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Off flavor - cannot figure it out

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BirchBeer

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Looking for some suggestions. All of my brews have the same off flavor. I cannot identify the cause, and it is driving me crazy. The taste is almost a meaty flavor. It is not very strong, but it is in everything I brew - both all grain (BIAB), and extract. The flavor is not present in the sweet wort, but is noticeable after fermentation is complete. I always use liquid yeast and a starter. I control my pitching temp and my fermentation temp using a fermentation fridge and thermo well. I thoroughly clean all equipment with unscented dish soap and then sterilize anything that could touch the cooled wort (glass carboy, airlock, siphon, etc.) with Star San. I’ve replaced all my lines as well. I just cannot figure it out. I thought it might be a chlorine or chlorimide issue with my tap water (I live in Oakland, CA), so, I started using bottled water (a combo of filtered and distilled w a gypsum addition for PH). While it does not make my beers undrinkable, the off flavor persist across all beer types (ales, lagers, hefes...). Unfortunately, I don’t have a better description of the funky flavor, only to say it doesn’t really match any of the other off flavor descriptions I’ve previously read about (e.g. not really creamed corn, metallic, etc). In a multi choice exercise, my wife says she could see the off flavor as being described as medicinal, but that this was a bit of a stretch. I’ll try just about anything to get this out of my brews! Any help would be great.
 
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Bigdaddyale

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This might not be what's causing your problems but for years I had off-flavor that tasted chemically on the back of the tongue- I would recirculate boiling wort thru my pump, plate chiller, and lines to sterilize them for the last 2-5 minutes of the boil. Turns out the cheap PVC hose lines I bought at Home Depot are not rated for boiling liquids. Once I changed over to silicone lines the problem went away
 

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Interested to see what comments you receive. I can't say I've experienced exactly the same, but some of this sounds familiar, so I'll offer the following:
- Move away from dish soap to make sure you have no residue. I use PBW; there are alternatives but I still would not recommend dish detergent.
- The comment on hoses is interesting. I use Santoprene for high temp liquids and recirc PBW at 165*F for cleaning. Regular clear PVC is no-go for me.
- I associate "meaty" flavors with yeast problems, mostly underpitching or too long on the yeast after fermentation is complete.
- Your wife's comment about medicinal reminds me of a problem I had with residual chloramine interacting with hops.

Hope this helps.
Tom
 

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If you said your water had that flavor I would ask you about iron content but you did say you switched water sources.

What do you use for a chiller?
 
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BirchBeer

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thanks for the suggestions. Much appreciated. I use an immersion chiller.
 
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BirchBeer

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Interested to see what comments you receive. I can't say I've experienced exactly the same, but some of this sounds familiar, so I'll offer the following:
- Move away from dish soap to make sure you have no residue. I use PBW; there are alternatives but I still would not recommend dish detergent.
- The comment on hoses is interesting. I use Santoprene for high temp liquids and recirc PBW at 165*F for cleaning. Regular clear PVC is no-go for me.
- I associate "meaty" flavors with yeast problems, mostly underpitching or too long on the yeast after fermentation is complete.
- Your wife's comment about medicinal reminds me of a problem I had with residual chloramine interacting with hops.

Hope this helps.
Tom
Ive tries my own starters as well as the canned kind. I also use a an oxygen tank and a defusing stone. So I would be surprised if it were a under pitching problem. Will certainly try switching out my initial cleaning solution.
 

Deadalus

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So as far as something funky possibly getting in I am thinking post boil. Probably not your pot but are there any fittings on it and have you broken them down completely? Taken the valves apart? Pump with a valve? If not, soak in hot PBW.

How does your cooled wort get to the carboy? Pump? Open a valve into a funnel? Plastic funnel maybe? Do you use a mesh screen of some kind to catch hops?

How do you clean your aeration stone?
 
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BirchBeer

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So as far as something funky possibly getting in I am thinking post boil. Probably not your pot but are there any fittings on it and have you broken them down completely? Taken the valves apart? Pump with a valve? If not, soak in hot PBW.

How does your cooled wort get to the carboy? Pump? Open a valve into a funnel? Plastic funnel maybe? Do you use a mesh screen of some kind to catch hops?

How do you clean your aeration stone?
I am also assuming it would have to be post boil.

No valves on my boil kettle.

I’ve had the off flavor with several diFferent wort transfer methods. Once I poured the wort through a strainer into the car boy; the other times I used an auto siphon (no electric pump).

Given the fact that I’ve pretty much replaced all the equipment (except my boil kettle) at some point in the process, Im thinking it has to be an ingredient issue, but I’m really just guessing.
 
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BirchBeer

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I clean the aeration stone by soaking it in regular hot tap water, then again in Star San. But I only added the aeration stone during the last 2 brews and this problem pre dated that.
 

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I started using bottled water (a combo of filtered and distilled
Why using a combo of water?
What's the source of the filtered water?
How is it filtered?

Have you tried brewing with 100% distilled or RO water, to rule out the water as the cause?
Some packaged water is chlorinated, beware!

If there's any chlorine or swimming pool smell in the water, it is caused by chlorine or chloramines and should be removed with Campden/K-Meta before brewing. Stirring in a pinch of K-Meta or 1/4 crushed Campden tablet is enough to dechlorinate 5 gallons of water. If chlorine/chloramines aren't removed, chlorophenols can be produced during fermentation, even during the boil.

How do you make your yeast starters? How much DME : water? Stir plate?
Do the starters have any meaty smell to them when they're done? Any other smells?

Meaty or even burnt rubber flavors and aromas can be from old, autolyzed (dead) yeast. Think of the smell or taste of Vegemite or Marmite, or bouillon cubes.

Which yeasts are you using?

You're mentioning using Gypsum for pH control. How much? Are you using a water calculator?
Gypsum is a mineral, adding Calcium and Sulfate to your brewing water, which is generally good. But it doesn't change the pH much. An acid (Phosphoric or Lactic) is typically used to lower the pH, and used only in the mash water (and sparge water) of all grain or partial mash brews.

Do you mashout? At what temps?
Do you sparge, if so how and at what temps?

Have you had any signs of infection in your yeast starters or fermented beer?
What kind of fermenters are you using?
 

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Have you made any extract brews, and if so did they too have that off flavour? If you haven't done any I would suggest doing it to eliminate water, cleaning, fermentation and post-fermentation problems.
 

wsmith1625

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What temperature do you pitch your yeast and what temp do you Fermentations at? I know you use temperature control and and immersion chiller, but it hasn't been asked yet.
 

bracconiere

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sorry if this has been asked allready. the comment of replacing your lines sounds like you keg? if so what about the o-rings? including the ones on the dip tubes, and possibly even the poppets....

edit: and if kegging, dirty taps?
 
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seatazzz

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I've had some issues with autolysed yeast in the past few months, and it does give off a medicinal, almost bandaid flavor, that can be mistaken for chlorine/chloramine in the strike/sparge water. It can be caused by overpitching as mentioned above (FYI do NOT overpitch Kveik yeast!!). Basically, it's dumping so much yeast into a batch so that not all of them find enough to eat, and therefore die, not just go dormant. Leaving the beer on an autolysed yeast cake only compounds the issue. There are yeast calculators out there (Mr Malty is a good one) that might help.
 
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With what?
Persistent off flavor reminds me of the nasty effect on water/ice from the cheap plastic line the fridge installers used. Copper line fixed that. Had a similar thing with beer lines in my kegerator. Barrier tubing seems to have fixed that too. So I second Island Lizard's question: what kind of tubing brings your wort to its destination? Other plasticky contact? (like bracconiere was suggesting)

Meaty, though... hmmmm. Tongues differ, but that doesn't strike a familiar note for me. Best of luck tracking this down!
 

khannon

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My gut response on "meaty" was yeast.. Overpitch(Alot) or over pressure(not likely at a homebrew scale), or significantly over temp after primary fermentation, or something else that cause the yeast to cry out as if millions of voices suddenly went silent(as happened on Alderaan(sp?))

Sometimes oxidized can present as "meaty" if you have never chewed on wet cardboard(it gets wet as you chew it..), but have a few severely oxidized beers, and they distinction should become evident.
 
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BirchBeer

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Thanks for the suggestions. See responses below.

Why using a combo of water? Mostly as another means of lowering Ph
What's the source of the filtered water? Grocery store have used arrowhead and generic brand filtered water still get the off flavor.
How is it filtered? Really not sure.

Have you tried brewing with 100% distilled or RO water, to rule out the water as the cause? Not yet. Haven’t got a handle on mineral addition yet but will probably move in that direction. Do you think this will help?
Some packaged water is chlorinated, beware! Am going to try Camden tabs next brew. Just seems strange that I’d get the exact same off flavor with 3 different water sources.

If there's any chlorine or swimming pool smell in the water, it is caused by chlorine or chloramines and should be removed with Campden/K-Meta before brewing. Stirring in a pinch of K-Meta or 1/4 crushed Campden tablet is enough to dechlorinate 5 gallons of water. If chlorine/chloramines aren't removed, chlorophenols can be produced during fermentation, even during the boil.

How do you make your yeast starters? How much DME : water? Stir plate? have tried a couple different methods. first with about 0.5-1 cup dme (depending on batch size) into boiling water to 10 mins stirring. Otherwise, I’ve used the stater in a can the last couple of times. I do not have a stir plate. So I aerate by swirling as much as possible. Note that the off taste predated my switch to using starters.
Do the starters have any meaty smell to them when they're done? Any other smells? Not that I’ve perceived. Perhaps I’ll taste a little in my next batch.

Meaty or even burnt rubber flavors and aromas can be from old, autolyzed (dead) yeast. Think of the smell or taste of Vegemite or Marmite, or bouillon cubes. Hadn’t thought of these comparisons, will have to try side by side the next time I get my hands on some Vegemite (tough to get here in the states)

Which yeasts are you using? all sorts, most recently white labs London Ale Yeast, Wyeast Weihenstephan Weizen yeast.

You're mentioning using Gypsum for pH control. How much? 1-2 teaspoons Are you using a water calculator? no
Gypsum is a mineral, adding Calcium and Sulfate to your brewing water, which is generally good. But it doesn't change the pH much. An acid (Phosphoric or Lactic) is typically used to lower the pH, and used only in the mash water (and sparge water) of all grain or partial mash brews. Am def moving to lactic acid now. ph has typically been high, but still in the 5.2-5.4 range.

Do you mashout? At what temps? Yes 170 I use BIAB method and I use a recirculating sous vide wand to hit and maintain mash and mash out temps.
Do you sparge, if so how and at what temps? No SPARGE BIAB.

Have you had any signs of infection in your yeast starters or fermented beer? Not that I know of. no visible or olfactory signs though I might try and taste my starter next time before pitching just to check for off flavors.
What kind of fermenters are you using? Big mouth glass carboy

Thanks again for your help.
 
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BirchBeer

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I've had some issues with autolysed yeast in the past few months, and it does give off a medicinal, almost bandaid flavor, that can be mistaken for chlorine/chloramine in the strike/sparge water. It can be caused by overpitching as mentioned above (FYI do NOT overpitch Kveik yeast!!). Basically, it's dumping so much yeast into a batch so that not all of them find enough to eat, and therefore die, not just go dormant. Leaving the beer on an autolysed yeast cake only compounds the issue. There are yeast calculators out there (Mr Malty is a good one) that might help.
Thanks, am going to start using a calculator. Have been meaning to for a while. However, this problem predates my move to starters. I always brew 5 gallon batches.
 
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BirchBeer

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My gut response on "meaty" was yeast.. Overpitch(Alot) or over pressure(not likely at a homebrew scale), or significantly over temp after primary fermentation, or something else that cause the yeast to cry out as if millions of voices suddenly went silent(as happened on Alderaan(sp?))

Sometimes oxidized can present as "meaty" if you have never chewed on wet cardboard(it gets wet as you chew it..), but have a few severely oxidized beers, and they distinction should become evident.
I’m pretty careful to avoid splashing etc when I transfer between boil kettle and carboy and keg, but I do not have a closed system. I try and put some co2 via a small keg charger in my vessels before I transfer to minimize contact with air. With minimal exposure like this could I still be getting oxidized to an extent where I’d get noticeable off flavors?
 
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BirchBeer

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Persistent off flavor reminds me of the nasty effect on water/ice from the cheap plastic line the fridge installers used. Copper line fixed that. Had a similar thing with beer lines in my kegerator. Barrier tubing seems to have fixed that too. So I second Island Lizard's question: what kind of tubing brings your wort to its destination? Other plasticky contact? (like bracconiere was suggesting)

Meaty, though... hmmmm. Tongues differ, but that doesn't strike a familiar note for me. Best of luck tracking this down!
Ya, I just don’t know. Driving me crazy.
 
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BirchBeer

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Persistent off flavor reminds me of the nasty effect on water/ice from the cheap plastic line the fridge installers used. Copper line fixed that. Had a similar thing with beer lines in my kegerator. Barrier tubing seems to have fixed that too. So I second Island Lizard's question: what kind of tubing brings your wort to its destination? Other plasticky contact? (like bracconiere was suggesting)

Meaty, though... hmmmm. Tongues differ, but that doesn't strike a familiar note for me. Best of luck tracking this down!
Thanks for the comment. Tubing is of the PVC variety it’s cleaned before and after every use with unscented dish soap then with star San. I chill the wort in my boil kettle before transfer to the carboy so hot wort never touches the tubing. Do you think the pvc tubing could be contributing?
 
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@BirchBeer FYI, most supermarkets sell vegemite in the internation sections around all of the British good. I only know this because I’m immature and chuckle every time I walk past the Spotted Dick.

My money is on your water. Arrowhead isnt bad but the southern distro is bottled in Riverside. Not exactly an ideal place of clean water. If your northern I think they bottle in Redding (may be wrong).

@seatazzz I would like to know what happened with the overpitched Kviek. If you’ve already posted I’m happy to go hunting
 

Bigdaddyale

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Thanks for the comment. Tubing is of the PVC variety it’s cleaned before and after every use with unscented dish soap then with star San. I chill the wort in my boil kettle before transfer to the carboy so hot wort nevertheless touches the tubing. Do you think the pvc tubing could be contributing?
I would eliminate all PVC tubing from the brewery- unless the beer is cold
 
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BirchBeer

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@BirchBeer FYI, most supermarkets sell vegemite in the internation sections around all of the British good. I only know this because I’m immature and chuckle every time I walk past the Spotted Dick.

My money is on your water. Arrowhead isnt bad but the southern distro is bottled in Riverside. Not exactly an ideal place of clean water. If your northern I think they bottle in Redding (may be wrong).

@seatazzz I would like to know what happened with the overpitched Kviek. If you’ve already posted I’m happy to go hunting
Will try the Camden tabs in my next brew. Fingers crossed that solves it.
 

wsmith1625

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Great comparison on different types of beer lines and off flavor produced by them.

 
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BirchBeer

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What temperature do you pitch your yeast and what temp do you Fermentations at? I know you use temperature control and and immersion chiller, but it hasn't been asked yet.
I try and pitch as close to the temp that I’m going to ferment at as possible but it usually winds up being around 70 degrees. I ferment in the middle of the manufacturers suggested range for the yeast I’m using. Last beer was a German hefe and was fermented at 63 (I use a thermowell in my carboy).
 

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Good reference, but dated. EVAbarrier tubing is the current hands-down barrier tubing winner and the price is surprisingly reasonable.
I switched all of my beer and gas lines over to it and recommend it.

But...I doubt the dispensing has anything to do with the OPs meaty beer...

Cheers!
 

wsmith1625

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I ferment in the middle of the manufacturers suggested range for the yeast I’m using.
Maybe try going to the lowest side of the temperature range. Some yeast will do well even lower than the manufacturer's recommended minimum temp. You'll get cleaner beer with less off flavor. Curious of it helps with what you're experiencing.
 

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+1 for evabarrier tubing. And +1 to disassembling everything to thoroughly clean. I doubt its a water issue with a description of "meaty". Take my suggestion for what its worth, but I would try buying a few packets of dry yeast and directly sprinkle ontop. I know this is not good practice, but for testing purposes, it will remove all handling of yeast, if the problem is there, that will show you pretty quick. Then can work on this process.
My 2 cents is to also take it back to basic and temporarily remove all unnecessary things, eg, aeration stone.

Can you smell it in the fermenter putting your head completely inside? Are there scratches in it or whatever?

I had a problem with a fermenter that had to clean several times with different things to rid of odour.

Anyway, goodluck. Its heartbreaking to spend all that energy and time in a brew to be disappointed.
 

madscientist451

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Looking for some suggestions. All of my brews have the same off flavor. I cannot identify the cause, and it is driving me crazy. The taste is almost a meaty flavor. It is not very strong, but it is in everything I brew - both all grain (BIAB), and extract. The flavor is not present in the sweet wort, but is noticeable after fermentation is complete.
So this is before packaging? Are you kegging or bottling?
 

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Has somebody else tried the beer and noticed this? A sanity check from others could be helpful for making sense of things.

Beer is a complicated and complex thing. From personal experience, I’ve had times where I’ve become fixated on a particular ”off flavor” and then with time come to realize it was a flavor within the range of normal that I just hadn’t noticed before.

Not saying you don’t have an issue here but it could be that the obsession and frustration you are naturally feeling now could be clouding your judgement. I would say step away for a bit, let the impacted beers sit and age for a couple weeks, and maybe drink some commercial beer to reset the palate. Also, get somebody else to try one of your home brew, without hinting that you think something is wrong at first, and see if they detect something.
 

Nick_G

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This sounds just like a problem one of our brew club members was having recently. Changed water, changed equipment, problem still there across multiple beer styles. Eventually tracked down to the fact that fermentation was incomplete every time - our brewer was not checking FG's and giving the yeast time to clean up. Not sure if this is the case here but worth checking. Otherwise I would recommend getting someone with sensory analysis / beer judging experience to assist in identifying the off-flavour you are picking up which should enable you to narrow down the problem. Good luck!
 
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