Bad taste in my beer!


Hello all! I started brewing about a year ago and have only had 2 good batches out of my 7 attmepts. Both were good batches were after buying new fermenters. So, I assume Cleaning is my issue.
But what doesn't make sense is Why? I clean my hands and arms well before starting like a doctor scrubbing up. Then I use a clorinated cleaner or Iodine to make sure my equipment is clean. Then I rinse it well several time with tap water (I have been told by other brewers in the area that our tap water is excelent for brewing). Then I use One Step and do not rinse, just like the directions say.
Then on to brewing. NO ONE stands over the pot or breaths on the beer. It is covered with an electric thermometer in it to keep the boil temp right. I then cool the wert by emersing the pot in cold water in the sink and adding ice. I then pump the beer into the primary fermenter (Also cleaned with the above process just before brewing). at 1 week, I do the same cleaning and move to a secondary fermenter. I make sure my fermentation temp is within range at all times.
On bottling day, I clean my bottling bucket and flush all my bottles with one step. I then taste the beer. Tastes terrible.. Like plastic or a bitter medicin. A Harsh, soapy taste.. I go ahead and bottle anyway hoping it is just the priming sugars making it taste like that. Come the 2 week period, I have a terrible tasting drink that will make your gut hurt with just a few sips..
Any thoughts anyone? Is it possible to be TO carefull cleaning or clean too much?
Thanks for all your help.. I'm ready to give up but trying one last call for help!
Reply to
DeanWesterburg

Two things stand out in your description as being possible causes of the bad taste. The first is the statement: "It is covered with an electric thermometer in it to keep the boil temp right. " Keeping the brew kettle covered during the boil is not a good idea. This keeps the precursor elements of DMS (Dimethyl Sulfide) for escaping. Instead, they stay with the condensate on the bottom of the lid and drip back into the wort. The taste is often described as tasting like cooked corn or cabbage. This can be made even worse by slow cooling. If it is taking you longer than 20-25 minutes to get your wort cooled, this may be a contributing but not sole factor in the taste.
A second statement: "Tastes terrible.. Like plastic or a bitter medicine. A Harsh, soapy taste." points to a couple of different problems. An actual soapy taste is generally the result of yeast autolysis. This happens when the beer sits in primary so long that the dead yeast on the bottom of the fermenter begins decomposing. This is obviously not what is happening in your case. Autolysis generally doesn't begin until the beer has been sitting on the yeast and trub for 2-3 months. Even then, it won't manifest itself in the taste for a couple more months.
Eliminating autolysis, that leaves us with the plastic or medicinal taste. This generally points to chlorine as the culprit. You are apparently doing a good job of rinsing, but that and the brewing water itself are probably part of the problem. If your water company treats the water with either free chlorine or chloramines, that is the likely source of this taste. If free chlorine is the problem, this can be eliminated by boiling the water before using it in your brewing or by running your water into an uncovered kettle and letting it sit at least overnight. If your water supplier uses chloramines, then you need to either filter it or treat it with Camden tablets. Actually a good charcoal filter (available at any home improvement store) will remove both types of chlorine.
A good source of information about off flavors and possible causes can be found at this link:
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My guess would be that the two good batches of beer may have been relatively dark ones. Dark beers are less likely to have DMS problems because of the roasted grains and they are also heavy flavored enough to hide other problems.
I hope this helps you a little in tracking down your problem. Good luck on your next brew.
Wayne Bugeater Brewing Company
Reply to
Wayne

Could it be phenolics you are tasting? Here are a few links I found. In my experience anything that tasted like that was due to wild yeast, although there are other causes such as bacteria or insufficiently rinsed bleach.
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Reply to
stephen

I see 2 possibilties.. the first is chlorine or chloramine in your water. Do you use chlorinated water? Do you do anything to get rid of the chlorine? Even if you've been using the same water without problems in the past, chlorine/chloramine levels can change drastically without warning and give the kind of flavors you describe.
The second is the ice. If you're adding it to the water in the sink, no problem. But if you're putting it in your kettle of wort, you could be introducing bacteria via the ice.
----------->Denny -- Life begins at 60...1.060, that is.
Reply to
Denny Conn

Good answers already to your question. I'll add one thought that occured to me:
Does it really make your gut hurt or is that hyperbole? ... Once I "ate" few grains of dishwashing detergent (that was on the side of a glass) and it almost immediately gave me a stomach ache.
The one time I heard of a REAL soapy taste was when a friend of mine on his first brew, switched his sanitizing powder and his cleaning powder. He ended up doing no-rinse sanitizing with cleaning powder. I don't know the brands.
I don't use one-step. If you are on "city" water, try rinsing the one-step out of everything with tap water and going from there. City tap water should be fine for rinsing in practically all locations (ie., no infections from tap water).
So... I'd be extra double sure that the "one-step" you are using is the real thing and I'd rinse it off (or try completely without it or get some other sanitizer). Is the one-step in a commercial container or is your LHBS repackaging it? The example I pulled up thru google said 1 tablespoon per gallon - is that the strength you're using?
Derric
Reply to
Derric

Wow! Lots of good info here! Thank you all!
Some answers to some of the questions asked along with a few new questions:
-Water- I am using tap water, although I did try using bottled water (Spring Water actually) and still had a problem. I was brewing a kolsh in that instance. I have had other people in our area that brew good beers tell me our water is very good for beer brewing. Not sure why it's good but it works for them! I have no problem with spending a few bucks on bottled, spring, or dionized water if they would help. Which is the best to use?
-Sanitizer- One-step that I have purchased from my local beer supply house (www.listermann.com) comes in a small bag with the official label. I guess they could be repackaging it though. It is like a extra strong ziplock bag..
-Wild Yeast- I buy the recipes with all the ingredients allready measured out. The yeast is a dry yeast in a sealed package.. I can't imagine more people would not complain to the beer store if it was the issue. Anything is possible though!
- The 2 good batches- One was an irish stout with the acidic additive to look and taste like guiness (and it and it's foam did look just like guiness!). The other was a very hoppy Pale Ale. I think the pale ale was so hoppy, that a mild case of this bad taste may have been there and It was so covered by the hops that it went unnoticed.
-Bad flavor and stomach aches- It will really give you a stomach ache without drinking but a few ounces. The guy at the beer supply mentioned phenolics (spelling?) as well. He stated that you usualy dont taste them much, but you will recognize the hangover feeling and the stomach ache.
So, I think I have a good idea now from all of your responses that the problem is related to a cleaner of some kind. Either Chlorine in the water, or some leftover residue from a sanitizing product. I should mention, after my first batch (which was a good batch) I cleaned with dish soap. I learned later that Dawn dish soap leaves a residue that lead to my first bad taste in batch #2. My 3rd batch included all new equipment and an upgrade to a autosyphon and 2 glass carboys. EVERYTHING but the bottle capper was replaced.
That being said, would it be ok to boil water and put my equipment in it to sterilize it and kill off any remaining residue? How about pouring boiling water in the fermenter? How long would I have to boil for?
I had a brewing friend ask his brew mentor about my issue. His friend replied with "Don't use those sanitizers. Flush out your equipment with a little bleach and water, rinse well, and then brew". Any thoughts on this? I'm not wild about bleaching something that will contain an edible drink, but it would be a different cleaner!
Thanks again for all your responses and information! I look forward to your replies and will be picking up a new batch of stuff for a Irish Stout for my next attempt over the holidays.
Reply to
DeanWesterburg

Sorry, missed answering 2 questions:
-ICE- Yes, I put the ice in the sink, NOT in the brew kettle! (good to be through)
-One-Step mix- Yes, I follow the 1 TBSP per gal. Do you think that is too little or too much?
-Other cleaners I have tried- Chlorinated "PINK" powder. The local supply said this should kill anything.. Aparently, it kills the taste of beer too! I rinsed several times after that and still did the one-step stuff after that.
B-T-F Brand Iodine - Followed the directions on the stuff to a tee. Again, I followed with One-Step after several good rinses.
Thanks!
Reply to
DeanWesterburg

There are two things to check for your water... 1. do they use Chlorine or Chloramines. And, 2., what is the mineral content of your water.
Your note above seems to indicate that the mineral content (#2) is fine. If your water is just chlorinated, that is fine too. However, if is had chloramines, then you need to do some extra treatment to get rid of it. Just using "spring water" from the store should prove or disprove this as your problem.
Listermann's should be good... talk to Dan there and see if he can help you. He frequently posts to some of these groups, like "rec.crafts.brewing."
It is rare that anyone mentions actually getting a stomach ache from their beer. That makes me think it is some chemical.
I use cheap dish soap and just rinse well.
I think that is way overkill. There should be no need to try to sterilize with boiling water... sounds a little dangerous too.
That's what I do. Just a few tablespoons bleach in 5 gallons. Use about a 15 - 20 minute contact time, then rinse well with hot tap water. That's it. It works well and the chlorine is all gone. Any chlorine from your tap water shouldn't be a problem. The main benefit from One-Step and others is that they are no-rinse. Rinsing has never been a problem for me.
You certainly don't need to follow those with One-Step. That's overkill again... and that mixture of different chemicals may be doing something strange. Chlorine based cleansers should be rinsed (tap water for rinsing is fine in 99% of the cases). Pick ONE sanitizer and stick with it... don't mix them. Personally, I clean with cheap dish soap and sanitize with bleach and just rinse everything well with plain tap water.
Derric
Reply to
Derric

He still needs to get rid of chlorine if he's got it. But that's easier to get rid of than chloramine, though.
--------->Denny -- Life begins at 60...1.060, that is.
Reply to
Denny Conn

Hmm.. I got a water report in the mail late this summer. I'll have to dig it up. Are there any easy ways or tests to find the water content? I'll try Spring water the next time just in case.
Thanks! I'll definatly ask for him and maybe bring a bottle with me incase he is daring enought to try it!
Agreed...
Again, I agree. Boiling would be dificult, but I want to make sure to get rid of any residues.
Excellent.. I'm glad to here others back up this method. I will try your percentage of bleach and contact time.
Thanks again!
Reply to
DeanWesterburg

I use Ward Labs. www.wardlab.com Household Mineral Test W-6 (runs about $15) will give you all the info you need.
--------->Denny
-- Life begins at 60...1.060, that is.
Reply to
Denny Conn

www.wardlab.comHousehold Mineral Test W-6 (runs
For a quick Chlorine/Chloramine test, fill a white tub or even a white plastic bucket with tap water. If it looks clear or slightly blue, its Chlorine. If it looks green then its Chloramine.
Reply to
Brian

For less than a $1.00 a gallon at most grocery stores why not spend a little just to be safe. With as many unknowns as to what may be in public water supplies these days why not make about a $5 to $10 investment on some good clean purified water. Even if you have your water tested it still may not show if there are unusual chemicals in it or even rust, algae, or other organisms. Most of the time I use the generic brand of so called spring water for my brews. Supposedly it has all the natural minerals you would find in pure spring water.
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dlihcsnatas

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dlihcsnatas

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