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Old 11-05-2012, 03:30 PM   #1
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Default Bad Brew Day -Please Critique my Recovery Plan

Hi-

So I'm on my 4th AG batch and I've been pretty lucky with hitting pretty close to my numbers etc... to date, so armed with a few efficiencies I've picked up along the way this batch was going to be spot on!

Not so much! I think I've figured out most of what went wrong, what I'm hoping to learn from the HBT community is what things I may have missed in my analysis and also a critique of what I did after things started going wrong and if I should have done anything differently should the situation arise again.

So the plan was 5.5 gallons of IPA into the fermenter mashed at 154F, 5.4 pH, pre-boil gravity 1.052, post boil gravity of 1.062. I should mention I've made this beer before and came pretty close, and had my numbers adjusted accordingly. I also use distilled/RO water with brewing salts and 2 oz acidulated malt to hit the 5.4 pH as determined in ezwater.

Doughed in and stirred, waited a few minutes, temp at 149.5, thermapen accurate and tested. Added ~1/2 gal of boiling RO water and got up to 152, figure good enough. (Note: when I went to add sparge water to HLT I noticed water left in the bottom, I didn't measure how much but assume this is why my temp came in low. I blame SWMBO as she came in and started bugging me as I was adding water. I mash loose, 1.5qt/lb, so this shouldn't have mattered that much.)

After 15 min I checked my pH: 5.1 with calibrated pH meter. Looked at what I had available and did some calcs in ezwater and added some pickling lime, apparently too much as after I stirred and let stabilize I was at 5.7. Another round of ezwater and about 0.5ml of lactic acid later I got down to 5.6. We're probably about 30 minutes into the mash at this point. Knowing this is how MJ and Elvis died, I stopped messing with it at this point.

Rest of the mash was uneventful except I had to run across the street to the store for SWMBO, so I was a little late getting the sparge water fired so the mash went longer than the planned 1 hour, I figure no big deal as I've done 90 min mashes before, it's fine.

Vorlauf, take fist runnings, add sparge water, stir, let sit for 15 minutes, vorlauf again, take second runnings, stir, take sample for refractometer, put sample in fridge, add FWH Warrior pellets, fire up the stove, drink some coffee, get back to refractometer sample, 1.036, not quite the 1.052 I was looking for, and not a problem if I hadn't added hops already, I would have just boiled it down and then added the hops as a 60 min addition. No DME on hand so I start building a spreadsheet to determine how much I'll have to boil off to get a reasonable gravity as making the changes in beersmith seems somewhat circular even when I turned off the calculate boil volume feature so I didn't trust it. I figure out if I do a 2 hour boil I should be able to get to 1.057, which is respectable and still leaves me with some beer. The calculated IBU's from boiling 1 oz of 16.7 AA hops for 2 hours however really threw off the balance. I still had a 1 oz addition of Centennial Type (9.7%) at 15 & 5 min, so I cut the 15 min addition to 0.5 oz which brought the IBUs down closer to the original target and left the 5 min addition alone as the bitterness contribution was negligible. (Note: after everything was done I went and inspected my mill, this is only its second use, the thumbscrew that locks the undriven roller in place had come loose so I was crushing at the max setting, feeler gauges going in before every crush from now on or until I'm satisfied everything is sufficiently locked down tight.)

So my boil-off calculation must not be perfect as I only hit 1.054, I would have boiled longer but I had other things I needed to get to that day and needed to start cleaning up. Get immersion chiller in, cool the wort, rack the wort off all debris in the bottom of the BK, aerate, pitch the yeast, beer happily bubbling away in fermentation corner of the basement, assuming the S-05 gets the beer down to 1.011 again I should be at 5.7- 5.8% ABV, which I can live with and the dry hops will give it plenty of flavor so the reduced 15 minute addition shouldn't hurt anything.

So what I took away from this: check you mill settings before using, have DME on hand, double check HLT to make sure it's empty, check pre-boil gravity before any hops goes in, be prepared with spreadsheets to calculate what recovery actions are required if something goes wrong, or get more familiar with beersmith to be sure I understand the calcs.

So my question, is there anything I should have done differently? I'm particularly concerned about missing the pH target by that much and what I did to the mash after that, I haven't had that happen before and I don't know enough about the science to draw any conclusions. I may do a little more research on the topic then post a separate question about that over in the brew science forum.

Thanks for any advice you may offer.

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Old 11-05-2012, 06:26 PM   #2
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Honestly if it was as hard to brew as you make it sound I would not be doing it. My honest opinion make sure all of your process is working good before you start messing with Ph. Next batch get a good grind hit your mash tamp a pre boil gravity and go from there.

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Old 11-05-2012, 06:56 PM   #3
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Is your tap water bad to drink? I personally would never use RO or distilled water to brew, at least where I live. A campden tablet to remove chlorine is all I use these days. I've had a lot less problems since I went back to tap water. I do keep several things on hand to make PH adjustments if need be, I usually only have to add a 1/8-1/4 tsp of lactic acid to my mash and to my sparge water. I'm a firm believer that water chemistry calculators should be taken as a guide and not as a hard rule, the REAL water calculator is between your ears and not in a computer!!

I wish I were as detail oriented as you because I rarely would check pre boil gravity, at that point it is what it is to me. SG and FG are all I care about.

Keep it up sir, your going to brew a lot of great beers, just keep dialing in your process and remember sometimes simple is better!!

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Old 11-05-2012, 07:04 PM   #4
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On a side note, I always pre calculate my water additions so that little tweaking is needed, because I had enough watery beers to waste 30 bucks in ingredients.

Also, I always have an idea of what my water is going to be. We have hard water, and so I usually do 50/50 distilled and tap. Then adjust with acid after cooling the sample to test pH.

Also, get some iodine and do a starch conversion test if you're worried about conversion. That will give you an actual test rather than a time limit.

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Old 11-05-2012, 07:16 PM   #5
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I think getting the process down as second nature is a key ingredient. My son and i brew about twice a month. We both know what we each do and when. I usually add the grain as he paddles it in. I set up the plate chiller while he's getting the carboys sanitized and ready. Once your process is down and working then your consistency goes way up.

As far as water, we use deep well water here near Atlanta and we use it 'as is' in most all of our brews. My brew may not taste exactly like the one from the UK or Begium, but then, we're in Georgia, USA. Still excellent beer, just a tad different.

Like some of the other posts - OG and FG are what we usually record.

Your lessons learned are good and we do this every time we brew. Keeping a supply of DME is a great idea and it makes good starter. Always check the gear before starting and, if you need, make a checklist until things are internalized. And always have a plan B.

Keep going - you'll brew some excellent stuff. Just remember to take the time to enjoy one while you're brewing.

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Old 11-05-2012, 07:22 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by beerman0001
Honestly if it was as hard to brew as you make it sound I would not be doing it.
Gotta admit that this was my first thought, too. In the spirit of keeping things simple, maybe try mashing only base malts and steeping crystals and roasted malts off-line. Some of those contribute to higher pH. I guess I have always counted on my malt bill calc's and have relied on post-mash activities to correct (longer boil or additional dry malt).

Someday, I might have a system that will limit enough variables that I can start to dial in some of these targets. 100 years ago, I am sure a lot of brewers made it happen without the advantage of thermometers, pH meters, and hydrometers!
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Old 11-05-2012, 08:09 PM   #7
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With regards to my water, I'm on a well, and itfit weren't for a series of recently installed filters the water often smells bad. I makes you not want to brush your teeth with it, never mind brew beer with it. Filtered and softened it tastes okay, but if I draw a sample before the softener it tastes off. I think its a high calcium level throwing off the flavor. I'm planning on getting a Wards report to find out if it's suitable for brewing with a little dilution with RO water. I suppose I could dilute an unsoftened sample and see if it tastes okay as an indicator. I typically RDWHAHB if things are a little off, but when things are way off I've got to know (engineer, can't have anything go horribly wrong without a lessons learned document to file away somewhere and never look at again).

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Old 11-06-2012, 01:55 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MI_Troll
(engineer, can't have anything go horribly wrong without a lessons learned document to file away somewhere and never look at again).
:-)
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Old 11-06-2012, 02:24 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MI_Troll View Post
(engineer, can't have anything go horribly wrong without a lessons learned document to file away somewhere and never look at again).
Also engineer - electrical by degree but IT Architect by profession. May never look at them (much) but the writing down and review does help keep them in the mind.
Son and I brew all electric and the process is now just a part of what we do. Did 10 gallons of Midas Touch over the weekend with a Marzen and we were totally bored during the Midas Touch since the recipe in Extreme Brewing is all extract. May have to back that out to an all grain or mini-mash (mash tun limits us) and see if it changes much. May also add the honey post boil and just pour the wort over it rather than at the start of the boil.

But keep at it. Knock on wood, we haven't had an undrinkable batch yet. Had a stout that tasted like crap until it had a month+ to settle down in the bottle - then wonderful. Just pay attention to things, follow process, have a plan B and enjoy a beer.
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Old 11-06-2012, 02:46 PM   #10
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Your process sounds solid. It's very similar to the way I brew. Personally I've never had any luck with easy water or any other spread sheet to predict pH, so I always dough in and then adjust. The pH of grain changes quite a bit from batch to batch. What stays fairly content about it is buffering capability. See this blog post for details:

http://woodlandbrew.blogspot.com/2012/10/mash-ph.html?m=1

Doing a longer boil was a creative way to get your OG down where it needed to be. I don't like bitter beer, so I probably would have continued the original boil plan and pitched the yeast into the low gravity wort. Then gone to the LHBS the next day and purchased the DME needed. Mixed it with just enough water to disolve it, and added it to the already going fermentation.

BTW, EE here too :-)

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