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-   -   Two out of three batches turned out "sour" is well water to blame? (http://www.homebrewtalk.com/f39/two-out-three-batches-turned-out-sour-well-water-blame-208111/)

Chaddyb 11-25-2010 03:33 AM

Two out of three batches turned out "sour" is well water to blame?
Ok, so I have brewed up three batches of beer so far, first was a "autumn amber ale" second was a "java stout", and the third was a hefewiezen. the autumn ale, and hefe both have a sour taste to them, but the second one, (java stout) tastes great. the autumn ale has been in the bottle for a month and a half, and I just bottled the hefe tonight, but when I tasted it, it seemed to have the same sour notes as the first batch (autumn ale). Granted the third batch has to bottle condition for a while, but I don't have a great feeling about it turning out, since my amber ale doesnt taste much different after 6-7 weeks in the bottle , than it did a week and a half in the bottle.

The only things I did different in the three batches, was the first batch I used a dry yeast, and the other two I used wyeast, and for the first one I used the one step powdered sanitizing soloution, and the other two I used star san, also I put ice in the wort of the first one, to get it down to 75 degrees, so I can understand where that one might have gone bad.

The one constant I am wondering about is my well water, I'm wondering if that could be my issue? It tastes fine when i drink just water, but i can imagine there may be minerals or something that can be making it taste funny.

I sanitize the hell out of everything, so I THINK that is all ok, but who knows.

these are all malt extract kits.

Here is the fermenting/bottling details of all three batches:

first: "autumn amber ale"

primay ferment, 1 week, secondary, 1 week, initial taste 1.5 weeks in the bottle, tasted sour, 3 weeks, tasted sour, 6 weeks still just as sour, not much taste change throughout. Seemed to taste fine when I bottled.

second: "java stout"

primary, two weeks, secondary, two weeks, initial taste two weeks in the bottle, tasted good, but strong coffee taste, three weeks coffee taste mellowed, and beer really tastes good.

third: hefewiezen

primary one week, secondary three weeks (my first daughter was born, so it took some time to get to it) It tasted good when I racked it from primary to secondary, tastes sour-ish at bottling time. hasn't bottle conditioned at all yet, so I will try it again in a couple weeks and see how it tastes I guess.

The first batch was new bottles, second and third were both used bottles. Thats all the details I can think of right now.

Any help/ideas woud be appretiated...

billvon 11-25-2010 06:00 AM

First off I assume you are using extract. That removes a lot of the requirements on the water since you do not need to worry about pH of the mash.

Secondly if it's really a sour taste (i.e. reminds you of other sour beers you've had) _and_ it didn't taste that way going into the bottle it may be an infection. I had some problems with that when I (intentionally) made a batch with brett; I assume you are not using sour yeasts at all yet.

If those two are the case, then it's probably sanitation. It might be something you overlooked, like the tip of the racking cane or the valve in the bottling bucket. All that stuff has to be clean and exposed to sanitizer for the minimum contact time; starsan is 30 sec to 2 min for example.

pericles 11-25-2010 03:27 PM

I know it's frustrating, after telling us that . . .


I sanitize the hell out of everything
. . . but "sour" is usually a sign of infection. I'll echo billvon and say that there might be some part of the sanitation you're overlooking? Bottle caps? Did you disassemble your bottling bucket and sanitize each piece of the tap separately? Are you CLEANING before you sanitize? (Remember, proper sanitation is a two step process: first you clean, preferably with oxyclean, and then you sanitize with iodophor or starsan.)

I don't think that your well-water could cause the beer to taste sour. UNLESS, it isn't filtered or chlorinated at all, in which case the water probably includes some bacteria?

jfr1111 11-25-2010 03:36 PM

I would try a few batches using only spring or RO water that I build up if you think the water is to blame. Sourness is a pretty vague term and infections can impart a lot of weird tastes, from goaty and sweaty to acceptable citrus or cherry.

Have you noticed the carbonation level increasing in the Autumn Ale after bottling and do your remember the specific FG it finished at ? If you do, I would crack a bottle, stir/shake the crap out of it to remove any trace of carbonation and check the FG again. If it's lower, you'll know it is probably infected. Over carbonation can also impact sourness and any wheat beer can taste tart before it had time to condition for a (short) while.

ReverseApacheMaster 11-25-2010 03:48 PM

My first thought goes to infection. It seems like you might be getting it from your racking equipment since the problem develops when you secondary, which is unnecessary for these beers.

My second thought is that the water is messing with your beers. If it is particularly alkaline or acidic that could affect fermentation and cause additional stress on yeast and cause them to produce off flavors. If the water is chlorinated within your house that can certainly develop into an off flavor over time. If it is not chlorinated then it's likely any unboiled water, like top up water, is introducing critters into your beer that might be working on the fermentation byproducts/unfermentable sugars/alcohol remaining after the yeast fermentation ends. The mineral content could affect the way that fermentation byproducts breakdown, causing an off flavor. My suspicion is that if the water is the culprit it is either the first or last one (or both) because the more acidic coffee beer would have had a different acidity and possibly mineral composition than the other beers.

What can you tell us about your water supply?

Other than a series of tests, the other way I could say you could figure out if it is infection in your racking equipment or the water is to brew a batch and let it sit in the fermenter for a couple of months and then taste it. If it tastes sour, it is your water. If it is fine but gets sour after bottling, your equipment is infected and needs to get tossed.

Chaddyb 11-25-2010 04:00 PM

I sanitize everything that touches the beer, buckets, hoses tap, bottles, caps, air locks, ect ect, if it touches beer, I sanitize it. I use dish soap to clean, not oxi clean, but I will use that on my next batch, also I dont take the bottling bucket tap apart, so I will do that too next time, just to be sure.

As far as my well water, it is un filtered, and un softened, straight out of the ground. The well is 45 years old, with galvanized, pipe, and a brass check valve coming out of the ground to the well pump, so who knows what could be on the inside of the pipes, not to mention electrolisis going on between the two dissimilar metals, could produce something screwy too.

I totally think my first batch has an infection, judging by the head on the beer when I pour it now, it will have a decent head, but then it instantly dissipates to nothing, Ive never seen a beer do that.

At any rate, I will keep an eye on the hefe, as that isnt the same "sour" as the amber ale, actually it may just be a sweet taste, and I will see what a few weeks in the bottle produce.

I guess next batch I will try to sanitize even better, and I think I will try spring water, for the hell of it, prolly do another hefe, jus to see if there is much of a difference. . .

ReverseApacheMaster 11-25-2010 05:09 PM

A lack of head retention is not a sign of infection...

ILuvIPA 11-25-2010 05:21 PM

I agree with the guys who say infection. I've had one batch that developed the sour taste you describe (almost like a lambic.) Close inspection of the bottles with a strong light & I found tiny gossamer-like mold on the inside walls of the bottles. The source was a very small amount of mold growing in the plastice spigot of my bottling bucket. . .Didn't know those came apart for cleaning - Doh!

Inspect all your gear and clean thoroughly. Remember that sanitizer will not cut through any deposits. You have to clean first then sanitize. Good luck!

viking73 11-25-2010 05:53 PM

You can easily take the question of water contamination out by using an in line filter available at any hardware store. I've got bad chlorine here in the city water, the filter takes it all out.

none of which will help if you have an infection...

EdWort 11-25-2010 06:00 PM

I would definate revise your cleaning and sanitation methods.

Your Well Water is probably pretty hard, and extract already had a proper water profile to begin with, so I recommend using RO water from dispensers at Grocery stores. Here's what I use when I need RO water.


I use RO for extract brews and for making long term batches of Starsan.

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