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Old 10-02-2013, 02:22 PM   #1
andy6026
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Default 2 Questions About Mashing

Thread updated on page two to answer the query about the 'malty bite taste'

I just brewed my 8th batch on Monday, and having had only one outstanding success thus far, I'm trying to improve my brewing practices. It seems that my procedures have mostly been within standards that should allow me to brew exceptionally good beer, especially keep good fermentation temperature control. However, the one part of brewing where I seemed to be relying more on luck was in the mashing process.

1) I recently bought a vial of pH testing strips (they say pH 4662). I dunked one in my mash (at the sparging stage - I forgot up until then) and the sucker came out bright pink... I mean really bright pink. Didn't match any of the colours on the vial's chart. So my questions for this are, (a) what pH might that be? (b) how much does a bad pH affect the taste of the beer?

2) In the balancing act to get the hot sparge water out of the kettle and the 1st runnings into the kettle, I missed the target temperature on the sparge water - it ended up at 160 instead of 170. How does that effect the finished product.

Obviously neither of these 'mishaps' ruined the beer by any stretch of the imagination, but other than to RDWHB, what are the effects of each of these likely to be?
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Old 10-02-2013, 02:29 PM   #2
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What type of sparging are you doing. Ph is of a concern when fly sparging. It is when most of the sugars have been extracted. I batch sparge and don't pay any attention at all to ph.

The temperature of the sparge water is not critical unless fly sparging when you want to raise the grainbed temperature to stop further conversion.

Make sure that the ph strips are for the range you need to measure for.

I would try changing your water to see if that changes your results. I would be very upset if I only got one really good batch out of 8. I am at 45 batches and all of them were quite good, some great.

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Old 10-02-2013, 02:37 PM   #3
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I'm not sure what pH bright pink means. If it's far outside of the range of the strip, it may be meaningless. Why were you measuring pH? Are you worried about tannin extraction from over sparging or are you worried about the water quality?

The sparge water temp isn't a huge deal. Hotter water stops the conversion process and keeps the grain bed soft so you're less likely to get a stuck sparge. It may have a tiny impact on efficiency as well but nothing to worry about.

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Old 10-02-2013, 02:43 PM   #4
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Double post.

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Old 10-02-2013, 02:49 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by andy6026
I just brewed my 8th batch on Monday, and having had only one outstanding success thus far, I'm trying to improve my brewing practices. It seems that my procedures have mostly been within standards that should allow me to brew exceptionally good beer, especially keep good fermentation temperature control. However, the one part of brewing where I seemed to be relying more on luck was in the mashing process. 1) I recently bought a vial of pH testing strips (they say pH 4662). I dunked one in my mash (at the sparging stage - I forgot up until then) and the sucker came out bright pink... I mean really bright pink. Didn't match any of the colours on the vial's chart. So my questions for this are, (a) what pH might that be? (b) how much does a bad pH affect the taste of the beer? 2) In the balancing act to get the hot sparge water out of the kettle and the 1st runnings into the kettle, I missed the target temperature on the sparge water - it ended up at 160 instead of 170. How does that effect the finished product. Obviously neither of these 'mishaps' ruined the beer by any stretch of the imagination, but other than to RDWHB, what are the effects of each of these likely to be?
Of you are worried about mash ph then you really need a water report to make the best adjustments. Of course you can get a quality ph probe and adjust your ph down or up with acid or baking soda. Although, depending on your water, some adjustments, like diluting with RO or distilled water, may need to be made before the mash.

Ideal mash ph is around 5.2-5.6. Too low the beer will have sharp bite. Too high the beer can become dull and even extract tannins.

I wouldn't worry about 160 sparge water. It might give you a slightly lower efficiency but it shouldn't affect the flavor much.
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Old 10-02-2013, 03:11 PM   #6
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Mash pH does affect conversion, and you should try to get in the 5.2 range, but I made plenty of great beer before I decided to mess with pH. I hate the strips, never could match it to any of the colors on the bottle. The problem I see with what you did is you need to use an eye dropper to get a sample without any grain particles and cool it to room temp before sticking the strip in. Temp affects pH reading. I finally sucked it up and bought a pH meter and found I was consistently at around 5.7. I tried 5.2 buffer, gypsum, and mash salts and ended up ruining a few batches with an unbearable salty finish. Started adding 6 oz of acid malt to every brew and now hit 5.2 every time with no off flavors. My advice, get your water tested. That might be the root of all your problems. And ditch the pH strips, pH meters are so much more accurate.

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Old 10-02-2013, 04:22 PM   #7
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I've just been doing simple batch sparging (conduct the first mash around the 150-154 temp that the recipe calls for for an hour, vorlauf (sp?) and take out the first runnings, pour a second batch of water in at 170, rest 10 mins, vorlauf again and then put it into the kettle.

I decided to look into the pH because, as one of the posters above said, after 8 batches I expected results to be better. I've followed some recipes that are supposedly tried and tested (such as Edwort's Pale Ale). I haven't gotten any infections that I'm aware of, and my fermentation temperature control has been good. And yet a lot of these batches seem to have a strong malty bite to them. 3 weeks conditioning doesn't seem to be enough for them to be pleasant to drink. After about 8-10 weeks then they are improving. Someone once told me on here that if the beer has off-flavors and requires more time to condition them out then it's a sign of bad brewing practices. These aren't high gravity beers either, but are typically between 5-6%, so theoretically they should be good after 3 weeks conditioning.

So knowing that my procedures are decent from boiling the wort to bottling, I thought maybe the mash is where I'm going wrong.

I wish I had a veteran brewer to experience a brew day with so he/she could point out where I'm going wrong or could improve. I've tracked down a brewing club in my area and will attend at the next opportunity.

Also, I've tried both my local tap water and spring water... and it didn't seem to make a difference to that malty bite, but I will get a water report and maybe some kind folks on here can help me dissect it.

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Old 10-02-2013, 05:05 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by andy6026
3 weeks conditioning doesn't seem to be enough for them to be pleasant to drink. After about 8-10 weeks then they are improving. Someone once told me on here that if the beer has off-flavors and requires more time to condition them out then it's a sign of bad brewing practices. These aren't high gravity beers either, but are typically between 5-6%, so theoretically they should be good after 3 weeks conditioning.
Seems like the problem could be more than mash ph. Please explain your pitching rates, fermentation profile, and your oxygenation and fermentation temp control procedures.

Quote:
Originally Posted by andy6026
Also, I've tried both my local tap water and spring water... and it didn't seem to make a difference to that malty bite, but I will get a water report and maybe some kind folks on here can help me dissect it.
Keep in mind that you specifically want to tailor your water for each style of beer that you are brewing. Different grainbills will give you different a different mash Ph with the same water. A water report can help. In the meantime you can use straight RO water and build up your water with minerals from there. But you really want that water report and good PH probe otherwise you are really just ballparking it by making educated guesses.
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Old 10-02-2013, 06:48 PM   #9
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Pitching rates:

Since most of my batches so far aim for under 6%, with dry yeast I re-hydrate it according to instructions, and then pitch when both it and the wort are between 65-70 degrees. For liquid yeast I've been making yeast starters 24 hours in advance. Typically I make 1L yeast starters using DME. I pitch the yeast into the starter at 65-70 degrees (both wort and yeast) and leave it at room temp (low 70s) for the 24 hours. I don't have a stir plate so I do some gentle shaking each time I walk past the kitchen counter. I haven't tried decanting yeast or re-using/washing yeast. The only high gravity beer I've done (came out at 6.8%) was the one that was outstanding - I made a 1L yeast starter for that one as well.

For fermentation I always keep to the low side of the particular yeasts preferred temp range (which is often in the low to mid 60s - read via stick on thermometer, NOT ambient temp). My batches usually take 2-3 weeks to finish fermenting before I bottle - some finish before then but they usually get at least 2 weeks to clear up more anyways. I use a bucket with blow off tube for first 3-4 days, then switch to an airlock. I've only transferred one batch to a secondary for dry hopping - the rest have all only had primary (in which I've done some minimal dry hopping for some batches, others not at all).

Oxygenation - I get the beer out of the kettle via the ball valve (which also has a filter attached to it inside the kettle), and then once in the fermenter I take a sanitized paint stirrer attached to an electric drill and run that for 1-2 minutes inside the wort. There's always lots of froth on top throughout this whole oxygenation process). I'd be surprised if these areas mentioned have been the cause of non-excellent beer given my practices, although I understand they're the first place one ought to look.

The pH strips I used were indeed just to ballpark at first if this area might be the problem. Given the difficulty in reading the strips on Monday's batch, I'll try and find a Toronto water report later and see if I can make sense of it (or post it on here with lots of questions). I'm also looking to join a local brew club to see if I can get in on any communal brew as well as share my non-ideal beer to see if someone can taste it and say, "I know that taste... this is what you probably did wrong."

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Old 10-02-2013, 07:33 PM   #10
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Honestly, when it comes to water, if your tap water is good enough to drink, it's probably gonna make good beer. Probably a good idea to throw a campden tablet in each batch if your using tap water though. If you have all your other brewing practices down pat, and your beer is coming out good, then worry about your water.

The strips will get you by until you can get a meter, they aren't super accurate, but usually +/- .2. Use small amounts of brewing salts or lactic acid to make pH adjustments in your mash. Chances are though, this isn't what's causing your off flavor, so I wouldn't get too wrapped up in it.

Hopefully you can get another brewer to try your beer and get some good advice.

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