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Old 01-14-2011, 03:01 PM   #1
Aberrix
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Default Where did I go wrong?

It's now 4 weeks from when I brewed my first beer (an ESB from Northern Brewer) and I had 3 buddies come over and we tasted it (each sampled 1/4 pint). It tastes 'alcoholy' and someone said 'medicinal' so I'm trying to find out where I went wrong. I googled and I have some idea (phenols and/or fusel alcohol) but I just wanted to check and see what you guys thing...

here was my process;

I didnt really actually clean anything, everything appeared "clean" no major debris... So I just sanitized everything with Star San. Is that okay to just sanitize or do I need to clean and then sanitize? also should I be rinsing the Star San off of things? I was told I didnt need to but just wanna make sure.

I followed the recipe instructions pretty well. I did however have the lid on my kettle for a while to try and help the boil (I later learned this is a no-go and will produce esters). All in all beyond that I think the brewing process went well. I pitched my Wyeast slap pack that was fully inflated and let it sit.

I had a beautiful fermentation in the first 3-4 days with a thick kraussen and then it fell back into the beer. I left it in the primary for 2 weeks.

I racked it to my secondary on the 2 week mark, again using star san to sanitize my siphon and everything else.

Here is where I think I may have produced the fusel alcohols, my basement is unfinished and my secondary was sitting at around 60F +/- which got me kinda worried, I moved it back into my office where it sat at around 68F +/-, I think it may have gotten too warm in the office and thus produced the fusel alcohols, is that assumption correct? is that what could've happened?

at about 3.5 weeks I cold crashed it by putting my entire secondary into my chest freezer which is at about 34-36F for two days.

I then kegged it, again using star san but not actually using any cleaner.

I've been tasting sips here and there and it just "doesnt taste right", alcoholy, etc...

now I just reread my recipe kit and it says 6 weeks... did I rush it too fast? is that why I'm having these off tastes? or did I do something else wrong? will it get better?

thanks in advance

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Old 01-14-2011, 03:04 PM   #2
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Did you use tap water?

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Old 01-14-2011, 03:04 PM   #3
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yes, I used tap water.

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Old 01-14-2011, 03:05 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by ArcaneXor View Post
Did you use tap water?
Given your procedures, this is what I would suspect.
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Old 01-14-2011, 03:07 PM   #5
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We have pretty hard water, we actually have a water softener for the house. Of course I used the kitchen tap which isn't softened. But you guys are saying this sounds like the likely culprit?

So what should I do for future brews?

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Old 01-14-2011, 03:12 PM   #6
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I'm much more interested in:
1. the temperature of the wort when you pitched the yeast
2. the ambient temperature around the fermenter during primary
3. the taste/quality of the water you used

When I hear 'alcoholy', I immediately assume that it is either a very young high gravity beer or it was fermented entirely too warm. If you pitched the yeast into wort that was too warm (~75+), that could definitely do it.

There is a very appropriate page in the Beginner's bible:
http://www.howtobrew.com/section4/chapter21-2.html

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Old 01-14-2011, 03:15 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by Aberrix View Post
We have pretty hard water, we actually have a water softener for the house. Of course I used the kitchen tap which isn't softened. But you guys are saying this sounds like the likely culprit?

So what should I do for future brews?
The phenolic taste is what I'm getting at...high fusel alcohol could be the result of high fermentation temps.

I'm had brews ruined by topping off with tap water that contained chloramine. You can't boil off chloramine.
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Old 01-14-2011, 03:22 PM   #8
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First, the beer may still get better yet. Four weeks isn't that long.

Second, I'd normally say temps are a bigger issue than water, although what you list doesn't sound bad.

Third, I'm worried about sanitizing without cleaning first. That's a bad habit. ADD: and no, you shouldn't rinse Star San.

Also: you may have underpitched liquid yeast with not starter. That's probably not the problem here, although how old the yeast packet is matters.

And FYI, leaving the lid on during the boil won't produce esters (which aren't necessarily bad), it might produce DMS (canned vedgie taste).

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Old 01-14-2011, 03:22 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by DrMaltyVonHopenstein View Post
I'm much more interested in:
1. the temperature of the wort when you pitched the yeast
2. the ambient temperature around the fermenter during primary
3. the taste/quality of the water you used

When I hear 'alcoholy', I immediately assume that it is either a very young high gravity beer or it was fermented entirely too warm. If you pitched the yeast into wort that was too warm (~75+), that could definitely do it.

There is a very appropriate page in the Beginner's bible:
http://www.howtobrew.com/section4/chapter21-2.html
I'd say the temperature was around 70F at pitching probably a bit under, the recipe called for a 2.5gal boil which I then put 2gal of cold water in the carboy and added my 2.5gal boil to when I was done, then topped off to 5gal and pitched the yeast (after swirling it around a bit). I did use a wort chiller also to cool the wort in the kettle. I didn't really document this part well I guess and I had 4 buddies over who have never brewed so it was a bit chaotic...

my basement is around 60F, I put the primary in a corner with a blanket under it and a towel wrapped around it. the liquid crystal thermometer on the side said 68F when it was very actively fermenting, after that it dropped to about 64F. during the last week I moved it back into my office where it got back up to 68F iirc.

the taste quality of the water is 'good' I'd say, we drink from it without problem but most of the time we use a brita pitcher for drinking water...
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Old 01-14-2011, 03:25 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Aberrix View Post
We have pretty hard water, we actually have a water softener for the house. Of course I used the kitchen tap which isn't softened. But you guys are saying this sounds like the likely culprit?

So what should I do for future brews?
Sorry, I was in a hurry on that last post.

If you have treated municipal water, there is a good chance that it is treated with either chlorine or chloramine. Chlorine can be boiled off. Chloramine requires treatment with potassium metasulphite (Campden Tablets). I avoid topping off with untreated tap water for this reason. I learned the hard way on one of my first brews. A nice oatmeal stout that tasted exactly like a bandaid.
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