Trying to pinpoint a flaw

I’ve been mulling this question and researching a bit, but can’t find any answers:

I brewed an extract sweet stout (NB’s sweet stout), added only a vanilla tincture to secondary. Had good temp control. Used amount of priming sugar called for by priming calculator. Got weak carbonation. The problem was that on the finish, I get a distinct cola taste. Sorta like a flat coke on the back of the tongue. Not a bad taste, just cola! Weird . I chalked it up to extract twang and just put them in a closet, hoping that age would help. Nope.

Fast forward about 6 months. I now do biab. All had gone well with all grain, my beers were better across the board. Until I did NB’s Irish Red. Taste and smell up front is good, carbonation is good, but there’s that dang cola taste in the finish again.

So as I’m looking to brew something dark and tasty for the winter, I’m sorta worried that this might happen again and I’m stumped. I use brunwater with my tap water, campden, the works. I can’t find anything glaringly wrong with my process, and my lighter beers taste great–pale ale, hefeweizen, kolsch. The only thing I found in common with these two recipes is a very small addition of chocolate malt, but I doubt that is my culprit.

I would appreciate any and all critiques, comments, guesses.

Thanks and cheers,

Ron

That is a first, I’ve never heard of that before. Not sure I can help you. Possibly tannins? Do you measure your mash pH, and is it 5.2-5.5? That’s about the only thing I can think of, but it might not be the problem at all. Hmm. Stumped.

Yeah, Dave, this ones just weird. Funny, I’ve done NB’s bourbon barrel porter several times and it’s always tasted great. The best way I know to describe this taste is that if all I could taste was the finish, I would swear I was drinking a partially flat coke.

I’ll probably just go back to the Bourbon porter. It’s never failed me.

Thanks,

Ron

I don’t measure ph, just follow brunwater recommendations.

Ron

[quote=“Frenchie”]I don’t measure ph, just follow brunwater recommendations.

Ron[/quote]

As long as you’re sure you know the profile for your water, following Brunwater should be just fine without measurement.

Anyone besides me wonder if it is the vanilla extract?

I’m assuming no vanilla in the Irish Red, though. Chocolate malt sends to be the common denominator. I don’t get cola from chocolate malt, but I do sometimes get a leggy aftertaste from it. OP, if you chew a few grains of chocolate malt, do you get a similar flavor?

No vanilla in the irish red. Good idea about the chocolate malt, Uber. I don’t have any on hand–I just buy the kits from NB and don’t have any separated grains. I’m wondering if it could be a lack of extraction from the specialty malt since there was not a lot of it in these recipes–which makes me think it could be my water?? Although with the extract batch, I used distilled. Could using distilled to steep specialty grains be a problem? And with the biab, I’m using a water report that is over a year old, so there could be an issue there. I think for this next batch, I may use distilled and build up from zero.

Ron

By chance did both beers use the Wyeast Irish Ale strain? I would never have put my finger on a “cola” flavor, but I have come away with kind of a weird flavor with that yeast that I have not ever experienced with commercial/professional beers. It’s been awhile since I used that yeast so memory is kind of foggy about whether that could be the same flavor you have.

Any chance you acidify with phosphoric acid? This is the same acid found in cola that may give the impression of drinking a cola? It’s possible you added enough to reach the taste threshold of the acid. Just guessing as this was the first thing that jumped in my head when you said cola.

Edit: I realized you got this taste with extract and probably didn’t acidify for that so it rules that out.

Try adding a pinch of baking soda to a pint and see if that helps. Final pH might be on the low side. Pop (as we say in Ohio) or soda/cola has a lower pH than beer. ALOT lower.

This is a stumper…

  1. did they share the same yeast strain?
  2. you said ‘good temp control’ but can you explain?
  3. can you give a brief description of your entire process?
    I went through common off flavor and nothing strikes me as ‘cola.’

Edited to add: what are you measuring mash temps with?

Thanks for all the replies.

Josh, you may be on to something.

Both beers used Nottingham–I didn’t notice earlier.

Temp control–swamp cooler, carboy immersed up to beer level, beer temp in low 60’s(62-64)
Pitched the extract at 68, but cooled quickly to 64 before any noticeable activity. Biab was pitched at 60, never got above 62 until after krausen fell.

OG on irish red 1.042, FG 1.007
OG on stout approx 1.060, FG 1.022 (lactose 16 oz and maltodextrin 1.5oz were in the mix)
I had also earlier thought that the lactose may have been the problem, but then it showed up in the irish red.

Both extract and biab good rolling boil 60 minutes

Measure mash temps with standard lab thermometer(always immersing to the immersion line)

Haven’t had any trouble with other beers, though. Just weird.

Zwiller, I’ll give the baking soda a try. Nothing to lose.

Matt, I acidified with lactic acid, good call on the phosphoric-forgot about it’s use in coke. (sorry Zwiller, “pop”. My cousins from Ohio always call it pop too. ) I’ll never argue with an Ohioan about beer, though. Some of the best beers I’ve ever had are from Ohio!

Thanks for the suggestions guys. Y’all are the best.

:cheers:

Ron

Zwiller, you’re a genius! The baking soda ABSOLUTELY worked. Put the bitter in the finish that both beers were missing-even added a nice, creamy head to both. I added about 1/8 tsp to about 10 ounces of each beer. I’m amazed. The sweet stout(extract) is still not a great beer, but drinkable. This took the irish red(all-grain) from drinkable to pretty good.

So I take from this that my starting ph in my water profile is probably wrong. Which means I need to build up distilled for my next batch and then get a new water test. Right?

Many thanks to all,

Ron

[quote=“Frenchie”]Zwiller, you’re a genius! The baking soda ABSOLUTELY worked. Put the bitter in the finish that both beers were missing-even added a nice, creamy head to both. I added about 1/8 tsp to about 10 ounces of each beer. I’m amazed. The sweet stout(extract) is still not a great beer, but drinkable. This took the irish red(all-grain) from drinkable to pretty good.

So I take from this that my starting ph in my water profile is probably wrong. Which means I need to build up distilled for my next batch and then get a new water test. Right?

Many thanks to all,

Ron[/quote]

I’m not sure I understand this. You said you were using Brunwater to calculate mash pH. To end up with a finished pH that was lower than expected you would have had to add a whole bunch of lactic. This still doesn’t explain why you experienced this in your extract recipe since I assume you weren’t acidifying that at all. What is the Bicarbonate level in your tap water?

Yeah, Matt, it did occur to me that this did not really explain the extract part, but I swear it made a big difference.

My starting bicarbonate was 151. I added 1.5 ml lactic to 2.5 gallons of mash water (3 gallon biab) per brunwater. Added1.75ml to 2.3 gallon dunk sparge.

So I guess if my starting bicarbonate were really much lower, then my acid additions would have driven the ph lower than I was assuming, but I don’t know if it would be enough to make a difference.

But the fact remains that the extract batch was not acidified. All I know is that I was REALLY skeptical and not expecting the baking soda to effect anything, and it was a big change. Go figure.

Could be this explains the irish red biab and the extract thing is just a coincidence?

Ron

Yeah with bicarb that high in your starting water I find it hard to believe that it’s a low pH issue. Unless there is some other way for pH to get out of whack. I know different yeasts will lower pH different amounts during fermentation. Maybe Notty is a high acid prodcuer?

If the only common denominator between the two was the yeast, maybe try the same recipe with a different yeast? I know some people report odd flavors (a tangy like flavor) from Notty sometimes and I have experienced this as well. It’s the reason I’ve never used it again. Would you describe the flavor as tangy?

Do not assume an extract kit means there is no regard to pH… Those dark grains you steep have the ability to drop pH too low. Happy it worked for you. :cheers:

Tangy definitely doesn’t come to mind. Just kind of a cola/diet cola taste. Weird.

I agree though, yeast could definitely be the answer. I’ll probably try the irish red again with a different yeast. Thanks

Thanks again. Just had a red. Much more enjoyable.

:cheers:

Ron

No doubt, and I can see that possibly happening if using distilled but with 151 bicarb I would think it would take an awful lot of roasted grains to get pH to what would be considered too low. In the Irish Red there is very little roasted grains and about 1lb of caramel malt. Given all the facts I just can’t see how the pH could be too low unless either the acid measurement was off or the water test was inaccurate. I’m no chemist so maybe I’m missing something.