Unwanted "Belgian" flavors - help!

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Chuginator

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I've been plagued with off-flavors in my beer, and this has been going on for quite some time. Different yeasts, different fermentation temps, different equipment, different water, different residences. The problem keeps following me! So I'm starting again from the ground up with 1-gallon extract batches, trying to get a handle on it.

Recently I did a very simple, very light no-frills extract batch. Still came up with those problems!

Unfortunately I can't tell if the off-flavors are phenols or esters, or both. It has a distinct Belgian wang to it that I cannot get along with. I tend to think a combination of band-aidy, clovey, but the best description I can come up with is "Belgian." I have had Hefeweizens with similar aromas and flavors, which leads me to believe it's more estery than phenolic. However I'm not getting any banana in the smell.

I read up on esters and see that two big factors contributing to their production are underpitching and too high of a fermentation temperature. I suppose the next step might be to try again with a larger slurry and lower the temp?

Recipe and notes are below; I realize dry yeast isn't the best option, but I was trying to start cheap just to see if I could troubleshoot this problem. I've used liquid yeasts in past all-grain batches that came up the same way, so I figured I'd start cheap.

1 lb. extra light DME
1 gallon distilled water
1 oz. US. Tettnang
Boil time: 15 min
OG 1.047
FG 1.011 (4.7%)
Yeast: Munton's dry ale yeast packet, put in 1/3c boiled/cooled water
Pitching temp: 75F
Fermented two weeks, did not do a rack to secondary, not wanting to risk any potential contamination
Fermentation temp: 70-74F
Sanitizer: One Step, soaked clean bottles and fermenter in it, did not rinse

Cheers! :mug:
 

devilishprune

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So a packet of dry yeast is more than enough cells for a one gallon batch. I would assume you had the correct amount of yeast, but how old was the packet and how was it treated (I.E. was it refrigerated before you used it, etc.)?

The bandaid taste is usually from chlorophenols, but you used distilled water so that shouldn't hurt it either. Do you know if your municipality uses chlorine or chloramines for the water supply? If they use chlorine, then you could go the extreme step and boil your water before you made your sanitizer with it to minimize the amount and see if that helps.
 
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Chuginator

Chuginator

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Hello, thanks for responding.

I don't recall how old the yeast was, but it had been kept refrigerated up to the point of use.

I'm on well water, so there is no chlorine.

I wish my nose was trained better, so I could without a doubt pinpoint phenols vs. esters, but unfortunately I don't think I can. So, I'm hoping to take a whack at one of the problems, which would be esters - and see what happens?
 

GoNova

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The flavors you are describing are almost always yeast derived. I would let the beer sit on the yeast for a month. If you drop the temperature too soon or rack off the yeast cake too soon, the yeast may struggle to clean up their own by-products. You might also try fermenting at lower temperatures. If ambient temp is 75, then the temp of the wort with the yeast working is higher. High temps will certainly produce more yeast-derived off flavors. My first step would be to ferment at the low end of the range, but certainly below 70.

Also, don't use pure water. Yeast need minerals in water to do their job. I doubt that this would cause "belgain" off flavors, but it is not good.

Good luck!
 

brodie113

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It's hard to say for sure without being able to taste the beer but I would vote for lowering the fermentation temperature. Maybe in the 64-68 range...? So, I haven't used that yeast before but temps in the low 70s do not give the desired flavors/aromas (for non Belgians anyway).

The pitching rate should be fine with that volume. I would have speculated on the water source also but the distilled water should eliminate any water issues...
 

SickTransitMundus

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Several options. Your fermentation temperature is a bit high. If you have the means, drop everything to 62-65 degrees and make another batch. Buying a chest freezer with an aftermarket thermostat did wonders for my beer, even when I was still extract brewing. If you're patient, you can find used freezers on Craigslist for less than $100.

Second, oxygenate well. I am an evangelist for pure oxygen (I find it's critical to getting low final gravities), but you can get tolerable O2 levels with an aquarium pump or by shaking the crap out of it. Underoxygenated yeast can pump out off-flavors, especially at high temperatures.

Third, how are you sanitizing? Chlorine or iodine based sanitizers can form halophenols just as well as chlorinated tap water. Your description of the flavors sounds like phenols, not esters.

Finally, ensure that your sanitation practices are up to snuff. I know it's basic, and brewers get insulted when you mention it, but we all cut corners at some point. I know I have, and my beer has suffered for it.
 

hibbleton

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I used to have this problem as well. Besides lowering the fermentation temps, I would recommend cutting 1/2 your water with bottled spring water or trying campden tablets in your water. I've done these two things and the off flavor has gone away and my beers are much better. I'm still trying to pinpoint which was causing it though (maybe both?)
 

BellAub

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Chuginator, please keep updating this post. I'm fairly new to brewing and I have noticed that my beers are getting the same flavors that you described. My first couple of brews I dismissed because they were Belgian beers, but since then I have made a Mexican cervesa that had the same flavor in the background. I started using liquid yeast with no change, and the highest my temperature gets in the primary fermentation is 74, and that is all own it own. After the heavy fermentation is over it usually stays around 68. I'm currently brewing a light saison using all DME to see if this will make a difference and I will bottle condition some of these and make note of the change.

I will make note of any changes I notice and post them here as I get them.
 
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Chuginator

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WOW. Thanks, guys! This place rocks!

I'm using One Step as a sanitizer, figuring that my use of bleach in the past may have been a contributor to phenolics.

I think I will indeed try another batch, but be even MORE paranoid about sanitization (maybe I should wear a mask?!), and drop those fermentation temps. At 64-68F, would I be looking at a two-week fermentation?

Would you also recommend that I rack or not rack after one week? The reason I didn't on this batch is because I didn't want to introduce any more risk of contamination.
 

BellAub

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I use Idaphore for my sanitization practic, I alway use secondary fermintation becasue I thought the taste was coming from the beer sitting on the yeast cake on the bottom, but a lot of my research states that may not be true. I get my water from a water filteration store. I have been wanting to stop by and ask them if they have a list of what type minerals their water contains after they filter it in hopes it would help me nail down the problem. I also use one of those oxygneators that put on a drill and spin the wort in the carboy. My last three batches I only used Wyeast. I was going to try white labs on my next batch to see if their is a difference, but I don't think there will be.

Hopefully we can get this nailed down.
 

SickTransitMundus

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Chuginator

Chuginator

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That's pretty interesting; and news to me. Guess I was old-school, always thought racking to secondary after a week was pretty much something you just always did. I'm relieve to hear it isn't necessary! Less trouble.
 

RatCity

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Just wanted to chime in...as a quasi-newb brewer. Had the same problem but making sure I cold crashed the beer before bottling or kegging fixed it. The yeast, without dropping from suspension, gave everything an overwhelmingly band-aidy taste.

Cold crash in a fridge overnight would be my recommendation!
 
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Chuginator

Chuginator

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Just wanted to chime in...as a quasi-newb brewer. Had the same problem but making sure I cold crashed the beer before bottling or kegging fixed it. The yeast, without dropping from suspension, gave everything an overwhelmingly band-aidy taste.

Cold crash in a fridge overnight would be my recommendation!
Hey there, Spence - I appreciate your input. That is interesting too - since I had to rely on an ice bath this last time to cool the wort to pitching temp, it probably didn't have quite the break it needed?

Although an added complication to the matter is that I was using a rather efficient immersion chiller in my all-grain setup, and still had the off-flavors. Unless maybe that wasn't as efficient as I thought it was...

This is one of the things I really like about the 1-gallon setups. The volume is so low that you can do side-by-side comparisons of different techniques (or ingredients) without investing a lot of time and money. To prove your break theory, it would be interesting to do one batch with a very good break and one without a not so good of a break and pinpoint what happens.

I'm planning on brewing another batch this Sunday, with the intent of lowering the fermentation temperature- and that is the only thing I'm going to change - to see if it has a significant impact. If it doesn't, I will try your cold break idea! Something's got to give! :)
 
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Chuginator

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Just an update - I bottled a batch yesterday, and this one was the same as the first (One Step) but at a few degrees lower fermentation temperature, and Cooper's dry yeast instead of Munton's ale yeast.

Same problem. Same icky Belgian-like off flavor. And sour/tart (tasted before bottling). Will bottle condition for 3 weeks, then refrigerate, but I know the defect will still be there - because it still is in the batch prior to that. Frustrating.

I brewed up a couple of Irish Reds the weekend before last and used Star San throughout. I really, really, hope that's the problem that has been plaguing me. I'm tired of this, but I won't stop until I get it tackled.

I'm wondering if my Apfelwein will turn out with the same off-flavors. I used Star San for that carboy, so I'm hoping not... if it does, I'm going to have to try wearing gloves and a mask, or do an off-site brew to see what in the hell is going on.

Something has to give!!
 

RatCity

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How frustrating! I still vote for cold crashing the beer before bottling / kegging. Drop those yeasties right out of suspension...they should form a tightly packed cake at the bottom. Siphon off all delicious beer and leave that last 1" for the yeast.
 
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Chuginator

Chuginator

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Thank you, Spence. The Irish Reds were brewed as two one-gallon batches (still doing the small stuff until I can figure this out), so I will try that with one of the batches just to be able to see - and hopefully taste - what the difference is. I'm not racking to secondary with these; the only time racking is involved is when getting it from the primary fermenter to a sanitized jug for the addition of priming (corn sugar boiled 5 mins then cooled to pitching temp) before bottling.
 

Rockape66

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Chuginator,
Get some icecream or kosher salt to add to your ice bath for chilling your wort. This reallly speeds up the chill giving you a better break. Also, what kind of cleanser are you using. That band aid flavor sounds like some kind of chemical residue. I use one-step as a sanitizer without any problems whatsoever, so I don't think that is your problem. But many of the more experienced brewers here swear by starsan. I plan on trying it myself for sanitizing smaller equipment, but I still have 5# of one step. I'll use the one step for larger equiipment and bottles.
Good luck with figuring this out. I know we're all rooting for you.

Slainte, Mack:mug:
 

studmonk3y

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I think I have read on here before about people saying one-step is not a proper sanitizer. Most people here prefer star san or idophor.
 
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Chuginator

Chuginator

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Thanks, Mack- I will try the kosher salt! For the first two experimental batches, I used One Step. I'd been using One Step and/or bleach in years prior (in completely different equipment), with the same flavor defects emerging. I am now using Star San exclusively, but haven't tasted the batches made with that yet- that will be a couple of weeks away.

Studmonk3y, I've read the same thing, hence the switch. I figured that since I'd been running into the same problems even when brewing with completely different ingredients and equipment that the common factor is ... me (I wasn't joking when I said I might have to wear gloves and a mask!).

I'm picking up some helpful hints - such as cold crashing before bottling. All good stuff that this old-timer never did back in the 90's, and am looking forward to trying it out. Even after I finally get a good batch I hope to have kept good enough records to go back, identify what I did right, then repeat two 1-gallon batches (one using the right way, the other the wrong way) in an effort to confirm the findings. The cost and time of knowingly producing another bad batch is insignificant (and hell, it's only one gallon); it will be so worth it!

I'd like to brew another two batches this weekend, in order to keep the pipeline going. Considering it takes 6+ weeks to determine the results of the batch (and a busy spring/summer is approaching rapidly), I'd better put my nose to the grindstone. I want to have this problem figured out for a single entry to a small competition this summer, but more importantly - for this coming fall when I can hopefully go back to the all-grain world and ramp back up to 5-gallon batches.

Thanks again, guys- I appreciate the input.
 
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Chuginator

Chuginator

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Bottled two one-gallon batches yesterday - the first ones using Star San. Had a taste test, and at this stage anyway, NO PROBLEMS!!! I FINALLY FIGURED IT OUT! In the batches previous, I could already detect the off-flavors at bottling time, so I'm confident that insufficient sanitation (using One Step) was the problem.

One Step can take a hike.

I'm one happy guy!! I can finally start thinking about going back to all-grain. :mug:

Thanks for all that replied.
 

jtakacs

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WOW. Thanks, guys! This place rocks!

I'm using One Step as a sanitizer, figuring that my use of bleach in the past may have been a contributor to phenolics.

I think I will indeed try another batch, but be even MORE paranoid about sanitization (maybe I should wear a mask?!), and drop those fermentation temps. At 64-68F, would I be looking at a two-week fermentation?

Would you also recommend that I rack or not rack after one week? The reason I didn't on this batch is because I didn't want to introduce any more risk of contamination.
don't get too paranoid - just make sure its clean and sanitary and you'll be fine, its not a hospital. and don't be afraid to leave it on the yeast for longer... i would never entertain racking off the yeast in a week.

i know beers can be built quickly and i've had some attenuate out very fast, but even those stay a minimum of two weeks in primary before i move them to conditioning/secondary/whateveryouwanttocallit...
 
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Chuginator

Chuginator

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Thanks for that input - after doing a lot more reading, I've since adopted a three week ferementation period in primary with no racking to secondary. Then in bottles for another three weeks, then it hits the refrigerator.

I'd read about cold crashing the fermenter before bottling, which I will try next time - I forgot about it on yesterday's bottling.

DAMN I'M HAPPY!!! I can successfully brew beer again. I was starting to get pretty down about it.
 
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