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Home Brew Forums > Home Brewing Beer > General Techniques > How to improve my next extract brew process?
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Old 08-01-2013, 04:02 AM   #1
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Default How to improve my extract brew process?

Hi folks. So, I'm about seven batches into my brewing career, all standard kits with extract and steeping grains from Midwest or my LHBS, and before I do my next one I wanted to slow down, cast a critical eye, and do some research for some issues I've noticed in my brews. Overall, they've turned out well, drinkable anyway. But I'd like to improve my technique. I thought I'd list some 'problems' I'd like to tackle, what I've learned from reading up on the issues, and see whether anyone can tell me if I'm the right track or give any additional advice. Seems for every opinion there's another side to the coin.

First and foremost; beer sameness. I've done mostly ambers and browns, with a pale ale and a scottish thrown in. Now, I would imagine they would taste similar no matter what; but after they sit for a few weeks they taste EXACTLY the same. I've used american dry ale yeast on all of them and thrown in a cup of brown sugar during the boil.

Secondly, while the taste of my beers have turned out pretty well, there's a bitter aftertaste in every batch that I'd like to get rid of. From what I've read, this could be due to the water I use. I'm not sure how to get a water report for my area. I use a Brita filter for my boil and spring water for top off. I've tried to see what common off flavors are released and how, but I'm having a hard time matching the flavors to the cause, having no experience in the matter.

Next: head retention. When I first open a bottle after two weeks carbing, they pour out great, that bitterness I mentioned isn't there or very weak, and has a great head on it. As time goes on half the bottles are losing head altogether, or it dissipates very quickly.

Lastly, chill haze. Just want it gone.

Ok; bear with me, just figured I'd make one succinct post instead of separate ones. This is my plan of attack, based mostly off threads here:

1. Switch to liquid yeast, as different strains make up much of a beer's flavor
2. While I'm trying to figure out what my local water is like, use all spring water (do I need to add any minerals?)
3. Adding the bulk of fermentables at the end of the boil helps head retention and clarity, or possibly add wheat/barley flakes.
4. I bought a wort chiller, as I read the quicker the wort is cooled the less chill haze there is.

As far as why my bottles are carbonating strangely, I'm at a loss. I rack onto the solution to mix it up. The only other things I want to try are leaving out the secondary unless dry-hopping to cut out oxidation, and pitching at cooler temps; I've been doing it at 80 degrees and I'm realizing that's pretty high. Nothing I can do about hot fermentation right now, no room for a tub to keep it cool in, though I think that's another big issue I'm having as its generally mid 60's low 70's now that its summer.

Sorry to be so long-winded, I want to take a step up and having no one to bounce ideas of off, just wanted to make sure I'm not way off base. So many variables its a little overwhelming. Beer is beer, but it can always be better!

Cheers!

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Old 08-01-2013, 05:27 AM   #2
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Flapjack:

First - I think your analytical approach will serve you very well. Every process improvement you have listed makes sense to try. If you have the patience, try making only 1 or 2 process changes per batch to maximize what you learn from the experiment. You are on the right path and your efforts will be rewarded.

I remember many of my initial extract brews tasting quite similar. The first beer I brewed that tasted both 1) really, really good and 2) quite different, was a dry Irish stout.

If you haven't done so yet, I would try brewing a dry stout, using a liquid, Irish Ale strain like Wyeast 1084. Do not add any extra sugar in the boil. Do use your plain old tap water. If you can, crush the roasted barley finer than you normally would, or use maybe 4-8oz more than the recipe calls for. After steeping, squeeze the grain bag right into the kettle...don't worry about tannins if your temp is below 160.

Use StarSan, don't fear the foam.

After pitching the yeast, leave it in the primary fermenter for a full 5 weeks before bottling. Don't open your bucket or carboy, just forget about it...maybe go brew another beer in a couple weeks if you get bored and want to "mess" with the stout. Don't even take a gravity reading until bottling day. Seriously. Resist that temptation- we've all been there.

When you are ready to you bottle, use a bottling bucket and rack the beer on top of the sugar water. Also, sanitize a stainless or plastic stirring spoon and stir the sugar water in (with minimal surface disruption/splashing). Put your bottles in a dark, warm-ish (70-75 degrees) place for three weeks. Again, just forget about them.

This takes 8 weeks of patience, but it taught me a ton about brewing. Hope it is helpful.

-RedShirt

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Old 08-01-2013, 05:32 AM   #3
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I think your gonna forget all about the water and this post once you try a new liquid yeast.

Also buy some irish moss or Whirfloc that will help with the chill haze with the new chiller.

The head retention loss thing over time is weird. How much bottling sugar do you use?

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Old 08-01-2013, 05:47 AM   #4
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I think it's 5 oz of priming sugar that generally comes in the kits right? Doesn't say precisely. And liquid yeast makes that big of a difference huh? Excited to try it.

@ redshirt thanks for the feedback, good to know I'm on the right track. The Irish stout sounds great, ill make that next after this IPA I've got here, and I've been wanting to try leaving one in primary until bottling. I've been using idophor, is StarSan better? Seems to be the most widely used.

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Old 08-01-2013, 05:53 AM   #5
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5 oz is kind of a lot, IMHO. Have a look at this if you have access to a scale or measuring cups:

http://www.northernbrewer.com/priming-sugar-calculator

Have fun.

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Old 08-01-2013, 05:55 AM   #6
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5oz is good as long as its getting stirred up good when you transfer as Redshirt mentioned.

Barley flakes are probably good idea. I use carapils a lot. It's been over 15 years since my last extract batch so I cannot recall what beers poured like. As Redshirt said 3 weeks warm in the bottle and then perhaps another 2 in the fridge and the carbonation should be perfect.

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Old 08-01-2013, 06:08 AM   #7
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How much barley flakes should I add and when?

As far as carbonation goes ill try the gentle stirring and extra time, patience is a virtue I'm learning.

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Old 08-01-2013, 06:16 AM   #8
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a handful of carapils in with the rest of your steeping grains would add some head retention. (assuming your glassware is free from soapy residue)

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Old 08-01-2013, 12:42 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by grathan View Post
a handful of carapils in with the rest of your steeping grains would add some head retention. (assuming your glassware is free from soapy residue)
Beers don't lose their heading capacity in the bottle. The loss of head is likely to be in the glass you pour it into. Hand wash them, rinse them well, and dry them and see if the problem goes away.

Since water makes up the major portion of beer it can affect the flavor. Since you mentioned extract with steeping grains, try a batch with all distilled water to see if you are tasting a mineral. Only make this one change for a batch to see if that is the answer. Making multiple changes makes troubleshooting impossible if the problem persists.

Give your beer some time in refrigeration as that will let any chill haze settle out. If that solves the chill haze, then go on to trying gelatin to settle it in the fermenter when fermentatation is complete.
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Old 08-01-2013, 01:22 PM   #10
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The "tasting sameness" probably comes from three places- the water, the yeast strain and the fermentation temperature.

Make sure you control fermentation temperatures, and keep the beer at no higher than 66 degrees or so. That will make a huge difference.

For water, I'd try a batch with 100% reverse osmosis water (from the grocery store/Wal mart "water machines"). That will give you a clean slate of water.

Another thing is technique- try adding the bulk of the extract at the end of the boil if you're not already doing so. I've noticed that boiling the extract for an hour makes all the beers have a sameness to them that has a distinct "cooked extract" taste to it. Try adding half of the extract (or a bit less) at the beginning as normal, and the rest at the end of the boil.

As far as yeast strains, dry yeast is fine. You can use liquid yeast for certain flavorful beers (like an Irish red) but I wouldn't stress over that right now unless you want to get into making starters for liquid yeast, or using two packages. I think it's much more important to take care of the yeast you are using- chill the wort to under 70 degrees before pitching the yeast, and maintain fermentation temperatures around 66 degrees- and the quality will improve greatly.

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