Getting worse as a homebrewer-1st All Grain=Astringent Taste

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ParanoidAndroid

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So Im getting pretty tired of making shi**y beer. Of the 15-20 batches Ive made, only one is something that I could be proud of. Another one was good, but I tried to replicate it and failed. The first ones were Extract, then I did one MiniMash, and then I did my first all grain last week.

I brewed Lil Sparkys Nut Brown for my first AG batch. I hit the OG of 1.054, hit my preboil volume (6.25 gallons) and post boil volume (5.5 gallons). My boiloff rate is about .75 gallons per hour. So everything looked to be dead on. Before transferring to the secondary, I tasted a sample. It had the same off taste that my other batches had, and also had a terrible mouth puckering astringent taste. The only thing that has been common in all the brews is the water. I use publix brand spring water which has been ozonated, micron filtered, and UV light treated.

At this point im basically pouring money down the drain and am considering just going to one of the local breweries and paying one of the brewers a substantial amount of money to just come over my house and watch me brew. That could end up being cheaper at this rate.

Here are some things that I am wondering if it caused it:

1. The water as mentioned earlier. Its the only constant ingredient bw all batches.

2. My mash temp was hit at 152 as opposed to 154. By the end of the one hour mash, it had dropped to 147.

3. My wort collected was about 5.9 gallons. While that amount was trying to get to a boil, I let the wort contnue to drip into the bottom of the mash tun. I connected a silicon hose with a camlock to the output of the MT, i then created some suction on the end of the hose to get another half gallon (+/-) of wort. This brought my preboil volume to 6.25 gallons. Possible tannin extraction here?

4. My first runnings were always cloudy no many how many times I vorloufed. Some particulate was present no matter what. Does this matter or can I filter the wort preboil?

5. My 3.75 gallons of strike water (60 min) was 168, then leveled out to 152 when grains were added and stirred. My 4.25 gallons of sparge water (10 minutes) was 168 and leveled out to 158. Should my sparge be higher?

6. My strike water and grains were an oatmeal type consistency. Soaked grains with enough water to stir. My sparge was like a soup. Good amount of water in there with the grains. Too much sparge, too little strike? These were right on with the recipe.

7. The recipe called for 6.5 gallons preboil and we both had the same grain bill. Since I knew my boiloff was 0.75 gallons, and not the typical 1-1.25 gallons, I didnt adjust the grain weight any.

8. My ferm chamber had a kolsch in there (also sucks btw), sitting at 38, so it took awhile for the chamber to get up to mid 60's. So the carboy read about 58 deg f for a little while before hitting and staying at 64. Notty yeast.



Other notes:

-I thoroughly clean everything with OxiFree and sanitize with starsan. Oxi was in warm water in my fermenter for an hour, rinsed several times, then starsan left in for an hour....swirled several times.
-I dont know what the setting was on my LHBS grain milller. He just said it was an average setting.
-Single tier brewstand, 2 burners, one march pump. MT is keggle with 4 layers of reflectix. Top and bottoms also have 4 layers.

I seems like a couple things were a little off, but at the same time this should have caused my beer to be a little thin. Its just downright undrinkable.

Any help/comments/insults are greatly appreciated.
 

solbes

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I didn't see anywhere that you measured the pH of your mash? Also are you just adding straight spring water (which could have just about anything in it)? Are you adding Ca and Mg back in? You might try RO water and add back the minerals necessary to bring it into specs. Search for the EZ water calculator spreadsheet thats posted free on this site.

My initial thought is high mash pH. By chance were your one or two good batches stouts or porters?
 
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ParanoidAndroid

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Thanks for the reply.

No, havent done anything with the mash Ph. Just straight Publix Brand Spring Water.

I recently purchased an inline filter along with a pentek chlor10 PAC filter. The purchased water was getting expensive, so I am going to use filtered tap water instead.

My local water place uses chlorine (3.9 ppm) and not chloromine. I am also about to send in my water for analysis. Pre and post filter.

The best batch was an extract nut brown. Decent one was a wheat extract.
 

midfielder5

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Sorry to hear!
I would get a water report from the bottled water you have been using, and plug the numbers of your grist into a spreadsheet to see an estimate of the mash pH.
https://sites.google.com/site/brunwater/

It can be "ozonated, micron filtered, and UV light treated" up the wazoo, -- while nice, it really doesn't matter IMO to us AG brewers because we boil the hell out of it.
We need to know things like pH, Hardness, Alkalinity, Residual Alkalinity, and Mineral Content. https://sites.google.com/site/brunwater/water-knowledge


edit: or do your own water and send it to Ward Labs, as your second post mentioned.
 

finsfan

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Thanks for the reply.

No, havent done anything with the mash Ph. Just straight Publix Brand Spring Water.

I recently purchased an inline filter along with a pentek chlor10 PAC filter. The purchased water was getting expensive, so I am going to use filtered tap water instead.

My local water place uses chlorine (3.9 ppm) and not chloromine. I am also about to send in my water for analysis. Pre and post filter.

The best batch was an extract nut brown. Decent one was a wheat extract.
My best guess is the water. Have you tried a batch with just plain tap water? I know most people will say not to but thats not always the case. I just straight tap water, never measure mash PH and get pretty good brews. I am still starting out so I know things will get better with practice but have never had off flavors like you describe. I know different cities treat their water different but I figured ours wouldnt be great for brewing, it turns out it is! Tallgrass brewing company uses tap water as well.
 

seckert

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i could agree that his PH would be off now that he is AG. OP said that even when he was making extract batches they werent good. When i first started and didnt know anything about water chemistry i made extract with RO water and while the beer isnt as good as it is now, it was decent and drinkable. I have never been one to like spring water's taste anyway so i am guessing there is something else besides the PH that is going on here. I would just brew a batch with water straight from the tap and i am betting money it would come out better. Just my opinion though...
 

GotPushrods

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ParanoidAndroid said:
I am also about to send in my water for analysis. Pre and post filter.
I wouldn't waste my money on sending 2 samples. Most types of basic water filters do not remove the dissolved minerals we worry about. Just taste/odor and particulates. If you end up using at least a portion of tap water you'll probably end up filtering it anyway, so just send a post-filter sample.
 

vinpaysdoc

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I'd second the Bru'n Water recommendation. Also, you might want to consider how tight your crush is. The mouth puckering astringency you have been tasting sounds a lot like tannins. I'm not sure how you managed that with extract, but, with the all-grain batch a high pH and really fine crush made a recent batch of mine most unpleasant and puckering.......
 
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ParanoidAndroid

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Thanks for the help.

The Publix spring water is bottled in lakeland, fl so I have no idea about the chemistry. Just that is filtered.

Ill send one filtered batch off to ward labs since ill be using filtered anyway.

I switched to all grain bc all, except a couple, of extracts had an off flavor. I read where this can be typical using extract, even though many make great beers this way.

Ill also be purchasing a mill so I can have control over the settings on it.
 

finsfan

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Thanks for the help.

The Publix spring water is bottled in lakeland, fl so I have no idea about the chemistry. Just that is filtered.

Ill send one filtered batch off to ward labs since ill be using filtered anyway.

I switched to all grain bc all, except a couple, of extracts had an off flavor. I read where this can be typical using extract, even though many make great beers this way.

Ill also be purchasing a mill so I can have control over the settings on it.
I doubt the mill is the issue since you hit your gravity points. Try a small batch with unfiltered plain tap water, you may be surprised
 
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ParanoidAndroid

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I also forgot to mention that I have used spring water since the beginning because we have really hard water where I live. I have to clean my dogs bowl/keurig/shower and shower heads with CLR fairly often.
 

shadows69

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Here's what happened to me...My mash was cloudy and i didn't think nothing of it. I though well i hit all my temps I must be OK. Then it hit me, my mash didn't seem to be as hot as my temp gauge was telling me. I checked my mash temp with the old style analog type gauge that i knew was spot on. Turns out i was 10 degrees below what i thought was right. Problem solved, new temp gauge and mash was now clear and no more crappy beer. Just throwing that out there.
 

Yooper

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Thanks for the help.

The Publix spring water is bottled in lakeland, fl so I have no idea about the chemistry. Just that is filtered.

Ill send one filtered batch off to ward labs since ill be using filtered anyway.

I switched to all grain bc all, except a couple, of extracts had an off flavor. I read where this can be typical using extract, even though many make great beers this way.

Ill also be purchasing a mill so I can have control over the settings on it.
Instead of Publix spring water, try using reverse osmosis water. They have it in big "water machines" in places like Wal-mart or grocery stores, and I swear every street corner in Texas. It's cheap (around $2 for 6 gallons) and is the perfect brewing water.

Try that before spending more $$$$ and energy tracking down the bad flavors.

If this fixes it, it was the water. If it doesn't, we can start looking at other things.
 

duboman

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Tannin extraction comes from too hot sparge water AND poor mash pH, not one or the other. Over sparging can also cause tannin extraction. Are you sure it's astringency? A puckering type of taste to the beer? Darker specialty grains can make matters worse. In addition, if you are getting a lot of spent grain in the boil you could also be causing astringency. I usually only have to vorleuf about a gallon to get clear runnings. You might want to look into your mash tun set up and see about adjusting your bazooka screen or false bottom, maybe the holes are just too big or there's a gap?
 

acidrain

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Do you add direct fired heat while mashing? I have had scorching issues, which don't really taste burnt... they taste like malty yuck.

I doubt it's your grain crush.
I doubt it's your water unless it's way off. If it's off, PH could be factor.

How"s the attenuation? If it's fermenting to expected FG, then mashing too hot is not an issue.
 

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Is it possible you are mashing higher than you think? Thermometers can sometimes read correctly at freezing and boiling temps, but be off where you need them to be accurate:148-160. My first couple all grain batches suffered from a bad thermometer. Bought a Traceable digital one and have been happy since. Good luck!
 

gwapogorilla

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I am not as experienced as others here, but I have a few suggestions as well.
IMO, your boil off rate of .75 gallons per hour seems low. It sounds like what I use to get while trying to boil on the stove top. If this is what your doing, I recommend full volume boiling on a BIG L.P. cooker done outside. Most of us in here are around 1.25 gallons evaporation per hour.

It also sounds like your trying to hard for extraction from your tun. If you increase the amount of sparge water a little, the extra effort won't be needed.

What of your hot break? Getting it all boiled out? Not boiling out the hot break can cause off flavors too, as well as cloudy beers. I speak from experience.

I agree with Yooper, get some RO water, but also use your tap water too. I would go 50/50 with it. It will only be a few bucks added to your cost, and I have read that some hardness to the water is a good thing.

I also use a digital thermometer, so my readings are quick and accurate. This helps A LOT!

Your mash is dropping in temp from stirring too often. I preheat mine by pouring in 3 gallons of boiling water, put the lid on, and letting it set while I heat my dough in water. I have done this enough so I have gotten my water temps dialed in right down the the exact temp I need to mash and sparge. But when mashing, if you open your lid, count on your temp dropping a good 1.5 degrees next time you check it. I no longer check my mash temp. It only drops 1 to 1.5 degrees in 60 minutes "IF" I don't open the lid.

Lastly, stick to a "tried and true" recipe. Yooper, Biermuncher and Ed all have some EASY and GOOD recipes tried by dozens...if not HUNDREDS of people. They are also good folk, so if you have questions, you can ask them directly.
 
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ParanoidAndroid

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Thanks for the suggestions!

I have a single tier brewstand with regular keggles and BG14 burners. I know my boiloff rate is low, but honestly dont know why. Well, i take that back....I havent attached my wind screens yet, so that could be a source.

Everything I have is from BobbyM's Brewhardware (false bottom, valves, analog thermometers, etc). Its the top of the line kits for each vessel. Would layering the top of the false bottom with cheese cloth, or paint strainer, help with keeping husks out, or is that too restrictive?

My Mash Tun isnt direct heated right now, but I am piping it for one, and will have another bg14 soon to keep on low in case my temps sink too much.

Ill try some different thermometers, but I dont think that a few degree lower mash would cause these type of flavors. I also had them side by side with another therm before installation and they were within 0.5 deg f.

Im going with the water suggestion for the next brew. I am sending off a water analysis on friday to Wardlabs. Does RO water need any minerals added since that process basically removes everything?

BTW, I had a somewhat related question.....

I've seen homebrewers end up with too much water at the end of the regular 60 minute boil and they will say to just keep boiling to boiloff the water to get to 5.5 gallons (or however much). How does this affect bittering, taste, and aroma hops? Say you boiled for an extra 30 minutes to get the desired volume. Now your 60 minute hops are 90 minute, 30 are 60, 15 are 45, and 5 are 35.
 

beertroll

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There's a great thread on water chemistry over in the brew science forum. It's a long read, but there's a ton of good info. I used that as my jumping off point. I use distilled water (no RO machines at the grocery stores here), and as a basic template I add 1 tsp CaCl and 1/2 tsp gypsum per 5 gallons of water. If I'm brewing an IPA, I go heavier on the gypsum. If I'm brewing something very malt forward, I'll go heavier on the CaCl. If I'm using all pale malt, I'll usually add 1 CC of lactic acid as well. If you're using any dark grains, the lactic isn't needed.
 

Jayhem

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I also forgot to mention that I have used spring water since the beginning because we have really hard water where I live. I have to clean my dogs bowl/keurig/shower and shower heads with CLR fairly often.
Contrary to popular belief, really hard water is not necessarily a bad thing in brewing. Just look at some of the water profiles in Europe (ie: Burton). It's off the charts hard!

The effect of the hardness and Alkalinity on mash and sparge pH is of concern. A $22 water report on your water from Ward Labs and plugging the numbers into Bru'n water's spreadsheet will tell the tale.

I found that my well water is borderline for mashing without acid or gypsum additions and my sparge water will be above 6.0 when sparging light grain bills so I have acidify my sparge now!

Now even though everyone is pointing at your water, you didn't really tell us how you ferment. Do you use temp control? What temp do you ferment at? Notty yeast likes to be in the low 60's for the first 5 days of fermentation to avoid harsh tastes!
 
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ParanoidAndroid

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Contrary to popular belief, really hard water is not necessarily a bad thing in brewing. Just look at some of the water profiles in Europe (ie: Burton). It's off the charts hard!

The effect of the hardness and Alkalinity on mash and sparge pH is of concern. A $22 water report on your water from Ward Labs and plugging the numbers into Bru'n water's spreadsheet will tell the tale.

I found that my well water is borderline for mashing without acid or gypsum additions and my sparge water will be above 6.0 when sparging light grain bills so I have acidify my sparge now!

Now even though everyone is pointing at your water, you didn't really tell us how you ferment. Do you use temp control? What temp do you ferment at? Notty yeast likes to be in the low 60's for the first 5 days of fermentation to avoid harsh tastes!
I mentioned earlier about my ferm process. I have a dedicated freezer with 2 stage johnson control. The initial few hours were at 58 due to a kolsch sitting in there and the freezer not warming up fast enough. However it sat at a constant 64 for the next week. I think the colder temperature caused a later fermentation start. Last time I used notty, it took off within 10 hours. This time launch wasnt active till about 30 hours later, though activity was present around 20 hours.

No starter was used since its a dry yeast, but it was activated using warm water a little while before pitching.
 

EarlyAmateurZymurgist

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I doubt the mill is the issue since you hit your gravity points. Try a small batch with unfiltered plain tap water, you may be surprised
Hitting the correct gravity is not an indication that the mill used to crush the grain is set correctly. In fact, the roller gap on any mill that allows a beginning all-grain brew to achieve an extraction rate of much more than 24 to 25 gravity points per pound per gallon on his/her first batch is probably set too tight. The runnings from properly crushed malt should be particulate free and clear after vorlaufing less than a gallon. If the runnings do not run clear after this volume has been vorlaufed, then the crush is too fine, the mash contains unconverted starch, or the brewer is disturbing the mash bed.
 

EarlyAmateurZymurgist

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Is there a reason why you are using bottled water? Most well and public water supplies can be used to make good beer. I have never used bottled water. The public water supply that fed the home in which I lived when I first started to brew over twenty ago was amazingly soft; however, like most municipal water supplies it contained chlorine. A simple portable activated charcoal filter fixed that problem. The home in which I currently live has a deep well. The water contains iron and manganese, but it still produces good tasting beer. I filter all of my brewing water with the same portable activated charcoal filter that I used at my old home. It doesn't remove the iron or the manganese, but it does remove organic matter.

One more thing: I know that it may seem quaint in the age of brewing software, but you really should consider keeping a paper-based brewing log in which you document everything, and I mean everything related to your home brewery. If you make a starter, then you notate the date, time, volume, yeast culture, and starter wort composition in your log book. If you make a batch a beer, then it goes into your log book. Any changes to your brew house should also be notated. You should also document the daily behavior of starters and fermentations. Troubleshooting any science-based problem requires one to keep good notes. One needs to adopt the mindset that anything that was not documented did not happen. I have log books going back over twenty years that I can use to troubleshoot problems.
 
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ParanoidAndroid

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Hitting the correct gravity is not an indication that the mill used to crush the grain is set correctly. In fact, the roller gap on any mill that allows a beginning all-grain brew to achieve an extraction rate of much more than 24 to 25 gravity points per pound per gallon on his/her first batch is probably set too tight. The runnings from properly crushed malt should be particulate free and clear after vorlaufing less than a gallon. If the runnings do not run clear after this volume has been vorlaufed, then the crush is too fine, the mash contains unconverted starch, or the brewer is disturbing the mash bed.
This is one thing that has confused me on Batch vs Fly Sparging. The grain bed being disturbed. In batch sparging you (at least i did) add strike water (say 3 gallons) then stir and sit for an hour, vourlaf, drain, then add sparge water (say 4 gallons) stir and sit for 10 minutes, vourlaf, drain. The bed is being disturbed throughout this process. My sparge step was a soupy mixture (as opposed to the oatmeal type consistency of the strike) where the grains could move around freely. Why is it ok for this disturbance in Batch but not fly?

Is there a reason why you are using bottled water? Most well and public water supplies can be used to make good beer. I have never used bottled water. The public water supply that fed the home in which I lived when I first started to brew over twenty ago was amazingly soft; however, like most municipal water supplies it contained chlorine. A simple portable activated charcoal filter fixed that problem. The home in which I currently has a deep well. The water contains iron and manganese, but it still produces good tasting beer. I filter all of my brewing water with the same portable activated charcoal filter that I used at my old home. It doesn't remove the iron or the manganese, but it does remove organic matter.

One more thing: I know that it may seem quaint in the age of brewing software, but you really should consider keeping a paper-based brewing log in which you document everything, and I mean everything related to your home brewery. If you make a starter, then you notate the date, time, volume, yeast culture, and starter wort composition in your log book. If you make a batch a beer, then it goes into your log book. Any changes to your brew house should also be notated. You should also document the daily behavior of starters and fermentations. Troubleshooting any science-based problem requires one to keep good notes. One needs to adopt the mindset that anything that was not documented did not happen. I have log books going back over twenty years that I can use to troubleshoot problems.
I used the bottled because I have hard water. I figured it made a difference in the beginning stages of extract brewing. So I kept using it thinking it was ok.
 

GotPushrods

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I used the bottled because I have hard water. I figured it made a difference in the beginning stages of extract brewing. So I kept using it thinking it was ok.
The term "bottled water" means nothing as to mineral content. It is just a fancy bottled up filtered water that will taste good. They are bottled all over the world using the source water available. Some are soft, some are hard with a good amount of alkalinity. They have quite a range.

There have been so many suggestions here... I would just GO SIMPLE and eliminate the water variable next time by using the Water Primer thread in the Brewing Science section. RO water with a tsp of CaCl2 and 2% acid malt. Brew a simple pale ale and focus on eliminating complexity until you can repeatably brew a good, simple beer.
 
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Do all your beers have an astringent taste?
If so, I'd suggest that #3 in your list is a big contributor. After you vorlauf & drain your sparge water into your BK that should be it. Collecting the "extra" wort will add extracted tannins.
Also, your sparge water temp does seem a bit low. You want it to be 168-170.
 

beertroll

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This is one thing that has confused me on Batch vs Fly Sparging. The grain bed being disturbed. In batch sparging you (at least i did) add strike water (say 3 gallons) then stir and sit for an hour, vourlaf, drain, then add sparge water (say 4 gallons) stir and sit for 10 minutes, vourlaf, drain. The bed is being disturbed throughout this process. My sparge step was a soupy mixture (as opposed to the oatmeal type consistency of the strike) where the grains could move around freely. Why is it ok for this disturbance in Batch but not fly?
That disturbance is totally normal for a batch sparge. You don't want to add your sparge water so roughly that you get a bunch of foam, but it's inevitable that the bed will get stirred up. The grain bed settles back down while you do your sparge vorlauf. It's also pretty common for your batch sparge to use more water than your mash.

Fly sparging is just very different mechanically. With a batch sparge, you're rinsing your grain in one quick go, but with a fly sparge you're slowly and continuously rinsing over a long period of time. Fly sparging doesn't use a second vorlauf because you're rinsing as you drain. If you disturb the grain bed during a fly sparge, you'll get grainy bits in your wort.
 

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Don't get discouraged. It seems like you are pretty committed to solving the problem so I'm sure you'll be making great beer in no time. Pick a simple recipe, and do some small batches with one variable change in each. Water is a good place to start.

I had similar frustration with my pale ales. I did a series of experimental batches to rule out oxidation, mash pH, etc. then I brewed a few single hop batches and identified the problem as hop variety/amount. The smaller batches helped reduce disappointment when I didn't find my answer. And the simple consistent recipe helped me be sure I was ruling out a variable each time, this making it feel productive even when it didn't result in great beer.
 
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