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Off Flavors

Hey guys,

So I moved into a new place back in June of last year and couldn’t wait to start brewing another batch after getting everything settled in… I started brewing over a year ago and got quite a few 1 gallon batches under my belt with pretty much no issues to speak of (other than a pine ale that was atrocious.) Just before I moved, I decided to make the jump to 5 gallon batches. So I bought all the necessary components and got a Saison Extract Kit from NB. I brewed it outside on a turkey fry burner, and added some orange blossom honey to boost the gravity a bit. Everything went well with the boil, the cooling, the transfer, the fermentation, the bottling and the drinking… I couldn’t figure out why I hadn’t made the switch to 5 gallon batches sooner- But as soon as I moved to the new place, all brewing hell broke loose… I started with an partial mash oatmeal stout, electric stove, mashed too high, fermented to warm and bottled. The finished product had a taste I couldn’t quite pin down, but it was gross. Though my roommate assumed it was the oatmeal and that I’d used too much. He gladly finished all of them, but I couldn’t manage to finish a single one.

After that, I tried a Scotch ale, a Brown Ale, an Oktoberfest, and an Irish Stout… All with the same horrible off flavor. I’m losing time and money left and right over this- It tastes like A chlorine or rubber or vinyl, which I’ve looked up, and it’s phenol. I thought it was the water being more chlorinated than the last place, I was so sure of it- So I switched to Poland Springs, but to no avail. Same off flavor… More recently, I bought an Irish Red extract kit (Cheap) But I didn’t want it to be ruined like all the others. So as an experiment, I went back to trying a 1 gallon (or 2, in this case) batch- low and behold, the beer had those pleasantly familiar esters of banana and apple- You know, good things an ale SHOULD have. They were the same boil, but put into two different 1 gal fermentors. The one with the plastic lid and airlock smelled amazing, but the one with the rubber bung smelled- like rubber, just like the other batches. Hopefully taste will be different though. I’ll be bottling them separately later today… So my question is this- What else would contribute? I thought maybe the electric stove wasn’t boiling the wort enough (like the turkey fryer did) or maybe because the Saison used liquid yeast and I’m usually a dry guy, that possibly it was under pitching? I have no idea… I’m just so frustrated from it though.

Please Help!

Lots of variables there, so it could be hard to pinpoint right away. Other members might be able to be more helpfull than I, but I’ll get the ball rolling…

How are you controlling your fermentation temperatures?

How much yeast are you pitching in the 5 gal batch vs 1 gal?

This may be an easy fix:

First see if you can contact your local water authority and see if they’ll provide you with a water report.

Next, throw that bung out. They’re cheap it may be defective and I would replace it. Also when you sanitize what sanitation solution are you using? Is it at the proper amounts? Are you rinsing enough, etc.

I agree with Brew Meister Smith on the yeast. What is you process for both the 1 g and the 5 g?

Last, you mentioned you brewed a Saison, did you incorporate Brettanomyces anywhere in the process? If so that could be one of the issues.

Is it a band-aid/medicinal smell? Grab some Campden tablets from NB and treat your water with those.

I have always had pretty good brewing water, so I’m no expert, but isn’t commercial ‘spring’ water devoid of a lot of the minerals and pH to be good brewing water?

My initial thought would be the off flavors are caused by fermenting too warm. This is something you wouldn’t notice as much with a one gallon batch, but those 5 gallon batches will generate more heat. You escaped the issue with the saison, because it can take the warmer temps. Do you have actual recorded fermentation temps (not room temps, but the beer itself during fermentation) and the yeast used for each batch? This will help diagnose.
In your last batch you went back to a one gallon, split between to fermentation vessels. It was ok in one vessel, unpleasant in the other. Temp could still be the issue even for your split 1 gallon batch if more yeast was used in one batch than the other and you may even be more sensitive to the off flavor at this point, but it certainly won’t hurt to ditch any easily replaceable parts, like the rubber bung you are doubtful of.

This is what I was thinking also. In my experience, the larger the batch size, the more out of control temps can get. This would explain why going back to 1 gal batches fixed the problem for you.

Unless your sanitation is absolutely horrible, I don’t think it would be an equipment issue.

Lets look at your 5 gallon batches first. After you switched to spring water the same bad flavor was there. This would seem to rule out the original water source previous to the spring water.

Can we also rule out that you are not transferring water with a garden hose?

What comes in contact with your wort next is cleaning and sanitizing materials. What do you clean each piece of your fermenting and racking equipment with? Do you do a long term soak in cleaning solutions? Could the rinsing be a problem? Do you use a no rinse sanitizer like Starsan?

The next consideration would be fermentation temperature previously mentioned. What temp is your wort for the first three days of active fermentation?

Are your fermentors protected from any UV source? With your one gallon batches the bucket was fine, but the clear glass fermentor had a problem.

A solution can be found.

It’s not the water, as I boiled the 2 gallon batch using just tap water without getting the chlorine flavor…

My fermentations have no controlled temperature, but they’ve ranged between 62* (winter) - 80+* (mid-summer)

I tossed the bung out and bought a new one for this batch, but the new ones in the store all had the same rubber smell.

NB suggests using a half pack of dry yeast for a one gallon batch, which is what I’ve always done- This one was no different. I pitched half the pack into each fermenter… For my 5 gallon batches, I’ve been using 2 packets, re-hydrated and and used a starter. No Brett in the Saison as far as I know- (I used Wyeast 3711 French Saison.)

For sanitation, I use StarSan, soak for a few minutes, no rinse.
Use PBW when necessary for tough stuff…

Depending on the recipes used, 2 packs of dry yeast seems a little more than you would need for 5 gal. If it ends up as an overpitch it could add to off flavors.

But I really think temperatures are your problem. It would explain why a change in location could have an effect. If there is any chance you fermented at 80+ ambiant with no control - Holy Moley!

99% sure a swamp cooler fixes your issues.

[quote=“Brew Meister Smith”]Depending on the recipes used, 2 packs of dry yeast seems a little more than you would need for 5 gal. If it ends up as an overpitch it could add to off flavors.

But I really think temperatures are your problem. It would explain why a change in location could have an effect. If there is any chance you fermented at 80+ ambiant with no control - Holy Moley!

99% sure a swamp cooler fixes your issues.[/quote]

Definitely possible, I suppose- I was in a basement studio before that was kept around 60 at all times… Now I’m in a second floor apt. that’s usually 70 or so in the winter, and about 105 in the summer. >.<
Our A/C unit doesn’t do much though.

[quote=“Anamnesis”]Definitely possible, I suppose- I was in a basement studio before that was kept around 60 at all times… Now I’m in a second floor apt. that’s usually 70 or so in the winter, and about 105 in the summer. >.<
Our A/C unit doesn’t do much though.[/quote]

Now I’m %100 sure. Easy to fix. Remember that fermentation temperature and ambiant room temperature are not the same thing.

Get a rubber made tub to put your fermenter in and fill (say about half way up) with cool water.

a) that on it’s own will do wonders
b) you can sink frozen water bottles to manipulate temps if needed.
c) or you can drape a towel over the fermenter with one end in the water and point a fan at it.

Easiest way to track temps is simply a floating thermometer in the outside water. Will not give you the exact temp of the beer, but will tend to stay within a degree or two once the inner and outer volumes ballance out.

I also use an infrared temp meter to monitor whats in the bucket

Yep, those temps are just too warm. Good advice above. Here is a helpful article. http://byo.com/stories/item/1869-contro … techniques

Thanks Everyone- Hopefully I’ll be brewing another batch this weekend with your advice in mind… I’ll re-post when I have the results!

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