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Help with "Dirt" Off Flavor - Hefeweizen

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Sockmonkey

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This is a Bavarian hefe which, with the exception of a few little tweaks, I've brewed many times before without issue.

I tasted my gravity sample yesterday upon racking it to the keg. It had a very strong aftertaste which I can only describe as "dirt / earth / cigarette ash". I assumed the beer to be a loss, but finished racking it anyway. I tasted it today after a day in the keg and the taste is not nearly as strong, but still present enough to make the beer undrinkable for me (my wife claims she doesn't really taste it except on my suggestion). There is no noticable off-odor; it smells like a nice hefe.

So, I 've had infections in the past, but I'm not really sure what I'm dealing with here. Infection, contamination, ingredient or water problems? This is also the second (of 3) brews I've done on a new countertop-brutus-20-style system. The first beer was fine, and the third just went into the fermenter yesterday so I don't yet know if it suffers from the same off flavor.

Any advice or suggestions as to the cause would be appreciated. The recipe is below for reference.


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5.625 lb German 2-row
5.625 lb German wheat malt
.75 oz Hallertauer 60 min
.25 oz Halelrtauer 15 min
Wyeast 3068 Weihenstephaner (1L starter)
Faucet water (no analysis)

2qt/l mash (60 min)
90 min boil
 

wildwest450

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Ha, finally someone who tastes what I taste in all hefes. It may just be a characteristic of the yeast. Swmbo tastes the same thing, not our favorite style.
 
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Sockmonkey

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wildwest, I've used this yeast many times in the past without problems and hefes are one of my favorite styles... I think I'm dealing with something else here.
 
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Sockmonkey

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Would this thread be better off in a different subforum? Or has no one run into this delicious off-flavor before?
 

Cpt_Kirks

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I just dumped a bad batch of hefe from a while back. Kept hoping it would get better, but it did not. Had that dirt taste.

In my case, everything went wrong. Stuck sparge, bad conversion, fermentation that would not start. Had to pitch yeast twice.

That batch was made with Danstar Munich.

I have used 3068 several times since with no issues.
 
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Completely guessing, but sounds like either you extracted some tannins during the mash or perhaps your water chemistry was way off. Changes in weather or precipitation could have changed the chemistry, or the water treatment folks might have added something (like extra chlorine).
 
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Sockmonkey

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I just dumped a bad batch of hefe from a while back. Kept hoping it would get better, but it did not. Had that dirt taste.

In my case, everything went wrong. Stuck sparge, bad conversion, fermentation that would not start. Had to pitch yeast twice.

That batch was made with Danstar Munich.

I have used 3068 several times since with no issues.
I did have a stuck recirc (stirring got it going again without problems).
Yeast took right off, though. I used a 1L starter.
 
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Sockmonkey

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Completely guessing, but sounds like either you extracted some tannins during the mash or perhaps your water chemistry was way off. Changes in weather or precipitation could have changed the chemistry, or the water treatment folks might have added something (like extra chlorine).
You may be right on the water; I've had periodic issues with off-flavors (not this particular one) in the past that I suspected were due to my water. I switched to spring water for a while but didn't like the results. I guess it may be time to learn how to build my own water.

I've found some references to geosmin, methylisoborneol, and trichloroanisole that can cause "earthy, musty" flavors in beer... which is really the closest I can come to "dirt". They seem to be all carried in the source water and be affected by season, or can grow in biofilms.

One other possibility I'm considering is that, as this being only my second use of a CFC, I didn't get all of the water out of it when I was finished with my previous brew and that was the source of whatever is causing the off flavor. I do recirc through the CFC for the last 15 minutes of the boil, however, so I would have expected it to have killed anything in there. Based on the fact that it tasted fine going into the fermenter, it seems logical that the flavor was the result of a "growth" and not just the presence of a contaminant from the brewing process.

Thanks all for any thoughts & suggestions.
 

Cpt_Kirks

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I did have a stuck recirc (stirring got it going again without problems).
Yeast took right off, though. I used a 1L starter.
How was your conversion? My wort was cloudy as hell and I acutally had to dig the mash out and put it in a grain bag to sparge. That batch was a MESS. One big frakking dough ball, I have never had a mash like that.

I still think the dirt taste came from the Danstar Munich, though.
 
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Sockmonkey

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I used Kaiser's efficiency spreadsheet; my conversion was right around 100% give or take a few points for error.
 
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Sockmonkey

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FWIW, I re-brewed the same recipe and it came out fantastic. The best it has ever turned out, as a matter of fact.

I noticed this time around that my starter was very active, whereas the starter with the problematic batch wasn't overly active. I didn't think anything of it at the time. I wonder if I had poor yeast the first time and the "dirt" flavor is from stress?
 
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