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Home Brew Forums > Home Brewing Beer > Beginners Beer Brewing Forum > Off flavor in first 3 batches.....damn
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Old 11-15-2008, 06:19 AM   #1
JamesJ
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Default Off flavor in first 3 batches.....damn

Ok. My first 3 batches of homebrew are pretty gross. All 3 are plagued with a similar off flavor that I can only describe as a mix of a band aid taste mixed with a solvent taste. It's also somewhat watery tasting. It's been a frustrating journey so far. I'm trying to pin down where I'm going wrong before I brew anymore. These were all 5 gallon extract kits. I made sure to read a lot of posts on this site and was careful with my sanitation. Please weigh in with your thoughts. Any help tracking down this problem is greatly appreciated.

1)Pale Ale, 5 gallons extract kit. My first attempt. 3 days in primary, 2 weeks in secondary, used Nottingham dry yeast that came with kit, topped off with prima filtered water with minerals added, Carbed well after 5 weeks in bottles, tasted like ass as described above. Used no rinse cleaner from LHBS that the kit came from. Fermentation temp was 72-75. (read more posts afterwards and learned to leave it in the primary longer)

2)IPA, 5 gallon extract kit. used dry yeast that came with kit that I rehydrated, 3 weeks in primary and then bottled. Used no rinse cleaner again. Topped off with spring water, Carbed well after 5 weeks in bottles again. Tasted a touch better than my first batch but still off. Fermentation temp 72-75. (read more posts afterwards and decided to try StarSan for my next batch)

3)AHS Pumpkin Ale. 5 gallon extract kit. used white labs liquid yeast that came with kit and I made a starter this time around. Topped off with spring water, 4 weeks in primary and 3 weeks in bottles so far. This time I used StarSan hoping the no rinse I used in my previous batches was part of the problem. Had a taste last night, provided it's only been 3 weeks, I can taste that off flavor in it again. I plan to give it another 2 weeks but this is getting frustrating. Fermentation temp 72-75 again.

If I had to guess, I would say my fermentation temps are part of the problem or maybe my primary Ale bucket. What do you all think?

This week I made a no boil Brewferm kit (Abbey) that is a half batch, 9 liters and it's fermenting in a 3 gallon better bottle that I bought. I used StarSan again and I'm hoping there will be a difference in this one. I also made an AHS Oberon clone extract kit last night. I used white labs liquid yeast that came with the kit and made a starter. I'm feeling more comfortable with the process now that I've made 5 batches now I just need to find where I'm going wrong. Please weigh in. Trying to be patient here cos beer is worth it.

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Old 11-15-2008, 07:18 AM   #2
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Well, fermentation temps are a bit high - is the 72-75 the ambient temperature or the actual wort temperature? I got off flavors in my first few batches too, that largely went away when I made an effort to keep temps 65-67. If you can't do this, some yeasts are more tolerant of a little higher temperature (Safale US-05 comes to mind). The first 3-4 days are the most important for temperature control IMO.

Are you using tap water for top-off? I think a band-aid taste is often linked to chlorine - if your tap water is highly chlorinated, try using bottled spring water instead and see if that helps.

In my case I changed all 3 conditions within 2 batches (temp, yeast and spring water) and my problems went away. I also mostly switched away from canned extract at that time as well, in favor of fresh bulk LME. Obviously I can't point at any one thing due to my shotgun approach, but I do feel that temperature control probably made the biggest difference.

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Old 11-15-2008, 01:11 PM   #3
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Thanks for the reply. My fermentation temps are from the sticker thermometer on my primary Ale Pail and I've been using spring water to top off.

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Old 11-15-2008, 01:27 PM   #4
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I think it has something to do with fermentation temps as well. Although 72º is the upper end of most yeasts, it can stress them and make create those off flavors you're describing.

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Old 11-15-2008, 01:35 PM   #5
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A lot of the problem with that first batch is probably the lack of time in primary. Three days is not enough.

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Old 11-15-2008, 02:40 PM   #6
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James,
I had a similar off flavor in my first batch and I am pretty sure it is due to high fermentation temp. I wasn't given enough info by my LHBS on how to brew and so I didn't fully understand the importance of temperature of the primary. Also, Hurricane Ike killed my power for 17 days which added to the problem. My LHBS says 60 to 75 degrees is what the primary temp needs to be, and you seem to be in that range, but I have come to believe it needs to be cooler than that. Also, I only left it in the primary for about 4 or 5 days and I think it should have been longer.

My first batch was a bulk extract with grain and I used Saflale 05 also. At every gravity reading I taste tested the beer and didn't notice the off flavor that much at first. It seemed to get stronger as time went on. I bottled it and it is now 7, maybe 8 weeks in the bottle. Some good news is that it seems to get better as bottle condition time goes by but not all the way better. Some bottles taste better than others but the bad ones suck. It is strange because the good beer flavor is there but right beside it is this very strong medicinal flavor. It's as if the flavors are seperated and I can taste both good beer and the crap at the same time. It’s like someone added rubbing alcohol to it. I have opened about half of the bottles now and tried them. Like I said some taste ok and the off flavor isn't as strong. It tasted good enough to keep me interested so I decided to keep trying.

I now have a Brown Ale that I left in the primary 3 weeks. I kept the fermentation bucket submerged in water inside a large beverage tub or muck bucket as it is sometimes called. I keep frozen water bottles in the freezer and twice a day I change these out. It keeps my water temp in the 65 to 68 degree range and I am hoping this is the answer. I am in Houston and it is interesting that even with the hot weather more or less subsiding, it takes so much effort to keep the fermentation cool. I think that before summer 09 comes around I may need to build a fermentation chiller. That may be the only way to beat the Houston heat.

Anyway, I transferred the Brown Ale to secondary last weekend and took a gravity reading then drank it! No off flavor so I am optimistic about it. Also brewed up a Heinie Clone on Saturday. I will see how these two batches turn out before I brew anymore. The Brown Ale will stay in secondary 2 weeks and then I will bottle. So my new plan for all ales is 3 weeks in primary, 2 weeks in secondary and then bottle and I vow not to open a bottle until 6 weeks of conditioning.

Dennis

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Old 11-15-2008, 02:54 PM   #7
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James,

I had some similar issues in the past. My ferm temps were too high, like you my sticky thermometer said 70-75. Since then I've made more of an effort to ensure I cool the wort to around 70 before pitching asap, then stick the carboy in a large plastic container in a water bath, with a couple frozen bottles of water and a t-shirt to wick up the water. I think it's made a big difference, as now my sticky thermometer reads around 60-65 and the beers are turning out better.

I tend to believe that if you can keep the temp down for 3-4 days during the bulk of fermentation, then after that room temp is probably acceptable (70-75 for instance).

I also always keep the beer in the primary for at least a week. As you probably know, the best way to figure out when it's safe to transfer is to take a gravity reading. There are many posts regarding this subject.

It's frustrating, but you are probably really close to working it out.

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Old 11-15-2008, 03:28 PM   #8
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Shoot for about 66F on the stick on thermo. During all out active fermentation, the wort is likely 1-2F higher than the stick on indicates. Unless you're brewing a Saison, keep ales under 70F at all times.

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Old 11-15-2008, 04:57 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JamesJ View Post
Ok. My first 3 batches of homebrew are pretty gross. All 3 are plagued with a similar off flavor that I can only describe as a mix of a band aid taste mixed with a solvent taste. It's also somewhat watery tasting. It's been a frustrating journey so far. I'm trying to pin down where I'm going wrong before I brew anymore. These were all 5 gallon extract kits. I made sure to read a lot of posts on this site and was careful with my sanitation. Please weigh in with your thoughts. Any help tracking down this problem is greatly appreciated.
Solvent taste is likely due to fermenting too warm and going to secondary WAY too early. I recommend a minimum of 10 days in the primary, always, and I typically ferment in the mid 60's *F unless the yeast is a strain that requires warmer temps. (See fermentation chamber link in my sig for how I control temps)

What is your water source? Band-aid taste (especially if you notice it in burps) is almost certainly chlorophenols. Softened water or cleaning with bleach without adequate rinsing is most likely the culprit. Municipal water that has not been carbon filtered may also be a source though usually it will not be as severe. Chlorophenols can also come from low grade infections from certain wild yeast strains but that is not very common for new brewers (such infections usually come from re-pitched yeast).

Where are you located? If you have a LHBS or a local club, getting someone experienced to actually try the beer will help in diagnosing the problem.
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