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Old 01-11-2011, 03:16 PM   #1
WildKnight
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Default Fermenting low

I cannot seem to get my beers to ferment low in gravity.

I read articles about people who get their 8 and 9% big-bodied beer to ferment low. Triples that ferment down to 1.010 (or lower). I've seen some 10% stouts that go down to 1.018. What is the trick?

I always pitch a starter. It is active and usually contains 100ml of yeast slurry when it settles. I always aerate the carboy using a 0.5 micron stone. I've even pitched champagne yeast at the end to try and get it lower.

I generally mash low, 148-152. Sometimes I even add some cane sugar to add alcohol and get the gravity low. Most often, I mash for 90 minutes up to 2 hours.

Generally, my beers stop fermenting at 1.020-22, regardless of the recipe - 10 lbs 2-row, 15 lbs 2-row, 18 lbs 2-row. Some recipes have crystal and some have none - all end above 1.020. With a 75% attenuation yeast (i use WLP001 - 73-80%), anything under 1.080 should ferment below 1.020, which is 95% of the beers I brew.

I've only ever gotten one beer below 1.020, and it was a recipe with 9 lbs of grain, no crystal and I pitched a whole yeast cake from a previous beer. Everyone who tried it said "good flavor, but kinda light." How do you get a full bodied flavor while getting the gravity low so it doesn't taste too sweet?

Is it even reasonable to expect recipes with that average 10-12 lbs of 2-row with 1lb of crystal (plus minor percentages of other grains for color) to ferment below 1.020?

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Old 01-11-2011, 03:27 PM   #2
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Originally Posted by WildKnight View Post
I cannot seem to get my beers to ferment low in gravity.

I read articles about people who get their 8 and 9% big-bodied beer to ferment low. Triples that ferment down to 1.010 (or lower). I've seen some 10% stouts that go down to 1.018. What is the trick?

I always pitch a starter. It is active and usually contains 100ml of yeast slurry when it settles. I always aerate the carboy using a 0.5 micron stone. I've even pitched champagne yeast at the end to try and get it lower.

I generally mash low, 148-152. Sometimes I even add some cane sugar to add alcohol and get the gravity low. Most often, I mash for 90 minutes up to 2 hours.

Generally, my beers stop fermenting at 1.020-22, regardless of the recipe - 10 lbs 2-row, 15 lbs 2-row, 18 lbs 2-row. Some recipes have crystal and some have none - all end above 1.020. With a 75% attenuation yeast (i use WLP001 - 73-80%), anything under 1.080 should ferment below 1.020, which is 95% of the beers I brew.

I've only ever gotten one beer below 1.020, and it was a recipe with 9 lbs of grain, no crystal and I pitched a whole yeast cake from a previous beer. Everyone who tried it said "good flavor, but kinda light." How do you get a full bodied flavor while getting the gravity low so it doesn't taste too sweet?

Is it even reasonable to expect recipes with that average 10-12 lbs of 2-row with 1lb of crystal (plus minor percentages of other grains for color) to ferment below 1.020?
I would start with checking your thermometer. What type of mash tun are you using? How are you making your starters? Are you reusing yeast?
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Old 01-11-2011, 03:30 PM   #3
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I would also check to see if your hydrometer is calibrated and correct the reading for temp. If using a refractometer check for calibration and correct the reading for alcohol in fermented beer.

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Old 01-11-2011, 03:35 PM   #4
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Agree with Clonefarmer - calibrate your thermometers and hydrometer. Also, are you fermenting within the recommended temperature range of your yeast?

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Old 01-11-2011, 03:35 PM   #5
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Yes do the above checks, also, how long do your fermentations typically take to reach final gravity? I wouldn't check for final gravity until about three weeks for standard brews.

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Old 01-11-2011, 05:34 PM   #6
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Agree with Clonefarmer - calibrate your thermometers and hydrometer. Also, are you fermenting within the recommended temperature range of your yeast?
66-68F

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I would start with checking your thermometer. What type of mash tun are you using? How are you making your starters? Are you reusing yeast?
8 gallon stainless steel pot with false bottom and ss ball valve. Thermometer reads 212F at boiling, mash at 150 is consistent with my cooking thermometer. Starters are made from washed yeast from previous batches. They are mixed with 500ml of 1.040 wort and spun on a stir-plate for 12-24 hours.

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I would also check to see if your hydrometer is calibrated and correct the reading for temp. If using a refractometer check for calibration and correct the reading for alcohol in fermented beer.
Samples are held at room temp for before reading. Should be very close to hydro calibration.

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Yes do the above checks, also, how long do your fermentations typically take to reach final gravity? I wouldn't check for final gravity until about three weeks for standard brews.
1 week primary, 1 week secondary. a big beer will sit for 3 weeks before checking.
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Old 01-11-2011, 05:37 PM   #7
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As far as thermometer calibration, is the theory that I am mashing to hot due to an wrong thermometer reading?

I would imagine even if off by 2-3F, shooting for 148-150 leaves me at 145-153 which is not that high. This shouldn't be enough to make unfermentable wort, should it?

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Old 01-11-2011, 06:20 PM   #8
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Are you circulating the mash? If you are using direct fire to maintain your mash temp you may be getting hot spots.

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Old 01-11-2011, 06:49 PM   #9
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I just switch between stirring and recirculating a pot at a time by hand for the 90 minutes. I only add heat for about 1 minute every 15 minutes of mash time.

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Old 01-11-2011, 06:57 PM   #10
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66-68F
1 week primary, 1 week secondary. a big beer will sit for 3 weeks before checking.
taking the beer off the yeast after 1 week would be my guess.
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