Beginner Hitting a Brick Wall

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soup4lunch

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If you stay with BIAB and have a sous vide cooker, you can use that tool to maintain the mash temperature.
After you've brought the water temperature up to the mash temperature plus a couple degrees with your burner put the grain bag and cooker (outside the grain bag) in the pot to hold the mash to the actual mash temp.
Wrap up the pot with an old sleeping bag. Check the conversion with the refractometer and you'll be good coming out of the mash step.
 

Pablo 54

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I've been in your shoes and ultimately quit for over a decade because I had no-one to bounce ideas off of and trouble-shoot with.

IF you have an LBS, purchase one of their kits, SMaSH would be best. Talk to the person or people working there about your experiences and what you should expect from their kit. Flavor, color, clarity, etc. They are the ones that put it together. Or, if they only sell commercial ones, pick their brains on those.

Get rid of your biggest variable - your water. Without an accurate reading at the point of use, it is a crapshoot. The numbers you see from your local water department are "parameters" generally registered as the water leaves the facility. They can vary greatly based on travel distance, age of the pipe, usage, time of year, etc. Go with 100% distilled and, until you have your water tested, don't use anything else. I personally use only 1/2 gallon of my city's water when making anything other than Porters. (17Ca, 24Mg, 28Na, 51SO4, 83HCO3, and 1.1CO3)

How I got back into homebrewing: Hired a guy into my department who homebrewed (not the reason for the hire). Where I was "slapdash" he was methodical and precise. His mantra was, "water first and last - build your own". After talking with him, doing some brewing, my earlier mistakes were glaring. Literally in this order:
1. Untreated tap water, sometimes directly from my garden hose.
2. My fermentation temps were always guesses on my part. "The house is 68F so my beer must be 68F".
3. Racking 2 gallons of wort, open to the air, into a 5.5 gallon carboy and letting it sit for 3 or 4 weeks. (see number 4)
4. Oxidation, oxidation, oxidation. Get that beast under control as fast as you can.
5. Kits I purchased off the Internet (maybe). This was 1999/2000. Sometimes it would take a week or longer for the kit to reach me. Suffice it to say, the quality of the product was probably not good. If I recall correctly, most yeast came in a plain sachet marked "Beer Yeast".
6. Under pitching yeast.

FWIW, don't give up. It was said multiple times here, find a brew club or talk to people who brew. They will help you in more ways than you can count.

One last thing, temper your expectations with reality.
 
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The fact that your extract batches were not up to snuff and we're talking about IPA's has me wondering about water chemistry (sulfate:chloride). Maybe try a different style that might be a little easier to get balanced (porter, brown ale, etc) and see how it turns out. With your AG brew, you could be dealing with water chemistry as well as mash temp and pH issues, volume errors, or other things that have been mentioned in the thread. AS stated earlier, finding a mentor is always helpful. This forum is invaluable. Keep at it and you'll figure it out.
 
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ap0352

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Finally received my water report from my parish. Not many familiar components to me....
Thoughts on this as a base or scrap it all together and start with distilled?

Chloramine 3.1 ppm
Arsenic 1.1 ppm
Barium .045 ppm
Dalapon 3.2 ppb
Fluoride 0.7 ppm
Nitrate-Nitrite 1.4 ppm
Copper 0.2 ppm
Lead 2 ppb
Chloride 23.7 MG/L
PH 7.8
Sulfate 38.9 MG/L
Zinc 0.021 MG/L
 

CascadesBrewer

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I am late to the thread...given that your first 3 batches were extract based using spring water, I would be tempted to put water chemistry on the back burner for now. I am not sure what beers you like drinking, but a beer like a Porter, Brown Ale, Irish Red, or ESB is much easier to pull off than an IPA. Or something like a Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. I would suggest that you step back and ensure you have the basic covered, before digging into water chemistry and jumping back into another IPA. While I am a fan of all-grain and BIAB, I would recommend another batch or two using extract and bottled water.
 

BrewZer

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Even spring water can be high in mineral content, and that can vary from bottle to bottle. Here's the quality report from the spring water I was using...

Notice the CaCO3 varies from 180 to 300 ppm. So I started cutting the bottled gallons of spring water with gallons of distilled water to bring the dissolved solids down quite a bit. It's a work in progress... and I'll admit I'm just winging it since I don't know the exact profile of the bottles I'm buying.

You could, to be safe, go with RO or distilled and add your own trace elements to build a profile to emulate the geographic style you're trying to match.
 

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DuncB

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Finally received my water report from my parish. Not many familiar components to me....
Thoughts on this as a base or scrap it all together and start with distilled?

Zinc 0.021 MG/L
Surprising that there is no Calcium in the water.
I would add some Sodium Metabisulphite to this water about 0.3g per 25 litre to get rid of the chloramine.

Then would add for whatever beer I was brewing using the Brewersfriend water calculator and go for a dark beer kit of some kind that was ferment and forget so to speak ie no hopping in the ferment. You should never hop or jump in your fermenter you'll get wet feet.
But try to control the temperature of the ferment and minimise oxygen exposure every little helps especially happy yeast. If a generic yeast invest in a couple of packets of dry yeast as an alternative can work wonders.
Then bottle etc and wait do some more reading and you should be pleased.
 

NSMikeD

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Fwiw the BIAB site has. Spreadsheet and starts noobs with a simple Amarillo pale ale. The recipe has been made so many times that it’s a reliable base to help determine your boil rate, losses and all the process stuff that can alter a beer. Plus a pretty good beer. In other words, repeating the same brew to nail down your own set up and process.

once you three or so consistent brews you can really take off using your base.
Make sure your measuring Instruments are calibrated. Folks go crazy tweaking recipes when it turns out a thermometer or refractometer is giving false readings. Kudos to you for trusting your taste buds.

water can be tricky. Check online too. Many municipalities post the reports online. I use the mid points since levels vary. While I find my tap water very forgiving, I do know from my reef aquarium hobby water can have things in it that can ruin your brew (not just chlorine). As mentioned RO and adding your own minerals is a good safe harbor alternative if you can’t use your tap.

fwiw, I’ve been brewing for years only now am I considering brewing a NEIPA. Don’t be discouraged over your initial brews. A basic homebrew will make a very good beer even with missteps. Keep your BIAB process simple and master it so that your are confident In your numbers. There is plenty of time to expand your process, which in BIAB can be infinite rivaling the most sophisticated 3 vessel systems.
 

IslandLizard

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Surprising that there is no Calcium in the water.
Oh, there's Calcium in that water, it's just not being reported. Something needs to balance the Chloride (Cl-) and Sulfate (SO4--) ions. Calcium (Ca++) is the likely mineral in water, as is Magnesium (Mg++) and Sodium (Na+).
The fairly high pH points to some bicarbonate (HCO3-) content too.
There's a spreadsheet around to guesstimate most other mineral amounts from what we know.

That water definitely needs some acidification when used in the mash and sparge, except maybe for dark beers such as Stouts and Porters.

@ap0352 if you want to use it for brewing water a more thorough report would be helpful, but it's only a snapshot. For the around $40 it takes to get a Ward report, it may have some value if the water composition is stable during the year and from year to year. If it changes much with time or with the seasons, such as during droughts or periods of heavy precipitation, that report is very limited. You can ask your water provider (ask for "Quality Control") where the water is sourced from and how the mineral composition fluctuates during the year.

But as @DuncB said, a Campden treatment is the minimum to neutralize the Chloramines. 1/4 crushed Campden tablet per 5 gallons and a good stir will do that. A good pinch (1/16 of a teaspoon) of K-Meta or Na-Meta powder will do the same, The amount is not that critical as long as you use at least the minimum.
 

deuc224

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Finally received my water report from my parish. Not many familiar components to me....
Thoughts on this as a base or scrap it all together and start with distilled?

Chloramine 3.1 ppm
Arsenic 1.1 ppm
Barium .045 ppm
Dalapon 3.2 ppb
Fluoride 0.7 ppm
Nitrate-Nitrite 1.4 ppm
Copper 0.2 ppm
Lead 2 ppb
Chloride 23.7 MG/L
PH 7.8
Sulfate 38.9 MG/L
Zinc 0.021 MG/L
Dude i built my water filter and never looked back, i didnt even chance trying to brew with my local water. Its a good way to insure that you have a clean platform for what you want to achieve, but the problem is your low OG, a bunch of water and not starches in it, well not for the beer you are making.
 

Ziller

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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.

Solution: Order your grains unmilled, and get your own mill.
Thanks for pointing this out! I've now brewed two all grain batches from MoreBeer's kits and have missed my target OGs by quite a lot. Been studying the problem and figured out that it was the poor crush in their milling.

Just ordered a mill, and can't wait to see my efficiency rise!
 

CascadesBrewer

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Thanks for pointing this out! I've now brewed two all grain batches from MoreBeer's kits and have missed my target OGs by quite a lot. Been studying the problem and figured out that it was the poor crush in their milling.

Just ordered a mill, and can't wait to see my efficiency rise!
I have been a long time customer of MoreBeer and they are still my primary online vendor...but I hate to recommend them for anybody that needs to buy pre-crushed grains. As I look back, they were a motivator for me to get my own mill. My local shop sold 10# bags of pre-crushed grain that was decent. At the time they did not have a public mill, so you had to call ahead if you wanted more than a few lbs of grain crushed. I would mix in MoreBeer (and probably some other vendor's) pre-crushed grain into my process. My efficiency was all over the place. I suspect if I kept better data, it would point out that MoreBeer was a primary source of my issues. Just speculation, but I see numerous pictures of MoreBeer milled (or lack of milled) grains.

Oh well...I have paid for my Barley Crusher several times over with saving money on buying full sacks of base malt.
 

DuncB

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Agree with the quality and savings of full sacks milled to order in your house. 36 dollars for a 25kg sack of Gladfield base malt seems a good price when LHBS is charging 2.5 dollars a kilo.
Only a few more sacks to go to recoup the cost of the mill, but the best bit is no russian roulette.
 

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