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Home Brew Forums > Home Brewing Beer > Fermentation & Yeast > Curse of the 1.020
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Old 07-04-2011, 09:19 AM   #1
AlaskaWortChiller
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Default Curse of the 1.020

I have three ESB style beers currently fermenting - all had starting gravity 1.055-1.058. All used liquid yeast starters. I make up my starters in a flask with 900-1100 mL water and half a cup of pilsner DME. I inoculate the starter and let it go for 18-24 hours before pitching. I swirl it four or five times by hand during that period. The flask opening is covered loosely with tinfoil.

I whirlpool and siphon my wort into the fermenter, leaving the trub behind in the kettle. I aerate by siphoning from the top of the liquid and allowing bubbles to enter the siphon and bubble up through the wort in the fermenter. After reading some threads here I am considering getting the aeration kit from Williams.

The first two beers used Thames II yeast from Wyeast (advertised 72-78% attentuation, 60-70 deg. F). Current temp. in fermenter is 66-68 deg F. They are currently both hung up around 1.022 after 3 weeks in primary. I had not roused them before but I did shake the fermenters vigorously today after I took the readings. Each beer used about 11.5 lb maris otter, 0.5 lb crystal malt and a pinch of roast barley, mashed at 154-156 deg F. One of them had a pound of flaked corn as well.

The third beer had a similar grain bill but used White Labs 007 dry english ale yeast (70-80% attenuation, 65-70 deg F). Current temp is 66 deg F. I thought this one would ferment dry for sure. After 8 days it is at 1.020. I have more hope for this one than the other two and will give it two more weeks in primary. Mashed at 154 deg F.

All of these beers were made using a three step mash (122 deg F protein rest, 154-156 deg F starch conversion, 168 deg F mashout, sparge 170-175 deg F).

Ideas for solutions / source of problem:

- Rousing the yeast. Is it just a homebrewers myth or can you get a few extra points that way? I will give the Thames II beers one more week in primary and will rock the bottles every day, although I admit I find myself wondering if doing a magic attenuation dance wouldn't be just as likely to help.....

- Oxygenation. Maybe bubbling air into my siphon and up through the wort in the fermenter isn't enough, although it made me feel clever when I thought of it. Perhaps I will look into an oxygenation kit or go back to manually aerating the wort with a small sanitized stainless steel bowl.

- Temperature. I have had good results so far with 66-68 degrees F in my basement, but maybe with these yeasts it's time to find a way to kick it up into the low 70s?

- Starter. I read somewhere that if the starter is not heavily oxygenated the yeast will be least attenuative. Or maybe I am stressing or tiring them out somehow by making the starter? Would it be better to just pitch the smack pack or vial directly? Can you use your oxygenation kit on a starter or would that be overkill? I really don't see myself spending the money for a magnetic stir plate.

- Enzymes / pH problem. I thought these were to be added only if you used a lot of specialty malts. One of the beers had a pound of flaked grains, but all had more than 10 lbs maris otter. Is it is possible my three step mash is somehow adding a lot of non convertibles to the wort?

Any suggestions greatly appreciated.

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Old 07-04-2011, 09:38 AM   #2
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Two things stick out to me here...

#1- Mash temp. 154-156 is a touch high. The enzymes may convert stuff in to unfermentable sugars at this temp. I am not an all grain expert but it seems like that is high for everything I have read. 152-154 is about what you want. From what I gather 152 is pretty much optimal; however, I have not experience to back up what I just said.

#2- I used liquid yeast for many batches and also made a starter for most of them. I thought for some reason liquid was better. After switching to dry yeast my beers are infinitely better. No matter how much aeration I did with liquid I always had off flavors and attenuation problems.

If you are having these problems you need to switch to dry on the 3rd batch or so to rule out yeast issues.


I say switch to 152 mash temp and dry yeast (unless you get an oxygen cane) and that ESB will be a completely different animal.

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Old 07-04-2011, 10:18 AM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rollinred View Post
Two things stick out to me here...

#1- Mash temp. 154-156 is a touch high. The enzymes may convert stuff in to unfermentable sugars at this temp. I am not an all grain expert but it seems like that is high for everything I have read. 152-154 is about what you want. From what I gather 152 is pretty much optimal; however, I have not experience to back up what I just said.

#2- I used liquid yeast for many batches and also made a starter for most of them. I thought for some reason liquid was better. After switching to dry yeast my beers are infinitely better. No matter how much aeration I did with liquid I always had off flavors and attenuation problems.

If you are having these problems you need to switch to dry on the 3rd batch or so to rule out yeast issues.


I say switch to 152 mash temp and dry yeast (unless you get an oxygen cane) and that ESB will be a completely different animal.
Thank you for your reply. I do agree mashing at 156 is a touch high. I wanted malty, around 1.015-1.018 but over 1.020 is too sweet. Maybe next time I will mash these at 152-154.

I have had mixed results with liquid yeast. I do all my american style and light ales with US-05 dry yeast now. I have had luck doing some belgian and english styles with liquid yeast, particularly the British III and West Yorkshire limited edition from Wyeast. I wish they would make the West Yorkshire a permanent offering because it made some of my best beers ever, malty but with a low FG and well balanced. I have been trying to find another English style yeast that will replicate that effect. Maybe I will try a dry one like Nottingham or S-04 next time.
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Old 07-04-2011, 04:00 PM   #4
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IMO, more than likely the mash temperatures were much too high for whatever reason. It's also likely that your actual mash temperatures were much higher than you thought they were. This is a fairly common problem. Been there, as they say.

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Old 07-04-2011, 04:11 PM   #5
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Maybe your thermometer is going bad and your temps are actually much higher.

My only two beers to end up over 1.020 FG were a Wee Heavy (og 1.083, mashed 156) and a Porter. I forgot to aerate the porter, didn't check the hydro before bottling and had a couple blow up on me.

I would guess your aeration method isn't cutting it. Shake your fermentor like crazy to aerate next time!

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Old 07-04-2011, 10:06 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by SterlingHopper View Post
Maybe your thermometer is going bad and your temps are actually much higher.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Catt22
IMO, more than likely the mash temperatures were much too high for whatever reason. It's also likely that your actual mash temperatures were much higher than you thought they were. This is a fairly common problem. Been there, as they say.
Thank you for your replies. My mash temp is measured with a brewmometer and an electric meat probe type thermometer. I just checked them both against boiling water and room temperature water and both were within 1 deg. F of each other. That leads me to believe they are fairly accurate, although I guess they could both be off.

I think mashing at 156 is a wee bit heavy for this style, next time I will keep it below 154 for sure. I guess if I thought I was at 156 and was really only even a degree or two hotter it could explain the high FG. Oh well, nothing to do but drink some really sweet beer and hit the exercise bike.

I also think aeration is still an issue as I seem to be hitting my FG target more consistently with dry yeast which are cultured in highly aerated environment. Anyone out there with an oxygen stone want to help convince me to spend the $50?
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Old 07-04-2011, 10:13 PM   #7
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You coul add some more sugars to dry it out, but that may also "thin" the flavor of the beer. DME,LME,honey,maple syrup,etc will dry it out for sure.

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Old 07-04-2011, 10:27 PM   #8
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I've been mashing in the 150-152 range and getting much better FG results. If you have the grist formulated right, you can still get something malty, but not too sweet, and have it finish in your desired range.

I see adding just sugars as a band-aid fix (on a sucking chest wound). IMO, you need to get the kinks out of your process. It could be something simple as the thermometer not being accurate enough. Try checking with a couple different ones to see where they read.

I've been using pure O2 to oxygenate my wort lately and can't see ever going back to the old methods. I'll be getting an air/gas flow meter soon, so that I can see how many L/minute I'm infusing with. This is more important with bigger brews, but still important with lower OG batches. Since mine tend to be over 1.060, I'm using it for all batches.

A properly made starter is important. I picked up a stir plate since my last brewing and will be using that for all future starters. I've already tested a couple of stir bars to make sure I can create a good vortex for the starter sizes. I have a 2L flask, as well as a 3.3L jar that I can use on the stir plate. So I'm pretty much set for most of my batches. I'll probably get a second 2L flask before I make my next BIG brew (target of ~10% ABV, or better)...

As for the person who didn't like the results from liquid yeast... I've been extremely happy with the results I've gotten from Wyeast Activator packs. I do think that freshness, as well as proper handling of liquid yeasts is critical. I've not used any White Labs yeast, but I can't imagine they wouldn't be just as good (for final products)... Personally, I like how much info I get with the liquid yeast (Wyeast), to help match the yeast to what I'm brewing. Of course, I'm using only a few different yeasts, since I'm brewing a smaller range of styles (all ales from the British Isles). I'm focusing on the narrow style range to ensure I have everything else nailed before I start going to other regional styles. It could take me several years before I'm ready to move onto the next group/region... Many happy years mind you.

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Old 07-04-2011, 10:34 PM   #9
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+1 - try dry yeast, properly rehydrated as this will take the yeast out of the equation.

I also have had better fermentations when using Wyeast Nutrient in the boil.

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Old 07-04-2011, 10:38 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Golddiggie View Post
I've been mashing in the 150-152 range and getting much better FG results. If you have the grist formulated right, you can still get something malt, but not too sweet, and have it finish in your desired range.
Thanks for your advice, I agree and will probably stay below 154 for now. I am feeling pretty confident about my thermometers, at least enough to put off buying a third for now.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Golddiggie
I've been using pure O2 to oxygenate my wort lately and can't see ever going back to the old methods. I'll be getting an air/gas flow meter soon, so that I can see how many L/minute I'm infusing with. This is more important with bigger brews, but still important with lower OG batches. Since mine tend to be over 1.060, I'm using it for all batches.
I am looking into this as well based on suggestions from this board, particularly the other thread in the fermentation forum. What kind of 02 setup do you have and what models of flow meter have you looked at?

I like the price of the dakota mentioned by SirBC on page 21 of this thread but I would like to know how easy it is to hook up, I am functionally illiterate regarding gas delivery systems.
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