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Toffee taste plaguing bottle beer - free offer

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TheWiggman

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I've done my fair share of AG brews now and have got most things under control, but there is something I'm facing now that I can't understand: overwhelming toffee flavour and odour, specifically in ales.
I crapped on about is in this thread and thought it my have something to do with the excessive crystal, but not so.

For affected brews I pour the glass and everything is in check appearance-wise, but it smells of sugar and toffee. It's immediately obvious and overwhelms other tastes. It's unpleasant and doesn't get worse over time in the bottle.

Details -
  • I keg my beer and bottle the leftovers (23l batches)
  • I've used raw sugar, dextrose and carbonation drops
  • I wash most bottles with detergent then give a very hot and thorough rinse
  • I sanitise each bottle with Starsan solution just prior to bottling
  • Conditioning is done ambient, which has been -2­°C to 15°C.
  • Salt additions vary between brews, but brews with both straight water and adjusted water have suffered
There have been a few cases of note -
  1. Hick's Special Draught (see link above) - every bottle was PET, second use, carbonation drops. Mate bottled it too early and they were over-carbed. Strong, strong toffee.
  2. Better Red Than Dead - Raw sugar primed. Drank 2-3 months after bottling. Was unpleasant and tasted very different to the kegged beer. Glass and PET.
  3. Single Hop Ale - Dextrose to prime. Simple recipe with BB ale malt and a dash of carapils. 140g Cascade overall with 60g cube hopped. Very nice beer after 4 weeks in the keg, hoppy as buggery. Had 3 glass longnecks about 6 weeks later and they were nice, but not as hoppy. These DIDN'T have any issues. Yesterday I tried a PET-bottled one and it was terrible - hops were minimal and the toffee flavour and aroma was prominent. I could barely smell hops.
  4. Lagers - no issues in 3 brews. I've had bottles 4-5 months old that taste fine. Good, in fact.
I've done other brews (oatmeal stout, porter, sparkling ale) which did not suffer from this toffee business. All brews have different yeasts, different grains, and different suppliers.
The thing that has me stumped is that they taste completely different to the kegged beer.

HERE'S THE OFFER - I have one of the Cascade Single Hop Ale PET bottles left which I'm betting suffers from this problem. If someone out there skilled in identifying taste issues would like a free bottle to sample and analyse I'm happy to send it. Pissweak offer I know.

If anyone has any suggestions fire away. Bear in mind I've done some hard trolling with no luck. I'm leading towards my washing techniques but if this were the case, they'd all taste like rubbish. So would the kegged beers.
My main concern is that I've got 12l of English Barley Wine here that could be utter rubbish, and I'd rather have another crack now than find out in a year's time I should have made another batch.
 

black_labb

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Could it be diacetyl? Often it's described as a butterscotch flavour. It's related to yeast health/fermentation conditions and can be dealt with by giving it more time at warmish temps after fermentation finishes before bottling/kegging.
 

Fat Bastard

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What are your yeast pitches like? I think I've tastes that toffee like taste before, not so much now I'm mostly kegging, but could be quite prevalent in my bottle conditioned beers. I've not encountered it much lately, which could be due to my better yeast control ( and I'd like to think it is) or it could be due to the fact that yeast activity is arrested due to keeping the keg cold.
 

stakka82

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My bet is diacetyl stemming from infection.

I copped the same thing a few months ago while brewing at a mates. Not brewing there, using his equipment anymore, issue has disappeared.

Are you finding its not there when packaging, but appears shortly afterwards?
 

dent

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The deterioration of your malt character also points towards infection.
 

manticle

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Anything common to the bottles that isn't to the kegs (as in equipment)?
I'd offer to taste (no guarantees) but see if you get some more local offers first.
 

TheWiggman

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Appreciate the replies.
Diacetyl as I understand has a butterscotch flavour. My first lager had a hint of a buttery feel on the tongue, which softened after a few weeks in the keg. I'm assuming it isn't that.
Dent - possibly. For the HSD it was there straight away (2 weeks). For the Cascade ale some bottles didn't have it early on, then others did. Should also be noted that my mate bottled his HSD using his brand new fermenter, all else was by me at my place. His was the worst.
I don't think it's a pitching rate issue because the problem is absent in the keg, but in spades in bottles. I use a stir plate with 1l starters, larger for lagers.
May take you up on the offer manticle I'll be back in the PC tonight.
 

manticle

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Important question I asked was about equipment (such as bottling wand, hose, etc) common to bottling but not kegging.
Otherwise it sounds like a possible oxidation reaction. These can begin as far back as the maltster but presuming your malt is from a reputable supplier, how are you storing grain, how old is it and how are you transferring wort from kettle transferring and packaging the beer? Splashing at any point?
Difference in kegged vs bottle could be the rate at which reactions occur in bulk and presumably in cold (kegs) as opposed to smaller volumes, possibly not cold (bottles).
Otherwise I would guess diacetyl as suggested above - mutant yeast or infection from hose/transfer.
 

manticle

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Also all different yeasts? Recultured? Fresh? Adding wort with starter or decanting?
 

MHB

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Do you rinse after starsaning your bottles?
Starsan is Phosphoric acid and an industrial detergent, personally I don't regard it as a no-rinse product as I can taste it at very low levels.
Some people are much more sensitive to some chemicals than are others, it could be you are one.
Mark
 

Adr_0

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Could it be chlorophenols? Can be a burnt plasticky taste, not sure if that's toffee though.

Do you dechlorinate your water?
 

Ross

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Classic diacetyl from your description. Happy to confirm either way, if you want to send us a bottle.
Not sure why Starsan was put up as a possible offender, as even if you horribly overdosed (which I'm assuming you haven't), it would not give the results you're experiencing.


Cheers Ross
 

Adr_0

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Hmmm. So how are your pitch rates and temperatures?
 

TheWiggman

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Description of diacetyl from Professor Beer:

"It is easy for the novice beer evaluator to confuse the buttery flavor of diacetyl with the caramel flavor of certain malts and the toffee-like character of beers that have gone stale."

This describes it to a tee (especially being a novice beer evaluator).

Other queries -
  • Equipment - considering my friend bottled his brew using new equipment, it had nothing in common with my equipment. Possibly infection from the bottling wand but I didn't use it any differently on the beers that weren't affected.
  • Oxidation - not a maltser issue. Some brews from Ross, other from HBHB, one from MHB (lager, no probs). Only just bought a mill (3 brews in) so disregarding it at this stage. I believe I know what oxidised beer tastes like, and assuming oxidised malt can lead to oxidation flavour issues, the issue is separate.
  • Transfer from wort to kettle is via a line which feeeds straight down to the bottom of the kettle. No splashing, but there will be some O2 pickup.
  • Yeast - all different. Wyeast 1028, 1056 (both fresh and first pitch) and MJ Burton Union. Coopers LDM used for starters at 10g:100ml, decanted most liquid.
  • Pitch rates - 1l stir plate with <2m old yeast, surely can't be a pitching rate issue. Fermented out and pitch at same temp as batch (I put my NC cube in the fridge/freezer next to the yeast for a day prior to putting both in a fermenter).
  • Dechlorinate - no-ish. I typically put my water into the vessels the day before brewing as I hear this helps. That said, I can't taste chlorine in the finished product and that is something I detested in my kit days with different water. Chrloide is 14mg/l (got water tested)
What I've noted is that I do a diacetyl rest on my lagers and leave them in the primary for about 5-6 weeks. For the ales above, I'm pretty sure I only had them in the primary for a week at ~18°C (HSD by mate was 1 week and didn't hit FG, with temp slightly low). Fermentation was done so I kegged. Note that this has never been an issue for the beer in the keg so I saw no reason to change my ways. If diacetyl is the cause though this makes sense, especially considering my bottled lagers weren't affected.
For my kegged ales, I'll normally sit them on the ground for a week before chilling and carbonating. Maybe diacetyl is getting cleaned up here?

Additionally, I did a CPA brew for another mate who left it in the primary for 2 weeks. He bottled and drank after 2 weeks, and noted that aside from low carbonation it was "light years ahead of all my previous home brews". So he hasn't been affected.

I have a CPA finishing out now with recultured yeast so I'll give it 2 weeks min in the primary. It's hit FG (1.010 dammit) so I'll knock the temp up to 21 for a few days and bottle and keg this weekend.

Will try out for some local offers (Pollox might be able to assist) and may take up offers to ship.

Thanks all, much appreciated.
 

TheWiggman

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MHB said:
Do you rinse after starsaning your bottles?
Starsan is Phosphoric acid and an industrial detergent, personally I don't regard it as a no-rinse product as I can taste it at very low levels.
Some people are much more sensitive to some chemicals than are others, it could be you are one.
Mark
No - don't rinse. Will do a side-by-side with my next brew as a tester.
 

Adr_0

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Cool. So maybe let it sit around in primary a little longer?
 

manticle

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  • Equipment - considering my friend bottled his brew using new equipment, it had nothing in common with my equipment. Possibly infection from the bottling wand but I didn't use it any differently on the beers that weren't affected.
  • Oxidation - not a maltser issue. Some brews from Ross, other from HBHB, one from MHB (lager, no probs). Only just bought a mill (3 brews in) so disregarding it at this stage. I believe I know what oxidised beer tastes like, and assuming oxidised malt can lead to oxidation flavour issues, the issue is separate.
I would definitely be throwing my hat in the diacetyl ring and think it's likely that conditioning will solve your issue.

However it's worth noting that oxidation is not one flavour - there are a whole range of chemical pathways that involve oxidation of various compounds and many different flavour compounds that can be produced as a result- how they are perceived depends on many variables - how they arose, palate, threshold/sensitivity type of beer, storage and level and combination of flavour compounds.
Oxidation can result in lovely flavours in the right beer, depending on what has oxidised and how. Can also be horrible.

Anything from metallic, old paper, wood, sherry, toffee and dried fruit and more.

Additionally worth noting that if you have a piece of equipment common to all bottles, including your friend's, that it is a possible culprit even if you didn't detect that flavour in other beers you've used it with.

Simplest fix is the conditioning - see if that fixes it. There is a great podcast featuring Charlie Bamforth on diacetyl/vdk which I'd recommend to anyone.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JoC0BgeH0qE
 

hijukal

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Sounds like diacetyl to me too.

A recent India Red Ale I brewed tasted great out of the fermenter. I bottled it (bulk primed with white sugar, boiled with water for 15 minutes) and a couple of weeks later tasted high levels of butterscotch/toffee flavours, leading to obvious disappointment. Another 3-4 weeks later it was gone (or had dropped to levels that are hard to detect).

I don't have much to suggest that's not been suggested already. When they're finished fermenting, crank them for a couple of days (19-20c?) before crashing for packaging. Leave the ales in primary for at least two weeks, but 3-4 might be a better option for you. If you're not getting the flavours in your lagers it could be because of that extra time in contact with the yeast. Yeast not only ferments, but it's responsible for much of the flavour components in beer (good and bad) and needs extra time to produce something good and remove the bad. A week isn't enough.
 

TheWiggman

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I understand methods to reduce diacetyl, but if I've never had an issue with it why change my ways? With some of the brews I've done, a week has been enough or me to be very satisfied with my kegged results. I use a hydrometer as my guide.
Leaving it on the yeast longer is definitely the first step. Knocking the temp up is easy too.

Let's assume for now that the issue is diacetyl not caused by infection.
The other thing I was thinking is this was only affecting the bottled ales. I haven't noticed a hint of the same flavour in the kegged beers. I'm thinking this might have something to do with the horrible Orange weather over winter, which is when these issues have struck. My ales will be conditioning in bottles that don't get hotter than 10°C for weeks on end. Maybe the diacetyl is developing from the carbonation process on stressed ale yeast at low temperatures? The bottles also never have a chance to get warm, ever.
Unlike the rest of Australia, when I do lagers in winter I put a heat belt on it to keep it warm. It's in the fridge so it doesn't get too cold :S

The good news is though that a) I left my English Barley Wine on the yeast for over 2 weeks as a matter of course at highish temps (22°C) and b ) temps have warmed up significantly in the past few weeks, so it may have been saved. Booyakasha.
 
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