Excessive sulfur (H2S) production during Hefeweizen fermentation with W68 (WY3068/WLP300/OYL-21) that lingers

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VTMongoose

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Hello,

Hefeweizen is one of my favorite styles, but unfortunately I've had the least success brewing this style of all beers. At this point having made two sulfur bomb Hefeweizens in a row with a weizenbock currently fermenting on the same Weihenstephan 68 yeast cake, I need your help if you've got experience with this issue. I am very sensitive to sulfur and thiol compounds, it's one of my secret weapons as a beer judge actually, but these beers have so much sulfur that anyone could detect it.

Let me get right into my process. The brewfather batch details are here: Brewfather

The predecessor to this beer, which had slightly more sulfur, actually, was where I pitched one OYL-021 package without a starter, and did not use yeast nutrient. Omega told me the sulfur production was a result of yeast stress. Homebrew club members suggested a small starter and to add 1/2 tsp Wyeast yeast nutrient at 15 minutes in the boil.

I brew on a modified Unibrau V3 dual 120V setup which is equipped with a whirlpool arm and uses a brew bag instead of the standard false bottom. I add my water salts, then boil my RO water and chill to strike temperature and add my ascorbic acid (antioxidant). At the conclusion of the step mash, I remove the grains, without sparging, heat to a boil, and then chill by whirlpooling through my copper immersion chiller. After chilling, I wait 30 minutes and run off into the fermentor without oxygenating beyond splashing, and pitch. I am careful to exclude as much trub as possible. Fermentation blow-off goes through a short line into a small glass containing about 1" of starsan. Fermentation completes within a week and then I wait an additional week before both kegging and bottling.

I am really stumped, as the last thing it seems I could do is to try a full open fermentation, just running the blowoff tube into an empty glass. This has been suggested to me by a local brewer who has had sulfur issues at the 10 bbl scale before. Thoughts?
 
I had my 1st hefe with sulfur recently but it was due to running too high of pressure in the fermenter and spunding too early. Since it does not seem like you are using any pressure or spunding, it is a head scratcher. I do not see how your are stressing the yeast. Hopefully a discussion will bring some things up here.
 
3068 stinks during fermentation. Like really badly. Made a fine beer though! If I remember correctly I did a 14 day primary, then kegged. Final product was fantastic!
 
After chilling, I wait 30 minutes and run off into the fermentor without oxygenating beyond splashing, and pitch.
You don't aerate vigorously when pitching?! That could stress out your yeast!

Regardless of whether or not you aerate... sulfur is very normal for hefeweizens, or for pretty much any fermentation; and sulfur always disappears with time. Usually this happens within 2-4 weeks from brew day but occasionally can take an extra week or two. Keeping the beer warm (room temperature or slightly below) during that conditioning time can speed up the dissipation of the sulfur and other off-flavors. If you are immediately chilling and consuming within 2-3 weeks from brew day, this could be your issue -- your beer is still too young. Try giving it an extra week or two conditioning time before chilling and consuming, and see if that helps. For any current batches you have, just let them sit for a couple weeks, then come back. My experience is that the sulfur will usually be much reduced or gone by that time. And if not, then wait another week, until I'm correct.
 
I've usually brewed my hefs with WLP-380. It kicks out sulfur like mad, think hot rhino farts. I usually let it sit for 2 weeks after fermentation is complete with only an airlock on and temperature set at around 21C and the sulfur has died down pretty well. I carbonate after this using either forced carb in keg or prime in keg.
 
(Slowly) transfer to your bottling bucket or keg through a sanitized copper pipe. The copper will react with H2S and remove most of it.

I might try this. I have a spare immersion chiller I could find a way to connect to some tubing and push starsan through it using CO2. Next batch though I am going to try quasi-open fermentation to see if it helps.
 
Your beer is still only 3 weeks old. By the time you're done fiddling around with copper and whatever else, the sulfur is going to be gone on its own anyway. All you need is a few more days, and that sulfur is going to disappear all by itself, I'm tellin' ya, believe me.
 
Hopefully not hi jacking. Hefeweizen is a favorite of mine but never made one yet. How long after brew day do people consume Hefeweizen normally?

2 or 3 weeks primary and 2-4 weeks secondary?
 
I have gone as quickly as 7 days grain to glass with spunding. I normally will let it sit a week or two after fermentation and transfer. It is a relatively quick beer and best when fresh.
 
Your beer is still only 3 weeks old. By the time you're done fiddling around with copper and whatever else, the sulfur is going to be gone on its own anyway. All you need is a few more days, and that sulfur is going to disappear all by itself, I'm tellin' ya, believe me.

My experience says otherwise. I brewed a Tripel with WLP720 which is supposedly the Hoegaarden Grand Cru strain. The beer took a while to ferment but eventually flatlined after about 3 weeks. One week afterwards, I pulled a sample from the floating dip tube, chilled, and quick-carbonated it, and noticed it had a lot of sulfur in it. I then left it an additional two weeks in the fermentor before bottling it, so it was in there a full 6 weeks at ~70°F. As of right now it has been in bottles four weeks. I had a bottle 4 days ago and it still had very noticeable H2S in the aroma.

Yes, I know this isn't W68 we're talking about here, but bottom line my experience says sulfur doesn't just magically age out on its own.
 
It begs the question - is there something we do as brewers or certain conditions that create the lingering sulfur? I am aware of pressure fermenting/early spunding can cause this. Not sure about what else. Or what created it in your situation Mongoose.

In all my years of brewing hefe, this last one was the only time I have had sulfur flavor/aroma in the finished beer. The battery died in my Tilt, so I decided to run 15 PSI for the ferment then closed the valve to go to spunding pressure when activity sort of slowed down. I will not put very much pressure on this strain going forward for sure! To clarify, we are not speaking of sulfur aromas during fermentation. Only the stuff that carries through to the finished beer in to the keg.
 
My experience says otherwise. I brewed a Tripel with WLP720 which is supposedly the Hoegaarden Grand Cru strain. The beer took a while to ferment but eventually flatlined after about 3 weeks. One week afterwards, I pulled a sample from the floating dip tube, chilled, and quick-carbonated it, and noticed it had a lot of sulfur in it. I then left it an additional two weeks in the fermentor before bottling it, so it was in there a full 6 weeks at ~70°F. As of right now it has been in bottles four weeks. I had a bottle 4 days ago and it still had very noticeable H2S in the aroma.

Yes, I know this isn't W68 we're talking about here, but bottom line my experience says sulfur doesn't just magically age out on its own.
WLP720 is another high sulfur strain. I've used it before. It WILL age out. It just might take an extra couple weeks. Give it time, it will be good later.
 
To get some of the sulphur out of my younger lagers, I used to inject co2 down the pick-up tube. Give it a few blasts and it seemed to clear it up.

In the age of floating dip tubes not sure how to do this anymore🤣.
 
This past week, I had the privilege of attending my homebrew club's meet at one of my favorite local breweries where I am friends with the head brewer who had previously advised me to try open fermentation when using this strain. We were able to try four near-identical hefeweizens back to back:

1) His hefeweizen, almost identical in recipe to mine but using vienna rather than munich for color
2) My first hefeweizen, brewed with one OYL-021 directly pitched
3) My second hefeweizen, brewed with a 1000 mL starter of OYL-021 and 1/2 tsp Wyeast yeast nutrient, bottle conditioned with CBC-1
4) A bottle conditioned version of the 3rd beer using the primary (W68) strain for bottle conditioning

His hefeweizen had far more sulfur than any of mine. My second hefeweizen, of which my initial assessment in the OP was incorrect, had far, far less sulfur than the first, and also had more esters and generally tasted better. The version conditioned with the W68 strain had superior aroma and flavor and seemingly slightly less sulfur than the CBC-1 version, although it could just be that it was lower relative to increased isoamyl acetate and 4-VG.

Another data point is the Weizenbock I fermented on the second hefeweizen's yeast cake, where I added a full tsp of Wyeast nutrient, on bottling day I could detect almost no sulfur whatsoever in that beer.

So at this point I've learned the following:
  • I am extremely sensitive to sulfur. Almost nobody complained of sulfur on my second hefeweizen. Also nobody I have given the WLP720 Tripel to yet has even been able to detect sulfur in it.
  • Use yeast nutrient, lots of it
  • Don't be too afraid of overpitching. Fermentation temperature and gravity are bigger levers in the production of isoamyl acetate in this strain as long as you don't grossly overpitch.
  • You don't "need" open fermentation

My speculation about why I "never had this issue when brewing hefeweizen from extract":

  • Increased FAN
  • Leaky fermentors effectively allowing H2S to off-gas
  • Racking to and bottling from an open bucket instead of doing everything closed, which allowed H2S to escape, and ruined my beer in other ways anyway
  • Being less sensitive to sulfur at the time

Attached is a photo of the second hefeweizen off the keg. The additional protein rest time made a massive difference in head development and retention as you can see.
 

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This is one of the easiest for me. But ive done it a bunch of times. Mash at 152 of 60 mins, ferment and dont let pass 76f. After 2 weeks in the fermenter , bottle and serve. Water profile and grains used are important, regular grains will get you 80% there, german grains will get you most of the way, but water profile is just as important.
 
Hello,

Hefeweizen is one of my favorite styles, but unfortunately I've had the least success brewing this style of all beers. At this point having made two sulfur bomb Hefeweizens in a row with a weizenbock currently fermenting on the same Weihenstephan 68 yeast cake, I need your help if you've got experience with this issue. I am very sensitive to sulfur and thiol compounds, it's one of my secret weapons as a beer judge actually, but these beers have so much sulfur that anyone could detect it.

Let me get right into my process. The brewfather batch details are here: Brewfather

The predecessor to this beer, which had slightly more sulfur, actually, was where I pitched one OYL-021 package without a starter, and did not use yeast nutrient. Omega told me the sulfur production was a result of yeast stress. Homebrew club members suggested a small starter and to add 1/2 tsp Wyeast yeast nutrient at 15 minutes in the boil.

I brew on a modified Unibrau V3 dual 120V setup which is equipped with a whirlpool arm and uses a brew bag instead of the standard false bottom. I add my water salts, then boil my RO water and chill to strike temperature and add my ascorbic acid (antioxidant). At the conclusion of the step mash, I remove the grains, without sparging, heat to a boil, and then chill by whirlpooling through my copper immersion chiller. After chilling, I wait 30 minutes and run off into the fermentor without oxygenating beyond splashing, and pitch. I am careful to exclude as much trub as possible. Fermentation blow-off goes through a short line into a small glass containing about 1" of starsan. Fermentation completes within a week and then I wait an additional week before both kegging and bottling.

I am really stumped, as the last thing it seems I could do is to try a full open fermentation, just running the blowoff tube into an empty glass. This has been suggested to me by a local brewer who has had sulfur issues at the 10 bbl scale before. Thoughts?
Make a vitality starter on a stir plate at least 4 hrs prior
Oxygenate the wort
Keep water sulfate below 50ppm
High PH is ok during ferulic acid rest
but be sure and lower to 5.2-5.3 during mash
Open ferment till ferm starts to settle (not really necessary just avoid pressure)
Start the ferm cooler (62-64)
Allow a week in serving keg at 70-72 to clean up further before putting on co2 n degas daily for a week before serving
 
I would add that natural carbonation (spunding valve) really helps retain the aroma of this style. Basically treat it like an IPA by limiting oxygen.
Definitely. Most of my beers start with the spunding set to bout 4-5 psi. Wheat beers being my only exception, but once im well past high krausen i stick it back on and finish it up higher. Waste not want not.
 
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