Yeast Starter - tastes like vinegar

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Heimholder

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Last weekend I was all set to brew my favorite double IPA recipe. Pulled my 2-quart WLP001 California Ale yeast starter out of the fridge to let it warm up. It had looked & smelled normal during its' 3-day incubation and then sat in the fridge for 2 days. I used standard sanitization practices, nothing different from previous successful starters I've done. Had a nice thick whitish layer of yeast on the bottom, transparent brownish liquid on top, looked pretty good.

Then I got bored while waiting for my water to boil and decided to taste the liquid and got a distinct vinegar taste! Gave it another smell, and it still smelled like yeast, not vinegar. I furiously googled, but could find very little info on how a starter should taste, just sight & smell. I concluded I didn't want to waste ~ $50 in ingredients, threw out the starter, and pitched a dry packet of Danstar Winstor instead (shooting foam out of the blow-off within 5 hours!)

Has anyone else tasted their starters? Should they taste like beer, or does it taste "off"? So now I'm wondering if I should taste all my starters since the sight/smell didn't clue me in at all to a potential problem. Or maybe I'll just stick with the Windsor since it's turning out to be quite the champ... Any thoughts?

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CaptYesterday

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I tasted a starter with Irish Ale (White Labs) and I remember it being very "green" and fruity. Mostly though, I just go by smell.

However if it tasted like vinegar, there was probably some acetobacter in there and you did the right thing by tossing it.
 

snevey

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I'm sorry to revive a 6 month old thread, but I just went to use my WLP001 White Labs California Ale Yeast and the starter smells STRONGLY of vinegar. I wonder if it's this type of yeast???

Steve

Last weekend I was all set to brew my favorite double IPA recipe. Pulled my 2-quart WLP001 California Ale yeast starter out of the fridge to let it warm up. It had looked & smelled normal during its' 3-day incubation and then sat in the fridge for 2 days. I used standard sanitization practices, nothing different from previous successful starters I've done. Had a nice thick whitish layer of yeast on the bottom, transparent brownish liquid on top, looked pretty good.

Then I got bored while waiting for my water to boil and decided to taste the liquid and got a distinct vinegar taste! Gave it another smell, and it still smelled like yeast, not vinegar. I furiously googled, but could find very little info on how a starter should taste, just sight & smell. I concluded I didn't want to waste ~ $50 in ingredients, threw out the starter, and pitched a dry packet of Danstar Winstor instead (shooting foam out of the blow-off within 5 hours!)

Has anyone else tasted their starters? Should they taste like beer, or does it taste "off"? So now I'm wondering if I should taste all my starters since the sight/smell didn't clue me in at all to a potential problem. Or maybe I'll just stick with the Windsor since it's turning out to be quite the champ... Any thoughts?

Thanks
Heimholder
 

RLinNH

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Interesting thread right here. I have been doing starters for all my beers since I started AG (going on 6 years) and I have always wanted to taste the beer that I decant, but I have never gotten around to it.



If it was me, I would have dumped th starter and threw in some dry yeast also if I tasted vinegar. But, I'll tell you what. I'm doing a starter with WLP300 next weekend. I'm going to try that friggin Beer that comes from the starter. :fro:
 

spiffcow

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Interesting thread right here. I have been doing starters for all my beers since I started AG (going on 6 years) and I have always wanted to taste the beer that I decant, but I have never gotten around to it.



If it was me, I would have dumped th starter and threw in some dry yeast also if I tasted vinegar. But, I'll tell you what. I'm doing a starter with WLP300 next weekend. I'm going to try that friggin Beer that comes from the starter. :fro:
Did you ever try this? I just tasted a bit of starter wort from my WLP300, and it tasted very sour. I'm curious as to whether it's an infection or if that's just what the starter wort tastes like since its so much yeast in such a small volume of wort?
 

AleFred

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reviving this thread because im a little concerned with my starter. its a wyeast ringwood ale strain.. made is last night , just walked over to give it a swirl and it sort of smelled sort of like apple/cidery but behind it was beer smell... need some guidance on what to do...
 

seabass07

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The apple is normal for fermentation. The yeast produce acetaldehyde during fermentation which smells and tastes like cider. They then convert that into ethanol.
 

Revvy

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The beer on top of a starter often smells sour or apply or funky, since there are no hops added as a preservative. Especially in the summer it will turn quickly. But it doesn't mean anyhting, nor does it affect the starter itself. Especially if you decant it off.

Your not making beer with your starter, you're making yeast, what is above it really is of no consequence.
 

StMarcos

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Boiling would have eliminated lacto and acetobacter. The starter should only be 'off' from oxidation, not contamination.
 

Revvy

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Boiling would have eliminated lacto and acetobacter. The starter should only be 'off' from oxidation, not contamination.
If there's no hops in the starter beer, it doesn't matter if you kill everything off in the boil...after you cool, it's at just as high a risk. I mean, we boil our beers all the time, and still sometimes they get infected....
 

Clementine

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Thing also to think about with the taste of your starter (I'm a Bear Grylls kinda brewer, ooh what does that taste like...) is that it most people use DME and therefore it is very fermentable. Hence there is very little residual sweetness left in spent wort, that + the oxidation and higher levels of esters and fusel alcohols make it taste like crap. What you are doing when you tastes test the decanted wort is to educate your plate what it should taste like so you will recognize when it has all gone wrong. Of all the starters I have done, I have not add an infection so I can't speak from experience but they say it tastes like a gorilla sh*& in your mouth so a little sour is nothing to worry about.

I also check gravity not as a sign of now much yeast is made as gravity is irrelevant to this but more if it is extremely low ie 1.002ish and tastes bad and smells bad then I will get worried. bacteria and other such nasties tend to be a bit less selective on their menu hence why they are prevalent and will eat more of the wort than will your well behaved yeasties.

Clem
 

StMarcos

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If there's no hops in the starter beer, it doesn't matter if you kill everything off in the boil...after you cool, it's at just as high a risk. I mean, we boil our beers all the time, and still sometimes they get infected....
I don't quite get what you are saying... so if there are hops in the starter beer, only then does it matter if you kill everything off in the boil?

Sure, we boil starters/beers and there are problems, but if someone is tasting an acetic acid presence in their STARTER, I don't think it's ok to tell them that it's ok, and that starters will get funky in warmer weather.... in my opinion I would not recommend that someone pitch a starter that has an acetic acid presence into a full batch.

If someone's starter has enough contamination that the absence of hops makes it funky, which to my mind mean that you are relying on the hops to preserve the integrity of the culture, then I don't think that their sanitation is up to snuff and should be reviewed. That being said, I am a stickler about contamination....:)
 

tesilential

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What temp did you ferment the starter? I always describe strong fusels as vinegar-like.
 

Brewmiser

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Glad to see I wasn't the only one freaking out when my starter smelled funny (like Cider) I just decanted off the top & just pitched the yeast. I guess there is nothing left to do but wait & see...
 

riromero

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I usually taste my starter, especially the first smaller steps, just to make sure it fermented. Oftentimes if I let it go overnight, the whole thing will be done by morning. If I'm using harvested yeast and don't have enough for a gravity test, if I taste sweet wort in the morning, then I know I'm screwed. On the other hand, if it tastes foul, sour, oxidized or whatever, than I keep going.
 

statseeker

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Starters never smell quite right but they arent supposed to. They always smell "off" in some ways. It's just a way to make more yeast. I dont taste them because they taste gross most of the time. I've only had maybe 2 that tasted at all like something palatable. But they've all made great beer.
 

lou2row

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When I just shook them, they tasted better than when I started using a stirrer. Now they have more of a funk to them that could possibly be described as vinegary. Plus, if your stirrer generates heat, it will add to the condition.
 

BreezyBrew

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The beer on top of a starter often smells sour or apply or funky, since there are no hops added as a preservative. Especially in the summer it will turn quickly. But it doesn't mean anything, nor does it affect the starter itself. Especially if you decant it off.
I know this post is old, but I need some advice. I hadn't used 1056 in a while since I have been using US-05 so often, so I decided to see how it was in my latest brew.

Anyhow, when I took it out of the refrigerator yesterday, it seemed slightly swelled, which I thought was strange. I "smacked" it, and let it sit out for a few hours before I made a starter.

I cut the thing open, and it has a very strong fruit cider smell. I thought that was odd, but maybe it was just from the nutrients or something. So I poured a very small amount in a shot glass, and taste it. Same thing, it also tasted cidery. I put the starter on the stir plate, which is churning away now.

My question is.... is this yeast infected with aceobacter? I have had a previous infection with a WYeast. It smelled "sour" but I used it anyway, and it ruined my beer. Anyone have this happen before?
 

GlenF

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I doubt your yeast was already infected. I just tasted a slurry of s05 that I stepped up for a starter. I tasted the decanted liquid, and it was bad....not sour, not vinegar, but slightly phenolic and just "off." I'm guessing it's from fermenting warm and repeatedly shaking the container. Sometimes yeast itself can give a tart, fruity taste, too.
Anyone else care to chime in?
 

flars

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I know this post is old, but I need some advice. I hadn't used 1056 in a while since I have been using US-05 so often, so I decided to see how it was in my latest brew.

Anyhow, when I took it out of the refrigerator yesterday, it seemed slightly swelled, which I thought was strange. I "smacked" it, and let it sit out for a few hours before I made a starter.

I cut the thing open, and it has a very strong fruit cider smell. I thought that was odd, but maybe it was just from the nutrients or something. So I poured a very small amount in a shot glass, and taste it. Same thing, it also tasted cidery. I put the starter on the stir plate, which is churning away now.

My question is.... is this yeast infected with aceobacter? I have had a previous infection with a WYeast. It smelled "sour" but I used it anyway, and it ruined my beer. Anyone have this happen before?
What was the date on your package of 1056? All of the liquid yeasts I've used have had a very aromatic yeasty(?) aroma. If the package swelled in the frig, and has a cidery aroma, IMO it is infected. Could this yeast have been shipped in very warm weather?
 

BreezyBrew

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What was the date on your package of 1056? All of the liquid yeasts I've used have had a very aromatic yeasty(?) aroma. If the package swelled in the frig, and has a cidery aroma, IMO it is infected. Could this yeast have been shipped in very warm weather?
It was about 3 weeks old from my lhbs and I always transfer in a cooler with ice. I heard from WYeast that the pack can slightly if there is some variation in temp. I believe our refrig isn't the most steady temp, so I think that's the cause. As for the aroma, I just think it was some off gassing from the pack when I put it in a bucket of star san. I used a subsequent pack that had a similar smell and it was fine. Probably just trying to detect every nuance made me hyper sensative. After all, it is just yeast!
 

duboman

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Acetobacter is the cause of vinegar type off flavor/aroma and it is most likely due to sanitation of your starters, not the actual new yeast.
 

Biscostew

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Any thoughts on a stir plate raising the chances of a potential acetobacter infection? My understanding is that the stir plate helps yeast to grow so fast by continuously oxygenating it, which would also expedite a potential aceto infection. Never had this happen, however I currently have a stepped up starter of WLP Euro Ale on and has a tinge of vinegar/cider smell. Debating how to handle this...
 

BreezyBrew

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Your theory makes a lot of sense. Especially if the starter is in the fermentor which tends to be damp and accumulate bacteria. I went from foam stoppers back to good old tinfoil. Anyone else experience this?

Edit: I had a thought last night... Thinking of using a coffee filter instead and see how that works.
 

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