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Old 12-06-2012, 12:46 PM   #1
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Default Apparent FG too High - Options?

Hey there -

Day after Thanksgiving, I brewed a high-gravity winter warmer (was shooting for a Sweetwater Festive Ale clone). This was a partial mash brew, with 13 lbs of LME and about 3 pounds of specialty grains. OG came in at 1.073, and after 10 days, it was 1.022. I took another reading last night (2 days after the prior reading) and it was still 1.022.

I used one of the Wyeast slap packs, which lists an OG range of 1.034 - 1.060. Might I just need to re-pitch more yeast? Do I need to be more patient? While mashing, my temperature may have been a bit on the high side (I tried to keep it below 165 °F, but my thermometer was finding hotter spots than that at some places in the kettle), which from reading other posts, suggest that I may have pulled some unfermentables out of the grains.

Anyway, any help or advice would be greatly appreciated. This is only my second batch, so while I'm happy that it appears I have something remotely drinkable, it's not as dry as I was hoping for.

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Old 12-06-2012, 01:57 PM   #2
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How big of a batch was this? 13lbs LME + 3lbs of specialty grain should have gotten you higher than 1.073 I would think for a 5 gallon batch. But a 10 gallon batch would be lower than 1.073.

Regardless, a starter probably would have helped as at that gravity, a single smack pack is underpitching.

It would help to know what specialty grains you had. Since most specialty grains don't need to be "mashed" and thus the temp isnt so important. 165 would be too high of an actual mash for sure, but for steeping specialty grains it's fine.

What yeast and what temperature did you ferment at? You could try raising the temperature a little bit and gently swirling the carboy/bucket (don't splash the beer as that could introduce oxygen) to rouse the yeast and see if that helps. Did you oxygenate the wort at all before pitching? Either with oxygen or at least violent splashing/sloshing around?

Honestly 1.022 isn't that unreasonable for an extract batch with that high of an OG. Extract is usually less fermentable than wort produced by AG methods (AG lets you control the fermentability by varying the mash temp. The mash temp is alredy locked in for extract). There might be little you can do to get it to go much lower.

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Old 12-06-2012, 03:30 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by zeekage View Post
How big of a batch was this? 13lbs LME + 3lbs of specialty grain should have gotten you higher than 1.073 I would think for a 5 gallon batch. But a 10 gallon batch would be lower than 1.073.
This was for a 5-gallon batch.

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Originally Posted by zeekage View Post
Regardless, a starter probably would have helped as at that gravity, a single smack pack is underpitching.
Yeah...I was a bit unsure about that. Some of what I read suggested that would be fine, others suggested a starter. Honestly, with the Wyeast slap-packs, I didn't know that a starter was even required.

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It would help to know what specialty grains you had.
1/4# Black Patent
1/2# Crystal 80
1# Chocolate
1/2# Cara-Pils
1/2# Munich


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Originally Posted by zeekage View Post
What yeast and what temperature did you ferment at?
It was a Wyeast "English" if memory serves. Temperature was probably around 70 °F.

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Originally Posted by zeekage View Post
You could try raising the temperature a little bit and gently swirling the carboy/bucket (don't splash the beer as that could introduce oxygen) to rouse the yeast and see if that helps.
Temperature control is something I don't have a whole lot of experience with. What are good methods for heating/cooling?

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Did you oxygenate the wort at all before pitching? Either with oxygen or at least violent splashing/sloshing around?
Nope. Didn't realize I was meant to. Is that more important for high gravity beers?

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Originally Posted by zeekage View Post
Honestly 1.022 isn't that unreasonable for an extract batch with that high of an OG. Extract is usually less fermentable than wort produced by AG methods (AG lets you control the fermentability by varying the mash temp. The mash temp is alredy locked in for extract). There might be little you can do to get it to go much lower.
And if that's the case, I'll live with it. It just seems with a specific gravity of 1.022 that there should still be a fair amount of sugar for the yeast to eat, but it makes sense that oxygen could be a limiting factor, or like you said, the beer was underpitched in the first place. Would a second batch of yeast do anything at this point? Would I get the same effect by just rousing the yeast?
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Old 12-06-2012, 03:42 PM   #4
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My beers have gotten a lot better since I've been using starters for all of them. This beer definitely could have used one.

A warm water bath in a tub would gently bring temps up. Swamp coolers are cheap and easy for temperature control.

After boiling and cooling the wort, slosh the heck out of the wort for at least 90 seconds in order to re-introduce oxygen back into the wort. Then pitch the yeast. There are other (better) methods of re-introducing oxygen back into the wort, but the sloshing method is the cheapest.

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Old 12-06-2012, 03:48 PM   #5
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1/4# Black Patent
1/2# Crystal 80
1# Chocolate
1/2# Cara-Pils
1/2# Munich
The Munich needs mashing - so you didn't get much sugar out of that.

The darker malts are going to provide less fermentable sugars - so between that, the OG and the extract you are prob close to done on the fermentation.

I would warm it up, agitate it and give it a little more time just to be sure but my guess is that you're complete.
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Old 12-06-2012, 04:02 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ecogeek View Post
Quote:
Originally Posted by zeekage View Post
How big of a batch was this? 13lbs LME + 3lbs of specialty grain should have gotten you higher than 1.073 I would think for a 5 gallon batch. But a 10 gallon batch would be lower than 1.073.
This was for a 5-gallon batch.
For a 5 gallon batch, 13 lbs of LME plus the grains you list below should get you a beer that's 1.099 not 1.073. If you do partial boils, its nearly impossible to mix the wort evenly. If you're doing a full boil then maybe your hydrometer is off, or there wasnt 13lbs of LME. With an almost entirely extract beer, it's pretty impossible to miss your gravity readings unless you have a lot more/less water than 5 gallons, or something else catastrophic happens.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ecogeek View Post
Quote:
Originally Posted by zeekage View Post
Regardless, a starter probably would have helped as at that gravity, a single smack pack is underpitching.
Yeah...I was a bit unsure about that. Some of what I read suggested that would be fine, others suggested a starter. Honestly, with the Wyeast slap-packs, I didn't know that a starter was even required.
Given the recipe, if this beer was 1.099 OG then a starter is almost a must. You can use the pitching rate calculator over at http://www.mrmalty.com/calc/calc.html or i prefer http://yeastcalc.com/ as it does stepped starters easier. This will tell you how much of a starter to make to pitch the proper amount of yeast.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Ecogeek View Post
Quote:
Originally Posted by zeekage View Post
It would help to know what specialty grains you had.
1/4# Black Patent
1/2# Crystal 80
1# Chocolate
1/2# Cara-Pils
1/2# Munich
All of these are steeping grains except the Munich. So you did "mash" the Munich a bit high but it probably wouldn't have a noticeable effect in the end beer given the small amount. Steeping the rest at 165 is fine.



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Originally Posted by Ecogeek View Post
Quote:
Originally Posted by zeekage View Post
What yeast and what temperature did you ferment at?
It was a Wyeast "English" if memory serves. Temperature was probably around 70 °F.
70 is good, though I usually shoot for a bit lower and then raise the temp toward the end of fermentation to help the yeast finish up. I don't know the specifics of the strain you used but 68 is a good general purpose fermentation temp to use. 70 is good too but some yeasts might throw off some more flavors at that temp. Depends on the yeast


Quote:
Originally Posted by Ecogeek View Post
Quote:
Originally Posted by zeekage View Post
You could try raising the temperature a little bit and gently swirling the carboy/bucket (don't splash the beer as that could introduce oxygen) to rouse the yeast and see if that helps.
Temperature control is something I don't have a whole lot of experience with. What are good methods for heating/cooling?
I built something that resembles a "son of a fermentation chamber" (google it). For heating i got a Lasko personal heater for $18 and hook it up to a temp controller i have (search the forums for "ebay temp controller" and you'll see what i use). For cooling I don't have to do it much but if I do i use a water bath with frozen water bottles to keep the temp down. Also make sure you're measuring the temp of the bucket/carboy and not the room temp. Fermentation creates heat and it can raise the temp of the beer a few degrees easily.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Ecogeek View Post
Quote:
Originally Posted by zeekage View Post
Did you oxygenate the wort at all before pitching? Either with oxygen or at least violent splashing/sloshing around?
Nope. Didn't realize I was meant to. Is that more important for high gravity beers?
Oxygen definitely helps the yeast get started. There's lots of ingenious ways to do this if you poke around the forums. I got a regulator for the little disposable welding oxygen bottles you can get at home depot and a diffusion stone. You can do whatever works for you but at the very least pour the wort violently intot he bucket/carboy and shake it around for a couple minutes to get some oxygen dissolved.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Ecogeek View Post
Quote:
Originally Posted by zeekage View Post
Honestly 1.022 isn't that unreasonable for an extract batch with that high of an OG. Extract is usually less fermentable than wort produced by AG methods (AG lets you control the fermentability by varying the mash temp. The mash temp is alredy locked in for extract). There might be little you can do to get it to go much lower.
And if that's the case, I'll live with it. It just seems with a specific gravity of 1.022 that there should still be a fair amount of sugar for the yeast to eat, but it makes sense that oxygen could be a limiting factor, or like you said, the beer was underpitched in the first place. Would a second batch of yeast do anything at this point? Would I get the same effect by just rousing the yeast?
I believe you underpitched a lot based on the recipe and original gravity of 1.099. However, given the gravity probably started that high, 1.022 is actually pretty good. That's 77% attenuation so I'm guessing you wont get this beer much lower without drastic measures.
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Old 12-06-2012, 05:43 PM   #7
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This is where I should look at my notes and not go from memory...

It was 9 lbs of LME, not 13. How does that change things?

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Old 12-06-2012, 07:09 PM   #8
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that makes the 1.073 sound about right. In which case you might be able to get the gravity to go a few points lower by raising the temp a bit and rousing the yeast. Beyond that I'm not sure what else you could do. you can pitch more yeast and it won't hurt anything but I'm not sure it'll help much either. If you really want to try to get it a bit dryer I'd search around for "Stuck Fermentation". I'm sure you'll dig up lots of tips on things to do.

IMHO though, I'd not do much beyond raise temp and swirl it a bit. If that doesn't help, bottle it and drink it. Move on to the next batch and try a starter and good oxygenation pre-fermentation and see if that helps at all.

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