My stout has a sharp "bite", is my water the culprit?

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Jan 16, 2013
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So I just tried a bottle of my chocolate oatmeal stout again tonight and sadly, had to dump my glass down the drain again :(

It has a sharp (astringent?) bite that seems to be coming from the carbonation. I don't think it's infected, it's not a sour taste. In fact, it's really not a "taste"... It's kind of hard to explain, except it has a sharp bite to it.

It was a partial mash Oatmeal Stout that I bottled on May 5th.

Brewing went prettly smoothly, mashed at 152 for an hour, sparge out temp was 170, ferm temps was about 64 degrees. Two weeks in primary and two weeks in secondary.

I must admit, I really don't know anything about water chemistry and thought using Poland Spring bottled water would be the better than my tap water. Come to find out, PS water is soft and not very good for a stout.

Could this be my problem of why I'm getting this taste? Will more time make it drinkable?

Any help is very appreciated.
Any comments on the extract you used? Also you have used roasted barley before?

I don't think the water would matter, It could perhaps be more acidic than you're used to though. I can't imagine it being that bad.
I'm not so certain the water would be the culprit either since you are using bottled water. Does the astringency change as the beer warms?

I would also suspect the extract. How fresh was it? Was it canned or bottled in jugs?
Sometimes beers like chocolate stouts take a minimum of 3 months in the bottle at room temp before they're good to drink.

I'm enjoying/sharing an excellent milk chocolate stout right now (brewed in February) that was that way. Early on, it tasted like it had some soy sauce in it.
If the water was not alkaline enough to counter the acidity of the dark malts then that could be a possibility for the sharpness. Without seeing the water profile and the malt bill we can only speculate but I wouldn't count it out as a suspect.
Your pH may have fallen too low do to the very dark malts. The low pH will taste sour. You might want to include some calcium carbonate or pickling lime the next time you try the recipe.

Don't know if it'd work or not but you could dissolve some pickling lime in a small amount of water and add it to the brew to raise the pH and see if that helps (calcium carbonate won't dissolve in neutral water and the powder would cause your carbonated beer to foam over. It will work in a mash though)
How long did you leave the bottle in the fridge?

Put a few in the back of the fridge for a week before tasting. Shoot, even a couple days make a difference.
I'm going to bet that aging it for minimum of 3-6 months before drinking will solve your problem
In hoping it will improve with more age. I said to myself, if it doesn't taste good I won't open another till sept...lets see if I can hold off that long.

I'm thinking the extract is fresh, I bought the kit from northern brewer. Here's the grain bill: 2.5 lb Maris otter, .5 lb black malt, .5 lb Eng dark crystal and .5 lb flaked oats. Extract: 3.15 lb dk LME (in a tub with screw off lid), 1 lb dk DME.

It was my first stout (and PM) so I'm not sure what to expect when it comes to aging. Definitely not a sour taste, more of a seltzer-like bite. Is this normal for a green beer.
I've bought some extract in the plastic milk jugs that Northern Brewer sells. Very unimpressive.

How long ago did you brew? I try not to pass judgement on a beer until 1.5 months after brew date
I brewed it on March 29th and bottled May 5th. The last two weeks I had in then secondary with the 4 oz of cacao nibs.

I'm hoping its just green like people are saying and will need 3 months (min) to condition.
sorry to say, but if you brewed this back in march, its not 'green' anymore. that's not to say the sharpness won't fade with more time, but its not a result of being 'green'.

what yeast & ferment temps?
And a FYI. If water is the problem then age it all you want but it will still probably have the same sharpness due to the acidic mash.
I'm VERY far from knowledgeable... still very new... but the way the OP described the "taste" made me think of something right away that I don't think has been mentioned yet.
Could this be over-carbonation? I've got a batch that I'm enjoying now that I think has been over carbed. When I drink it, it has an initial "bite" from a little too much carbonation. It's not a taste, more of a sensation, and beyond that, the beer tastes great.
The OP said the beer had to be dumped, so I wouldn't think that simple over carbing would result in a beer that is THAT undrinkable, but I just thought I'd throw it out there.
Yes, the "taste" is more of a seltzer-like over carbonation sensation. The kit came with 5 oz of priming sugar that I dissolved in boiling water and mixed well (but gently) In my bottling bucket. The yeast was the wyeast 1945 neobritanica and fermented around 64 degrees.

Hmmm, looking at the instruction sheet, it says to mix 2/3 cup of priming sugar. Not sure if 2/3 cup is the same quantity as the .5 oz packet it came with but I know I used all .5 oz. I'll have to check into this...

As far as an over acidic ph for my mash, what causes it? Is this a factor caused by the water profile?

Thx to everyone helping me out here by the way.
Not sure if this is a factor but someone mentioned to put it in the fridge for a few days, I only had it in for 6 hours.
If you had 5 gallons, used the whole 5 ounces and 64*F was the max temp during ferment, you carbed to about 2.7 volumes. That's just a touch higher than normal, but shouldn't cause any problems.

Refrigerating 3+ days helps to settle the yeast out and firm up the bottle trub. Kind of like a mini cold crash.
Pelican521 said:
As far as an over acidic ph for my mash, what causes it? Is this a factor caused by the water profile?

Thx to everyone helping me out here by the way.

In general, dark malts acidity the mash which drives the mash ph lower. This is a generalization as every malt is different.

Your water has to be alkaline enough to counter this and keep your mash ph in the low to mid 5's. A low ph in the mash can make the beer have a "sharpness" to it. Like I said in a previous post, we need your grain bill and water profile to definatively say that this is the problem, but I urge you to research this a bit further. At the very least you can brew this again and test your ph in the mash to see if it is a bit below 5.2ish.
It has a sharp (astringent?) bite that seems to be coming from the carbonation. I don't think it's infected, it's not a sour taste. In fact, it's really not a "taste"... It's kind of hard to explain, except it has a sharp bite to it.

Do you feel it only on your Tongue OR it also comes through your Nose ?!

Hard to say hector, from what I recall most on the tongue.

I was able to get the water profile for Poland spring:

Poland springs water profile

My grain bill was posted in an earlier reply of mine.

I did a little researching on mash ph as well. I had no idea about it and of course the instructions don't mention it either :(

Anyway, I'll chalk this up to a learning curve and hope it mellows out by month 3 (or longer).

Can you tell by the water profile and my grain bill if the ph was off. My initial concern was the water being too soft for a stout, is that true as well?
softer water than you'd generally want in a stout, but these calculators say your pH should've been fine. they're just best estimates tho so its possible it could've dropped lower

when you say you fermented around 64F, was that ambient or wort temp? even if ambient, it likely didn't jump high enough to be an issue, but just ruling it out

also, did the sharpness exist before bottling too?
If it was kegged, I think you could boil some sodium bicarbonate in water and add that directly.

Mashing dark grains without enough base grains will ALWAYS need sodium bicarbonate or other PH adjustment.

I err on the side of caution (adding a little more than recommended) and have never had a stout come out too "base".
Dcp27, thanks for those links, I have a lot to learn about water chemistry and mash ph and those links will be a step in the right direction.

64 was my ambient temps and I don't think it had this taste at the time of bottling.

I plan on brewing a nut brown ale this upcoming weekend and want to make sure I have the proper water chemistry and mash ph for the partial mash.
I had to pick up a few things at my lbs yesterday and talked with a guy that seemed pretty knowledgable about water profiles and mash ph.

He said the Poland spring water is a bit soft for a stout and with my grain bill, the mash ph would have been close enough that I shouldn't have this bite problem.

Then I told him how my cacao nibs soaked in vodka for a week before going into my secondary and that got his attention. I'm told the nibs can have a very bitter taste, and left in vodka that long will bring that bitterness forward and is most likely the cause of my problem.

Any thoughts?