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Old 02-14-2012, 02:04 PM   #1
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Default Astringency/Bitterness troubleshooting 1.2

Ok - a few months back I posted a thread about all of my beers all the sudden developed an overpowering bitterness/astringency and several of you offered suggestions:

http://www.homebrewtalk.com/f36/why-...bitter-263771/

Just to update THAT thread - I opened a bottle of that Octoberfest ale I wrote about last weekend - the astringency DID NOT mellow out over the last several months of aging - in fact it got much worse and I actually poured it down the drain.

I have since done three more brews and tried to incorporate the suggestions on the thread above. While the bitterness issue has gotten better - it is still there and appears to get worse over time aging. Here is what I have tried/changed:

Got a high flow RV filter for the tap water
Got a new water report - pH jumped to 8.3 since last report but overall fine
Crushed 1/2 Camden tablet in mash water
Added 1 tsp phosphoric acid (10%) to mash and 2 tsp to sparge water
Cooled wort to below 70 degrees before pitching yeast
Fermented at 65 degrees (thanks to Winter)
Filtered the wort very good after mash before boil - no grain husks
Reduced bittering hops
Cooled wort faster before pitching (thanks to Winter) - about 15 minutes


Starting to wonder about possible infection now as it came on all of the sudden and the issue seems to get worse with time/aging. I have been a home brewer over 20 years and sanitation issues have not been an issue since my first few batches - I am usually pretty good in that area. No gushers, rings around the bottle necks, or over carbonation issues though. Darker beers seem to mask/resolve "some" of the bitterness, but it is still there. Last three batches were Scottish Ale (80 shilling), Vanilla Porter, and Brown Ale.

My brews are seldom "stellar" due to my relatively crude setup and the fact I don't have a fridge to control fermentation temps - but they are almost always "good" and usually better than store bought brews. This issue crept up recently and is frustrating me to no end. Any more thoughts to help me track this down?

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Old 02-14-2012, 02:12 PM   #2
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My porters and stouts are always astringency for the first month or so -- but they mellow with time and actually taste awesome as they age.

My first suggestion would be fermentation temp, but 65° is fine.....

While your sanitation methods may be on par, perhaps there is an infection somewhere in your equipment like in a valve or joint and it's infecting everything now?

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Old 02-14-2012, 02:19 PM   #4
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I followed some of the last thread, but it got too big to read all of it. If you think it's infection then there are some simple things to do. First, get new lines that you use to transfer the beer, i.e. from kettle to primary, primary to secondary, secondary to bottle bucket, etc. Second, if you're using plastic buckets for fermenters get a new one. The buckets can get scratched and hold nasties in them more easily. I think I recall you saying the astrigency occurs before bottling? If that's the case, then it's not the bottling bucket. Basically I would check/ replace all the items that come in contact with the beer after the boil and before bottling. Do you put your hydro sample back into the fermenter? Try not to do that.

Can lacto infection be perceived as astringent? If so, don't crush your grain in the same area as you ferment. Maybe the grain dust is in the air and then gets into the fermenter.

These all seem like common sense suggestions, but it's sort of like debugging computer code. Sometimes you have to step through the code line by line to find the issue.

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Old 02-14-2012, 02:22 PM   #5
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I know you've tested the water but that was my problem (and still is). I filter with a cabon filter but still end up with some astringency unless I use a large portion of distilled water to balance out the hardness of my tap water. I'm in southern California and we get our water from the Colorado river (according to my water department guy it is among the hardest water in the world!). I have done the extra step of using all distilled water, various salts on a very precise scale (I have one at work) and the brew calc water spreadsheet to make up pilsen water from scratch and it was a huge difference.

I would try a batch using bottled water - start out with half distilled and half spring water. It will be more expensive but at least you'll be able to isolate the problem to the water.

To go one better - make the same recipe you have in a bottle now using the distilled/spring water mix and see what the difference is.

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Old 02-14-2012, 02:49 PM   #6
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To update on the replies:

Yes, could be racking tubes or something is harboring an infection. My only experience with infection has been the dreaded Lacto bug and if I remember correct it caused gushers and made the beer sour, not bitter. Might be another bug though...

On water report - ran it through Bru'n Water to figure out phosphoric acid amount - and it matched the totals my water report showed. Don't have the report with me now, but all minerals were within specs based on palmers book, but for some reason the pH jumped from 7.4ish to 8.3 - that is why I treated my mash water as well as the grains would not bring the pH under 6.0 by themselves. Ended up on my first batch adding to much acid and mash dropped below 5 pH - then I started using Bru'n Water...

Not using plastic buckets to ferment - glass carboys. Boil full 8 gallon wort and use Star San. Siphon lines are a bit old though and therefore suspect. My routine is to soak the tubes in Star San for about 15 minutes, after siphoning run water through the line to clean it out, then soak again in Star San before packing up (so it is sanitized before and after each use). Any bacteria show up as bitterness? Do not dump hydrometer sample back into brew. Don't crush my grains - order it crushed.

May go to split RO water on next batch. Water report shows it is fine, never had this issue before a few months ago, and tastes fine, but I am willing to give it a try.

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Old 02-14-2012, 02:50 PM   #7
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What's the alkalinity of the water? That could be a huge issue.

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Old 02-14-2012, 02:53 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Yooper View Post
What's the alkalinity of the water? That could be a huge issue.
From memory - it is about 97ish if I understand your question correctly.
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Old 02-14-2012, 09:41 PM   #9
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If you are adding a lot of high lovibond grains you may want to steep a tea with them or add them only at sparge time, as they are already fully converted. I had my first stout come out real astrigent because i mashed flaked barley, c120, chocolate malt for 60 minutes.

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