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First batch off flavor help

Greetings,

I just bottled my first batch using the deluxe kit, Irish Red. I did my best to follow the directions, especially sanitizing. The beer was in the primary the full two weeks, 3.5 weeks in the secondary, and now I wait for bottle conditioning. I do not have a gravity kit so I haven’t a clue what I’m at.

I decided to taste my beer with what small amount was left that wouldn’t have filled a bottle and it tasted rather soapy/fruity. I’m certain the fruity flavors were from fermenting too warm because I made a post about my primary fermentation a month ago.

The soapy flavor is throwing me for a loop. I did a quick google and one page said that the beer was in the primary for too long after fermentation completed and the fatty acids started to break down. Is this accurate and if so at what point or what should I look for in primary fermentation to know when the fermentation is complete (when the krausen falls?)?

Any advice is very welcomed and appreciated. Thanks.

Soapy flavors from a beer being on the yeast cake that long is a myth. Not in Palmers new book.

You need a hydrometer to know when your fermentation is done or stuck.

Did you use any soap for cleaning any of your equipment? Soapy flavor can also come form certain hops. Some of this flavor or aroma can be noticed by some people before the beer is fully conditioned.

I only used star-san to clean at the concentration recommended.

Don’t worry. Fresh, uncarbonated, nonconditioned beer always tastes different than it will when it’s fully ready. Give a good 3 weeks in the bottle at 65-70 * and you’ll be happy.
And the best advice anyone can give you is to get a hydrometer to check your gravities. While you’re at it, get two. They break easily.

A possibility is infection. Starsan is a sanitizer not a cleanser. Some gunk laden with bacteria may have been left behind. I also say that is probably not the cause of the soap flavor because infections usually make a visual presence.

Soft water or water low in sulfates can contribute to soap off flavors. What was your water source for brewing?

Under pitching the yeast can also lead to the soapy flavor. What was the OG of your beer, the yeast pitched and estimated number of cells pitched?

[quote=“James Rausch”]Don’t worry. Fresh, uncarbonated, nonconditioned beer always tastes different than it will when it’s fully ready. Give a good 3 weeks in the bottle at 65-70 * and you’ll be happy.
And the best advice anyone can give you is to get a hydrometer to check your gravities. While you’re at it, get two. They break easily.[/quote]

I plan to get one (or two) hydrometers once I have the money for them. I know they’re not much but I don’t have much play money in my budget (bills and kids got to come first ha-ha).

I’ll try a beer at two weeks to see how it tastes…hopefully time and carbonation does the trick. If not I’ll let it go a little longer and pray.
Thanks.

[quote=“flars”]A possibility is infection. Starsan is a sanitizer not a cleanser. Some gunk laden with bacteria may have been left behind. I also say that is probably not the cause of the soap flavor because infections usually make a visual presence.

Soft water or water low in sulfates can contribute to soap off flavors. What was your water source for brewing?

Under pitching the yeast can also lead to the soapy flavor. What was the OG of your beer, the yeast pitched and estimated number of cells pitched?[/quote]

I don’t think I had an infection. I never had anything significantly visual on the surface of the beer. During the secondary I did notice a VERY small number of brown floating specs. The beer this whole time and even at bottling smells great.

I used my town water that was run through an under-sink filter. I cannot remember what the filter comprises of but I don’t think it’s all or part activated carbon. It does the trick for normal drinking water…I don’t taste any chlorine or any other weird town water like flavors.

Your bit on the yeast is above me. I don’t know the OG as I don’t yet have a hydrometer. The kit came with (dry) Danstar Nottingham Ale Yeast and it appeared to do rather well starting 12 hours after pitching. The yeast fell after 36 hours or so of fermenting. I know for a fact I fermented well too warm…at about 76-78F. I expected it to taste fruity as a result and it does…that I can deal with…just the soapyness. Could that be a by-product of fermenting too warm as well?

The only reason I doubt this is that everything I used was brand new and unused and had well more than ample cleaning time. Yes star san is only a sanitizer but I seriously doubt there was a blob of gunk hanging somewhere.

Your filter probably removes chlorine and chloramine. These two compounds would not directly contribute to your off flavors.
The amount of yeast you pitched was more than sufficient for your beer even if it was not rehydrated.

The culprit may be a combination of the short time in the primary, high fermentation temperature, and possibly the hops. If this is it the flavor may diminish or disappear with some time in the secondary and a few weeks of bottle conditioning.

[quote=“flars”]Your filter probably removes chlorine and chloramine. These two compounds would not directly contribute to your off flavors.
The amount of yeast you pitched was more than sufficient for your beer even if it was not rehydrated.

The culprit may be a combination of the short time in the primary, high fermentation temperature, and possibly the hops. If this is it the flavor may diminish or disappear with some time in the secondary and a few weeks of bottle conditioning.[/quote]

Would you then suggest that for future batches I ignore the kit instructions and go with gravity readings? Wouldn’t I be wasting a considerable amount of beer if I took hydrometer readings every few days? Unless I pitch a pretty penny for a refractometer.

Another question is how would hops contribute a nasty flavor? My uneducated mind would think a specific species wouldn’t be used if it didn’t taste any good. I did strain the wort before going into the primary. Should I have not done that and let the hops go into the primary?

Thanks for the help flars.

Would you then suggest that for future batches I ignore the kit instructions and go with gravity readings? Wouldn’t I be wasting a considerable amount of beer if I took hydrometer readings every few days?

[color=#000080]If the kit instructions give a timeline for managing the fermentation ignore them. The yeast work on their own given the environment you provide. I typically control the temperature of the wort during the most active part of the fermentation. This is about three to five days. At the end of five days I let the wort temperature rise. My brewing area is 66°F to 68°F year round. At about two weeks I take a hydrometer reading. I take another three days later. If they are the same FG has been reached and fermentation is complete. The yeast are still working just to clean up the naturally produced off flavors of fermentation. At about three weeks I’ll consider bottling. By this time the beer has nicely cleared. The sediment and yeast are well compacted in the cake. There’s no rush to bottle. I do it when my schedule permits.
[/color]
Unless I pitch a pretty penny for a refractometer.
[color=#000080]Refractometers are nice for pre-ferment SG readings. They do not work well in the presence of alcohol. There are conversion tables, but the accuracy is not as good as a hydrometer.
[/color]
Another question is how would hops contribute a nasty flavor? My uneducated mind would think a specific species wouldn’t be used if it didn’t taste any good. I did strain the wort before going into the primary. Should I have not done that and let the hops go into the primary?
[color=#000080]In some types of beers, usually lighter beers and at different IBU levels, the hops can present strange flavors. The strange flavors often dissipate with time. Simcoe has been described by some as the flavor or aroma of cat pee. Cascade, in some situations, can present a soapy flavor to some people. Everyone doesn’t pick up these flavors. Depends upon sensitivity.
[/color]
I also have begun straining hop debris from my beers. Simplifies harvesting clean yeast. I haven’t noticed any change in hop bitterness or aroma of the same beers.
[/quote]

Great, thanks!

I plan on putting together a fermentation chamber since I don’t have anywhere cool enough to ferment. I don’t have a basement or any other cool area and I don’t think my wife would like me dropping the temp of the whole house just to ferment (especially with a week old gal in the house).

It’ll be something like this actually. http://www.wortomatic.com/articles/38DD … on-Chiller

So once I have this together and a hydrometer, hopefully future batches will be much better.

Thanks again.

That can work. I skimmed it. Is the fan for circulating the cooled air?
Here is a link that may give you some other ideas for an inexpensive digital temperature controller. Could be used on the recirculating fan. Can also be used for both heating and cooling for a refrigerator or chest freezer.

http://www.homebrewtalk.com/f51/ebay-aq ... ld-163849/

I think you need to more careful about temperature because it’s very important for making a batch.

[quote=“flars”]That can work. I skimmed it. Is the fan for circulating the cooled air?
Here is a link that may give you some other ideas for an inexpensive digital temperature controller. Could be used on the recirculating fan. Can also be used for both heating and cooling for a refrigerator or chest freezer.

http://www.homebrewtalk.com/f51/ebay-aq ... ld-163849/[/quote]

Yup…pretty simple and ingenious.
The link you have is pretty nice. Same concept just a different method. I’ll just use a thermostat to control the computer fan.

I’ve said it before, but it’s worth repeating. Fermentation temperature control is the difference between good beer and great beer. That contrasts with good sanitation, which can be the difference between drinkable and undrinkable beer.

[quote=“rebuiltcellars”]
I’ve said it before, but it’s worth repeating. Fermentation temperature control is the difference between good beer and great beer. That contrasts with good sanitation, which can be the difference between drinkable and undrinkable beer.[/quote]
+1 Well said.

I used to use room temp for most brews, the basement is ~60 the upstairs about 70; maybe a bit lower in winter, higher in summer. I thought that was good enough. When I finally got the freezer+temp controller, I thought I was just putting icing on the cake. The improvement in my beers was remarkable; it was a real game changer.

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