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That homebrew taste

I am fairly new to brewing. I have made five or six batches now (all extract and all bottled), and for the most part I have been pleased with my results. However, I have noticed that with every batch, I get a certain “off” flavor that is the same each time. I’m not sure how to describe it, but I think of it as “the homebrew taste” because I have never tasted it in any commercial beer. The taste is somewhat bitter, and it overshadows the good flavors of the beer. I usually brew NB kits and follow the directions to the letter except for the fact that I usually go to the secondary after only a week because airlock bubbling ends before then. If anyone has any ideas about what may be causing this flavor or how to prevent it, I would really appreciate some advice.
Thanks!

Could be astringency… do you have a lot of chlorine in your water? At what temps are you pitching and fermenting?

Well, I have always used store-bought distilled water, so I don’t think chlorine should be an issue. I usually pitch at 75-80 degrees F and ferment at about 70F, give or take a couple of degrees.

You could be getting a bunch of esters (or worse phenols) by pitching at that temp. Try getting your beer in the upper 60’s before pitching and holding at that temp throughout fermentation.

If you don’t have a fermentation fridge, a simple and cheap solution is to get a plastic tub and make a swamp cooler. When it’s too warm to ferment in my basement I’ll fill a tub with ice and water and when the temp of the beer drops into the 60’s I’ll pitch my yeast. I keep half a dozen frozen water bottles in the freezer and swap them out a few times a day and even in the dead of summer I can keep the temp of the beer around 66-68. It’s all about thermal mass :slight_smile:

And for the record, short of moving to all grain, controlling my fermentation temps made the single biggest improvement in my beer.

Thanks a lot. I’ll try that on my next batch (probably the NB dry Irish stout) and post back with my results.

In general, leaving the beer on the yeast longer will reduce off-flavors. Racking after a week should be fine for normal-gravity ales, but if you’re under-pitching and/or fermenting too warm, it may take longer for the yeast to “clean up”. If you want to, you can always leave the beer in the fermenter for 2-4 weeks and skip the conditioning vessel entirely.

Ok. I will leave it in the primary for at least the whole two weeks next time. What, if any, would be the negative consequences of skipping the secondary?

The beer may take a little longer to clear, but there isn’t even a consensus on that. Whether or not a “secondary”* is beneficial is a topic of debate, at least among home brewers. Very few pro breweries use one.

  • I use quotes because what we’re talking about is bulk conditioning, not a true secondary fermentation.

The beer may take a little longer to clear, but there isn’t even a consensus on that. Whether or not a “secondary”* is beneficial is a topic of debate, at least among home brewers. Very few pro breweries use one.

  • I use quotes because what we’re talking about is bulk conditioning, not a true secondary fermentation.[/quote]
  • 1 to Worthog’s advice. I’d add that you shouldn’t rack any beer until it’s fermented out, especially if you’re bottling. If it’s not finished and you rack it to a secondary you may leave too much yeast behind to finish it out.

Its bottle carbing, and I can pick it up from a mile away.

I’d bet the OP ferments at 70° or above, that’s why they all have that so called HB taste.

And partial boil extract.

Could either of you elaborate on those last two posts?

Are you saying that bottle conditioning contributes an off-flavor?

Well personally for me it is an off-flavor, but for everyone else I would call it a “signature” flavor.

Partial boil extract, only boil 1/2 of your LME/DME. Add the rest at the end of the boil. This will reduce carmalization of the sugar dense wort. Adding at the end of the boil will pasteurize the remainder of the ME.

Fermentation creates heat. So if you are fermenting in a 70* room, the beer is likely at 75*+ which can cause off flavors. Try the water bath method of controlling your temps.

When I extract brewed, I had a “twang” in several beers. It did go away with aging, 4 months or more.

It won’t let me edit, not bottle conditioning…bottle carbing. Beers that are “force carbed”, do not have this flavor.

Are you saying that bottle conditioning contributes an off-flavor?[/quote]

I sort of agree. I’m not saying this is the issue with the original poster’s inquiry, but I think there is something to this. I primarily keg my beers, but also bottle stuff like sour beers or big beers I’d like to age. I notice that after awhile they have a real “homebrew”-y taste to them. I can only guess it’s got something to do with the bottle conditioning? Just something I’ve noticed over the last few years - a real signature taste.

As for the original inquiry I would guess it may be insufficient attenuation. This is only a guess, but I believe this was a problem for me when I first started brewing. Of course fermenting too warm is a close 2nd guess. Take some care to step up your pitching (make a starter), try to aerate your wort and try to keep the fermentation somewhat cool and I’ll bet your beer will have a noticeable change.

Honestly, my first thought would be a persistent but very low-level contamination.

I can’t definitively say that there’s no off-flavor as a result of bottle conditioning, but it isn’t anything I can pick up on. I’ve even tasted the same batch, force carbed and bottle carbed side by side, and they’re nearly identical to me.

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