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General Category => All Grain Brewing => Topic started by: ericksonpa on March 27, 2013, 04:31:26 PM

Title: Help in identifying off flavor
Post by: ericksonpa on March 27, 2013, 04:31:26 PM
Just finished with an American style Blonde Ale which has a very noticeable sour smell at first whiff.  The taste is lacking in any malt or hops or, anything for that matter.  Instead it just tastes sour and flat (not carbonation).
Just before I pitched the yeast, I oxygenated the beer by transferring from one fermenter to another until there was an inch or so of foam on top.  This was done at 75 F.  This is the first time I had done this and am wondering if this method is causing this foul/sour odor and taste.
I have looked through various "off flavor" charts looking for the appropriate description but have not really found what would describe this smell and taste. 
I will also mention this is the 2nd attempt at this beer as the first attempt went down the drain due to an even stronger odor.
 
By the way, my wife thinks it smells like sewage.  So, I've got that going for me.
Any thoughts?
Title: Re: Help in identifying off flavor
Post by: khillje on March 27, 2013, 04:36:42 PM
Hmmm.  It sounds a bit like you have an infection.  How have your cleaning tactics been?  Always lean toward overkill when it comes to cleaning and sanitizing.
Title: Re: Help in identifying off flavor
Post by: Jimmy K on March 27, 2013, 04:43:38 PM
That is a sad story!! The oxygenating method alone won't cause a problem as long as both containers are well sanitized. More details about your process and what equipment you use would help figure this out.
 
It does sound like an infection. Sewage eh? That's harsh. Once you stop boiling everything must be well sanitized. How are you sanitizing equipment?
Title: Re: Help in identifying off flavor
Post by: factory on March 27, 2013, 04:49:55 PM
How long did you boil?  Could it possibly be DMS?  I think that DMS smells slightly sour while my wife thinks it smells like vegetables that have gone bad.

I would tend to think that it may either be an infection of some kind, or maybe even esters from fermenting at too high of a temperature.
Title: Re: Help in identifying off flavor
Post by: drjones on March 27, 2013, 04:59:12 PM
I agree - sounds like sanitation.  Soak and scrub everything well with PBW then hit it with Starsan per label directions.  I often aerate by dumping cooled wort through a sanitized strainer into the primary bucket.  The single dump works well for me. 
Title: Re: Help in identifying off flavor
Post by: majorvices on March 27, 2013, 04:59:48 PM
Before we jump on sanitation band wagon: What temp are you pitching the yeast? What temp are you fermenting at? It could be an infection but high fermentation temps can also render many off flavors. Also, what yeast are you using? Some yeasts are sulphur producers, especially when not handled right, and that can smell like sewage.

I don't usually trust new brewer's when it comes to properly identifying off aromas, but woman usually have a better sense of smell than men. Sewage sounds like sulfur to me.
Title: Re: Help in identifying off flavor
Post by: bigchicken on March 27, 2013, 06:01:36 PM
Before we jump on sanitation band wagon: What temp are you pitching the yeast? What temp are you fermenting at? It could be an infection but high fermentation temps can also render many off flavors. Also, what yeast are you using? Some yeasts are sulphur producers, especially when not handled right, and that can smell like sewage.

I don't usually trust new brewer's when it comes to properly identifying off aromas, but woman usually have a better sense of smell than men. Sewage sounds like sulfur to me.

+1
I tend to ferment warmer than I should during warmer months and get a similar smell. It goes away completely with age. Length of time depends on the yeast strain too.
Also, what hops did you use? Sometimes I get unusual smells from different varieties.
Title: Re: Help in identifying off flavor
Post by: ericksonpa on March 27, 2013, 06:05:36 PM
I believe that my sanitation methods are good. I consistently wash first and sanitize with star san. Method is to use two plastic buckets (only 3 months old). Also am using a bayou combo mash tun and kettle.
Yeast was Danstar Nottingham.
Fermentation is in a freezer wit a Johnson control unit set at 68F.
Title: Re: Help in identifying off flavor
Post by: ericksonpa on March 27, 2013, 06:09:13 PM
Hops were Centennial and Cascade.
Title: Re: Help in identifying off flavor
Post by: ericksonpa on March 27, 2013, 06:11:44 PM
Boil time was 1 hour
Title: Re: Help in identifying off flavor
Post by: denny on March 27, 2013, 06:58:39 PM
Yeast was Danstar Nottingham.

That's my guess.  I always get a disagreeable sour tartness from Nottingham.
Title: Re: Help in identifying off flavor
Post by: majorvices on March 27, 2013, 07:19:27 PM
If the Johnon controller was set to 68 and you pitched at, say, 75, you fermented way too warm. Cool the wort down below 70, and preferably in the low to mid 60s before pitching for most ale yeasts, and set the controller at 64. You need to count for the exothermic activity of the yeast, which can be 4-6+ degrees over fermentation temp.

And I personally don't care for Nottingham. Try a  nuetral dry yeast like US-05 and see what you get.
Title: Re: Help in identifying off flavor
Post by: ericksonpa on March 27, 2013, 09:30:57 PM
So then I'm guessing this is another bad batch with no fix, correct.  I've already transferred to the corny which is now sitting at 34 F. 
Title: Re: Help in identifying off flavor
Post by: jeffy on March 27, 2013, 09:35:03 PM
Yeast was Danstar Nottingham.

That's my guess.  I always get a disagreeable sour tartness from Nottingham.
I agree with Denny, but also have to say that sour usually indicates infection.  Is it sour like vinegar or sour like milk?
Title: Re: Help in identifying off flavor
Post by: ericksonpa on March 27, 2013, 09:59:20 PM
I too thought of infection, but two identical batches in a row?  It just seems improbable (although not impossible). 
The sour odor is probably closer to sour milk than vinegar.  Although I will try it again when I get home today.  Writing this from my desk I do not have the advantage of being able to take another whiff.
I just brewed an English Pale Ale this past week and a Scottish Ale yesterday, using the same tun, kettle hoses and buckets.  I have not detected any off odors or flavors in either of those two batches although it may be too soon to tell.

For the record, here is the recipe I used.
Beer Style: Blonde Ale
Batch Size: 5.5 gallons
Original Gravity: 1.040
Final Gravity: 1.008
Bitterness: 21.5 IBU
Boiling Time: 60 Minutes
Color: 3.9 SRM
Alcohol: 4.2% ABV

Ingredients
7.00 lbs. Pale Malt (2 Row) US
0.75 lb. Cara-Pils/Dextrine
0.50 lb. Caramel/Crystal Malt - 10L
0.50 lb. Vienna Malt
0.25 oz. Centennial (9.50%) boil for 55 min
0.25 oz. Centennial (9.50%) boil for 35 min
0.25 oz. Cascade (7.80%) boil for 20 min
0.25 oz. Cascade (7.80%) boil for 5 min
Danstar Nottingham Ale Yeast


Directions
Mash at 150 degrees for 60 minutes. Sparge with 175F water to create enough wort to reach 5.5 gallons after the boil. Boil and add hops according to the schedule above. Chill to 68 degrees and pitch the yeast.

Fermentation
Ferment at 68 Degrees for 10 days before bottling.

Title: Re: Help in identifying off flavor
Post by: Joe Sr. on March 28, 2013, 12:57:35 AM
Yeast was Danstar Nottingham.

That's my guess.  I always get a disagreeable sour tartness from Nottingham.

Me, too.  But I have a bunch of it so I pitched some in a stout on Monday with the hope that the roast barley and the hops will overpower the Nottingham flavor.  Pitched it cold, so maybe that helps.

I don't get any off odors from Nottingham, though, so I would guess there is more than yeast strain going on here.
Title: Re: Help in identifying off flavor
Post by: ericksonpa on March 29, 2013, 12:53:16 AM
Thanks to everyone for their comments and help.

While checking the gravity on a separate batch, my English Pale Ale, I am detecting this same odor, at a much much lower rate though.  So, I am doing an analysis of my equipment.
I am using a sst bayou kettle and have connected a brass hose barb to the 1/2" ball valve made of 304 sst. 
Do you think the brass barb could be the source of the problem?
Title: Re: Help in identifying off flavor
Post by: klickitat jim on March 29, 2013, 01:51:58 AM
How long do they age before tasting?
If first taste is off, do you dump the batch or age another week and taste again?
I just sampled a pale ale bottled for three weeks. Couldn't taste it, the odor was heinous.  Two weeks later it was way better. I would say it's as good as a fat tire. Going to give it one more week then transfer to the ready fridge.
You might try another month of aging and see what happens.

"Freedom is temporary unless you are also Brave!" - Patriot

Title: Re: Help in identifying off flavor
Post by: ericksonpa on March 29, 2013, 02:25:57 AM
Tasted the first batch while transferring to the secondary, so about 6 days after putting into the fermenter.
Tasted the 2nd batch at transfer to secondary, as above, and noticed the flavor and then again when transferring into the corny about 10 days later. 
This latest, English Pale Ale, has been fermenting for about 10 days and is still in the glass carboy.
Odor and flavor is apparent but not nearly as much as the first two batches of Blondes.
At this point I can try to blame the brass fitting or face the facts that I must have a bacteria infection in my post boil equipment.  Which is too bad as I have another batch in the primary fermenter, for two days now, and am worried that it will taste the same.
Title: Re: Help in identifying off flavor
Post by: klickitat jim on March 29, 2013, 05:46:09 AM
Ok I'm curious how it tastes in a month or so.

"Freedom is temporary unless you are also Brave!" - Patriot

Title: Re: Help in identifying off flavor
Post by: hopfenundmalz on March 29, 2013, 12:16:10 PM
OP - You might take some to the LHBS, a Brewery, or a local club meeting. Get someone with experience taste the beer and identify what is off, and recommend a course of action. I say this because the guys in my club helped me a lot back in the day from tasting my beers.
Title: Re: Re: Help in identifying off flavor
Post by: Mark G on March 29, 2013, 01:26:50 PM
OP - You might take some to the LHBS, a Brewery, or a local club meeting. Get someone with experience taste the beer and identify what is off, and recommend a course of action. I say this because the guys in my club helped me a lot back in the day from tasting my beers.
This is sound advice. Odds are, they've experienced the same thing before. You can also rule out the brass fittings in your brewhouse, I have used brass ball valves with no ill effects for years.
Title: Re: Help in identifying off flavor
Post by: ericksonpa on March 29, 2013, 01:59:45 PM
Thanks for the advice.
I did speak with my lhbs yesterday.  After explaining my problem his first comment was that it sounds like I had/have a bug in my plastic fermenter(s).  He too, did not blame the brass fitting, only suggested that I use a weak bleach solution in my buckets, overnight, before brewing again. 
I will be in that store today, so I will take him a sample of both that have this odor/flavor.  Thanks for that suggestion.
In the mean time I have taken apart my bayou kettle and boiled the fittings, valves etc. last night.  Placed my only brass fitting in a vinegar/hydrogen peroxide solution.  And, have rearranged my gear so that all equipment (post boil) has it's own sealed container and will now not come into contact with anything by me and the wort.
Klick, if my lhbs thinks there's a chance, I will keep these batches going and report back to the thread.  If not, they will go down the drain.
Title: Re: Re: Help in identifying off flavor
Post by: hopfenundmalz on March 29, 2013, 02:00:45 PM
OP - You might take some to the LHBS, a Brewery, or a local club meeting. Get someone with experience taste the beer and identify what is off, and recommend a course of action. I say this because the guys in my club helped me a lot back in the day from tasting my beers.
This is sound advice. Odds are, they've experienced the same thing before. You can also rule out the brass fittings in your brewhouse, I have used brass ball valves with no ill effects for years.
My palate is not the best. It is really poor over the internet.  :D
Title: Re: Help in identifying off flavor
Post by: jimrod on March 29, 2013, 03:38:25 PM
I've experienced a sour, metallic flavor with Nottingham more than once.
Title: Re: Help in identifying off flavor
Post by: ericksonpa on March 29, 2013, 10:46:57 PM
Back from my lhbs who sampled both beers.  They could not find the odors or tastes I have been describing, only saying they thought it had a very "yeasty" or "biscuity" aroma and taste.  Also said both beers were well balanced and thought they were very good.  Suggested they were a bit young and needed to mature a little bit is all.
So, either all four of them are nuts (not likely as they are a good bunch of guys) or I seriously need to take a course in beer judging/analyzing.
I am relieved, of course, to know that my last four batches are probably going to turn out ok, just mystified as to how I am coming up with something that they cannot get at all.
Thanks to all for your help.  I feel like I led everyone on a wild goose chase, but appreciate the help.
Title: Re: Help in identifying off flavor
Post by: euge on March 29, 2013, 11:20:12 PM
I'd been brewing for years when the Major pointed out "not to trust smells during fermentation." Took that to heart.