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Wicked bad brewing problems, need advice

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hoplobster

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My recent AG beers have been bad. Super bitter tasting, almost borderline sour like eating orange peel, and I don't know where I am going wrong. They are fairly bland too, with the exception of a slight malty sweetness and some hop presence, but again, that is overshadowed this sour flavor. I use iodophor to sanitize and I am meticulous in my sanitation and cleaning procedures.

Is it tannin extraction? Fuesel alcohols? Too much DMS not being boiled off? I need some advice, but first, here is my recipe and process for a 3 gallon batch (batch sparge):

Amount Item Type % or IBU
6.50 lb Pale Malt, Maris Otter (3.0 SRM) Grain 86.67 %
0.50 lb Caramel/Crystal Malt - 60L (60.0 SRM) Grain 6.67 %
0.50 lb Aromatic Malt (26.0 SRM) Grain 6.66 %
0.75 oz Fuggles [4.00 %] (60 min) Hops 18.2 IBU
0.25 oz Fuggles [4.00 %] (5 min) Hops 1.2 IBU
1.00 tsp Irish Moss (Boil 10.0 min) Misc
1 Pkgs SafAle English Ale (DCL Yeast #S-04) Yeast-Ale

Mashed @ 1.25 qt/lb @ 150. Added 1 gallon of boiling water to raise grain bed temp after 60 minutes, gently stirred, let rest 5 minutes and drained the tun. Added my 170 sparge water, stirred, let rest and drained tun to collect 4 gallons of wort. Boiled (my little gas stove has problems bring even 4 gallons to a nice rolling boil... is this a problem?) for 60 minutes down to 3 gallons, cooled to 70, pitched yeast, 2 weeks in primary and into bottles w/ 3 oz of corn sugar.

Measured Original Gravity: 1.052 SG
Measured Final Gravity: 1.016 SG

Efficiency was awful and it finished really high and that is why I am surprised it is so freaking bitter/sour/unpleasant.

If anyone sees any fault in my batch sparge technique or thinks they can help, please chime in. I'm almost ready to go to extract batches if this keeps up.

Thanks!
 

Yooper

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At first glance, your technique looks ok. From your description of the taste, to me it sounds like you may have a lacto infection.

Did you cool your batch to 70 degrees quickly, or did it take a while?
 
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hoplobster

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It was cooled to pitching temp in about 30 minutes with an immersion chiller that was stuck in the boil for the last 15 minutes.
 

ajf

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Have you calibrated your thermometer recently?

I recently had two successive bad batches. I checked my thermometer which has served me well for several years, and found it was way off. Replacing the battery restored the accuracy.

Have you checked the temperature after the mash out? I would have thought that 1g boiling water to such a small grain bill would raise the temperature to more than 170. Exceeding 170 for a prolonged time could result in excess tannin extraction.

-a.
 
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hoplobster

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I ferment in a 6.5 gallon glass carboy.

Thermometer is not calibrated... how do I do this?

The mash stabilizes at 150 degrees, strike water is about 168.

I use water from the tap.
 

Bobby_M

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I'd watch that gallon of boiling water. If you don't get it stirred in quickly, you could be pulling tannins. Of course, you might also be breaking the 170F barrier with a gallon mashout but there's only one way to know (thermometer).

I don't like mash outs for batch sparging. You're better off draining the tun without one, then breaking the batch sparge into two equal batches and use 180F water for that.

Also, are you recirculating the runnings (vorlaufing) prior to draining? If not, you could be boiling some husks in your kettle again leading to astringency.
 

FlyGuy

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Sourness often indicates infection, which is why I asked about plastic. Repeat infections are usually traced back to a piece of plastic equipment that is infected and simply cannot be cleaned anymore (even a small scratch can harbour nasties).

If your thermometer is WAY off, I think people are suggesting you may be mashing and sparging much hotter than you think, lending to phenol extraction which is a intensely bitter/sour flavour. You can check by checking the temp of the thermometer in both boiling water and ice water. It should read around 212 and 32, respectively. Typically the thermometers read fairly linear, meaning that if it reads fine at the higher and lower end of the spectrum, it is probably accurate at mash temps too (although there is at least one member here that has had a non-linear problem with his thermometer).

Anyways, I am still leaning towards an infection if the beer tastes sour rather than mouth-puckering bitter and it is recurring. Hard to say without actually tasting your beer.
 
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hoplobster

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I do recirculate, maybe I will not bother with a mashout next time.

As far as an infection, I can think of what plastic could be causing it... I usually buy new tubing after each stop to the LHBS and the only plastic that comes in contact with the beer is the bottling bucket and spigot, which is immaculate and has only been used in two batches and my auto siphon, which is clean and in good shape....
 

FlyGuy

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Is there any chance these are just young beers, and you are tasting some severe 'yeast bite'? (Long shot.)
 

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FlyGuy said:
If your thermometer is WAY off, I think people are suggesting you may be mashing and sparging much hotter than you think, lending to phenol extraction which is a intensely bitter/sour flavour.
I thought about it being too hot...but yooper mentioned lactobasillus, so I did some reading. Lacto's range is around 113 degrees...that's why I was curious about your strike temp...wondering if you were striking too low AND had an off kilter thermometer. Just wondering if your mash was sitting too long in the lacto temp range...But at the same time I don't know if boiling would later kill off the lacto...I dunno....

Just another thought...You haven't made any sour beers with your setup have you? There couldn't be a cross contamination issue could there be?

AND...
Just to be safe...before your next brew get out the bleach and water and run it through everything you use. I'm not a bleach and water fan...but if there's some hidden pocket of nastiness...running bleach and water...then rinsing and THEN sanitizing may catch whatever may be lurking in your system.
 

oguss0311

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How does on calibrate a thermometer? Do you put a known accurate thermometer in water along with the one in question?
 

Revvy

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oguss0311 said:
How does on calibrate a thermometer? Do you put a known accurate thermometer in water along with the one in question?
Flyguy hit the nail on the head...

Flyguy said:
You can check by checking the temp of the thermometer in both boiling water and ice water. It should read around 212 and 32, respectively. Typically the thermometers read fairly linear, meaning that if it reads fine at the higher and lower end of the spectrum, it is probably accurate at mash temps too (although there is at least one member here that has had a non-linear problem with his thermometer).
 

oguss0311

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Nuthin' like asking a question thats already been answered in the same thread! I guess I just embarrassed my third grade reading comprehension teacher.
 

Revvy

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oguss0311 said:
Nuthin' like asking a question thats already been answered in the same thread! I guess I just embarrassed my third grade reading comprehension teacher.
Nah...most likely you were asking your question at the same time FG was posting his response...that's the nature of forums, some times we miss stuff. :D
 
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hoplobster

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I've never made a sour beer, but I think I may just what little plastic gear I have and start new, or give it a b brite soak and then Iodophor, rinse repeat. I'm not using bleach water... I'm curious though. If it is an infection, wouldn't it smell bad as well as taste bad? The beer smells have decent, but the taste is god awful.

I guess too, I can narrow it down to bottling time... maybe it's something with my bottles (which are stored in a plastic tub with a cover), because everything tastes decent at bottling. The taste has been degrading since bottling... Brewed 1/12, bottled 1/26...

What about PH? Does anyone have input on how I should maybe be treating my water?

Thanks for all of the input.
 

moger777

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hoplobster said:
I've never made a sour beer, but I think I may just what little plastic gear I have and start new, or give it a b brite soak and then Iodophor, rinse repeat. I'm not using bleach water... I'm curious though. If it is an infection, wouldn't it smell bad as well as taste bad? The beer smells have decent, but the taste is god awful.

I guess too, I can narrow it down to bottling time... maybe it's something with my bottles (which are stored in a plastic tub with a cover), because everything tastes decent at bottling. The taste has been degrading since bottling... Brewed 1/12, bottled 1/26...

What about PH? Does anyone have input on how I should maybe be treating my water?

Thanks for all of the input.
Most likely an infection than. If it tasted fine at bottling and gets worse with age it means the bacteria is taking hold of the beer. Probably a Acetobacteria since it's becoming infected after fermentation. You should sanitize bottles immediately before bottling since bacteria can grow even if something is clean and covered.
 

WBC

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Until you make good beer, everything is suspect regarding off tastes. Proper temperatures and being sanitary after the boil and quick chilling are all important. It sounds like you have a good grasp of the process but just need refinement of your process until you find what it is that is causing the problem.
 

Pimp Juice

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If you had a higher gravity 1080 or higher, I'd let it age for a few years and let the bacteria mellow. Lambics were orignally an acident? At least age a six pack and check on it once a year.
 

Bad Shark Brew

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hoplobster said:
I guess too, I can narrow it down to bottling time... maybe it's something with my bottles (which are stored in a plastic tub with a cover), because everything tastes decent at bottling. The taste has been degrading since bottling... Brewed 1/12, bottled 1/26...
How are you cleaning the bottles? When I do bottle, which is usually only when all my kegs are full, I clean them out with a jet bottle washer and them run them through sanitizer a couple of times. After sanitizing, I stack 'em in the diswasher while I bottle. After I cap them, I wipe them down with a rag soaked in sanitizer.

I also make sure when I drinking them, I rinse the bottles really good right after pouring. Even the slightest bit o' gunk left over in the bottles is enough to wreak havoc on your beers.
 
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hoplobster

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After I use a bottled, I would rinse it well with hot water and make sure there wasn't anything left behind; yeast or any other liquid. These bottles would dry and then go into a tub with a lid.

What I've been doing at bottling (without any problems until now) is rinsing bottles thoroughly with hot water and then giving them a quick soak in iodophor solution, placing them on a bottle tree to dry (which was dipped in iodophor solution) fill and then cap. Caps were also submerged in the iodophor solution. I was thinking about this today and the bottles may very well be the cause... I don't keep the same tubing for very long and my auto siphon, bottling bucket/spigot and bottle filler are all clean and scratch free and well sanitized.

Just for yucks, I took some DME and mixed it with some water in a growler and added some yeast from a bottle of this some kind of nasty beer and put an air lock on it. Tried some today and holy **** is it sour. So I guess I can really point the finger at my first (known) infection.

I would really hate to use bleach water on any of my equipment... I've been thinking of switching to Star San, but wheter I use iodophor or star san, how difficult do you think this bug will be to kill?

My plan is to give EVERYTHING an hour or so in b-brite, rinse very well and then let it sit in iodophor for 30 minutes or so. Rinse. Repeat. Brew again. Any suggestions? Does that sound like it would do the trick? I've always cleaned and sanitized my fermentation gear after use, but it sounds like I've managed to overlook a nasty.
 

FSR402

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My first thought was "hey bring a bottle over and I'll try it. " then I looked it up and yeah, your two hours from me. Never mind.

It does seem that you are infected. I would get rid of anything that is plastic. No matter what it is.
Then anything you have left I would clean with Oxi-clean over night. Then soak it all in bleach/water for a few minutes, rinse and clean again with Oxi-clean. Then soak in some Starsan.

Again pitch ALL plastic.
 

Revvy

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SO you never actually wash the bottles, like by soaking them in oxyclean? That may be the problem...though I would think that iodophor would kill anything left over on glass....

The reason I suggested the bleach was as a "napalm" to strafe and burn any hidden nasties in your system. Even Chuck Talley the creator of starsan suggests bleach, vinegar and water as an uber sanitizer. SO I figured that might get anything your missing in one shot, then you can return to your regular sanitization methods...

Take a listen to his appearance on Basicbrewing radio, he spends the first half of it taling about bleach/vinegar/water (but pay attention to the order he talks about.)

http://media.libsyn.com/media/basicbrewing/bbr03-29-07.mp3
 

Yooper

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It still sounds like lacto to me. It's a real bugger to get rid of, and you may want to replace all the plastic, including stoppers. You might to wash all your bottles thoroughly and soak in a bleach/water solution as well. You'd have to rinse like crazy, but then you'd reduce your chance of reinfection.
 
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