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lulubrewer

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Hi,
I have brewed 4 times over the last 2 years and have always been having the same off flavor. (I have been brewing for 8 years, a couple batches a year. I feel like I have always had this issue, but considering the time period I can't say for sure that I have)
It is an aftertaste that lingers for quite a while. I have been through all the classic off flavors descriptions but can't really point to one that seems appropriate. The closet I would use is the cardboard description of oxidation. It sticks to the top of the roof of the mouth and kinda feels/taste like a piece of cardboard stuck on the top of the mouth. It doesn't feel astringent. It appears once the beer is fully carbonated. I have taken steps to address potential issues with tannins, oxidation and overcabonation. I am at a loss...
Here is a description of my last 4 brews from oldest to more recent.

tripel 1:
5 gallon batch
9% ABV finishes at 1010
multistep mashing with direct heat (can't find the actual steps temp/time)
all pils from dingemans with 10-15% table sugar
All saaz (20-30 ibus) mostly bittering addition
Batch sparged
Wy3787 with 4l starter (no stirring plate)
Wyeast nutrients (per instructions on packaging)
oxygenated with pure O2 for 60s
fermented in chess freezer starting at 64F finishing at 74
bottled for 3 volumes of CO2
water was 100% store bought DI water with salts added (CaCl) and used Phosphoric acid. The additions were based on Bruin water and the water primer. I didn't have a pH meter

tripel 2:
Similar to first tripel but did a 10 gallon batch using a new kettle. The water was 65ppm calcium, 115ppm chloride. The pH was measured with a pH meter at 5.35 at room temperature (the last drop of last batch sparge was 5.5).
Reached FG (1007) in 7 days from 64 to 78 (+2 degrees a day) and was kept at 78 for a week before lowering at 68 for a week and 32F for another.
Bottled at 3.5V CO2

1st lager:
I bough a bunch of kegs from a friend to remove the risk of oxidation at bottling.
SG: 1055
FG: 1015
1/3 pils, 1/3 vienna, 1/3 munich I (all from weyermann)
Hallertauer Mittelfrueh: 2.5 oz @60 min (19ibu) and 1oz @15min (3.8ibu)
Yeast: W34/70. rehydrated, 2 packs per 5 gallon fermenters
water was: 48ppm calcium, 84ppm chloride and phosphoric acid to reach mash pH of 5.4 (the last batch sparge finished at 5.7 on last drop).
Pitched at 45F fermented at 48F for for 4 days until it reached 1020 and then ramped to 60F (took a couple days to reach). Left it at 60F for a couple weeks then transferred to keg and dropped to 32F for 2 weeks while carbing. left it at 45F for the couple months it took me to finish it.

2nd lager:
SG: 1042
FG: 1006
The low SG and FG are explained by the fact that I used a new mash tun (cooler) and the bad crush. I did a single infusion and got the temp wrong (mashed at 147). The crush from morebeer seemed like 2/3 of the grains were intact.
50% pils /50% munich II (all weyermann)
similar hopping schedule but amped up to a supposed 30ish ibu.
Water: I used CaCl and Gypsum for a change. Still all DI water. Calcium: 78ppm, Chloride: 84ppm, Sulfate: 74ppm and phosphorique acid. The pH was measured at 5.2 until the very last sparge,
Fermented in kegs to further limit oxidation. I used the CO2 from fermentation to purge the serving kegs (full of starsan)
pitched 2 packs of W34/70 directly into wort at 68F (wasn't as cold as I anticipated)
10 hours later it was at 51. I let it go up do 55 and kept it here for the bulk of the fermentation. At day 5 I set the chamber to 65 thinking that most of the fermentation was done since I had a low SG, 2 packs per 4.5 gallon and it had been bubbling happily. It took a couple days to reach that temperature and was done bubbling once at 65F. On day 16, I cooled it down to 32F and close-transferred to the serving keg. After 2 weeks at 32, I raised the temp to 45 for serving and realized it had no flavor and what so ever and was very dry. This was actually simply overcarbonation and was much better after letting it degas over several days.

Anyways, all of these batches have the same off flavor that develops (or probably that just become noticeable) once carbonated. I have changed everything kettle, mash tun, fermenters, I got a pH meter, switched to fermentation in kegs. The only thing I haven't changed is my immersion chiller (I noticed a couple spots of verdigris the other day, so maybe?). Considering the steps I have taken, I have a hard time believing it is oxidation or astringency from tannins but I don't know...

This was an overwhelming thread to put together and English is not my first language so be kind if there is some omissions or parts that don't make sense..
 

McKnuckle

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Interesting problem... The last effort in particular, you seem to have closed all of the usual water and oxidation gaps, including CO2 purging of the serving keg.

First of all, man... you've got to brew more often if you want to improve your beers! Think about how to accomplish that, perhaps with much smaller batches, as a secondary train of thought.

If the flavor develops after carbonation, have you tasted the beer before carbonating, and how is it? Perhaps it's your CO2 source or oxidation in your kegging system's lines. One way to rule that out is to try naturally carbonating a batch in the keg. It's easy to do with either spunding or priming sugar. With the latter, you would put a pre-calculated amount into the serving keg before purging it with fermentation CO2. In that case you would NOT use StarSan in the serving keg (it's unnecessary anyway).
 

brewdude88

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I don't see a lot in your process for off-flavor development, but contamination could be a culprit.

How do you get your wort from the boil kettle to the fermenter? How do you clean/sanitize the equipment that has contact with cooled wort?
 
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lulubrewer

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Thanks for the reply.
I understand that brewing more often would help, but it's sadly not an option.
I don't really know if the flavor develops after carbonation or if it becomes noticeable because of carbonation. Quite frankly, I don't think I can claim to know what a normal beer should taste like pre carbonation.
The 2 tripels above were both bottle conditioned, so I don't think it can be the source of CO2.

I'm planning on doctoring a few store bought beers to try to oxidize them and see if this is what I'm tasting.

Brewdude88:
It can be contamination, though the consistent timing (always noticeable when fully carbonated), the fact that it doesn't evolve overtime and the fact that it is always the same intensity makes me think it probably isn't contamination. The only thing that the cooled wort saw on the last batch was a piece of tubing and the fermentation keg.
I clean everything with PBW and sanitize with starsan. Between the 2 kegged batches, I disassembled the posts and let them soak in PBW for a day or 2 before sanitizing them.
Then again, who wants to admit to themselves that their sanitation process isn't perfect...

The one thing I haven't explored yet, is that I noticed a couple spots of green oxide on my chiller (not big but several), it may have been there the all time. I have a piece of tubing left (from the time I made the chiller) that has a green spot on it. I will try to doctor a beer with a small bit of verdigris to see if it is the flavor.
 

Farside

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I think you may have a relatively benign bacterial infection reminiscent of a sewer smell but very faint. There is likely something downstream of your boiler (in the chiller or in your cold break transfer) that is harboring a colony. A joint or a crack. The other possibility is low grade oxidation where you transfer wort from your lauter tun to the boiler. How are you transferring wort to the boiler?
 

Jako

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i had a similar issue. it was something in my equipment causing a infection. made it taste how a old book store would smell. also had a meatish flavor to it like dead yeast sorta.

my other thought could be water additions. i have found i am super sensitive to some water chemistry. gypsum for me is overly effective.
 
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lulubrewer

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It's possible. Probably not due to the chiller thought since it's an immersion chiller.

To answer your question, the wort from the mash tun is transferred to a bucket via some tubing, without unnecessary splashing.

I also forgot to mention that I don't detect anything in the aroma.
 
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lulubrewer

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Jako,
Did you get anything in the aroma? All I get is a lingering taste at the very top of the roof of the mouth. It has a dry cardboardy quality. I could akso possibly note a hint of soapiness to it (not floral, almost fatty).
As for water, some batches were not using any gypsum at all so did have any sulfate.
 

brewdude88

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What connects your tubing from the kettle to the fermenter? Siphon or ball-valve? If it's a ball-valve, have you ever disassembled it for cleaning?

Also, how well do you rinse PBW from equipment? PBW needs to be rinsed very well with hot water to get rid of it's soapy residue... If you are noticing head retention issues along with this flavor, that could be the culprit.
 

Jako

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the beer had little aroma, it was apparent something ate away at the beer. it was very bland at first then turned into what you are talking about. cardboard / fatty flavor. it only got worse over time. started to gag after some sips.

that film reminds me of some type of oil or mouth feel the infection would cause almost slimy if you will. but every infection is different. but the best way i can describe it is a old musky building or a library smell in liquid form.

whatever it is its in a old fermenting bucket of mine. repitched on the yeast cake and had the pleasure of having a 5 more gallons of it.
 

Bilsch

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You mention oxidation a couple times so if you are trying to incorporate some low oxygen processes, cool. Everyone tastes are different and some people are more sensitive to the effects than others. If you are comparing your beers to commercially made ones then it is possible that is what is bothering you. There are a lot of places that O2 can get in and effect the flavor of your beer and probably too long of a list to cover here practically. But since you mentioned a copper chiller I should tell you that one of the first things one should do, if working toward LoDO, is get rid of all the Cu in your system as it catalyzes oxidative fenton reactions.
 

Jako

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You mention oxidation a couple times so if you are trying to incorporate some low oxygen processes, cool. Everyone tastes are different and some people are more sensitive to the effects than others. If you are comparing your beers to commercially made ones then it is possible that is what is bothering you. There are a lot of places that O2 can get in and effect the flavor of your beer and probably too long of a list to cover here practically. But since you mentioned a copper chiller I should tell you that one of the first things one should do, if working toward LoDO, is get rid of all the Cu in your system as it catalyzes oxidative fenton reactions.
this is something i thought of. i had a copper chiller and it never caused issues like this. but as LODO goes it was another reason i switched to a SS counterflow.
 
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lulubrewer

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Brewdude88:
What connects your tubing from the kettle to the fermenter? Siphon or ball-valve? If it's a ball-valve, have you ever disassembled it for cleaning?
The 1st tripel was a siphon. The following 3 batches were using the new kettle with a ball valve. I had never really disassembled it to cleaned (just PBW). I disassembled it a couple weeks ago and noticed some moisture from the last cleaning session (which happened a month earlier).
If it wasn't for the 1st batch using a siphon it could definitely be the source of the problem.
One caveat though, I use the kettle as a HLT so it means that the valve sees 160-170F water for several minutes 2-3 times during the mash. It should kill a lot of potential bugs.
Also, how well do you rinse PBW from equipment? PBW needs to be rinsed very well with hot water to get rid of it's soapy residue... If you are noticing head retention issues along with this flavor, that could be the culprit.
I feel like I rinse it well, but it is now added to my list of things to pay extra attention to for the next batch.

Jako:
the beer had little aroma, it was apparent something ate away at the beer. it was very bland at first then turned into what you are talking about. cardboard / fatty flavor. it only got worse over time. started to gag after some sips.

that film reminds me of some type of oil or mouth feel the infection would cause almost slimy if you will. but every infection is different. but the best way i can describe it is a old musky building or a library smell in liquid form.

whatever it is its in a old fermenting bucket of mine. repitched on the yeast cake and had the pleasure of having a 5 more gallons of it.
The aftertaste is definitely not that strong. It doesn't me gag, although it is a hiding the flavors of the beer and lingers for quite a while. It isn't evolving over time though (not getting stronger), which is why I first looked at process issues and not infection. But you are right, every infection is different so...

Bilsh, Jako:
as far as LoDo goes, I don't want to go into a rabbit hole, but I doubt my problem is caused by some sort of Hot Side Aeration since the aftertaste is not subtle. I'm feel like nobody would be able to make an OK beer without LoDo if it was my problem. It's not "gagging strong", but not subtle either.

A few things I haven't talked about in my process:
  • I use Gelatin. I add it after crashing. For the last keg, I injected it using a flavor injector directly into the "in" post of the keg. So no oxygen here.
  • I oxygenate the wort using the red tanks from Home depot and using one of the oxygenation kit (with filter and 0.5um stone).
  • Boiling has evolve from gas stove (1st tripel, 5Gal), gas stove + a 2200W hotrod (2nd tripel, 10Gal), only the 2200W hotrod (1st lager, 10Gal), 2200W hotrod + 1650 hotrod (2nd lager, 10Gal).
  • Cooling is kinda slow even though it is a 50ft 0.5" coil (50min to go to 80F on my last batch).
  • My water is built from scratch using store bought bottled DI water. Does anybody ever had any issue doing that? The mineral additions follow the baseline of the water primer and are all mixed before adding the grains. Same with sparge water.
 

mattdee1

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Threads like this come up all the time, and it seems like the vast majority of the time there is something obvious to look at, such as water and - particularly in the case of IPAs - cold side oxygen.

But if you're working as you describe, it sounds like you're taking good measures to address most of the usual suspects.

I'm probably reaching a bit here, but maybe some measurement device in your system is out of whack and giving you bad information? For example, I once had the temperature probe on my kettle go out of whack and it was reading 10-15 degrees too low, causing me to miss my mash temperature by a wide margin.

Honestly, beyond things like that, the only other thing I can think of is recipe/ingredients. If you use stale ingredients - especially hops - you can get some pretty rough edges in your final beer. Also, this site has hundreds of recipes with dozens of pages of comments from people who have brewed the recipe in question. If you haven't tried that already, I'd take one of these and follow the instructions to the letter to make sure you have a tried and true recipe for results comparison.
 
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lulubrewer

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so...
I opened a bottle of each batch of tripels which are I think 3 and 2 years old.
The oldest one has hints of port and some oxidized hops flavor and aroma. Nothing surprising I guess for a 3+ year old bottled homebrew.
The youngest one (at least 2 years old) has a very dry aroma and flavor, some alcohol sweetness (not booziness but definitely alcohol flavor) and some very slight notes of almonds. I never realized until today because it melds with the other characteristics of the beer, but the dry aroma and flavor can definitely be some brett contamination (it is reminiscent of the horse blanket characteristic from brett, almost a cork flavor/aroma).

It is possible that these 2 batches (tripels) may not have had the issue I noticed with my last 2 batches (lagers) and my memory may have reconstructed some of the flaws I noticed with the tripels into the flaws I noticed with the lagers.
McKnuckle is definitely right when he says that I need to brew more often to improve my beers.

I guess I will just try to forget about the lager for a while and see if it stays the same or get bretty.

Can a slight cardboardy and very slightly soapy aftertaste be the sign of an early brett infection?
 
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lulubrewer

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Now that I think of it, doesn't brett feed on esters? I feel like I have read that somewhere.
That would explain why I never got any belgian yeast charactersitics in my second tripel despite fermenting it relatively warm and why it was always smelling and testing dry...
 

Jako

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as pointed out, it sounds like you are doing everything well. i couldn't suggest any change to the process to be honest.

best of luck on this certainly the worst part of brewing is fixing a problem that effects the final beer. i have more experience with this then i would like to admit.

a deep clean and reset of your gear is cheap insurance i would start with this and investigate all other suggestions
 

brewdude88

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a deep clean and reset of your gear is cheap insurance i would start with this and investigate all other suggestions
Agreed, maybe consider another sanitizer to get what starsan doesn't. I recently had a couple infections (first time in 8 years of homebrew) I switched from starsan to iodophor. Long story short, back to normal!
 
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lulubrewer

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OK. So I will clean everthing with PBW, rince well, then boil all the parts that can be boiled for a few minutes (I'm thinking: the disassembled quick disconnects, the disassembled keg posts, the keg lids, the dip tubes and the kettle ball valve), then sanitize everything with iodophor followed by starsan and buy new tubing to go from the kettle valve to the fermentation keg. It should cover everything that the wort sees after boiling.
I don't want to replace all of the kegs o'rings if I don't have to: they are all brand new. Has anyone ever had any problem boiling them for a few minutes?
 

mattdee1

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I don't want to replace all of the kegs o'rings if I don't have to: they are all brand new. Has anyone ever had any problem boiling them for a few minutes?
Never done it, but I'd be willing to bet the farm that a persistent flavor flaw is not being caused by keg o-rings.
 

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