Guys: Help me out with a pale beer issue...

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kenlenard

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We have been discussing this on another board and I want to bounce it around with you guys. I have an issue that I occasionally get on pale beers where the beer is harsh-tasting, grainy, husky, cloudy, etc. This does not happen on my amber or darker beers and it doesn't happen on all pale beers. My process for almost all pale batches is to mash with 4 gallons of water which may be 50-75% distilled water and the rest is filtered tap water (Ca 34, Mg 12, Na 9, Cl 21, SO4 27, Bicarb 138), add calcium chloride and/or gypsum depending on the beer, check the pH of the mash, knock it down with lactic acid if necessary, etc. I am using a Milwaukee PH55 meter that has shown signs of not being overly reliable at times. But here's the issue: When I batch sparge, I usually have another 4 gallons of water that have not been adjusted... no salts, no acid, etc. I add that to the MT after the first runnings have been drained and I check the pH of the sparge which may take 10-15 minutes. I heat my sparge water to 150-160°... never hotter. The time frame from adding the sparge water to the grains until I'm done recircing and draining might be 20 minutes total. Does anyone think that 4 gallons of 150-160° water with a pH between 6.6 (my tap water) and 7.0 (the pH of distilled water) being added to the pale grain bill of a helles, pils, American wheat, blonde ale, kolsch, etc. could bring out tannins that would create this character? Some brewing buds have suggested acidifying the sparge water before heating it and getting it to 5.5. I did this on a pilsner I made last Friday and it's in primary at the moment. There might be some information I left out here but if anyone has a definitive answer for the cause of this issue, please post. I have read that excessive tannin extraction is a product of all three of these: high mash/sparge temp PLUS a ph over 6.0 PLUS some amount of time. Also... this character makes the beer anywhere from mildly unpleasant to downright undrinkable. A harsh, sharp finish to the beer, a haze that won't ever disappear and that husky & grainy flavor. Thanks gang.

EDIT: If I measure the pH of the sparge and it's approaching 6.0 or over it, I hit it with lactic acid but it still might take 10-15 minutes before I have that reading. Also, I have been in the habit of making sure my preboil kettle pH is in the mid 5s. So I do not boil at high pH but that sparge could be sitting at the higher-than-desired pH for the 15-20 mins.
 

showcow

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I'd say it's definitely the sparge water.
With respect to tannin extraction, I think any brewers would agree that ph control (under 6 at least) is more important than temperature (the 170 figure we always hear).

Also, pale malts do not have as many melanoidens (which are acidic) so this probably explain why when you have more specialty grains or roasted grains, this isn't a problem for you. Thoss grains help to buffer your batch sparge. However, with a pale grist you have to be especially careful about the ph getting too high.

I would definitely second your friends suggestion. This is what I do:

Mash as usual, 5.3-5.5pH. Heat your sparge water (and don't be afraid of aiming for a resulting temp of 168ish after adding sparge water to the mash, because I really doubt temp is the problem and this will raise your efficiency, or you could lauter faster and have the same efficiency). Take a sample of the sparge water and cool to room temp. Measure ph. Use bru'n water or some other software to calculate acid addition for this sparge water. Don't just take the ph of your tap water, because it will change after heating and cooling.

Add acid to sparge water to 5.8 or so and batch sparge.

I do this to all beers just to be safe. Do you ever have amber-ish beers that end up more bitter than you expect, or having a mouthfeel thinner than the final gravity suggests? These would also be symptoms of a potential tannin/pH issue.


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showcow

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Forgot to mention also that I head this issue -the first batch I tried to control the water with. I didn't know enough, and I didn't have a ph meter (used strips). It was an American wheat, and it's still the only batch I've ever dumped without a second thought! Ph was high the whole mash and I didn't have any acid to adjust...


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kenlenard

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Okay, thanks for the help. It's a bit of a head-scratcher and some brewers are convinced that batch sparge pH would not cause this issue but I see nothing else in my process to point to. I'm grabbing this sparge pH as my issue and plan to make a few upcoming pale beers to put 'sparge acidification' to the test.
 

Kingbogart

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From what I've read and seen you are more correct. I haven't seen anyone overly concerned with their pH while batch sparging. As the sparging progresses, fly sparging will continue to strip sugars away raising pH consistently. If you get too low you will start to extract tannins. The process allows for higher (supposedly) efficiency but runs a risk of over extraction. With batch sparging, because of the stirring and redistribution it seems fewer people have issue with tannin extraction in batch sparging unless you are significantly over sparging.
 

Kingbogart

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Also you mentioned a high amount of Pilsner, could the off-flavor you're describing be DMS? Many people will mash and boil longer, generally 90 min for each to drive off DMS in high pilsner grists
 
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kenlenard

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Also you mentioned a high amount of Pilsner, could the off-flavor you're describing be DMS? Many people will mash and boil longer, generally 90 min for each to drive off DMS in high pilsner grists
No. I don't get DMS in my beers (a sort of cooked-corn flavor) but I have experienced it in some homebrews and also commercial beers. I appreciate that though because the thought did not occur to me.
 

Hopper5000

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I would be less worried about the pH level and more worried about the bicarb level as that seems a bit high to me. Acidifying should eliminate some of that bicarb also. This should get your pH in the proper level and should make your light beers taste better.
 
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kenlenard

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I would be less worried about the pH level and more worried about the bicarb level as that seems a bit high to me. Acidifying should eliminate some of that bicarb also. This should get your pH in the proper level and should make your light beers taste better.
Well, this is one reason I dilute (actually the only reason...) to lower the bicarb. But Martin has also mentioned that adding acid and lowering the pH will actually 'neutralize' the bicarb so I'm in a transition period of using A LOT of distilled water and going to less distilled and possibly none or just very little.
 

showcow

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Decide where you want your mineral levels in the beer (calcium for yeast health, sulfate to chloride ratio, etc) and dilute to that point.. then still, you must acidify the sparge water.

I really don't understand why many brewers feel the water profile of the sparge water doesn't matter if they batch sparge. It's still water, it's still going in the beer, it's still having a pH effect on the mash, it's still changing the mineral profile and finished ph of the wort, and it's still rinsing the grain whether you're rinsing it constantly or all at once - so treat it properly by acidifying and also adding calcium as desired for yeast health ( either to the kettle or to the sparge water, though from what I've read it dissolves more predictably in the kettle).


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kenlenard

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Decide where you want your mineral levels in the beer (calcium for yeast health, sulfate to chloride ratio, etc) and dilute to that point.. then still, you must acidify the sparge water.

I really don't understand why many brewers feel the water profile of the sparge water doesn't matter if they batch sparge. It's still water, it's still going in the beer, it's still having a pH effect on the mash, it's still changing the mineral profile and finished ph of the wort, and it's still rinsing the grain whether you're rinsing it constantly or all at once - so treat it properly by acidifying and also adding calcium as desired for yeast health ( either to the kettle or to the sparge water, though from what I've read it dissolves more predictably in the kettle).


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I completely agree with you and I have no answer as to why there is a feeling that batch sparge conditions cannot alter beer character in an adverse way. I do not pretend to know all of these variables but at some point, personal experience (many years of it, btw) has to trump what people are saying on a forum so I hear you loud and clear. As far as mineral content, I have water that is pretty low in every ion except for bicarb. So if and when I dilute, it's to reduce that number (138). Then all of my other low numbers are even lower so I use CaCl and CaSO4 to adjust the flavor profile of the beer (crisp, smooth, etc) and boost my calcium. I boost those numbers into a modest range... I do not excced 100ppm on any ion unless I am making a darker beer with all tap water... in that case my bicarb would still be 138. Thanks for the help... I'm as determined as ever to try a few more pale batches and see how this goes. Cheers.
 

showcow

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Sounds like you're spot on. I'm really betting that this last batch that you treated the sparge water will be tasty! Report back, good luck!


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kenlenard

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Thanks again for the help. I will report back after a couple of batches of helles, kolsch, pilsner, blonde ale, American wheat, etc., etc. :)
 

showcow

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No ipa's?! Funny, I love them, but in addition to that, it's all swmbo will drink do I tend to brew lots of them. When I hear pale beer that's what immediately comes to mind for me! I guess that's a high quality problem though ;)

And don't forget about saisons!


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kenlenard

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Not really into IPAs, stouts, porters or Belgians. When I tell other brewers and beer geeks that, they can't believe it. I like German Lagers, American styles like APAs, Red Lagers and Ales, Amber Lagers and Ales, Blonde ales and also English styles like EPA, Bitter, ESB, etc. I do make a hoppy pale ale (5 ounces in 5 gallons) that my wife likes... Amarillo and Citra added late. Cheers.
 

showcow

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Hey make what you like! I seem to never have any beers past ~20 srm, so I can understand omitting styles for sure. I justlovehops! Have you tried an English dark mild? I think you might dig it, even though it's dark it isn't all that toasty, just very malty.


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kenlenard

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Yes, an English Mild is nice. I have no issue with dark beers... I make some American Dark Lagers, Mexican Viennas (Jamil's Vienna recipe is nice) and other stuff. They're not black like a stout but they're dark. Midnight Wheat, Dehusked/Debittered Black malt and Carafa Special are staples in my brewery.
 
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