Mystery Off Flavor......Can You Diagnose It?

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

Help Support Homebrew Talk:

mthelm85

Well-Known Member
Joined
Apr 18, 2011
Messages
178
Reaction score
3
Location
Yakima
I've been posting in the past few days about this problem that I've had on two batches now, a Saison and an IPA. Both beers tasted great on bottling day but, after 7 - 10 days carbing, they had this really bad, indescribable off flavor that is really noticeable when you exhale. Other posters have mentioned that they've had the same mysterious off flavor and people have suggested the usual: green beer and an infection.

I'm convinced that it's not either of those two. I decided to take a bottle of the IPA and pour it into a glass and then swirl it around for about 15 minutes straight, until there weren't many bubbles coming up and it was much warmer. After tasting it, this mystery off flavor was barely noticeable. It's still there, but just as a hint rather than a kick to the nuts. In fact, my wife said she couldn't taste it at all in the flat warm beer that just 20 minutes earlier tasted like ****. She was amazed that it was the same beer.

These two beers are the only two that I've aimed for relatively high levels of carbonation (2.5 and 3.0 volumes) and overshot the desired carbonation level on both. I'm thinking that maybe the off flavor is from carbonic acid?

Or maybe it's some other flavor that's just not as noticeable in flat, warm beer?
 
Joined
Jul 28, 2009
Messages
4,877
Reaction score
260
Location
Keller, Texas
Usually when you warm beer the flavors become more obvious, not less. I don't think your carbonation is the issue. I have sparkling mead carbed to 6.0 volumes and it does not have an off-flavor. Carbonic acid will make it bitter but I would suspect the carbonic bite is making the off flavor more obvious, especially with a colder beer where some other flavors are suppressed by the temperature.

Personally I think you still need to wait another week or so and see if the flavor persists.

Can you give some description of what the flavor is like?
 
OP
M

mthelm85

Well-Known Member
Joined
Apr 18, 2011
Messages
178
Reaction score
3
Location
Yakima
No, unfortunately it's one of those flavors that you just have to taste, it doesn't taste like anything else I've ever tasted....
 

JefeTheVol

Well-Known Member
Joined
Aug 16, 2009
Messages
584
Reaction score
21
Location
Memphis, TN
Your off flavor definately might be "green beer"...and you also said that after 7-10 days of carbonation you overcarbed the beer. Those two statements(7-10 days + overcarbing) generally do not fit in the same sentence unless you are force carbing. It takes 3 weeks at room temp to sufficiently prime a beer using the traditional method so after 7-10 days I doubt they were overcarbed (even if you mis-measured priming sugar).

Can you post any more info about the beer? Ferm temp, mash temp the likes. Was it a AG or Extract/PM brew. Did your grain mash/steep temp exceed 170 degrees? Etc.

And all off flavors can be described, you just have to think about it and write down all the adjectives that come to mind. Im not saying describing off flavors is easy, but to reach a sufficient diagnosis over the internet you will need to be as descriptive as possible. Describing something as "you just gotta taste it" will not help anyone on HBT figure out your problem.

All in all, we are all here to help but more info is required
-Jefe-
 
OP
M

mthelm85

Well-Known Member
Joined
Apr 18, 2011
Messages
178
Reaction score
3
Location
Yakima
Your off flavor definately might be "green beer"...and you also said that after 7-10 days of carbonation you overcarbed the beer. Those two statements(7-10 days + overcarbing) generally do not fit in the same sentence unless you are force carbing. It takes 3 weeks at room temp to sufficiently prime a beer using the traditional method so after 7-10 days I doubt they were overcarbed (even if you mis-measured priming sugar).

Can you post any more info about the beer? Ferm temp, mash temp the likes. Was it a AG or Extract/PM brew. Did your grain mash/steep temp exceed 170 degrees? Etc.

And all off flavors can be described, you just have to think about it and write down all the adjectives that come to mind. Im not saying describing off flavors is easy, but to reach a sufficient diagnosis over the internet you will need to be as descriptive as possible. Describing something as "you just gotta taste it" will not help anyone on HBT figure out your problem.

All in all, we are all here to help but more info is required
-Jefe-
All of my beers are usually fully carbed in 10 days. I store them at a constant 75 degrees and it's only taken longer than that for my Scottish Ale that was in secondary for 1 month.

Here's the info about my IPA that has this problem: All Grain, Mashed @ 154, Fermented at 67 degrees until the krausen fell off, then slowly bumped it up to 72, didn't do a mashout, double-batch sparged with 165 degree water. Primary for 8 days, then moved to secondary for 3 weeks, dry hopped the last week of secondary with 1 oz. whole dried EK Goldings.

The off flavor could best be described as bitter, almost tastes like warm cheap malt liquor (Colt 45), it's really noticeable when you exhale, and it covers up the other flavors. As I mentioned in the OP, when I warmed the beer up and shook it until it was flat, the flavor nearly disappeared. Crazy, huh?

I was convinced with the Saison that it was just green beer because the flavor subsided significantly after 3 weeks but never went away (the beer didn't last much longer than that). I do 2 - 4 week secondaries with all my beers and I've never had this issue with any other beer. Usually after 1 - 2 weeks in primary, then 2 - 4 in secondary my beers all taste good as soon as they're carbed up. I've only had this issue with these 2 beers and I don't get it. This is my first IPA though and the Saison was my first as well so maybe these styles just need longer than the malty beers I usually brew. The part that has me so stumped is that the beer tastes great when it's flat. That tells me that the off flavor is either being produced by the carbonation process, or it's already there just not noticeable until carbonated. My process is the same for all my beers though, hasn't changed. The only difference is that these two beers are the only two non-dark beers I've made. It has me scared to make any more non-dark beers which sucks because I like a good IPA and Saison every now and then!
 

unionrdr

Homebrewer, author & air gun collector
Lifetime Supporter
Joined
Feb 19, 2011
Messages
39,152
Reaction score
3,797
Location
Sheffield
They likely needed more time in primary after a stable FG is reached to clean up off flavors & settle out more. I always do this,& those sort of flavors are gone. don't be in too much of a hurry to rack to secondary. Off flavors will likely persist when doing so. That's another reason many of us don't secondary.:mug:
 
OP
M

mthelm85

Well-Known Member
Joined
Apr 18, 2011
Messages
178
Reaction score
3
Location
Yakima
They likely needed more time in primary after a stable FG is reached to clean up off flavors & settle out more. I always do this,& those sort of flavors are gone. don't be in too much of a hurry to rack to secondary. Off flavors will likely persist when doing so. That's another reason many of us don't secondary.:mug:
I'm glad you brought that up because I hadn't really considered that. By far, my Scottish Ale is the best that I've made to date and I left it in primary for 2 weeks and secondary for 4 weeks.

I assumed it didn't really matter though because after 1 week there is still plenty of yeast in suspension so it all gets sucked through to the secondary and should be able to continue cleaning up, right?

I just like secondaries because I get clearer beer that way. I leave most of the trub/yeast cake behind in the primary and then more settles out in the secondary so when I rack to the bottling bucket I get the clearest beer possible. For that purpose though it wouldn't matter if I did 3 week primary, 1 week secondary, etc., so I think I'm going to try that to see if it makes any difference.
 

JefeTheVol

Well-Known Member
Joined
Aug 16, 2009
Messages
584
Reaction score
21
Location
Memphis, TN
They likely needed more time in primary after a stable FG is reached to clean up off flavors & settle out more. I always do this,& those sort of flavors are gone. don't be in too much of a hurry to rack to secondary. Off flavors will likely persist when doing so. That's another reason many of us don't secondary.:mug:
+1
I think that would be a good place to start. And you (OP) must have magic bottles to carb so fast, mine never take less than 3 weeks no matter what the temp. Can you send me some? ;)
 

unionrdr

Homebrewer, author & air gun collector
Lifetime Supporter
Joined
Feb 19, 2011
Messages
39,152
Reaction score
3,797
Location
Sheffield
My ales are typically 3-4 weeks in primary,since it takes up to 3.5 weeks to get down to a stable FG. Then 3-5 days extra to clean up & settle out more. A look in my gallery will show you how clear they are when I bloody poured it right. Or it's not super hoppy. No clearing agents either...all natural.
 

arch1tect

Well-Known Member
Joined
Nov 1, 2009
Messages
281
Reaction score
2
Location
NJ
How did you measure the temp of your fermentation?
 

TheMan

Well-Known Member
Joined
May 8, 2009
Messages
2,957
Reaction score
341
Location
Illinois
It's possible that as you warm it up the flavors and aromas are opening up as well, thus covering the off flavor that is noticeable in the cold beer, which hides flavors.

Could be fusels. Check the off flavor listings for anything that matches what you are tasting.
 
OP
M

mthelm85

Well-Known Member
Joined
Apr 18, 2011
Messages
178
Reaction score
3
Location
Yakima
arch1tect said:
How did you measure the temp of your fermentation?
I ferment in a chest freezer with a Johnson A419. The probe is taped to the side, covered by a gel pack, then covered in bubble wrap to further insulate it from the outside air in the freezer. I've pulled beer from the fermenter to verify the temp. when I first started using it and it was almost dead on. I know temp. control isn't my issue, I'm not getting any of the typical off flavors that arise from fermenting too warm, this off flavor is very different.
 
OP
M

mthelm85

Well-Known Member
Joined
Apr 18, 2011
Messages
178
Reaction score
3
Location
Yakima
TheMan said:
It's possible that as you warm it up the flavors and aromas are opening up as well, thus covering the off flavor that is noticeable in the cold beer, which hides flavors.

Could be fusels. Check the off flavor listings for anything that matches what you are tasting.
I've done that and it doesn't match any of them. I've searched extensively for off flavors and their causes and haven't come up with anything.
 
OP
M

mthelm85

Well-Known Member
Joined
Apr 18, 2011
Messages
178
Reaction score
3
Location
Yakima
gr8shandini said:
What was your OG? Sounds like it could just be alcohol.
It finished at 6.7% ABV but it doesn't taste like alcohol.....
 

gr8shandini

Well-Known Member
Joined
May 10, 2009
Messages
799
Reaction score
56
Location
Philly
Yeah, 6.7% wouldn't be enough to really taste the alcohol. Fusels are the only think I can think of, but it sounds like you have your process nailed down enough to to avoid them.

The only other thing I can think of is if you have chloramines in your water. I haven't had that problem, but I've heard that they can have all kinds of bad effects on beer. Did you recently change your water source?
 
OP
M

mthelm85

Well-Known Member
Joined
Apr 18, 2011
Messages
178
Reaction score
3
Location
Yakima
gr8shandini said:
Yeah, 6.7% wouldn't be enough to really taste the alcohol. Fusels are the only think I can think of, but it sounds like you have your process nailed down enough to to avoid them.

The only other thing I can think of is if you have chloramines in your water. I haven't had that problem, but I've heard that they can have all kinds of bad effects on beer. Did you recently change your water source?
I started using my tap water but the Saison I made that had this exact same problem was spring water and the brown ale I made with my tap water turned out really, really good so it's not my water. The off flavor subsided (but never went away) after 3 weeks or so in the Saison and I ended up drinking the rest of it shortly after that so I'm going to let this one age for about 6 weeks and see if it's just stubborn greenness that is causing the flavor. At this point it's only been bottled for 13 days so it's possible that the carbing process just greened it all over again and now it needs time to mature. I don't understand why it hasn't happened in my other beers or why it tastes fine warm and flat but no two batches are ever the same so we'll see.
 

unionrdr

Homebrewer, author & air gun collector
Lifetime Supporter
Joined
Feb 19, 2011
Messages
39,152
Reaction score
3,797
Location
Sheffield
Ah,there's part of the problem. It's only 13 days old,it just needs more time to mature. I've been saying lately that beer carbonates faster than it matures. A personal observation I wanted to pass along to get folks thinking more & freaking out less.
 

cwheel

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jan 24, 2011
Messages
208
Reaction score
5
Location
Charlottesville
Another test you could do would be to pour another one, swirl it for 15 minutes like before (therreby warming it up), and then put it back in the refrigerator for an hour. It will still be flat, but if all of a sudden you can taste the off flavor again, you have another data point (ie temperature is impacting the perception of the flavor). If you can't taste it when cold, then you know the carbontation or the removal of possible aroma (from swishing) helped fix it. Still don't know if you'll have answers, but it might help.
 
OP
M

mthelm85

Well-Known Member
Joined
Apr 18, 2011
Messages
178
Reaction score
3
Location
Yakima
unionrdr said:
Ah,there's part of the problem. It's only 13 days old,it just needs more time to mature. I've been saying lately that beer carbonates faster than it matures. A personal observation I wanted to pass along to get folks thinking more & freaking out less.
Yeah, and I'm still open to that possibility it's just that my other beers have always tasted good as soon as they carbed up and it tastes fine when it's warm and flat so it doesn't make sense.....I'm going to try a cold flat one as mentioned above too see if the flavor is actually more noticeable when cold.
 

unionrdr

Homebrewer, author & air gun collector
Lifetime Supporter
Joined
Feb 19, 2011
Messages
39,152
Reaction score
3,797
Location
Sheffield
Applying the same techniques used on other brews may not work on a new one with different characters. Some need more time to mature than others. Some of mine aren't good til 5 or 6 weeks down the road. My IPA was carbed great in ten or eleven days flat. But the flavor didn't catch up til 5 or 6 weeks,as one example.
 
OP
M

mthelm85

Well-Known Member
Joined
Apr 18, 2011
Messages
178
Reaction score
3
Location
Yakima
unionrdr said:
Applying the same techniques used on other brews may not work on a new one with different characters. Some need more time to mature than others. Some of mine aren't good til 5 or 6 weeks down the road. My IPA was carbed great in ten or eleven days flat. But the flavor didn't catch up til 5 or 6 weeks,as one example.
Hopefully that's the case because as it is now, it's not enjoyable unless I let it go flat lol
 
OP
M

mthelm85

Well-Known Member
Joined
Apr 18, 2011
Messages
178
Reaction score
3
Location
Yakima
UPDATE: So it's definitely the carbonation that is either causing, or just making noticeable, this off flavor. The beer has been bottled for 16 days now and I tried one flat and warm (70 degrees) and then chilled the same flat one to 45 degrees and the off flavor is barely noticeable. However, when the beer is carbonated, either warm or cold, the off flavor is really noticeable.
 

LCTitan

Well-Known Member
Joined
Aug 8, 2010
Messages
100
Reaction score
2
Location
NW Indiana
We leave all of our beers in the primary for four weeks (minimum) and wait three weeks after bottling before we put a couple in the frig to cool down for our first taste test. Works great for us!
 
Top