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Home Brew Forums > Home Brewing Beer > Extract Brewing > Possible Causes of Fusel Alcohols?
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Old 04-01-2009, 03:31 AM   #1
trn
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Default Possible Causes of Fusel Alcohols?

Caveats: (1) I don't know what fusel alcohols taste like, but I think that's what I have. (2) I'm going to see the batch through and we'll see what happens, (3) The beer may just be green.

But for the sake of discussion I have a few questions. The recipe was:

1/4 lb crystal 10L steeped at 150 for 10-15 min
3.75 lb pale LME
1 lb Rice solids
1 t Irish Moss at 30 min
1/2 oz Mt Hood (5.1% AA) at 60 min
1/2 oz Mt Hood (5.1% AA) at 5 min
Dry Nottingham Yeast (reconstituted)
3.75 Gal boil. 3 Gal into fermentor.

It was intended on being a Cream Ale. On a side note, the color was way dark (SRM ~10 vs a calculated 3. I suspect Maillard reactions and will consider a late addition of the LME next time).

The question I have is what would cause fusel alcohols? From Palmer and internet sources, I have:

(1) Low dextrins -- certainly possible, with my 3.75:1 LME:rice ratio

(2) High (especially starting) temp -- somewhat possible, since I may have had a malfunction (read user error) in my temperature control

(3) Over-Aeration -- certainly possible, because I aerated the cr@p out of it. I only heard this mentioned by Palmer and haven't really seen it anywhere else. Yes I really did aerate it that much - power drill and a homemade agitator. I called it the beast. I just felt like trying something new, 'cause why not? "'Cause it can spoil your beer, you moron" seems to be a good answer.

(4) excessive yeast -- doubtful (1 pack dry for 3 gal)

(5) sitting on trub too long -- doubtful (only 10 days). Yes I was a bad boy. You can skip the "why are you tasting your beer at 10 days?" reprimand. I had a reason and it's not that good. Boils down to lack of patience.

Do these seem like reasonable hypotheses? Any of them more likely than any other?

And a related question: I've gathered that fusels don't really go away. Some people say they might go away partially over a long time if the beer lasts that long. Correct?

Remember the caveats: I don't know what fusels taste like, I'm not going to throw the batch out, and I realize the beer may just be green.

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Old 04-01-2009, 03:36 AM   #2
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Likely the beer is green.

That isn't a very big beer from my observation.

If you fermented a bit high (174+) you could have some alcohol warmth, but that would subside with time.

What leads you to believe you have fusel alcohol issues?
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Old 04-01-2009, 03:42 AM   #3
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VERY likely the beer is green. The beer is only 10 days old correct? You may be tasting a number of different things going on with inside your beer right now. The beer still has another 4 weeks at least before you should really start worrying about the taste

Also, don't think that aerating is a bad thing. I also use a drill and wine degasser to thoroughly mix my wort and get it aerated. As long as you don't introduce oxygen to your beer down the road, you should have no off flavors at all. The yeast do need the oxygen afterall in order to do their job...
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Old 04-01-2009, 03:55 AM   #4
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Originally Posted by rsmith179 View Post
VERY likely the beer is green. The beer is only 10 days old correct? You may be tasting a number of different things going on with inside your beer right now. The beer still has another 4 weeks at least before you should really start worrying about the taste
Hence the caveats. I'm not worrying. But tasting it got me thinking and now I'm thinking in general terms even if it doesn't apply to my beer. I plan to leave it as is for two weeks minimum to clarify and then bottle, then wait, then wait more, and then drink. But it entertains me to think in the meantime.

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Also, don't think that aerating is a bad thing. I also use a drill and wine degasser to thoroughly mix my wort and get it aerated. As long as you don't introduce oxygen to your beer down the road, you should have no off flavors at all. The yeast do need the oxygen afterall in order to do their job...
So I thought. But then Palmer suggested it as a possible reason for fusels and it got me wondering.

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Originally Posted by BierMuncher View Post
That isn't a very big beer from my observation.
OG = 1.047 (calculated - no measurement made). Calculated FG was 1.009 (assuming 80% attenuation) - it's at 1.012 now, so it's close to done. At least I got the light body I was going for.

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What leads you to believe you have fusel alcohol issues?
Taste. My own under-developed taste buds and previous experience with cheap liquors. To be perfectly frank I can taste hops and I can taste malt. Everything else just confuses me. An expert I am not.
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Old 04-01-2009, 04:10 AM   #5
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Let me make sure I have this right. You are trying to evaluate beer that hasn't even been bottled?!?

It is not beer yet. Let alone green beer. Where's a good Revvy rant when you need it.

I don't even taste a beer before it has been bottled three weeks at minimum. Yecch!
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Old 04-01-2009, 04:26 AM   #6
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Let me make sure I have this right. You are trying to evaluate beer that hasn't even been bottled?!?

It is not beer yet. Let alone green beer. Where's a good Revvy rant when you need it.

I don't even taste a beer before it has been bottled three weeks at minimum. Yecch!
For #$%^ sake! I took a gravity reading. I tasted what was in the hydrometer flask instead of throwing it back in. It got me thinking. I have some extra time tonight to waste on Mr Internet. That's about it. This post is much less about the beer itself than about a question that came out of having tasted it. So, let me be clear: I'm sure the beer will be whatever the beer wants to be a couple of months from now. This is not another "is my beer ruined?" thread. Boo "is my beer ruined?" threads. Boo ranting for that matter. Consider this thread purely theoretical. Topic: what causes fusel alcohols? Discuss. [exasperated sigh]
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Old 04-01-2009, 04:49 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by trn View Post
For #$%^ sake! I took a gravity reading. I tasted what was in the hydrometer flask instead of throwing it back in. It got me thinking. I have some extra time tonight to waste on Mr Internet. That's about it. This post is much less about the beer itself than about a question that came out of having tasted it. So, let me be clear: I'm sure the beer will be whatever the beer wants to be a couple of months from now. This is not another "is my beer ruined?" thread. Boo "is my beer ruined?" threads. Boo ranting for that matter. Consider this thread purely theoretical. Topic: what causes fusel alcohols? Discuss. [exasperated sigh]
Chill grasshopper,noone's busting your nutz here.I know you just have 1st batch jitters--we all did.Fusel alc. tastes like a hot alcohol flavor(almost like rubbing alcohol)and it will usually bust your head when you drink it.sometimes with one swallow.I've had beers that had alcohol tastes(but not fusel) that went away after being in the bottle for 6wks or so.For me,I will never judge a beer until it has fully carbonated and has sat in the fridge for at least 2 weeks.Something about that cold storage can drastically change the beer.So chill,open a good craft brew of your choice and -WAIT.
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Old 04-01-2009, 06:20 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by RCCOLA View Post
Chill grasshopper,noone's busting your nutz here.I know you just have 1st batch jitters--we all did.Fusel alc. tastes like a hot alcohol flavor(almost like rubbing alcohol)and it will usually bust your head when you drink it.sometimes with one swallow.I've had beers that had alcohol tastes(but not fusel) that went away after being in the bottle for 6wks or so.For me,I will never judge a beer until it has fully carbonated and has sat in the fridge for at least 2 weeks.Something about that cold storage can drastically change the beer.So chill,open a good craft brew of your choice and -WAIT.
grasshopper = hella chill
nutz = happy
jitters = I prefer to think of it as wanting to learn from new experience
first batch = nope... 4th, which ain't much different
beer drinking = yes, yummy IPA of mine
point I want to make = It's entirely possible to simultaneously (a) have a question about your beer and (b) rdwhahb.
this post becoming a waste of bandwith = painfully obvious
letting this drop = happening right now
obligatory smiley =
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Old 04-01-2009, 07:49 AM   #9
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It's all good, trn. We learn first from our own mistakes and then from others plus our own.

Suggestion: Start a batch of Apfelwein. It's foolproof and tastes good and the next thing you know: time has passed and your beer is ready.
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Old 04-01-2009, 02:41 PM   #10
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You are trying to evaluate beer that hasn't even been bottled?!?
Learning how a beer changes as it ages is an important part of brewing. Sampling during the process should be part of your education, so some time in the future you can tell a new brewer: "Yes, that flavor will go away."
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