The taste of tannins

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SpanishCastleAle

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I brewed a Vienna Lager on 1/31/09 and did a decoction. The recipe was mostly Vienna malt, some Pils malt, and a little Crystal. The beer is still young by lager standards but it has a weird astringency to it that it has had at every taste along the way. It may be tannins but I don't really know.

This off-flavor is sort of bitter but not anything like hop bitterness. It's less bitter than it is astringent (I wish I could come up with a different word besides 'astringent'). The off-flavor does linger for a bit.

If it is tannins then I would assume they are either from the decoction or the sparge...maybe a little of both. The decoction was def not burned or scorched...it never smelled burnt in any way (it did smell caramel-sweet though)...and the bottom of the decoction pot showed no signs of scorching whatsoever. I cooked for many years so I know what scorching would be like.

Mash pH was ~5.3 and the sparge water was 180 F but the mash never got anywhere near that hot while sparging.

Does this sound like tannins? Any ideas?
 

hukdizzle

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I would say sparge lower around 170 to eliminate that being the problem.

Are you crushing your own grain or do you get someone to crush it for you? If you have your own crusher I would HIGHLY recommend conditioning your grain before you crush, you'll end up with more intact husks and can crank the crusher down for a finer crush.

Malt Conditioning - Home Brewing Wiki
 
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SpanishCastleAle

SpanishCastleAle

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Thanks huk. I now always condition my malt before running it through the Barley Crusher but I didn't back in January. But this batch was back when I had a much looser crush than I do now...and ales from both the old loose crush and the new tighter crush taste fine. Neither crush had much shredded husks. The brew just before this one and just after this one are both ales and taste great...but neither had a decoction. Same lautering process though.

I now measure the grain bed temp during the sparge and it's almost always between 155-165 F (using 180 F sparge water)...but I didn't measure that back then either. And the mash pH was good.

But something ain't right so I'll revisit all this again.

EDIT: I just rechecked my notes and I sparged with only 16 qt. of water...I often sparge with more without the off-flavor. Weird.

Can somebody decribe the taste of tannins?
 

hukdizzle

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Yeah definitely I thought I had them in my most recent APA I did with Simcoe but that taste has subsided and the beer has turned out extremely good. It almost seems like a dry red wine finish on your palate, dries your mouth out and somewhat makes you pucker a bit. Give the beer some more time.
 

Ewalk02

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Tannins taste like you left a tea packet in hot water for WAY too long, it dries out your tongue and has a bitter taste.
 
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SpanishCastleAle

SpanishCastleAle

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Yea that's a decent decription. This is probably tannins then...I'd rather have not learned the hard way what they taste like.:(

Will gelatin or isinglass drop some of this out? I'll prob try it anyway...it's not like using some gelatin is gonna wreck it.
 

BigEd

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Yea that's a decent decription. This is probably tannins then...I'd rather have not learned the hard way what they taste like.:(

Will gelatin or isinglass drop some of this out? I'll prob try it anyway...it's not like using some gelatin is gonna wreck it.
Tannins are more of a sensation than a taste. My first thought is that it's way too early in the process of a lager to worry much about it. It would also be helpful if you would post the recipe and give a more thorough description of your process specifically including the decoction. I've done many, many decoction mashes over the years and never encountered a tannin problem from the technique. When I have run across excess tannins in beer it is almost always from oversparging. It also seems to occur most often in brewpubs trying to make 8 BBL of beer out of 7 BBL of ingredients. :mug:
 
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SpanishCastleAle

SpanishCastleAle

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BigEd,
More I think about it the more I think I did oversparge. But I'm wondering if decoctions make the grain more susceptible to tannin extraction from oversparging. Is that possible?

Here's the recipe:
6# Vienna
2# Pils
1# Munich
.25# Crystal 40L

1.75 oz. Hallertau 4.3% @ 60 min
0.5 oz. Hallertau 4.3% @ 4 min

White Lab WLP820 Oktoberfest in a 2 qt. starter
Pitched warm and immediately chilled at signs of fermentation

OG - 1.054
FG - 1.014

Everything seems right (malt/hop balance, alcohol, etc.) except this astringency. I've been pushing it on the efficiency and I'm thinking that caused me to oversparge.
 

Malticulous

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The taste is in grape skins. I'm actually eating some now.

I really don't think it came for decoting, I mean how long have brewers been doing that? It probably gave a little bit but not too much. I got them once from over sparging.
 

BigEd

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BigEd,
More I think about it the more I think I did oversparge. But I'm wondering if decoctions make the grain more susceptible to tannin extraction from oversparging. Is that possible?
No, at least not if done correctly. Assuming what you have is indeed excess tannin extraction two conditions are required for this to happen: pH above 6.0 and heat beyond 180F. When those conditions exist tannins in the husks can be leached and dissolved into the wort. In a proper thick decoction the pH will be the same as the mash which is supposed to be pH 5.2-5.4. Sparging below a runoff SG of 1.010 can cause a fairly rapid rise in pH. Oversparging is still the most likely cause IMO.
 
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SpanishCastleAle

SpanishCastleAle

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Assuming what you have is indeed excess tannin extraction two conditions are required for this to happen: pH above 6.0 and heat beyond 180F.
Thanks Ed.

Yes, that's why I stated my mash pH and sparge temp. But like you said, at the end the pH can rise and that's when the grain bed is seeing a larger proportion of sparge water (as opposed to original mash wort).

I have several brews in my sig I haven't tasted yet so we'll see if any of them have it...I did start to measure the grain bed temp during the lauter/sparge but I think that could be misleading if misinterpreted. Too hot sparge water prob wouldn't actually raise the whole grain bed temp enough.
 

balto charlie

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No, at least not if done correctly. Assuming what you have is indeed excess tannin extraction two conditions are required for this to happen: pH above 6.0 and heat beyond 180F. When those conditions exist tannins in the husks can be leached and dissolved into the wort. In a proper thick decoction the pH will be the same as the mash which is supposed to be pH 5.2-5.4. Sparging below a runoff SG of 1.010 can cause a fairly rapid rise in pH. Oversparging is still the most likely cause IMO.
Great thread. I also decoc brewed 3 batches this winter(results unknown, looks promising). I was wondering why boiling the wort doesn't bring out the tannins. So, you also need the pH to be above 6.0.
Spanish: what were your sparge numbers? Did beersmith give you the gallons of sparge? I went with whatever BS said to do.
Big Ed: how long do you lager? Mine have been out in an unheated garage for similar time as Spanish's. I was thinking they should be close? Temps were around 40F. I was going to cold crash some more in the kegerator and drop the temps lower(low 30's). I will have to "close" the kegerator for a few weeks:(
 
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SpanishCastleAle

SpanishCastleAle

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Balto,
It's because the mash pH is (or at least should be) too low during the decoctions. But towards the end of the sparge the pH can rise and that's when it happens.

I don't use Beersmith...I use a spreadsheet I made many years ago based on the methods in Daniel's Designing Great Beers. I also made a spreadsheet for Water Volumes but the mash:sparge ratio is something I choose. I'll def be mashing a bit thinner and thus sparging less and carefully watching the temp. It will probably decrease my efficiency but I'm not worried about that.

For years I always tried to NOT exceed 80% brewhouse efficiency because I thought wort quality suffered. But it was based purely on hearsay. Then I came to this site and saw some guys getting really high efficiencies and claiming to get great beers from it. One of my first threads on this site was whether wort quality suffered when you push the efficiency...but it was inconclusive. So I decided to push it and see: 75%, then 77%, then 84%, then 88% (all into the fermenter). I think I just need to dial it back a bit. 85% at my current crush sounds reasonable so I'm gonna try to hit that with the Marzen this weekend.

I gave the Vienna a shot of gelatin last night...tannins are polyphenols so it seems gelatin should help. We'll see.

It's all part of the learning process.:eek:

EDIT: maybe I should call it 'anti-oxidant' beer.;)
 

Nightbiker

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Never heard of malt conditioning either. Im glad you mentioned it!
Spanish, i have a barley crusher too, if I may ask, what do you have it set at? mine is still at factory settings, but have been considdering a tighter crush.
 
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SpanishCastleAle

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Nightbiker,
When I first got it I crushed a pound at the factory setting and it looked to shredded/floury so I loosened the gap to about .050". I was getting about 77% efficiency there. Then I learned about malt conditioning and tightened it back to the factory setting and conditioned my malt. That got me about 84% efficiency. Then I tightened it just a tiny bit more (still conditioning the malt) and it went up to 88%. The diff between conditioned and not-conditioned is more dramatic than I expected (just regarding the appearance of the crush...WAY less shredded husks).

When I ran through Kaiser's efficiency spreadsheet I got 99% conversion efficiency (using a decoction mash) so I don't see any need to tighten the crush anymore. Just need to lauter/sparge more carefully and take the efficiency hit.
 
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SpanishCastleAle

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After doing some reading it appears that gelatin/isinglass have the wrong charge to drop tannins...but Polyclar has the correct (negative) charge.
From this artical from BYO:
The agents that are effective against yeast are generally ineffective against chill haze, because the particles that form chill haze are naturally positive in charge. To get them to clump and settle — or to filter better — brewers add negatively charged finings. These compounds include silica gel (Chillguard is a common brand) and a fine powder of PVPP plastic, known as Polyclar.

Polyclar works by latching on to tannins in the protein-tannin reaction. Silica gel achieves the same effect by latching on to the protein side. Polyclar is a favorite among both professionals and homebrewers who use it. Brett Pacheco, head brewer of the Concord Junction Brewery in Concord, Mass., says Polyclar rescued his beer from a nasty haze problem. "Over time our pale ale was setting a slight haze, even after filtering," he says. "We were not sure what was going on but decided to run some Polyclar to see what would happen. It made a big difference immediately, and we have not had any problems since we began using it."
Still don't know how effective it will be regarding the astringent off-flavor. This Vienna was orig way more cloudy than I expected but has cleared quite a bit over time. I didn't even use Irish Moss in it though...looks fine for an ale but I expected more clarity from a lager. I don't have any Polyclar but I'm gonna get some and try it.
 

BigEd

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Big Ed: how long do you lager? Mine have been out in an unheated garage for similar time as Spanish's. I was thinking they should be close? Temps were around 40F. I was going to cold crash some more in the kegerator and drop the temps lower(low 30's). I will have to "close" the kegerator for a few weeks:(
The lagering time will depend on several factors including the style of beer (higher gravity = more lagering time), space available (how much room in the old fridge) as well as how thirsty I am. ;)

I try to give basic brews like a CAP or Helles at least 3 or 4 weeks. For bigger, fuller beers like my festbier or a bock I'll go 6 to 8 weeks minimum and hopefully more if I have the room and my patience holds out.
 
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SpanishCastleAle

SpanishCastleAle

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After letting this sit for a while it's remarkably better now. It's actually pretty tasty now. I dunno if the gelatin I added had anything to do with it but it did clear noticably and immediately tasted better. Then another 3-4 weeks lagering and it got even better. The tannin astringency is all but gone.
 

balto charlie

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After letting this sit for a while it's remarkably better now. It's actually pretty tasty now. I dunno if the gelatin I added had anything to do with it but it did clear noticably and immediately tasted better. Then another 3-4 weeks lagering and it got even better. The tannin astringency is all but gone.
Hey Spanish: I just starting tapping all 3 of mine. I was very disappointed 2 weeks ago. Very cloudy and some off flavors. Tried again yesterday and they are really starting to taste very good especially the Marzen. Still not crystal clear but better. I lagered in a basement cold room, then into the garage but temps hovered in the mid 40s. 3 weeks ago I put them into the keezer at mid 30's.
Here's a question: Can I pull some of them out of the keezer and leave in the basemnet cool area for a few months then resume lagering? I have only had 1 tap operational on the keezer for a few weeks due to lagering. I am willing to give up one tap but no longer want to give up 3. I'm going to need a lagering fridge:cross:
 
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SpanishCastleAle

SpanishCastleAle

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Hey Spanish: I just starting tapping all 3 of mine. I was very disappointed 2 weeks ago. Very cloudy and some off flavors. Tried again yesterday and they are really starting to taste very good especially the Marzen. Still not crystal clear but better. I lagered in a basement cold room, then into the garage but temps hovered in the mid 40s. 3 weeks ago I put them into the keezer at mid 30's.
Here's a question: Can I pull some of them out of the keezer and leave in the basemnet cool area for a few months then resume lagering? I have only had 1 tap operational on the keezer for a few weeks due to lagering. I am willing to give up one tap but no longer want to give up 3. I'm going to need a lagering fridge:cross:
I'm not really sure but I would think it would be OK. My Vienna cleared considerably and tasted pretty good after that. I actually just bottled the rest of it to make room in the keezer for a Dortmunder Export to lager. Even having a lager fermentation fridge and a keezer with room for two extra kegs I still need another. Right now I have a logjam on the lagers and can't brew any for a while.:(
 

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also chewing on a piece of oak (Why would you chew on a piece of oak :confused: )
Haha, I must give this a try at some point...

I have a red ale that's been in the bottle for a few months now that still has a pretty strong astringency / tannin feel to it (same as you would get from red wine / over-brewed tea). I think in my case it was due to my being overly enthusiastic while crushing the steep grains. Lesson learned....

Will give it some more time to hopefully clear up :(
 
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