Author Topic: Help! All my beers have the same "off" fore/aftertaste  (Read 4751 times)

Offline wakenick

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Help! All my beers have the same "off" fore/aftertaste
« on: November 24, 2010, 08:32:17 PM »
I am at a complete loss! In my last few homebrews I've noticed that all have the same, hard-to-describe fore/aftertaste to them, regardless of the type I'm brewing or the ingredients I use. At first I thought it was a carbonating error that was affecting flavor but even when I've gotten the carbonation nearly perfect with the last few brews, the taste is still there. I've used Brewer's Best kits and then a la carte ingredients from my local homebrew store. I've used specialty grains, spices, and even fresh vegetables (for my pumpkin porter). I've used filtered Brita water and "bottled" purified water. Doesn't matter, same "non-beer" taste.

I really wish I had a good description of it. It's not quite astringent but it's noticeable upon drinking and in the belch(es) that inevitably follow(s) in a round of good drinking. It's like a "sterile" or "chemically bland" taste, something that greatly detracts from what the beer is supposed to taste like based on ingredients (even with "strong" ingredients). The only thing I can think of is that there's something wrong with my equipment or my method. I thoroughly sterilize all equipment with B-Brite for all brewing, transfering, bottling, etc. (I'm bottles only at this point), though the taste is noticeable after secondary "fermentation" and before bottling. Is it possible I'm "burning" the wort by boiling at too high a temperature? My "kettle" does have a small amount of burnt malt residue on the bottom (from my first homebrew attempt) but it's been scrubbed over and over without the burnt residue coming off and is thoroughly washed before each use (but not sterilized).

Maybe no one can tell me what's up without tasting but I'm hoping this scenario sounds familiar to someone and there are some words of wisdom out there. I'm SO tired of having my IPAs taste like my porters and scotch ales because of this "off" taste/quality. Please help!

Thanks!

Offline wakenick

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Re: Help! All my beers have the same "off" fore/aftertaste
« Reply #1 on: November 24, 2010, 08:36:56 PM »
My lovely wife just helped (hopefully) by saying that the "taste" has a slight acidity quality to it. It's not strong enough to make you say, "Ew, this tastes off" but is noticeable enough to make me say, "why is there this same "quality" that is keeping my beers from tasting fully like they should taste based on the type I brewed?"

Offline a10t2

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Re: Help! All my beers have the same "off" fore/aftertaste
« Reply #2 on: November 24, 2010, 08:49:54 PM »
A chemical flavor, sometimes described as "medicinal" or "antiseptic" could be chlorophenols. It could come from yeast (especially if you're fermenting too hot) or a contaminating organism, although if it was you'd probably taste something more definitively nasty. The most common sources would be your water, or a cleaning product. Campden tabs (potassium metabisulfite) would take care of chlorine/chloramine in the water, and incorporating a rinse after using the B-Brite, followed by a no-rinse sanitizer like Iodophor or Star San would eliminate it if it was coming from the B-Brite.

Assuming that sounds like it could be it. Have you looked at Palmer's off-flavor guide?
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Offline majorvices

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Re: Help! All my beers have the same "off" fore/aftertaste
« Reply #3 on: November 24, 2010, 09:02:21 PM »
Sounds like a possible water issue to me. What do you do to remove chlorine/chloramines from your water. The "burnt residuee" has nothing to do with anything (though a 2 hour soak in hot PBW or even Oxyclean will clean that mess up nicely.) The lother thing I would ask is, do you maintain fermentation temps? what temp do you pitch your yeast? Warm fermentation and/or pitching temps can cause some pretty nasty off flavors.

Also, +1 to switching sanitizers. Star Sans is truly the best no rinse sanitizer.
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Offline bonjour

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Re: Help! All my beers have the same "off" fore/aftertaste
« Reply #4 on: November 24, 2010, 09:10:51 PM »
The acidic quality is pointing to an infection

The sterile and bland sound like medicinal flavors, commonly from water or chemicals or possibly a warm ferment
You did post this after summer the season of warm ferments.

The scorch marks will come up with PBW

I would love to taste but I do suspect an infection. Get some starsan and replace your tubing
Actually sanitize everything post boil with several different sanitizers with different acting mechanisms

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Offline wakenick

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Re: Help! All my beers have the same "off" fore/aftertaste
« Reply #5 on: November 24, 2010, 09:28:16 PM »
Thanks for the quick replies thus far. A couple of follow-up responses:

I always pay really close attention to yeast-pitching temps. While I've flirted with temps above 70 degrees (when I just couldn't get the temp down after running out of ice), I've not pitched at or above 80 degrees. With my last brew, I used an immersion wort chiller though I had to combine with a late-stage ice bath) and pitched right at 70 degrees. We'll see if that changes anything (about to move to secondary in the next day or so).

I don't control fermenting temp other than general control over my home's thermostat. Over the summer months the house is kept around 74 degrees and in fall it's been at about 68. I do greatly limit/eliminate light exposure to both my primary (opaque white bucket) and secondary (a "Better Bucket) "fermenters."

My first thought in reading replies was that I feel like, in retrospect, I started to notice the "off" taste (which seems more "medicinal" than any of the other off tastes I've read about) about the time I switched from Star Sans to B-Brite. When I switched to B-Brite at the recommendation of my local homebrew shop owner, I immediately missed my non-rinse sanitizer but had purchased a substantial amount of B-Brite and didn't want to waste it. After reading that it's best to rinse a B-Brite sanitized item with boiling water to achieve best results (which I don't do), I'm thinking the most likely first candidate to work with is the sanitizer.

So assuming I always wait to pitch until at 70 degrees and perhaps switch back to Star Sans, is there anything else anyone can think of? Is racking to a secondary possibly introducing too much oxidation or bringing dead yeast into the mix and affecting flavor? Anything else?

Again, thanks so much for the feedback. It is SO helpful!

Offline bonjour

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Re: Help! All my beers have the same "off" fore/aftertaste
« Reply #6 on: November 24, 2010, 09:37:41 PM »
The temp of concern is the fermentation temp more so than pitching temp
In a 74f room I would expect to see 80f+ fermentation tempsl
That can have a major impact on your beers
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Offline wakenick

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Re: Help! All my beers have the same "off" fore/aftertaste
« Reply #7 on: November 24, 2010, 10:03:28 PM »
The 74 degrees "house temperature" was only over the hot summer months and I ferment down on our bottom floor (not a basement, but definitely cooler than the rest of the house) in an interior, windowless room that was probably closer to 72-70 degrees. I just opened a brew that was fermented in late-October when temps were closer to the 68-70 degree range. Ideally, for most ales, what should my fermenting temp be for optimal yeast exhaustion and overall taste?

Thanks!

Offline a10t2

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Re: Help! All my beers have the same "off" fore/aftertaste
« Reply #8 on: November 24, 2010, 10:20:09 PM »
Ideally, for most ales, what should my fermenting temp be for optimal yeast exhaustion and overall taste?

Air temperature, low-mid 60s. That will put the fermentation temps in the mid-high 60s.
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Offline thirsty

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Re: Help! All my beers have the same "off" fore/aftertaste
« Reply #9 on: November 24, 2010, 10:22:42 PM »
I'd say don't go past 65 for most British ale yeast and stay around 60 (or less) for most American ale yeast, 1056, etc. But don't go past 70 no matter what (unless it's Belgian yeast maybe). What yeast are you using?

Offline oscarvan

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Re: Help! All my beers have the same "off" fore/aftertaste
« Reply #10 on: November 25, 2010, 06:35:14 AM »
I would bring some in to the brew supply around closing time and give them a taste. Also bring some in to the nearest brew club.
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Re: Help! All my beers have the same "off" fore/aftertaste
« Reply #11 on: November 25, 2010, 06:55:45 AM »
The 74 degrees "house temperature" was only over the hot summer months and I ferment down on our bottom floor (not a basement, but definitely cooler than the rest of the house) in an interior, windowless room that was probably closer to 72-70 degrees. I just opened a brew that was fermented in late-October when temps were closer to the 68-70 degree range. Ideally, for most ales, what should my fermenting temp be for optimal yeast exhaustion and overall taste?

Thanks!

I know it seems like this is cool enough, but its not. Your fermentation temps will be 6-8+ degrees over ambient temp. So it you are fermenting at ambient 68, your fermentation temp will be in the low to mid 70s. Which is still a bit too high. You want your fermentation temp to be no more than 68-70 (72 at the very highest) for most ales. I find it helps to cool the wort down to, or even preferably a few degrees below your desired fermentation temp. And I find my beers taste best at the lower end of the fermentation temp range.

That said, this may only be part of your problem. Filtering your water to remove chlorine/chloramines and using a chlorine free, no rinse sanitzizer may get rid of the off flavor your are describing.
Keith Y.

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Offline redbeerman

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Re: Help! All my beers have the same "off" fore/aftertaste
« Reply #12 on: November 25, 2010, 07:13:12 AM »
One thing I noticed is that you said you sterlize with B-Brite.  B-Brite is an oxy-type cleanser that is not really for sanitizing.  It also must be rinsed with hot water or it leaves a residue.  It may leave a "chemical" like taste in your beer.  Not sure how you are using it, but look into this as well.
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Offline gordonstrong

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Re: Help! All my beers have the same "off" fore/aftertaste
« Reply #13 on: November 25, 2010, 07:15:02 AM »
What kind of yeast are you using and how are you handling it?  Many problems with newer brewers are traced to fermentation, so I like to start there.  Yes, I agree with the others that you should ferment cooler.

If you are using extract, have you tried different brands or batches?  Old extract can have an off flavor that contributes to what I call the "kit beer" taste (especially when combined with a weak fermentation).

Has your beer dropped bright when you are tasting it?  You may also be getting a yeast flavor in the beer, which can be objectionable to some.

Keep in mind all of us are basically guessing at your problem given the clues you've given.  Most people "pattern match" troubleshooting, so if you use "magic words" in your description, then you will almost always get the same advice.  Best bet is to meet up with experienced homebrewers and have them taste your beer.  Then review your recipe and process step by step to come up with potential areas for improvement.
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Offline wakenick

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Re: Help! All my beers have the same "off" fore/aftertaste
« Reply #14 on: November 25, 2010, 08:17:01 AM »
Thanks again, all, for the replies. A few responses:

The majority of my brewing has used Brewer's Best kits. They all include Nottingham dry yeast (and I would assume the same type). I've both made yeast slurries as well as dry pitching and have gotten the "off" taste via both methods. For the would-be pumpkin porter I just finished bottle conditioning, I tried to go out out of the box. My base was the "Sparrow Hawk Porter" recipe from  Papazian's "Joy of Home Brewing" and some ingredients from an all-grain recipe for "Ray Spangler's Pumpkin Spice Beer" in Mosher's "Radical Brewing" (full details at the end of this). The yeast wasn't specified for either recipe and the homebrew shop gave me Nottingham dry yeast (I asked for dry, but didn't specify the brand).

I've read a couple of other posts elsewhere about homebrewer's using Brewer's Best kits and getting the same taste across several different types of kits and repliers were pointing to the yeast. They recommended getting a liquid yeast specific to the type of beer and using White Labs and Wyeast. Perhaps a change in yeast is in order to see if that makes a difference? Do others have thoughts on the pros and cons of Nottingham?

Additionally, it seems that, regardless of whether this is the source of my "taste," that I'm fermenting at too high of temps. I don't have an extra fridge that I can control the temp on (especially not up as high as the 60s degree-wise) so what do other homebrewer's do to control fermenting temperatures?

I almost certainly have not been rinsing the B-Brite correctly so I can all but guarantee that I've left a chemical residue on my equipment and in my bottles. This no doubt is affecting overall flavor somewhere. I'm frankly surprised that the homebrew shop owner recommended B-Brite over Star Sans since Star Sans is clearly easier (and more appropriate?) to use.

I'm pretty confident that water is not the culprit. As I mentioned I've used bottled drinking water from the grocery store predominantly but also Britta-filtered tap water. At times I've gotten the taste with both sources and at other times I've not gotten it (early on in my first couple batches) with both sources.

So I've got a few variables to test out. I'm definitely switching sanitizer and I'll try switching the yeast for my next batch. If it solves the problem I won't know which was the culprit but I'm OK with that. I'll have to figure out ways to get my fermenting temp down so welcome ideas for that. I'll be happy no matter what so long as my beer goes back to tasting only like beer and not beer with some weird fore/aftertaste.

Have a great Thanksgiving!


Recipe Details:

Sparrow Hawk Porter
4.5 lbs. German light malt extract syrup
3.3 lbs. plain dark malt extract syrup
1/2 lb. black patent malt
1 1/2 oz. Northern Brewer hops
1 oz. Tettnanger hops
3/4 c. corn sugar


From Ray Spangler's Pumpkin Spice Beer:
3 lbs. raw pumpkin (fresh canned, baked for 90 mins. and smashed up)
At end of boil:
0.5 oz crushed coriander, 0.25 oz. allspice, 0.5 tsp of pumpkin spice, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Then added 0.5 oz whole coriander to the secondary.