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ESPY 02-16-2006 11:10 PM

Good...but not what I expected
Earlier this week I kegged the results of my third partial mash kit..."California Steam" (lager) from Midwest Supplies. I've tried it and like it quite a bit, but it actually resembles a pale ale like Sierra Nevada more than Anchor Steam. Good bitterness/hop flavor, not very malty. Not sure if it's the result of something I did or just not a very good clone kit.

A couple thoughts:

This was the first time I bothered to take a hydrometer reading before pitching the yeast and it came out lower than the instructions suggested. 1.035 vs. instructions saying 1.042 - 1.046. What could I have done that would have caused this?

One thing I'm wondering is if it's common to add water to maintain the level during the boil or not? This time I added about 2 qts. to the boil 30 min in to make up for some that had evaporated. But it doesn't seem like that would have much impact. Am I right?

FYI, the Midwest recipe is:
3.3 lbs Gold LME
3.5 lbs American 2-row
8 oz Carapils
8 oz. Caramel 40L
1 oz. Chinook 60 min
1 oz Cascade 15 min
1 oz Cascade 2 min
WYeast Calif. Lager # 2112


Sasquatch 02-17-2006 12:07 AM

Well, if a guy cooks up, and comes up short on OG, you have to think that mash technique was an issue - ie, your starch conversion didn't work as efficiently as hoped. What kind of procedure did you use?

Adding water to the boil is not a likely culprit unless you went over the 5 G mark. You still have the same amount of fermentables in 5 G no matter when you add the water, right?

ESPY 02-17-2006 12:48 AM


Originally Posted by Sasquatch
You still have the same amount of fermentables in 5 G no matter when you add the water, right?

That's exactly what I was thinking, but I don't see anything in my procedure that would have been a problem either:

- Steeped the grains in 1 gal 16 oz at 151-154F for 60 min.
- Rinsed with 1.5 gal of sparge water at 175F.
- Added LME, brought to boil, added Chinook @ 60 min
- Added Cascade @ 15 min
- Added Cascade at 2 min
- Cooled in ice bath
- Added to carboy and filled with water to 5 gal
- Hydrometer reading = 1.035
- Pitched yeast

Maybe it's a hydrometer calibration issue. But I've tried reading plain water at 68, 60 and 54 and don't notice any difference in the reading.

RichBrewer 02-17-2006 12:55 AM

What temperature was the wort when you recorded your hydrometer reading? Most hydrometers are calibrated to 60 degrees F.

drengel 02-17-2006 12:58 AM

the only thing i can think of would be your sparging technique. everything sounds right on. carapils won't give much fermentables, but the 2 row and crystal should have done the trick. it has to be your mash/sparge procedure.do you use a grain bag for the mash. sometimes you have to be real patient with the sparge to get all the sugar out with a grain bag because the middle of the bag has so much grain, and often only the sides will get rinsed. you also can extract stuff out of the grain you don't want that way. if you notice any detectable off flavors, astringency, or anything you can be sure it was probably a non uniform sparge.

Brewpastor 02-17-2006 01:08 AM


Originally Posted by RichBrewer
What temperature was the wort when you recorded your hydrometer reading? Most hydrometers are calibrated to 60 degrees F.

My question exactly.

ESPY 02-17-2006 02:25 PM

I know I should have checked temp, but didn't. I cooled the wort to about 80, added to carboy and filled up with cold tap water. I'd say it was probably about 2 gal of 80 wort and 3 gal of ~50 water. So the mixture couldn't have been far off from 60.

This is why I later checked my hydrometer readings with water at 54, 60, and 68F. Maybe I'm just not good at reading it, but to me it looked like it didn't change at all with temp.

Daneaux 02-17-2006 05:57 PM

I was having the same problem. Two things were going on. My mash tun was the Papazian bucket with holes and I tried to keep the temp close to the 150-154 target. I know now that this worked just not as good as a cooler system. Also the first system with too many lbs of grains would compact and result in a stuck fermentation. This was when i noticed the missed O.G. The other is just what the other brewers have indicated. The temp. is going to be off a couple .001 points on the hydrometer reading although the main culprit is probably mash effeciency and sparge not getting all the sugars. Since I started using the cooler and using a longer sparge time my numbers are closer to the recipe suggestions.

Janx 02-17-2006 06:02 PM

Low conversion is almost always sparge technique. Slow and gentle is the name of the game here.

Fortunately, grain is cheap enough on a homebrew scale that you can just throw in a few more pounds to make up for it and keep working on your sparge technique.

Most people who are new to sparging do too violent a "rinse" rather than a slow, gentle sparge. Good luck! :D

Janx 02-17-2006 06:02 PM

Oh, and hydrometers are evil, worry-inducing tools. Stop using it and you'll have no more problems ;)

Cheers :D

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