Brew too sweet

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paulj992

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Trying to make a simple light American lager using DME extract, but after fermenting for 2 weeks it tastes too sweet; like the yeast was not able to fully ferment the wort. Any tips? I believe I should try to ferment at around 50 to 55 degrees for the lager (the first couple batches were just at room temperature between 62 to 72 degrees), maybe that was the issue? Here's my recipe with a 1 gal. carboy:

- 1.5 lb DME (Briess Pilsen Light)
- 3/4 lb of flaked rice (steeped for 15 minutes and removed)
- just a couple hop pellets for flavor only at 60 minutes

pitched half a 11.5 g pack of Saflager S-23 and let it ferment 2 weeks (covered with a towel, room temp between 62 to 72 degrees)

So it comes out sweet (not like a basic lager like I thought)... This time I'll ferment it between 50 to 55 degrees with a fermentation cooler for the first 4 days. But maybe I should reduce the amount of DME, like less than a pound? I admit I don't know what I'm doing...

Thanks
 

VikeMan

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You should measure your final gravity with a hydrometer to find out if it is finished or if there is a problem with an unfinished fermentation.

Your high fermentation temperatures (62-72) would not have caused an unfinished fermentation.

Flaked rice needs to be mashed along with a base malt. If you just steep it, it will add unconverted starches to the wort. I mention this because steeping the rice is not a good practice. But I don't think it would have made your beer taste sweet.

Your beer might taste (subjectively) sweet due to "just a couple hop pellets." You should compute the amount of hops needed to yield the IBUs you want.

You covered your fermenter with a towel? Do you mean instead of a lid/bung and airlock? If so, oxidation of the beer could account for some sweet flavor.

I'd recommend reading "How to Brew" at your earliest convenience.
 

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Agree on all points above. A light lager is about the hardest beer to make so I wouldn't recommend chasing that dragon any time soon.

You can't steep flaked rice, it just adds starch.
Most likely the sweetness you're tasting is oxidation from not sealing the fermenter with an airlock.
Without testing the gravity with a hydrometer, it's hard to determine if you had a complete fermentation but I would doubt that's the issue.
 

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1.5 lb DME (Briess Pilsen Light)
- 3/4 lb of flaked rice (steeped for 15 minutes and removed)
- just a couple hop pellets for flavor only at 60 minutes
Adding to what Bobby_M said, the flaked rice is mostly starch which needs to be converted to sugars by enzymes but the process of making the DME destroys the needed enzymes. Making beer from extract, you would have to leave out the rice or move to partial mash or all grain to provide the enzymes needed.

Making a balanced beer takes some thought and/or some software to determine how much hop bitterness is needed to balance the sweetness of the beer. With just a couple hop pellets you probably created a very unbalanced beer.
 

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Welcome to HomebrewTalk @paulj992 .

I will assume that you are new to home brewing and are motivated to brew an American Lager as your first beer. American Lagers (compared to most ales) require some additional effort. It's not complicated, but it does add steps (and details) to the process.

Historically, home brewing was hard (1980s), then "all-grain" brewing was hard (1990s), then "water chemistry" was hard (2000s), the "odxidation" avoidance was hard (2010s). Over time, the knowledge needed to get it right "the first time" has become easier to find. The dragons are dead or dying.

A couple of thoughts on how to move forward with your next attempt:

Rice solids: When brewing "extract+steep", rice solids (rather than flaked rice) are often used when brewing American Lagers.

A proven recipe: There is a good starting point for an extract+steep American Lager recipe in this topic: AHA homebrewer of the year (link).

Equipment and process: The book How to Brew, 4e is an excellent starting point for understanding the brewing process and necessary brewing equipment.

Read chapter 1, ask questions, then brew your recipe using that approach.

Please do not use howtobrew.con - it is the 1st edition of the book (published in 1999). It is out of date in many areas, including the areas on brewing with malt extracts.
 
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BrewnWKopperKat

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More evidence that the dragons are dead or dying: ;)

Here's my recipe with a 1 gal. carboy:
For ideas on processes and techniques with smaller size batches, take a look at chapters 1 & 2 of the book Speed Brewing.

The author lays out a process for brewing and kegging 1.75 gal all-grain batches.
 

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Could another issue be the use of extract--not able to mash low for high attenuation? I haven't used extract in forever, so I'm not too sure, but I recall the ballpark mash temp for those being a bit higher than you might want to use on that style if you mashed the grain yourself.
 

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I haven't used extract in forever

All the "dragons" you mention have been dead for almost as long ;).

OP is brewing with Briess Pilsen Light DME. Attenuation for Briess DME is well known as Briess includes that information at their web site. For other brands, a fast/forced ferment test will provide the information.

Web search will occasionally show re-posted articles from Zymurgy magazine from the 1990s that list attenuation for extract products of that time period. There were numerous brands (no longer available) that were in the 65% range. Some were lower. Interesting from a historical perspective, but probably not too useful when brewing in the 2020s.
 

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All the "dragons" you mention have been dead for almost as long ;).

OP is brewing with Briess Pilsen Light DME. Attenuation for Briess DME is well known as Briess includes that information at their web site. For other brands, a fast/forced ferment test will provide the information.

Web search will occasionally show re-posted articles from Zymurgy magazine from the 1990s that list attenuation for extract products of that time period. There were numerous brands (no longer available) that were in the 65% range. Some were lower. Interesting from a historical perspective, but probably not too useful when brewing in the 2020s.

Roger. Thanks for clarifying! I graduated after two extract batches 10 years ago.
 

BrewnWKopperKat

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Roger. Thanks for clarifying! I graduated after two extract batches 10 years ago.
You are welcome.

BTW, the idea of modelling home brewing as levels is on "life support" with a "grim" prognosis. ;) Some amount of home brewing "forum wisdom" seems to lag behind certain books by 3 to 7 years. Let's use Speed Brewing (2015) as an example: an introductory book that describes how to home brew all-grain beer and package it in kegs. It wouldn't be hard to update this introductory book to include recipes for a number of currently popular styles (hazies, pastry stouts, lagers, ...).
 

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Could another issue be the use of extract--not able to mash low for high attenuation? I haven't used extract in forever, so I'm not too sure, but I recall the ballpark mash temp for those being a bit higher than you might want to use on that style if you mashed the grain yourself.

There are a few tricks to get around this. One would be to use a small portion of simple sugars instead of 100% extract. That's part of what the rice is supposed to achieve but it was the wrong form in this case. Rice syrup or rice syrup solids can do it, but there's nothing wrong with dextrose or sucrose. Another is to "mash" your wort with some added amylase enzyme to increase fermentability.
 

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It's good to encourage new brewers to stick with the hobby and work towards brewing exactly the kinds of beers that they like. There is a line between encouragement and setting someone up for failure.

A rather hyperbolic comparison, but if someone who just got into climbing asked a climbing forum why they were unable to summit Everest, I bet none of the replies would talk about any specific aspects of how a successful Everest climb goes.

I understand that no one wants to come off as elitist. My advice for @paulj992 is to understand that light lagers are a difficult style to start with and repeated failures to make an appropriate version may discourage you from sticking with the hobby. You may choose to seek out a couple known good recipes in slightly easier styles to get a few wins and then venture into the harder styles.
 

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Could another issue be the use of extract--not able to mash low for high attenuation? I haven't used extract in forever, so I'm not too sure, but I recall the ballpark mash temp for those being a bit higher than you might want to use on that style if you mashed the grain yourself.
Every time I use briess pilsner dme I have no problem getting a final gravity 1.009-1.011.
 
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paulj992

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Thanks everyone for these great tips! So the carboy is glass with an airlock, so I wrapped it in a towel to keep the light out (got the carboy in a kit from Northern Brewer), and I also sanitized everything involved. But this time I have a hydrometer, and a fermentation cooler to control the temp for the first few days. I'll leave out the flaked rice this time, balance out the hops, and try another simple recipe instead. And I'll get a copy of How To Brew and start reading it.

Thanks,
Paul
 
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paulj992

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You should measure your final gravity with a hydrometer to find out if it is finished or if there is a problem with an unfinished fermentation.

Your high fermentation temperatures (62-72) would not have caused an unfinished fermentation.

You're right, that's what it sounds like: the couple times I tried this, I'm getting unfinished fermentation... I've got a glass carboy sealed with a lid and airlock (in an IPA kit from Northern Brewer), and added a tablespoon of water to the airlock like they said in the instructions; but must not be fermenting right... even the IPA turned out too sweet or unfinished...
 

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Not to mention that starting gravity is too strong for a light lager. 1.5 lbs dme x 45 points per pound in a 1 gallon batch = roughly 1.067. Probably not enough boil hops either with just a few pellets, at that gravity.

Just use 1 lb next time = 1.045 and that will get you much closer. If you want to bump it up closer to 1.050 add a couple ounces of corn sugar like you use for bottling.
 
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Trying to make a simple light American lager using DME extract, but after fermenting for 2 weeks it tastes too sweet; like the yeast was not able to fully ferment the wort. Any tips? I believe I should try to ferment at around 50 to 55 degrees for the lager (the first couple batches were just at room temperature between 62 to 72 degrees), maybe that was the issue? Here's my recipe with a 1 gal. carboy:

- 1.5 lb DME (Briess Pilsen Light)
- 3/4 lb of flaked rice (steeped for 15 minutes and removed)
- just a couple hop pellets for flavor only at 60 minutes

pitched half a 11.5 g pack of Saflager S-23 and let it ferment 2 weeks (covered with a towel, room temp between 62 to 72 degrees)

So it comes out sweet (not like a basic lager like I thought)... This time I'll ferment it between 50 to 55 degrees with a fermentation cooler for the first 4 days. But maybe I should reduce the amount of DME, like less than a pound? I admit I don't know what I'm doing...

Thanks
Alright, let's dive into this without, hopefully, turning you against the pleasures of brewing beer the way you want it to turn out.

1) You have been brewing since 2010? You should have learned how starches are converted by now. You can't add steeped starches to a DME wort and expect them to convert. You need the enzymes provided from real malted barley to convert them or you have to add enzymes to your wort. You need to use an airlock, but if fermentation occurs, then the Co2 will provide a blanket between your wort (ferment) and the air.

2) You need to learn the formulas that tell you how much hops to add as bittering for a cetain style. More bittering helps mask sweetness, less accentuates it. That's why you should shoot for a low FG, so you don't overbitter a light lager.

3) American light lager should be fermented between 52 & 58 degrees...In a temp. controlled enclosure like a refrigetator. This needs to be fairly stable. (2-4 degrees)

4) Light lagers are the MOST susceptible to off flavors. You need to be really clean in your processing. Make sure you are oxygenating properly before the the pitch. Chill quickly-1 gallon shouldn't be too hard to accomplish...

5) You may want to shoot for producing a higher volume of beer. 1 gal. hardly seems like it's hardly worth all that effort.

Hope all this advice helps you out. It is a rewarding hobby when you know the rules...

Just a few tips for ya.
 
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paulj992

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Not to mention that starting gravity is too strong for a light lager. 1.5 lbs dme x 45 points per pound in a 1 gallon batch = roughly 1.067. Probably not enough boil hops either with just a few pellets, at that gravity.

Just use 1 lb next time = 1.045 and that will get you much closer. If you want to bump it up closer to 1.050 add a couple ounces of corn sugar like you use for bottling.
Good point, I believe that was the problem, that I had too much DME for it to convert... that and I made the mistake of uncovering the glass carboy for part of a day, so the light probably stalled the fermentation. Thanks
 
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paulj992

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1) You have been brewing since 2010? You should have learned how starches are converted by now.

Thanks for all the tips. Weird, not sure where it says 2010... I only started learning homebrewing 6 weeks ago from a kit, just two batch attempts so far, so I'm just starting out and have a lot to learn, so I appreciate the help
 

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Good point, I believe that was the problem, that I had too much DME for it to convert... that and I made the mistake of uncovering the glass carboy for part of a day, so the light probably stalled the fermentation. Thanks

The amount of DME just makes it a stronger sweeter beer (which needs more hops to balance). You aren't doing any converting, because that happens in a mash with enzymes. The DME is already converted, and you had no enzymes for your rice. I think you mean too much to ferment, but that's not exactly true either.

Light doesn't stall fermentation, though it does other bad things.
 

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@paulj992 : if you are looking for a 2nd proven recipe for a light American Lager, there is one in Brewing Classic Styles (2007). There is a page of discussion on the process for brewing this beer that will be helpful.

All: Chapter 11 of How to Brew, 4e also has a recipe and process descriptions. It points out where there might be challenges brewing the recipe and offers advice on how handle those challenges.

Much like walking 🚶‍♂️ the full length of the Appalachian Trail 🌄 , the information 📖 needed to brew a light American Lager 🍺 is available from those 🧙‍♂️ who have done it in the past.

eta: editz 4 typohs.
 
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bwible

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Nothing wrong with small batches, and there is a growing number of people doing them. There is a whole thread here - it’s 184 pages as of this writing and an active thread:


Its just tough to jump right in at the 1 gallon point as a new brewer - due to the fact that homebrewers and homebrewing recipes have revolved around 5 gallon batches and 5 gallon recipes since the hobby pretty much began. I always thought it was a decision people made early on as how much beer you get for the amount of effort to be worth it. 5 gallon soda kegs were cheap and plentiful and that probably had something to do with it also back in the day. Who doesn’t want keg beer?

If you’re going to try to make your own recipes you need an understanding of the ingredients and what they contribute and how to use them. A basic book like How To Brew will start you on the path. Another great book is Designing Great Beers by Ray Daniels. Of all the brewing books I’ve owned and read that’s the one I probably got the most out of.

If you can find a library somewhere of 1 gallon recipes that would be useful. Recipe software also helps. There are packages you can buy and there are free online recipe calculators you can use. Beertools.com is one. I started out using their free online version years and years ago when they first came out and then I bought their software. The online version is free. You have to create an account and the free version is limited in the number of ingredients you can have in a recipe. But it will work especially for these extract recipes. There are other choices other people will recommend.

You can also post your recipes here before you brew and people here will help you.

One thing I recommend highly is a good accurate grams/ounces scale if you’re going to be working on 1 gallon recipes. They’ve gotten less expensive over the years and you can probably get one now for $30. You’ll need it to be able to accurately measure tiny quantities of hops. And if you ever want to get into adjusting your water with minerals its needed for that too.

If you ever want to get into kegging they now sell 1 gallon and 1.5 gallon kegs even.

It’s all about what you want to make it.
 

bwible

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I laugh because the first beer I ever tried to make back when I started brewing in 1997 was a lager kit. My favorite beer at that time was Molson Golden. I knew nothing and had no experience and no equipment other than what came in the basic equipment package. I had no brewpot, no wort chiller, etc.

It was a 5 gallon recipe. I used a canned kit and a can of liquid extract. I boiled both cans and a small amount of water in the spaghetti pot from our Revereware set. It might hold a little more than a gallon. I cooled it in the sink. Poured it in my bucket and put about 4 gallons of water on top. At least the homebrew store guy had explained sanitation so my bucket was sanitized. But I used bleach. Fermenter at room temp.

The resulting beer was dark red and nothing like a lager. But I made beer and I was hooked. This Memorial Day will be 25 years since I brewed my first batch. Been a long journey and I’ve learned alot on the way. I say its a hobby with a useful output.
 

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Thanks for all the tips. Weird, not sure where it says 2010... I only started learning homebrewing 6 weeks ago from a kit, just two batch attempts so far, so I'm just starting out and have a lot to learn, so I appreciate the help
I was a bit lost in my own brew there. I misquoted and misinterpreted what Tennesseean said.
Anyway, 1.5#s along with the rice (had it converted) would be waaay too high a gravity for Amer. Light Lager. Also, sunlight wouldn’t stall your fermentation, it would likely speed it up if the temp went up. Sunlight would “skunk” your brew though.
Do you have a good home brew store near you? They would be able to help you as well, with advice as well suggesting some books to study.
Keep Brewing! I was winning blue ribbons after 2 years at it, so it can happen to you as well…
 

BrewnWKopperKat

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I have read that Brooklyn Brew Shop has a book of 1 gallon recipes. Web search on
brooklyn brew shop recipes pdf
got me to a preview of the book. So it looks like it is still available.

As a starting point for converting to one gallon recipes, I find that the "divide by 5" technique works for converting a "five gallon" recipe into a 1 gallon recipe. Details available upon request.
 

BrewnWKopperKat

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@paulj992 : for a scale for 1 gal batches, take a look at "jewelry" scales. These type of scales are intended to accurately weigh small (0.01 gram) amounts. With 1 gal batches, jewelry scales also work well for hops. Be aware that these type of scales can be limited to weighing about 50 grams (2 oz) at a time.
 
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paulj992

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Thanks all for the help. I have now been successful in the last couple extract batches, achieved FG and some pretty good tasting beer, so now I'm hooked... The issues with the first two attempts were: a kit with too much extract and not enough yeast for a 1 gal batch, and the second one was because I attempted a lager without the facilities to keep the right temp for fermentation. But I learned with all your help.
Now I'm graduating to BIAB, got an SS fermenter for larger batches, etc., so thanks to all.
 
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