Sour mash smells like vinegar!

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devilishprune

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I need help now! The sparge water is heating as I type this.

I made a sour mash on Thursday evening and opened up the cooler for the first time today. I have no idea what it's supposed to smell like, but it smells and tastes vinegary, which makes me think acetobacter. It was also room temperature when I got to it.

Should I continue on with the brew or make something else? I need help now guys!
 

3PegBrew

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I found this on BYO...
Acetobacter needs oxygen and will only grow on the top of the mash. If you seal the top of the mash by laying some plastic wrap across the top, pushing all the air bubbles out in the process then you can greatly decrease the opportunity for Acetobacter to act. Clostridium on the other hand produces butyric acid, which is a foul-smelling acid, faintly resembling my freshman year dorm, a mixture of rank locker room smell mixed with vomit. If Clostridium takes hold in the mashing vessel, it is rather apparent right away and make sure to keep away from significant others if you enjoy their company. I would advise dumping the mash if Clostridium takes hold. But some people seem to be okay adding this rank concoction to their beer stating that the odor can be boiled away. In general, a foul-smelling mash is going to yield a foul-smelling beer.
 

3PegBrew

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I think you're fine...Then again I have no experience with sour mashes.

I do know that when you boil...it will scrub out majority of the funk.
 
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devilishprune

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I read that article before I proceeded in the first place, and I actually did seal the top with plastic wrap (though it was probably not a very good job, because I am incompetent when it comes to using plastic wrap). I went ahead and continued with it, and I hope that some of the stank will boil off.
 

3PegBrew

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Here's my theory....Relax and don't worry. I've found that majority of the cases posted on here of "potential problems" turns out alright:mug:
 
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devilishprune

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You know what? I think I really just needed some reassurance. I need to take my own advice as well as everyone elses. However, it's a little early for me to have a homebrew.
 

Cheaton

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I thought Acetobactor required a substrate containing alcohol to propogate? Isn't it more of a threat in an actual beer than a mash? Isn't it possible that a sour mash (considering it is acidic) could have a vinegarish smell?
 
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devilishprune

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I suppose it's always possible. I've read many sources saying that it converts ethanol to acetic acid, and I found this paper that says that it can only utilize dextrose and not maltose as a carbon source, so is there a small amount of dextrose present in the mash?

Some strain called T. versutus is able to use maltose, but I can't find any info about that one.

Maybe some bacterium other than acetobacter makes vinegar-ish smells?
 
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devilishprune

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Just to update on this, I continued with the brew as usual and ended up with 2.5 gallons of a lightly soured kentucky common. I'll post the results in a few weeks after I get it kegged up.
 

MVKTR2

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Just to update on this, I continued with the brew as usual and ended up with 2.5 gallons of a lightly soured kentucky common. I'll post the results in a few weeks after I get it kegged up.
Any update? I'm thinking of doing a sour-mash brew soon.

Schlante,
Phillip
 
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devilishprune

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Great timing.

I bottled instead of kegged this batch on Sunday. I think that it might be my favorite batch yet. I think the total mashing time for mine was about 40 hours. I did the whole mash and when I tasted the hydro sample on Sunday, it was not extremely sour, but lightly tart and refreshing.

Basically a sour mash is going to stink, but it seems like the stink cooks away. And I feel like as long as it smells like vinegar or something else sour, and not like satan's anus, then you should feel free to go on about your brewing.

I would still cover the top of the mash in plastic wrap, but that's a lot harder to do than it sounds. Seems to me like it couldn't hurt anything though.
 

MVKTR2

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Great timing.

I bottled instead of kegged this batch on Sunday. I think that it might be my favorite batch yet. I think the total mashing time for mine was about 40 hours. I did the whole mash and when I tasted the hydro sample on Sunday, it was not extremely sour, but lightly tart and refreshing.

Basically a sour mash is going to stink, but it seems like the stink cooks away. And I feel like as long as it smells like vinegar or something else sour, and not like satan's anus, then you should feel free to go on about your brewing.

I would still cover the top of the mash in plastic wrap, but that's a lot harder to do than it sounds. Seems to me like it couldn't hurt anything though.
That is good timing!

Can you point me to a good primer on the actual process, I won't ask you to rehash yours just for me, but a sort of tutorial/why/what to do. Mostly looking for options on mash temperatures. I'm really intrigued by the idea of doing something along the lines of a berliner weisse, but am thinking a soured mild would be nicer for winter consumption.

It's my understanding that not only does the boil eliminate much of the 'bad' aroma issues, it also boils away a substantial amount of the sour quality you're looking for. For this reason I'm thinking of doing a 20 min boil, thoughts?

Schlante & Thanks,
Phillip
 
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devilishprune

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This is as good as any you will find: http://***********/stories/techniqu...ll-grain-brewing/1723-sour-mashing-techniques

As far as mash temps go, I shot for 156 but got 150. I wasn't too concerned though, because I feel like with the 24 hours plus that it would spend sub-150-whatever, it wouldn't matter all that much.

You can sour mash a proportion of your mash, or all of it, depending on how much sour you want. I think that a 20 minute boil would be good for a berliner weiss to keep the sour character, especially considering that they only have like 5 IBUsanyway right?

Off Topic: How is that 3.6% IPA that you have in your signature? Did it turn out well? I'm searching for a good sessionable IPA.
 

MVKTR2

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Thanks for the link! & tips.

The 3.6%IPA turned out great. Honestly it's probably the hardest bier to make that I've brewed, took 3 attempts to get it right and I think I could still improve it. I got an honorable mention for it in a competition last month. Entered as a specialty brew, the winner of the category got best of show & there were 15 or so entries so it was a fairly tough group. Anyway the specifics are as follows:
1-Use a standard IPA/APA styled grain bill - 2-row/maris otter, crystal 40/60, carapils/wheat, & 4-6 oz. victory. Get to an OG of 1.040 or so.
2-Mash at 154 or 155 - if not the brew is simply way too bitter and thin, not a good combo. Thinking of this as a mini-west coast IPA is a mistake, I found out the hard way. You want a finished gravity of something like 1.012, maybe even 1.014/15. The BU:GU ratio is 125%+ so without malt to support the bitterness balance is missing.
3-Hop to get IBUs to 50-55 on an OG of 1.040, adjust accordingly if making stronger/weaker bier. I found first-wort hopping really helped here. My latest version was a fresh-hop version so it was a little different but great hoppiness is essential if we're gonna call it an IPA.

Those are the key points in trying to make a truly low alcohol American IPA... at least for me! Anyway it's really a challenge to get it balanced correctly. It's got to be bitter enough to call an IPA & balanced enough to remain drinkable. Getting the balance right in the brew is really the challenge. However it's worth it as I really enjoy drinking bier and really enjoy being sober so I love having 3-4% bier around so I can have a session now and again! Sorry so long in response but I'm a real fan of us brewers sharing and expanding one another's knowledge, hope I helped. If you need I can post the recipe.

Schlante,
Phillip
 
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devilishprune

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Thanks for the link! & tips.

The 3.6%IPA turned out great. Honestly it's probably the hardest bier to make that I've brewed, took 3 attempts to get it right and I think I could still improve it. I got an honorable mention for it in a competition last month. Entered as a specialty brew, the winner of the category got best of show & there were 15 or so entries so it was a fairly tough group. Anyway the specifics are as follows:
1-Use a standard IPA/APA styled grain bill - 2-row/maris otter, crystal 40/60, carapils/wheat, & 4-6 oz. victory. Get to an OG of 1.040 or so.
2-Mash at 154 or 155 - if not the brew is simply way too bitter and thin, not a good combo. Thinking of this as a mini-west coast IPA is a mistake, I found out the hard way. You want a finished gravity of something like 1.012, maybe even 1.014/15. The BU:GU ratio is 125%+ so without malt to support the bitterness balance is missing.
3-Hop to get IBUs to 50-55 on an OG of 1.040, adjust accordingly if making stronger/weaker bier. I found first-wort hopping really helped here. My latest version was a fresh-hop version so it was a little different but great hoppiness is essential if we're gonna call it an IPA.

Those are the key points in trying to make a truly low alcohol American IPA... at least for me! Anyway it's really a challenge to get it balanced correctly. It's got to be bitter enough to call an IPA & balanced enough to remain drinkable. Getting the balance right in the brew is really the challenge. However it's worth it as I really enjoy drinking bier and really enjoy being sober so I love having 3-4% bier around so I can have a session now and again! Sorry so long in response but I'm a real fan of us brewers sharing and expanding one another's knowledge, hope I helped. If you need I can post the recipe.

Schlante,
Phillip
Awesome, me too! I'll definitely take these tips into consideration. I might make a regular IPA and a session strength one this week or next, so this is very helpful. How much dry hopping do you do on yours? Would more than 1 oz be too overpowering on a low ABV brew?
 
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A sour mash shouldn't have a problem with acetobacter, since as mentioned before, there's no alcohol. It should smell something like rotten milk and grain. I think it smells like rotting creamed corn. Until you've experienced the flavor on the backside of a sour mash, I think it's hard to get a sense of what it really smells like.
 

MVKTR2

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Awesome, me too! I'll definitely take these tips into consideration. I might make a regular IPA and a session strength one this week or next, so this is very helpful. How much dry hopping do you do on yours? Would more than 1 oz be too overpowering on a low ABV brew?
I found 2 oz. to be perfect. Could get away with a little more or less I'm sure.

A sour mash shouldn't have a problem with acetobacter, since as mentioned before, there's no alcohol. It should smell something like rotten milk and grain. I think it smells like rotting creamed corn. Until you've experienced the flavor on the backside of a sour mash, I think it's hard to get a sense of what it really smells like.
Oddly enough while looking into sourmashing a bit I learned there are several types of acetobacters including some that feed off of things other than alcohol/thrive in non-alcoholic environments.

Schlante,
Phillip
 
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