Off flavour? Woody, oak flavour in beer

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JerryGallant

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Hi, my brother and I have been all-grain brewing for a couple years. We produce good, drinkable beers however we often find there is a "woody" note to the final product. All our recipes are generally 9 lbs of grain (7 lbs Canadian 2-row) and we mostly use Safale-05 yeast. Mash temperature we aim for is 155f, mash for 60 mins, sparge at 174 (ends up at around 168f). Our fermentation is great, we always end up with an FG of 1.010. Can anyone point out what could be causing this "off flavour"? It doesn't make any of our beer undrinkable, but without it it would be better. Just kegged a beer that we mashed at 150f and there was none of that woodiness, so my suspicion is the mash temp. Any help would be appreciated.
 

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What hops are you using? Pacific Gem can leave some oak flavors. Other hops have some woody character. Have you tried a different base malt? I'm not sure what it could be. Just trying to help.
 

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With us-05 it doensn't seem like an yeast-driven phenol to me, as it throws off close to 0 phenols. It might be the water? Oaky/woody is what I'd describe as a phenol.

You need to look beyond what's happening between mash in and FG, is my guess.
 
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JerryGallant

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We've used everything from Amarillo to Willamette so I don't think it's the hops. We filter it through a carbon filter and have used tap water from different towns (my house vs his house) and that flavour is still there. I'll try mashing closer to 150f from now on and see if that makes a difference. Stumped.
 

Smellyglove

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We've used everything from Amarillo to Willamette so I don't think it's the hops. We filter it through a carbon filter and have used tap water from different towns (my house vs his house) and that flavour is still there. I'll try mashing closer to 150f from now on and see if that makes a difference. Stumped.
Mashing shouldn't have anything to do with it. IMO you need to look elsewhere.
 
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JerryGallant

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Mashing shouldn't have anything to do with it. IMO you need to look elsewhere.
But if we're mashing too high, that could draw a Woody quality from the grain, right? Or maybe we're sparging too high? We do pitch at 68f or below so I'm not sure where it's coming from. We have brewed with Marris Otter as well, and no 2 row and that quality was found in that beer too. Maybe it's our crappy cooler to mash tun conversion that causes it, lol.
 

Smellyglove

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But if we're mashing too high, that could draw a Woody quality from the grain, right? Or maybe we're sparging too high? We do pitch at 68f or below so I'm not sure where it's coming from. We have brewed with Marris Otter as well, and no 2 row and that quality was found in that beer too. Maybe it's our crappy cooler to mash tun conversion that causes it, lol.
No. You could talk about tannins, but that has nothing to do with mash temperature, it's more about pH and oversparging. But when I typed tannins right now.. maybe that's what you mean?

Is it somewhat like tasting a stone from a grape? Dry, "woody?", and just..dry and earhty, bitter-ish.
 

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Damn I have to add oak chips for that... verily interesting problem. Everything sounds right. FWIW I have never used Canadian 6 row. I would try to limit my variables. If it were me I would try not sparging next time. The beer will be just fine, and it will limit a big variable. GL perfecting the unperfectable hobby.
 
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JerryGallant

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Damn I have to add oak chips for that... verily interesting problem. Everything sounds right. FWIW I have never used Canadian 6 row. I would try to limit my variables. If it were me I would try not sparging next time. The beer will be just fine, and it will limit a big variable. GL perfecting the unperfectable hobby.
It's 2-row we use, not 6-row. And a no sparge method isn't an option, unless we build a much larger mash tun. I did read this "if the grain bed is oversparged and the gravity drops below 1.008 it is likely that harsh tannins and polyphenols will be extracted from the grain husks." .We never take a post sparge gravity reading so I'm suspecting this is our problem?
 

BitterSweetBrews

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I have some ideas, so curious, I did some Googling to validate them.

The "woodiness" could be a grainy or husky flavor. There are a few possible causes for this: mashing too long (>2 hours), a bad crush (over crushing), malt that is really fresh and not rested, a too hot sparge (>168F), sparging longer than you should (final runnings SG < 1.008). They say that cold crashing can help get rid of it.

You might be sensing DMS. Sometimes the cooked corn or vegatal nature of DMS can smell/taste like wet or old wood. Are you boiling with a rolling boil for a good 60 minutes?

Finally, it could also be oxidization. Again the cardboard nature of the smell could be mistaken for woody. Be very careful with your transfers and try to minimize anything that could oxygenate the beer after it is fermented.
 
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JerryGallant

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I have some ideas, so curious, I did some Googling to validate them.

The "woodiness" could be a grainy or husky flavor. There are a few possible causes for this: mashing too long (>2 hours), a bad crush (over crushing), malt that is really fresh and not rested, a too hot sparge (>168F), sparging longer than you should (final runnings SG < 1.008). They say that cold crashing can help get rid of it.

You might be sensing DMS. Sometimes the cooked corn or vegatal nature of DMS can smell/taste like wet or old wood. Are you boiling with a rolling boil for a good 60 minutes?

Finally, it could also be oxidization. Again the cardboard nature of the smell could be mistaken for woody. Be very careful with your transfers and try to minimize anything that could oxygenate the beer after it is fermented.

Thanks for the Googling. I'm going to take a reading of the wort post sparge and make sure it's in line with the recommendation. Dumb question: do I measure only the sparge water or the total (mash + sparge) wort for my SG reading?

Thanks everyone for all the recommendations!
 
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I would use campden tablets for sure. You’re using a filter, but if the filter is used up it won’t eliminate chlorine and chloramine. The tablets are cheap insurance with no drawbacks.

If your Canadian water is like my Seattle-area water, it’s soft and low in alkalinity. If that is the case your mash pH for a light-colored beer is likely too high.

If you can post a water report, or your location, we can help you figure out a water treatment. Since you always make the same beer it would end up being something consistent and easy like adding a teaspoon of gypsum and some acid malt.
 
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JerryGallant

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I would use campden tablets for sure. You’re using a filter, but if the filter is used up it won’t eliminate chlorine and chloramine. The tablets are cheap insurance with no drawbacks.

If your Canadian water is like my Seattle-area water, it’s soft and low in alkalinity. If that is the case your mash pH for a light-colored beer is likely too high.

If you can post a water report, or your location, we can help you figure out a water treatment. Since you always make the same beer it would end up being something consistent and easy like adding a teaspoon of gypsum and some acid malt.
 

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JerryGallant

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I would use campden tablets for sure. You’re using a filter, but if the filter is used up it won’t eliminate chlorine and chloramine. The tablets are cheap insurance with no drawbacks.

If your Canadian water is like my Seattle-area water, it’s soft and low in alkalinity. If that is the case your mash pH for a light-colored beer is likely too high.

If you can post a water report, or your location, we can help you figure out a water treatment. Since you always make the same beer it would end up being something consistent and easy like adding a teaspoon of gypsum and some acid malt.
I attached a water report to this thread. Is that what you're looking for?
 

BitterSweetBrews

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Thanks for the Googling. I'm going to take a reading of the wort post sparge and make sure it's in line with the recommendation. Dumb question: do I measure only the sparge water or the total (mash + sparge) wort for my SG reading?

Thanks everyone for all the recommendations!
Basically what this is saying is that as you are sparging you stop when the runoff wort has a SG <1.008. When you sparge you are assuming that as the water filters through the grain it keeps stripping out more and more sugar. Some people try to extract more sugars out of their grain thinking that the more they rinse it the more they will get. The problem is that you eventually reach a point where what you are getting is garbage you don't want.
 

ThePaleAleIndian

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Hi, my brother and I have been all-grain brewing for a couple years. We produce good, drinkable beers however we often find there is a "woody" note to the final product. All our recipes are generally 9 lbs of grain (7 lbs Canadian 2-row) and we mostly use Safale-05 yeast. Mash temperature we aim for is 155f, mash for 60 mins, sparge at 174 (ends up at around 168f). Our fermentation is great, we always end up with an FG of 1.010. Can anyone point out what could be causing this "off flavour"? It doesn't make any of our beer undrinkable, but without it it would be better. Just kegged a beer that we mashed at 150f and there was none of that woodiness, so my suspicion is the mash temp. Any help would be appreciated.
Do you secondary? I used to get what I think may be a similar flavor in my beers. It went away went I stopped transferring to a secondary and packaging straight from the primary. I described the character in my notes as "earthy" but it may be the same thing. I remember it was there regardless of my hops, yeast, malts, mash temps, water chemistry and conversion efficiency. However, IIRC, the earthy character was stronger on hoppier beers. This had me convinced it was caused by oxidation of hop compounds as a result of the transfer to secondary and subsequent time at room temp, allowing oxidation reactions to proceed.

Sent from my SAMSUNG-SM-G891A using Home Brew mobile app
 
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JerryGallant

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Basically what this is saying is that as you are sparging you stop when the runoff wort has a SG <1.008. When you sparge you are assuming that as the water filters through the grain it keeps stripping out more and more sugar. Some people try to extract more sugars out of their grain thinking that the more they rinse it the more they will get. The problem is that you eventually reach a point where what you are getting is garbage you don't want.
Ok, that SG reading is the reading of the wort after the mash and sparge, right? Total pre-boil volume? Maybe a dumb question....
 
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JerryGallant

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Do you secondary? I used to get what I think may be a similar flavor in my beers. It went away went I stopped transferring to a secondary and packaging straight from the primary. I described the character in my notes as "earthy" but it may be the same thing. I remember it was there regardless of my hops, yeast, malts, mash temps, water chemistry and conversion efficiency. However, IIRC, the earthy character was stronger on hoppier beers. This had me convinced it was caused by oxidation of hop compounds as a result of the transfer to secondary and subsequent time at room temp, allowing oxidation reactions to proceed.

Sent from my SAMSUNG-SM-G891A using Home Brew mobile app
We always keg from primary....
 

Anyhowe

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Seriously bag the sparge one time. Add a small amount of extra malt to the mash if you feel the need, or a little DME pre boil if you need to. How much does your SG gravity change after sparge anyway?
 

BitterSweetBrews

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Ok, that SG reading is the reading of the wort after the mash and sparge, right? Total pre-boil volume? Maybe a dumb question....
No, I think you mis-understand.

The SG of your wort after sparging is called the "Pre-Boil Gravity". This is the reading of all of the wort in your boil kettle before the boil starts. It is usually 15 - 20 points or more different (lower) than what you expect to reach when the boil is over and moisture and other volatiles (DMS) are boiled off.

The "run-off, specific gravity" is the reading of the liquid that is actually draining from your mash tun, as it is draining. So, you would take a cup full of the liquid running off the mash and measure its gravity before it hits and mixes in with what is already in the boil kettle. If it reads 1.008 or lower you need to stop sparging, no matter how much liquid is in the boil kettle. In earlier stages of sparging this reading will be much higher.

If you have your water volumes and efficiencies dialed in for the amount of grain you are using in your recipe, you really don't have to worry about this. Recipe programs, like BeerSmith, calculate this for you. Your final runnings should never get that low unless you aren't using a recipe program and are flying by the seat of your pants and just going with the flow, so to speak.

Not to muddy this up, but there is a type of brewing called "Parti-Gyle" that takes advantage of the second runnings of a mash used for a real high gravity beer, like an Imperial Stout or Barley-wine. These beers use a lot of grain to extract a lot of sugars. Since you want to keep the SG higher for these high alcohol beers, you don't sparge until all the sugars are rinsed and you leave some behind. This is because you don't want to dilute the high sugar wort down much. If you did you would have to boil quite a while to boil off enough moisture to reach the gravity you need to obtain the high alcohol inherent in these beers.

With a Parti-Gyle, at the point where you have the volume you need for boiling the high gravity beer, the runnings coming from the mash tun may still measure as high as 1.040-1.045. Not wanting to waste this good wort sugar, many brewers will sparge into another container until the gravity from these "Second Runnings" reaches 1.010 or so. They then do a completely separate second boil and create another beer from the same grain bill (or maybe steep or separately mash some additional grains to really make it different). They may be able to get a few more gallons of this lower gravity wort which would make a great session beer. Different hops schedules, yeasts and other changes can make a beer you would never guess was from the same grain bill.
 
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BitterSweetBrews

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Seriously bag the sparge one time. Add a small amount of extra malt to the mash if you feel the need, or a little DME pre boil if you need to. How much does your SG gravity change after sparge anyway?
I am doing this more and more lately. 4 out of my last 5 batches have been Brew In a Bag using the full water volume to mash, pulling the bag and starting the boil.

It makes prep and cleanup fast and cuts brew day time down by an hour or two. It also makes great beers.
 
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