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General Category => Yeast and Fermentation => Topic started by: gmac on November 06, 2013, 02:37:21 AM

Title: Phenolic off-flavour issue
Post by: gmac on November 06, 2013, 02:37:21 AM
Not sure where to put this so I guess here will do.

I've had my 2nd batch that has a strong phenolic off-flavour.  One was a lager, this one was an APA.  The hops are almost non-apparent and the phenols are dominant.  It's going down the drain.
But any idea what bacteria would be causing this?  I've gotten rid of most of my plastics and I'm going to get rid of the rest (what ticks me off a lot is that I re-pitched this into a 10 gal batch recently after kegging the APA.  I didn't notice any issues then but I'm pretty sure I'll eventually be dumping that too).

Any advice on how to clean both of the kegs that have had this?  The lager is actually still sitting in the keg.  I have new rings etc so I will be replacing these but is there a preferred cleaner etc for bacterial issues? 

Going to stainless, I'm done with plastic!
Title: Re: Phenolic off-flavour issue
Post by: dordway29 on November 06, 2013, 05:34:09 AM
Plastic probably isn't your issue. As long as you're using food grade plastic which is what most homebrew shops sell.
Phenolics can come from a few different sources such as fermentation, grains, water source, infection, chlorine etc. What kind of phenolic flavors are you getting? Spicy? Clove? Band-aid? Tannic? That could help narrow it down. My guess, since the beer is an APA and you aren't getting any hop character, is infection. And if you don't notice it prior to kegging, I'm assuming it's happening somewhere in the keg. I would always take apart the posts and dip tubes to clean, sanitize and reassemble between each batch. There are quite a few good cleaners and sanitizers out there. I use PBW to clean and Star San to sanitize. Hope that helps.
Title: Re: Phenolic off-flavour issue
Post by: gmac on November 06, 2013, 05:39:44 AM
I have no doubt it's an infection. I have a contaminated plastic bucket. Flavour is akin to a Belgian style beer but with the wrong yeast. I don't believe it came from the keg.
Title: Re: Phenolic off-flavour issue
Post by: dordway29 on November 06, 2013, 05:50:23 AM
Alright, I was under the impression you wanted help diagnosing it. I suppose a thorough cleaning is in order. Like I said before, the pbw/star san combo has never failed me.
Title: Re: Phenolic off-flavour issue
Post by: tschmidlin on November 06, 2013, 07:25:51 AM
Yeah, nuke it with pbw and starsan.  Completely disassemble and clean everything.  Brush out the diptubes.  You may not have to replace the o-rings if they look like they are in decent shape, but they're cheap so you might as well.
Title: Re: Phenolic off-flavour issue
Post by: tschmidlin on November 06, 2013, 07:29:28 AM
Oh, and as for what is causing it - hard to say.  It could be wild yeast or some contaminating bacteria.  Either way, it should die with a good cleaning.
Title: Re: Phenolic off-flavour issue
Post by: dmtaylor on November 06, 2013, 12:17:20 PM
I recently joined the "I hate plastic" club after way too many contaminated batches.  I switched to glass carboys last year and will never look back again.
Title: Re: Phenolic off-flavour issue
Post by: gmac on November 06, 2013, 12:45:27 PM
Alright, I was under the impression you wanted help diagnosing it. I suppose a thorough cleaning is in order. Like I said before, the pbw/star san combo has never failed me.
Sorry it was pretty late when I replied and the whole situation has me ticked off.
I will order some PBW. I thought maybe something stronger might be needed.
Title: Re: Phenolic off-flavour issue
Post by: gmac on November 06, 2013, 12:48:21 PM
I recently joined the "I hate plastic" club after way too many contaminated batches.  I switched to glass carboys last year and will never look back again.
Trouble is, I'm also in the I hate glass camp too. Heavy and hard to clean.
We had a good bonus year so I think a couple Brewhemoth conicals are coming. Will keep some carboys for one off brews.
Title: Re: Phenolic off-flavour issue
Post by: dmtaylor on November 06, 2013, 12:56:36 PM
Yeah, I see your point there... but I use 3-gallon carboys, which are still a bit of a pain but not nearly as heavy.
Title: Re: Phenolic off-flavour issue
Post by: AmandaK on November 06, 2013, 01:14:04 PM
Any advice on how to clean both of the kegs that have had this?  The lager is actually still sitting in the keg.  I have new rings etc so I will be replacing these but is there a preferred cleaner etc for bacterial issues? 

If I get the phenolic infection (about once every two+ years), I switch my sanitizer from Star San to Iodophor along with replacing my hoses.
Title: Re: Phenolic off-flavour issue
Post by: cornershot on November 06, 2013, 01:16:09 PM
I recently joined the "I hate plastic" club after way too many contaminated batches.  I switched to glass carboys last year and will never look back again.
+1 Tried buckets for a couple years. Back to glass. Heavy is not an issue for me. With a carboy brush and drill-mounted scrubber, cleaning is no problem. Safety? Haven't broke one in 20 years of brewing and I do more dangerous things than handling glass carboys(like driving) every day. I still make clean beer in those 20 year old carboys regularly. And I just love to watch the fermentation!
Title: Re: Phenolic off-flavour issue
Post by: duboman on November 06, 2013, 02:10:32 PM
I recently joined the "I hate plastic" club after way too many contaminated batches.  I switched to glass carboys last year and will never look back again.

Not to raise the debate but I'm a huge fan of plastic, been using the same buckets for over 5 years with no infections in a single batch. They get soaked in OXY, sanitized with Star San and work perfectly fine. IME I find that infections are usually associated with something else in the process like spigots, tubing, keg set ups, infected starters, bottles, etc.
Title: Re: Phenolic off-flavour issue
Post by: cornershot on November 06, 2013, 02:27:25 PM
I recently joined the "I hate plastic" club after way too many contaminated batches.  I switched to glass carboys last year and will never look back again.

Not to raise the debate but I'm a huge fan of plastic, been using the same buckets for over 5 years with no infections in a single batch. They get soaked in OXY, sanitized with Star San and work perfectly fine. IME I find that infections are usually associated with something else in the process like spigots, tubing, keg set ups, infected starters, bottles, etc.
You're absolutely correct, of course. But you can still join the club if you change your mind! :D
Title: Re: Phenolic off-flavour issue
Post by: factory on November 06, 2013, 02:37:58 PM
Any advice on how to clean both of the kegs that have had this?  The lager is actually still sitting in the keg.  I have new rings etc so I will be replacing these but is there a preferred cleaner etc for bacterial issues? 

If I get the phenolic infection (about once every two+ years), I switch my sanitizer from Star San to Iodophor along with replacing my hoses.

+1  I was going to reply, "Replace your hoses".  I also have a plate chiller that I forgot to sanitize once.  Don't know what your setup is, but the hoses are what has gotten me in the past.  I think my garage has its own Wild Yeast hanging out in there.  :(
Title: Re: Phenolic off-flavour issue
Post by: dmtaylor on November 06, 2013, 02:39:33 PM
Not to raise the debate but I'm a huge fan of plastic, been using the same buckets for over 5 years with no infections in a single batch. They get soaked in OXY, sanitized with Star San and work perfectly fine. IME I find that infections are usually associated with something else in the process like spigots, tubing, keg set ups, infected starters, bottles, etc.

I was a huge fan of plastic for 12 years before it bit me square in the buttocks.  One day your luck may run out.  Take it from a guy who's been there.
Title: Re: Phenolic off-flavour issue
Post by: Stevie on November 06, 2013, 02:48:54 PM
After knowing two people with severe ligament damage, I use plastic 99% of the time. I have been using the same two six gallon better bottles for 3 years without issue.
Title: Re: Phenolic off-flavour issue
Post by: dkfick on November 06, 2013, 02:52:25 PM
to further derail this... I don't use plastic fermenters not because of fear of infection but because of flavor and aroma absorption.  I was finding I would get flavor carry overs from the buckets.  Even after doing things like 3 month long PBW soaks etc...  I switched to almost all stainless.  I will say that the better bottle plastic seems less porous than the bucket plastic and doesn't seem to absorb as much.

The phenolics could be due to a seasonal water change? Perhaps more chlorine being used?  Ferm temps?  Or it could just be said infection.  I would take the kegs apart wash with PBW and then fill about half way with sanitizer and leave them upright for a few days...and upside down for a few days (add pressure to the keg so they don't leak).
Title: Re: Phenolic off-flavour issue
Post by: reverseapachemaster on November 06, 2013, 03:41:23 PM
I'd also wonder whether water had a part to play in those off flavors.

I find phenolic off flavors are usually related to a wild yeast contamination but that doesn't necessarily mean it can't be bacterial. As others have said, careful and details cleaning and sanitation will resolve the problem.
Title: Re: Phenolic off-flavour issue
Post by: ajk on November 06, 2013, 04:15:43 PM
Wild yeast is my guess. When it has happened to me, it has been pretty persistent.

I do an annual equipment refresh, replacing all hoses, boiling everything small, and hitting everything big with a different sanitizer (Iodophor instead of StarSan, as AmandaK suggested). I think the temporary sanitizer switch is important if it's wild yeast, which I think is harder to kill with those products than bacteria.

I dislike both plastic and glass for all the reasons mentioned. I ferment in Cornelius kegs. They're not trivial to clean, but still easier than carboys in my opinion.
Title: Re: Phenolic off-flavour issue
Post by: denny on November 06, 2013, 04:19:14 PM
I recently joined the "I hate plastic" club after way too many contaminated batches.  I switched to glass carboys last year and will never look back again.

And I've gone the opposite way.  No offense, Dave, but I look at it as a technique problem, not an equipment problem.
Title: Re: Phenolic off-flavour issue
Post by: Joe Sr. on November 06, 2013, 04:36:40 PM
I recently joined the "I hate plastic" club after way too many contaminated batches.  I switched to glass carboys last year and will never look back again.

And I've gone the opposite way.  No offense, Dave, but I look at it as a technique problem, not an equipment problem.

I'm with Denny on this one.  I don't use buckets, but I do use Better Bottles and have had some of them for close to 10 years.  They work great.  I've had only a couple batches get infected over the years and I don't think it's related to the fermenters as I still use them and have no persistent problems.

I used to love my glass carboys but I got rid of them all last year after I cracked one with one of my kids nearby.  I just don't need the risk.
Title: Re: Phenolic off-flavour issue
Post by: hopfenundmalz on November 06, 2013, 04:43:40 PM
Graham, on the kegs a deep clean, use a dip tube brush, and soak in PBW. Replace all of the o-rings, or boil.
When you have the posts off, boil them, which will kill anything lurking in them. Don't forget to remove the lid o-ring and clean it and on the lid's lip where gunk can build up. Remove the PRV, clean, sanitize.
Title: Re: Phenolic off-flavour issue
Post by: duboman on November 06, 2013, 08:46:38 PM

I recently joined the "I hate plastic" club after way too many contaminated batches.  I switched to glass carboys last year and will never look back again.

And I've gone the opposite way.  No offense, Dave, but I look at it as a technique problem, not an equipment problem.

I'm with Denny on this one.  I don't use buckets, but I do use Better Bottles and have had some of them for close to 10 years.  They work great.  I've had only a couple batches get infected over the years and I don't think it's related to the fermenters as I still use them and have no persistent problems.

I used to love my glass carboys but I got rid of them all last year after I cracked one with one of my kids nearby.  I just don't need the risk.

Nice to know I'm with good company on this one:)
Title: Re: Phenolic off-flavour issue
Post by: gmac on November 06, 2013, 09:35:22 PM
Thanks all.
You should have seen the great reply I just spent 20 minutes crafting only to have it disappear somehow during the preview process.  It was brilliant.

Short version:
Water is well, no chlorine or chloramine, grain is fresh and other batches were fine.

Denny's right, my process is the problem but now I've got the problem so I need to get rid of it.
I'm now doing 15 gal batches so I have too many pails to lug around as it is.  I bet I have a bad pail but last night everything was tasting like band-aids in my mind.  It may be our new house and the fact that I brewed a lot more in winter than summer this year and it gets cold here in winter.  I've had a brett issue and now this since moving here and no issues at the old place and used plastic almost entirely.  I love the ease of cleaning etc with plastic and if it works for you, great.

Kegs will get washed thoroughly with dairy cleaners ( http://www2.dupont.com/Glycolic_Acid/en_US/assets/downloads/k16081_dairy_cleaner.pdf ) and PBW and Star-San.  I've got access to the dairy cleaner so why not?  Will remove beer stone if nothing else.

My fermentation area is getting a pool chlorine/water spray down (find it better than household bleach).
I'm gonna invest in some stainless to reduce the amount of buckets I have to move.  I'll be doing a modified gravity system with no pump. 

Thanks all for the comments and help.
Title: Re: Phenolic off-flavour issue
Post by: HoosierBrew on November 06, 2013, 10:29:35 PM

I recently joined the "I hate plastic" club after way too many contaminated batches.  I switched to glass carboys last year and will never look back again.

And I've gone the opposite way.  No offense, Dave, but I look at it as a technique problem, not an equipment problem.

I'm with Denny on this one.  I don't use buckets, but I do use Better Bottles and have had some of them for close to 10 years.  They work great.  I've had only a couple batches get infected over the years and I don't think it's related to the fermenters as I still use them and have no persistent problems.

I used to love my glass carboys but I got rid of them all last year after I cracked one with one of my kids nearby.  I just don't need the risk.

Nice to know I'm with good company on this one:)
+1.  I use buckets and BBs exclusively (have for years) and make consistently clean beers.
Title: Re: Phenolic off-flavour issue
Post by: gmac on November 07, 2013, 06:21:02 AM
Listen, I'm trying to convince the wife that I need to spend some big bucks on stainless here. Don't go screwing it up with facts and reality.
Title: Re: Phenolic off-flavour issue
Post by: Joe Sr. on November 07, 2013, 03:01:36 PM
'Tis easier to beg forgiveness than to ask permission.
Title: Re: Phenolic off-flavour issue
Post by: beersk on November 07, 2013, 03:02:55 PM
I recently joined the "I hate plastic" club after way too many contaminated batches.  I switched to glass carboys last year and will never look back again.

And I've gone the opposite way.  No offense, Dave, but I look at it as a technique problem, not an equipment problem.
Well, if he switched to glass and the issue went away, then I'd say he made the right choice. I don't like plastic either, not just in brewing, but with almost anything, like water bottles. I use them for tuperware, but I wish there was another option...there's glass, I suppose. A bit pricey though.

I've fermented in carboys for years, dig them. Just need to be careful handling them, but that's not difficult. I tried fermenting in kegs for a few batches, that was kinda cool, but I felt like the beer tasted a little different. Maybe because of the geometry of the fermenter and being under slightly more hydrostatic pressure? Also, they were more of a pain to clean out. But I guess I just do an over night soak with PBW for my carboys, so that's easy. Guess I could've done that when I fermented in kegs, too...

Joe, do you cold crash in your better bottles? That may be the one thing that holds me back from going to them; the negative pressure and the flexing when you move them around.