Beginner Hitting a Brick Wall

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ap0352

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Hitting a wall with beer making...
Just kegged my 4th batch of a morebeer IPA. First 3 batches were extract and last was BIAB all grain. All fermented in Fermzilla @ 68-70F. Left in primary for 3 weeks then keg conditioned for a week in kegerator. Water was spring the first 3 batches then used a morebeer garden hose filter for the last batch with a campden tablet.
The first 3 were terrible; bland and bitter and ultimately dumped. Thought it was an extract issue so this last batch went all grain. After 4 weeks, it's better but no where near up to par (wouldn't buy it at a store if canned). Good color, very bland flavor and somewhat bitter.
No clue what is going on.. Following directions to the T. Hit all mash numbers based on recipe. Everything cleaned and sanitized with StarSan multiple times. Very minimal oxygen exposure.
Any glaring issues?? Feeling defeated.
 

Jocky

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You need to find a home brew club, and then go and see how someone else (that makes good beer) brews. Perhaps also then get them to brew with you. They should also be able to taste your beer and tell you what has gone wrong.
 

OLBrews

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Sounds like you are considering most of the key variables: water quality, mash, fermentation, and sanitation. Since you describe your brews as bland and bitter it makes me think you are not getting everything out of the grains/extract in the mash or are not boiling enough off to get your starting gravity. Are you measuring gravity and hitting the recipe specs?

Might be well worth it to reach out to a local homebrew club and see if there is someone who could co-brew with you and see all the steps in your process. Also, IPA’s can be a tough category to brew so don’t get too discouraged!
 
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I have not brewed a kit in a long time so maybe they have gotten better but i remember always adding hops to every ipa kit i used.. agree with other posts, sounds like your paying attention to the important things. gravity reading are an important thing to determine how exactly the process went. also if there were dry hops, when you added them and how long they stayed in your fermenter. i dont add dry hops til about 3 days before i keg. as @OLBrews said dont get discouraged. if you can provide the recipe and your notes and readings it would help to point you in the right direction.
 
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ap0352

ap0352

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Sounds like you are considering most of the key variables: water quality, mash, fermentation, and sanitation. Since you describe your brews as bland and bitter it makes me think you are not getting everything out of the grains/extract in the mash or are not boiling enough off to get your starting gravity. Are you measuring gravity and hitting the recipe specs?

Might be well worth it to reach out to a local homebrew club and see if there is someone who could co-brew with you and see all the steps in your process. Also, IPA’s can be a tough category to brew so don’t get too discouraged!
So I did take an OG reading after this last all grain. OG was supposed to be 1.062 and I came in around 1.04 from what I can remember.
This last kit (HazeCraze) had 2 dry hop schedules; one on day 3 of fermentation and the other 3 days before packaging. I added the first round on day 4 and the last round 5 days before racking to the keg.
 

ajm163

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if the recipe should be at 1.062 and you were 1.040 thats a pretty big difference. I would look at your mash procedure, temps ect. this could explain why your last batch at least is blan or "watery"
 
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That is pretty low compared to your target. which could definitely contribute to your issue, and could be caused by a few things, typically biab is good for efficiency but the grain should be crushed fairly fine, so if it wasnt that could cause the decrease in mash efficiency. also mash temp and time. whether or not you did a recirc and or sparge. a 1.040 gravity is likely going to be bland for this style of beer, basically you didnt get enough extraction from the grain.
 

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MoreBeer's kits are fine, especially when bought on sale in a 2-fer or 3-fer with free shipping.
A bit skimpy on hops for IPAs and such, but that's easy to remedy.

Their grain crush however, is... well the opposite: useless! Much too coarse.

You need to find a way to get them crushed better. Although there are a few notable exceptions, most LHBS grain mills are not much better, milling much too coarse. Especially when small kernels are used, such as wheat, rye, or oat malt, you may as well leave em out.

Solution: Order your grains unmilled, and get your own mill.
 

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And in addition, the hops will be perceived as way more bitter without the residual sweetness of a higher og beer plus the alpha isomerisation efficiency is bumped due to less proteins in the water, compared to a higher og wort. In other words, using the same hopping schedule as it was intended to be used for the target og, you ended up with even more ibus then intended for the bigger beer and in addition, these ibus are perceived stronger than in the bigger beer. You have to scale down the hops, once your target og comes out lower then expected.
 

Barbarossa

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When I started I didn't know that gravity needed to be taken at room temp . I also didn't cool the wort fast enough after the boil. I even messed up one batch by exposing it to the sunlight near a window during fermentation. Many little details can go wrong.
 

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Agreed to all the above. Look at getting higher gravity. You could describe your process, and if you don't sparge look into doing that. Or keep a bag of dry malt on hand to bump things up.

Oxidation is a potential issue as well. You may lose hop flavor / smell within a short amount of time leaving the bitterness behind. Check out the "closed transfer" process and see if you might be able to do it. If nothing else, after the keg is filled, give it a few good purges in the headspace. Anything helps.
 
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ap0352

ap0352

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Makes sense! In the future, can I substitute some DME to raise that OG??
 

IslandLizard

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The first 3 were terrible; bland and bitter and ultimately dumped. [...] Thought it was an extract issue
There is no good reason why extract brews should be that terrible. Were they also MoreBeer kits?

Do you use a secondary?

Very minimal oxygen exposure.
How do you limit or avoid oxygen exposure in the various stages of brewing?
Especially after fermentation, when dry hopping, and kegging.
This is even more crucial with hoppier beers.

Beer brewing is ingredients (that's the simple part) and lots of process, process, process...
Water is important and needs to be suitable for brewing. Lots of good info and pointers on that in our Brew Science forum, without going deep into the finer details.

morebeer garden hose filter for the last batch with a campden tablet.
That filter won't change the mineral composition of your tap water. It won't filter much at all, barely removes the chlorine, none do. But the Campden will take care of that.

Good advice to join a (local) homebrew club and attend some brew sessions of homebrewers who make good beer (a bit tough now with COVID).
Read up here (HBT) on the various aspects of brewing.
I also recommend reading John Palmer's How to Brew, 4th Ed. That's a very good allround brewing reference.
 

IslandLizard

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Makes sense! In the future, can I substitute some DME to raise that OG??
You can, but you'd be better off mashing correctly. Getting a good crush, especially with BIAB, is paramount in that process.

Also find out what kind of tap water you have, especially mineral content.
Therefore, call you water supplier's Quality Control dept. and ask for the various minerals we brewers are interested in. And how stable those numbers are, or how much they vary throughout the year, or with the seasons.

Instead, you can always use RO water (RO machines at supermarket, Walmart, etc.) and add certain minerals to it, in the right amounts for that beer style.
 
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tracer was right on point there haha, yeah you can but you shouldnt have to. i would use that as a backup plan and in the meantime try to get your process closer to producing the target and having the grain milled better. it may not be right on but say your target its 1.064 and you get 1.060 .. thats alright. if you are going to add dme to determine this amount you will have to take an pre-boil gravity reading and account for boil off. also as he touched on closed transfer I totally agree with this, it can be a fairly cheap and simple upgrade that is way worth it. i noticed a huge improvement in my brew when i started doing this.

Edit, typing this as @IslandLizard responded.
 
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ap0352

ap0352

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Awesome tips guys. Greatly appreciated!
To answer a few questions:
Extract kits were morebeer kits as well. Think I had oxidation and caramelizing malt issues in the first brews.
Never used a secondary. Always fermented in the fermzilla, dry hopped in the collection jar on the bottom then gravity drained to keg. Setup for closed pressure transfer next time.

I definitely need to understand and respect the importance of gravity readings! I'll call my water dept for a water profile and see what that looks like.
Any specifics on what to look for in a good grain mill? Hand crank vs drill crank?
 
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I have the barley crusher that i built a table and motorized it with a dryer motor. but you can easily hook a drill up to that too. as i contradict my previous post... my mill has not had as good reviews hmmm but i have been using it for probably 8 years. and for the past 2 years still use it for 15 gal batches and it crushes my 40lbs per batch with no issues. but in any case, as long as you can adjust the crush and its in your price range youll be good with just about any, as far as i know you can remove the handle and put a drill on most if not all of them.
 

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Pay close attention to your mash temperatures and gravity readings. I got a refractometer a while back to check my gravity while mashing and lautering, for an investment of $20 it really helped me with tracking my efficiency at each step. Check out some brewing software, you can build your equipment profile so you can reliably build recipes. Get a bunch of 2 row base malt and one or two hop verities. Try adjusting your process and water with the same simple recipe to identify where your issues are. My water in Texas made garbage IPA's but respectable lagers, so far at my new place in New England my lagers have been disappointing, so we will see how the IPA's turn out in the spring.
 

IslandLizard

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I'll call my water dept for a water profile and see what that looks like.
Read, or at least look over the stickies in the Brew Science forum about water composition and make a list of those water ions to ask about.
I can list them for you, but they won't make much sense without context.

Your water company's yearly consumer water report may have them listed, but usually they only list the ones for compliance (Lead, Iron, Manganese, Radon, Nitrates, Fluorides, etc.). So look at that first too, it may answer those questions. Most are online now.
 

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Awesome tips guys. Greatly appreciated!
To answer a few questions:
Extract kits were morebeer kits as well. Think I had oxidation and caramelizing malt issues in the first brews.
Never used a secondary. Always fermented in the fermzilla, dry hopped in the collection jar on the bottom then gravity drained to keg. Setup for closed pressure transfer next time.

I definitely need to understand and respect the importance of gravity readings! I'll call my water dept for a water profile and see what that looks like.
Any specifics on what to look for in a good grain mill? Hand crank vs drill crank?
I have nothing of substance to say other than keep at it. Your close to making great beer. Temp controlled fermentation and reducing cold side oxidation post fermentation is key for brews like IPAs. Sounds like you have that nailed.

Were the first 3 extract brews hazy IPAs as well? If so I would recommend trying a BIAB or extract SMaSH. Something simple and make sure your process is on point.

Brew on
 

Jim R

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I had the same thought. Did you go straight to NEIPA's? It might be reasonable to start with a more forgiving beer till you have everything down pat. You seem like you have researched this pretty well. There is no reason you should be throwing out undrinkable beer even if you missed a few details. There is nothing wrong with buying kits although I always crush my own grains which makes it easy to dial that part it for my own system.
 

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A few times I have had similar experiences, I discovered my main problem was doughballs. While doughing in I would get small pockets of grain that didn't receive any water. Which of course leads to no conversion of grain, and lower OG. I fixed it by buying a big whisk and taking my time with the dough-in. I would second the advice about buying a grain mill, having the right crush for your brewing method is priceless. Also the local brewclub would be a great help.
 

IslandLizard

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dry hopped in the collection jar
I've seen posts about that technique, but does dry hopping like that really work? As in getting complete extraction and dispersion of aroma and flavor compounds? If they remain in the cup, extraction may only be a fraction of the hops' potential, and may explain the lackluster beer too.

And yeah, IPAs and especially NEIPAs are among the most "sensitive" beers to brew, allowing for very small margins in crucial process steps.

For example, the MoreBeer instructions for whirlpooling are incorrect or at least incomplete, IMO. As is the target 3-4 week schedule for fermentation to finish. These beers need a much faster turn around, and yup, kept well away from air/oxygen exposure after fermentation has started.

Did you transfer the beer into 100% liquid pre-purged kegs, through the liquid-out post, leaving the lid on until next cleaning?
 

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Sounds like the 1.040 is your issue. Most of these things were noted above already, but with all grains you have to pay attention to the crush, you have to pay attention to the temperature of the mash water, the length of the mash, a sparge to rinse the grain,be on point with your water volumes. If you wind up with too much liquid it will be diluted . You can wind up with a hoppy Blonde instead of an IPA
 
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ap0352

ap0352

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So every time I've dry hopped in the jar, I've purged across the hops in the jar and essentially "pressured up" the jar. When I open the ball valve, the hops violently shoot up into the conical.
Kegs were filled with starsan and dumped out. Lid put back on and stored empty in kegerator. Next transfer will be closed as I now have the pressure kit for the Fermzilla.
After reading everyone's comments and doing more research, I really think my problem is my lack of effort understanding and worrying about OG and really trying too many different things at once. I guess I was naive enough to think If I just "followed the chain store directions" then I'd be golden.
Got John Palmer's book on the way so I intend to read that before I attempt the next batch. I'm thinking I should stick to extract until I'm successful and then venture back into BIAB. Thoughts?
 
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ap0352

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Sounds like the 1.040 is your issue. Most of these things were noted above already, but with all grains you have to pay attention to the crush, you have to pay attention to the temperature of the mash water, the length of the mash, a sparge to rinse the grain,be on point with your water volumes. If you wind up with too much liquid it will be diluted . You can wind up with a hoppy Blonde instead of an IPA
Exactly what I have right now!
 

wsmith1625

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After reading everyone's comments and doing more research, I really think my problem is my lack of effort understanding and worrying about OG and really trying too many different things at once. I guess I was naive enough to think If I just "followed the chain store directions" then I'd be golden.
Got John Palmer's book on the way so I intend to read that before I attempt the next batch. I'm thinking I should stick to extract until I'm successful and then venture back into BIAB. Thoughts?
I think you're being too hard on yourself. You just learned a ton in this thread alone. I would stick with BIAB and brew a few more batches to tune your process. Get a grain mill and fine crush the grain and you'll see a huge improvement. And take gravity readings so you can measure your results. Each batch will get better, but going back to extract is a big step backwards for you.
 

SmallScaleOperator

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Keep at it, there is so much to learn and for most people the end product slowly gets better over time as they learn all the little tricks and nuisances of their specific set up. You could always make smaller batches, like 3 gallons at a time to get more practice, if you have the spare time to brew more often.

Also if your making IPA's I would defiantly start using CO2 from your fermentation to purge them. Buy some keg posts and tubing and make a line to run from your gas out port on your fermzilla to your gas in port on your keg. Make another that runs from from your liquid out port into a spare bucket. Fill your keg with starsan, and hook everything up at the beginning of fermentation. Once the starsan has all been pushed out of your serving keg keep it sealed and store store it. you can get a pack of cheep ball lock posts and beverage tubing on amazon to make all the jumper lines you could ever wish for.
 

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So every time I've dry hopped in the jar, I've purged across the hops in the jar and essentially "pressured up" the jar. When I open the ball valve, the hops violently shoot up into the conical.
That sounds awesome. I had the same question @IslandLizard did. The next question I have is does that give the hops enough time to break apart or do they fall back down into the cup? Either way It appears the dry hopping isn’t your issue.

Kegs were filled with starsan and dumped out. Lid put back on and stored empty in kegerator. Next transfer will be closed as I now have the pressure kit for the Fermzilla.
Ideally for a NEIPA you would leave the keg full of starsan, then use CO2 to push out the starsan leaving you with a co2 flushed keg and the pressure transfer from the fermenter. Your on the right track and much further along than many at this stage of brewing

After reading everyone's comments and doing more research, I really think my problem is my lack of effort understanding and worrying about OG and really trying too many different things at once. I guess I was naive enough to think If I just "followed the chain store directions" then I'd be golden.
Got John Palmer's book on the way so I intend to read that before I attempt the next batch. I'm thinking I should stick to extract until I'm successful and then venture back into BIAB. Thoughts?
Your going to get a variety of opinions. Personally I say do whatever floats your boat. After reading Palmers book you’ll have a much broader understanding of the process.
The one thing about doing an extract is your likely to have the correct OG as long as you use the correct amount of water. It may not measure correctly due to the stratification of the extract but those fermentables will be there. If you stir the hell out of it you should be on point.

If you decide to try another BIAB I would recommend getting a refractometer for quick testing of the mash gravity.
Either way, your 90% there. Keep Hammering 🔨
 
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ap0352

ap0352

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Thanks all! Assuming I try another BIAB and am off a little on OG, is there an equation on how much DME to use to bring it back up to the intended OG?
 

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a brewing app like brewers friend, beer smith or brew father is really helpful not just for creating recipes, but giving you brew steps when to add something, timers, water volumes...etc. Brewers friend has calculators for everything. Keep at it.
 

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Ideally for a NEIPA you would leave the keg full of starsan, then use CO2 to push out the starsan leaving you with a co2 flushed keg and the pressure transfer from the fermenter.
Agreed to this. I used to 1) ignore air in the keg. Then I'd 2) "purge" the keg by blowing CO2 into it for a while. Finally did the 3) fill w/ water to the tip top and use CO2 to push it out.

#1 is worthless, obviously. #2 quite frankly is as well. You can get a mental image of filling the keg with CO2 but that is not how gasses work, it and the air will immediately begin to combine and it's about as effective as #1. It's #3 that really works, that's when you truly have a keg full of CO2.

Just FYI on that. Purging a jar of hops is probably not very helpful either. I'd recommend using as small of a jar as possible. Or dropping them in from the top if there's an appropriate spot. Can also purge the headspace in the fermenter afterwards. If it is actually sealed up (unlike a keg or open jar), then as the CO2 goes in and then comes back out i.e. the blow-off tubing, it will indeed carry O2 along with it. At some point the O2 will still be there but be well diluted.

These are not make / break life altering things but more to think about. Do get that efficiency up first and the rest can be worked on over time.
 
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So every time I've dry hopped in the jar, I've purged across the hops in the jar and essentially "pressured up" the jar. When I open the ball valve, the hops violently shoot up into the conical.
Kegs were filled with starsan and dumped out. Lid put back on and stored empty in kegerator. Next transfer will be closed as I now have the pressure kit for the Fermzilla.
After reading everyone's comments and doing more research, I really think my problem is my lack of effort understanding and worrying about OG and really trying too many different things at once. I guess I was naive enough to think If I just "followed the chain store directions" then I'd be golden.
Got John Palmer's book on the way so I intend to read that before I attempt the next batch. I'm thinking I should stick to extract until I'm successful and then venture back into BIAB. Thoughts?
Keep at it biab. It's more fun than extract!
 

marc1

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Hitting a wall with beer making...
Just kegged my 4th batch of a morebeer IPA. First 3 batches were extract and last was BIAB all grain. All fermented in Fermzilla @ 68-70F. Left in primary for 3 weeks then keg conditioned for a week in kegerator. Water was spring the first 3 batches then used a morebeer garden hose filter for the last batch with a campden tablet.
The first 3 were terrible; bland and bitter and ultimately dumped. Thought it was an extract issue so this last batch went all grain. After 4 weeks, it's better but no where near up to par (wouldn't buy it at a store if canned). Good color, very bland flavor and somewhat bitter.
No clue what is going on.. Following directions to the T. Hit all mash numbers based on recipe. Everything cleaned and sanitized with StarSan multiple times. Very minimal oxygen exposure.
Any glaring issues?? Feeling defeated.
There's some pretty good advice in this thread. Brewing is a process and a skill. It takes practice to get things down to make consistent good beer. Expecting commercial quality right off the bat is setting your expectations really, really high, especially if you've never even brewed with others before.

If you had never cooked before, and had never seen anyone operate a grill, do you think that you would even be able to make decent restaurant quality burgers on the first few tries with a package of ground beef and a quick and dirty directions sheet?

If you stick with it and work on your process you can get there. You should be able to get to drinkable beer fairly fast if your standards aren't "commercial quality". It took me several years of drinkable/good/excellent batches with some bad ones interspersed to get to the point where now I generally prefer my own to things I can buy.
 

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100% agree with @marc1 set your goal to make something good and drinkable and work on your process and improve. even after years of brewing you will make batches your not super pleased with but thats part of the fun and experimenting. Right now I'm drinking a Braggot i made with the second runnings of a big stout and its pretty "Bla" but beer is beer and you learn what to do and what not to do with each batch
 
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