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Old 05-19-2010, 09:03 PM   #1
Aug 2009
Charlottesville, VA
Posts: 2,174
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I'm in the process of helping a friend get into brewing, starting with a few extract batches, and we just bottled up his second batch - it's got a problem that I've never experienced. It tastes like scotch. Not the burning, "hot alcohol" sensation, but more of a smoky, woodsy flavor that borders on chemical harshness. Here's the recipe:

1.057 OG
1.015 FG
35 IBU

4# light DME
3# wheat DME
.75# crystal 40
.5# honey malt
.25# special B
20g roasted barley

28g Kent Goldings - 60 min
14g Fuggle - 10 min
14g Fuggle - 0 min

Pitched with US-04

Because he's still pretty new to all this, I'm still having him ferment in his cool basement - ambient temp is about 70* and the fermenter sits on a cool concrete floor. Not ideal, but not bad for a first time brewer.

For sanitization, we cleaned off the gunk in the carboy by filling with a bleach solution for a week. Then we dumped and rinsed it about 5 times with hot water until we couldn't smell bleach. When bottling, we sanitized everything with blue restaurant sanitizer tabs - they're a quaternary ammonium compound. Again, after sanitizing, we rinsed thoroughly (hopefully) with hot water several times.

We'll see if the flavor persists after it carbonates but I really don't know how to pin this down. I feel bad for the guy because his hopes were so high after an amazing first batch. Any input here?

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Old 05-19-2010, 11:09 PM   #2
Fich Eine Ente
suprchunk's Avatar
Mar 2010
Crestview, Florida
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Were you rinsing with hot TAP water? There are plenty of cheap NO-RINSE options available. But you still used bleach? I know bleach is cheap, but it's usually not worth it in the long run. Especially when iodophor is so cheap for the peace of mind. Or Starsan, etc. I would never rinse anything that I was going to put my wort in with my tap water, no matter where I lived. Unless my tap water was sterilized.

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Old 05-19-2010, 11:16 PM   #3
Aug 2009
Charlottesville, VA
Posts: 2,174
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Like I said, he's a new brewer and to be honest is a little slow on the uptake so I'm trying to ease him into everything.

So you believe infection is the problem? Because I've never heard of any contaminant bacteria producing this kind of flavor...

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Old 05-19-2010, 11:27 PM   #4
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Yooper's Avatar
Jun 2006
UP of Michigan, Winter Texan
Posts: 69,762
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Originally Posted by kanzimonson View Post
Like I said, he's a new brewer and to be honest is a little slow on the uptake so I'm trying to ease him into everything.

So you believe infection is the problem? Because I've never heard of any contaminant bacteria producing this kind of flavor...
could be contaminant, but it sounds more like chlorophenols. (From the bleach, or chlorine, or chloramine in the tap water).

I think roasted barley has a roast flavor that in the presence of chlorophenols can taste smoky. Another possibility is contamination or stressed yeast.

I don't know what's in the quat sanitizer, but I'd suggest using bottled water for the next batch (to make sure it's not chloramine in the tap water) and using a no-rinse sanitizer like star-san for sanitizing. No bleach or dish soap near the fermenters or equipment. You can use oxiclean or something like that for cleaning if you have to, but if you wash the fermenters well after using them they stay pretty clean and a quick rinse is all that's needed before sanitizing.
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Old 05-19-2010, 11:38 PM   #5
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Aug 2009
Fredericksburg, Virginia
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I love scotch. Scotchy, scotch, scotch. Here it goes down, down into my belly...

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Old 05-20-2010, 12:24 AM   #6
Registered User
Jul 2009
Keller, Texas
Posts: 4,882
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I use dish soap to wash bottles initially when I empty them out (they are then put through an additional water-only rinse and heat cycle on bottling day and then once cooled sprayed with star-san) and I've never detected an off flavor from it.

However, I used bleach on my first couple batches for cleaning everything and didn't do a good job rinsing everything. The result was a slight chemical taste that over time because quite overpowering. I lost about half of a really good batch of beer. What seems scotchy today might taste like scrubbing bubbles in a few weeks.

No more bleach.

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Old 05-20-2010, 03:10 AM   #7
Aug 2009
Posts: 327
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bleach for a week wow little overkill. But you like everyone else is saying star san is awesome, put an oz in a water bottle and spray stuff down. Works like a charm.
Primary Dusseldorf Alt
Secondary Russian Imperial Stout
Bottle Conditioning Janet Brown, Russian Imperial Stout.
On Deck Ryed Up Kolsch

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Old 05-21-2010, 04:49 PM   #8
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Apr 2010
Sharon, MA
Posts: 1,005
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Rinsing with tap water is fine. My top up water is straight from the tap, and it makes delicious beer.

What kind of infections and yeast are living in your water? gross.
Yo, What's Wrong With The Beer We Got? I Mean the Beer we got drank pretty Good Don't It? I Ain't Never Heard nobody complain about the beer we have..... It Drank Pretty Good. Budweiser...What's the name of some of them other beers ?

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Old 05-21-2010, 10:15 PM   #9
Feb 2008
Posts: 564
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Not sure if this is it, but somone around here said mixing quaternary sanitizers and beer should be avoided.

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Old 05-21-2010, 11:01 PM   #10
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Dec 2007
Columbia, MS
Posts: 1,316
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Using bleach isn't the problem, or rather shouldn't be the problem. I started by using bleach because it was simple & cheap for a first time brewer. It's worked so I've stuck with it. Had beer sampled by a couple of grand master level bjcp judges and many more. No one has ever said anything about any flavor being possibly derived from bleach use. There's not even a reason to rinse. You'll have about a tablespoon of bleach solution on the little water beads inside the fermenter. This amount of diluted bleach solution just isn't going to have an effect on a 5+ gallon volume of bier. Fwiw I don't even rinse, simply shake whatever is being sanitized like crazy to get as much solution off it as possible. Hope this helps eliminate one possible source. Then again I don't know how much residual bleach solution you left in the fermenter.


Ps If I could create 'scotch' flavored bier by adding bleach directly to the fermenter I'd do it!
"Perhaps wisdom for me is understanding how truely small I am, and that there is no smug self centered moment of clarity when there is so much more to learn" Anthony Bourdain

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