Unexpected bitterness

What went wrong? Was this supposed to happen? Should I throw it out? What do I do now?

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Unexpected bitterness

Postby cwbuecheler » Sat Dec 11, 2010 7:30 pm

Hi guys, I'm a newbie brewer who's only made five batches, but all but the first have turned out very drinkable. However, one thing I've noted is that all of them have a strange bitterness to them -- not something I associate with hops, but almost a soapy aftertaste. It's mild and doesn't ruin the beer, but it's noticeable and I'd like to correct it.

I'm very thorough with washing and rinsing my equipment (using a mild soap), and I sanitize with starsan, which according to How To Brew doesn't leave an aftertaste. I use opaque plastic "ale pails" and ferment in a dark closet. I typically ferment at 70-72 degrees for a week (I've never had visible fermentation past four days), transfer to secondary and let it sit for another week or two, then bottle-condition for 2+ weeks before trying a beer.

I've made a chocolate stout, an amber ale, an american pale ale, a scottish ale, and a honey-blonde. Each has used different grains, hops and yeasts, and they range in expected IBUs from 15 to more than 60, but all of them have had this same odd aftertaste. It was least detectable in the APA, but I think that's just because it was the most bitter of the beers I've brewed.

I'm planning on bringing in a couple of bottles to my local homebrew shop and asking them to taste it and see if they have any ideas, but I figured I'd check here, too. If anyone has any thoughts, I'd love to hear them.

Thanks!
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Postby nshack » Sat Dec 11, 2010 11:17 pm

Are you brewing all grain or extract?

There are certain qualities that are unique to extract brewing and can create off flavors that might persist from batch to batch. I find that extract beers have a certain "extract" tang to them that comes from the concentration process. I guess it's an overcooked flavor or something like that.

In the all-grain world the extraction of tannins can create something akin to bitterness, but it is actually astringency. There are various places in the brewing process where you may extract some tannins from the grain and get flavors that aren't intended.
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Postby cwbuecheler » Sun Dec 12, 2010 2:14 am

Whoops, sorry - all of my recipes so far are extracts w/ specialty grains. I haven't moved up to all-grain brewing just yet. I was hoping to get the hang of things using extracts before dropping the cash on a mashing setup.

Maybe it's the CBW extracts I'm using.

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soapy flavors

Postby slothrob » Sun Dec 12, 2010 10:43 am

I suppose the soap you're using could be a problem. I recommend using PBW (Powdered Brewery Wash) or Oxyclean. Coffee pot cleaner works well, too, and the one I use has the same basic ingredients.

I usually associate soapy flavors with yeast, though. What yeast strain are you using? Also, has all the yeast dropped out of the beer by the time you are drinking it?

Hop varieties have a broad range of flavors, some of which don't taste pleasant to some people. I can imagine some of the "piney" or "resinous" hops as coming across as soapy. Simcoe hops can tastes sort of like that to me. What hops have you been using?
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Postby cwbuecheler » Sun Dec 12, 2010 4:19 pm

Thanks for the thoughts, slothrob!

Re: soap - I've actually changed dish soap three times during the time I've been brewing, so not sure that's the issue, but I'll give PBW a try. They sell it at my local brew shop.

Yeasts:

- Scottish Ale: Danstar 3767 Windsor
- Amber Ale: Wyeast 1084 Irish Ale
- APA: Wyeast 1056 American Ale
- Chocolate Stout: Wyeast 1728 Scottish Ale
- Honey-Blonde: Wyeast 1272 American Ale II

Hops:

- Scottish Ale: 1oz East Kent Goldings
- Amber Ale: 2oz East Kent Goldings
- APA: 1oz Chinook, 1oz Cascade, 1oz Liberty, 1oz Liberty (dry)
- Chocolate Stout: 1oz Amarillo, 1oz Tettnanger, 1oz Hallertau (dry)
- Honey-Blonde: 1oz Cascade, 1oz Willamette

So it's a pretty wide variety of hops and yeasts, odd that they're all giving the same aftertaste. On the other hand, every single batch has had at least 3.3 lbs of CBW extract (and most of them have had between 5 and 8 lbs). Also they've all used the same spring water, tho I've tasted said water and it's very clean-tasting so I don't think that's the prob.

All of the recipes other than the Scottish ale are ones that I made up myself in BeerToolsPro, and each one uses a variety of specialty grains (steeped), but they're all different, so I don't think that'd be the issue either. Maybe I should try getting the wort cooler before pitching? I usually pitch at around 75 degrees.

I don't have the space right now to go all-grain, so if it's "extract tang" I may have to just get used to it. :)

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soapy

Postby slothrob » Sun Dec 12, 2010 5:37 pm

Like you say, it seems too wide a variety of ingredients to blame anyone of those. I'm not familiar with CBW extract, so I can't attest to it's flavor, but let's assume it's of decent quality.

If the problem is "extract twang", one thing you can try is to reduce the concentration of the boil. You can add about 1/4 of the extract at the beginning of the boil, then add the remaining extract with 15' remaining. That seems to reduce the twang. Old extract can supposedly cause similar problems, though.

Another thing that causes a chemical/band-aid flavor that might be thought of as soapy is Chlorine or Chloramine in the water. I don't know if they use either in bottled spring water, but Chloramine is virtually tasteless in the water itself yet creates this very unpleasant flavor in the final beer. One Campden tablet per 20 gallons of water (or the correct proportion to smaller volumes) will remove Chlorine and Chloramine.
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Postby cwbuecheler » Mon Dec 13, 2010 12:26 am

Awesome, thanks. I'll definitely look into learning more about my water and its contents, and will also experiment with adding the extract at different times in the boil. I'm about to re-brew a couple of my recipes for the first time, so I'm hoping I can fine-tune them and produce some really great beer with the next couple of batches.

The good thing is: everything's been drinkable so far (and in the case of the amber, APA and chocolate stout, very tasty!) so it's not like I'm not enjoying the experimentation. :)

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Postby jawbox » Mon Dec 13, 2010 8:43 pm

It could be the CBW, I've used it in the past and been less than thrilled with the results. Maybe try Muntons in lieu of the CBW next time. Def, ditch the soap and try PBW.
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soapy

Postby slothrob » Tue Dec 14, 2010 7:47 am

Thanks, Jawbox, it's good to hear from someone with experience using the extract.

The other thing I'm concerned about is the fermentation temperature. If the room temperature is 70-72F, the fermentation could easily hit 75F or higher. I really consider that too warm for a clean ferment with those yeasts. At those temperatures you can get some less pleasant esters and solvent-like flavors that might come across as soapy, I suppose.

I would recommend trying to limit the actual fermentation temperature to 68F. I usually ferment another 4-8F cooler than that.
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Postby cwbuecheler » Wed Dec 15, 2010 1:13 pm

I should be able to ferment colder during the winter months, as my basement is several degrees cooler than during the summer. Actually, I'd been avoiding going below 70 as I thought most ale yeast was supposed to ferment at 72-75. If 66-70 is better, the basement should be perfect.

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temp

Postby slothrob » Thu Dec 16, 2010 7:39 am

62-68F is probably the ideal temperature range of the fermenting beer for most ale yeasts. 70F is probably okay, but it gets iffy over that, depending on the strain. Some ale yeasts will do okay down into the high 50s. 62F might be a little low for some British yeasts, but German ale yeasts will generally thrive there. 60-64F will tend to make British yeasts pretty clean, so you might want to go up around 66-68 if you want more British character.

There are some Belgian yeasts that like to be up in the 70s, or even higher, but most yeasts will have generate off-flavors at those temperatures in a homebrew environment.

That's temperature of the fermenting beer, though. A stick on thermometer is a pretty good measure of that if it's stuck on below the top level of the beer. Realize that actively fermenting beer can be from a couple to as much as maybe 8 degrees warmer than the room.
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Postby cwbuecheler » Thu Dec 16, 2010 2:01 pm

Thanks slothrob. I'm brewing a weizenbock this weekend -- I'll try changing a couple of things and see if I can taste it in the finished product.
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weizenbock

Postby slothrob » Fri Dec 17, 2010 7:43 am

Good luck!
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Beer Fermentation Temperature

Postby slothrob » Sat Apr 02, 2011 9:39 am

I've found those stick-on thermometers to be pretty accurate, too.

I ferment a lot of beer on my cellar floor, sometimes in a shallow tub of water. Depending on the time of year, the beer can sometimes be cooler than the air temperature, since the concrete floor is often cooler. That's very useful for keeping my fermentations at the right temperature when the weather starts to get warmer.

Either way, the air temperature isn't a very good indicator of fermentation temperature and the stick-on thermometer helps to get a more useful measure.
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soapy

Postby danbrew11 » Tue Oct 25, 2011 11:12 am

I also have come across this issue with a specific bitterness /off flavor while brewing extract beers with specialty grains. I've tried several alternations with dry/liquid extracts (Briess and Muntons all fresh as far as i know) and dry/liquid yeasts, even messed with proportions less/more of certain ingredients, still came across the same taste in every brew. like Chris I made an American Pale Ale and the off flavor was the less detectible because of the hop bitterness and dry hopping, but it was still there. So now I'm going to experiment with using Gypsum in my water (i use deer park water which is soft) to try and add some extra calcium, i may even try some Campden to get rid of any Chlorine in the water. Reducing the concentration of the Malt extract to the boil sounds like a plan as well, but ultimately and unfortunately, i have a feeling that it is the Malt extract that is causing this.
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