Help me diagnose a recurring off-flavor

Homebrew Talk - Beer, Wine, Mead, & Cider Brewing Discussion Forum

Help Support Homebrew Talk:

snailsongs

Well-Known Member
Joined
Dec 12, 2008
Messages
677
Reaction score
8
Location
Eugene, OR
Bear with me for a moment: A few months ago I made a brown ale that ended up with a strong band-aid taste/aroma. I read up and banished bleach and tap water (and my tap water tasted good, but I asked the water works here about sanitization and they said that the water has .001-.003 ppm of chloramine....can't taste it but better safe than sorry) from my brewing practices.

Last month I bottled up a porter that ended up with the same band-aid flavor, despite the fact that bleach hasn't touched any equipment for months. The only tap water I used was 1.5 cups for boiling the priming sugar. This beer tasted good at samples and didn't seem to develop this flavor until it was bottled.

Last week I bottled up a milk stout and when I cracked open the first taster last night, there was that same damn note of band-aid in the flavor, but this time much less prominent than the other two times. Like the porter, it didn't seem to develop until after bottling.

I soak and wash my bottles/bottling equipment with oxy-clean and sanitize with star-san. I boil my priming sugar in the smallest amount of water possible for about 10 minutes (it's usually still pretty hot when I pour into the bottling bucket and start siphoning)........So, WTF? should I throw out my bottling bucket and wand and start over? Are there any other causes of phenolic flavors besides chlorine and bleach? Should I stop using star-san and start "fearing the foam"? Am I mistaking "band-aid" for the acrid flavor of black patent or something? I'm really sratching my head and getting discouraged here......oh, and I should mention that I have bottled up batches in between all of these, using the same water, sugar and methods that have turned out golden......
 

Yooper

Ale's What Cures You!
Staff member
Admin
Mod
Lifetime Supporter
Joined
Jun 4, 2006
Messages
74,940
Reaction score
12,872
Location
UP/Snowbird in Florida
Chloramine sounds like the culprit- it doesn't boil off like chlorine does and it's perceptible in tiny, tiny amounts (like one part per billion).

I wonder if your water has a bit more of these compounds at different times, so that sometimes it's ok, sometimes not.
 

notwoohoo

Well-Known Member
Joined
Dec 14, 2008
Messages
163
Reaction score
0
Location
Woodstock, GA
You can dose your brewing water with Campden tablets to remove chloramines. Use one tablet for twenty gallons of water used (or fractions thereof).
 
OP
snailsongs

snailsongs

Well-Known Member
Joined
Dec 12, 2008
Messages
677
Reaction score
8
Location
Eugene, OR
You can dose your brewing water with Campden tablets to remove chloramines. Use one tablet for twenty gallons of water used (or fractions thereof).
Thing is, my brewing water is bottled spring water from the store, and the only tap water I use is about 1-2 cups with the priming sugar. Is that really enough to spoil a batch?........I have already decided to use bottled water for that, too. I just have a hard time imagining that such a tiny amount of 1-3ppm chlorinated water in five gallons of clean beer would spoil the entire thing.......I guess stranger things happen though.
 

Saccharomyces

Be good to your yeast...
Lifetime Supporter
Joined
Jun 17, 2008
Messages
5,438
Reaction score
152
Location
Pflugerville, Texas
Try treating your water with Campden tablets, 1/4 tablet per 5 gallons. I know you just said you are using bottled water, but it sure sounds like the water you are using still has chloramines in it. I know the RO water I use to mix with my tap water also has to be treated after getting phenolic off flavors in a cream ale from it.

Depending on the state of your water you may want to Campden treat the water you use to mix up your StarSan, and start rinsing your equipment with dechlorinated water as well.
 
OP
snailsongs

snailsongs

Well-Known Member
Joined
Dec 12, 2008
Messages
677
Reaction score
8
Location
Eugene, OR
Try treating your water with Campden tablets, 1/4 tablet per 5 gallons. I know you just said you are using bottled water, but it sure sounds like the water you are using still has chloramines in it. I know the RO water I use to mix with my tap water also has to be treated after getting phenolic off flavors in a cream ale from it.

Depending on the state of your water you may want to Campden treat the water you use to mix up your StarSan, and start rinsing your equipment with dechlorinated water as well.
That's a good point. I never even thought about the water I use to mix star-san. I don't have a bottle tree either, so when I am sanitizing bottles before bottling I just shake them out and place them rightside up and they inevitably have some solution left in them....that water comes from my utility sink in the basement, too! I can't believe I never thought about that water....I guess I just assumed the star-san would make it "clean", but of course that's a stupid assumption I never bothered to really think about. I will start here and work my way out with campden tabs. thanks.
 

bull8042

I like 'em shaved
Lifetime Supporter
Joined
Jul 16, 2008
Messages
10,259
Reaction score
458
Location
Fort Mill
I think you have been offered some good suggestions from Yooper and Saccharomyces already, so no need to repeat that. But I would like to interject that the StarSan itself is not your culprit in my opinion. I use that stuff judiciously and have never had any problems like that. Don't fear the foam...... but maybe the water you are using to make that foam.
 

-TH-

Well-Known Member
Joined
Oct 22, 2008
Messages
913
Reaction score
109
Location
Zeeland, Michigan
I have the exact same problem as you. I have good tap water, low in chlorine, no chloramides, but after several batches with what I think is chlorophenols, switched to bottled spring water except for priming. I only notice the flavor after 1-2 weeks in the bottle, never before. See my thread for everything I have tried up until this point: https://www.homebrewtalk.com/f14/8-batches-i-still-cant-shake-off-flavor-104841/

I'm currently doing an experiment where I split a batch into 4 diff fermenters, used 2 kinds of yeast, primed using 5 different methods, and bottled with and without bottle bucket/spigot/wand. It took forever but dang it I am going to find out the problem. The beer has been in bottles 1 week so far and I plan to wait 2 more before I sample them. I will certainly post the results.
 
OP
snailsongs

snailsongs

Well-Known Member
Joined
Dec 12, 2008
Messages
677
Reaction score
8
Location
Eugene, OR
I have the exact same problem as you. I have good tap water, low in chlorine, no chloramides, but after several batches with what I think is chlorophenols, switched to bottled spring water except for priming. I only notice the flavor after 1-2 weeks in the bottle, never before. See my thread for everything I have tried up until this point: https://www.homebrewtalk.com/f14/8-batches-i-still-cant-shake-off-flavor-104841/

I'm currently doing an experiment where I split a batch into 4 diff fermenters, used 2 kinds of yeast, primed using 5 different methods, and bottled with and without bottle bucket/spigot/wand. It took forever but dang it I am going to find out the problem. The beer has been in bottles 1 week so far and I plan to wait 2 more before I sample them. I will certainly post the results.
Good luck, and let me know how it goes. have you tried the campden tabs and/or RO water for your sanitizer yet?
 

-TH-

Well-Known Member
Joined
Oct 22, 2008
Messages
913
Reaction score
109
Location
Zeeland, Michigan
Good luck, and let me know how it goes. have you tried the campden tabs and/or RO water for your sanitizer yet?
Nope. Never heard that suggestion till this thread. If thats it then that means all my bottles will turn out bad and I will crap a brick. I guess that gives me one more thing to try if that happens.
 
OP
snailsongs

snailsongs

Well-Known Member
Joined
Dec 12, 2008
Messages
677
Reaction score
8
Location
Eugene, OR
Nope. Never heard that suggestion till this thread. If thats it then that means all my bottles will turn out bad and I will crap a brick. I guess that gives me one more thing to try if that happens.
Well report back when you find out, and I'll do the same here (I'll be bottling two batches over the next week or so)....... I feel bad that you've had so many batches go bad. I've only had 3 go bad and I'm terrified of bottling day. I think I'd have probably gotten too discouraged and given up if I were you, so kudos to you for your perseverance.
 

mandoman

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jun 26, 2007
Messages
361
Reaction score
4
Location
abingdon, virginia
I'll preface this with the blanket statement that I could be completely wrong, but so could everyone else.

I have had the band-aid 3 times. Once in a beer and twice in starters. I have wrestled, like you, searching for the culprit. I just had it the third time and I'm convinced I have the answer.

I think it's a house yeast I'm getting from my kitchen. I say this because the last starter I made I tried to get a 6 month old english ale yeast (the cottage cheese floccy stuff) going. i knew going into it that it was waaaaaaaaay old and might not start. After several days I got nothing. I added some more wort, nothing. I started getting a little sloppy and added some more wort and put it on the stir plate since by now I had like 2 L whereas I started with maybe 50. Anyway, all of this is occurring right next to my sink and after a while i just wanted to see if it would go and I knew I wasn't going to use whatever happened in any beer so I'm sure my sanitation suffered. Well, guess what. I got great fermentation about day 5, high krausen, all of it. Guess what else, the floc was powdery. The smell, unmistakeable. Band aid. Don't say it was the oxygenation activity of the stir plate. I'm pretty sure regular swishing of a 25 ml starter in a 2000ml flask gets the wort to 8% pretty easily - at least to the point that a stir plate would oxygenate a 2000ml starter.

That's all I've got but it's enough for me until I hear different.

Oh, no chloramines in my tap water and very little chlorine although I don't remove it - never have - and I make good beer.
 
Top