Sulfur Smell: Is it the ingredients?

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Mar 3, 2009
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Hello All,

Been brewing for about a year and a half and have 12 brews under my belt, 4 of which have been all grain. My second all grain batch was a Blonde Ale (trying to get the GF into beer) which I thought got infected. Had a bad sulfur smell and taste, so I pitched it and tried again. Same recipe, only differences were the second batch I used German Wheat Malt instead of American and I did not rehydrate the yeast (I believed that to be my source of infection in the first batch). The first batch I used bleach to sanitize (as I had done for all of my previous batches), the second I used Star San. Here is the recipe:

2.5 Gal Batch

4 lb Premium 2-row
1 lb Vienna Malt
0.25 lb Wheat Malt
0.25 lb Dextrine
0.3 oz Cascade (60 min)
0.25 oz Cascade (10 min)
Yeast Danstar Nottingham

I've used Nottingham before and never had this problem (besides this recipe). I find it hard to believe that I would get the same infection twice in a row, especially considering I brewed a SMaSH between these two batches that is doing fine.

So, I guess my question is: Does this combination of ingredients lead to sulfur production during fermentation? For both batches fermentation started strong and smelled clean (not a hint of sulfur). On the forth day in primary the sulfur smell appeared. I left the first batch for 10 days in primary (FG of 1.011) then tossed it because the smell was just getting worse. It's always possible that both batches got infected and it's just a coincidence that it was the same recipe.

What do you think?

You tossed a batch after 10 days in the primary!!!!????

Some yeast produce sulfur during fermentation. Most lager strains do this. I've never used Nottingham before, so I don't know if this strain is notorious for sulfur smells. What temperature is the fermenter? Sulfer isn't expelled as readily in cooler liquids. Don't touch your beer for at least 14 days. 21 would be better.

If it is an infection, it will still smell eggy/sulfery at bottling. At this point, you might want to look at replacing your tubing etc.
sulfur comes from the yeast. were you fermenting at a low temperature? notty will give off sulfur if fermented low.

don't ever toss your batch until you've eliminated all possibilities. Even if it is infected, most batches are still salveagable and even tasty.
Well, maybe throwing that batch out wasn't the best idea but the sulfur smell was starting to be noticed in the part of the house that I was fermenting in (not just close to the beer). I've used Nottingham before and never noticed any sulfur production, though I was in the low-mid 60s (62-64 F) which I've not done before. Guess I'll leave this one for a few weeks and see what happens.

DeathBrewer - I realize not rehydrating the yeast could not, in and of itself, introduce an infection. My main concern was that when I rehydrated for the first batch I introduced an infection due to poor sanitizing practice (read none). I simply wanted to remove that variable for the second batch so I eliminated that step and directly pitched to the wort.

Thanks for the info everybody.

Low 60s could do it for notty. The last time I opened my chest freezer, the smell filled the entire apartment in seconds. Potent stuff. Smells like Rhino farts. Of course, that was a lager, but the stuff can always smell nasty for a while.
Search "Rhino farts". What you find should put your mind at ease. Its an occupational hazard. Fermentation sometimes stinks.
All of my last 3 batches have had a stinky sulfur smell in the primary. I have used nottingham, S05 and S04 and fermented them very cold (probably almost too cold, but that's the temp my closet gets) at around 60. Once I got them in bottles, I never smelled it again.
I just rehydrated my notty yesterday and it smells just like sulfur. Don't every worry about that. A little air (when racking) will help blow that off. Sulphur is something that happens in wine all the time.
I always get a sulphury smell when I brew with wheat and use WYeast Wehienstephan yeast. It goes away after a month or so.
I want to dig this back up and ask if German Wheat Malt can give off a sulphuric smell/taste. I made a hefe w/ half wheat malt and Wyeast Wehienstephan yeast in which the sulfur smell never went away even though it was in primary 4 weeks and bottled for months. I now have a 3% berliner weisse made with half wheat malt but with US-05 and lacto that has the exact same sulfur smell and flavor as the hefe so I don't think it's the yeast. Has anyone noticed German wheat malt creating these off flavors?
I read multiple threads on other forums that recommended off-gassing by
1) Follow the advice above and give it at least a month in the secondary. Step up the temp to about 70 to increase the fermentation (only if it as already fermented for about a week, othewise give it another week).
2) Place it on Co2 and off-gas it by releasing Co2 2-4 times a day which releases sulfur with the Co2.

I did this with a Porter that smelled badly of sulfur. Step 1 greatly reduced the suflur smell. After one day using Step 2 the sulfur was almost un-noticeable. I added 1.25 oz Watkins Double-Strength Vanilla and 10oz bourbon to 5 gallons.

Again this is just day 1 with step 2, and the beer is already great. I can't wait to try it in a week or so!

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