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Ash Flavour In Beer?

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whitegoose

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I brewed a pilsner about 3 weeks ago, and it has what I would say is an ash type flavour. Before anyone starts thinking of smoked malt or anything remotely like that - it's not. My impression is that there is an underlying ash type flavour - like ashes from a camp fire. My missus says it's smokey and really bitter. The aroma isn't so prominant, and it kinda just smells like green beer that might be a little weird. But have a sip and it is rank.

Searching the web for answers doesn't turn up much about "ash" flavours. I did find one post on another forum talking about a cigarette ash flavour being created by burning crud onto the kettle element during the boil. This brew I did my first ever 2 hour boil in my concealed element crown and the conceled element was absolutely crusted with black burnt wort - like to the point where I had to scrub it off with steel wool as PBW and napisan had no effect.

Does that sound like a likely culprit? If so, what can I do to avoid crusting up my element? I brew BIAB, and it only hapenned on this 2 hour boil (although it did crust up a tad on a 1.5 hour boil recently) - but I want to do the 2 hour boil to try to get avoid DMS which I think has been my problem on past pilsner attempts.

Or is there something else that could have contributed something like "ash" in the flavour?
 

whitegoose

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Recipe in case anybody asks:

Recipe Specs
----------------
Batch Size (L): 16.5
Total Grain (kg): 3.050
Total Hops (g): 53.00
Original Gravity (OG): 1.050 (P): 12.4
Final Gravity (FG): 1.013 (P): 3.3
Alcohol by Volume (ABV): 4.91 %
Colour (SRM): 3.4 (EBC): 6.7
Bitterness (IBU): 30.5 (Average)
Brewhouse Efficiency (%): 87
Boil Time (Minutes): 120

Grain Bill
----------------
1.800 kg Pale Malt (59.02%)
1.067 kg Pilsner (34.98%)
0.091 kg Carapils (Dextrine) (2.98%)
0.061 kg Wheat Malt (2%)
0.031 kg Melanoidin (1.02%)

Hop Bill
----------------
19.0 g Saaz Pellet (6% Alpha) @ 60 Minutes (Boil) (1.2 g/L)
17.0 g Saaz Pellet (6% Alpha) @ 20 Minutes (Boil) (1 g/L)
17.0 g Saaz Pellet (6% Alpha) @ 5 Minutes (Boil) (1 g/L)

Misc Bill
----------------
6.0 g Gypsum (Calcium Sulfate) @ 0 Minutes (Mash)
0.5 g Whirlfloc Tablet @ 10 Minutes (Boil)

Single step Infusion at 66C for 60 Minutes.
Fermented at 12C with Saflager S-189
 

vortex

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I would say yes. That is probably what caused it. I once burned extract on the bottom of the kettle (gas, not that it matters), and it was like you're describing.
I'm surprised you fermented it, in my case it was pretty obvious to me before I even pitched the yeast.
 

Blitzer

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burnt wort? I thought it only happened on extract if it didn't mix properly.

Maybe something you dumped in got burnt? Burnt hops? Were they in a bag or free floating?
 

whitegoose

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Didn't notice anything unusual when I chilled it (plate chiller) into the fermenter - I only noticed the element for the first time when i started cleaning.

Hops were in a bag - one of the super fine craft brewer hop socks. I always use it when I'm dealing with pellets and it doesn't usually let a lot of hop material through as far as I can tell.

That being said I always find that there is a a fair cone of crud in my urn once I've finished whirlpooling and draining to fermenter.
 

beerdrinkingbob

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A guy at the brew club had the same thing, tasted like you drink a bottle someone butted out in.....he had no scorching etc, we put it down to yeast stress of some sort... Yeast Farts must have had follow through..
 

Cocko

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I had a very similar thing a while ago.... thought it was in one particular keg but then it appeared in all.

Worked out it was from, once I had gotten beer through my gas line and never cleaned it as I thought the gas had pushed it out. Closer inspection I found this dried up drop of beer - replaced the line, fixed.

2c.
 

Cocko

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So you have never had beer in your gas line/s??

I know it sounds odd but if it stales it presents as a smoke/ash flavour. I thought my local HB had given me smoke malt by mistake when it first appeared... took awhile to work out but the process of elimination brought me to the answer...

Anyway, hope you work it out - not pleasant when not planned.

Cheers
 

whitegoose

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No this beer is still in the fermenter so ga and gas lines haven't been in contact with it at all... It's basically urn, plate chiller, fermenter - all of which I've cleaned using my normal routine :-/
 

kahlerisms

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I am so happy I found this thread.

I have been making an apricot wheat all-grain clone and straight out of the cube I knew something wasn't right. At first I thought it had a very strong smoke taste but couldn't quite put my finger on it. More tasting during primary and now secondary have it as very much an ash taste.

I was um... pretty cheerful while doing this brew so my notes are non existant and it was a month or so ago now. I went and checked my electric keggle and the element is absolutely caked in crud. Usually I get a very small amount of browning on tonly the top that will rub off with a rough sponge but I've had a serious go at this with the scourer and it won't come off. I'm guessing that's the cause.

Took the element out and it's been in oxyper for about 24 hours. I'm not even sure it can be salvaged though.

The real question is though - how did this happen and how can I prevent it happening again? This recipe was nothing special as far as boil times go, I haul my bag out (I'm electric BIAB in a keggle) if I'm heating up. I can only guesstimate this happened during the boil.

What a mystery. Would be keen to hear back from whitegoose and any others that have encountered this about what can be done to reduce recurrence. This is maybe my 30th brew on this setup and it's not something I've ever dealt with before.


Edit: Just given the element a good scrub after the 24h soak, even after the burnt on stuff has come off, it looks like the metal underneath has gone a dark gunmetal grey colour. I think this element might be dead but why is still a mystery. Could it have somehow superheated in 25+L of boiling wort? My boil never even gets all that vigorous.
 

whitegoose

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I've done 2 or 3 brews since that disaster and am positive that the ash flavour came from the weirdly excessive burnt matter that collected on my element. It seriously took me hours of scriubbing and soaking and scruibbing and soaking to get it off - I've never had anything like it.

The next brew I boiled for 90 minutes instead of 120 and I stirred the kettle regularly throughout to make sure there was no crub just sitting on the element burning on. No problems that brew.

The next brew I just did a normal 60 minute boil and didn't stir at all, and had no problems.

My theory is that it was an unlucky comnination of a rare 120 minute boil and an unusually large amount of crud that found it's way out of the wort and/or through my hop socks and rested on my element for the 90 minutes. But definitely caused by crud burning and caking (like REALLY burning and caking) onto the element.
 

Nick JD

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I fried a step mash once. Tastes exactly as you describe.

Took a metric shitload of effort to clean the bottom of my kettle too.

The crud doesn't need to carry through - the burnt taste dissolves in the wort.
 

technobabble66

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Slightly off topic, but does the wort come into contact with the element in an urn with a concealed element?

I'm looking at getting an urn one day (soonish, maybe) for BIAB, and assumed the difference between concealed & exposed was that one has direct contact with the wort & the other doesn't (& stays clean). Otherwise, what's the point of the concealed element, other than saving you the effort of putting in a false bottom?
 

whitegoose

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In a concealed element urn the wort does not come into contact with the element directly. The element sits just under the bottom of the urn and the heat is transferred through a section of the metal floor of the urn - so while you can't get crud burnt into the actual element, it can get burnt into the special section of the floor if the kettle that is superheated by the element - the advantage being that you just have to clean the mostly flat surface on the urn floor rather than a gnarly coil.
 

technobabble66

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Ah comprendez! - Thanks whitegoose.
That makes sense then. I'll keep looking at a concealed element urn then :)
Just gotta save some pennies now & stop buying hops!
 

Pickaxe

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I worked a function centre a few years back and learned a lot about urns. Inexplicably, they are temperamental if not idiosyncratic. I had a variety of identical urns of different shapes and sizes, and they all had their eccentricities in temp, heating times, overheating issues etc. Same make, same size, and they were serviced and cleaned etc. regularly. One of these 40L bastards used to ******* boil and boil away some days with a full cop of 500g coffee in it, other days it was fine. thermostat was fine, everything checked, it was just a c*nt in my view. Never did quite find out what happened, but one thing I've learned, those elements pump a lot of power through quick, their "rhythm" or timing on when the power goes through the element differs (I learned this from the rhythm of the heating noise they make, the rumble/hiss and its timing), and sometimes it just keeps going or can get 'stuck' on heat up, or be slow to react to heat up when required. Trying to brew a decent coffee in these things is a challenge. Temp control becomes a thing of knowing the machine and feel. The dial on the bitch is useless. Some are hot, some are cold. A miniscule adjustment on the dial of some meant the difference between a slow boil and hellfire-lava-generation-here-come-the-rapture kind of temp differences. In my experience, a mild change in environment (eg. air conditioning compared to a hot day, or a winter's morning) could potentially mess with an urn's mind. I know they are simple devices, but I've worked with them long enough to not trust them. I've seen with coffee that an urn heats up so quick it splits layers between hot water and cold water - hot on bottom, colder on top, esp when a thermostat is on the way out and their is a layer of crusted coffee involved.
 

kahlerisms

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Nick JD said:
I fried a step mash once. Tastes exactly as you describe.
Are you saying us electric BIABers need to find another way to step mash?
 

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