here's where I was 8 months ago after about 5-6 brews (only one was good):
I know this is super long but read on if you can.
Got some good responses back then. Implemented many changes. Better Bottle, strict temperature control, new hoses, changed my supplier for ingredients, and the list goes on. I isolated as many variables as possible down to the using/not using the wort chiller just to make sure it wasn't a contributor. haven't been to a homebrew club either.
The first batch after the new fermenter was good, an extract porter with liquid yeast.
Fast forward today. Beer still sucks. I've brewed four times since. Porter was good though it did develop some bad burp problems over a month or so. Samuel Smith Winter Welcome Clone still conditioning in bottles. I've had a couple over the months. A bit of alchohol bite but actually tasted pretty good. ESB was terrible. Not drinkable (see taste below). Kolsch, just opened a bottle after three weeks conditioning. Crap. So my current batting average is now 2 for 9. SO FRUSTRATING!
The homebrewing mantra seems to be just wait it will get better. Believe me I've done that on these brews. I've come to know that when the flavor I'm tasting is present, it's just NOT going to go away. It gets worse. Other than the porter, just about EVERY beer I've brewed tastes the same (some horrid stale, plastic, spiced flavor that I can't describe) AND they all end up the same color.
I brewed and bottled this Kolsch with the utmost care and attention to detail. It was the right color going into the botttles, tasted good, and now three weeks later, bad. The ESB was bad out of the bottling bucket. Kolsch was good out of the secondary (7 primary approx 62-64 degrees with fluctuation due to swamp cooler, 4 weeks secondary at 42 degrees) It now has the aforementioned bad taste developing heavily now.
To the point now with a possible list of problems. Please help isolate:
1. I don't know how but I guess sanitation is suspect. Using OxyClean (with a good rinse) after a brew and sanitizing EVERYTHING with StarSan. I don't really know what else i can do in this area. Though I have not replaced my bottling wand. Many of my beers have had this taste and color before going into bottles so it's not there
2. Leaving too much sanitizer in fermenter when racking. i of course try to get all liquid out and just leave foam. Is it possible StarSan can contribute to off-flavors even if diluted properly? i don't think so
3. LME/DME argument. Brewing partial boils with LME (possibly too old at that) I've read the debate on that combo leading to "extract twang". I order supplies and it may be a month or longer before I can use them but I keep them cold and well preserved. I've read extensively on extract twang (reality or myth aside) but it's always described as a sweet flavor. this is not sweet, it's nasty. Just bad. Burps are bad too. The Sam Smith clone was brewed with DME not LME and doesn't seem to exhibit the same off flavors after months in bottles. Could this really all come down to an LME issue?
partial boil/full boil: I cannot justify buying a bigger stainless pot to do full boils (or anything else expensive) till I find out where I'm going wrong so I start with a 4 gallon brew, end up with 3 after boil. Add 2.25 gallons water.
I've used spring water, boiled tap water, regular tap water. Doesn't make a difference here. Our water is good. Selected as the best drinking water in the Southeast in 2008. I've looked at the limited amount of water profile data they have available. Nothing's off according to Palmer's book.
4. Thought it could be tannins from steeping grains. Did not use any with the Kolsch, straight extract brew, didn't help so I've eliminated that.
5. Starters. Switched from dry to liquid. have a stir plate and 2L flask for starters. Doesn't seem to be brain surgery. I've followed directions and they've gone well. Haven't checked OG on starters but I'm using the proper ratio of DME to H20. I used the Porter's washed yeast on the ESB and questioned my starter a bit http://www.homebrewtalk.com/f39/starter-question-180824/
but it ended up finishing well and I used it. Mistake maybe.
6. Only other thing I can think of is the old "house bug" thing. I thought that could be cured with new hoses, fermenter, etc. Don't know what you do about that other than brew and ferment somewhere else. Not really feasible.
I'm sure there are many details not posted here but the bottom line is I don't know where to turn folks. I'm wasting money and A LOT of time on these brews. I'm so close to posting all my stuff on craigslist and just going back to getting ripped off on commercial beer. At least I can drink the stuff!
Any and all help so much appreciated.