I messed up my first all-grain beer. What did I do wrong?

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bartosz1313

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I'm more of a wine guy, but recently I tried making beer. I have been using kits to make 5 gallons of beer, but I found that that's a lot of freakin beer and I want to experiment. So I picked up two 1 gallon carboys and started looking for random recipes. The first one I found was for a riverwalk Czech amber lager. Needless to say, it came out like crap. It was watery, felt like it didn't ferment all the way through (I didn't record the OG and FG because up until this point it was fine without doing it, but from this point on I probably will). I took the bill that was made for 5 gallons and I divided it by 5 so everything is measured out for 1 gallon and made the modifications I needed to make. Here is the original: Riverwalk Czech Amber Lager Recipe

Here's mine:
MALT/GRAIN BILL
  • 0.6 lb Maris Otter malt
  • 0.6 lb Floor-malted Pilsner malt
  • 0.3 lb Munich malt
  • 0.1 lb 50/60L Crystal malt
  • 0.1 lb Melanoidin malt
  • 0.1 lb Chocolate malt
HOPS SCHEDULE
  • 0.4 oz Saaz at 45 minutes
  • 0.2 oz Saaz at 15 minutes
YEAST: Safale US-05 (The packet said 11.5g for 5 ish gallons so I sprinkled in 1/5 of the packet)

I did it sort of based on how I saw people brew with brew bags on youtube and how I have been doing it with these kits that have been turning out so damn good. What I did, and probably somewhere here is where I messed up:
  1. I don't have a grail mill (yet), so I took the malts and threw them into a bag, and crushed them with a rolling pin.
  2. Threw them all into a brew bag
  3. Threw the brew bag into a gallon or so of water (not reverse osmosis or anything fancy), and I let the bag sit in the water at a temp I monitored with a thermometer at something in the order of 160 degrees for about 75 minutes with the lid on.
  4. I boiled the wort for 60 minutes, throwing the hops in according to the schedule
  5. let it cool it room temp
  6. Threw it in my fermenter and topped off the water that boiled off with more water
  7. Threw the yeast in as I described above
  8. Let it sit for a week in my 65F ish basement. The kits I made had the beer bubbling like crazy, which this beer was not. I don't even remember it bubbling. There was a faint taste of beer though, so I didn't think much of it.
  9. Syphoned it into a different bottle and added 21g of corn sugar for conditioning, and sealed it off (still in my basement).
2-3 weeks later, it's not good. No head, kinda watery, hazy, has that "wort sweetness" hint to it. I can guess a few of the things I did wrong here, but I want some input from people who know more than me. I'm not overly concerned here, it's only a gallon and experimenting is kind of what the goal here was anyway. Where did I go wrong? Rip me to shred if you must.
 

GoodTruble

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Did your yeast ever grow/multiply? -Was there any trub on the bottom of the fermenter? It sounds like maybe your yeast simply failed.
 

mashpaddled

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I would guess it's a problem with the grain crush. If you don't have a sufficient crush then only a small amount of the water soluble starches are released and cannot convert to sugar. You can still extract flavor but just not a lot in the way of sugar to become alcohol. That will give you kind of a beer flavored fizzy water.

It is possible that your yeast failed but if there wasn't a lot of sugar in the wort then there wouldn't be much fermentation with healthy yeast.

Did you take any gravity readings? That would help diagnose whether it was a problem with the grain.
 

Toxxyc

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OK, wait, slow down and stop. Your answer to "what did I do wrong" is "a lot". Let me break it down:

1. Grain crush. You can't crush it well enough with the rolling pin, really. If you don't have a mill, ask your local homebrew shop to mill for you. It's not perfect, but it's damn good compared to a rolling pin crush. In a real pinch, a coffee grinder on a coarse setting also works.
2. You don't put the grains into the brew bag and then into the strike water, you put the grain bag in the strike water and then add the grains to that.
3. You mention "a gallon or so" of water, and then "160F or so" of temp. Was the water 160F BEFORE adding the grains, or the whole shebang 160F AFTER adding the grains? If before, you may just be on the money with the mash temps. If after, you probably cooked a lot of your enzymes, which would explain an unfermentable wort. Also, you need to focus on numbers. Not "160F or so", but rather "161F exactly". Your grain has numerous enzymes in them which works to create various different things, so an exact temp helps.
4. This seems fine, although the type and amount of hops is critical.
5. Seems fine. Did you cool in the pot, with the lid on, or in another container?
6. Oof. How much water did you add to the fermenter? I suspect you watered down the whole thing here so far that you ended up with the watery drink and that's a huge part of your problem.
7. At what temperature, what yeast and how much did you add? If you added yeast to the boiling water solution, you probably cooked and killed it.
8. Seems fine. Lack of bubbling doesn't indicate fermentation, keep that in mind. I've had a mead go from 1.081OG all the way down to 0.996 without a single bubble in the airlock. Fermentation vessels leak. Often.
9. Into what bottle did you siphon? All into one big bottle? Careful, 21g might be a lot for the headspace and you could risk a bottle bomb.

Also, not ripping you to shreds, just want to say "follow the instructions". I can now make a batch of beer from memory, without looking at a single number (except weighing out the hops) because I know my equipment well enough, and the beer it produces is consistently good. You'll get there. Crawl before you run, young Brewdawan.
 

madscientist451

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2-3 weeks later, it's not good. No head, kinda watery, hazy, has that "wort sweetness" hint to it. I can guess a few of the things I did wrong here, but I want some input from people who know more than me. I'm not overly concerned here, it's only a gallon and experimenting is kind of what the goal here was anyway. Where did I go wrong? Rip me to shred if you must.
What went wrong? Grain crush was probably a problem, conversion during the mash was likely minimal, the yeast didn't have much to work on, if you took a gravity reading and found low gravity, you could have added some sugar or extract to salvage the batch.
Recipe Choice: Put aside making lagers until you have some more experience/equipment, just make some simple ales and dial in your process.
Grain crush: There are several brewers here on HBT that use a food processor or a Corona mill (usually used for bread making) as their grain mill.
Strike water: Don't guess, use an on line strike water calculator
Batch size: Its difficult to maintain BIAB mash temps with very small batches, 2 gallon batches would be better or if you have a sous-vide device you can mash 1 gallon batches in large zip-lock bags.


Equipment: Sure you can brew in a 8qt spaghetti pot, but for $20 you can get a 16 quart pot, for another $20 you can get a 3 gallon plastic carboy and for $10 you can get an auto siphon. If you're frugal keep an eye on craigslist or FB for used gear; you don't need all that much, but you do need a few basic things.

Sanitation: Get some star-san. I mix up 2.5 gallons of it and keep it in a bucket w/lid. You can re-use it many times. Get used to a cleaning routine,
you can't sanitize something that isn't cleaned first.

Information: You've already seen videos on YouTube, keep watching those, check out the Book "how to brew" there's a free on line version bit the hard copy has updates.
 
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bartosz1313

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I think so, too
There was trub at the bottom, but I have no clue if it grew. Again, that airlock didn't bubble at all it seemed pretty weak. I actually took that beer and threw it back into the carboy and added more yeast to see what it would do and it's still not doing anything. You think the yeast packet may just be dead?
 
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bartosz1313

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What was the temp. when yeast was added?

Also, a lager requires lagering which you didn't do. Try a different beer type ;) brown ale, pale, ipa, stout, wheat, ...
about 70 degrees or so, the basement is at like 65 degrees.
 

micraftbeer

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One thing that said out to me is you said you cooled at room temp before pitching yeast. If it was too hot, you could've killed all the yeast when you pitched them in.

If you're doing nothing to actively cool down, you'd need to sit for hours until it would be cool enough for your yeast.
 

TwistedGray

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@bartosz1313 Adding MORE yeast is not going to solve the problem if the beer was at the proper temperature range when you pitched the yeast initially (and assuming the yeast were healthy to begin with). If it was at 70F then it's highly unlikely a yeast issue. Dry yeast? If so, rehydrate next time (there are instructions usually on the backside of the packet).

Based on your reply though, this points to a grain issue in my opinion, as well as others above me (lack of sugars to be converted to alcohol). With that said, can you buy your grain milled? If not, revert back to extract or partial mash kit beers. OR buy a grain mill and do it yourself : )

Andddddddd to repeat what I already said, don't do another lager until you are set up to do lagers.
 

hotbeer

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Room temp to touch can be quite a bit over room temp. So that's why you are getting some grief on that from some. I too would like to know that the temp of your wort was from an actual measurement and not a guess.

I would have pitched more yeast instead of 1/5 of the packet.

For a 1 gallon batch being your first time with all grain, you might just try a kit with everything pre measured. This place is specifically geared for the noob brewing one gallon all grain batches.....
 

GoodTruble

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There was trub at the bottom, but I have no clue if it grew. Again, that airlock didn't bubble at all it seemed pretty weak. I actually took that beer and threw it back into the carboy and added more yeast to see what it would do and it's still not doing anything. You think the yeast packet may just be dead?

Okay. If there was trub, then the yeast likely did something. So I defer to others' guesses about grain and water ratios.
 

Jim R

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I bet you would have had a very good beer if you would have just spent one week reading and studying John Palmer's How to Brew book ($16 on amazon). I also bet that your next beer will be very good too if you don't skip this important step. All of the little things add up to make a big difference.
 

BrewnWKopperKat

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For a shorter read, the 1st two chapters of Speed Brewing cover a 2 gal BIAB process (using 1.75 gal kegs for packaging).

Where did I go wrong?
@CycleDex (#2) @Toxxyc (#7), @madscientist451 (#8), and @Jim R (#15) offer good advice.

Distilled / RO water and this article on "water chemistry" (link) will help set up the conditions for a good mash.

To maintain a stable mash temperature either 1) insulate the kettle (Reflectix, sleeping bag, cover the lid with towels) or 2) put the kettle in an oven preheated to about 160F.

Get a hydrometer. If using 4 oz of beer for a hydrometer measurement is a concern, get a refractomenter. If you get a refractometer, FG measurements must be adjusted for the presence of alcohol.

The absence of airlock bubbles is not helpful in troubleshooting. CO2 could be escaping through places other than the airlock.

It's probably not the yeast. 1/5 of a 11.5 gram package is a reasonable pitch or a 1 gal batch. For a number of 1 gal 'test' batches, I've pitched 1.25 grams of US-05 into a 1 gal wort (the beer came out fine).

edited for typos
 
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