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The 1.020 Curse

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solbergg

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Hey all,

I have a strange problem which I am having trouble ascertaining the cause. I have brewed 6 batches of extract beer now, and the fermentation always seems to stop at 1.020. Of these six batches, I have made a variety of beers which had an OG as little as 1.034 to as high as 1.065. Every single one was brewed as a partial boil. Some used specialy grains, some did not. My first brew was only in the primary for 4 days, but all of the other ones were left in primary for 2-3 weeks. Anyone have an idea what could cause my bad attenuation? And why 1.020 specifically? I will be moving to All Grain for my next batch, but I will really like to get this figured out so I don't screw up another brew. Here are some thoughts I had:

-Every single one of these used one dry yeast packet. Maybe I need to use liquid yeast or perhaps I should use more than one packet?

-With the exception of the lager I have in primary right now, I never filtered out the hop pellets on my previous brews. Would this affect the FG? If so, why is my lager stuck at 1.020 even with the hops filtered out?

I'm open to all suggestions, as I am sick and tired of seeing the hydrometer stop at 1.020!!! Thanks!
 

maltMonkey

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--Were you getting your DME or LME all from the same place (possibly purchased all at the same time)?
--What yeasts and fermenting temps?
--What proportions of specialty grains did you use?
--Have you tried using a different hydrometer or checking the calibration of the one you're using?
 

HOOTER

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How did the brews turn out in the end? Would you have been able to tell when you drank them that the FG was high if you hadn't already known?
 
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solbergg

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Yuri_Rage said:
Specifically (brand name, strain etc), what kind of yeast are you using?
Muntons dry yeast for the first two, Safale S-04 for the next 3, then I think Safale S-23 for my lager.
 
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solbergg

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maltMonkey said:
--Were you getting your DME or LME all from the same place (possibly purchased all at the same time)?
--What yeasts and fermenting temps?
--What proportions of specialty grains did you use?
--Have you tried using a different hydrometer or checking the calibration of the one you're using?
I got most of my DME & LME from my LHBS, and one from AHS. Also, I have a friend that brews and he hit 1.008 on his first pale ale brew (which made me really jealous).

Yeasts are listed above. Fermentation temps for the ales were 68 degrees, Lager is at 55 degrees (since safale recommended 51-59)

Specialty grains in proportion to what, amount of water steeped?

I haven't tried a different hydrometer, but this one did read 1.000 in water.
 
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solbergg

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HOOTER said:
How did the brews turn out in the end? Would you have been able to tell when you drank them that the FG was high if you hadn't already known?
First one tasted extremely watery. I ended up throwing it out (it was a brown ale, 1.050 OG). Second one was an IPA, 1.055 OG. It had a weird bite to it, sort of gave me a "cottonmouth" effect. I gave it a couple months to age to see if that would die down, but never did so I threw it out. Third one was BM's Blonde Ale, OG 1.034 (or 1.043, I can't remember). It ended up tasting really good, and I didn't notice it being too low alcohol. Fourth was AHS Amber Ale, I can't remember OG, but it tasted good. Fifth was Beer club Scotch Ale with 1.065 OG. It's currently aging in a cask, and I don't know how it tasted since our club taste test was double blind. Last batch is my dunkel lager with an OG of 1.050. It's been in the primary for almost two weeks and I have read off 1.020 for the last three days. I swished the carboy around yesterday and if it reads 1.020 again, I might add more yeast.
 

JohnA111

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I'm watching this post diligently. I have had the same problem with the last 6 brews all being right at 1.020 FG. None have tasted bad, all quite good in fact. I'm stumped by it, but not freakin out.

Can't wait to see anyone else's ideas. I also have done partial boils on extract with specialty grains in much the same manner.
 

blacklab

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JohnA111 said:
I'm watching this post diligently. I have had the same problem with the last 6 brews all being right at 1.020 FG. None have tasted bad, all quite good in fact. I'm stumped by it, but not freakin out.

Can't wait to see anyone else's ideas. I also have done partial boils on extract with specialty grains in much the same manner.
In my extract days I had a very similiar problem. Do your beers have the extract twang? It was difficult to diagnose, but my feeling is that the D(or L)ME, when boiled, caramelized and created unfermentable sugars. Hence the extract twang and slightly higher FG.

My solution was to buy AG gear.
 

maltMonkey

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solbergg said:
Muntons dry yeast for the first two, Safale S-04 for the next 3, then I think Safale S-23 for my lager.
Did the yeasts have a date on them?

solbergg said:
I got most of my DME & LME from my LHBS, and one from AHS.
Do you know what brand the malt extracts were?

solbergg said:
Specialty grains in proportion to what, amount of water steeped?
In proportion to the total grain/extract bill (by weight). For example 1lb crystal malt in a 10 lb total bill would be 10%.
 

shafferpilot

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At my LHBS there's this stuff called "Amylaze Enzyme". If a fermentation sticks at 1.020, put in a tablespoon of that stuff and swish the carboy. Magically that beer will be at 1.012 within a couple days. Amylaze is an enzyme that will break down some of the complex sugars so that the yeast can eat them. Don't over-do it as it's possible to break most of the residual sugar down..... and there goes all your malty flavouring. The next best option is to switch to a different DME/LME supplier.
 

HOOTER

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JohnA111 said:
I'm watching this post diligently. I have had the same problem with the last 6 brews all being right at 1.020 FG. None have tasted bad, all quite good in fact. I'm stumped by it, but not freakin out.

Can't wait to see anyone else's ideas. I also have done partial boils on extract with specialty grains in much the same manner.
That's the reason for my interest as well. Out of my last 4 batches, three had a high final gravity right around 1.020. One of them is still bottle conditioning and one is in secondary (gravity may still drop a little on that one) so I'm not sure how they'll turn out. The one thing they all had in common was dry ale yeast, which is exactly what solbergg is using. I'll be using liquid yeast on my next batch to see if theres a difference.
 
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solbergg

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JohnA111 said:
I'm watching this post diligently. I have had the same problem with the last 6 brews all being right at 1.020 FG. None have tasted bad, all quite good in fact. I'm stumped by it, but not freakin out.

Can't wait to see anyone else's ideas. I also have done partial boils on extract with specialty grains in much the same manner.
As unfortunate as it is that you have the same problem....I'm glad to hear that I'm not the only one!
 
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solbergg

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blacklab said:
In my extract days I had a very similiar problem. Do your beers have the extract twang? It was difficult to diagnose, but my feeling is that the D(or L)ME, when boiled, caramelized and created unfermentable sugars. Hence the extract twang and slightly higher FG.

My solution was to buy AG gear.
To be honest, I'm not sure what extract twang tastes like. Perhaps all my beers have it, since I have only tasted my own. Would be great if my brewing AG solves my problem.
 
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solbergg

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maltMonkey said:
Did the yeasts have a date on them?



Do you know what brand the malt extracts were?


In proportion to the total grain/extract bill (by weight). For example 1lb crystal malt in a 10 lb total bill would be 10%.
I'm not sure about the dates. I still have the package for my S-23, so I will check that when I get home. I will also have to check my records for the grain proportions. DME was Briess. LME was Muntons from LHBS & not sure what AHS uses.
 

HOOTER

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blacklab said:
It was difficult to diagnose, but my feeling is that the D(or L)ME, when boiled, caramelized and created unfermentable sugars.

Would adding the extract at the end of the boil solve that problem?
 
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solbergg

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shafferpilot said:
At my LHBS there's this stuff called "Amylaze Enzyme". If a fermentation sticks at 1.020, put in a tablespoon of that stuff and swish the carboy. Magically that beer will be at 1.012 within a couple days. Amylaze is an enzyme that will break down some of the complex sugars so that the yeast can eat them. Don't over-do it as it's possible to break most of the residual sugar down..... and there goes all your malty flavouring. The next best option is to switch to a different DME/LME supplier.
This sounds EXTREMELY promising. So much so that I am picking some up TONIGHT (assuming my SG still hasn't changed).
 
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solbergg

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Jaeger48 said:
Do you make starters or pitch directly into the wort?

have you tried proofing your yeast?
I pitch directly most of the time, though I think I rehydrated one of them before pitching. I don't know what proofing is.
 

s3n8

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How are you aerating?

I have had similar issues, and have just tried an o2 system on the latest batch. Hoping to have one finish below 1.016 (my lowest yet).
 
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solbergg

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s3n8 said:
How are you aerating?

I have had similar issues, and have just tried an o2 system on the latest batch. Hoping to have one finish below 1.016 (my lowest yet).
In the past I have poured it back and forth between my kettle and my ale pail. I also bought an o2 aerator for my next batch, since I'm willing to try anything at this point.
 
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solbergg

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homebrewer_99 said:
Just as a forethought, are your hydrometers calibrated properly?

If you keep getting the same readings over several batches could be they are really around 1.012 or so...:confused:
I can't speak for the others, but I feel that my hydrometer is true because it hits the OG quite accurately and it read 1.000 in water.
 

Nimrod3388

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I spoke with my friends neighbor who was brewing an all-grain APA one day and he mentioned added Beano tablets to the fermentor if you are having trouble reaching your FG. I trust the man for his homebrew was remarkable and the Treasure Coast Brewmasters (Local Club) is helping him with everything. 3 tablets per 10 gallons.

I havent tried it yet.
 

Klainmeister

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Nimrod3388 said:
I spoke with my friends neighbor who was brewing an all-grain APA one day and he mentioned added Beano tablets to the fermentor if you are having trouble reaching your FG. I trust the man for his homebrew was remarkable and the Treasure Coast Brewmasters (Local Club) is helping him with everything. 3 tablets per 10 gallons.

I havent tried it yet.
Improve fermentation AND eliminate beer farts!? Brilliant!!!
 

JohnA111

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I may not use a stone and an O2 tank, but I believe my aeration is fine (wand and drill). My hydrometer also reads 1.000 at 60F, just like it should. I may do the drop of olive oil next batch before pitching. I'll look into the beano and see what it may offer.

I'm not complaining here, all beers so far have been fantastic, just not technically down to the FG they should have.
 

Hoosierbrewer

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Are you using liquid extract? The thing to remember is that it is usually better to add that towards the end of the brew since it is already brewed once. I think that BYO had an article on it a few years ago.
 

adx

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Couple things:

1. You need to calibrate your hydrometer in distilled water.

2. Try to let the temperature raise to around 70F and give the primary a swirl. You may just need to "wake" up the yeast some.

3. What you need to calculate is attenuation. You can calculate attenuation with [(OG - FG) / (OG - 1)] * 100. Yeast manufacturers will give a yeast strain a certain range that they will attenuate to. Most yeasts attenuate between 70% and 85%.

4. If you want a yeast that makes a super dry beer try Nottinghams. I don't like it because I think it attenuates too much, but that's just personal preference.

5. If you just want more alcohol then make your OG higher. Don't try to use amalyze after the fact, you'll just get watered down alcohol.

And most importantly.

6. Never dump a beer! The cotton mouth feeling on your IPA was probably because it was over hopped. Let that bitterness mellow for 6 to 9 months and it would have been great.
 

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I'm still doing extract brews but I only use DME and I have only used liquid yeast as well. On 9/10th's of my brews, I use Briess DME and Wyeast 1056 Amer Ale (washed and reused) and I have yet to have one any higher FG than 1.014. They are very consistently finishing at 1.012.

Get a 6.5 G carboy to use as your fermenter and you can shake the hell out of it before you pitch your yeast and this will aerate your wort. All grain and the fishtank aerator are better I'm sure but the above methods have worked for me.

PS On my first brew, I used dry yeast and I ended w/ a high FG.

Regards,
Al
 
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solbergg

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Nimrod3388 said:
I spoke with my friends neighbor who was brewing an all-grain APA one day and he mentioned added Beano tablets to the fermentor if you are having trouble reaching your FG. I trust the man for his homebrew was remarkable and the Treasure Coast Brewmasters (Local Club) is helping him with everything. 3 tablets per 10 gallons.

I havent tried it yet.
Yeah, when I was picking up some amylase enzyme from my LHBS on Friday, the owner mentioned that some people add beano to aid stuck fermentations. If the AE doesn't work, this might be my next addition. It's worth it even if these additions ruin my batch because the learning will be very beneficial.
 
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solbergg

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Hoosierbrewer said:
Are you using liquid extract? The thing to remember is that it is usually better to add that towards the end of the brew since it is already brewed once. I think that BYO had an article on it a few years ago.
Some used liquid, some used dry, some used both. The LHBS Scotch Ale used specialty grains and liquid extract and their recipe had me add the extract during the last 15 minutes of the boil.
 
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solbergg

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adx said:
Couple things:

1. You need to calibrate your hydrometer in distilled water.

2. Try to let the temperature raise to around 70F and give the primary a swirl. You may just need to "wake" up the yeast some.

3. What you need to calculate is attenuation. You can calculate attenuation with [(OG - FG) / (OG - 1)] * 100. Yeast manufacturers will give a yeast strain a certain range that they will attenuate to. Most yeasts attenuate between 70% and 85%.

4. If you want a yeast that makes a super dry beer try Nottinghams. I don't like it because I think it attenuates too much, but that's just personal preference.

5. If you just want more alcohol then make your OG higher. Don't try to use amalyze after the fact, you'll just get watered down alcohol.

And most importantly.

6. Never dump a beer! The cotton mouth feeling on your IPA was probably because it was over hopped. Let that bitterness mellow for 6 to 9 months and it would have been great.
1. Interesting. I will admit that I tested the hydrometer in tap water. I'm not sure what you mean by "calibrate" though. What do I do to it in order to calibrate it?

2. My current batch is a lager, will that hurt it if I let it get that warm? I think I pitched my yeast at 60 degrees.

3. The OG of my current batch is 1.050, so assuming a 75% attenuation rate, I should expect an FG around 1.012

4. Hmm, nottinghams, I think that's the yeast that my friend used and his first batch did get down to 1.008

5. Too late, as I already added it. But it's all in the name of science for me at this point.

6. I'm starting to think that cottonmouth feeling is something else than hops bitterness. I took a taste of my dunkel the last time I did a hydro test, and it had that same cottonmouth feeling to it. Perhaps this is what people call yeast bite? Anyway, I would never throw out a beer just because it didn't hit it's FG, as some of my previous brews have been rather tasty (my AHS Amber Ale was very popular with my friends at a bbq we had yesterday). The IPA I threw out because after waiting a significant amount of time, the cottonmouth effect hadn't mellowed out by even a little bit. Oh well, perhaps I was wrong to throw it out.
 

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solbergg said:
1. Interesting. I will admit that I tested the hydrometer in tap water. I'm not sure what you mean by "calibrate" though. What do I do to it in order to calibrate it?
All calibrating means is reading your hydrometer reading in distilled water @60F. If it reads 1.002 then you know your hydrometer is .002 off. You can then add those gravity points to every reading you take.
 

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solbergg said:
I pitch directly most of the time, though I think I rehydrated one of them before pitching. I don't know what proofing is.
Proofing yeast is prooving that it is viable by pitching it into boiled/cooled to 90F water for 15 minutes (note if it foams up) and then swirl if it foamed up, wait another 5 minutes and then imediately pitching the yeast. The water get's into the yeast cells easier than wort and gets them ready for an easy transition to wort. It also lets you know they are still viable by the foaming action. Always use enough yeast for the volume you are fermenting.
 

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shafferpilot said:
At my LHBS there's this stuff called "Amylaze Enzyme". If a fermentation sticks at 1.020, put in a tablespoon of that stuff and swish the carboy. Magically that beer will be at 1.012 within a couple days. Amylaze is an enzyme that will break down some of the complex sugars so that the yeast can eat them. Don't over-do it as it's possible to break most of the residual sugar down..... and there goes all your malty flavouring. The next best option is to switch to a different DME/LME supplier.
I was reading along and was waiting to see someone post this, or post it myself. This and another pitch w/ champagne yeast will get that gravity down. You'll end up very dry, I'll bet.
 

Cheeto

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I too have suffered the 1.020 curse.

My answer was this problem was very different
I set my carboys on top of the Dryer for 3-5 days,
the gentle vibration ( I think) helped "rouse" the yeast
now I do this with every batch.

I have hit my F.G. on the last 10 batches,
but I also let my brews sit in primary for at least 2 weeks.

This my not be right but it has worked for me.
 

adx

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Also double check your hydrometer. The hydrometer that I have is suppose to be read at 68F.
 

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I've had the 1.024 curse.... the lhbs suggested that I pitch a propegator batch of yeast in when I rack to secondary. I had a deadguy clone that took 6 weeks to go from 1.066 to 1.024. I racked it last night it had a green cider smell and taste when I sampled the sg. hopefully it will clean out and the sg will drop to where it should be. as a side question should i put it in a tertiary to clear out the brew?
 

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Cool this is an interesting topic. I had the same problem about 3 batches ago. Made a wheat ale and ended up getting stuck at 1019 - its not too bad - a little sweeter then I would have liked though. Luckilly it hasnt happened again since last 2 batches I have bottled reached 1012 from around 1050.

If I get stuck again atleast I have some good tips - cheers
 
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