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Home Brew Forums > Home Brewing Beer > Beginners Beer Brewing Forum > Beers allways turn out a little sour
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Old 10-16-2013, 09:02 AM   #1
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Default Beers allways turn out a little sour

Hey folks,
I already have three all-grain batches under my belt. The problem is only, that all three did turn out a little sour. Definitely not infected, a friend of mine checked my last batch under a microscope and couldn't find any lactobacillus. Also it's not getting more sour as it ages, what from my understanding it should, if it was infected. The sour flavor doesn't really go away with aging either. It's not that it's undrinkable, but definitely more sour than a store bought beer. All my beers had a pretty high apparent degree of fermentation (ADF). They where all above 80%, last one around 84% and in addition to this, only very moderately hopped. I used US-05 with the last one. Before that I used S-04 and I will try Nottingham with my next batch. So to this point I'm thinking maybe my beers are just way too dry and I will try keeping my temperature higher during mashing next time. Though I'm not a hundred percent sure if this will help and a little scared of producing just another undesired beer.
I was thinking about my water, so here are the values:

CA = 19,7 ppm
MG = 2,7 ppm
SO = 26,9 ppm
NA = 6,5 ppm
CI = 10,5 ppm
HCO3 = 35,39 ppm -> Alkalinity = 29 ppm

From my understanding they are all fairly low. I don't know if this could be the source of the problem. Right now I'm not adding anything to my water.
Anybody some other ideas?
Thanks in advance!

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Old 10-16-2013, 12:56 PM   #2
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What temp are you mashing at and for how long? Mashing at low temps for long periods can create sour or acidic off flavors. Yeasts can be another factor, though the ones you list are pretty clean. Are they fresh though?

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Old 10-16-2013, 01:05 PM   #3
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You may be describing astrigency which can have a sour-like and puckering quality. More info: http://morebeer.com/content/homebrew-off-flavors

Most likely causes are from tannin extractraction due to overcrushing grains, or over sparging. Over sparging is caused when the mash run off becomes too alkaline, usually above 5.6-5.7 pH. In order to avoid this during sparging, you may beed to acidify your sparge water (I personally use the Bru'N water spreadsheet to assist with this calculation). Also, sparging with water that's too hot may extract tannins (I think above about 180F).

Also, I don't know the styles of beers you brewed, but roasted grains can add astrigency to your beer.

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Old 10-16-2013, 01:21 PM   #4
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I order the yeast fresh for every batch in small packs and discard what I didn't need. I'm from Germany and beginners over here are usually taught to do an old school multi temperature infusion mash. So for my last batch I did 20min @ 127 F, 30min @ 145 F and 163 F until the iodine test turns negative (approximately 5 to 10min). Then mashout at 168 F. But I feel like I should test the US single temp infusion mash. It sounds a lot easier and more reliable.
I used some caramel grains in all my beers so far. They all were some kind of brown ales. Nothing special. I order my grains already crushed and fresh for every batch. I calculate my sparging-water using a program like BeerSmith. So it's probably volume based. I don't do gravity readings while sparging, cause I feel like cooling down to the desired temp is a real hassle. Is that really necessary? My sparge water has about 170 F and its the same water that I use for the mash.
Thanks so far!

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Old 10-16-2013, 01:59 PM   #5
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Why do you discard yeast? Why not pitch it all in?

It's certainly worth a try to do the single infusion, can't hurt anyway.

You can do a single pre-boil reading, just set some wort to the side while you are boiling til it cools. It's going to be what it is, just gives you an idea, and FWIW, I've only done it once in all of my batches.

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Old 10-16-2013, 02:14 PM   #6
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Are you brewing with tap water?

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Old 10-16-2013, 02:14 PM   #7
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Try ridding of chlorine if so.

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Old 10-16-2013, 02:27 PM   #8
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I agree, I think you may benefit from attempting a single infusion mash. Many do not believe the protein rest is necessary with well modified grains. I'm not sure that is the cause of your issue, but it's worth exploring.

Regarding the sparging question. It's my understanding that pH is more accurate to determine over sparging than a gravity reading. If the sparge water is too alkaline, astrigency may occur. To counter this issue, acidifying your sparge water with acid (lactic or phosphoric) may be required. You may want to explore using the Bru'N water spreadsheet which will calculate your estimated pH during the mash and sparge which assist with adjustments if need. The spreadsheet is pretty advanced, but it's worth learning in my opinion. Again, I don't know if this is the cause of your issue, but I think it's worth exploring.

If you feel the flavors are more sour versus astrigent, you likely have a mild bacteria, or wild yeast contamination. I would clean all equipment thoroughly, and possibly santize with a different sanitizer. I would also consider replacing any plastic components.

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Old 10-16-2013, 06:18 PM   #9
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I discarded the yeast because my first few batches were quite small. Only 10 to 15 liters, approximately 2.5 to 3.75 galon, so I used a 1/2 to 3/4 pack that was intended for a 5 galon batch. Do u say I can just use everything no matter what?
I do use tap water as water for the mash and sparge. But from my understanding it has very little chlorine already. I posted the values to my water above.
I did have some trouble figuring out an easy and effective way of lautering. I'm now useing a seperate lauter tun, because I don't have a valve on my mash tun. Last time I let the mash sit for a while, then did some recirculating and then let it run dry. After that I closed the valve, added water, stired everything well, let it sit again and then kept on lautering with recirculation again at first. I now know that this was not the best way to do it and will keep my water lever one inch above the grain bed and add water very carefully next time.
I still don't believe in an infection, since the off flavor is very subtle and doesn't change through conditioning. Some people even don't seem to notice the sour flavor until I mention it. Also the beer looked, smelled and tasted just like it is described in the books during fermentation. I saw some pics of infected batches online here in the forum. This is definitely not what my beer looks like. Unless there's a very sneaky bacteria I'm very certain that it is my process of brewing that creates this flavor somehow at some point.

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Old 10-16-2013, 06:28 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SvenF View Post
I discarded the yeast because my first few batches were quite small. Only 10 to 15 liters, approximately 2.5 to 3.75 galon, so I used a 1/2 to 3/4 pack that was intended for a 5 galon batch. Do u say I can just use everything no matter what?
What kind of yeast are you using? Dry, Smack-pack or vial?
In cases like this, I would say to use the whole pack. it's actually hard to pitch too much yeast. Most of the wet-style yeasts actually may not be enough for a full batch - when you're talking about million cells per milliliter. Most times it's recommended to do a starter for those styles, though the 11 gram packs of dry yeast are probably enough.
My point is, using the whole pack is better for the yeast themselves - less stress to reproduce to enough density to ferment correctly.
Unless you're doing 1-gallon batches (roughly 4 liters) you can and probably should use the whole pack.
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