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5 brews only one drinkable

I am a new brewer and seriously struggling! My first extract Irish ale was awesome and I was hooked. Since that first batch I have had terrible results. 3 brews now that are total waste, undrinkable, one in the primary that I do not have any confidence it will be better.
I have researched extensively and spoke with Gabe at Northern ( thanks Gabe) I follow instructions to the letter and have been very careful of sanitation.
I have read about water issues and am concerned about the water here in Liberty, mo. They do use Chlorimine, instead of chlorine. First batch was with two gallons of tap water after water softener, 3 gallons drinking water from grocery. The second batch was with all tap water after softener, the 3rd through 5th batches have been with tap water BEFORE the softener. Results are unchanged.
Now the problem is a terrible lingering bitter aftertaste.
From advice from Gabe I will brew a batch with all bottled water from grocery to see if that helps.
Pretty bad when factory beer is better :frowning:
Any and ALL suggestions are welcome. Please help so I can move to all grain.

Well if the first batch was awesome and you used store bought water why didn’t you use store bought for the other batches? If you have crappy water then use bottled. Were you making the same recipe all the brews?

Everything I have read says if water taste good it will make good beer. The first batch was with a friend that introduced me to home brewing and he had purchased three gallons for top off with the other items for the brew. Since there had been tap water in the initial boil of the first batch I felt that it would be ok. Proved wrong, at least I think so.

If you are from Liberty, Missouri I have found your municipal water report:

http://www.ci.liberty.mo.us/DocumentCenter/View/17667

If that is the water you are using, the sulfate concentration is pretty high (192 ppm). I don’t see chloride on the report, but those are the primary ions responsible for taste, especially of the hop bitterness, so I think that is a likely culprit. Also when you brew from extract it already has ions in it so you get a double dose. My water has such high sulfate (260 ppm!) that I use distilled water and add minerals as needed. Regular bottled water is also probably fine, it is just harder to know what you are getting. Especially for extract brewing, any good tasting bottled water should work fine.

[quote=“ejeffrey”]If you are from Liberty, Missouri I have found your municipal water report:

http://www.ci.liberty.mo.us/DocumentCenter/View/17667

If that is the water you are using, the sulfate concentration is pretty high (192 ppm). I don’t see chloride on the report, but those are the primary ions responsible for taste, especially of the hop bitterness, so I think that is a likely culprit. Also when you brew from extract it already has ions in it so you get a double dose. My water has such high sulfate (260 ppm!) that I use distilled water and add minerals as needed. Regular bottled water is also probably fine, it is just harder to know what you are getting. Especially for extract brewing, any good tasting bottled water should work fine.[/quote]
Yes that is the water report for our area. Is there a way to filter out the sulfate? My understanding is that sulfate combined with softened water increases the problem. I am very open to solutions to eliminate the problem but am reluctant to have to buy jugs of water for every batch. PITA:)

Unfortunately sulfate is hard to remove by anything short of distillation / reverse osmosis. An under-sink reverse osmosis unit might work for you. I have considered one, but not decided to go ahead with it yet. The problem that I see with them is that while they can produce more water than I would ever need they have relatively small storage tanks, so I would have to fill jugs the week before brewing to have enough.

You can also try to find a way to buy in bulk. If you can find a place to buy 5 gal refillable jugs it will probably be cheaper per gallon than the supermarket.

Sodium (Na+1)
Atomic Weight = 22.9
Equivalent Weight = 22.9
Brewing Range = 0-150 ppm.
Sodium can occur in very high levels, particularly if you use a salt-based (i.e. ion exchange) water softener at home. In general, you should never use softened water for mashing. You probably needed the calcium it replaced and you definitely don’t need the high sodium levels. At levels of 70 - 150 ppm it rounds out the beer flavors, accentuating the sweetness of the malt. But above 200 ppm the beer will start to taste salty. The combination of sodium with a high concentration of sulfate ions will generate a very harsh bitterness. Therefore keep at least one or the other as low as possible, preferably the sodium.

This is from the book How To Brew by John Palmer. I know you are not an all grain brewer, but it occurs to me that a high concentration of sodium and sulfate might be your problem. :cheers:

Buying water would be cheaper than a filtration system, especially if the water is fine for drinking and you were just using it for beer making. All grain brewing uses a lot more water and if you start making a lot of beer maybe it would be an option. 5 or 6 gallons of water for an extract batch is what, maybe $6. Of course you could just do what you did that made the awesome beer and just top off with 3 gals. That’s $3.

stay away from any water that go’s though a water softener that uses salt. it is not good to brew with…IMHO. I may get some flak here when I say that I use water from one of those food store machines but, had it tested and its pure RO water for 39 cent a gallon. this may not be the case with all water machines so watch out. happy brewing.

My understanding is that RO water will not have the minerals needed, so I suppose testing and adding minerals would be necessary.
The other item in our tap water is Chloramine which supposedly is also not good for brewing.
We always thought our water was pretty good, now we realize not so.
I have Campden tablets coming tomorrow but that will do nothing for sulfates. I also wonder if water from the city has fluctuations in sodium, sulphate and Chloramine based on time of year.
Need to get this resolved so I can get a few batches in pipeline. Now that I have tasted one good batch, big brewers beer just won’t cut it:)
Thanks for all of your input so far.

[quote=“KartRacer”]My understanding is that RO water will not have the minerals needed, so I suppose testing and adding minerals would be necessary.
The other item in our tap water is Chloramine which supposedly is also not good for brewing.
We always thought our water was pretty good, now we realize not so.
I have Campden tablets coming tomorrow but that will do nothing for sulfates. I also wonder if water from the city has fluctuations in sodium, sulphate and Chloramine based on time of year.
Need to get this resolved so I can get a few batches in pipeline. Now that I have tasted one good batch, big brewers beer just won’t cut it:)
Thanks for all of your input so far.[/quote]
Yes, water from the city will vary based on time of year, and even day-to-day, but the water report should be relatively representative. And you water may be pretty good for drinking, but not for brewing.

If you are making extract batches, RO or distilled water is ideal because the extract manufacturer has already added minerals to create a balanced wort. You don’t have to add any additional minerals unless you are doing something special like making an IPA where you want a very high level of sulfites. All grain is a different story, but it is easier to add minerals as needed to distilled water than it is to work with crappy water.

Bite the bullet and just buy water in bulk, it will be worth it when you taste the finished beer. And if after one batch that doesn’t fix the problem, you will know that you have to look for some other solution.

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say your water has little or nothing to do with your poor results. How are you controlling fermentation temperature and at what temp are you fermenting?

I have room in the lower level that maintains a temp of 68 year round. The room is not used much so is dark 98% of the time. .???
And I am listening! More input please.

[quote=“KartRacer”]My understanding is that RO water will not have the minerals needed, so I suppose testing and adding minerals would be necessary.
The other item in our tap water is Chloramine which supposedly is also not good for brewing.
We always thought our water was pretty good, now we realize not so.
[/quote]

You don’t normally need any minerals for extract brewing. Not all water that tastes fine is good for brewing.

[quote]
I have Campden tablets coming tomorrow but that will do nothing for sulfates. I also wonder if water from the city has fluctuations in sodium, sulphate and Chloramine based on time of year.
Need to get this resolved so I can get a few batches in pipeline. Now that I have tasted one good batch, big brewers beer just won’t cut it:)
Thanks for all of your input so far.[/quote]

Depends on where you get your water. Ground water is usually pretty constant year round. Surface water can vary quite a bit. Added chlorine and to a lesser extent chloramine vary with the distance the water has to travel to get to your house. That is actually one reason a lot of areas are switching to chloramine – chlorine comes out of solution too easily which means that you are either overdosing people close to the water tower or underdosing people far away. chloramine is more stable so you can use lower dosage and get consistent performance throughout the water system. It is also harder to remove by the end user, which is a problem for homebrewers and aquarium owners :slight_smile:

One more problem you might have is tannin extraction from your steeped grains. If the pH of the water you are steeping in is too high that might cause the problems you are having. Trying steeping the grains in a smaller quantity of water, and wait until the water is hot before putting the grain bag in. For instance, heat 1 gallon of water (instead of 2.5) to 150 C, turn the heat off or down, and steep the grain without letting it get over 170. Remove the grain bag and add 1.5 gallon to reach your boil volume.

What I find confusing is that first batch was good. Did you try the first recipe again? What beers are you brewing?

I have room in the lower level that maintains a temp of 68 year round. The room is not used much so is dark 98% of the time. .???
And I am listening! More input please.[/quote]
That is a bit on the high side, but not so high that it would make the beer “bad”, just not as good as it could be for most yeast strains. A room that is about 60F is ideal for most ale strains.
But fermenting too high won’t make the beer too bitter. High levels of sulfite will push the beer in that direction, as will using too much bittering hops. Or boiling the flavor/aroma hops for too long. How do you chill the wort? If you are leaving it hot for a long time after the boil, then you are going to extract extra bitterness from your late hop additions, even if it is not actually boiling.

I understand your thought process and agree.
Here are the only differences
The first batch was in February, water may have had less chemicals from the city, I have no way of knowing that.
We used 2.5 gals tap water.after softener.
Then topped off with cold ( in freezer for an hour while doing the boil) store drinking water (3 gals)
2 weeks in fermenter, two weeks in secondary, two weeks in bottle at 68 then refrigerated and drank. It was a dry Irish ale kit from local brew shop.
I just completed the same kit from northern brewing. It has a strong bitter aftertaste that hangs on. Two different kits before that with similar problem. The second batch a brown ale was not as bad but was starting to have the bitterness. The third light ale was the first really bad bitter aftertaste and after 6 weeks in the fridge I poured it all out. Then the current dry Irish ale and a Honey ale going into the secondary very soon. I am not optimistic that it will be any good.
I have the replacement kit from Northern, again thanks Gabe, and another kit arriving tomorrow. Won’t brew those untill I decide on a solution to the bitterness. Pouring a bunch of money down the drain.
We are located less than a half mile from the water tower. Water comes from Liberty, mo they buy it from Kansas City.
Thanks for your input.

While I don’t think your water is the issue, you could rule it out by brewing with distilled for a batch if you have an extract kit.
Does the bitterness you are tasting get stronger the longer you age the beer? What type of head do you see on the beer? Small bubbles or large?
Can you describe your cleaning/sanitation process for your hoses, fermentation vessel and bottles?

Very strange . I’m assuming your not talking about a hop bitterness. Brew your next batch with all bottled water don’t add anything to the water and let us know what the results are.

The head looks normal, in fact very good.
Have used plastic and glass big mouth.
All vessels, all utensils, all hoses, kettles, bottles cleaned in oxyclean, rinsed then sanitized in star San. Bottles re sanitized with bottle sanitizer pump and filled with gravity bottle filler which is also sanitized. Bottled beer is put into original bottle cases and placed in 68 degree room for minimum of two weeks. First two batches were without measuring specific gravity. Last three were confirmed matching recipe. Current brew in bottles for three weeks, Dry Irish ale, NB, initial taste is good as it should be, then the bitterness takes over as an aftertaste.
Honey brown ale is in the primary and I will move to secondary tomorrow evening and add gelatin findings per instructions. Also I will test SG. I will leave in secondary in the 68 degree room for two weeks prior to bottling.
I plan on buying 10 gallons of water at grocery tomorrow and will brew one of the kits I have. I will use dry yeast as that is what NB sent with replacement kit.I have used liquid yeast in all but one batch, that was dry yeast. The batch in fermentor now was racked with a yeast starter.
Still hoping and believing the problem us the water, my fingers are crossed because if it is not the water I will have to start from scratch to determine the issue. Oh forgot, does not get worse with age!

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