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Old 04-14-2012, 05:36 AM   #1
RedHelm
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Default All grain woes

So after making four batches of beer from extract and getting decent results, I decided to take the plunge and go all grain.

While all grain is much more engaging and fun, I have yet to produce a beer I really want to drink. It's the same problem every time: I get this weird bitter off-flavor. It's hard to describe. In fact, bitter may not be the best description. In one batch it tasted almost like chalk.

I've tried an oatmeal stout, an amber ale, a brown ale, a Marris Otter SMaSH, a Munich SMaSH and an altbier so far, yet due to this off flavor they all end up tasting basically the same. (Incidentally, the Munich SMaSH tasted pretty good after three weeks in the fermenter and one in the bottle. I had such high hopes for it but it went south just like all the rest.)

So I'm trying to think of the cause. I at first wondered if it was tannin extraction, but my mashes tend to be under-heated rather than over-heated and my understanding was that tannin extraction was the result of high temperatures. Recently I've begun thinking it could be oxidation damage, but (I think) I have been careful about preventing that. Could this be the result of an infection on my equipment? Also, I'm brewing very small batches now: 6-7 liters in a 10 liter carboy. Is it possible that empty space in the fermenter is messing with my beer?

The most frustrating thing is that I almost feel like I can taste a delicious beer hiding under this unpleasant funk.

If any one has experienced something similar, or has any ideas as to what the cause could be, please help.

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Old 04-14-2012, 05:47 AM   #2
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Does the taste get progressively worse with time? Are the beers seeming thinner (less body) than they should with time? Is the carbination seem to be going up? These would all be symptoms of an infection. I don't know about the chaulk taste but "funky" could be infection. What is your sanitation process like?

Tannin can be extracted by high temps but also through over sparging. Are you fly sparging and aiming for a super high efficiency? Are you doing multiple batch sparges?

Also off flavors can be the result of poor fermentation. Are you pitching enough good healthy yeast? At what temps are you fermenting?

Just some things to think about.

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Old 04-14-2012, 07:02 AM   #3
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Hm, I wouldn't say they taste worse with time, but they do seem thin (little body) right from the start. Carbonation does seem to increase but I thought that was a natural part of the carbonation process (that is, increasing over time.)

I sanitize everything that touches the wort/beer with Iodophor, usually with 1mL per 1L of water, soaked for 10 minutes. After the soak I place the items on a counter covered with a towel. I spray the towel with an alcohol spray before placing the items on it.

Consulting the Palmer again, I think "powdery" might be another way to describe the off-flavor, which would point towards tannin extraction. My pH may be high, and I've always either fly sparged or multiple batch sparged. Over-sparging could definitely be an issue.

I thought about the yeast. It turns out that at first I had been pitching too little yeast (I'm using dry yeast) but for the last two batches I have been pitching more yeast. My fermentation temps have been between 17-20 degrees C, and I have been worried that the overnight drops might be having an adverse affect on the beer.

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Old 04-14-2012, 09:12 AM   #4
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If you suspect over sparging and lack of pH control as your problem try a no-sparge on your next batch and see what the result is. I fly sparge all the way down to 1.003 sometimes and never get tannin extraction so one can fly sparge, get high efficiency (92% is my record), and still get amazing beer you just have to be careful of tannins.

Does the wort taste good going into the fermenter? The tannins are already present if you extracted them in the lauter but the abundant maltose and maltriose may be masking them. That would mean that as gravity drops they become more apparent. Probably 2-3 days in the fermenter would bring that to the fore.

I suspect the problem is in the mash or lauter since you've been happy with your extract batches. I assume that you sanitize and pitch the same with your AG beers as extract.

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Old 04-14-2012, 12:40 PM   #5
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Thank you both for your input. I'll try a no-sparge the next batch and see how it goes.

Just to see if it helps I've thrown a bottle of two of the afflicted beer batches into the fridge and will keep them there for two weeks before sampling. I don't know if trying to cold condition this late in the process will help, though.

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Old 04-14-2012, 01:11 PM   #6
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I'd pick up some colorpHast 4-7 pH strips. It does sound like a high pH problem to me. Another way to spend that $20 would be to send a water sample to Ward Labs. You could also try a pale ale recipe and use 60% distilled and 40% spring water just to see.

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Old 04-14-2012, 01:21 PM   #7
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I suggest you test your mash pH.

I was never really happy with my beer. It tasted thin and had an off-flavour that I can't really describe though it sounds similar to yours. I started adding acidulated malt (3% of the total grist) to lower the mash pH and it made a dramatic difference - fuller body and less off-flavour.

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Old 04-14-2012, 01:47 PM   #8
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You can also try to predict your mash pH using one of the many brewing water tools and your cities water report. Once I did that, my beers got MUCH better. I had that same taste that you are describing in a few of my beers and they always seemed to be lighter beers. Find a good cheap source of RO/DI or distilled water if you need to dilute your tap water. Also, check to see if your municipality uses chloromine. If they do, you'll need camden tables to free the ammonia from the chlorine so it can be boiled off.

EZ Water is my personal favorite after many hours of reading.

http://www.homebrewtalk.com/f128/ez-...-3-0-a-261001/

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Old 04-14-2012, 03:54 PM   #9
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Or for $160 you can have an unlimited supply of RO/DI to which you can add various salts to tailor your water to the beer and optimize your mash pH at the same time.

http://www.bulkreefsupply.com/store/...rd-system.html

I've used this for 6 years now and if it died tomorrow I would simply order in another. I've never made beer with tap water.

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Primary - Bemused Bitter, Munich Saaz SMaSH
Secondary - Air
Bottled - Oatmeal Stout 2011, Apfelwein, Withdrawn Wheat, Bourbon Barrel Barleywine SMaSH, Christmas Ale 2010, Perplexed Pale Ale
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Old 04-14-2012, 04:40 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ChemE
Or for $160 you can have an unlimited supply of RO/DI to which you can add various salts to tailor your water to the beer and optimize your mash pH at the same time.

http://www.bulkreefsupply.com/store/...rd-system.html

I've used this for 6 years now and if it died tomorrow I would simply order in another. I've never made beer with tap water.
How often do you need to buy new filters?
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