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I'm pretty new to the homebrewing world, and so far I've done three 5 gallon batches. The first was a prebuilt kit (Pale Ale), the second was a recipe I concocted (IPA), and the third was a recipe I found online somewhere. (Belgian golden)

Each of these three batches have shared a very distinct off flavor. I'd characterize it by being overly fruity, as well as pretty bitter. I've made sure to have good sanitation, even going as far as using water purification tablets in the last batch.

For all three batches, I fermented for three weeks, and carbonated for two. OG/FG have been pretty spot on as well. I've also maintained a constant temp during fermentation (~72 Fahrenheit). The first two used a single packet of US-05, and the most recent used a vial of White Labs WLP570. 5 ounces of corn sugar was used to prime each batch before bottling.

Is there anything overtly wrong I could be doing that would produce similar off flavors in all of these batches? Please let me know if I can provide any more details on the recipes or processes.

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Grats on your first brews!

Sounds like yeast stress esters from possibly under pitching or lack of oxygen, maybe even autolysis if it's sitting in a primary for 3 weeks.

Suggestions:

Use a yeast calculator. Single pack or vials are usually only enough up to about 1.040 OG. Use a starter to grow a proper pitch or use multiple packs.

Oxygenate your wort. Let it splash while filling your fermentor, shake the crap out of it to get it to foam up. Or add direct oxygen.

Lower Temp Drop down to about 68° F for your pales, Belgians are usually happy much warmer since you want those growth esters in that style.

Prevent autoylsis Use a secondary fermentor to remove the beer from the yeast cake after 7-14 days or when terminal gravity is within a couple points. Then you can let it warm to 72-75°.

  • Thanks for the suggestions, I'll definitely try these in my next batch – Andrew Brooke May 6 '16 at 1:08
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    if you cant do a starter, at least rehydrate the yeast or proof it. usually by adding it to a small amount of 90F water, temperature of the water is depends on who you ask. – jsolarski May 6 '16 at 1:47
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Well its purely speculation but if the off flavor is the same across three batches, and you're sure your sanitizing process is spot on, I'd say its likely to be either your fermentation temperature, your water or a little of both.

If the beers are a little fruitier than you'd expect that could be fermentation temperature. If you ambient temp is 72F you could expect the ferment to get up to 75-76F. The ferment does create a small amount of its own heat. Higher ferment temps will give more esters and esters mean fruit usually.

As for it being more bitter... a higher ferment could dry the beer out more than the recipe intends. A drier beer could seem more bitter depending on the hop bill. If your water is really high in sulfates that would also contribute to a firmer, longer lasting bitterness.

You don't mention if you're doing extract of all grain. If you are doing extract and your water is highly mineralized that could be a problem. Because you are adding more minerals to the extract that has minerals from the manufacturer's water source.

If you are brewing with extract, I'd recommend you try next time a simple pale ale and brew it with distilled water. You can get 5 gallons of distilled water pretty cheaply from the grocery store or a pharmacy. It would be a good experiment.

  • Water quality could be a factor.. I think I'll try out distilled for the next batch. Thanks! – Andrew Brooke May 6 '16 at 1:09
  • Indeed water can have a huge impact on beer flavor. If you are using extract then distilled water is fine as-is. If you're doing all-grain, then you might want to add some minerals to the distilled water for better flavor and mash efficiency. I use the Brewer's Friend water calculator: brewersfriend.com/mash-chemistry-and-brewing-water-calculator – bughunter May 6 '16 at 11:55
  • Awesome thanks. All of my recipes have been steeping grains first, then adding extract. Is an all grain brew something you'd recommend to go ahead and try? – Andrew Brooke May 6 '16 at 12:21
  • All grain is great and you should definitely try it. Its not hard to get started. However, if you are having a water issue its likely to also be a problem in all grain. Figure that out with one more batch of extract/steeping grains. And include the issues that Evil Zymurgist brought up with regarding yeast health. All grain gets complicated when you have to worry about water too. – brewchez May 6 '16 at 16:57
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If you're using malt extract, this could be "extract twang." Not all extract gives this off flavor, but some does. I suspect it mostly depends on the quality and age of the extract. It seems to be more of a problem with liquid extract than dry.

I would describe the off flavor as a slight sourness in the finish, accompanied by a sort of astringent dryness. People perceive and describe things differently. What you call bitter, I might call astringent. What you call fruity, I might call sour.

My first several batches had a terrible twang to them and failed to attenuate fully. I began to suspect it was the bulk LME I was getting from my local shop so I started brewing all-grain. Years later, I haven't had that problem since.

If you have any reason to suspect LME could be the problem, I suggest doing your next brew with fresh dry malt extract, as it has a longer shelf life.

  • Thanks for your input! I have been using LME, so I might end up going all grain next – Andrew Brooke May 6 '16 at 12:33
  • @Andrew Brooke Ask your supplier how fresh the extract is there. Maybe try DME (or a combo of both) if freshness is an issue. I personally think that extract twang is a hold over from older days of brewing when extracts weren't fresh and the yeasts were of poor quality. I don't here of too many people suffering from extract twang much anymore. – brewchez May 6 '16 at 16:59

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