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Vexed by Acetaldehyde/Esters

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lazydog79:
I've got the brewing version of a hitch in my swing.  With one exception, every time I have ventured into a lighter beer, I have run into moderately strong acetaldehyde/fruity off flavors.  I did manage to brew a Wit last year without them, but now I am wondering if the flavor was masked/integrated into the Wit.  I thought I had my problem diagnosed, but now am forced back to the drawing board.

Last year, I brewed a Cream Ale w/ S-05 and this year a Blonde, also with S-05.  I fermented both cool (low 60s).  While the Blonde is not as sever as the Cream Ale was, both have the same off flavor.  I was blaming my problem on a combination of the S-05 and perhaps too cool of a fermentation, causing the yeast to flocculate before their job was done.  However, I just transferred a CAP fermented with San Fran Lager yeast (WLP810) at 57 degrees to secondary after two weeks and change in primary. I picked up the same problem.  Yes, it's early for this beer yet, and I'm hoping some conditioning helps, but by now, I know the problem when I see it.  I'm going to try to clean it up by doing a warmer (64) rest before bringing it down to the mid 50s for conditioning.  However, I would really like to nail down the cause of the problem in the first place.  The recent issue with the CAP has eliminated yeast as an option.  That leaves me with just two possibilities: pitch rate and water.

Being in Illinois, I have hard-ish water.  Anything lighter than an Amber, it's too hard.  So, when I have gone lighter, I get water from one of those drinking water vending machines at the grocery store.  I didn't think the water could cause this problem, but as it's the only common thread between the beers, I'm now wondering if it's part of the problem.

I'm also wondering if my pitch rate and aeration is causing the problem.  I've always thought my aeration was o.k.  When I transfer from my boiler, I run the wort through a spray aerator, a strainer, and a funnel into the carboy.  This usually produces enough foam that it's coming out of the carboy.  I do concede that under-pitch could be a problem.  I would think a rehydrated pack of S-05 would be adequate.  The CAP did have a problem, though.  I had a failure to start from a harvested yeast, so I straight pitched another vial.  While fresh, this is probably not the best.

O.k., that's the long run-down.  Any insight as to the cause of my problem would be appreciated.  I would hate to be banned from entire categories of styles!  Thanks in advance!

beerocd:
How about trying out no secondary, much longer primary, before bottling or kegging?

blatz:

--- Quote from: beerocd on May 31, 2010, 10:14:22 AM ---How about trying out no secondary, much longer primary, before bottling or kegging?

--- End quote ---

+1!!

hokerer:

--- Quote from: lazydog79 on May 31, 2010, 08:41:27 AM ---Being in Illinois, I have hard-ish water.  Anything lighter than an Amber, it's too hard.  So, when I have gone lighter, I get water from one of those drinking water vending machines at the grocery store.  I didn't think the water could cause this problem, but as it's the only common thread between the beers, I'm now wondering if it's part of the problem.

--- End quote ---

When you use the vending machine water, is that the only water you use?  Vending machine water is usually RO which means it has practically no minerals and such. Don't the yeasties need some mineral content in the water to do their job completely?  Instead of using all vending machine water, you may want to try blending it with some of your normal "hard" water so that some of those minerals are present.

lazydog79:

--- Quote from: hokerer on June 01, 2010, 09:17:26 AM ---When you use the vending machine water, is that the only water you use?  Vending machine water is usually RO which means it has practically no minerals and such. Don't the yeasties need some mineral content in the water to do their job completely?  Instead of using all vending machine water, you may want to try blending it with some of your normal "hard" water so that some of those minerals are present.

--- End quote ---

hokerer - That was exactly what I was thinking today.  I've never gotten my store water tested, but assumed it to be equivalent to soft drinking water.  Seeing what has been posted in the water profiles thread about this water, I'm now thinking it's really soft - like <1ppm across the board.  So, yes, with the Cream and Blonde, it was straight store water.  My CAP was 5 gallons store and 3 gallons tap, but like I said 1)the jury is still out on this one and 2)it might have other issues.  Admittedly, I need to study the water issue more, and I know the beers I'm playing with are more difficult.  I'm thinking I might just use my tap next time and add a little citric acid.  Thanks for the help!

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