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Diagnosing an Off Batch

Discussion in 'Homebrewing' started by smm5548, Feb 27, 2012.

  1. smm5548

    smm5548 Disciple (70) Pennsylvania Feb 23, 2010

    About 2 months ago I brewed an oatmeal stout (partial mash) and a cherry wheat (extract), using S-04 for both. When I bottled my oatmeal stout after 3 weeks in primary, it tasted great with a nice bit of sweetness and good mouthfeel. However, after 2 weeks in the bottles the beer had a very strange overpowering rubber/plastic type of smell and taste. The cherry wheat, also in primary for 3 weeks before bottling, has a similar aroma/taste but not quite as potent.

    I don't know if this was caused by the yeast (I have heard some complain about S-04) or something that I did. The only thing in common with the two batches is the yeast strain. The smell and flavor is too strong for me to even enjoy the beers. My ferm temps were consistent and never higher than about 68 deg. Is there any chance of autolysis in such a short amount of time?

    Any input would be greatly appreciated.
  2. leedorham

    leedorham Champion (835) Washington Apr 27, 2006

    Hard to say.
    What is your cleaning/sanitizing procedure for bottling and what are you using as sanitizer?
    Are you introducing oxygen at bottling time perhaps?
  3. smm5548

    smm5548 Disciple (70) Pennsylvania Feb 23, 2010

    I reuse bottles and rinse them thoroughly after use. On bottling day, I scrub them with a bottle brush, rinse and sanitize with star san.

    I am as careful as I can be when bottling and don't believe I am introducing much oxygen at all. I used the exact same procedures for these 2 batches as my first batch which came out great (an APA with US-05).
  4. leedorham

    leedorham Champion (835) Washington Apr 27, 2006

    Well, not sure then. Perhaps you introduced something wild (bacteria or yeast) and it just took that long for it to produce flavors at a detectable level. The only thing you can really do without a lab is to clean and sanitize the hell out of everything then try again.
  5. VikeMan

    VikeMan Advocate (740) Pennsylvania Jul 12, 2009

    This was my thought too. Going from no off flavors to plastic-y over time suggests phenols from a developing infection.
  6. barfdiggs

    barfdiggs Savant (420) California Mar 22, 2011

    Like the others have suggested, it sounds like an infection. Give the bottles a couple more weeks to condition and see if the off flavors get worse or go away, and also note if there are any changes in the carbonation of the beer. I've used S-04 a bunch lately, and typically primary for 2-3 weeks before bottling, and haven't had any of the off flavors you've seen in your batches.

    Did both batches taste fine before being added to the bottling bucket and only tasted funky after bottling, or did the cherry wheat taste weird out of the primary? If both tasted fine before bottling, it could be your bottling bucket thats scratched and harboring something. If not, as suggested above, clean and sanitize the crap out of everything.
  7. smm5548

    smm5548 Disciple (70) Pennsylvania Feb 23, 2010

    I don't remember the cherry wheat tasting off at first either. But, then again, I didn't taste anything off until I tried the stout a couple of times and then realized that same odd flavor was in the wheat, just more subdued.

    Is there any chance that my water could produce such a flavor? I brew at home with good tasting spring water but I don't have any kind of water report on it either so I don't have any idea about it's makeup.
  8. HerbMeowing

    HerbMeowing Savant (320) Virginia Nov 10, 2010

    Give it some time to come into its own.
    Two weeks in the bottle...it's barley legal.
  9. smm5548

    smm5548 Disciple (70) Pennsylvania Feb 23, 2010

    The oatmeal stout has been in bottles now for 5 weeks and the cherry wheat for 6. I just tried the stout again this past weekend and the smell/taste seemed just as bad if not worse. I am not dumping the rest just yet and plan on seeing what happens with some time.
  10. VikeMan

    VikeMan Advocate (740) Pennsylvania Jul 12, 2009

    Yes, but in your case, probably not. Chlorophenols (produced from chlorine) can cause a plastic-y flavor. But I'd think the flavor would be immediately off (not increasing with time), and since you're using spring water, I doubt there would be any chlorine or chloramines in it.
  11. jbakajust1

    jbakajust1 Moderator (500) Oregon Aug 25, 2009 Staff Member

    Sorry to hear about this man, I just had an infection hit my brewery and sweep through 6 batches (possibly two more). Last weekend I cleaned all my gear, sent 1/2 cup PBW into each of my fermenters with hot water and soaked 17 hours, then soaked my 2 Better Bottles in cold bleach water (3 caps per 6 gal BB) for a good 5-6 hours, my plastic conical got the bleach for 5 days. Rinsed them out really good with hot water. Buying a new bottling bucket today. I am putting off all my brews for awhile, and brewing an American Blonde Ale to split between fermenters and see what happens with it before I brew up some more of my other recipes I want to do. Sucks man, I feel for you. If you do have an infection, get it now while you can.
  12. I'm going to guess that you had an infection all along and it didn't mature immediately. since all of your beer has the same off-flavor it would mean that it all had to be exposed to the same bacteria. beer is realtively stabel once it has fermented and it is difficult for infections to form after fermentation. however in the lag phase - between pitching and the yeast becoming active - beer is very vulnerable. that's why pitching rates and wort temp are critical so the yeast has the best opportunity to become the dominant critter in the wort. good luck and if you have a still throw it in there.
  13. smm5548

    smm5548 Disciple (70) Pennsylvania Feb 23, 2010

    Is it more likely that an infection got into the batches through the air or by contact with some of my equipment? The one difference I can recall between my first batch and the the two off batches is that I did not siphon the cooled wort into the carboy the first time around, I simply poured it in from the kettle. Is the racking cane and siphon tubing a probable infection harboring site? After washing the siphon tubing following its first use (bottling my first, non-infected batch), it has since had a strong unpleasant smell sort of like hot plastic or rubber on the inside surface. Is this smelll normal or could this be a clue as to what my problem could be, even though I have sanitized this equipment thoroughly before use?
  14. jbakajust1

    jbakajust1 Moderator (500) Oregon Aug 25, 2009 Staff Member

    That is not a normal smell for standard vinyl tubing to have. I am wondering if something happened when you cleaned that tubing that caused that smell to show up in the tubing and it transferred to the beers during siphoning causing the plastic smell in the beer? Do the beers and the tubing have a similar plastic smell?
  15. smm5548

    smm5548 Disciple (70) Pennsylvania Feb 23, 2010

    I didn't think that the smell of the tubing and the beers was all that similar really. The tubing smells like its very hot for some reason while the smell/flavor in the beer is...well it's hard to describe exactly but it's quite different. The only way I can describe it is plastic like but not that same hot rubber/plastic smell from the tube. Sorry that I can't describe it any better but I am having a hard time putting my finger on the exact smell/flavor in the beer.
  16. The only thing I can think of for your situation is a bacterial contamination.

    “Phenolic Flavors
    Phenolic flavors are perceived as a medicinal or band-aid like flavor that can be quite harsh. It also sometimes is perceived as plastic, smokey or clovelike. Strong phenolic flavors can make the beer harsh or even undrinkable in some cases.
    Phenolic flavors, like astringency, can be caused by oversparging or boiling your grains. In addition the use of chlorinated tap water or presence of bacterial contamination can also cause phenolic flavors. Excessive use of wheat malts or roasted barley malts can also lead to clovelike flavors. Check your equipment and bottle caps for leaks and potential contamination, carefully control your sparging process and use an alternate water source if needed to mitigate phenolics.”
    http://www.beersmith.com/blog/2008/09/21/troubleshooting-homebrewed-beer/
  17. jmich24

    jmich24 Savant (415) Michigan Jan 28, 2010

    I brewed a Two Hearted clone that tasted amazing before bottling, but got off flavors like you are describing after 2 weeks in the bottle. I also posted on this website to try and figure out what I was doing wrong. I tried everything including adding campden tables to treat tap water, extra careful sanitation and tried to eleminate oxygenation(which I still do btw). I brewed it again and got the exact same results. I actually kept two bottle that I was going to enter into a competition in order to get the off flavor identified (havent yet). I also offered to send a bottle to homebrewing BAs for them to try to determin the issue.(I still will) I have since moved to kegging and have produced amazing beers with none of the off flavors. I was fortuante enough to get a keggin system for my birthday and have not bottled since. This has lead me to believe it was either a infection within my bottle bucket/spout/bottle filler or oxygenation while bottling. Good Luck!
  18. HerbMeowing

    HerbMeowing Savant (320) Virginia Nov 10, 2010

    Which can come from something as simple as what's on your hands...if you get my drift.
  19. smm5548

    smm5548 Disciple (70) Pennsylvania Feb 23, 2010

    I'm getting ready to bottle my IPA in a couple days and want to do anything I can to avoid another infection, assuming that's what has happened with the others. I have not been taking apart the spigot assembly of my bottling bucket to clean and sanitize and I will be doing that this time. My other major concern is my vinyl siphon tubing. As I stated before, it has a strong hot plastic smell to it on the inside. It sounds like this is not normal but I'm not sure why it smells like this or if this smell could indicate an issue with the tubing that could harbor infection. Is this at all normal? I plan on buying new tubing if this is unusual to eliminate another possible cause for my off batches.
  20. Hogie

    Hogie Aficionado (130) Michigan Mar 19, 2008

    Not necessarily the bottling bucket. Infections don't usually show up that fast, so if it is an infection, it is just as likely due to something before bottling as it is the bottling bucket.
  21. It is difficult to diagnose the precise source of a bacterial infection since this can occur almost anywhere in the brewing process. The only ‘solution’ is to maintain proper sanitation throughout the brewing process (while recognizing that bacterial infection is a bit more problematic during the initial brewing process since bacteria really, really likes to ‘eat’ wort).

    As regards the discussion about sanitizing the spigot and obtaining a new siphon hose it could be argued this would fit within the category of practicing proper sanitation. Whether this will ‘fix’ the problem is unknown. Since sanitizing the spigot is not a major effort and the cost of new siphon hose is cheap, why not do it?

    I hope that your IPA turns out well.

    Cheers!
  22. Beejay

    Beejay Savant (495) Virginia Dec 29, 2008

    When you say fermentation temps never got above 68, are you talking about the temperature of the wort, or ambient.. I know you said "fermentation temperature" but in my experience that usually means ambient..
  23. HerbMeowing

    HerbMeowing Savant (320) Virginia Nov 10, 2010

    Seeing how you've been home-brewing for quite some time...let me ask;
    What's your process for keeping racking hoses clean and sanitary?
    How often do you replace your hoses?

    Thx.
  24. smm5548

    smm5548 Disciple (70) Pennsylvania Feb 23, 2010

    That was the temperature of the wort during active fermentation. Ambient was around 64.

  25. What's your process for keeping racking hoses clean and sanitary?

    My cleaning process for my racking hose is simply to thoroughly rinse it out with water after use. My racking cane has never gotten dirty (in the sense of having visible crud) so a water rinse if sufficient to just get any beer residue liquid removed. I started homebrewing in 1995 and we didn’t have all of the ‘fancy’ sanitizers that are available now (or at least I was unaware of them). I use a weak bleach solution to sanitize (2 ounces of bleach per 5 gallons of water). I sanitize my racking cane within a plastic pan that you use to soak pre-pasted wallpaper; I bought this pan at Home Depot for a few dollars. I am still using the same racking hose that came with my homebrewing kit back in 1995. I have used it or 283 bathes and it is still ‘going strong’.

    How often do you replace your hoses?

    I read an article in BYO about 10 years ago that recommended that you replace your hose every few years. The rationale is that since it is a soft plastic it will scratch easily and therefore could be a source of a bacterial infection (bacteria within the scratches). I am unsure whether this is a genuine concern but since hoses are cheap I do replace them every couple of years of use. My present hose is about a year old and it does not have a hot plastic smell. My cleaning/sanitizing process for my hose is the same as my racking cane: thoroughly rinse with water and sanitize in a weak bleach solution. I doubt that the source of the OPs infection is his hose but you truly never know. For about 2 bucks to obtain 5 feet of plastic hose I figure this is cheap for a bit of ‘peace of mind’.

    Cheers!
  26. HerbMeowing

    HerbMeowing Savant (320) Virginia Nov 10, 2010

    Great stuff Jack!
    Appreciate the thoughtful reply.

    I've been getting funk colonies in my 2ndarys recently after years of no trubbles and had wondered whether it might could be related to cleaing / sanitation issues with my hoses.

    I hot rinse them well after use...over-night soak in PWB...Star-sanitize and otherwise handle with deliberate care.

    Something's happen here.
    What it is ain't exactly clear.
    There's a man with a beer gun over there.
    Tellin' me I got to beer-ware.

    - apologies to Stills

  27. “I've been getting funk colonies in my 2ndarys recently after years of no trubbles …”

    Are your secondaries 5 gallon glass carboys? I don’t secondary my ales but I do use 5 gallon glass carboys for my lagers and ciders. My cleaning/sanitizing process for my carboys is to thoroughly rinse them after use using a Jet Bottle Washer and then soak using a weak bleach/water solution (2 ounces of bleach per 5 gallons of water). The bleach/water solution dissolves any remaining crud in the carboy. I re-sanitize the carboy using a weak bleach/water solution prior to the next use.

    I have read where some folks use Oxiclean to clean their carboys. Maybe this would help you? Or maybe just a simple bleach/water soak will do the trick?

    Cheers!
  28. dublthink

    dublthink Initiate (0) Feb 22, 2012

    I use Oxiclean Free to clean my carboys and a carboy brush... I let them sit w/ the OC in there for a few days. Then I rinse well and pour some SS in there while they are not being used...

    Product Features

    • The unique formula is activated by water, unleashing bubbling oxygen power for safe, effective cleaning
    • For regular and he washers
    • Free of perfume, dyes, chlorine

    [​IMG]
  29. HerbMeowing

    HerbMeowing Savant (320) Virginia Nov 10, 2010

    My small batch sizes are brewed and secondaried in plastic. If a 2ndary isn't used...there's more lost volume that I can afford at bottling time.

    It's kinda odd there's no visible trubble in the primary...only in the 2ndary and this trubble has only come about relatively recently. Maybe the time has come to replace the fermentors. Some of them have been in service going on six years...but before I put them out to pasture...will water board them with a weak bleach solution.
  30. “ …secondaried in plastic.” What kind of plastic are your secondaries made of?

    Performing a secondary in a plastic vessel (unless it is made out of PET like Better Bottle) is not a good idea due to the potential for oxidation. Below is a copy of a related post I made in a different forum which provides more details.

    Cheers!

    Jeff,

    I personally do not have experience fermenting in poly conicals. I conduct my primary fermentations in 7.9 gallon plastic buckets made of High Density Polyethylene (HDPE). I limit my fermentation time within the bucket to less than 4 weeks out of concern of oxidation since HDPE is oxygen permeable. I would never consider conducting a secondary fermentation in a HDPE vessel. I utilize glass carboys for secondary fermentation (cold conditioning of lagers, secondary fermentation of ciders, etc.).

    Do you know exactly what material the poly conicals are that you are considering? I suspect that no matter what poly material it is (with the exception of Polyethylene Terephthalate – PET) that oxygen permeability would be a real concern and consequently you would not want to conduct a secondary fermentation in it.

    Below is a link to an interesting article from Better Bottle; of importance to you is Table 1 which details the oxygen permeability of various plastic materials. For example the Oxygen Permeability Coefficient numbers (the lower the number the better) for:

    - PET: <1

    - Polypropylene: 35-373

    - HDPE: 44-91

    Other than the concern over oxygen permeability I am very satisfied fermenting in my HDPE buckets.

    Cheers!

    http://www.better-bottle.com/pdf/Closures_Oxygen_Passage_Study.pdf
  31. HerbMeowing

    HerbMeowing Savant (320) Virginia Nov 10, 2010

    Primaries and secondaries are PETs.
    Apparently they've forgotten they've been house-trained.

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