I'm at my wits end and really need some help

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Semicole

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Hey Guys,

I'm a new brewer, I got an extract kit for Christmas and started with that, which turned out pretty good. I've since started trying to do all grain 5 gallon batches and have not had any success. I would really appreciate it if you guys could follow the process that I've been through and tell me what I've done wrong or what you guys think my issue might be.

My equipment is as follows:
-Bayou Classic 10 gallon kettle with valve and thermometer
-Turkey fryer burner
-Fermenting fridge/keezer side by side (https://www.homebrewtalk.com/forum/...rmentation-chamber-build.646701/#post-8251320)
-25' copper wort chiller
-2 ale pails with spigots
-1 fermenter with spigot
-refractometer and hydrometer

Brew 1
I brewed Biermuncher's Centennial Blonde first, but made a lot of mistakes. I used tap water from my house. I only did the mash, not the boil - rookie mistake. I also fermented it in my pantry that I thought was a suitable temp, but was actually getting up to 78F or so degrees. Anyways I let it go through fermentation and throughout the whole fermentation it had a sour smell to it. I kegged it and it ended up not being good at all and still had that sourish smell, obviously because I only did half of the process in the mash, or so I thought. I took a sample to my LHBS and they said it wasn't infected to the best of their knowledge.

Brew 2
I brewed Biermuncher's Centennial Blonde again on 2/25. This time I made sure to do a full mash and boil, but still used tap water. I hadn't finished the fermenting fridge yet, so I fermented in the pantry again which again got up to around 78F. I checked it the day after putting it in the fermenter and immediately smelled the same smell that the first batch had. I didn't have a hydro or refracto when I brewed it, so I didn't check OG, but I have since got both and checked it today and it is at 1.020. It still has that off smell though. This was put in the same fermenter as the first brew.

Brew 3
I brewed EdWort's Bee Cave Kolsch on 3/16. This time I bought spring water and used it for the brew. I have had a few people tell me it may be DME since it has a vegetable like smell to it, so I made sure to boil this one HARD. The OG was right at 1.052, so I nailed the target OG, which gave me a lot of hope. The brew went fine and I put it in a brand new Fermonster fermenter (after giving it an initial clean) and put it in my fermenting fridge at 67F. I checked it the next morning and it was fermenting away nicely - I took a small sample and it had a yeasty smell to it, which I was happy with because it didn't have any kind of sour smell to it and the gravity was at 1.032. I checked it this morning (3/18) and it had a similar sourish smell to it and the same gravity as the last reading, so I am feeling really disheartened right now.

I honestly don't know what to do and hell this last brew may come out ok, but at the same time I'm getting that sourish smell and it really has me feeling down. That will be 3 separate brews now that I have failed.

I have done all of this so far since that first failed brew:
-Used spring water instead of tap
-Built a fermenting fridge to keep my temps constant and at whatever I want
-Used a new fermenting vessel
-Made sure to get a HARD boil going

The best way I can think to describe the smell is almost like souring or decaying vegetables or fruit.

I really don't know what to try now and am at a complete loss. I am honestly ready to just give up brewing. It makes me sad, this is something that I was really enjoying and really wanted to be a part of this hobby, but brewing these failed beers is just wearing me down and giving me 0 confidence going forward.
 

RipC1ty

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What does your sterilization process look like? With brewing sanitation is key. Yeast eats any present bacteria which can cause the sour smell and taste.
 
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Semicole

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What does your sterilization process look like? With brewing sanitation is key. Yeast eats any present bacteria which can cause the sour smell and taste.
I fill a fermenting bucket full of 5 gallons of star san/water mixed to ratio and put my fermenter lid/bung/air loc/spigot parts in it. I keep that next to my kettle throughout the brew and fill my fermenter with about half of it after the boil is over, while the wort chiller is doing it's thing. I shake that up and spray everything down again with star san/water mix before draining the kettle into the fermenter and putting the fermenter in the fridge.
 

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A few notes based on a quick skim of your post...

78 is pretty warm for many yeasts but its not the end of the world. It's not going to cause a brew to "sour" or be really crappy.

DMS (not DME) does have a creamed corn asparagus like smell. It's more predominate in brews that use pilsner malt (like your kolsch). It vaporizes over TIME, not how hard the boil is. A hard boil will help, but it takes time for the steam to leave. In your kolsch (assuming the main malt is pilsner) I would do a solid 60 minute boil, if not a 75 or 85 minute. Do NOT cover your boil kettle during the boil, if you do, the stuff you are trying to vaporize and remove will simply condense and drip right back in. The DMS smell will be strong the first 15 or 20 minutes then will start to subside. By 60 to 75 minutes you probably wont smell it at all.

During fermentation you should smell yeast! It's a living thing that eats sugars, farts CO2 and poops alcohol. It's a busy thing. It takes time for the yeast to "clean itself up". Very normal. Theres a lot of chemical and biological activity going on there. Don't judge a brew during fermentation. Also, most kolsch yeasts have a bit of "funkiness" to them (similar to a mild Saison yeast) that some other yeasts don't. Don't let that worry you.

Now lets talk about sour. That word can describe a lot of things and there are a few "off flavors/aromas" that might apply. I can't stress enough about hygiene. Keep absolutely everything clean and sanitized. During brewing have a spray bottle and bucket of star-san or similar to dip in, spray on, etc. Pretend that everything you touch is infected with ebola and there are bad juju cells floating in the air around you. Ok, that's extreme, but you get the idea. It's ok to leave a bit of star-san in and on the equipment, but if your fermenter has a quart of star-san in it, the beer might taste a bit weird. Overdo the sanitizer but drain it as best you can without unsanitizing.

Lastly... Unless the [post-fermentation] smell can knock a buzzard off a crap wagon (obviously infected or soured) or it is growing some weird mold or powdery substance, keg it up, give it some time to feel the love, then taste it with carbonation and at the right temp. You will be surprised how much it changes. With your kolsch, keep in mind that type of beer really needs a cooler fermentation (even though it's an ale) and it really needs a few weeks or more in the keg/bottles to be "right".

I hope this gives some insight and i'm sure others will post some thoughts also.
 
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TANSTAAFB

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If you had an infected batch then ANY plastic that comes in contact with your wort post boil needs to be dedicated to sour beers. Replace any tubing, racking cane/ auto siphon, etc. I see you already bought a new fermenter. What are you using to clean and sanitize?
 

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Well, your first batch was just a mess. I wouldn’t really use that as a data point. The second batch was fermented HOT — was 78 the beer temp or ambient? Either way, that’s not going to taste good. So that leaves your current batch. I would let it ride, and try to do everything right, and see how it comes out. If it’s bad, post again — but smelling beer midway through fermentation doesn’t tell you much.

One other note — how are you measuring temp in your fermentation fridge? Even if you don’t have a thermowell, you can tape the probe to the side of the fermenter and insulate it to get a stable reading of the wort temp. Ambient temp in the chamber will swing wildly.
 
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Semicole

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A few notes based on a quick skim of your post...

78 is pretty warm for many yeasts but its not the end of the world. It's not going to cause a brew to "sour" or be really crappy.

DMS (not DME) does have a creamed corn asparagus like smell. It's more predominate in brews that use pilsner malt (like your kolsch). It vaporizes over TIME, not how hard the boil is. A hard boil will help, but it takes time for the steam to leave. In your kolsch (assuming the main malt is pilsner) I would do a solid 60 minute boil, if not a 75 or 85 minute. Do NOT cover your boil kettle during the boil, if you do, the stuff you are trying to vaporize and remove will simply condense and drip right back in. The DMS smell will be strong the first 15 or 20 minutes then will start to subside. By 60 to 75 minutes you probably wont smell it at all.

During fermentation you should smell yeast! It's a living thing that eats sugars, farts CO2 and poops alcohol. It's a busy thing. It takes time for the yeast to "clean itself up". Very normal. Theres a lot of chemical and biological activity going on there. Don't judge a brew during fermentation. Also, most kolsch yeasts have a bit of "funkiness" to them (similar to a mild Saison yeast) that some other yeasts don't. Don't let that worry you.

Now lets talk about sour. That word can describe a lot of things and there are a few "off flavors/aromas" that might apply. I can't stress enough about hygiene. Keep absolutely everything clean and sanitized. During brewing have a spray bottle and bucket of star-san or similar to dip in, spray on, etc. Pretend that everything you touch is infected with ebola and there are bad juju cells floating in the air around you. Ok, that's extreme, but you get the idea. It's ok to leave a bit of star-san in and on the equipment, but if your fermenter has a quart of star-san in it, the beer might taste a bit weird. Overdo the sanitizer but drain it as best you can without unsanitizing.

Lastly... Unless the [post-fermentation] smell can knock a buzzard off a crap wagon (obviously infected or soured) or it is growing some weird mold or powdery substance, keg it up, give it some time to feel the love, then taste it with carbonation and at the right temp. You will be surprised how much it changes. With your kolsch, keep in mind that type of beer really needs a cooler fermentation (even though it's an ale) and it really needs a few weeks or more in the keg/bottles to be "right".

I hope this gives some insight and i'm sure others will post some thoughts also.
I'll address your points line for line and see if that helps at all.

I am boiling with the lid off, the 2nd batch I did a 60 minute boil and the third I did a 75 minute boil.

I know I shouldn't judge a brew during fermentation, but because I've had this sour smell issue I have just been obsessed with smelling i throughout fermentation to see if the problem is persisting. For all I know this smell is normal, idk.

I feel like I have kept everything super sanitized and clean and my LHBS said the batch I brought them didn't show signs of infection, so I think my sanitization process is good. I definitely drain the star san out of the fermenter, it may have some residual left, but nothing extreme.

I am going to keg this kolsch up once it is done fermenting regardless and hope for the best and I may go ahead and keg that second batch up too since it has been in the fermenter for going on 3 weeks now.
 
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Semicole

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Well, your first batch was just a mess. I wouldn’t really use that as a data point. The second batch was fermented HOT — was 78 the beer temp or ambient? Either way, that’s not going to taste good. So that leaves your current batch. I would let it ride, and try to do everything right, and see how it comes out. If it’s bad, post again — but smelling beer midway through fermentation doesn’t tell you much.

One other note — how are you measuring temp in your fermentation fridge? Even if you don’t have a thermowell, you can tape the probe to the side of the fermenter and insulate it to get a stable reading of the wort temp. Ambient temp in the chamber will swing wildly.
78 was the ambient temp on that batch, so it was definitely even hotter in the fermenter. I know I shouldn't smell it mid fermentation, I am just kind of OCD about this smell since I have smelled the same smell on all these batches so far. I am using a temp probe that is hooked to my controller on my ferm fridge, it is taped to the side of the fermenter, but I don't have any insulation insulating it from the ambient temp.

One quick question, I had an OG of 1.052 and it was fermenting very hard for the first day or 2, now it has slowed down substantially and was at 1.033 yesterday and 1.031 today. Is it likely for it to finish at my target FG of 1.011 now, or has it already slowed down to the point where it is doubtfully going to get that low?
 
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Semicole

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If you had an infected batch then ANY plastic that comes in contact with your wort post boil needs to be dedicated to sour beers. Replace any tubing, racking cane/ auto siphon, etc. I see you already bought a new fermenter. What are you using to clean and sanitize?
To the best of my knowledge I have not had any infections. I even took a sample to my LHBS and they said they didn't see any signs of infection, so I don't think I've had any so far. I am using star san for sterilization.
 

ong

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78 was the ambient temp on that batch, so it was definitely even hotter in the fermenter. I know I shouldn't smell it mid fermentation, I am just kind of OCD about this smell since I have smelled the same smell on all these batches so far. I am using a temp probe that is hooked to my controller on my ferm fridge, it is taped to the side of the fermenter, but I don't have any insulation insulating it from the ambient temp.

One quick question, I had an OG of 1.052 and it was fermenting very hard for the first day or 2, now it has slowed down substantially and was at 1.033 yesterday and 1.031 today. Is it likely for it to finish at my target FG of 1.011 now, or has it already slowed down to the point where it is doubtfully going to get that low?
I’d be surprised if it didn’t finish in the teens — maybe not as low as 1.011, but I wouldn’t think you had a lot of unfermentable sugars in there. I’d just leave it alone for a week or more, as tempting as it might be to keep poking at it.

I generally ferment most ales in the low 60s. 67 should be fine, though. You might tape a chunk of styrofoam or something over the exposed side of the probe to ensure you’re getting more accurate readings.

When beer is fermenting it’s putting out a lot of CO2 and generally has a pretty sharp smell (I suspect it’s a carbonic acid thing). It sounds like you fixed a lot of your problems with this batch, so give it some time and trust your process (at least for now!).
 

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What was your pitch rate for these brews? The reason I ask is everything you've told us alludes to a fermentation issue which would basically boil down to three things. First sanitation which is hard to pinpoint unless we can actually witness your sanitation (everyone thinks they're doing a good enough job with it) but advice given earlier is sound advice to follow. The second is temperature control which you seem aware of as already an issue. Finally it may be your pitch rates. It sounds like you're using kits so I'm assuming it's dry yeast which makes this unlikely, but epending on how old it is, or whether or not you're rehydrating your yeast properly (controversial topic), etc. Your yeast might be too strained, producing more compounds from the higher temps, and struggle to clean up after themselves when fermentation is complete. I would take thorough notes of your process, be absolutely thorough with sanitation, record your og before you pitch, closely monitor your temps, pull a few gravity samples throughout the fermentation process, and just give your beer enough time to clean up.
 

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Sounds to me like you should also let the beer do its thing and give it time to do so. If you have good sanitation, a good pitch rate and decent fermentation temp then the end product should be at least drinkable assuming the recipe is solid. Using kits should keep things pretty solid.

I'd suggest that you brew the beer, pitch the yeast and then try to forget about it for 3 weeks. Certainly dont try to smell it or form any conclusions about whats happening until the end of that 3 week period. Even then I'd just rack the beer for packaging, carbonate it and then see how it turned out.

Basically.... RDWHAHB!
 

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I'll bet the 'sour smell' is the CO2. Did it kind of burn your nose a bit? That's the CO2 being produced by fermentation.
 

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Tbh I would never let a smell from a beer deter me from tasting it. Actually I take that back, last summer I had a tree branch break and fall right into my wort, did my best to scoop it all out, but I think it still infected my batch or put tree branch flavor into it. It smelled like vomit/nasty feet. After I dumped it from the keg, my gf comes home and said, "Who puked?" The hard work is already done, keg that 2nd batch and force carb it for a day or two. The green flavors and smells will go away, and with that recipe its ready to keg in 7-10 days. So sitting on it for 3 weeks you are hitting its prime. Beer tastes different when its carbed, and if its still in primary you cant tell what its final taste will be. That is a recipe that you can easily go grain to glass in 14 days or less. Imo its to early to give up on it, especially without even kegging or bottling it. I noticed that you went with spring water, if you are willing to pay for water, might as well do distilled or RO and make your own water profile. Really simple to do, wish I had started earlier in my brewing time. If you want help with water profile, before you brew again make a post with ingredients and size batch, we can definitely tell you what salts to add.
 

kh54s10

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The first 2 you know what the problems were.

The third: It is only 2 days. I can't say I have ever intentionally smelled the off gassing from the fermentation, but I wouldn't be at all surprised that it doesn't smell good so soon. I have used a couple of yeasts that smelled quite nasty during the starter, but made great beer.

Let it continue. Ignore the smell. Go by taste when it is done. By done, I mean control the temperature until active signs of fermentation have disappeared, then you can raise the temperature to near 70 degrees to help it finish. I go by 14 days primary, then if everything looks good I check for FG. If it seems right I only take one measurement. If rushing it I would be sure to get FG with 2 measurements, give it 2 more days then package. Maybe at about day 10.
 

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Go back and brew a couple of batches from extract. Learn your system - fermentation temps, yeast pitching, etc. A lot less can go wrong with extracts, and you can brew some really good beers using extract. Get some good beers under your belt so you feel good about it again, get the process down so you know it by heart, then move to all grain. Just a suggestion.
 
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mirthfuldragon

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One quick question, I had an OG of 1.052 and it was fermenting very hard for the first day or 2, now it has slowed down substantially and was at 1.033 yesterday and 1.031 today. Is it likely for it to finish at my target FG of 1.011 now, or has it already slowed down to the point where it is doubtfully going to get that low?
In my experience with kolsch yeast, they stay in suspension and throw off your gravity readings. Regardless, let it ride a bit, like others have said. Different yeasts behave differently in terms of how they chew through the yeast, where /if they the stall, when they restart, and a bunch of other stuff. Once you are more comfortable with working with different strains of yeasts, you will get a better feel for them.

Also, until you get a decent amount of experience in drinking beer at different points of fermentation, it will all taste terrible. Sweet wort is disgusting to me, and a mid-way sample full of yeast and half-fermented yeast by-products is a mish-mash of biological detritus. For example, I took a test sample of my recent belgian wit, confirmed FG, and moved it to cold crash, and I find myself drinking the rest of the room temperature test jar, thinking hey, this is really nice and I got what I wanted. I handed the sample to my wife, and she sips, and just about spits it out, since it was still full of yeast (intentional over-pitch of a Belgian trappist yeast). I was enjoying it because I was mentally filtering out the yeast taste and getting to the Belgian esters, the amarillo hops, and the remants of the orange blossom honey flavors, where my wife tastes nothing but yeast cake. By all means, keep tasting it, but there is a lot of learning and experience that comes with drinking green or half-fermented beer.

Regarding sourness, there are different kinds of sour. I have tasted sourness that stems from yeast in suspension or green beer, which is a distinctly different type (but still similar ) of sourness compared to lactic acid (yogurt sourness, from lactobacillus) or vinegar sourness (acetic acid, from acetobacter contamination).

Right now, you are jumping in with both feet, which is great, but you are bound to make mistakes, so take good notes and learn from them - so far I have dumped three batches, at least one of which was salvageable (and probably two). See if you can find a local club, so you can share the passion and learn from each other.

Good luck, and happy brewing.
 

kh54s10

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One quick question, I had an OG of 1.052 and it was fermenting very hard for the first day or 2, now it has slowed down substantially and was at 1.033 yesterday and 1.031 today. Is it likely for it to finish at my target FG of 1.011 now, or has it already slowed down to the point where it is doubtfully going to get that low?
How long has this actually been. From when you first saw active fermentation to today? Some yeasts are a lot slower than others. Usually it is 3-5 days to hit FG. Sometimes longer. I have had a couple that were still actively fermenting at about 10 days.

I am not sure about a Kolsch. I have never brewed one. But, I say let it go for a while. Don't go by smell, some will smell bad while fermenting and taste great.
 

Kee

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Never worry about what a fermenting brew smells like, unless there is an obvious infection. I almost dumped a 5 gallon batch the first time I used Wyeast Forbidden Fruit. It stunk to high heaven (and took too long to clear) and turned out to be an especially tasty beer.

BTW, although many (if not most) of us have been guilty of obsessing how a batch will turn out, and it's especially hard to be patient starting out, taking gravity samples on day 2 of fermentation may give you the world record. I like to verify a krausen after pitching yeast (which in itself is unnecessary, but it's my beer and makes be feel better) then leave it alone for two or three weeks, depending on the recipe.
 

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One quick question, I had an OG of 1.052 and it was fermenting very hard for the first day or 2, now it has slowed down substantially and was at 1.033 yesterday and 1.031 today. Is it likely for it to finish at my target FG of 1.011 now, or has it already slowed down to the point where it is doubtfully going to get that low?
What are you taking gravity readings with?

In my experience with kolsch yeast, they stay in suspension and throw off your gravity readings.
Yeast will not radically alter gravity readings. Where did you get this one from?
 
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Semicole

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What are you taking gravity readings with?



Yeast will not radically alter gravity readings. Where did you get this one from?
I've been using the same refractometer throughout the whole process.
 

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That's the issue. You cannot get a final gravity reading with a refractometer. You need a hydrometer for the final gravity; the alcohol throws off the refractometer.
 

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I suspect water may have contributed to the issues on our first two brew's. Temp probably another depending on the yeast used and pitch rate.
I always ferment at the lower end of the recommended temp range for the yeast used. During active fermentation your temps could rise 5-8 degrees, After about 3-4 days I increase temps to 68 over a couple days and let it finish at that temp. I usually go two weeks sometimes three depending on the brew and time I have.
As one suggested, brew and forget it for 2-3 weeks then check gravity.
 
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Semicole

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That's the issue. You cannot get a final gravity reading with a refractometer. You need a hydrometer for the final gravity; the alcohol throws off the refractometer.
Really? So I can use a refractometer for the OG, but have to use a hydrometer for the FG? I had no idea.
 

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I chased down sour beer when I first started. I fermented in a plastic bucket with a plastic lid. Turns out beer had gotten underneath the rubber seal in the lid and was infecting every batch I brewed. Once I cleaned and sanitized the rubber seal I never had a problem.
 
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Semicole

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I chased down sour beer when I first started. I fermented in a plastic bucket with a plastic lid. Turns out beer had gotten underneath the rubber seal in the lid and was infecting every batch I brewed. Once I cleaned and sanitized the rubber seal I never had a problem.
Yeah I wish it was that simple for me, but this most recent batch is using a completely different fermenter, so I don't think that's the issue. I'm starting to wonder if this sourish smell I'm smelling though is just the smell of fermenting beer and I'm just paranoid because I smelled the same smell on my first batch the went horrible... hopefully.
 

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Really? So I can use a refractometer for the OG, but have to use a hydrometer for the FG? I had no idea.
Yes you need a hydrometer once any ETOH is present.

I just wanted to confirm that you are boiling your immersion chiller for the last 15-20 minutes as well.

You sound like your on the right track and you really can't count the 1st 2 brews you did since you knew they both had major issues. Wait on your 3rd and see. You can get a SO4 smell if the yeast is stressed but time does heal a lot with beer unless its growing bacteria or oxidized.

For your 4th you can try something a bit more forgiving than blondes and Kolsch ales. Both of those don't have any room for error and any off flavor will shine through in the finished product.
 

Bigdaddyale

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Yeah I wish it was that simple for me, but this most recent batch is using a completely different fermenter, so I don't think that's the issue. I'm starting to wonder if this sourish smell I'm smelling though is just the smell of fermenting beer and I'm just paranoid because I smelled the same smell on my first batch the went horrible... hopefully.
I just read through the whole thread and You don't think it's a lacto infection.That's good news.Do you belong to a brew club? Pass the beer around and see what other brewers think. Sit in on a few brews to watch and learn from some of the more experienced brewers.
 
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Semicole

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Yes you need a hydrometer once any ETOH is present.

I just wanted to confirm that you are boiling your immersion chiller for the last 15-20 minutes as well.

You sound like your on the right track and you really can't count the 1st 2 brews you did since you knew they both had major issues. Wait on your 3rd and see. You can get a SO4 smell if the yeast is stressed but time does heal a lot with beer unless its growing bacteria or oxidized.

For your 4th you can try something a bit more forgiving than blondes and Kolsch ales. Both of those don't have any room for error and any off flavor will shine through in the finished product.
Yes I am boiling the wort chiller for the last 15 mins of the boil.

I had no idea about the hydrometer, I will try that tonight and see what my readings are.

Would an IPA be a better one to try? I'm not a huge dark beer fan, especially at this time of the year.
 

V-Fib

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An IPA will hide more unless it's oxygen or light but that doesn't sound like your issue. The probolem your going to face is that you now have a taste and smell in your head and your brain will "make" you taste it. Hopefully you have some unbias tasters. Same issue happened to me when I changed my beer lines and got a straight up plastic taste in my blonde. It took about 3 weeks after a 2nd line change before I couldn't taste it even tho no one else could.

Hopefully your 3rd turns out good. Its a great hobby.
 
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Semicole

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An IPA will hide more unless it's oxygen or light but that doesn't sound like your issue. The probolem your going to face is that you now have a taste and smell in your head and your brain will "make" you taste it. Hopefully you have some unbias tasters. Same issue happened to me when I changed my beer lines and got a straight up plastic taste in my blonde. It took about 3 weeks after a 2nd line change before I couldn't taste it even tho no one else could.

Hopefully your 3rd turns out good. Its a great hobby.
Yeah I think that's exactly what I'm facing right now. I even think that this smell might possibly be a normal smell in fermentation and because the first failed batch had the smell I'm just obsessed and paranoid about it, so I'm smelling it and immediately scared that the batch is ruined.
 

deadwolfbones

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Small correction: You can use your refractometer to get a FG. You just have to use a calculator that accounts for the alcohol present in fermented beer. Check part II here: https://www.brewersfriend.com/refractometer-calculator/

With your 1.052 OG and 1.031 SG (7.8 Brix), you're looking at about 1.019 in actual gravity. Still a few points to go, but much more reasonable than 1.031.
 

mirthfuldragon

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Yeast will not radically alter gravity readings. Where did you get this one from?
I perhaps should have been a little clearer. In my (albeit limited) experience with kolsch yeast, late-fermentation gravity readings skew a bit high due to the poor flocculation. My last kolsch read at 1.020 instead of 1.014, until I cold-crashed the sample. I drew the sample from the fermentor spigot, so it was really turbid with yeast and trub. I have not experience anything similar with other yeasts, but I have also gotten better at taking and reading gravity samples since then. Lots of things going on there, of course, but a muddy sample does not a reliable indicator make.
 
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Semicole

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Quit taking gravity readings so soon. Keep the fermenter sealed up and let the yeast work.

Have you read "How to Brew" by Palmer yet? If not, I suggest you do.
I've been using a spigot/refractometer, so I'm just releasing a couple ounces into a small container, but like I said I'm just paranoid over the smell. I'll ry to calm it down with the samples goin forward though.
 
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Semicole

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Small correction: You can use your refractometer to get a FG. You just have to use a calculator that accounts for the alcohol present in fermented beer. Check part II here: https://www.brewersfriend.com/refractometer-calculator/

With your 1.052 OG and 1.031 SG (7.8 Brix), you're looking at about 1.019 in actual gravity. Still a few points to go, but much more reasonable than 1.031.
That does sound much better than 1.031. I was worried my fermentation wasn't going to complete, that's a reasonable SG for 4 days post fermentation though I think, so I feel better.
 

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If you want, you can post your whole process in detail for us to look at. Be extremely detailed, exact equipment used for anything that touches the water/wort/yeast/beer. Temperatures? Do you dechlorinate all water, even sanitizing water?, Etc. It might take you a while to type out but i would happily look at it.

I can see your other batches ruined by the tap water, a lot of new brewers make that mistake. Yeast being slow to ferment or not finishing out could be a pitching issue (not enough, not enough O2, temperatures are off, etc). Sour could be tricky but unless youve had a noticeable infection at this point im going to go ahead and say probably not an infection as long as you are reasonably sanitizing.

Also, ive been brewing for almost 10 years now. I cant say a single batch has smelled "good" during fermentation. It definitely doesnt smell anything like the finished product, thats for sure. The one you just made has the potential to turn out just fine.
 

balrog

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"Pretend that everything you touch is infected with ebola and there are bad juju cells floating in the air around you."
+1,000,000

Lastly... Unless the [post-fermentation] smell can knock a buzzard off a crap wagon (obviously infected or soured) or it is growing some weird mold or powdery substance, keg it up, give it some time to feel the love, then taste it with carbonation and at the right temp. You will be surprised how much it changes. With your kolsch, keep in mind that type of beer really needs a cooler fermentation (even though it's an ale) and it really needs a few weeks or more in the keg/bottles to be "right"."

Also, some Kolsch yeasts are "wineyer" (white wine, sour-ish) than others. And they mellow with time.

Cleaning, iodophor-ing, 500ppm bleaching, and cleaning again, and Starsaning can be your friend. Painful friend, but friend. And even then, only use the questionable tubing, spigots, autosiphons on batches you don't care if they cross infect. Or replace all plastic/vinyl.
 

jjw5015

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I perhaps should have been a little clearer. In my (albeit limited) experience with kolsch yeast, late-fermentation gravity readings skew a bit high due to the poor flocculation. My last kolsch read at 1.020 instead of 1.014, until I cold-crashed the sample. I drew the sample from the fermentor spigot, so it was really turbid with yeast and trub. I have not experience anything similar with other yeasts, but I have also gotten better at taking and reading gravity samples since then. Lots of things going on there, of course, but a muddy sample does not a reliable indicator make.
Did you bring it back to room temp after cold crashing? Temperature adjustments need to be made for gravity readings.
 
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