Difference between mine & commercial

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chatsprint

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Curious if anyone has a simple explanation regarding the differences I notice between my homebrewed beers and quality micro-brew versions of the same style.

The most obvious style to me is a simple red ale.

Have brewed both extract and BIAB partial mash recipes from a couple well known suppliers. Always patient, generally 3 weeks in the primary, 3-4 more weeks bottle conditioning. Healthy fermentations, temperatures within 3-4* of recommended temperatures.

The commercial versions seem to be lighter in the mouth, crisper on the tongue without much lingering of flavor on the palate.

My versions seem to be richer, sweeter with a bolder aftertaste.

I truly like mine better, possibly because of a fondness for sweets but also there seems to be a fuller body to the beer I brew, which I appreciate.

Am I failing to get good attenuation ?
Should a red ale lack a full bodied sweetness ?
Are the commercial versions deliberately that much "softer" to appeal to the lighter beer drinkers ?
 

hautlle

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It's more difficult to control the body of your beers when using extract. When doing an all-grain brew you can adjust the mash temperature to control the fermentability of your wort and the body of your finished beer.
 

daksin

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True- and extract conversions of all-grain beers will typically finish with more body/residual sugar and sweetness than the all-grain original. This is because the enzymes in the base malt will also work on the specialty malts (steeping grains) to turn them into fermentable sugars. You can use a yeast with more attenuation to compensate.

Are you fermenting at the correct temperature, pitching the correct number of cells (starters), and oxygenating your wort properly? Those three things will help your beers attenuate properly and give you fantastic results. Don't make any changes to your process or equipment until you can do those things.
 

hercher

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And yes, commercial beers tend to be a little lighter. They have to sell their beer, and thus have to appeal to a lower common denominator than you do. You brew for a market of one.
 
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chatsprint

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Are you fermenting at the correct temperature, pitching the correct number of cells (starters), and oxygenating your wort properly? Those three things will help your beers attenuate properly and give you fantastic results. Don't make any changes to your process or equipment until you can do those things.
Not maintaining optimum temps all the time, but manage to stay within a couple degrees of recommended for the most part.

Making a starter from single packs of liquid yeast 18-24 hours before pitching.
My brews all run 1.060 or below, assumed one pack was sufficient.
Although I don't utilize a stir plate, the yeast seems to be very active at pitch time.

Oxygenating manually only. 5-10 minutes of robust shaking/swirling of the wort in the carboy.

Certainly my equipment & techniques could be improved upon.

I'll try to put more effort into calculating efficiencies
 

sumone

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As far as oxygen goes, one thing that I have started doing is pouring my wort into my bottling bucket first. Then since i brew partial boil (only 5gal pot) I top up with water and let it "fall" into the primary... If you use carboys you can attach your tube and just shake it back and forth inside the carboy. Seems to work very well for me and no more trying to shake big heavy glass bottles around!
 

daksin

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So there are all incremental improvements you can make. Temperature control will be the most noticeable right away. As far as yeast go, make sure you're making the correct size starter based on a pitching rate calculator like yeastcalc.com or mrmalty. Manual oxygenation is good, pure O2 is better, but I'd put that 3rd in line.
 

Piratwolf

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So there are all incremental improvements you can make. Temperature control will be the most noticeable right away. As far as yeast go, make sure you're making the correct size starter based on a pitching rate calculator like yeastcalc.com or mrmalty. Manual oxygenation is good, pure O2 is better, but I'd put that 3rd in line.
This is excellent advice. A big-bodied beer with lots of rich malt flavor is often under attenuated, and that all has to do with the things that daksin posted above!
 

Homercidal

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The BJCP calls for a med-light go medium body and a dry finish.

I say if you like your beer better, then I wouldn't change anything, but it's also assumed by many that an extract beer usually has more body due to the processing of the malt. An AG brewer might mash lower to get a beer with less body. An extract brewer could try a different yeast, although that has the problem maybe not getting the yeast character you are looking for.

An alternative might be to try some rice or corn adjunct, or even a bit of plain sugar, to help dry it out some.

I'm with you on preferring a bit of sweetness. If you like it, why worry?
 

zachattack

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I just figured I'd echo what a couple other posters mentioned:

Not maintaining optimum temps all the time, but manage to stay within a couple degrees of recommended for the most part.
Do you mean you're staying within a couple degrees of the recommended range for the yeast, or within a couple degrees of your target? I mean, if you're aiming to ferment at 65 are you actually measuring the beer at 63-67, or do you mean if Wyeast recommends 64-72 degrees you're maintaining 62-74? These are two very different things. Regardless, if you're on the high end of the yeast's range that can definitely give you some different flavors than you're intending.

Depending on the strain, I wouldn't consider "within a couple degrees most of the time" to be very good control at all. Actively controlling the fermentation temperature is one of the most important things any brewer (novice or advanced, extract or AG) can do.

re: your yeast, I'd recommend following the calculator at mrmalty.com every time. As daksin recommended.

:mug:
 
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