Honey note in all homebrew

Discussion in 'Homebrewing' started by frozyn, Sep 1, 2018.

  1. frozyn

    frozyn Zealot (561) May 16, 2015 New York
    Premium Trader

    I've been pretty quiet around these parts as I haven't had much inspiration to brew recently. I've run into a problem I can't make heads or tails of and am hoping you all can help. To make it short, every one of the last 5 non-dark beers I've brewed has had a honey note emerge after being in the bottle for a month or two. A wheat beer, a pilsner (twice), a blonde ale, a pale ale -- all of them. A porter and a dubbel have come out without the honey note.

    To describe it, it's like you make green tea and add honey to it -- that kind of honey note. Not overpowering, but something I can't get past. Doesn't matter if I drink from the bottle or pour into a glass. I assumed sanitation first, so I cleaned everything with soap and a soft sponge, rinsed, PBW'd for 3 hours, then rinsed, then Star San'd them before use again. Even the brew kettle (easiest place for me to PBW bottles). Still got the honey the next 3 batches.

    Is it oxygen? I bottle straight from primary, so if it's oxygen, I likely need to upgrade the fermenter. Any other ideas from you fine folk?
     
  2. Brewday

    Brewday Initiate (105) Dec 25, 2015 New York

    You don't need soap. Never used it. I clean with fresh water/sponge then starsan it before i put it away and starsan/hot water again right before i use it. Not sure if soap leads to honey off flavors.
     
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  3. OldBrewer

    OldBrewer Aspirant (244) Jan 13, 2016 Ontario (Canada)

    Could it be esters? What temperature do you generally ferment your beer at?
     
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  4. frozyn

    frozyn Zealot (561) May 16, 2015 New York
    Premium Trader

    Good question. Might be worth trying if no other answers come up. Usually rinse the hell out of everything, but that’s not foolproof.

    Depends on the beer — anywhere from 50-68 degrees. And some of the beers have taken off within hours of pitching, thanks to starters/oxygenation.
     
  5. OldBrewer

    OldBrewer Aspirant (244) Jan 13, 2016 Ontario (Canada)

    If it's from 50-68, then it's likely not esters.
     
  6. TheBeerery

    TheBeerery Initiate (79) May 2, 2016 Minnesota

    Honey is an oxidation flavor. Ever had an import german beer? Is it like that?
     
  7. NorCalKid

    NorCalKid Initiate (91) Jan 10, 2018 California

    Water? Always a big part of the initial process.
     
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  8. pweis909

    pweis909 Poo-Bah (1,730) Aug 13, 2005 Wisconsin
    Premium

    My initial thought is oxidation, for a few reasons:
    1) Honey notes are sometimes attributed to oxidation, as @TheBeerery said.
    2) You suggest that it is lighter beers where you encounter the problem. I've heard that dark beers are more resistant to oxidation. Not sure if there are antioxidant properties in darker malts or that they help disguise the flavor of oxidation.

    Of course, the obvious question is has something about your process has changed that would lead to an increase in oxidation?
     
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  9. frozyn

    frozyn Zealot (561) May 16, 2015 New York
    Premium Trader

    NYC water is pretty damn good, nearly neutral base to build off of. All the ions are single digits or low teens.

    That sounds about right. I haven't had an import bottle in a while, but reading your question sent up a "that's it!" flag in my brain.

    I had to drill a whole for the airlock in my fermenter and I think it's getting worn open more a bit, or I just made it too large to begin with. Weird thing is I didn't have this issue when I first started using this specific lid/fermenter, so it makes me wonder if there's something else amiss with it as well. It's a Speidel and well made, which is why I'm assuming my drilling is the issue.

    I guess it's time to upgrade the fermenter -- been meaning to do so, just keep putting it off as more money to spend. Perhaps the first new batch without a honey flavor will rekindle things. @pweis909, how have the Anvil fermenters been treating you?
     
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  10. Brewday

    Brewday Initiate (105) Dec 25, 2015 New York

    Which one do you have. Both of mine (7.9gal) came with airlocks specially made for speidels. Did you drill it to install a different airlock.
     
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  11. frozyn

    frozyn Zealot (561) May 16, 2015 New York
    Premium Trader

    The 12L one (3.2 gallons). No hole for an airlock, but it comes with the spigot, so I just drilled a hole myself and put a grommet in. Has worked out perfectly for my 2.5 gallon brewing, or so I thought. I'm even loath to blame my airlock drilling as I always get vigorous bubbles through the airlock to the point of needing a blow-off tube the first couple days of fermentation, but I know it could still be sneaking back in once fermentation is done.

    The only other thing I can think of is I could be bad at capping bottles, which lets air in? I have this kind of capper, and I usually cap the bottle firmly.
     
  12. Brewday

    Brewday Initiate (105) Dec 25, 2015 New York

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  13. TheBeerery

    TheBeerery Initiate (79) May 2, 2016 Minnesota

    Even capped firmley and carbed, caps let in 5-7ppb per day.
     
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  14. pweis909

    pweis909 Poo-Bah (1,730) Aug 13, 2005 Wisconsin
    Premium

    I would look to more than your fermenter lid. Some people use open fermentation (e.g., just aluminum foil, no airlock) without honey results.

    As for the anvil stainless buckets, mine are ok but not perfect. In fact, getting a right seal on them is somewhat hit or miss. Instead of a large hole for a stopper and airlock, a better design might have been a small hole for a snugger fitting grommet-airlock combination like you see in the plastic buckets. As I don’t think an airtight primary is all that important, not a big deal for me. I also had some minor complaints about qc- some burrs where the stainless was cut, some defective Teflon washers with one of my fermenters (they replaced it). It may just be that I was one of the early customers and they have improved. They certainly seemed sincere in their response to my feedback, acknowledging that others had reported similar issues and they would address them in future production.
     
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  15. frozyn

    frozyn Zealot (561) May 16, 2015 New York
    Premium Trader

    That's an interesting idea. I’ll have to read more about this as an option. Do you just use the blow off for fermentation or do you eventually attach to something else to act as an airlock?

    I figured as much, but thank you for sharing the exact numbers. Does storing the bottles in “airtight” plastic containers change things at all?
     
  16. frozyn

    frozyn Zealot (561) May 16, 2015 New York
    Premium Trader

    Thanks for the notes on the Anvil equipment. I was leaning towards the smallest SS Brewtech fermenter, partly because of size and also because my LHBS sells it (and they are the real deal, so I’d like to support them) but your notes help me solidify that choice. Good thing I have a birthday coming up - nothing better than treating yourself to some homebrew equipment!

    I’ve been trying to figure out where else I could go wrong and bottling is the only step between the tasty hydrometer samples and oxidized beer that might be an issue. That or I’m oxygenating the wort far more than I think I am and the yeast doesn’t need all that I add, which sticks around for a while and eventually causes the oxidation/honey note. I follow the advice @VikeMan programmed into Brewcipher, though, so I have a hard time believing that’s the issue.
     
  17. GreenKrusty101

    GreenKrusty101 Crusader (706) Dec 4, 2008 Nevada

    If you can discern honey flavor in your homebrew you have a really good palate...honey is one of the hardest flavors to get into a beer intentionally...this is because it is almost 100% fermentable and is usually added in the boil. Unless honey tastes like old wet cardboard to you, I think I would look elsewhere. Diacetyl, on the other hand is quite common when beer is rushed or racked prematurely. (especially lagers). Awaiting the diatribes :rolling_eyes:
     
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  18. frozyn

    frozyn Zealot (561) May 16, 2015 New York
    Premium Trader

    Diacetyl is not something I've thought of, so I'm glad you brought it up. I'm not getting any kind of buttery/slick mouthfeel with any of the beers, and some of them have sat in primary 5-10 days after primary was done thanks to life happenings taking priority over bottling, so I would think the yeast would have time to deal with diacetyl in that time period.

    I'll have to open one of the homebrews that displays the note most distinctly to see if there's any wet cardboardness to it and report back. I remember it being honey, but perhaps that's just the only word that came to mind.

    I'll also add that I was never trying to get a honey flavor and none of the beers included honey in the ingredients. Probably should have noted that in the original post!

    ETA: I opened a pilsner, my second most recent batch, and it's definitely honey and not wet cardboard, @GreenKrusty101. At least to my palate, it has the kind of sweetness you associate with regular honey when it's mixed into/used on something else. Not saccharine sweet, honey sweet. This batch spent by far the most time in the fermenter, so perhaps that helps narrow it down?
     
    #18 frozyn, Sep 3, 2018
    Last edited: Sep 3, 2018
  19. pweis909

    pweis909 Poo-Bah (1,730) Aug 13, 2005 Wisconsin
    Premium

    Not all oxidation is cardboard. I'm imagining something more like honey malt, which some people describe as honey-like, but does not really have fresh honey aromatics. Others have suggested similar for oxidized crystal malts and imported English and German beers.
     
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  20. TheBeerery

    TheBeerery Initiate (79) May 2, 2016 Minnesota

    It's 2-3-pentanedione.
     
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  21. pweis909

    pweis909 Poo-Bah (1,730) Aug 13, 2005 Wisconsin
    Premium

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  22. GreenKrusty101

    GreenKrusty101 Crusader (706) Dec 4, 2008 Nevada

    VDKs
     
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  23. VikeMan

    VikeMan Meyvn (1,446) Jul 12, 2009 Pennsylvania

    Honey is an apt descriptor for early/mild oxidation. AFAIK the resemblance is coincidental, i.e. pentanedione does not occur in actual honey. Cardboard is an oft quoted but rarely tasted descriptor for extremely oxidated beer. I think you really have to screw the pooch and/or wait a long time to reach that stage.
     
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  24. frozyn

    frozyn Zealot (561) May 16, 2015 New York
    Premium Trader

    Thanks all. Looks like I need to be more strict about using a VDK rest to give the yeast time to get rid of them and see about where else I can reduce oxygen intake along the way. I haven't had issues with diacetyl so I thought I was OK, but it seems not.
     
  25. TheBeerery

    TheBeerery Initiate (79) May 2, 2016 Minnesota

    Here is where I think the disconnect is. ( general rant coming, not directed at you!)

    "Looks like I need to be more strict about using a VDK rest to give the yeast time to get rid of them"

    Thats the typical thought process right?
    The thought process should not be to give enough time.

    The thought process should be... Why are they there in the first place?
    Fix it on the front side, and you don't have problems on the back side. I have nearly 1000 lager batches under my belt, and have zero issues with VDK's. I have never done a rest for them, why? Because I nip it in the bud on the front side, its an easy solution.

    Pitch healthy active yeast and pitch a lot. 2.5ml pitch rate.
    Aerate properly
    Ferment cool

    Pretty much those things will stop nearly all lager off flavors. Also it stops the need to have to ramp temps. Ramping temps is a bandaid to not following the above. Once you do a cold true fermentation, you will be able to tell the difference between cold and ramped lagers.

    cold lagers= lagers that taste like lagers.
    ramped lagers= lagers that taste like ales.

    (rant over)

    Process, proccess, process!
     
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  26. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (3,619) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania
    Premium

    Firstly, I do not think you are having a VDK issue; I would guess oxidation.

    Can you please provide exact details on your bottling process. For example, how are you transferring the beer into the bottles? Is there any chance you are introducing 'extra' air (oxygen) during the bottling process? For example, is there splashing involved?

    Cheers!
     
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  27. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (3,619) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania
    Premium

    It has been my understanding that dark malts have antioxidative properties. This was mentioned in the abstract of this Journal of the Institute of Brewing article:

    “Dark specialty malts are important ingredients for the production of several beer styles. These malts not only impart colour, flavour and antioxidative activity to wort and beer,…”

    https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1002/j.2050-0416.2005.tb00648.x

    Cheers!
     
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  28. frozyn

    frozyn Zealot (561) May 16, 2015 New York
    Premium Trader

    Here's my process:
    1. Prepare priming solution by boiling water and dextrose, let cool.
    2. Move fermenter from fridge in hall to kitchen counter and let sit to settle whatever trub moved around
    3. Star San the batch of bottles, bottling wand, spigot, bottle caps, syringe, glass for priming solution
    4. Attach bottling wand to spigot, remove airlock (I leave the airlock top on top of the grommet, just to try to prevent any big particles falling through and into the beer)
    5. Dose bottle with priming solution, fill with beer, lay cap on top, put on counter. Repeat this step 4-8 times.
    6. Cap bottles
    7. Repeat steps 5 and 6 around 3-6 times.
    Steps 2 and 4 seem the most likely to introduce more oxygen to me, especially as I don't have a way to introduce CO2 to the fermenter as I fill bottles and the volume of beer goes down (this would be where @Brewday's suggestion above would really come in handy). Open to any suggested improvements/ideas anyone has*!

    *Short of kegging. That's not in the cards for the time being, unfortunately.
     
  29. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (3,619) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania
    Premium

    I personally would not worry about step 2.

    How well does your bottling wand fit/attach into the spigot? Is there any chance it has a poor seal and air (oxygen) thereby gets 'sucked' into the beer as you bottle? Is your bottling wand clear - do you see any bubbles in the beer during bottling? How tight is the spigot when you put it into the open position? Any chance there is air (oxygen) getting sucked into the spigot while it is in the open position?

    I bottle my beers and I typically obtain a beer shelf life of 8-9 months for moderate gravity beers but my bottling process is different from yours. I do not have any spigots (either in my primary bucket or bottling bucket). My transfer to the bottles is via siphoning with a racking cane, tubing, and bottling wand.

    Maybe some BAs who bottle in a manner similar to your method can provide further input here?

    Cheers!
     
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  30. pweis909

    pweis909 Poo-Bah (1,730) Aug 13, 2005 Wisconsin
    Premium

    @frozyn -- in my mind, I am unsure about whether it could be VDK or oxidation. The one thing you noted that supports oxidation is the poor-fitting fermenter lid. Some questions that could get at the VDK issue -- are you using a different yeast lately, changing pitching procedures or wort oxidation procedures, trying to accelerate your primary fermentation?
     
  31. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (3,619) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania
    Premium

    @frozyn, did you taste your beers at bottling (e.g., tasted the hydrometer sample)? If so, did you perceive honey-like flavors in the beer then? Or is it honey-like only "after being in the bottle for a month or two"?

    Cheers!
     
  32. riptorn

    riptorn Initiate (64) Apr 26, 2018 North Carolina
    Trader

    @frozyn do other folks get the same honey characteristic from any of those beers of yours?
     
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  33. TheBeerery

    TheBeerery Initiate (79) May 2, 2016 Minnesota

    FYI. 2-3-pentanedione doesn't not have to come from VKD's. It's the same flavor regardless of where it shows up. Oxidized German beer is 2-3-pentanedione, from "container pasteurization"

    FYI 2. It comes from primarily pilsner malt.

    FYI 3. What all you bottlers should do, is to add the priming sugar to water then boil it. Then inject it into the fermenter. Allow fermentation to pick back up steadily, then bottle. This protects all point of ingress in the bottling process.

    FYI 4. The amount of oxygen before staling accelerates is 150ppb, this is the industry standard. SO even if you have a flawless bottle session, due to physics, you ingress 5-7ppb per day ( we will use 5 for easy math). It's all fine and dandy until your yeast in the bottle stops and falls. One that happens its going DIRECTLY in your beer. Therefor not counting refermention for carbonation your bottled beer is a ticking timebomb.. 150/5 is 30 days before the noticeable effects of oxidation start. So 8-9 months of that is 270x5= 1.350ppm of DO, which is nearly 10x the oxidation allowed in the industry standard. :wink: Bottled beer loses freshness the fastest of any packaging.

    FYI 5. Dark malts contain more melanoidians, those CAN add antioxidant properties. HOWEVER, thermal stress is a great destroyer of these. So unless you are under 10% boil off with a gentle boil, these won't help you much.

    FYI 6. Kidding, though I do have more. :stuck_out_tongue:
     
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  34. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (3,619) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania
    Premium

    Live yeast in bottles do not 'stop' having anti-oxidative properties in bottle conditioned beers.

    If a brewer were to sterile filter beer then the ingress of oxygen through the bottle cap is an issue.

    Needless to say but continual cold storage of beer greatly decreases oxidative processes (staling).

    Cheers!
     
  35. frozyn

    frozyn Zealot (561) May 16, 2015 New York
    Premium Trader

    Tightly, as far as I can tell. Perhaps I'll snag some slightly smaller tubing from my LHBS next time and try using that -- can't hurt. No air bubbles in the wand until I get near the last of the beer and I have to tip the fermenter forward to finish filling, and I always mark those beers to drink sooner out of caution and it's never many bubbles. Not sure about the spigot letting air in, but something to watch next round. It's a pretty solid piece and seals quite tightly, though that's not guarantee.

    I started oxygenating the wort with pure O2 vs. shaking/aerating, but the honey flavor showed up before that switch and stayed after. I use different yeasts all the time, so hard to pinpoint if that is an issue.

    I do, and never had an issue at bottling. I usually try my beers after a week to check for carbonation, and I've never noticed the honey note then, either. Only after a few more weeks in the bottle.

    I had one other homebrewer pick it up, but most people do not notice it. I've asked people directly if they taste honey at all, and only that one guy picked it up. He's got a pretty good palate, and perhaps he and I are sensitive to it?

    1. Good to know.
    2. Well, that could be part of it. All of the beers I've been having an issue with involve pilsner malt. Been brewing an awful lot of light summer beers.
    3. Define steadily :wink:. I've been thinking about ways to do this, but haven't found a solid way to do it.
    4. 30 days would make sense for how long before I notice the honey note. And that's not accounting for the DO already in beer when I package it, which is most likely higher than industry standards.
    5. I'm around 15% these days, so nuts.
    6. You were just getting going! No need to stop now.
     
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  36. TheBeerery

    TheBeerery Initiate (79) May 2, 2016 Minnesota

    Nope, I’m sorry but that is false. If that was case you could just leave beer on yeast and it would never oxidize. Beer stops fermenting yeast go dormant, DO increases. It’s as simple as that.

    Cold storage, doesn’t decrease it. The partial pressure laws still apply. Chemical reactions slow with temperature. So while there is no “decrease” the reactions just happen slower.
     
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  37. riptorn

    riptorn Initiate (64) Apr 26, 2018 North Carolina
    Trader

    I wondered about this one, too. Is there a time frame under specified temps of when to bottle, or maybe a visual benchmark like airlock activity? Looking for something that a run o' the mill homebrewer could use.
    Seems that method could also help with more even distribution of the priming solution.

    Okay, probably not this then, but I asked because an outside-the-box observation/question came to mind.....like if there was anything that might have happened to you that could have impacted your perception of flavors in general, around the time that you first noticed the honey flavor?
    Maybe some sort of malady or procedure (sinus infection/surgery), new/different vitamins, supplements or medications.
    Just food for thought; please do not share personal medical data :stuck_out_tongue:.
     
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  38. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (3,619) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania
    Premium

    For those of you who are members of AHA I would encourage you to view a presentation given at HomebrewCon 2017:

    Beer Oxidation: Chemistry, Sensory Evaluation, and Prevention by Bob Hall and Andy Mitchell

    Bob Hall has a PhD and teaches at University of Wyoming. Andy Mitchell is a brewer at New Belgium Brewing.

    On charts 32-37 there is a discussion on the topic of “How we package at NBB” with photographs of their bottling line and canning line included.

    On chart 33 about bottling there is mention of “Yeast added –Stop the line > 600 ppb” So even if the bottled beers have a measured oxygen amount of 600 ppb they continue packaging since the yeast provides sufficient antioxidative capability.

    On chart 35 about canning there is mention of “Add yeast back for many beers”

    On chart 37 it lists:

    “Yeast is the anti-oxidation weapon

    Yeast can prevent and even reverse oxidation aromas

    Reduces aldehydes to alcohol

    Could lower some good aromas (we don’t add yeast to CitradelicTangerine or Voodoo Ranger IPA)”

    Cheers!
     
  39. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (3,619) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania
    Premium

    Bottle conditioned beers have improved shelf life because the "yeast is the anti-oxidation weapon".

    It is as simple as that.:slight_smile:

    Cheers!
     
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  40. TheBeerery

    TheBeerery Initiate (79) May 2, 2016 Minnesota

    You are misinterpreting that but whatever works for you.
    When the yeast is ACTIVE For those who want the correct answer.