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My Homebrew tastes and smells caramel


Grandmaster Brewer
Dec 15, 2011
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Hi all,

i have a question that i cannot seem to get any answers from on google. i have completed 2 brews so far each 45 litres. i only use a small amount of crystal malt in my recipes but the beer turns out to be very caramelly smelling and tasting. could anyone shed any light on this. its no diacetyl as the beer is generally very pleasant i just dont want the caramel taste or smell. any help would be greatly appreciated
Extract or AG? What's the FG?
Briess is the only one I know that gives the fermentability of their extracts but it's something like 75% for Dark, 79% for Amber, 80% for light. If you use dark I suggest changing your recipe formulation ideas to match AG recipes and use light extract as your base and get the rest from specialty grains.
If you need munich there's extract for that or you can go to a partial mash. It can be done with very little more equipment than you use for extract.

If you're AG, how hard are you boiling? How's your mash pH? Fermentation temperature?
I am all grain brewing and am boiling for 1 and a half hours. The fermeneting is about 4 days at about 22 degrees using safale-04 yeast.
My guess would go with diacetyl. That's a hot ferment and not long enough. I'll assume you have other fermentation issues and don't oxygenate enough. And from the other thread you don't pitch enough yeast for batch size.

Could be kettle caramelization but from what you said you need to get your fermentation under better control so that would be where I'd look first.
Thanks for your reply. We have a thermostat that keeps the temp at 22 degrees which is reccomended on the safale-04 packs however coud the temperature be getting higher due to fermentation? How much more degrees will fermentation give? Also I don't think its too little as on the pack it says 1 pack for every 20-30 litres.
If you're saying the room temperature is 22°C (72°F)? That's way too hot if so. Your carboy could be up towards 80°F (26.7°C).
The range is 15°-24°C (59°-75°F). Even if your carboy is what is 22°C the beer inside could easily be above the upper end.

Just because you are in the range of a yeast doesn't mean it will do desirable things there. Try going more towards the middle or lower end of the recommended ranges.

Yeast package pitching rates are usually low. What's BeerSmith tell you to pitch?
Thanks for the advise. So how much more degrees does the temp rise. I use a thermostat to keep the beer at 22 degrees. But obv this doesn't cool it if it goes over 22 so maybe I need to set it to 16 or so to allow for the increase in temp from the yeast? What do u think?
As mentioned, the yeast can perform in the range of 15C - 24C.  This is wort temp, not room tem as mentioned.  Many brewers use simple stick on thermometers for our carboys.  When I used safale-04, I kept the wort at 19c-20c. 

The caramel comes from the crystal malts and Caramelization of the sugars.  Where the Maillaird reaction will darken the color, the Caramelization is a process of browning the sugar which changes the flavor by releasing the yummy goodness held in the sugar.

A long vigorous boil will increase the rate of Caramelization making the beer have more of those characteristics.  You will have more unfermentable sugars lingering in the beer with more caramel flavor. 

I would suggest a nice rolling boil for 60 minutes depending on the base malt.  If using Pilsner malt and the likes, you typically want to have a more tame 90 minute boil.

Some strange things can happen with a hotter fermentation.  If you had a high mash temp, you have more sugars but more complex sugars, the yeast will rip into the simpler ones then get lazy about the more complex ones.  You can end up with a sweeter, more caramel beer.  You would want to leave the yeast on the beer for 2 weeks without changing the temp (but you should).

Thanks for the advise. So how much more degrees does the temp rise. I use a thermostat to keep the beer at 22 degrees. But obv this doesn't cool it if it goes over 22 so maybe I need to set it to 16 or so to allow for the increase in temp from the yeast? What do u think?

Wort can rise up to 10F (~4C) above the air temperature.  So, if you are controlling the air temp to 22C then your beer is fermenting 2-4 C above that.  That temp is okay after the vigorous ferment is over...but, it is too high during the first week of an ale.  Fermenting above 70F (21C) will DEFINATELY produce Diacetyl during the early stages, the hotter the more it will produce.  Carmel/Butter/Butterscotch flavor is almost certainly diacetyl. 

The good thing about diacetyl is that the yeast will clean it up...if you give them a chance (time) after they begin to run out of sugars (2nd week onwards).

As Jomebrew says, a more ideal profile would start at 66F (19C) for the first week, and then slowing bring the temperature up to 71-72F (22C) for the remainder.  This keeps the esters and diacetyl formation to a minimum during the early fermentation, and then when you warm them up it keeps them active (rather than go dormant) to clean up the diacetyl. 

If you have a thermostat, you MAY be able to do this by taping the temp probe to the side of your vessel, and covering it with ~1in (2.5 cm) of foam type insulation.  Then your heater will only come on when the BEER drops below the desired temp (instead of the AIR).  If your thermostat can't relocate the temp probe...search homebrewtalk.com for STC-1000.  Lots of good threads over there about how to make fermentation temp controllers using these.  (They cost about $20 US).  I use an STC-1000 with the probe taped to the side of my buckets, in this fashion. 

I ferment at 66F for a week, then raise to 70F for ~three weeks.  These temps are the actual BEER temp (not air)---as mentioned by everyone else.  There's no magic about the 4 weeks.  I could probably stop at 2 weeks.  But, I'm never in that much of a rush.  There's no danger in going 4 weeks...and it saves me the trouble of checking SG all the time to see if it has fermented out, yet.