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Old 11-04-2009, 04:34 PM   #1
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Default Do non-fermentable spices increase the final gravity of a brew?

I have brewed two beers that are heavily spiced. One of which was VERY heavily spiced with cloves, ginger, cinnamon and molasses (Holiday Spiced Ale) that latest batch was pretty heavily spiced with coriander, grains of paradise, and star anise (Belgian Wit). Both of these brews proved to not ferment out as much as I would've hoped. The holiday ale fermented from 1.090 to 1.027ish (I can't remember and don't have my notes with me) and the Belgian Wit went from 1.046 to 1.018 (expected 1.010 - 1.014).

There are two possible explanations. The most likely explanation is that I am doing something incorrectly with making my yeast starters. These are the only two batches I've created with yeast starters.

There is one more explanation that I'm considering, and that is that the additional dissolved spices are increasing the density of the water, giving an artificially high SG reading.

Does anybody know anything about this and can shed some light on it for me?

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Old 11-04-2009, 04:36 PM   #2
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I dont think the spices add to your gravity and if they do it would be very minimal. I did a pumpkin ale that went from 1.054 to 1.012 (actually lower than i want)

Im not surprised a holiday ale stopped a bit high, with a beer that big, sometimes the yeast just poops out. As for the Wit, i dont know.

Are you brewing extract, AG, PM?

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Old 11-04-2009, 04:40 PM   #3
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The way to experimentally prove this one way or the other would be to make a spice tea and measure the gravity vs. a control sample of water. For what it's worth, even if they do affect the gravity (I don't think they would, at least not nearly to the amount you have seen) the amount of spices even in heavily spiced beers is nearly infinitesimal compared to the amount of malt and other sugars you put in.

So, I think there's some other reason for the results you're seeing.

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Old 11-04-2009, 04:42 PM   #4
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I would be more concerned the heavily spiced recipe would slow down fermentation as many of the spices you listed do have some anti-microbial properties.

I am not sure what effect that would have on the yeast health and fermentation ability. Just another theory on why your ales stopped higher than you expected.

What would help is posting the recipes. If your recipes had higher amounts of dark or crystal malt then you should expect a higher FG because of unfermentables, especially depending on the yeast you used.

Since you have the equipment, test your theory. Scale down your spice contribution to say a quart of water. Measure the SG of the water (presumably 0), then steep the spices in the water at say 150*F. Cool the "tea" then measure your SG. This will tell you the contribution of the spices.

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Old 11-04-2009, 04:42 PM   #5
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The Holiday Spiced Ale was an extract batch. The Belgian Wit was my first AG. I'm hoping I'm not this stupid, but I'm thinking it might be possible that I accidentally took the FG reading of the Belgian Wit AFTER adding my priming sugar. Considering the amount of sugar I used, it would account for the increase of .004 in my gravity reading.

Can you take a gravity reading of a beer AFTER it's carbed? Or does the dissolved CO2 drastically change the reading? Maybe I could let the carbonation come out of solution before testing FG out of the bottle.

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Old 11-04-2009, 05:11 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DRoyLenz View Post
Can you take a gravity reading of a beer AFTER it's carbed? Or does the dissolved CO2 drastically change the reading? Maybe I could let the carbonation come out of solution before testing FG out of the bottle.
You could take enough beer for a hydro reading and set it in a warm spot out until it goes flat, or shake it up to cause the CO2 to come out. Never tried it, but I would think the reading should be the same as the FG.
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Old 11-04-2009, 05:53 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DRoyLenz View Post
The Holiday Spiced Ale was an extract batch. The Belgian Wit was my first AG. I'm hoping I'm not this stupid, but I'm thinking it might be possible that I accidentally took the FG reading of the Belgian Wit AFTER adding my priming sugar. Considering the amount of sugar I used, it would account for the increase of .004 in my gravity reading.

Can you take a gravity reading of a beer AFTER it's carbed? Or does the dissolved CO2 drastically change the reading? Maybe I could let the carbonation come out of solution before testing FG out of the bottle.
What was your mash temp for the Wit?
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Old 11-04-2009, 06:05 PM   #8
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My mash temp was 155F, and dropped as low as 150F a couple times before I added a little bit of hot water to raise it back up.

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Old 11-04-2009, 06:09 PM   #9
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155°F is a *little* high. I mash at 148-150°F if I'm going for a dry beer, and no higher than 154°F in general.

I'd be interested in hearing about an experiment in regards to spice gravity, however. My buddy made a coffee porter and it really seemed like the coffee contributed to the gravity.

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Old 11-04-2009, 06:16 PM   #10
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155°F is a *little* high. I mash at 148-150°F if I'm going for a dry beer, and no higher than 154°F in general.

I'd be interested in hearing about an experiment in regards to spice gravity, however. My buddy made a coffee porter and it really seemed like the coffee contributed to the gravity.
I think I'm going to do a little experiment with this. I'm making up another yeast starter for my next brew on Friday, and that would be an optimum chance to try this out. Just have to make another trip up to the Spice House.

If I was trying to do this as scientifically as possible, how would you recommend I do the spices. Maybe try a constant amount of various spices and see how each contributes to the gravity, if at all? Which spices would you recommend I try?

If you guys have any brew days coming up with recipes that include a large spice profile, let me know what spices you're using, and I'll see if I can run an experiment on those for you.
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