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Old 08-02-2011, 12:10 PM   #1
chode720
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Default Help! Astringency!

I have been have an issue with astrigency/harsh bitter flavor in several of my beers and I can't figure out what the issue is! They all have been English ales with some portion of dark grain in them (porter, stout, brown ale, and even Irish red). I recently did a brown ale with victory, crystal 60, and .25lb of pale chocolate (300 SRM) that still had this off flavor.

This taste isnt just a minor flaw, it overpowers the beer and makes it almost undrinkable. I don't have this issues in any of my light beers, just ones that have any portion of dark malt. Ive tried switching yeast strains, thinking that might be it, but Ive used about every white labs english ale yeast, temp controlled at 68, proper pitching rates, and it wont go away.

Ive narrowed it down to a few different things:

1. Crush- Maybe the dark malts are being crushed too fine and im getting the astringency from the husk? I have my mill set at .032 and get an 87% efficiency with good lauter speed. I'm not sure that its this as I crush the same for every beer/grain bill
2. Oversparging- I mash with a 1.5 qt/lb grist and then sparge with 4.5-5 gallons of water for a pre-boil volume of 7 gallons. These numbers are what Beersmith recommends and my runnings still taste sweet near the end.
2. Mash pH- My tap water has a pH of 7.9. I use FiveStar 5.2 stabilizer in my mash, but am wondering if by the end of the sparge, the pH creeps up close to the 7.9. I would suspect that if this were the issue, it would affect all of my beers, but I also wonder that since the dark grains already have a higher degree of roasty flavor/astringency, the high pH could pull more astringency from the grains.

I don't want to use more 5.2 stabilizer in the sparge water, so I was just planning on adding some acid to the sparge water, if pH is the issue.

Thanks for any help/advice!



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Old 08-02-2011, 01:09 PM   #2
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Originally Posted by chode720 View Post
2. Mash pH- My tap water has a pH of 7.9. I use FiveStar 5.2 stabilizer in my mash, but am wondering if by the end of the sparge, the pH creeps up close to the 7.9. I would suspect that if this were the issue, it would affect all of my beers, but I also wonder that since the dark grains already have a higher degree of roasty flavor/astringency, the high pH could pull more astringency from the grains.

I don't want to use more 5.2 stabilizer in the sparge water, so I was just planning on adding some acid to the sparge water, if pH is the issue.

Thanks for any help/advice!
5.2 stabilizer is junk... I wouldn't even bother using it.

As for your astringency...I would lean toward your water. Try using RO water for one of your batches and see if that helps. If it does, you know you need to adjust your water chemistry.


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Old 08-02-2011, 01:18 PM   #3
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5.2 stabilizer is junk... I wouldn't even bother using it.

As for your astringency...I would lean toward your water. Try using RO water for one of your batches and see if that helps. If it does, you know you need to adjust your water chemistry.
That's what I was thinking. Toss out the 5.2 stabilizer, and use 100% RO water for one batch. If that fixes the problem, then you know it's your water.

I sent a water sample to Ward Labs for $16 and got a full brewing water report. It actually saved me money in the long run, since I can use a mix of RO and tap water in my brewing since I know what's in there. I'd highly recommend that.
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Old 08-02-2011, 01:50 PM   #4
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I'm having similar problems, but only with my lower gravity ales. (generally pales) For example, the last pale ale I brewed was one of Yoopers recipes. The next weekend I brewed a big porter, 1.078 OG. The same process was used for each and every all grain I've done. Results are a delicious (best brew yet IMO) porter, and a completely undrinkable pale ale. It's going to be the first batch I've ever dumped.

The only reason I don't suspect my water is because none of the brews I've made with more than 13 or 14 (even 19) pounds of grain have this problem, it's only when I brew a 'smaller' ale with, say, 8 or 9 pounds. Generally, I use the same mash ratio regardless of the grist. (1.25-1.3) Then, if its a lower gravity/smaller grain bill I end up needing more sparge water to bring up to boil volume.

So, I think I've narrowed it down to sparging bringing the pH out of the proper range. I'm going to try mashing much thinner and sparging less on my next batch and see if that helps at all. Sparging with 5 gallons of water for a 5.5 gallon, 1.050 batch feels wrong to me, even when accounting for boil off. After reading about full volume mashing, BIAB, etc, I've decided it wouldn't hurt to mash very thin and shoot for about 2, maybe 3 gallons max for sparging.

Well, maybe it'll hurt my efficiency but that's never bothered me.
Undrinkable beer has.

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Old 08-02-2011, 02:12 PM   #5
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That's what I was thinking. Toss out the 5.2 stabilizer, and use 100% RO water for one batch. If that fixes the problem, then you know it's your water.

I sent a water sample to Ward Labs for $16 and got a full brewing water report. It actually saved me money in the long run, since I can use a mix of RO and tap water in my brewing since I know what's in there. I'd highly recommend that.
I actually did get a water sample done and messed with adjusting the water chemistry and still had the same issue. I thought that since I wasnt adjusting sparge water and just adding sparge salts to the BK (per Palmer's recommendation) my pH was off and I decided to give the 5.2 a try.

The more I'm thinking about it, I'm guessings its a tannin extraction from oversparging/rising pH. Since my water has a starting pH of 7.9 and I generally run 5 gallons of sparge water through, I would guess that it is just getting the pH too high and I'm noticing in the dark beers as there is a lot more tannin to pull from the husks.

I think with my next batch I'll either widen the gap on my mill or do a coarse crush on the dark grains by hand, stop my sparge at 1.010, and try adding some acid to my sparge water. Thoughts?
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Old 09-05-2011, 08:32 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Suthrncomfrt1884 View Post
5.2 stabilizer is junk... I wouldn't even bother using it.

As for your astringency...I would lean toward your water. Try using RO water for one of your batches and see if that helps. If it does, you know you need to adjust your water chemistry.
I wouldn't say it's junk, It may not work for you but a lot people have had good success with it, myself included. I think if you start with water that is way out of whack then it may not work so well, but if your just a bit out of range I think it works well. I know that it definitely helped me get better efficiency and it improved my Hop utilization.

For the OP, my only suggestion would be to make sure your sparge isn't getting too hot.
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Old 09-05-2011, 09:22 PM   #7
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Forget 5.2 Stabilizer all together. Proper use of acid when needed, is the best way to go. I recommend downloading Bru'n Water and learning to properly manage your brewing water. It includes guidance and calculators for acids and predicting mash pH.



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