Jungle Lust Part 3: Bottling

As luck would have it, the time that I decide to document the making of a beer, there is a possible issue.  But it can be looked an opportunity to learn and share, if I can ultimately determine the cause.  And that’s a big if.  After a week in secondary and soaking the coconut and cacoa nibs in the porter, it was time to bottle.  I did happen take a taste test 2 days in, and it tasted pretty good but the coconut was subtle.  So I let it ride for the remainder of the week.  Prior to transferring the beer to my bottling bucket, I took another taster sample.  There was a prominent “hot solventy” off flavor.  This surprised me quite a bit because the beer tasted great going into secondary (even two days into secondary).  So if something went wrong, it was somewhere in the process after primary.  Zeroing in on that, here are the possible culprits and my current thoughts about each of them.

Autosiphon/tubing:  I’ve used this thing so many times without issue, there is little to no chance this was the cause.

Home Depot 5 gallon paint bucket:  I’ve used this bucket as a secondary vessel for 3 previous batches of different beers with no issue.  It got a fresh cleaning and sanitization before this batch’s use.

Cacao nibs:  In general, there is no way to sanitize cacao nibs and I’ve used them in the past as is.  It has never been an issue, much like the thousands of homebrewers out there that also use nibs.

Coconut: This was an ingredient that I’ve had no prior experience with in homebrewing.  Toasting it did heat the coconut to a great degree which should in theory kill off most of what may be naturally living on it.  Also, I’ve read that various well experienced homebrewers have used coconut in primary or secondary with no issues.

5 gallon paint strainer bag (from Lowes):  These are made of nylon and my thought was that this may have been the most probable candidate.  Maybe there was some sort of chemical extraction going on with the nylon and alcohol.  Or maybe soaking the bag in starsan (an acid) partially broke down the nylon in a non-visually obvious way.  But again, I’ve read in forums of a number of homebrewers using these bags on post-fermentation beer and none reporting issues.  But a lot of them were just using them as filters when they transferred their beer off the trub, which would not be a lot of contact time, whereas mine was 7 days.  So it’s a possibility this may have been the culprit.  Plus a lot of the off flavor guides out there do not attribute solvent flavors to infection.  Usually it’s due to warm fermentation temps or stressed yeast.  But this problem did not show up at the end of primary.   So a chemical extraction would make more sense.

So at the moment there is uncertainty, both due to the cause and the salvageability of the batch.  I decided to bottle it anyway in hopes that the off flavor will recede and, given enough time, the beer will meld together.  So in two weeks, I’ll crack one open and see what’s up.  If anybody out there has had a similar experience or thoughts on this, comment away.

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5 comments on “Jungle Lust Part 3: Bottling

  1. Hmm, usually a solvent-like character is a fermentation temperature issue. Was it possible that your beer might have fermented to hot in either the primary or secondary vessels?

    • Pride Craft says:

      That’s what I’ve read also. My usual process for all my beers except belgians is keep fermenter at about 68F for a week and let it free rise to 73 for another week Never had a solvent issue. And this beer tasted fine going into secondary. And any further fermentation in secondary should have been little to none. Secondary was held at 73 for a week, which I’ve done before for a couple of other beers that I use secondary for (adding oak chips, nibs, cinnamon sticks, vanilla beans, etc).

      • Interesting. While I usually don’t ferment anything other than a Saison above 70’s, I wouldn’t think 73 was high enough to do any damage. Was this 73 as it says in the ambient temperature of the room or using a thermowell in the beer? I do know that some yeast strains can go crazy and the endothermic reaction can actually cause the fermentation temperature to raise as much as 10 degrees above ambient room temperature. Was it a particularly active fermentation?

      • Pride Craft says:

        73 is the temperature of the home and while active fermentation would increase the temperature inside the fermenter, there should not have been any appreciable fermentation going on inside secondary. Also, my process has been repeatable over many batches and many years and I’ve used this yeast before. Never had solvent off flavor. The only “new” thing here for this batch was the coconut and using a starsan sanitized paint strainer bag in the secondary. Everything else, from equipment to temperature to process, I keep the same and have done many times over.

  2. Yeah, that is strange. Frustrating and strange. It’s frustrating when there is not much rhyme or reason other than something new you did(the paint strainer), but that shouldn’t have done anything in theory. But, who knows. When I switched over to stainless steel fermentation vessels, the manufacture suggested I do a complete 24hr soak in starsan to break down manufacturing oils, and then a thorough rinse. I did exactly as was told, and ran our first beer through, which was a Bavarian hefe. When we poured our first glass, we noticed the beer was muddy looking, and indeed tasted like machine grease. Turns out, our manufacture had the wrong information, and what we needed to do was a proper passivation with a acidification product. Moral of the story: StarSan is a miracle product, but maybe it wasn’t enough. The good news is that if the Strainer was the problem, there is a good chance the fermentation ate away any chance of a repeat. Good luck!

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