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Home Brew Forums > Home Brewing Beer > Beginners Beer Brewing Forum > "Infected" or just off
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Old 09-07-2012, 04:54 AM   #1
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Default "Infected" or just off

I have had a couple of batches recently not turn out to be quite as good as I expected, others have. Once example is a cream ale that I brewed ~4.5 weeks ago that is just not right, has a sort of tang to it that makes me go "oh no, is it infected!"

In reality I suppose it could be someting as simple as an unbalanced beer where the trivial amount of hops are still throwing off any level of maltiness.

So to cut to the chase, is there ever really any question on a bacterial or other infection in taste? Is it one of those things where if its bad you will know it or can it be slightly infected?

I relate this to milk, reguarly I sniff the jug, taste, have the wife taste and keep convincing myself that its bad - then every once in a while I actually get a taste of truly sour milk, someting that is so powerful that you regret questioning previous milk.

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Old 09-07-2012, 05:26 AM   #2
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The thing I am learning is that lots of things can cause "off-flavors" that aren't necessarily due to an infected batch. Your water quality, the freshness of your ingredients, level of carbonation, level of oxidation during handing, time left in primary (I could keep going). Only with time and experimentation can you iron out any kinks in your brew.

Check out this link for common off-flavors and their cause: http://www.howtobrew.com/section4/chapter21-2.html

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Old 09-07-2012, 05:46 AM   #3
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From the way you describe it, infection doesn't seem too likely. If you post more info about your process, recipe, fermentation temps, times, how long in the bottle before tasting, etc. it might be easier to track down what could be causing off flavors.

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Old 09-07-2012, 03:27 PM   #4
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The vast majority of infections will sour your beer pretty quickly and will grow visual chunks of nastiness in the beer. It doesn't sound like you have an infection, just an off batch.

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Old 09-07-2012, 04:44 PM   #5
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Your off taste may come from underpitching too, not just infection. I had this on a couple of my batches before I learned more about yeast health. If you dont use enough yeast, you end up with some off flavors from esters that they produce as a result. If your OG is around 1.050 or less, you're generally ok with one smack pack or vial, but if you start going above that range you need more yeast. you can get more from a starter, or pitching two packs/ vials. Too high of a temperature results in off flavors too, unless you're using some of the Belgian strains.

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Old 09-07-2012, 10:48 PM   #6
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So what I am hearing is that a beer infection is probably like spoiled milk or a rotten egg, when it happens you will know for sure

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Old 09-24-2012, 10:13 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jb1677
So what I am hearing is that a beer infection is probably like spoiled milk or a rotten egg, when it happens you will know for sure
I would disagree. I have a batch now I'm not sure about. I think I'm tasting diacetyl along with some other "off" flavors. Best thing you can do is have someone who knows what they're doing try it. That way you can learn as well.

At the risk of sounding like a snob, I think most people underestimate the amount of contamination in their beers. From my experience even a lot of popular craft breweries have problems with sanitation as well. Let your beer warm up and the problems tend to stand out more.

I think I've narrowed my problem down to scratches in my buckets. I'm going to start using all glass or better bottles and see if that fixes it.

One trick I learned is after you boil your wort cool it (and before pitching your yeast) take a couple milliliters and put it in a sanitized jar. Cover with sanitized foil and see how long it takes for something to start growing. 24hrs is OK. A week is awesome.
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Old 09-24-2012, 11:35 PM   #8
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Off flavors and infections are not the same thing.

Infections occur due to sanitation problems and something invading your beer. Off flavors are produced if your process is not sound: examples:
Under pitching
Too high fermentation temps
Poor aeration
Poor yeast health
Improper fermentation
Using equipment that is not food grade

Diacytel is an undesired(in most styles) and unwanted off flavor, it is not an infection.

There are other off flavors that occur for various reasons but also are not infections-see link below

Infections will usually cause a beer to sour and its pretty rapid and definitely noticeable with no question of its origin

http://www.kroc.org/Links/TroubleshootingGuide.htm

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Old 09-25-2012, 02:12 AM   #9
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Diacetyl can be from an infection. In normal circumstances the yeast will usually clean it up.

There is always some extent of contamination in any beer we drink. most of the time it's acceptable. That's why we say sanitize not sterilize. It's more like a dimmer switch. Not on or off.

Yes off flavors can be attributed to many different things. But I wouldn't categorize it so strictly.

Make sure you practice good sanitation
Follow a sensible recipe
Use common sense about the age of your ingredients
Always pitch enough yeast
Pitch at the right temps

99% of the time you'll make at least a good beer.

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Old 09-25-2012, 04:01 PM   #10
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In my case I am trying to eliminate sources of "off flavors" and hoped I could make a sweeping "its not an infection" declaration so that I could eliminate things like my fermenters as the culprit. When I say infection I am talking an unwanted fungus (like Brettanomyces) or bacteria (like lactobacillus) and wanted to be sure that these things are crystal clear, that there is no "slightly infected" with lactobacillus. I guess I am trying to see if its possible to mistake bitter vs sour, if an actual sour beer is so clear that there is no mistaking it.

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