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I have made 3 batches of beer now which each had the same off flavour but I don't really have a clear idea of the source of the problem. It's a kind of soapy cleaning flavour but doesn't match up any flavour descriptor that I've come across. It persists across split batches so is not down to fermentation problems as far as I know but seems to be inherent in the beer. I did think it was something to do with the bottling bucket but I've made and bottled unaffected beer in between the off flavoured ones. It's a long shot but does that sound familiar to anyone?

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5 Answers

It could be the hops. Were they all IPAs?

I have heard people say that long dry hopping can cause soapy flavors. This happened to a home brewer I know on his first IPA. He said it tasted soapy. He let it sit in the fridge for a few weeks and it was gone.

I found a guy here at work thinks the Founders Centennial IPA that we are all drinking tastes like "detergent". I don't think that is an off flavor. It's the flavor of the hops at copious quantities. It's a strong flavor. I think "hops" and he things "detergent".

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I've come across soapy flavors on a handful of occasions, and I've yet to figure out where exactly they come from.

My sources indicate that soapy flavors can come from either various salts, or various esters and organic acids. This leads me to believe that water and fermentation conditions and/or yeast strain/health all can lead to conditions which result in this flavor in one way or another.

Salts: Magnesium/calcium/potassium chloride, Sodium sulfate/carbonate

Esters: Ethyl dodecanoate, ethyl tridecanoate

Acids: Capric acid, dodecanoic acid, pyroglutamic acid

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When brewing extract, I'd sometimes found that the extract in contact with the tin sometimes tasted soapy. The taste left a very long lasting back of the tongue bitterness, a bit like eating soap bubbles in the bath (surely everyone has done this as a kid?)

I used to use boiling water to loosen the extract from the inner side and completely empty the tin, but stopped doing that after noticing the off flavour, which did make it though the final beer.

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This may help: From John Palmer's How to Brew:

Soapy flavors can caused by not washing your glass very well, but they can also be produced by the fermentation conditions. If you leave the beer in the primary fermentor for a relatively long period of time after primary fermentation is over ("long" depends on the style and other fermentation factors), soapy flavors can result from the breakdown of fatty acids in the trub. Soap is, by definition, the salt of a fatty acid; so you are literally tasting soap.

http://www.howtobrew.com/section4/chapter21-2.html

I found this while reading Brewing Classic Styles by Jamil Zainasheff:

If your water is highly alkaline, the beer pH may be too high, causing the beer to taste dull, soapy, or excessively bitter.

(emphasis mine)

Have you checked your local water report?

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Just want to point out that a lot of brewing experts are changing their opinion on long primary fermentations. Not sure if Palmer has adjusted his stance on this or not, but a lot of people are leaving beer on the primary for multiple weeks now, resulting in BETTER beer. A lot of new brewing instructions are still using the old mantra of "1-2-3 weeks," which isn't necessary. –  Graham Nov 22 '11 at 13:29
    
Good point, Graham, and I agree. I routinely leave beers in primary for 3-4 weeks. The question remains: Where are these soapy off-flavors coming from? I quote Palmer only because this is the only source I have for this off flavor. –  Dustin Rasener Nov 22 '11 at 23:22
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Another suggestion for the OP: Take your beer to your local homebrew shop and have them taste it. It may be that what you're perceiving as soapy is something else entirely, and they may be able to help you pinpoint the problem. –  Dustin Rasener Nov 22 '11 at 23:23
    
A pH test isn't too unreasonable either, especially if you are at all into the idea of meads and/or wines. –  mummey Feb 3 '12 at 3:31
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How long do you leave your beer in primary? It's possible that you are leaving it too long on the trub, which can cause soapy flavors due to breakdown of fatty acids in the trub.

My other guess is that it has something to do with your sanitizer and not cleaning your equipment properly.

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I'm only leaving it for two weeks - I think your second point is probably correct though I'm not doing much different between batches. I will try and be more vigilant in the future. –  BrotherLogic Nov 22 '11 at 10:03
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