Low Original Gravity Problems

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CouchFarmer

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I'm going over my notes for the beer I've done and there's a trend - most of my beer doesn't end at the estimated ABV. The reason seems to be that I never get to the estimated original gravity of the recipe.

A couple of examples:

Craig's Travelin' Man Ale
Estimated OG - 1.064
My OG - 1.054

Jamil's Hop Jack Pale
EOG - 1.054
MOG - 1.040

Christmas Ale
EOG - 1.055
MOG - 1.040

Belgian Trippel
EOG - 1.075
MOG - 1.060

All of these are at least 5 gallon boils that ended with 4.75 - 5 gal in the fermenter. All of the above are extract kits from my local home home brew store in Los Altos. Does anyone know why I would be coming out low?
 

Kass_Brauhaus

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I'm having a similar problem. I'm guessing that it's an insufficient extraction of the sugars from the grains we're using. It is my understanding that there is an optimal water saturation when you're steeping your grains (like an oatmeal consistency) at 150 or 155 F. This extracts the proper sugars etc. The kits just use the grains as flavoring, steeping in lots of water with no sparging. I'm thinking this is why our gravity is low. I would love to hear commentary from others on this.

In principle, most of our fermentable sugars come from the malt extract. Are the sugars from the grains in partial mash just trivial?
 

Hanr3

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I just noticed the same thing with an LD Carlson kit I picked up from my local Home Brew Store. Does this affect the alchohol volume? I gather it does, in my case dropped by 1%.

I don't use a thermometer during the steeping process.
I also dont use sugar to carbonate, I keg my beer and force carbonate.
Do those with higher finished gravity test after adding priming sugar?
 

ArcaneXor

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In principle, most of our fermentable sugars come from the malt extract. Are the sugars from the grains in partial mash just trivial?
Are you partial mashing or steeping grains?

The answer differs depending on what you do. For partial mashing, the amount of sugars is significant, for steeping grains it's a very small percentage of the total sugars.
 

ArcaneXor

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I'm going over my notes for the beer I've done and there's a trend - most of my beer doesn't end at the estimated ABV. The reason seems to be that I never get to the estimated original gravity of the recipe.

A couple of examples:

Craig's Travelin' Man Ale
Estimated OG - 1.064
My OG - 1.054

Jamil's Hop Jack Pale
EOG - 1.054
MOG - 1.040

Christmas Ale
EOG - 1.055
MOG - 1.040

Belgian Trippel
EOG - 1.075
MOG - 1.060

All of these are at least 5 gallon boils that ended with 4.75 - 5 gal in the fermenter. All of the above are extract kits from my local home home brew store in Los Altos. Does anyone know why I would be coming out low?
There are a few possibilities:

1.) The wort was not well-mixed when you took the OG reading, or you didn't temperature-correct your reading
2.) You overdiluted the wort
3.) The kit shorted you on extract

Post a complete recipe, and we can check if #3 is the problem.
 

Hanr3

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I was reading the 10 tips thread and had a question that relates to this thread. Does the volume of water you steep the grains in make a difference?

I have been steeping at the same volume of water I add the extract too and then boil it. I gather by the 10 tips thread that I should be steeping in much less water. Will the volume of water affect the alcohol volume?
 

double_e5

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Another thing could be the temp your sample is at. Also have you tested your hydrometer in distilled water? Looking at your readings they are all about 15 points off.
 

Baboon

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This happened to me today. I made the Northern Brewer's barleywine recipe. I was supposed to hit 1.082 for my OG, but the reading was 1.070. I don't know what I did wrong. Everything really seemed to go well and the temperatures were perfect. The boil was good, cooling was good, and everything was added at the right time.

Man, a 6% barleywine will probably suck. I hope that FG drops real low.

Here's the recipe from their website:

Barley Wine Extract Kit -- Kit Inventory Sheet

I dunno.
 

Kass_Brauhaus

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Are you partial mashing or steeping grains?

The answer differs depending on what you do. For partial mashing, the amount of sugars is significant, for steeping grains it's a very small percentage of the total sugars.
I have been steeping grains, so I guess the contribution is insignificant. If it's because of the temperature correction I'm going to turn in my man-card...
 
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CouchFarmer

CouchFarmer

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There are a few possibilities:

1.) The wort was not well-mixed when you took the OG reading, or you didn't temperature-correct your reading
2.) You overdiluted the wort
3.) The kit shorted you on extract

Post a complete recipe, and we can check if #3 is the problem.
1.) I check my original gravity after it's been aerated by pouring it though a mesh strainer or siphon w/ holes punched in it. If that doesn't mix it properly then I need to change something. I don't think it's the temperature correction and I checked the calibration of my hydrometer.

2.) I don't add any water at the end of the boil. I start with 7 gallons and end up with around 5, all of which goes into the fermenter.

3.) Here's the outline for my latest, the Travelin Man Ale (details omitted because I'm not sure on the rules for posting someone else's recipe)-

Extract-
8 lbs Ultralight

Grains-
13 oz various grains

Hops
2.5 oz assorted hops.

I know I loose some liquid when I pull the steeping the grains from my brew-pot, but I didn't think that it was this much. How much liquid do you need to lose before it affects the gravity?
 

PKsBrew

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I have been having the exact same problem. I steep my specialty grains in about 3 gal of water for 45 min at 150 deg. then add DME for boil. Once chilled I top off with preboiled water.
My thought are:
1) I should start using crushed grains for the steeping, in effect doing an oddball mash/sparge.
2) Wash (sparge) the grain bag with pre-boiled water once I remove the grains from the steeping pot.
3) I generally top off in fermenter to 5.5 gal. Next batch I think I will take gravity readings at 4.5, 5 and 5 gal to see where I actually hit the intended OG. Possibly I'm diluting my wort too much.
These are just my thoughts, obviously I have spent way to much time thinking about this.:confused:
 

ArcaneXor

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3.) Here's the outline for my latest, the Travelin Man Ale (details omitted because I'm not sure on the rules for posting someone else's recipe)-

Extract-
8 lbs Ultralight

Grains-
13 oz various grains

Hops
2.5 oz assorted hops.
Those ingredients should produce an OG anywhere from 1.058 to 1.061 OG in 5 gallons according to BeerSmith.

I'd reduce your boil volume slightly, or extend your boil duration so that you end up with 4.5 gallons into the fermenter. Then add top-off water until you hit the desired final gravity. You'll still be very close to a full boil that way (i.e. the difference in hop utilization should be very small), and while it sucks to end up with slightly less than 5 gallons, you'll end up with a better beer.
 

Fat Guy Brewing

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You should be steeping in about 1 gal./pound of grain. I tend to go over slightly so the grain bag is mostly underwater. By steeping I mean heat water to 150*, then put in your grains for about 30 minutes. Remove the gain bag, let it drip into the pot, then using a strainer to hold the grain bag and pour 170* water over it and into the pot (sparge). To whoever adds top-off water up to 5.5 gallons, thats too much. That's 10% extra water. I top-off to a little over 5 gallons, but not that much. Make sure you mix the wort good with a long handle spoon before taking your hydro readings.
 
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