Seem to have vinegar problem

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moger777

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Hello all,
A bit new to brewing but I successfully finished my first batch about 3 weeks ago. I kinda waited the minimum amount of time for carbonation before I cracked open the first beer. It tasted really good and me and my friends had a great time drinking it all rather quickly. I decided to leave a few beers in the fridge for later consumption. About half a week ago I cracked open one of them and the beer no longer was as good tasting as it was when we cracked open the first few bottles. It had a bit of a vinegary taste to it. Not enough to make it undrinkable but strong enough to be a bit disappointing. I tried another bottle and had the same problem. I should mention that this batch was almost entirely brewed with a big jug of bottled water I stole from work. None of the equipment came into contact with tap water except for sanitation (I've been using b-brite which is good but requires rinsing). I recently started to brew my second batch of beer. This time around I was a bit more careful with sanitation, especially since all the equipment I had used previously was no longer brand new and untouched. I cleaned both carboys very thoroughly with b-brite and anything else the beer/wort touched after the boil. Yesterday I went to bottle the beer after going through the primary and secondary fermentation. I noticed that the beer had a more sour smell than last time and when I tasted a bit it tasted sour, like vinegar (though still like beer). I decided to bottle it anyways since last time it was also a bit sour and cleared up after carbonation (though it got worse after being in the fridge for a week). The second batch was not exactly the same beer as the last one, it was a less hoppy beer so the sourness could be more noticeable. I'm going to keep them in the bottles for a week before giving up but I'm a bit less optimistic this time around (the last beer tasted good during bottling, flat yet good, this one is a tad more sour). So after that long story what it boils down too is that I suspect my water supply of being contaminated. The water on tap tastes good but considering this time around my equipment had more contact with the water (last time I did not sanitize the carboys since they were brand spankin new) I'm a tad bit suspicious. Maybe it's something else though, maybe I should use something other than b-brite. Any ideas out there?
 

Yooper

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I doubt it's your water. I think b-brite takes 15-30 minutes of contact time to sanitize. If you didn't fully immerse your tubes and carboys, etc, for the full length of time, it could have been contaminated. This could be it, or you could have aceterobacter floating around in your house.

Maybe someone else will have some better ideas than I do!
 

bigjohnmilford

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it sounds like you may be drinking them too early and you probably should've sanitized everything to begin with anyway. Warehouse's and the like are not excatly very clean.
 

BierMuncher

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I use tap water all the time but I do full boils. When I did extracts, I’d top off with store bought distilled water.

Like Yoop said though, vinegar doesn’t sound like a water issue.

Can you give a bit more detail about your ingredients, yeast, brewing process, fermenting temps etc…?

Any one of these items could be creating the off flavor.
 

malkore

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b-brite is primarily a cleanser...requiring 30 mins contact time to act as a sanitizer.

do youreself a favor and buy some star-san. clean with b-brite, sanitize in 30 seconds with star-san.
 
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moger777

moger777

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Allright, a bit more background. My first batch of beer was a pale ale that came with the beer kit. Heres the description from the website "Comes with 6 pounds of malt, 8 oz crystal, 2 oz hop pellets, priming sugar and instructions." Unfortunately I threw out the ingredient list so I cannot describe the exact procedures. This particular one used bittering hops and than had some more hops added in the end as aroma hops. Anyways, everything went pretty well in terms of the boiling of all the wort and pitching the yeast. Since I used spring water it was already cold when I added it to the wort to bring it up to 5 gallons. This made it cool down quick enough so the exposure to the air was minimal. After the primary and secondary fermentation I bottled the beer. I tried a bit (actually I got a mouthful while siphoning by accident) and it tasted like flat but good beer. I only waited a week after the final bottling, it tasted really good. Only the last few bottles had the vinegary taste and the carbonation levels were good all around. I've heard the C02 levels help keep the bacteria levels down so maybe aging it outside the fridge would have been beneficial? The second batch of beer I did was an oktoberfest ale. Pretty much designed to taste like an oktoberfest but in an ale instead of a lager. It uses 7 lbs. Light Malt Extract, 16 oz German Dark Munich Grain, 4 oz German Dark Crystal Grain and 2 oz of hop pellets. This beer only uses bittering hops, no aroma hops. This one did not go as smoothly, I forgot to boil the wort after steeping the grains before adding the malt extract. I also did not stir as thoroughly as I should of while boiling and managed to burn some of the wort on the bottom of the kettle. I was able to strain out all the burned bits so it was not too bad and the wort tasted about right (I kinda like the taste of unfermented wort). Unfortunately the cool down process did not go so smoothly, I had to boil all the water I used in the ingredients so by the time I added the water it took a really long time for all the ingredients to cool down enough to pitch the yeast. I left the plastic fermentor in the tub with cold water around it to cool it down. Unfortunately plastic is not much of a conductor so it took awhile to cool down. I also left it uncovered so it would cool down quicker (yeah, probably a bad idea). After the primary and secondary fermentations I tried a bit (this time on purpose) and it tasted like beer but very sour beer. I bottled it anyways and hopefully by the time I crack one open it will taste nice and smooth. For the second batch if anything I was probably a bit more thorough about sanitation (though I guess b-brite is not the best stuff for that). So in conclusion from what you guys told me it's probably not the water (I guess the vinegar producing bacteria dwells in the air). I probably should use something thats a quicker sanitizer (I ordered some iodaphor, hopefully it gets here soon). Anything else I should probably keep in consideration? Maybe certain conditions are more prone to producing sour beer? Any help is greatly appreciated.
Thijs,
 

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Just a couple of quick thoughts. One, it's very important to cool your wort as quickly as possible. Bacteria grow best at 90-140 (or thereabouts) degrees. Use an ice bath in the sink, tub, etc to put your brewpot in and doing this can cool it in 20-30 minutes. Then, when it's under 90 degrees, put your cool sanitary water into the primary with it and stir well. This aerates it and helps to cool it even more. Then pitch your yeast (use a starter if using liquid yeast, or rehydrate if using dry) and cover and airlock. That will minimize air exposure as well as get it out of the "danger zone" for temperature.

Two, sanitation. You're on your way with the Idophor. Don't be too anal but be sanitiary- sanitize funnels, tubing, airlocks, lids, strainers, spoons, etc. anything that touches your wort after the boil ends.

Third, never siphon with your mouth. Your mouth can be rinsed with vodka, but still it's not the way to do it. Either do it with sanitizer ( I did that for a LONG time) by filling it with sanitizer, putting the racking cane into the beer, and letting it run into a second container until the beer runs and then into the carboy, or better- get an autosiphon. When you siphon with your mouth and use your hands, you are contaminating a sanitized surface with your hands and mouth. I still don't think that's your vinegar problem but it still should be fixed.

Now, describe your sour for us. Vinegar sour is usually caused by aceterobacti while some sour flavors are lacto contaminations.

It's discouraging to start with a contamination issue- but keep plugging along, and you can fix it and make awesome beer.
 

BierMuncher

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A few more top level thoughts:

Did you steep your specialty grains at 155 degrees, or did you boil them?

Cooling - When I did extracts, I would take three 1-gallon jugs of water and stick them into the freezer at the beginning of the brew process. By the time I was ready to cool the concentrated wort, they were icy cold and starting to crystallize. I would pt the boil pot into a sink of cold water to bring the temp down…continually replacing the sink water as it heated. By the time it got to 100-105, into the fermenter along with the jugs of water and…bingo…70 degrees.

Conditioning - Always condition your bottles at 72 =/- degrees for at least 3 weeks before chilling. Bottles won’t properly carbonate in the fridge.

Sanitation – Once, just once…do what I’ve done on all my batches. Use a mild bleach water solution to clean and sanitize. If you have a double basin kitchen sink, one side gets filled up with warm water and 1/4 cup of bleach. The other sink remains empty and is the rinsing sink. All you handling equipment goes into the filled sink ahead of time and gets rinsed thoroughly as it’s used. I’ve done more than my fair share of batches and never had an issue yet.

Cooking - Not boiling the wort whilst letting concentrated extract burn to the bottom probably did not help. Not sure this is a vinegar issue though.

Above all don’t give up. Get another batch ready to go. Think through the entire process ahead of time and then execute (while enjoying a cold beer of course). Keep notes next time.

Good luck…we’re all counting on you. ;)
 

JnJ

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From John Palmer's book;

"Symptom: It smells like vinegar.
Cause 1: Bacteria In this case, it probably is. Aceto bacteria (vinegar producing) and Lacto bacteria (lactic acid producing) are common contaminates in breweries. Sometimes the infection will produce sweet smells like malt vinegar, other times they will produce cidery smells. It will depend on which bug is living in your wort. Aceto bacteria often produce ropy strands of jelly which can be a good visual indicator, as can excessive cloudiness, after several weeks in the fermentor (although some cloudiness is not unusual, especially in all-grain beers).
Cure: If you don't like the taste, then pour it out. Lactic infections are desired in some beer styles.

Cause 2: Wild Yeast/Bacteria Two other bugs are also common, Brettanomyces and Pediococcus. Brettanomyces is supposed to smell like horse sweat or a horse blanket. Raise your hand if you know what a horse smells like. From sweat, I mean. Anyone? I think Brettanomyces smells like leather, myself. Pediococcus can produce diacetyl and acidic aromas and flavors.

One man's garbage can be another man's gold though. These two cultures and Lacto bacteria are actually essential to the Belgian Lambic beer styles. Under other circumstances and styles, beers that taste like Lambics would be discarded instead of being carefully nurtured and blended over a two year period. Lambic beers have a pronounced tartness with fruity overtones. This type of beer is very refreshing and is excellent with heavy food.
Cure: Be meticulous in your sanitation or investigate Lambic brewing."
 

jpuf

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I'd put money on the chilling, the most critical point in the process. Try everything you can to cool as quickly as possible, preferably with the pot covered. Good luck.
 

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