What is wrong? Two bad brews

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packin

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I am very bummed out by the quality of my first two brews, and I can't pin down what exactly is wrong.

I bought the equipment kit from Austin Homebrew and I brewed my first beer in July, a hefeweizen using an AHS kit with Weinstephaner yeast. I followed John Palmer's book for the most part. I left it in the primary for 4 weeks, bottled, then tasted after 2 weeks. There was a funky taste to it that I'd describe as almost dishsoap. It was also slightly bitter, and the fruitiness I was expecting was not that big. The lack of fruitiness I can attribute to fermenting at around 65 degrees, but I'm not sure about the dishsoap taste. Overall this brew was decent I guess for my first time.

Fast forward to the end of August, I decided to brew the second kit that I had bought at the same time as the first one in July to see if I could get rid of the offending taste. This was the Texas Blonde Ale. As far as I could tell I did everything the same as the Hefe, except I only left it in the primary for 2 weeks, then transferred to secondary for an additional 2 weeks. I was fairly careful about siphoning the beer with my auto-siphon... and the only oxidization that could have resulted was from the air that gets into the auto-siphon at the very end of the siphon (like trying to get the remnants of a drink with a straw).

I bottled the blonde at the end of September and tasted it 2 weeks later. Much to my dismay it tasted like cleaning solvent, even worse than the taste I had with my Hefe. It is undrinkable as it makes the belly rumble a bit. Now, a month later, the flavor has not improved at all.

I have also recently tasted the Hefe since I saved a few, and the weird taste is still there. It's a bit worse now in fact, and not something that I'd serve to anyone except myself.

Any ideas as to where this weird taste is coming from? I should also say that I used tap water to top off both of these beers.

Thanks for any help in solving this mystery so that I can actually brew good beer!
 

irunxcjm

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What are you using to clean your equipment and bottles? I basically just rinse my bottles with water and sanitize with Starsan.
 

hcarter

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From John Palmer's How to Brew

"Soapy flavors can caused by not washing your glass very well, but they can also be produced by the fermentation conditions. If you leave the beer in the primary fermentor for a relatively long period of time after primary fermentation is over ("long" depends on the style and other fermentation factors), soapy flavors can result from the breakdown of fatty acids in the trub. Soap is, by definition, the salt of a fatty acid; so you are literally tasting soap."
 
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packin

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Maybe you left sanitizing solution in your primary?
I am positive that I dumped it all out as I had lurked on this forum for quite a while and read stories from people who poured their wort into the sanitizing solution. Yet, maybe the remaining solution gave it this effect?

What are you using to clean your equipment and bottles? I basically just rinse my bottles with water and sanitize with Starsan.
I was using the stuff that came with the AHS kit. It was a no-rinse sanitizer. The first batch I scrubbed the bottles and the rinsed them out, then sanitized. The second batch I only rinsed out, then sanitized.

From John Palmer's How to Brew

"Soapy flavors can caused by not washing your glass very well, but they can also be produced by the fermentation conditions. If you leave the beer in the primary fermentor for a relatively long period of time after primary fermentation is over ("long" depends on the style and other fermentation factors), soapy flavors can result from the breakdown of fatty acids in the trub. Soap is, by definition, the salt of a fatty acid; so you are literally tasting soap."
I know I said a soapy flavor, but it's more of like a cleaning solvent flavor. A little bit sharper than the taste of soap. Plus, I only had the blonde ale in the fermenter for 4 weeks which as I understand shouldn't have caused any problems. I've also tasted the beer directly from the bottle, and it tasted the same.

Thanks for the replies, please keep them coming.
 

telemarc

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I though that the consensus here was that it is ok for your brew to come in contact with wet StarSan. I remember a few people saying this. My thinking is that it is ok if my racking tubes, cane, bottles are ok even if the StarSan has not dried. Any thoughts?
 

carnevoodoo

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I though that the consensus here was that it is ok for your brew to come in contact with wet StarSan. I remember a few people saying this. My thinking is that it is ok if my racking tubes, cane, bottles are ok even if the StarSan has not dried. Any thoughts?
yes, it is perfectly fine for your beer to come into contact with starsan.
 

Austinhomebrew

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Which sanitzer are you using? Are you using too much? Even though you don't have to rinse it wouldn't hurt to very briefly rinse.

Forrest
 

Austin_

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Which sanitzer are you using? Are you using too much? Even though you don't have to rinse it wouldn't hurt to very briefly rinse.

Forrest
I tend to agree. Even though I use the suggested amount of iodophor and it shouldn't harm me or the beer I will still rinse my stuff once. Maybe I'm just scared of chemicals, but anything that stains my counter or smells like that can't be all that great for you or beer, but then again, I could be wrong..... (IODOPHOR).
 

dontman

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I know the possibilities have been covered pretty well but I am +1ing the high temp fermentation as the probable cause for this.

Again from Palmer:

"Solvent-like
This group of flavors is very similar to the alcohol and ester flavors, but are harsher to the tongue. These flavors often result from a combination of high fermentation temperatures and oxidation. They can also be leached from cheap plastic brewing equipment or if PVC tubing is used as a lautering manifold material. The solvents in some plastics like PVC can be leached by high temperatures."

I have experienced a high alcohol sensation in a couple of my young beers that hit the high '70s during fermentation. It tended to condition out though.
 
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packin

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I would look into your fermenting temps getting too high...

How to Brew - By John Palmer - Common Off-Flavors

I can vouch that if you leave an inch or so of beer on a yeast cake in a primary bucket and the temps get over 70 it will produce a solvent odor and flavor to the beer on top.
I think this makes the most sense. I had considered doing the wet tshirt + bucket trick to cool down my brew, but I never got around to doing it. I guess I'll give it a try.

To measure the temperature I had been just sticking a floating thermometer in a bucket of water next to the brew. Is there a better way to measure the temperature of the brew while it's fermenting?

Which sanitzer are you using? Are you using too much? Even though you don't have to rinse it wouldn't hurt to very briefly rinse.

Forrest
I was using the Brewvint Cleanitizer, and I believe I was mixing the correct amount, but perhaps I did put in a little extra not thinking it would cause any harm. I'm out now though, and I think I'll try some Starsan since people seem to have good results with that. I guess I'll try rinsing too. I was wary of putting all those chemicals near my beer anyway...

Thanks for everyone's help. I'll make these adjustments and see how my next brew turns out.
 

Dagatris

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Did I misread your first post? You said your fermenting temps were around 65. That doesn't seem too high at all. At least, not the 70's that other people are referring to.

You said you used the AHS sanitizer. What did you use to clean the bottles with originally? Oxyclean? Dish Detergent?
 

Duster72

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Rinsing sanitizer defeats the purpose of sanitizing. I would strongly recommend the podcast "Basic Brewing Radio." Download the episode where he interviews the guy who invented StarSan. He also talks a lot about iodiphor and bleach. This will answer all your questions.

Remember that fermentation is an exothermic reaction, so measuring the temperature of water in the same room is not going to give you an idea of your fermentation temperature. The process of fermentation is generating heat.
 

Nanik006

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To measure the temperature I had been just sticking a floating thermometer in a bucket of water next to the brew. Is there a better way to measure the temperature of the brew while it's fermenting?
If your fermenting in a carboy ... the easiest way to check temperature is with a stick on thermometer .... like the ones you would use for an aquarium. slap that on the side of the carboy, near the 2.5 gallon area so its right near the middle of your beer. thats what i use and no temp problems. they usually range from like 55 to 75 so ... good stuff. i think they are sold at LHBS, if not, try your local fish store. i like this method because it doesn't require opening the airlock or sticking anything extra in the beer cuz then you have to worry about sanitizing and all that every time.

its the 4th item here (liquid crystal thermometer)... no picture though
http://www.leeners.com/equipment-lab.html

here's a roughly picture ... this is from an aquarium, so the range is higher
 

conpewter

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You should get a stick on thermometer for your carboy/bucket to get a closer approximation of what the fermentation temperature is. Even if the ambient temp is 65 the brew could be at 75 or above since fermentation is exothermic.
 

Homercidal

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StarSan is great, but make sure you have the proper ratio mixed up. You can leave the residue on the bottles, fermenter, etc. and it won't affect the flavor.

If you are sure the temps were around 65, then even adding the raise in temp for active fermentation would not likely get it up to where it would affect the flavor of your beer much.

FWIW - I'd not transfer to secondary for any beer except the very heavy beers. One or two more weeks on the primary is not likely to cause any off-flavors, and will minimize the risk of infecting your brew.
 

nickhead

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Yea no-rinse creeps me out a little. I read on a star-san bottle that you actually HAVE to let it dry in order to sanitize appropriately - but that doesn't necessarily imply that you should or shouldn't rinse it after it's dried - right?. I dunno, chemicals in beverages seem weird (even though I bet I wouldn't be able to taste the difference either way).

Anyway, I would bet that isn't the source of the funk flavor, but +1 on rinsing anyway.
 

dontman

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Yea no-rinse creeps me out a little. I read on a star-san bottle that you actually HAVE to let it dry in order to sanitize appropriately - but that doesn't necessarily imply that you should or shouldn't rinse it after it's dried - right?. I dunno, chemicals in beverages seem weird (even though I bet I wouldn't be able to taste the difference either way).

Anyway, I would bet that isn't the source of the funk flavor, but +1 on rinsing anyway.
I don't know that unrinsed starsan really qualifies as "chemicals" next to your beer. It is simply a weak acid (the ONLY ingredient) that straddles the threshold between germ and yeast viability. This means that it kills germs but not yeast.

As far as rinsing and drying. First off it totally odorless and tastless so it can't affect the taste of the beer. Second it won't kill the yeast so it won't affect fermentation, (although it could weaken the cell walls of the yeast and diminish glycogens so I wouldn't being gallons of it to my wort.) Third, if you let it dry, the acid, thus the germ killing effectiveness, is gone, and new germs can take hold. You would only want it to dry if your equipment if closed off from new contamination. Finally, rinsing of no rinse solutions counteracts the reason for their invention. You are replacing sanitized water with unsanitized on the surfaces that you sanitizing. Your purpose is defeated.

I really believe that this thread has been diverted from the true cause of the off tastes in the OPs beer. What he describes is classically the result of diacetyls in his beer which is classically the result of hot fermentation (+75).

I am speaking as one of those people who once racked from primary to secondary directly onto a gallon of iodophor solution. Immediately I could taste strong iodine in my beer but within 3 days that taste was gone and the final beer was actually fine.

Let the beer condition more. As long as it takes. Time cures almost all ills in beer.
 

Gordie

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Most of the time, the off flavors you're talking about seems to come down to fermentation temperature. Keep a tight eye on not only the temp but whether there's fluctuation in the ambient temperatures around your vessel. Even if the fluctuation is within the recommended fermentation range for the yeast you're using, you can still have problems.

Obsessive temperature control of your fermentations is probably the single most effective way to improve your beer quality as well as your repeatability.

Gordie.
 
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packin

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Did I misread your first post? You said your fermenting temps were around 65. That doesn't seem too high at all. At least, not the 70's that other people are referring to.

You said you used the AHS sanitizer. What did you use to clean the bottles with originally? Oxyclean? Dish Detergent?
The ambient temp was 65, I'm not sure what the temp was inside the bucket. I'm going to assume that the temp was much higher / fluctuated a lot as I did not attempt to control the temperature at all.

I don't know that unrinsed starsan really qualifies as "chemicals" next to your beer. It is simply a weak acid (the ONLY ingredient) that straddles the threshold between germ and yeast viability. This means that it kills germs but not yeast.

I really believe that this thread has been diverted from the true cause of the off tastes in the OPs beer. What he describes is classically the result of diacetyls in his beer which is classically the result of hot fermentation (+75).

I am speaking as one of those people who once racked from primary to secondary directly onto a gallon of iodophor solution. Immediately I could taste strong iodine in my beer but within 3 days that taste was gone and the final beer was actually fine.

Let the beer condition more. As long as it takes. Time cures almost all ills in beer.
Thanks for this explanation of sanitizer, it makes sense. I will let the beer condition a little bit longer, but I'm itching to brew another batch and it's a pain to get together that many bottles again.

It seems like the consensus is that I need to control my temps a lot better. It's going to be even harder now though during the cold months because I was fermenting my beer in my finished basement which is usually very cold when the heat is not running aka all day long. Maybe I should invest in a fridge for fermenting...
 

dontman

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The ambient temp was 65, I'm not sure what the temp was inside the bucket. I'm going to assume that the temp was much higher / fluctuated a lot as I did not attempt to control the temperature at all.

It seems like the consensus is that I need to control my temps a lot better. It's going to be even harder now though during the cold months because I was fermenting my beer in my finished basement which is usually very cold when the heat is not running aka all day long. Maybe I should invest in a fridge for fermenting...
Right now I have four fermenters going. Three totally different situations. Two are in secondary and have been sitting for over two weeks. They show 62 degrees. (Three degrees below ambient.) One is an Apfelwein that is still chugging away at 5 days - 69 degrees. One I brewed yesterday. It is going full blast and is also at 69 degrees but this one I have wrapped in cold wet towels, otherwise, I know from experience, it would be beyond 75 degrees.

As far as controlling temps. The towels work perfectly well for me. You can also get a big ass plastic storage bin and control temp with water and ice bottles. I would love a fermentation fridge but have no place to put it.
 

Beerthoven

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Honestly, I don't think your temps are really that much of a problem. Yes, the fermenting beer will produce heat, but an ambient temp of 65º is fairly cool. Bobby_M once measured a difference of 10º between fermenting beer and ambient temperature. But that difference was achieved by pitching a Barley Wine onto a full yeast cake - probably the most active fermentation a homebrewer is ever likely to achieve. I doubt you had a fermentation that active, so the temp of your fermenting beer probably was in the upper 60's to low 70's during the peak of fermentation. That doesn't seem hot enough to me to cause all the funky flavors you are describing.

There are other factors to a healthy fermentation besides temperature, like pitching rate and oxygenation. How much yeast did you pitch? If you used dry yeast, did you rehydrate? If you used liquid yeast, did you make a starter? Did you pitch the yeast into cool wort or hot wort? If you effectively pitched a very low cell count, then you will get off-flavors. Did you aerate the wort to encourage cell growth?

Did your beer ferment all the way down? What were your OG and FG? If you don't get complete fermentation then the beer will not taste good, especially extract batches.

You don't have to answer all these questions in a post. I'm just posing them as things for you to think about. Try not to get discouraged. Once you figure this out you'll be making good beer by the bucketfull.

If you haven't seen it already, I highly recommend How To Brew by John Palmer. It's a great resource.
 

Gordie

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There are other factors to a healthy fermentation besides temperature, like pitching rate and oxygenation. How much yeast did you pitch? If you used dry yeast, did you rehydrate? If you used liquid yeast, did you make a starter? Did you pitch the yeast into cool wort or hot wort? If you effectively pitched a very low cell count, then you will get off-flavors. Did you aerate the wort to encourage cell growth?
+1 That's a really good point. Underpitching stresses yeast and can cause all these same problems.
 
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Yea no-rinse creeps me out a little. I read on a star-san bottle that you actually HAVE to let it dry in order to sanitize appropriately - but that doesn't necessarily imply that you should or shouldn't rinse it after it's dried - right?.
Star San specifically says not to rinse after the application. The "allow to air dry" verbiage is to prevent you from using heat or towels to dry the sanitized surface; it doesn't mean that the surface has to be dry in order to be considered sanitized. The verbiage that really matters is "surface must remain wet for at least one minute."

Star San is a no rinse product because it's a food grade acid...the same one that can be found in Coca Cola and other soft drinks. It won't hurt you unless you use it undiluted.
 

nickhead

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The directions of star san say to let air dry. You are right about rinsing - the instructions exactly read "do not rinse after application". It still creeps me out, but less so after home brews.
 

nickhead

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Yuri & dontman - does that mean that the equipment should be wet with Star San when you use it? otherwise I risk contact w/ new germs? Sorry for being off topic, but it's interesting and helpful. Thanks.
 

Dagatris

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Ideally, the surface should still be wet. If it has dried, then the Starsan is no longer present. Meaning that nasties could be landing on your equipment.
 
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