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Old 03-24-2009, 10:26 PM   #1
Zman3382
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Well.... after 5 batches and several years of reading everything I could get my hands on, I'm about ready to hang it up for the time being.

5 batches, all different varieties (kits from midwest)... all taste more or less exactly the same... a bit under attenuated, and a good bit estery. Theyve all been just about the same color too.

I have a few things to blame perhaps... on 3 of the 5 i only pitched a smack pack, and for at least one of those the OG was so high that the low number of cells is certainly the reason for failure (very sweet syrupy finished product.. not drinkable). The other 2 I made starters from the smack packs with DME. All of the batches fermented a little warm (70-74F, my townhouse has horrid insulation), and probably experienced some temp rollercoastering of at least 5 degrees or so.

I followed all the rules for everything as far as my readings in books and from knowledge on forums have taught me. Ive just not been able to create a beer that even tasted like i wanted to drink it. Its pretty tough to stay excited when you feel like you've done the best you can in your situation and you're just not getting close to the expected results. While I realize the factors listed above can contribute to some of the off characteristics Ive mentioned, I just dont feel like they are enough to make me end up with what Ive got.

Any feed back would be appreciated... perhaps Ive just been missing something easy. thanks.

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Old 03-24-2009, 10:36 PM   #2
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I think that you've found exactly the reasons you've had poor results.

Proper yeast pitching and proper temperatures are THE most important factors in making beer. With extract, you don't have much control over the ingredients (other than water), but with fixing those two issues and making sure that your water is good for brewing, you should make good beer!

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Old 03-24-2009, 10:36 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Zman3382 View Post
Well.... after 5 batches and several years of reading everything I could get my hands on, I'm about ready to hang it up for the time being.

5 batches, all different varieties (kits from midwest)... all taste more or less exactly the same... a bit under attenuated, and a good bit estery. Theyve all been just about the same color too.
What were the styles exactly? What volume are you boiling in your kettle (full boil, half?) Are you using extract only, or are you steeping grains? If you are making kits that are close in style and you are doing a small volume boil, then you are probably carmelizing the wort and producing a similar taste in all your brews. Just a thought.

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I have a few things to blame perhaps... on 3 of the 5 i only pitched a smack pack, and for at least one of those the OG was so high that the low number of cells is certainly the reason for failure (very sweet syrupy finished product.. not drinkable). The other 2 I made starters from the smack packs with DME. All of the batches fermented a little warm (70-74F, my townhouse has horrid insulation), and probably experienced some temp rollercoastering of at least 5 degrees or so.
This temp fermentation will definately give you those esters you are talking about. Try putting your bucket/carboy in a tub with water and frozen water bottles. A t-shirt over the vessel allowed to soak up the water will do wonders for your temps as well. Do a search for "fermentation temps"

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Originally Posted by Zman3382 View Post

I followed all the rules for everything as far as my readings in books and from knowledge on forums have taught me. Ive just not been able to create a beer that even tasted like i wanted to drink it. Its pretty tough to stay excited when you feel like you've done the best you can in your situation and you're just not getting close to the expected results. While I realize the factors listed above can contribute to some of the off characteristics Ive mentioned, I just dont feel like they are enough to make me end up with what Ive got.

Any feed back would be appreciated... perhaps Ive just been missing something easy. thanks.
Don't quit man, there are tons of pros on here that I am sure could walk you through your problems and get you stoked again!
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Old 03-24-2009, 10:42 PM   #4
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Well, I can tell you this. I have had the exact opposite expierence. 5 batches now and all have been very unique in taste/smell/color...ect. You didnt mention what type of beer you have tried to brew. Maybe try some different things? Steep a little this, different hops, different yeast, ect...

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Old 03-24-2009, 10:46 PM   #5
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A couple of more thoughts I had- where are you located? maybe you have people in your area who can give you a "ride along" on a brew day.

What kind of water are you using, and what kind of kits? Prehopped kits might all taste about the same. If you made a stout and a pale ale, though, there should be a pretty big difference.

I'd suggest trying just one more batch. Use quality ingredients (you can pick a kit from midwest again, or try somewhere else), quality water, cool the wort quickly after brewing and pitch dry Nottingham yeast. Keep the fermentation temperature at 65 degrees (use a water bath if you have to) and wait two weeks. If you correct all of these issues, and the beer is good (and I think it will be!) then you can decide how much you want to invest in your time and energy in making beer.

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Old 03-24-2009, 11:35 PM   #6
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Love the thought of brewing with a friend to see if there is something you are missing. Also, check out any local homebrew clubs in your area, see if you can have a Q and A with someone there.

Another route could be brewing lighter beers for now, until you get your process down - maybe like 5 pounds of LME or DME, 2 oz of hops and that's it. Nothing will make you madder than paying lots of money for a good beer kits and having it not work out over and over ... But it does sound like you have a bead on your issues. Maybe try two packs of dry yeast for now, just to see if it a yeast issue. I know dry yeast is not the best, but at least it will yield drinkable beer.

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Old 03-25-2009, 12:09 AM   #7
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Thank you everyone for the responses.

Well, honestly i don't think its my technique... I'm the kind of anal retentive detail oriented person who likes to read everything they can and understand why they are doing each step theyre doing before even making an attempt... well.... except for under pitching mm hmm. Temperature was more or less beyond my control at the time..

All were extract with steeped grains, full 5 gallon boils, using bottled grocery store brand spring water (the town water here is shameful).

1 - Irish Red - Wyeast 1056 Activator (just 1 smack pack..)
2 - Amarillo Pale Ale - Wyeast 1332 Activator (just 1..)
3 - Spiced Holiday Ale - White Labs Burton Ale Yeast (yeah.. just 1 vial :-/ High OG, Way Underpitched...)
4 - Rye (Roggenbier) - Wyeast 3068 (Starter Made, then Refridgerated for 3 days)
5 - Coriander Weiss - Wyeast 3068 (Starter Made)





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Old 03-25-2009, 02:41 AM   #8
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With the exception of maybe the holiday and rye, those all seem like lighter beer styles (and it sounds like there were other problems with the holiday). I'm a newbie as well, and I've heard and tend to believe that darker, more complex beers give new brewers a bigger buffer for error. Maybe look through the recipes here to find a good, well-reviewed porter or stout. Maybe look up EdWort's Robust Porter (that's my next brew). The complex flavors will be better able to mask slight off-flavors, there's a lot of people on here familiar with the recipe who can help, and you know the ingredients haven't been sitting in a kit box for god knows how long.

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Old 03-25-2009, 07:34 AM   #9
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Why don't you try a more forgiving yeast, like Cooper's ale yeast. Specialty yeasts are less forgiving and require more temperature control. If you have poor temperature control, I think you'll be much happier using a "boring" dry yeast, then a specialty yeast with funny flavors. Also, how long have you aged your beer in bottles? Have you tried any that have been sitting in bottles for three months? Time can make a big difference. Also, have you avoided keeping the yeast sediment out of your glass. Do you put the bottles on their sides in the fridge? This can stir up the yeast with can affect the taste too.

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Old 03-25-2009, 08:29 AM   #10
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couple more thoughts:

1) You described yourself as "anal retentive detail oriented person." I think I can be this way in many respects. This isn't always a good quality. There can be a tendency to over do things, such as fixing problems that aren't there. I've done this. Have you done anything to your beer to try to "fix" it?

2) Prove to yourself that you are not completely cursed from brewing. Try a no-boil kit. Use the yeast that came with the kit. Don't use a starter. Just sprinkle the yeast on top. Don't try to improve it. Don't try to fix it. If the the beer still comes out the same as the others you've at least eliminated a lot of possible sources of the problem. However, I'm betting that if you keep it as simple as possible, you'll have a beer you can at least drink, hopefully even like.

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