Strong Alcohol Smell

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rodwha

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I have a similar strong alcohol smell in many of my beers. I ferment them in storage bins with a water temp of ~ 62-67* for the majority of their time (3-4 wks). They taste good to me, but then again I love strong coffee, hot sauce, and IPA's...
I've been using washed yeast (WLP 001 and a mix of WLP 001/1272)
I've been noticing this with varying styles from one side to the other.
What could be causing this?
 

runningweird

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Try dialing down your temperature. Fermentation temps at the center of the carboy can be ten degrees warmer than the water bath. To ferment at sixty five keep your water at fifty five.

Also, check your water. Is there chlorine? Chloramine?

Sounds like it's fermenting too hot.
 

basilchef

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" but then again I love strong coffee, hot sauce, and IPA's... "

HAHAHA I love it.

but seriously, could be the temp you are pitching and fermenting at. also does the smell fade?
 
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rodwha

rodwha

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"Also, check your water. Is there chlorine? Chloramine? "
It smells like chlorine so we have a water filter.

"To ferment at sixty five keep your water at fifty five."
Maybe this is the problem. It's not overpowering, but it is noticeable.
I figured that with the thermal mass of the water it would keep the temps much closer to the temp of the water, that it wasn't getting more than a few degrees warmer. So I've been trying not to get the water temp below 62* or so. I'll have to drop that temp a little more next go around. Having to leave the 3 that are fermenting to sit (it's been 9 days since the last was brewed, and they were brewed one after the other). Hope that was long enough...

"...could be the temp you are pitching and fermenting at. also does the smell fade?"
I'm pitching around 70-75* and often placing in a bin of cold water.
My beer doesn't stick around too long. Maybe a month or so, but I haven't noticed it decreasing.

"They taste good to me..."
I only smell the alcohol. And it's not an overpowering smell. It tastes good to me. But SWMBO said she tasted it in my brown ale last night. She felt like it tasted as though I added a little Everclear. We are both getting a cold now though, so I'm not sure how that may be messing with our senses.
 
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rodwha

rodwha

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Is it likely I created some fusel alcohol?
If my water temp was kept ~65* I don't see how it could have reached 70*. I would think that the thermal mass would be enough to keep it from running away...
 

trumpetbeard

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May seem like an obvious thing but what was your OG and estimated FG? If you're making really big beers it could just be a natural by-product of high gravity brewing.

+1 on keeping your ferm temps a little lower than you may think, and waiting until the wort is ~ or <75 before pitching.

Perhaps keep one bottle of each batch as a test (this is way easier said than done) and taste after 2 months or so. I recently kept a 6er of a 10% tripel I brewed in June and each month the alcohol recedes further and further into the background.
 

TopherM

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Post the recipe and process of a recent batch that had this problem, and it'll be much easier to diagnose.
 
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rodwha

rodwha

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Sorry about the delay. Just got back home from visiting family.

I drank a couple of them with the ole lady and no smell or taste of grain alcohol. Hmmm... Either time fixed it or it had something to do with the bottles I guess.

My beers are generally moderate gravity (5-6.5% ABV), though I typically hit higher OG numbers than planned.

My fermentation temps are generally the same and I've only noticed this smell with a few of the brews. I use WLP 001 and 320, and 1272 mixed with 001 (Grrrr!).

5 lbs Briess pilsen LME
1 lb Briess Bavarian wheat DME
3/4 lb pale chocolate 200
1/2 lb crystal 60
1/2 lb crystal 120
1/2 lb Briess extra light DME (starter)
1 1/2 oz Liberty @ 60 mins
1 1/4 oz Liberty @ 15/5 mins
WLP 001/1272 mix

Grains steeped for 30 mins @ 150-158*. Added that to 1 lb DME for 60 min boil. At flameout I add LME.

OG was targeted for 1.051, but got 1.057 @ ~75* (1.059-1.060). I forgot to take an FG reading. It fermented for 3 weeks primary, and conditioned another 3 weeks.

I use filtered tap water.

I chill tap water to help chill wort after boil along with ice and get to ~75* within 20 mins, and then add chilled filtered tap water.

I'm thinking I'll try to maintain a 60-63* water temp for the first week from now on.
 

TopherM

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OG was targeted for 1.051, but got 1.057 @ ~75*
Yup, high ferm temps is definitely your problem. The internal temp of the fermentation can easily be 3-8 degrees warmer than the ambient temp even, you were really fermenting at closer to 78-83F. At those temps, the yeast produce fusel alcohols as well as esters that are undesireable in most beer styles.

If you can keep the fermentation temp closer to the lower end of the ideal range listed on each yeast packet/vial (around 59F for an ale), you'll not only solve your fusel alcohol problem, but you'll have cleaner beer without the off flavors.

Good luck!
 
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rodwha

rodwha

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"OG was targeted for 1.051, but got 1.057 @ ~75*"

That's the temp I took my OG reading at before I added the yeast.

The "ideal" temp I should keep it at is in the mid to high 60's according to them. For WLP 001 is states:
"Optimum Fermentation Temperature: 68-73°F"
And for 1272 it states:
"Temperature Range: 60-72F"

My understanding is that the thermal mass of water should keep the wort really close to the water temp, that it isn't like keeping it at ambient air temps. Is this not true?
 
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rodwha

rodwha

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The water temp was kept between 63-66* for most of the time. No doubt it dropped a little lower and rose a little higher at times, but wasn't left at that temp long. I typically change out the frozen water bottles (500 ml-2 liter bottles) 3 times a day.
 

TopherM

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The wort temp will still be 3-8F higher than the water temp. Yeast give off heat during fermentation, so there is exothermic heat being produced that will heat the wort from within during active fermentation.

The thermal mass will definitely keep the ambient temp swings from affecting the wort temp, but the exothermic heat from the yeast during active fermentation will still very efficiently heat the wort.

If I were fermenting using the two yeast you did, I think I would aim for a 65F average internal fermentation temp, so I would have probably set my temp controller to 62 with a -3 differential.

Just curious, why did you decide to use two yeasts?
 
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rodwha

rodwha

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The 1272 was nearly 2 months old IIRC, and didn't get started in the starter, though I now wonder if I gave it enough time, so I threw in some 001, which was going good 24 hrs later.

Some have taken off well enough after nearly 3 months. I'm not sure why that one did not.

I wish I would have given it more time as I think it may have had some good yeast left. Oh well... I'll eventually buy more yeast.

With chilled water I assumed the temp couldn't get much more than 3-5* higher. Hmmm. I don't want to chill them too much and make them lazy!

I know people have used fermometers, but having read about them they seem as though they can't take getting wet. So I've just read the water temp and assumed I was close to it.
 
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rodwha

rodwha

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We drank another tonight and found that once it warmed up it began to smell/taste like that again. At first, while cold, it is good, and not noticeable. So what is going on here???
 

phatspade

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How long ago was it bottled/kegged? Young beer has an alcohol taste to it if you don't give it time to condition. I get that with my batches I taste test every week until I'm out before its mature.
 
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rodwha

rodwha

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Initially I give them 3 weeks and put them in the fridge for 2-3 days before I pop any open.
These were bottled on 9-19 and have been in the fridge for a little more than 2 weeks.
Will cold temps subdue the smell/taste of fusels???
I have noticed this smell in a few of my other styles too.
 
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rodwha

rodwha

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Anyone have an idea what it is?
I would guess fusel alcohol, but White Labs said it would have to have been in the high 70's before that happens. I suppose it could have briefly. I can't say it certainly didn't as I don't know exactly what the interior temps were, and the water temps may have reached as high as 67-68* for short periods of time.
 

phatspade

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I don't think it's fusel alcohol just from having a pitching temp under 80F and fermentation was just around 70F. I dunno what else besides the other possibilities from a quick google search say oxidization. I wanna say the yeast possibly, but from everything I looked up don't point to the yeast unless you had high ferm temp...something higher than what you stated.

There's still a possibility that the beer is still a young beer and you're chasing ghosts.
 
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