Fermentation gone wrong!

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gingerninja2013

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So I'm new to home brewing and my first batch I ever made came out great. Turns out it was complete beginners luck because my previous few batches have all had some fermentation issues. After primary fermentation my beer has a sour taste to it. Sometimes the fermentation is complete- checked the alcohol content and it is where it should be. Other times the yeast takes for maybe a day then stops. I've gotten this same taste several times now with different recipes. The boil tastes fine prior to fermentation but once I go to move to that secondary it tastes horid. Since this is happening during that initial fermentation i'm lead to believe that whatever is going wrong is tied to the fermentation.

Originally I was using a big plastic bucket that came with my starter kit. I thought maybe I had scratched it and bacteria was spoiling my beer but even after switching to a brand new glass carboy I get an almost identical taste.

I'm at a total loss at the moment. I want to continue brewing but all my money, and my beer just keeps going down the drain with this weird fermentation issue. Can someone please lend some direction?
 

will_rouse

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What are your pitching temps? And do you have a way to control fermentation temperature? Also are you doing extract batches?
 

Jmarsh544

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Describe your process from start to finish in detail so we can try to identify the cause.
 
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gingerninja2013

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Thank you everyone for the prompt responses. Sorry it has taken me so long to get back on here and answer. So my process from start to finish is as follows.
1. Wipe down the whole kitchen with Clorox wipes (sink, counters, stove top).
2. wash all my equipment with some Dawn and a scrub sponge- I use the ones designed for non-stick surfaces which seem to have a less abrasive pad on them.
3. Rinse everything and wash it again in some PBW.
4. Soak everything in some StarSan for about 5 minutes then let air dry on the counter.
5. I use regular tap water for my boil.
6. Since I'm new to this I have been buying kits so I just follow those directions given in the kit for the boil. They are generally hour long boils. All the grains and hops come in sealed plastic bags and the extract is in white plastic containers.
7. I toss in the wort chiller about 10 minutes before the end of the boil then move my brew pot to the sink, attach the hose and let the exit end spray onto the outside of the pot.
8. Move the wort from the brew pot to my primary with a rack siphon and add in enough water to get an even 5 gallons.
9. I pitch my yeast at the temperatures listed in the directions for the kit- typically its around mid to lows 70s depending on the yeast. I put on the lid and shake for a few minutes.
10. I keep the primary in the bottom of my pantry with a towel and some foil wrapped around it to keep the temperature as even as possible.
11. A week later usually when the bubbles have stopped I check the gravity and it's at this point that it smells like I've spent a week trying to ferment straight lemon juice.
 

Johnnyhitch1

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1. Clorox contains bleach, if your not wiping the bleach away and "air" drying on your counter this could be a HUGE problem.
2. Don't use dish soap for brewing, PBW/oxiclean for cleaning and iodophor/starsan for sanitizing.
6. I hope your steeping your grains and not boiling them for the hour? Please explain your boil process also
7. 15minutes is usually a baseline for anything you want to sanitize with heat, throw the chiller in at 15 left in the boil.
8. This water your using, is it also from tap??
9. Low 70s is a point you never want to go over during ferm, start pitching at mid 60s.
10. If its like my pantry, your worts getting up to ATLEAST 85 degress which is causing insane fusels/ferm byproducts in your final product

Couple things I can see that should be #1 priority...
DO NOT USE BLEACH when brewing
DO NOT top up with tap water, only sanitized or sterile bottled water.
Ferment low, many of us have a hard time brewing in the summer due to heat, if your very discouraged pick the hobby back up in September and see if your batches change.
 

StoneHands

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To add to what Johnny stated above, don't let your StarSan dry, it's a wet contact sanitizer. Once it dries, it's not effective.

Definitely try to keep your fermentation cooler - this is hands down the single most effective thing you can do to improve the taste of your beer. Keep your ales mid to upper 60's and you're good.
 

Komocabo

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StarSan works great in a spray bottle too. Spray a good coat before using whatever equipment, let it sit for a minute and BAM. You're good to go (assuming everything is properly cleaned before spraying).

I get my water from Safeway. They have a vending machine outside and it has RO (reverse osmosis) water and is great at $1.75 for 5 gallons. You can go to almost anywhere for these machines. The tap water has chlorine, sediment, and other things you DO NOT want in your beer.

Keep going. You will get better. Fermentation temp is also KEY to great beer. I got a upright freezer for $50 on CL and built a STC-1000 temp control module for about $30. Under $100 for an effective fermentation chamber.
 

peterj

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I agree with everything above except that boiling for 15 minutes is not necessary to sanitize. Anything above ~170 will sanitize in 30 seconds or less. Also, you should be fine using tap water to top up as long as it doesn't make you sick when you drink it. I used to do it all the time when I brewed with extract. And letting the StarSan dry is fine (as long as you use the equipment shortly after without letting it become dirty again) but not necessary. It doesn't effect the flavor of the beer at all.

You're problem may be that your fermentation temperature is too high like Johnny said above. Or you could have a source of infection in some of your tubing or some other part of your system. If it really is as sour as you're saying, then I would lean towards infection.
 

RmikeVT

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I agree with everything the others have said regarding cleaning/sanitizing.

I think you are def fermenting too high. Sour taste could be esters/acetelhyde(sp) from too high of fermentation. Tastes like sour apple jolly rancher.
 

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