Too-dark beer

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Bierenliefhebber

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As T.S. Elliot put it, "Dark, dark dark. They all go into the dark."

I've brewed over 20 batches now, including extract, partial-mash and all-grain, and they all have one thing in common: they're all amber or darker, even those consisting almost entirely of 3 EBC Pilsner malt - such that I've given my attempt at a Duvel clone the monniker "Prince of Darkness". I've done the expected site search and have read the comments offered to others who have experienced this problem - I've replaced LME with DME where possible, done full boils, late additions, adjusted pH and it's still dark. In fact, it seems to begin with the mash itself, the runoff of which always seems overly-dark to me. I'm out of ideas. Any suggestions that haven't been put forth previously?
 

duboman

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Bierenliefhebber said:
As T.S. Elliot put it, "Dark, dark dark. They all go into the dark."

I've brewed over 20 batches now, including extract, partial-mash and all-grain, and they all have one thing in common: they're all amber or darker, even those consisting almost entirely of 3 EBC Pilsner malt - such that I've given my attempt at a Duvel clone the monniker "Prince of Darkness". I've done the expected site search and have read the comments offered to others who have experienced this problem - I've replaced LME with DME where possible, done full boils, late additions, adjusted pH and it's still dark. In fact, it seems to begin with the mash itself, the runoff of which always seems overly-dark to me. I'm out of ideas. Any suggestions that haven't been put forth previously?
Extract and to some degree partial mash will always be darker than style guidelines because of the extract involved. As for all grain you need more control of the specialty grains and probably back off on them a bit.

Do you use brewing software? Most give you an SRM value that you can adjust according to style or desire with a corresponding picture of the beer, at least Beer Smith does.

You can always post your recipe and people here can help you figure it out.
 
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Bierenliefhebber

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I'm aware of that extracts, even dry, give darker brews than all-grain, but as I mentioned, even the all-grainers seems overly dark.

I use brew software, but not a program that calculates color, only SG.

Here are the ingredients for one of the grain recipes. It's a variation on Papazian's "Hanging Possum Pilsner" scaled to 20 liters (about 3 gal.). Perhaps you're right that it has at least partially to do with the choice and amount of ingredients; I'd forgotten about adding the pale ale to this recipe, and of course, the aroma malt is going to contribute color. I'd judge the color of the beer to be about 17-18 SRM, but that still seems dark for this particular grain bill to me.

1.5 kg Pilsner malt
350 g Pale malt
350 g Vienna malt
100 g aroma malt
60 g cara-pils
350 g flaked maize (corn)
 

duboman

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It looks like your guess for color is about right so it becomes a game of playing with the amounts to adjust up or down so you achieve what you want with the associated color without sacrificing your intent in the beer.

I would try Beer Smith, that's what I use and you can do a free trial! I find that it's really helpful in making fine adjustments
 
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Bierenliefhebber

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I would try Beer Smith said:
Thanks for the advice, and I think you're probably right about the ingredients being the main culprits. I just realized that I wrote "20 liters" above, where I had intended to write "12 liters" if that affects your calculation of the expected color.

On a completely different topic, I happen to program as a hobby, and have written a program that calculates SG based on ingredients ( and does so very accurately, I might add) and does temperature corrections. Following this discussion, I think I might like to incorporate a page to do color calculations. Any idea where one might some raw equations that could be used as a basis for the necessary algorithms?
 

duboman

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There is a book called "Designing Great Beers" and also "How to Brew" By John Palmer, both have a lot of the math involved, they might be helpful but honestly, a lot of people are using all in one software like Beer Smith, you simply enter your recipe and the software pretty much calculates everything for you and allows for adjustments.
 

ludomonster

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Do they look dark when you pour it? My beers look dark through fermentation, but when I go to drink them, they are within range.
 

mabrungard

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Elevated mash pH can cause increased color extraction. Are you sure that the water is not too alkaline which may cause a high mash pH?
 

cheezydemon3

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All beer looks dark in a fermenter....(mostly) and will look considerably darker the larger the vessel.

Are you drinking out of HUGE mugs?;)
 
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Bierenliefhebber

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Yes, I'm talking about the color the beer presents in the glass. As I note in the original post, the pH was checked with pH paper (mid-fives), but at any rate, the tbsp or so of gypsum should buffer the pH to within an acceptable range.

Obviously, the first possibility is ingredient-related, and I should simply cut back on specialty malts. Some other considerations, however:

Could I possibly be over-sparging? I sparge until I get the final volume in the boiling pot, even for partial mashes. Would that extract excess tannins and whatnot from the grain hulls?

Another possibility might be mash oxidation. I've never really believed in the existence of hot-side oxidation, but I do stir the mash quite a bit to keep the temperature even throughout.

Yet one other possibility might be that I leave it on the trub too long before going to the secondary. The basement is usually only about 16C, so sometimes it's three weeks before the bubbling stops and I rack it off the trub.

Finally, thanks for pointing me to "Designing Great Beers" I should get a copy of that for reference. I need to order another copy of "Brew Like a Monk" anyway, since I loaned it out and it never came back.
 

cheezydemon3

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Never really heard of this problem. What is the big deal really?

You want sparkling clear beer a shade darker than water?
 
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Bierenliefhebber

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Yesterday, I bottled my latest attempt at a Belgian golden strong, and at last, it has that lovely straw color that's characteristic of the breed. In case somebody should run across this old thread, looking for answers to why their wort is too dark, here are the things I've discovered that worked to make my brew incrementally lighter, in roughly the order of importance: adjusting the pH of the mash with citric acid down to 5.1-5.2 instead of 5.5-5.6, adding extracts and sugar at the very end of the boil, using extra-pale Weyerhauser Pilsner malt of 2.5 EBC instead of BrewFerm 3 EBC, using dry instead of liquid malt extract, using no-stir, insulated-box mashing instead of doing it on the stovetop, adding a pinch of calcium sulfate to the sparge water, and grinding my grist more coarsely.
 
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