Unclean finish!!

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EvilBrewer

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I'm new to this forum and this is my first question...I've searched the web and have not found a clear answer.

The problem is this: all the beer I brew has the same flavor in the finish. It's kind of a dirty tasting flavor; overly bitter...kind of subtle. It's a bit like earwax (don't ask, haha).

It's so hard to describe a flavor. Most people don't notice it but I definitely do and it's driving me crazy. The only time I didn't taste it is when I added some lemon zest to the secondary (to a hefeweisen that I'd brewed before). The first time I brewed the hefe, the unclean taste was there....after adding the lemon zest, it was not. The lemon zest seemed to balance it out...or at least cover it up!

A little about my experience: I've been brewing for about year now. I've probably made close to 10 batches so far. I'm really good about sanitization and I do my best not to splash the beer around when transferring to secondary or to the bottling bucket (hopefully this rules out oxidation). Also, I've only brewed extracts (have not yet tried all-grain).

I talked to the guy at my LHBS and he said I should try to stop pouring (from pot to primary fermentor) when there's about 1/2" left in the pot. His point was that the taste I'm describing might be caused by too much sediment from the boil. He also said that it might just be the taste of the malt...and that I shoudl try a different brand. I've been sticking to muntons for the most part, but I think I've experienced this taste with others...so I don't think it's the malt.

Anyway...very frustrating because I'm definitely a perfectionist. Does anyone have any suggestions?? More importantly...does anyone know what taste I'm talking about??
 
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EvilBrewer

EvilBrewer

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Water - I used distilled water purchased from the grocery store.

As for the recipe, it has happened in every batch...I've made hefeweisens, pale ales, red, a pilsner...

Generally, I use steeping malts in combination with LME and/or DME. Irish moss with every batch. Sometimes I've used gypsum (for English types and a stout).

I've used a variety of yeasts...all from Wyeast (the slap packs). If you want more specifics, please let me know!
 
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EvilBrewer

EvilBrewer

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Thanks for the responses!

Here are the answers to the questions I've seen thus far:

1. sanitizer - star san (and I've made sure to use the right dilution)

2. water - I don't have a problem changing to spring water, but I've heard that it shouldn't matter because the minerals in the malt extract will replace the missing minerals in the distilled water. But again...I'm not opposed to trying this theory!

3. Flavor - Using the flavor wheel link, I've decided that it is a bitterness in the aftertaste. I can also slightly detect it on the mouth...bitter and papery maybe. I imagine it's the same as a piece of paper would taste! But again...it is really subtle on the mouhth...more noticeable in the finish.

These things seem to point to oxidation but as I mentioned earlier, I am very careful not to splash around the beer when transferring from primary to secondary (or to bottling bucket). I oxygenate my beer by sloshing it around in the brew bucket right before I pitch the yeast. The guy at my LHBS suggested I use one of those oxygenating devices (with an O2 tank, etc). Seems to make sense...it'd be cleaner oxygenation and maybe a cleaner finishing beer. But again...I don't know.
 

conpewter

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Have you tried a different yeast? I dislike the munton's yeast, it never has worked well for me.

On the other hand this could be "extract twang", try doing a full boil instead of a partial boil.
 

onejdn

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I would be leaning more towards the "extract twang". could be old extract, how often does your LHBS burn through their inventory?
 

clayof2day

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If you are tasting papery it sounds like it could be an oxidation thing. Does it get worse with age? How about if you "force mistreat" a bottle. Take a bottle out and set it somewhere where it will be at 80ºF or something. If it gets worse it could definitely be oxidation.
 
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EvilBrewer

EvilBrewer

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Yeast - I use Wyeast slap packs. Different 'flavor' for each different brew

The extract *might* be old but I doubt it...my LHBS is the only one in the general area and they get pretty busy on weekends. Seems like they'd have a good turnaround for their inventory. I also order ingredients online (from annapolis homebrew) from time to time. So, the actual homebrew store is not the common denominator.

I boil for about 60 minutes once the extract is dissolved and has stopped foaming (I start the clock once the foam dies down). It's a rolling boil the entire time. I've been doing a 4 gallon boil (I start with 4 gallons).

I will try to 'force mistreat' a bottle of my current batch. It's currently in the fridge at around 35 degrees F. I'll put one on the counter for a couple of days and see how it tastes.

I thought of another good way to describe the mysterious taste in question: similar to the taste on your mouth after you lick a stamp or envelope.
 
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EvilBrewer

EvilBrewer

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How are you transferring between containers? Are you siphoning or pouring?
I am very gently siphoning. I make sure the end of the syphon tube is at the bottom of the destination container (to prevent splashing). I use an auto syphon.
 

clayof2day

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If it is oxidation a couple days might not be enough for you to tell a difference. It sounds like you are taking measures to avoid it anyways. Interesting conundrum.
 
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Stale hops or overhopping?
Your 4 gallon boil woud need to be adjusted for what is normally a 2 gallon boil. You're getting more utilization than the recipe calls for.

Grains too hot? Tannins perhaps?
 
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EvilBrewer

EvilBrewer

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Here's the most recent culprit. If it is overutilization then so be it...I just want the problem solved! But I should note that this last one was the first time I did a 4 gallon boil. Prior to that, I did 2-ish gallon boil (and I still experienced this damned taste).

Recipe:

California Cascade (Sierra Nevada Clone that I got from a book)

Ingredients/materials
• 6.6 lbs Muntons light LME
• 1 lb Crystal malt (20L)
• 1.5 oz German Hallertau hops (bittering)
• 1 oz Nugget hops (flavoring and aroma)
• 1.5 oz Cascade hops (dry hop)
• 1 tsp Irish Moss
• Wyeast Northwest Ale #1332
• ¾ cups corn sugar
• 1 hop bag (for steeping malt)

Instructions:
1. Steep malt in 4 gallons cold water, heat to 155⁰F and hold 30 minutes.
2. Remove spent grain, sparge and bring to boil
3. Add malt extract and Hallertau hops. Boil for 1 hour.
4. At 30 minutes, add .5 oz Nugget hops
5. At 50 minutes, add .5 oz Nugget hops and Irish Moss.
6. At 60 minutes, cool wort.
7. Combine with cold water in primary fermenter to make 5 gallons.
8. Pitch yeast
9. Ferment 5 – 7 days
10. Transfer to secondary, add Cascade hops, ferment for 7 days.
11. Bottle with corn sugar
12. Condition 7 days.
 

kkngs

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I've been having exactly the same problem with my beers. A subtle aftertaste just like you described. I don't know if I should describe it as bitter, musty, or grassy....

I've brewed 3 batches so far. 2 Amber ales that both had the problem, and an apfelwein that seems to be just fine. The beers were from different sources, one a canned cooper's real ale extract kit & LME and finishing hops from my LHBS. The second was was a fat tire clone from AHS. I also dry-hopped the first beer with an ounce of amarillo from AHS.

My friends didn't seem to notice any off flavors...but something about it bothered me, and it seems to be the same taste in both batches. The only thing in common were my equipment, hops from AHS, and the water (store bought spring water from HEB). The water on it's own tastes fine.

The first batch used a vial of WLP001, the second a packet of US-05, so it's not a common batch of bad yeast.

One thing that has occured to me is that maybe this is a normal flavor and I'm just not a fan of late hop additions. I'm brewing a Hefe today, and I'm going to ignore AHS's instructions on adding aroma hops (it's not to style anyway).
 

BrewDog760

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Yeast - I use Wyeast slap packs. Different 'flavor' for each different brew

I thought of another good way to describe the mysterious taste in question: similar to the taste on your mouth after you lick a stamp or envelope.
That taste you describe sounds like it could also be the band-aid like taste that is commonly attributed to either a wild yeast strain or sanitation issues. Since you mentioned that you are confident in your sanitation, my guess would be that there are some feral yeasties cruising around where you are cooling and starting your ferment. I'd just try moving it to someplace else.

The same thing happened to me with my first IPA. The taste was so bad I had to pour it out. Good luck with that.
 
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EvilBrewer

EvilBrewer

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I should add that the taste seems a bit dry...hard to explain. When I taste a professionally brewed beer, there's that sweetness imparted from the malt. And as you swallow, that sweetness gives way to the hoppy finish. But with the beers that I've brewed, it's like that sweetness is missing. It's very dry in the swallow...and so, instead of having a rounded smooth flavor in the swallow, it just kind of falls flat on the back of your tongue. (FYI: by 'flat' I do not mean undercarbonated...I just mean that it falls short of that smooth transition between swallow and aftertaste). I suppose I should learn the right terms to clear up confusion...but hopefully this will make sense.
 

conpewter

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Well it being "dry" makes me think you might have infection/wild yeast issues. I have a pale ale on tap right now that I think had a bit of an infection from transferring to keg (so after I refrigerated it the infection didn't go any further). How have the final gravities looked on your beers, do they all finish lower than they should?
 
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