shotgun approach. Infections are much more uncommon than you think.

After all...your beer is alcohol, hops (a natural preservative) and CO2...

Not real conducive to growing stuff.

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Old 11-17-2007, 03:08 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Schlenkerla

How do you clean your 2ndary?
I use star san + 90 degree scrub brush thingee to scrub, then I use the jet bottle washer to completely rinse. After that I fill with a gallon of water and 1/2 tsp idophor, swish around a bit, drain out and then top with alum foil (that was sitting in idophor solution) until I am ready to use it.

Quote:
Make sure you sanitize the syphon hoses well and make sure your spigot on your fermentor is really clean. I syphon my sanitizer back and forth from a sanitizing bucket to the carboy/primary to make sure the hoses are good to go too. I also run sanitizer thru the spigot as well.
Well, in both instances, my primary bucket was spigotless. I usually blast some water using the jet through my siphon hose and then just let it sit in a big tub of idophor waer solution until I am ready to use it. Last night I bought a new siphon hose for next time, since it is cheap enough. I just installed a spigot in my bucket so I could use it for bottling (switching to 6.5 gall carboy for primary for future batches), so I don't think that's an issue (yet). With the last batch, the plastic flavor was definitely there with the samples I was drawing while bottling (to check the gravity and all.)

Quote:
If you have a smack pack. Don't make a starter, smack it 4-8 hours before you start. Make sure its puffed before you start brewing. Sanitize the outside of it well along with your sissors. Then pitch it in after you add everything to the fermentor and its at the right temp for pitching.
Yeah, I let the smack pack and scissors sit in idophor solution before I pitched it into my starter, so I think that was okay.

Quote:
If you have friends that HB ask them over when you brew or go to their place on brew-day. If this isn't an option maybe somebody on HBT can get you in touch with a local HB club in your area.
See, I do have an out of town friend who homebrews and have assisted him a bunch of times. We were definitely sloppier in terms of cleaning and sanitation than I have been on my own, and all of those beers turned out really awesome

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Good Luck! - I'm sure you can get past this!!
thanks!
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Old 11-18-2007, 01:31 AM   #7
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I would only change one thing at a time. Its sounds like you are doing everything else correctly so I would change the water and see what happens.

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Old 12-25-2007, 12:56 PM   #8
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Followup:

I've brewed two batches since then with Deer Park spring water. One of them is still fermenting, but the other turned out great - no plastic-taste.

I'm going to blame the water, as my methods were pretty much the same.

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Old 12-25-2007, 01:44 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kmudrick
I use star san + 90 degree scrub brush thingee to scrub, then I use the jet bottle washer to completely rinse. After that I fill with a gallon of water and 1/2 tsp idophor, swish around a bit, drain out and then top with alum foil (that was sitting in idophor solution) until I am ready to use it.

Am I reading that right?
Starsan is not a cleaner. And you say that the last brews are good. Was this also with the change to a glass carboy? If so I would think that the buckets were not clean and this is why they were infected.
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Old 02-10-2008, 01:24 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by FSR402
Am I reading that right?
Starsan is not a cleaner. And you say that the last brews are good. Was this also with the change to a glass carboy? If so I would think that the buckets were not clean and this is why they were infected.
Sorry, meant to say one-step, not star san, for cleaning. (I also use perfume-free oxyclean, which seems to be similar to one-step.)

Though, I have since switched to using star san post-clean for all of my sanitizing operations instead of iodophor - the bubbles make me happy.

I am still laying blame at the feet of my local water and mr chloramine. After those first two, I've had 1 extract followed by 4 all grain batches that show *none* of the plastic offtastes of the first 2 batches - using spring water. Though, I now only use carboys of better bottes for primary and secondary instead of a bucket, which is now drilled for bottling. But that is mainly because I like to peek at how the fermentation is going without having to rely on the airlock.
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