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General Category => General Homebrew Discussion => Topic started by: gitterpicker on March 25, 2010, 11:55:51 PM

Title: Homebrew - It all tastes the same
Post by: gitterpicker on March 25, 2010, 11:55:51 PM
I've been brewing Better Brewer kits for the past year.  I've done about 8 different ales.  The problem is that all of them taste identical - not great, not horrible.  I've received tons of advice from other hobbyists which resulted in me changing my cleaning practices (I use no cleansers, only the powder sterilization after cleaned with hot water), I've closely controlled my steeping temperature @150, I cool down to pitching temperature in about 30 minutes (ice bath), I aerate (vigorous shaking) before pitching yeast (liquid, no starter), I ferment at 72 then transfer to secondary when fermentation reaches 1 bubble per minute - secondary in my basement at approximately 65 degrees.  No matter what I've done my beer still tastes like home-brewed. 

Here's my best attempt at describing the taste:
There's a dry finish on the back of the tongue
There's a "dirt" aftertaste.  The initial taste is good however.
The aftertaste is slightly bitter or sour
The aftertaste has a slight burning sensation
Aftertaste somewhat reminds me of Fresca Soda

I'm Looking for others out here who have been frustrated with the taste of their beer.  Wat things have you done to improve your taste?  To me the best tasting ales are the Great Lakes style.  Very smooth finish - nothing like I brew!
Title: Re: Homebrew - It all tastes the same
Post by: MrNate on March 26, 2010, 12:15:10 AM
What are the kit ingredients?
Title: Re: Homebrew - It all tastes the same
Post by: captain_spackle on March 26, 2010, 12:16:23 AM
I am hoping you get some good replies to this question, because I am having the same difficulty you are.  Unless I do something that varies greatly in style (like a wheat or fruit beer), it really all tastes about the same.  I am starting to suspect some sort of conspiracy.   :)
Title: Re: Homebrew - It all tastes the same
Post by: Hokerer on March 26, 2010, 01:02:35 AM
The two things that leap out from your description are your yeast and your fermentation temp.  First off, while liquid yeasts claim to be directly pitchable into a five gallon batch, they're not.  You really need to try making a starter.  Without it, you're underpitching which, since the yeast is too strained, can yield many of the off flavors you describe.  Number two, you need to get you ferment temp down.  Fermentation is exothermic which means that, particularly during the vigorous phase, the actual temp of the wort can be as much as ten degrees higher than ambient.  That means that you could be fermenting at 82 degrees.  Fermenting that hot also yields the off flavors you describe and, in particular, can create fusel alcohols that give you that burning taste.
Title: Re: Homebrew - It all tastes the same
Post by: Kaiser on March 26, 2010, 01:10:46 AM
Yes, go with making a starter and ferment in your basement. 65 F sounds about right as a start.

Kai
Title: Re: Homebrew - It all tastes the same
Post by: bluesman on March 26, 2010, 01:46:07 AM
Definitely ensure adequate pitching rates and temps as well as proper fermentation temps. What kind of water are you using? I assume from your post that you don't have a hydrometer. Not that this has anything to do with your dilemma, but I recommend using a hydrometer for quantifying your beer. It is a great tool to qualify proper attenuation in your beer.
Title: Re: Homebrew - It all tastes the same
Post by: a10t2 on March 26, 2010, 03:25:29 AM
Stale extract was my first thought. Try buying extract from a store that has good turnover.
Title: Re: Homebrew - It all tastes the same
Post by: rep on March 26, 2010, 03:41:53 AM
Try different kits from different brew shops.
Title: Re: Homebrew - It all tastes the same
Post by: gitterpicker on March 26, 2010, 11:53:29 AM
Thanks for all of the pointers. 

A couple great points were brought up.  First, I never have had a vigorous fermentation. I thought that it was because I was using the dry packets.  That is why I switched to liquid yeast.  My location for primary fermentation is in my dining room under a table.  My house is at 72 during the day.  In addition, I cover the primary and secondary with a blanket to keep the light out.  It sounds like I might as well be fermenting in a pizza oven.  Next batch will go to my cold dark basement (62-65).

I will attempt the yeast starter in one of my growlers.  I'll stick to these 2 changes for my next batch and will follow up with the results.

Thanks.
Title: Re: Homebrew - It all tastes the same
Post by: majorvices on March 26, 2010, 12:23:42 PM
Have you read a good homebrewing book? If you are just relying on the instructions from the kits you are really short changing yourself. Pick up a copy of John Palmer's How to Brew and read it. You will learn what different malts do, how to change flavors in your beer by different techniques, things you are doing wrong you would have never gathered from reading the kit directions.

Another good book, altho outdated compared to Palmer's Book, is Charlie Papazian's "The Complete Joy of Homebrewing". Try a few recipes out of that book and I guarantee you won't find two that taste the same.

In addition to all this, seek out some different kits. Check out the kits at www.northernbrewer.com or www.morebeer.com. Those are solid recipes and they make great beers. Most of the "dump a can of malt extract" kits with the yeast taped under the lid make crappy beer.

In addition to this:

Use oxiclean to clean your equipment. Then use StarSan or other no rinse sanitizer to sanitizer. (See the links above for those sanitizers)

Be sure to use a quality yeast!! If you are simply using the yeast that comes with the can of extract you are really limiting yourself. For a beginning brewer I highly recommend Safale US-05 Ale yeast. Its a dry yeast, you don't need a starter, it's clean fermenting and aeration is not as critical. Liquid yeast is great and you will have a vast library of different yeasts to choose from once you get the handle on fermentation - but US-05 makes a great, clean beer. I have been brewing for 15+ years and this is my go-to yeast when I want clean fermentations. It simply can't be easier to use!

Be sure to use FRESH ingredients. Old cans of malt extract don;t make very good beers.

Be sure to control fermentation temp, including pitching temp. Always cool your wort down to below 68 degrees before aerating and pitching your yeast and keep fermentation temp - which can be 4-6 degrees OVER ambient temp - under 68-78 degrees for most ales. If you are fermenting at 72 degrees room temp you are fermenting way, way too warm and this can be a cause of off flavors that will taste the same every time.

Finally, brewing is a craft and it has to be approached that way. Too many people approach it as like making a box of Macaroni and Cheese. You really have to sit down and get a handle on what you are doing before you are going to make truly great beer. This does take time, but the books I mentioned above will get you pointe in the right direction. Good luck!
Title: Re: Homebrew - It all tastes the same
Post by: denny on March 26, 2010, 03:30:17 PM
Let's also look at your water.  Is it chlorinated?  If so, do you do anything to remove the chlorine?  Your description of the off flavors makes it sound like it could be chlorophenols.
Title: Re: Homebrew - It all tastes the same
Post by: bluesman on March 26, 2010, 04:48:18 PM
Let's also look at your water.  Is it chlorinated?  If so, do you do anything to remove the chlorine?  Your description of the off flavors makes it sound like it could be chlorophenols.

+1

Did you taste the extract before brewing?
Title: Re: Homebrew - It all tastes the same
Post by: diybrewing on March 26, 2010, 05:41:26 PM
It is rarely the extract most homebrew shops go through extract fast enough and the packaging is usually quite good. One of the things you are probably looking at is like denny said you are using tap water. The rule that if your tap water tastes fine is not really all that useful. Chlorine and chloramine have very mild tastes when used at home but can make horrific beer.
I am also not a fan of the brewers best kits personally. I don't carry them in my store because the grain is pre-crushed and can sit for months. Cracked grain is really only good for about 4 weeks before it goes stale.
You should try going with a homebrew shop that makes its own recipes. I do for all of my beers I sell and I have brewed every beer kit so that I know what they should taste like.  Ask your LHBS to make you up a recipe of something they have their. Or you could buy from me www.diybrewing.com (http://www.diybrewing.com). Sorry for the shameless plug but sometimes you have to plug yourself.
Title: Re: Homebrew - It all tastes the same
Post by: denny on March 26, 2010, 05:49:28 PM
It is rarely the extract most homebrew shops go through extract fast enough and the packaging is usually quite good. One of the things you are probably looking at is like denny said you are using tap water. The rule that if your tap water tastes fine is not really all that useful. Chlorine and chloramine have very mild tastes when used at home but can make horrific beer.
I am also not a fan of the brewers best kits personally. I don't carry them in my store because the grain is pre-crushed and can sit for months. Cracked grain is really only good for about 4 weeks before it goes stale.
You should try going with a homebrew shop that makes its own recipes. I do for all of my beers I sell and I have brewed every beer kit so that I know what they should taste like.  Ask your LHBS to make you up a recipe of something they have their. Or you could buy from me www.diybrewing.com (http://www.diybrewing.com). Sorry for the shameless plug but sometimes you have to plug yourself.

If the grain is siting in the kit for months, wouldn't the extract also?
Title: Re: Homebrew - It all tastes the same
Post by: Slowbrew on March 26, 2010, 07:38:39 PM
Be extra careful with your tap water this time of year.  With all the flooding in Central Iowa every Spring (including this year) our water smells like a swimming pool.

Camden tablets can really help out if you're fighting chlorine.  Crush one tablet/20 gallons, stir in and let sit over night.
Title: Re: Homebrew - It all tastes the same
Post by: gitterpicker on March 29, 2010, 12:38:18 AM
The suggestion about water is another one that I'll take.  My very first 5-gallon batch was done with bottled water.  Nothing fancy, just the cheapest stuff I could find at the grocery store.  It was however my cleanest tasting beer. 

Here's one additional question that I can't seem to find answered in any of my books:

After cooling my wort I add my 2.5 - 3 gallons of water.  Should I be boiling this water as well?  I never do.  I just add the tap water when I get close to pitching temperature.  My brewing buddies tell me it's not necessary.  Then again, their beer all tastes like mine (yes we use the same city water!)

Title: Re: Homebrew - It all tastes the same
Post by: tygo on March 29, 2010, 12:43:17 AM
When I was extract brewing and topping off I never boiled the water either.  It shouldn't be necessary.  But you should treat your water if you're using city water to remove the chlorine and maybe chloramines.  That can be addressed with campden as Slowbrew suggested.
Title: Re: Homebrew - It all tastes the same
Post by: skyler on March 29, 2010, 09:54:29 PM
If a starter is too much of a pain in the butt, use dry yeast. Do a longer primary (3-6 weeks) and a long secondary (2-4 months). Then, add fresh dry yeast to your bottling bucket when you get ready to bottle. This will help age out a lot of the protein/gunk in your beer.

And make sure you only use the freshest extract - I would stick to nothing but Light or Extra Light (Pilsen) Dry Malt Extract.
Title: Re: Homebrew - It all tastes the same
Post by: etbrew on March 29, 2010, 11:50:44 PM
Agree with all the suggestions made.  I'd like to particularly highlight the need to get the chlorine out of your water if you are on a municipal water system.  I've been brewing for 3 years now and all me beers, while different, had similar off flavors that really bothered me.  My last three batches I made using camden tablets and the difference has been huge.  The first beer I made with this method was a nut brown which was the first brown ale I made that really tasted like what a brown ale should taste like.  Very clean compared the previous batches I had made.

To better beer!
Title: Re: Homebrew - It all tastes the same
Post by: majorvices on March 30, 2010, 12:12:47 AM
If a starter is too much of a pain in the butt, use dry yeast.

Oh, come on. 15 minutes worth of extra work for 15Xs better beer. I agree for Noobs that dry yeast is the best solution but you will want to try some good liquid yeasts eventually.  ;)
Title: Re: Homebrew - It all tastes the same
Post by: rkausch on March 31, 2010, 05:26:11 PM
What's your procedure for chilling your wort down to pitching temp?  I know that if you let it sit for too long, it can pick up some nasty stuff. I've outlined one of my favorite tricks when doing extract with the bottled water below.

On brew day, pick up 6 gallons of artesian water (not distilled, that takes out too much of the good stuff in the water).  Put 3 gallons in the freezer when you start brewing (or, if you can plan ahead, put 3 gallons in the fridge the night before).  Don't let the water freeze though.  Then, make your wort as you normally would.  After you've finished your boil, you should have about 2 gallons left.  Add the 3 cold gallons of bottled water to your wort, take a temp reading, and pitch when you're at your target temp.
Title: Re: Homebrew - It all tastes the same
Post by: andylovesburritos on February 03, 2011, 06:09:07 PM
I've been wondering why my beer has been consistently... consistent... this is truly wonderful information, thanks a lot for the good tips!!!

after i'm done with my mead. i will have to do things the right way with filtered water. I started to wonder if it was the priming sugar, i was about to resort to Co2 in a keg to get away from bottle carbonating. that could have gotten expensive...
Title: Re: Homebrew - It all tastes the same
Post by: Slowbrew on February 03, 2011, 07:21:37 PM
Someday you'll want to start kegging, if only to avoid bottling.   ;D

Kegging will not stop off flavors if they are in your beer.  It won't matter what container you put it in , it will still be off a bit.  Use these suggestions and then ask questions.  The folks on this board will you out with anything.

Paul
Title: Re: Homebrew - It all tastes the same
Post by: richardt on February 03, 2011, 10:57:44 PM
I agree that the water is the likely problem here.  Keep in mind that "filtering" with activated charcoal isn't always reliable for removing chlorine and chloramines.  It has to do with surface area and contact times.  Most people just blast water through a filter...

Definitely invest in campden tablets or buy the water.  Many of us get the RO water from the store and then build it up.

I had the same problem as you've described with extract kits being done with boiled tap water (filtered, of course)--still had that phenolic character.  Really annoying to get that result when you've invested the time and money to make the beer.
Title: Re: Homebrew - It all tastes the same
Post by: andylovesburritos on February 03, 2011, 11:21:30 PM
Someday you'll want to start kegging, if only to avoid bottling.   ;D

someday nothing, i hate bottling... well not hate, but I definitely would rather tap it than cap it!
Title: Re: Homebrew - It all tastes the same
Post by: beerstache on February 05, 2011, 10:01:40 PM
I didnt see anything in the above about proper aeration.  How are you aerating your wort?  You might want to invest in a Mix-Stir rod that uses a drill to whip air into the wort.  Just my 2-cents worth.