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Sweetchuck

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Hey - newbie to the forum here.

Started brewing maybe 20 years ago and got away from it when kids came along. Work, school, soccer practice. Getting back into home brewing and I'm pleasantly surprised at how far the hobby has grown. I like to think I was one of the trailblazers.

Anyway, I dug out all of my old stuff. Bought a spare fridge for the draft system, filled the Co2 tanks, got my soda kegs and grolsch bottles out and bought a sack of grain and some hops and liquid yeast that I'm re-cultivating.

I have two 5 gallon batches going now and should have another two going in the next couple of weeks.

Here's my issue - I'm having low SG. Had to cut those two batches with brown sugar to get the SG up to a decent level. I don't think I forgot how to brew but I'm doing something wrong.

Each batch has ~ 11lbs of grain. Pale ale malt and maybe 2lbs of light caramel. Went heavy on the grain in case I fouled something up but I still did I guess. Infusion mash, strike heat ~ 170 & 165 respectively. Checked and kept the mash temps to ~ 145-155 for each batch for 2 hours. Pint of water per pound of grain.

Recycle sparge (used a false bottom and repoured the wort back into the grain bed a couple times each, stirred it up occasionally, lauter tun isn't conical but it's v-shaped sort of - I didn't do that 20 years ago and still had respectable SG's with lesser malt). 170 on liquor water.

Drained off 6 gallons of wort for 5 gallon batches.

Here's one thing I did that escapes my memory - I tested the SG by putting the hydrometer straight into the hot wort. I don't think that makes a difference but maybe it does. I couldn't find the glass wort stem that I used to use.

SG started out in the 1.025 range, way low, so I added the brown sugar.

I used the same grain from a source, it didn't look that good IMO. Crushed it myself - it was uncrushed but looked pretty beat up. I have a new source of grain and will be using it in my next batch. Standard 2-row pale.

What could I be doing wrong?

Thanks in advance for your comments.

:fro:
 

sendkyleanemail

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How far off were you on OG? Hydrometers read low in hot wort. They usually come with a temp correction chart. Mine read like 10 points low at 90F. At 90F a reading of 1.050 is really 1.060. Maybe part of your troubles?

In any case, your beers will be fine, just a little lighter than you were shooting for.

Welcome back, old timer :) he he
 
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Sweetchuck

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How far off were you on OG? Hydrometers read low in hot wort. They usually come with a temp correction chart. Mine read like 10 points low at 90F. At 90F a reading of 1.050 is really 1.060. Maybe part of your troubles?

In any case, your beers will be fine, just a little lighter than you were shooting for.

Welcome back, old timer :) he he
Hey thanks.

I'm not that old actually, early 40's. Started brewing as a kid basically.

I tested each batch before boiling. I could have converted the 6 gallon reading easily, but it was way lower than I expected. Temp was probably ~ 150-ish, I dunno. I didn't think that hydrometers were affected by temperature but if so, that explains a lot. Might turn out to be a sipping beer. :mug:

That first batch is still burping away on it's 3rd week of fermenting. Maybe the gravity was much higher than I thought.

I checked the hydrometer in cold water and it read 1.000 Before I knock out this next batch, I'm heading down to the brew store to get that wort sample glass and I'll test it cold this time.
 

StoutattheDevil

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To second the previous poster, hot wort is definitely your issue. The wort post boil can be up to 211 degrees so depending on on the temp you read the hydrometer at would give you indication of how Many points you need to add.
 

sendkyleanemail

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Temp affects hydrometer readings BIG time. Might be a good excuse to get a new one with correction chart. Take a quick temp reading when you check gravity and apply the correction factors.

Having a bum reading in the beginning like that will make it hard for you to use gravity to confirm fermentation completion and check attenuation, so it's pretty useful to have good readings. It will also help you figure out the efficiency of your system, so you can better estimate OG's in the first place.

In other words get the chart dude he he.
 
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Sweetchuck

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Awesome - that does explain a lot. I couldn't imagine what I was doing wrong, I pay more attention to detail in my 'aging years' than I did back then and I felt stumped at what I could have been doing wrong.

This is pretty exciting stuff for me, none of this "technology" was available back then, it was all hit or miss.

Thanks for the replies again. No doubt I'll be frequenting this forum and hopefully contributing something along the way.
 

Egghead

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A pint of water per pound of grain seems like an awfully thick mash to me. I find my sweet spot mashing at around 1.3 quarts of water per pound of grain. I'm not expert enough to say whether this is the cause of your gravity being off, but it might be worth checking into.
 

heferly

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A pint of water per pound of grain seems like an awfully thick mash to me. I find my sweet spot mashing at around 1.3 quarts of water per pound of grain. I'm not expert enough to say whether this is the cause of your gravity being off, but it might be worth checking into.
2nd this...about 1.25 quarts/lb is pretty standard to start out...try a thinner mash

and welcome back! :mug:
 

JohnTheBrewist

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Welcome back! I'm in the same boat as you are. I started brewing in 1990, quit for 7 years, and started up again last year. Unfortunately for me, I had sold all of my equipment and had to start over buying everything.

I agree with the other posters in this thread. You need to chill your wort before taking a gravity reading, and your mash is pretty thick. 1.25 quarts per lb is pretty standard, and of course you can go up or down depending on how you build your brew.

If you haven't done so yet, I'd get one the of various brewing softwares; even the free ones are pretty good. This will tell you what SG you should be looking for.
 

Yooper

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In my system, 11 pounds of grain (2 pounds of crystal is a LOT by the way!) would give me an OG of 1.057 at 60 degrees.

I'd recommend 1.25-1.5 QUARTS (not pints!) of water per pound of grain, making sure to keep the mash at 150-155 degrees. Preheat your mashtun, so you don't lose so much heat. I like to strike with water about 11 degrees hotter than my desired mash temp. don't mash for two hours! That can result in a thinner, drier beer, and lose even more temperature. One hour is plenty.

As was said, putting the hydrometer in hot wort invalidates the reading. You must chill the wort first. You can put the wort in the hydrometer test jar, and then put that in the fridge or in a water bath in a pitcher, but you must cool it to under 80 degrees. Then you can use a temperature correction table. The reading over 90 degrees is notoriously inaccurate and should be discarded.

Don't do a "recycle sparge". I'm not sure what that is, but you'll find that batch sparging is convenient, efficient and easy. Drain the mash tun and measure your runnings. (We can help you with volumes). Then, sparge up to your boil volume in two "batches". What I mean is this- say you need 4 more gallons of wort to get to your boil volume after the mash is drained. Add two gallons of hot water (185 or so) to get your grainbed up to 168 and stir like you're a crazy person. Recycle a quart (vorlauf) until the wort is clear and relatively husk free, and then do the same with the remaining water. The second addition should be cooler water- about 170 degree water, since your grainbed should be at 168 already.

In short- use more water in the mash (1.5 quarts per pound of grain is fine) and sparge up to your boil volume with fresh water to bring the grainbed temp up to 168 or so. Mash for an hour.
 

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