9 Off Flavors and Solutions

Sometimes you just don’t nail your brew when it comes to the tasting part.  To your defense, there’s a lot of things that could have happened. It’s best not to have a camera around when tasting a bad batch of beer because your face will make some very odd expressions.  Regardless there are off flavors that can be produced and it’s best to learn what happened so you don’t repeat it later down the road.

I’ve taken 9 of the most common off flavors that you will find in your home brew and created a guide so at least you can start to trouble shoot.

1) Actaldehyde – Taste like green apples

Cause: It could be because of contamination or because you didn’t let the beer mature to the full capabilities

Solution: Clean better next time, don’t remove the beer prematurely.

2) Astringency – Taste Like Tea

Cause: This is caused from steeping the grains at too high of a temp.  This could also happen when your grain has been over crushed.

Solution: Just pay attention to what temp your steeping your grains at (shoot for around 150 degrees).  Don’t steep grains that are pulverized into almost a flower looking powder.

3) Diacetyl – Taste like butterscotch of buttery flavor

Cause: Removing your beer before fermentation is complete or a bacterial infection.

Solution: Make sure that you are letting your beer ferment for the full amount of time. If you are lagering, allow a diacetyl rest at 50-55 degrees for a few days.

4) Dimethyl Sulfide – Taste Like Cabbage or taste like seafood

Cause: This is caused from a bacterial infection.  Another way that this is caused is covering up your brew pot during the boil.

Solution: Don’t cover your brew pot during the boil.  DMS is boiled off during the boil, so keeping the brew pot on naturally will exploit this flavor.

5) Esters – Fruity flavors such as banana or cherry

Cause: Fruity esters can be tasted in your beer when you ferment at a high temp.  Certain yeast strains are exceptionally more prone to producing these flavors.

Solutions: Ferment at proper temp and also do some research before you pick out your yeast strand.

6) Phenols – Taste like band-aids (assuming you know what band-aids taste like)

Cause: If you use bleach to sanitize, this is a sign that you did not rinse it completely. This flavor can arise when you over crush your grains as well.

Solutions: Make sure that you properly rinse your equipment when using bleach or bleach like products.  Also make sure that your grains are not over crushed.

7) Skunky Beer – Smells like a skunk is in your bottle

Cause: This is usually caused by oxidation or UV light being introduced to your beer. The UV reactions with the hops and will cause this flavor.

Solutions: Do not use green bottles or clear bottles, stick with brown/amber.

8) Sour Beer – Taste just very sour, puckering experience

Cause: Bacterial infection.

Solutions: Better sanitation practices.

9) Sulfur – smells/taste like rotten eggs

Cause: Yeast cannibalism, or a bacterial infection

Solutions: Good sanitation usually helps with this, also do not let your beer sit in the primary for too long.  If you plan on making brew with a secondary fermentation make sure to keep yeast from primary separate.


It’s not the end of the world when your beer gets ruined from off flavors, when you end up getting a trouble some batch it’s best to step back and view it as a learning experience.  I can tell you that if you know what happened to make that batch go bad, or a least have an idea of what happened to make that batch go bad, you’ll do what you can to not let that happen again.  Just view everything with brewing as a learning experience and a lot of the times it may seem your learning on your own, but know every brewer has had some weird batches – make sure to get back on the horse as soon as possible. Past that I hope it helps.  I’ll leave it with you, has anyone had any really weird batches of beers?



* I used http://www.homebrewzone.com/ as a reference 

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