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Zman3382

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Well.... after 5 batches and several years of reading everything I could get my hands on, I'm about ready to hang it up for the time being.

5 batches, all different varieties (kits from midwest)... all taste more or less exactly the same... a bit under attenuated, and a good bit estery. Theyve all been just about the same color too.

I have a few things to blame perhaps... on 3 of the 5 i only pitched a smack pack, and for at least one of those the OG was so high that the low number of cells is certainly the reason for failure (very sweet syrupy finished product.. not drinkable). The other 2 I made starters from the smack packs with DME. All of the batches fermented a little warm (70-74F, my townhouse has horrid insulation), and probably experienced some temp rollercoastering of at least 5 degrees or so.

I followed all the rules for everything as far as my readings in books and from knowledge on forums have taught me. Ive just not been able to create a beer that even tasted like i wanted to drink it. Its pretty tough to stay excited when you feel like you've done the best you can in your situation and you're just not getting close to the expected results. While I realize the factors listed above can contribute to some of the off characteristics Ive mentioned, I just dont feel like they are enough to make me end up with what Ive got.

Any feed back would be appreciated... perhaps Ive just been missing something easy. thanks.
 

Yooper

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I think that you've found exactly the reasons you've had poor results.

Proper yeast pitching and proper temperatures are THE most important factors in making beer. With extract, you don't have much control over the ingredients (other than water), but with fixing those two issues and making sure that your water is good for brewing, you should make good beer!
 

Couevas

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Well.... after 5 batches and several years of reading everything I could get my hands on, I'm about ready to hang it up for the time being.

5 batches, all different varieties (kits from midwest)... all taste more or less exactly the same... a bit under attenuated, and a good bit estery. Theyve all been just about the same color too.
What were the styles exactly? What volume are you boiling in your kettle (full boil, half?) Are you using extract only, or are you steeping grains? If you are making kits that are close in style and you are doing a small volume boil, then you are probably carmelizing the wort and producing a similar taste in all your brews. Just a thought.

I have a few things to blame perhaps... on 3 of the 5 i only pitched a smack pack, and for at least one of those the OG was so high that the low number of cells is certainly the reason for failure (very sweet syrupy finished product.. not drinkable). The other 2 I made starters from the smack packs with DME. All of the batches fermented a little warm (70-74F, my townhouse has horrid insulation), and probably experienced some temp rollercoastering of at least 5 degrees or so.
This temp fermentation will definately give you those esters you are talking about. Try putting your bucket/carboy in a tub with water and frozen water bottles. A t-shirt over the vessel allowed to soak up the water will do wonders for your temps as well. Do a search for "fermentation temps"

I followed all the rules for everything as far as my readings in books and from knowledge on forums have taught me. Ive just not been able to create a beer that even tasted like i wanted to drink it. Its pretty tough to stay excited when you feel like you've done the best you can in your situation and you're just not getting close to the expected results. While I realize the factors listed above can contribute to some of the off characteristics Ive mentioned, I just dont feel like they are enough to make me end up with what Ive got.

Any feed back would be appreciated... perhaps Ive just been missing something easy. thanks.
Don't quit man, there are tons of pros on here that I am sure could walk you through your problems and get you stoked again!
 

Pharmguy

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Well, I can tell you this. I have had the exact opposite expierence. 5 batches now and all have been very unique in taste/smell/color...ect. You didnt mention what type of beer you have tried to brew. Maybe try some different things? Steep a little this, different hops, different yeast, ect...
 

Yooper

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A couple of more thoughts I had- where are you located? maybe you have people in your area who can give you a "ride along" on a brew day.

What kind of water are you using, and what kind of kits? Prehopped kits might all taste about the same. If you made a stout and a pale ale, though, there should be a pretty big difference.

I'd suggest trying just one more batch. Use quality ingredients (you can pick a kit from midwest again, or try somewhere else), quality water, cool the wort quickly after brewing and pitch dry Nottingham yeast. Keep the fermentation temperature at 65 degrees (use a water bath if you have to) and wait two weeks. If you correct all of these issues, and the beer is good (and I think it will be!) then you can decide how much you want to invest in your time and energy in making beer.
 

Jipper

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Love the thought of brewing with a friend to see if there is something you are missing. Also, check out any local homebrew clubs in your area, see if you can have a Q and A with someone there.

Another route could be brewing lighter beers for now, until you get your process down - maybe like 5 pounds of LME or DME, 2 oz of hops and that's it. Nothing will make you madder than paying lots of money for a good beer kits and having it not work out over and over ... But it does sound like you have a bead on your issues. Maybe try two packs of dry yeast for now, just to see if it a yeast issue. I know dry yeast is not the best, but at least it will yield drinkable beer.
 
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Zman3382

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Thank you everyone for the responses.

Well, honestly i don't think its my technique... I'm the kind of anal retentive detail oriented person who likes to read everything they can and understand why they are doing each step theyre doing before even making an attempt... well.... except for under pitching mm hmm. Temperature was more or less beyond my control at the time..

All were extract with steeped grains, full 5 gallon boils, using bottled grocery store brand spring water (the town water here is shameful).

1 - Irish Red - Wyeast 1056 Activator (just 1 smack pack..)
2 - Amarillo Pale Ale - Wyeast 1332 Activator (just 1..)
3 - Spiced Holiday Ale - White Labs Burton Ale Yeast (yeah.. just 1 vial :-/ High OG, Way Underpitched...)
4 - Rye (Roggenbier) - Wyeast 3068 (Starter Made, then Refridgerated for 3 days)
5 - Coriander Weiss - Wyeast 3068 (Starter Made)





Using
 

TheTower

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With the exception of maybe the holiday and rye, those all seem like lighter beer styles (and it sounds like there were other problems with the holiday). I'm a newbie as well, and I've heard and tend to believe that darker, more complex beers give new brewers a bigger buffer for error. Maybe look through the recipes here to find a good, well-reviewed porter or stout. Maybe look up EdWort's Robust Porter (that's my next brew). The complex flavors will be better able to mask slight off-flavors, there's a lot of people on here familiar with the recipe who can help, and you know the ingredients haven't been sitting in a kit box for god knows how long.
 

brian_g

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Why don't you try a more forgiving yeast, like Cooper's ale yeast. Specialty yeasts are less forgiving and require more temperature control. If you have poor temperature control, I think you'll be much happier using a "boring" dry yeast, then a specialty yeast with funny flavors. Also, how long have you aged your beer in bottles? Have you tried any that have been sitting in bottles for three months? Time can make a big difference. Also, have you avoided keeping the yeast sediment out of your glass. Do you put the bottles on their sides in the fridge? This can stir up the yeast with can affect the taste too.
 

brian_g

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couple more thoughts:

1) You described yourself as "anal retentive detail oriented person." I think I can be this way in many respects. This isn't always a good quality. There can be a tendency to over do things, such as fixing problems that aren't there. I've done this. Have you done anything to your beer to try to "fix" it?

2) Prove to yourself that you are not completely cursed from brewing. Try a no-boil kit. Use the yeast that came with the kit. Don't use a starter. Just sprinkle the yeast on top. Don't try to improve it. Don't try to fix it. If the the beer still comes out the same as the others you've at least eliminated a lot of possible sources of the problem. However, I'm betting that if you keep it as simple as possible, you'll have a beer you can at least drink, hopefully even like.
 
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Zman3382

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Again, thanks to everyone for the kind advice.

The first batch was bottled 9/17/08, and the most recent was bottled 1/6/09. There are still bottles left of each so they've had some time to hang out. They're stored upright on shelves in a closet on the main floor, not far from the thermostat. Always careful not to pour the yeast sediment out when consuming. As far as doing anything to 'fix' it.. I started using starters after the first few batches. I think theres probably a good bit of merit to the statement that the yeasts Ive been using are in the more tempermental range.. I may need to get a chest freezer with an external thermostat just to achieve good consistent temps... time to buy a bigger house :)
 

Grinder12000

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Yea - yeast temp I believe is a large problem here. That and MAYBE water chems? if you are making a lot of lighter brews and your water is hard you could be having a problem because darker grain will fix this while lighter grain has a problem.

But I have to think the warm fermenting is the #1 problem. 5 degrees fluctuation is not THAT bad (I've had that with no bad results) but I don't think I've ever had a batch ferment above 70. . . . .but I live in Wisconsin.
 

BPD

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one thing that dogged me for taste the first 4 brews that was fixed in the 5th brew was switching from one step to star san I know one step is no rinse and supposed not to affect the beer but myself and a brew buddy both felt it had an aftertaste in the beer that was resolved with star san. just a thought.
 

Weezknight

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1 - Irish Red - Wyeast 1056 Activator (just 1 smack pack..)
2 - Amarillo Pale Ale - Wyeast 1332 Activator (just 1..)
Just a question for the "pros" around here. Aren't the activator packs the 125ml ones that you only need 1 pack for 5 gallons? Rarely have I seen anyone say that they underpitched with the activator packs...propagators, yes, but not the activators.
 

Saccharomyces

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Check out the link for my ghetto fermentation chamber in my sig. Unless you are fermenting in a 4 square foot apartment with no freezer you can control fermentation temps.

All the yeasts you listed would be pretty awful without temp control. When you say 70-74 I presume you are using an ale pale, no water bath, and room temp is 70-74 in which case you were really fermenting at about 80*F or higher since the plastic traps in heat created by the fermentation itself. In a water bath like my method the temp of the surrounding water is within 1-2* of the inside of the fermenter.

It sounds like you are doing everything else right. If you use a more forgiving yeast, pitch dry for awhile, and try the water bath I would be surprised if you weren't pleased with the results.

I use a lot of dry yeast; SafAle S-04 is one of my go-to house strains I use for everything from pale ales to cream ales to IPAs. At 66-68*F in the water bath it ferments clean with a slight but pleasant fruitiness, sediments well making it ideal for bottle conditioning, and attenuates fairly dry like US-05 or Nottingham.
 

Saccharomyces

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Just a question for the "pros" around here. Aren't the activator packs the 125ml ones that you only need 1 pack for 5 gallons? Rarely have I seen anyone say that they underpitched with the activator packs...propagators, yes, but not the activators.
Not a "pro" :D but it depends mostly on how fresh your yeast is. If the yeast is 2-3 weeks old pitching a smack pack directly into a 1.050 wort is not ideal but will work. If your yeast is 3-4 months old you are severely underpitching. Unless you are lucky like me and live a few miles from Austin Homebrew, your yeast is probably more than 2-3 weeks old.

Wyeast has a "mfg on" date stamped on the package, White Labs has an expiration date which is 4 months after the date of production.
 

Mike M

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...I use a lot of dry yeast; SafAle S-04 is one of my go-to house strains I use for everything from pale ales to cream ales to IPAs. At 66-68*F in the water bath it ferments clean with a slight but pleasant fruitiness, sediments well making it ideal for bottle conditioning, and attenuates fairly dry like US-05 or Nottingham.
+1 Dry yeast helps to keep things simple. I like and use all three of those mentioned above.
 

D-Ring

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I had the same experience making kits(everything tasted the same), but once I started trying recipes with more ingredients, a whole new world opened up.
 

RedIrocZ-28

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I will tell you 100% without a doubt that your problem is your fermentation temperatures. The first 4 batches I made all had the same/similar tastes and they were as far apart as you can get in style. I started doing a water bath in a rubbermaid tub with frozen 2L bottles and Bam, problem is gone. Do yourself a favor, go buy a rubbermaid tub, freeze some 2L bottles filled with water, brew a batch, and go ahead and stick your fermenter and 2L in the rubbermaid and fill with water up to the 5gal mark. The next day or if you can, earlier, throw in another frozen 2L. Try to maintain the temp in the mid 60's at the highest and your estery problem will disappear. The Estery taste usually masks everything because its SO STRONG. After this your beers will taste dissimilar, which is good!

Jump in your car, go now. :)
 
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