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Help a two-time failed brewer

Hi everyone:

I’m new to brewing, started off with extract kits for caribou slobber and rye stout, and ended up with barely drinkable results after both attempts. I’m about to embark on a third try–AK47 pale mild extract–but it’s hard to get motivated since I worry about what will end up in my glass.

Both misfires had the same off flavor: looking at NB’s list, I’d describe it as Acetaldehyde (green apple) or maybe sourness, a tad metallic. I’ve been hardcore about the star-san during all stages, so I’m not sure what else there is to do as far as sanitizing.

I’m looking at a couple possible causes I see listed:

1.) Poor aeration. I use the “jostle the plastic bucket” method as seen on the NB dvd. Do other people use this method? Has it ever caused problems? Was my jostling insufficient? Should I do something else?

2.) Fermentation time. In both failures, I didn’t check the gravity at all. Bubbling had pretty much stopped, krausen had fallen, and the recommended two weeks had passed. Would premature bottling cause my funky flavors?

Let me know if anyone has ideas. I raise my glass of weird-tasting rye stout to you!

-Evan

  1. The bucket needs to be shaken really well before adding the yeat. Jostling isnt enough. Lots of oxygen will be needed.

  2. You need to start checking gravity. Its the only way to know for sure.

  3. Green apple can mean youre drinking a young beer. Start leaving the beer on the yeast untill your gravity is constant. A good rule of thumb is to leave the beer in primary for two weeks before checking. Then check a few days later. If its the same, your ready for secondary(you can also just leave the beer in primary on top of the yeast and call it secondary) I prefer this. It makes me feel confident the yeast have had time to clean up off flavors such as diacteyl which tastes like butter.

Most problems are sanitation, or time. You said youre good on sanitation so start giving your beer all the time it needs.

Thanks a ton, Adam. I suspect it’s “young beer.” I’m not so lazy that I won’t try to brew my own beer, but apparently I am too lazy to check the gravity. Hmmmm.

I’ll get vigorous with the aeration too.

Will post again when I pour a glass of the pale mild.

How long did you wait to drink the beers? I have had a few batches that taisted slightly off untill I gave them a few more weeks to age. I had a honey rye ale that finnished with a slight tartness that made me wonder about wild yeasts in the air. after a month of ageing the tartness has faded and now its a great brew.

Perhaps aging really would help somewhat. Describe your fermentation conditions and times to us please.

fro extract gravity is almost impossible to fuck up unless you add way to much water or way to little.
First uestion I always ask new brewers is What are you using for water?

Aging in the bottle has helped a little in each case, but even after a month or so it’s still not right.

Grainbelt–water! Maybe that’s it. I’m using southern mississippi tap water from my kitchen faucet. People say there’s a lot of cholorine in the water here, but I can’t tell. I drink it out of the tap and it tastes fine.

Fill out your profile and maybe someone who lives in the same place can help you out ?

Couple points I would make:
Make sure your equipment is clean as well as sanitized, A good soak with Oxy-Clean Free
Sanitize using Star San
Use Mr. Malty to make sure you are pitching proper yeast amounts
http://www.mrmalty.com/calc/calc.html

If you’re brewing Extract, make a batch using all Distilled water.
Take your kettle off the burner when adding extratc, make sure it is stirred in prior to putting back on heat, to pervent scortching the extract.
Cool your Wort a few degrees below fermentation temps then aeriate REALLY well and pitch yeast.
As stated previously you need to measure gravity. Do a simple Amber Ale, primary for two weeks, check gravity, wait a couple days check again, and so on. Once it stabilizes for three readings give it another week, then bottle. Two weeks minimum bottle conditioning at room temp then cool one bottle and test it.

Don’t Give Up! It gets better!

Lots of good suggestions above. A few things that jump out to me/things I would prioritize.

1.) Sanitation - sounds like you are confident in it, but it is THE most important thing, so revisit it. Especially your fermenter, bottling bucket, bottles, siphon, bottle filler, etc.

2.) Brew extract beer with RO or Distilled water. Extract has all the minerals in it you need - best to use water with nothing in it.

3.) Make a yeast starter to ensure good fermentation.

4.) watch fermentation temps - high temps can equal strong off flavors. Too low can cause sluggish ferment and allow for bacteria to gain a foothold. Ales - cool wort to mid or low 60’s and ferment in the mid 60’s if possible (the actual fermenting beer will be warmer than the temp. of the room).

5.) Leave in primary for 3 weeks.

6.) Check gravity at 3 weeks (should be simply going through the motions at this point as ferment should easily be complete and final gravity reached).

7.) Move to bottling bucket, add priming sugar ( I boil 2/3 of a cup corn sugar in a water and reduce it down a bit till there is about 1-2 cups of “liquid sugar solution.”

8.) After bottling - let those bottles sit for 2-3 weeks before tasting. Ultimately, Try it 5-6 weeks after brew day.

Also - someone mentioned to find some local help to watch your process and lend a hand - could not agree more - always better to learn from the mistakes others have made, than your own:) Keep at it!

[quote=“esharri2”]Aging in the bottle has helped a little in each case, but even after a month or so it’s still not right.

Grainbelt–water! Maybe that’s it. I’m using southern mississippi tap water from my kitchen faucet. People say there’s a lot of cholorine in the water here, but I can’t tell. I drink it out of the tap and it tastes fine.[/quote]

THats probably it you didn’t do anything to get rid of chlorine, get some camped tablets and throw in your water before your next brew.
Or switchover to spring or distilled if extract for a batch and see how it turns out.

Sanitations seems good, temp control is huge, beginners usually dont have much to do with that but cool it on the cool end of the yeast spec and go from there. A large tub of cool water and some ice packs help if it is to warm in your place.

Throw out your directions and do a lot of reading.
Direction are pretty bad IME, when I started out.
Like I said you cant screw up your OG if your doing extract unless you add way to much water or to little. If you pitch enough good healthy yeast you rFG should be fine to given enough time. I alwasy just let my beer go for 3 or 4 weeks before I touch them.

Get a mild easy drinking low alch beer for your next batch, use dry yeast instead of liquid, add the campden to your water. Cool enough before pitching and keep it as cool as you can in the yeast range or use yeast that has a range you have and you should get back on track

+1 totally agree with grainbelt here. ya don’t want any chlorine in your brew water.

Chlorine or chloramine is a possibility. One can’t-miss fix for this is to add a campden tablet to your water before brewing.

My other suspicion would be fermentation temps. If you are fermenting too warm, it can result in all manner of off flavors–especially for someone like me who isn’t always sure what’s “solvent-like” vs “medicinal” vs “green-apple”…

The important thing here is that your wort is cooled to <70 F before pitching and maintained around that level (depending on the yeast). One thing that newcomers often overlook is how much warmer than ambient temperature the fermenting beer can be, as the yeast activity generates heat.

As far as sanitation, scratched plastic buckets are notorious for providing a haven for bacteria–if the sanitizer can’t get to the bacteria (and get to it easily and completely), it probably won’t have the desired effect.

By the way…I’ve heard that fruit flies are a source of and indication of acetobater infection. Ring any bells?

These are very helpful, thorough suggestions. Thanks everyone.

I’ll definitely be trying distilled water for this next batch. Also, I’ll give it a longer fermentation time and check gravity, just to be sure. I’ll also try cleaning everything better prior to sanitizing.

Thanks again!

[quote=“esharri2”]These are very helpful, thorough suggestions. Thanks everyone.

I’ll definitely be trying distilled water for this next batch. Also, I’ll give it a longer fermentation time and check gravity, just to be sure. I’ll also try cleaning everything better prior to sanitizing.

Thanks again![/quote]

Don’t use distilled water, you want the minerals. Use purified or spring water. If that helps then you can switch back to tap water and use campden tablets.

[quote=“Monster Mash”][quote=“esharri2”]These are very helpful, thorough suggestions. Thanks everyone.

I’ll definitely be trying distilled water for this next batch. Also, I’ll give it a longer fermentation time and check gravity, just to be sure. I’ll also try cleaning everything better prior to sanitizing.

Thanks again![/quote]

Don’t use distilled water, you want the minerals. Use purified or spring water. If that helps then you can switch back to tap water and use campden tablets.[/quote]

he is doing extract the minerals are in the extract already distilled is fine

[quote=“grainbelt”][quote=“Monster Mash”][quote=“esharri2”]These are very helpful, thorough suggestions. Thanks everyone.

I’ll definitely be trying distilled water for this next batch. Also, I’ll give it a longer fermentation time and check gravity, just to be sure. I’ll also try cleaning everything better prior to sanitizing.

Thanks again![/quote]

Don’t use distilled water, you want the minerals. Use purified or spring water. If that helps then you can switch back to tap water and use campden tablets.[/quote]

he is doing extract the minerals are in the extract already distilled is fine[/quote]

Then add gypsum to the boil for a pale mild. IMO distilled water is too soft for the hops.

The only batches I’ve thrown out have been related to ferm temps getting too high when I first started. Most ale fermentations should never go above 70F. If you keep the carboy/bucket in a room that is 68F the fermenting beer can get as high as 78F which is way too warm most of the time.

Watch those ferm temps and follow the other advice here and you’ll be brewing great beer in no time.

[quote]

Then add gypsum to the boil for a pale mild. IMO distilled water is too soft for the hops.[/quote]

that would be fine for something hoppy if it needs it, but he needs to find out his issues first, he should keep it simple until he gets it down then go on to other things like water chemistry

[quote=“grainbelt”][quote]

Then add gypsum to the boil for a pale mild. IMO distilled water is too soft for the hops.[/quote]

that would be fine for something hoppy if it needs it, but he needs to find out his issues first, he should keep it simple until he gets it down then go on to other things like water chemistry[/quote]

+1

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