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Old 04-23-2013, 02:02 AM   #1
Jan 2013
Posts: 24

I'm at a loss. I've been brewing for about 6 months. In that time period I have brewed 7 beers and so far I'm not impressed. Most of my beers have been okay, but not "great" as some people have described their extract brews. The beer I have made all tastes like "extract beer" to me, not like a commercial craft brew, it lacks something, though I cannot articulate what it is. These beers all taste somewhat similar, or maybe it is that the have a similar mouthfeel or something. Either way, something has got to give. I'm thinking of doing full boils, if that doesn't help, maybe going all grain. Below are my batches and processes, if you have any tips that could improve my beer I would greatly appreciate it.

-Extract brewing
-Partial boils (3 gallons for a 5 gallon batch)
-Use tap water-from St. Paul, MN
-Standard 60 minute boil
-Add small amount of gypsum at beginning of boil (per recommendation of Northern brewer St. Paul for our local water)
-Add whirlflock last 15 min of boil
-Use immersion chiller to chill wort-boil in wort for last 10 minutes for sanitation
-Always pitch yeast starter-yeast count calculated from stir plate for yeast propagation usually 24-48 hrs.- usually chill for 24 hours and decant excess starter wort.

My batches have all been kits from NB with the exception of one clone I made using beersmith. The kits have been as such

Dead Ringer IPA
Brickwarmer Holiday Red
Tongue Splitter Pale Ale
Kiwi Express IPA
Cascade Imperial IPA
Boulevard 80 Acre Clone
Australian Sparkling Ale (Fermenting)

Pretty much all of the kits require steeping specialty grains. Only 2 of the IPA's shared the same yeast strain. Always use Wyeast.

My O.G's have a tendency to be lower than what the kit states. Sometimes as low as 5-7 points. I am super paranoid about sanitation and about aeration of wort prior to pitching. My fermentation always start quickly and almost always require a blow off tube (never tried Fermcap- not sure when to add it). I usually follow kit recommendations for fermentation times- usually allowing 2 full weeks for primary- checking gravity to make sure it's no longer dropping prior to racking. Add Biofine clear to secondary. Usually 2-4 weeks secondary (depending on recipe. At least 2 weeks in bottle prior to chilling, sometimes more if I think it needs it.

Most of my beers carb up fine, and since using biofine clear, the clarity is great, no chill haze, etc.

Sorry, I know this is a long post, but I've been scouring the forums here and nothing seems to fit. My ingredients are always quite fresh (I usually pick up a kit and brew it within 2 weeks- I believe NB gets quite a bit of turn over.) I've read Palmer's How to brew- I feel as though I'm doing everything right, though I still end up with sub-par beer. Maybe I'm too picky and other extract brewers just think their beer is better than it really is? The only areas I think I may be lacking is

1) Water quality?
2) Fermenation Temps. (I ferment ales in my basement- they stay right at the low end of the recommended temps.- Guys at NB say it should be fine, I don't have any issues with lag time, stuck fermentation, etc.?

Thoughts??? PLEASE HELP!!!!

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Old 04-23-2013, 03:12 AM   #2
RacingRam's Avatar
Sep 2012
Madison, WI
Posts: 184
Liked 19 Times on 16 Posts

We are all our own worst critics. Why don't you have a friend pour you one of your homebrews and a craft beer you haven't tried (in the same style) and do a blind taste test? Maybe you'll surprise yourself. If not, maybe you'll nail down what you don't like about your homebrews.

Also, maybe try kits from a different source?

Controlled fermentation temps make your beer much better, but I don't think that ambient temps make beer BAD unless they're outside the recommended range.
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Old 04-23-2013, 03:33 AM   #3
Mar 2013
, Connecticut
Posts: 799
Liked 123 Times on 91 Posts

I have never used a kit and made some great beers with a lot of character using hops, a pound of caramel malt (40 L), 6 lbs extra pale dme and Nottingham. I find that three weeks bottle conditioning helps a lot. Stale dme can effect the flavors in a way you might be experiencing. Sounds like you're a very competent brewer, so don't worry about that. Unseasoned aluminum in the brewing processes can add off flavors. If you are worried about water, get spring water from the store. Keep brewing, don't get discouraged.
Ever have trouble getting a "big beer" to carbonate in the bottle? Read the "rules" and please add your story to the list!

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Old 04-23-2013, 03:47 AM   #4
Ogri's Avatar
Sep 2011
Osaka, Japan
Posts: 885
Liked 94 Times on 85 Posts

Merely a couple of suggestions.

Try doing primary for three weeks, or more, so you're staying on the yeast cake for a bit longer and forego the secondary plus finings. Coupled together with a raise in ferm temps after the attenuation phase is over this might have a positive effect.

You didn't say what the temp of your basement is. It might be that it's ideal for keeping the fermentation temp within range whilst the initial, vigorous, exothermic phase is underway but once the beer goes into the conditioning/clean up phase maybe there's not enough heat to keep the yeast happy and busy. Maybe this is where the "homebrew flavour you refer to comes from.

Have you managed to let any of your bottled beers last to the 6 or 8 weeks, from bottling, stage??
Very often you can't see the important things on the outside........................................... .
.............Like takoyaki.

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Old 04-23-2013, 04:56 AM   #5
Devin's Avatar
Nov 2011
Los Alamos, NM
Posts: 419
Liked 90 Times on 50 Posts

I went through something similar. My first seven or eight batches were extract and they all had this similar "off" flavor. I hunted it down and tried different things with each batch. In the end, it turned out to be chloramine in my water supply. Since I started brewing using RO water and building my own water profile, that strange off taste has disappeared.

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Old 04-24-2013, 01:51 AM   #6
Jan 2013
Posts: 24

Thanks for all of the tips guys, I will make sure to give these a shot. In particular, I think the temperature and aging might be the issue. I keep my house at 66, so my basement is even cooler than that. During active attenuation my fermometers usually say 62-64 which is the lower end of the temp. scale.

I haven't let my bottles age past 3 weeks prior to chilling. For bottle aging, does it have to be at room temperature? I would assume the beer can't really age much once chilled because the yeast will go dormant, is that correct? Is my basement too cold to continue aging effectively?

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Old 04-24-2013, 12:27 PM   #7
BxBrewer's Avatar
Oct 2012
Bronx, NY
Posts: 447
Liked 60 Times on 43 Posts

One other over looked problem is the "flavored extract". I didn't get it at first but it came down to it. Im talking about LME. Some styles call for a special base malt and can see it being used. For the most part IPA,APA,blonds etc i use a ultra light LME. I use the steeping grains for the flavor and color "outside the hops".

Once i got away from pre packaged box kits. Started doing late additions with the extract. And using the steeping grains to give me the profile im looking for. I havent had any problems with extract brewing.

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Old 04-24-2013, 12:32 PM   #8
BrewingGunner's Avatar
Jan 2013
Coronado, California
Posts: 238
Liked 24 Times on 19 Posts

Looks like most of your batches are IPAs or hoppy pale ales. They are going to taste similar.
Primary: Mosaic IPA
Secondary: Calypso Pale Ale
Keg 1: MT :(
Keg 2: Thunderdome Red

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Old 04-24-2013, 01:16 PM   #9
Dec 2009
Calgary, AB Canada
Posts: 276
Liked 22 Times on 18 Posts

If I were to bet, it's your water. Try doing a batch with RO water with no other changes to your process. Since you're not mashing, you don't need to be concerned as much with mineral content. By starting with a blank slate, you're going to know immediately (after the batch is finished, of course) if it's the water component.

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Old 04-24-2013, 01:37 PM   #10
stratslinger's Avatar
Dec 2010
Terryville, CT
Posts: 2,556
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Originally Posted by BrewingGunner View Post
Looks like most of your batches are IPAs or hoppy pale ales. They are going to taste similar.
My thoughts exactly!

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