Why do all my beers taste / look the same ?

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Hello, Long time reader, first time poster.

Ive got 5 brews under my belt and I have a pretty serious question before i continue brewing again, i am very discouraged.

I have been taking advice from a local shop and letting them guide me in pretty much everything i have been brewing. This is my problem my first two beers tasted and looked exactly the same.

1 - Lawnmower Ale
2 - Boddingtons Clone Ale

Both of this have a light grain bill and should be pretty golden in color, but they came out the color of a brown leather chair, and were very hoppy and bitter. This bitterness i feel like i may have controlled with longer ageing and, hop straining into the primary, and making sure i am the best i can be about sanitation.

I decided to part ways with the local shop advice, and brewed my 5th last night and it was an original / experimental recipe.
3 lbs Pale DME
1 lbs Wheat Dme
1 lbs 2 row
1lbs Corn
1/2lbs Oats
2 cups Rice
1oz tetthaner
1oz cascade

The wort color is different than other light attempts, but I was expecting something golden blonde, and in the end, i got a an amberish with an espresso type foam on top.

Why are all of my lighter in color and body beers turning out so heavy ?

Thanks ! looking forward to homebrewtalk.

-SG
 

nibiyabi

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Are you actually waiting until they finish and then pouring them into a glass? A large volume in a glass carboy will always look darker than the beer appears in a drinking glass.
 
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Are you leaving the yeast in the bottle when you pour your beer? I get a very harsh flavor in my lighter pale ales if I get yeast from the bottom of the bottle in my glass.


this doesn't explain the color though, other than possibly a yeast cloud.
 

Grinder12000

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So true - a Pale Ale can look like a heavy brown in the carboy.

I think what you need to do is to tell us your technique - what temp are you fermenting and pitching the yeast and mashing/mini mashing and so forth.

Making alcohol is easy - making beer is easy, making REAL GOOD beer takes patience and and good technique.
 

Cousinz

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when extract brewing i found that a late extract addition would help lighten the color
but this will also increase ibu for the same recipe.
 
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scottaustingreen
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Thanks for the quick response, I think that i might have popped my first batch early... shocker. I have been a lot better about waiting, and now following 1-2-3, or longer. The extra time has helped with smoothness.

I nearly always drink out of a glass. Ive seen pictures of nearly identical lawnmower homebrews and my color was way off.. and my boddingtons did not look or tast like it.

Is it possible that my boiling temperature is too high ? My shop advised a "good strong rolling boil"... that could mean a 10 degree swing or more.

I am guessing high temperatures could cause caramelization and a darker color. Is it possible to make a good blonde beer with extract ? Recipe ?
 

bradsul

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Are you doing a full wort boil? If not I would suggest doing a search for 'late extract addition'. That should help with the darkening of the wort problem.
 

Corey_James

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The other thing that you may want to check is when you add your LME/DME is it fully dissolved with the heat removed from the bottom of your pot. This may add to your color and give an off flavor if you are burning it to the bottom of your pot.
 
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scottaustingreen
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BrewBrain, beer is quite clear, and i am careful not to dump any sediment/yeast that may have made it into the bottle.

Grinder12000 - I understand about the large volume, but i have seen pictures on this forum of similar brews that are yellow like a post-it-note in the carboy, Leading me to beleive it is procedural.
- Heat Grains in bag up to 155-160 w/ ~3 gal of water
- Steep grains for 45 min, sparge with 1/4-1/2 gallon
- Discard grains
- Turn on high heat, and add all Malt Extract, bring to rolling boil.
- Add hops at intervals with a Whorlfloc tab at 30 min.
- After 60-70 min boil, turn on heat and plunge kettle into ice bath for 45 min.
- Proof yeast in 1 cup warm water
- Add 1 gall fresh water to primary, add 1/2 of the wort
- Add yeast
- Add Rest of wort.
 

Cousinz

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are you making a full 5 gal. boil or just boiling a portion of that then topping off with more water to get your 5 gal. i've found this to make a big difference in lightening the color when i went from a 3 gal. boil to 4 gal. boil.
 

viking999

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Both of this have a light grain bill and should be pretty golden in color, but they came out the color of a brown leather chair, and were very hoppy and bitter. This bitterness i feel like i may have controlled with longer ageing and, hop straining into the primary, and making sure i am the best i can be about sanitation.
What were your hop addition schedules for these two beers?

I doubt hop straining will help resolve bitterness. Most hop bitterness comes from iso-alpha acids, which are created from alpha acids over the course of the boil. That's why the bittering hops are boiled the longest. If the hops are just sitting in the fermenter, then they shouldn't be making the beer any more bitter.

I also doubt sanitization is the issue, but it never hurts to improve your sanitization routine. I've never had an infection, but my understanding is that they make the beer taste so bad it's undrinkable. Also, they often have visible effects (see this post).

Regarding the color, I notice you are using extracts. A lot of people have found that the longer you cook the extract, the darker it gets, so they have started waiting to add all or most of the extract until the end of the boil. I tried this for the first time on the beer I brewed last Saturday, so I'll get to see if it worked soon. Also, if you previously used liquid extracts, they can turn darker if they encounter excessive heat during storage or transport.
 

Grinder12000

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There ya go - found it.

Turn on high heat, and add all Malt Extract, bring to rolling boil.
I would add 1/2 the extract and the other half with 10-15 to go. YOu are probably getting double caramelization.

should noe effect flavor but color.

Remember extract is just condensed wort so it's been worterized (not a word) once already. You are doing it again which will tend to make everything darker.

On the good side - making a light colored beer is one of the harder things to do = PLUS - I would look into getting some 5.1 Buffer if you are making a lot of light beers. it will correct the water PH for getting sugars and so forth (if you are using non-steeping grains).

BTW - boiling is boiling - I don't think you can get water hotter then 212 unless you have a VERY good stove LOL

Another side point from an anal person = Whorlfloc - I put in with 15 along with some yeast nutrient. Not sure if it matters but . . .

OH - stir when you are ice bathing - it'll quicken the cooling.
 

Berlbrew

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I recently struggled with this issue scott, here's what I did:

1. Do as big a boil as you can - I have a 6-gallon stock pot that I like to do 4-4.5 gallon boils in, this requires that you use a bit less hops, but it dramatically improves your color and taste

2. Do a late addition - Adding all your extract at the beginning of the boil gives it more time to darken up, try adding 30% at the beginning and 70% with 20 minutes remaining.

3. Don't use LME - Just use DME, and really just use Light or Extra Light DME. LME is fine, but it's known to darken things up more. Also, DME is just better. (Someone is bound to disagree here)

4. For what it's worth, ferment at a low-ish temp - It's easy to set the thermostat to 70 and leave it alone, try fermenting closer to 66 or so. This may not effect the color, but it can't hurt.

5. Check your grains - The color and steeping time for your grains definitely effect the color of your beer. I recently brewed an extract Summer Ale with 20L for 20 min. at 155 and it was golden and beautiful.

Both your Lawnmower and Boddington's should have been yellow in color. I think if you do a bigger boil and use the late addition method it will help. Just a final note- I've stopped listening to the guys at my LHBS and started just relying on HBTers, so far it has definitely helped.
 

Grinder12000

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I've stopped listening to the guys at my LHBS and started just relying on HBTers, so far it has definitely helped.
+1 to THAT. My LHBS totally screwed me with advice on my first attempt to brew - the only batched Ive ever had to pour down the drain. Damn wine heads!
 

giligson

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Its a question of what you are holding up as your gold standard. Are you comparing your colour to other extract brews? What brand and quality of extract are you using compared to your "ideal" brewer?
 

double_e5

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Grinder is right. Boiling is boiling. You could have your pot over an afterburner from a fighter jet and it is not going to get any hotter than what the boiling point is. You might scorch the **** out of it but it's not going to get above around 212* depending on your elevation and barometric pressure. The only way to raise the boiling point is to do it under pressure.
 

viking999

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+1 here too on ignoring the LHBS. They really like to sell people sugar to put in their beer. Gee, I wonder why...

Not saying all homebrew stores are like that. But mine seems that way.
 
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Viking999 - Usually hops schedu it something like
60 to go, 30, 15, 5
I just changed to a 3.9% bittering in the recipe i posted, which i brewed last night.

Grinder12000 - Its seems like you are right, it totally makes sense too. I never knew the color changed over the boil because there is always a layer of foam on top and i cant visually see it change. Unfortunately too late for last nights brew. Very valuable advice for the next one.

Berlbrew - I too have a 6 gal pot and start with 3-3.5 gals... and with the added sparge volume it finishes about 4 gals. I then add 2 more gallons of cold water in the primary It seems a resounding answer of late addition malt, thanks to you too... I have only used LME for a stout and it worked well for that, so u are prob right there. I live in San Francisco, and I ferment in the basement storage unit of our apartment. the temperature around here is pretty stable besides nighttime swings. So I think i may already be fermenting at a fairly low temp (low sixties maybe lower at night)

And agreed, my local shop has become only good for supplies, i have realized that they have nothing in mind except the beers they like.
 

mklawz

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I agree with all of the below. I almost quit homebrewing for the same reasons, everything starting looking and tasting the same. Using kits that contain LME, a lb of steeping grains, and dry generic Muntons yeast is a recipe for boredom, and was the main culprit in my opinion. My advice, plus those listed by Berlbrew below, would be to use DME, vary your styles, and use liquid yeasts on some batches. I simply cannot stand LME!

I recently struggled with this issue scott, here's what I did:

1. Do as big a boil as you can - I have a 6-gallon stock pot that I like to do 4-4.5 gallon boils in, this requires that you use a bit less hops, but it dramatically improves your color and taste

2. Do a late addition - Adding all your extract at the beginning of the boil gives it more time to darken up, try adding 30% at the beginning and 70% with 20 minutes remaining.

3. Don't use LME - Just use DME, and really just use Light or Extra Light DME. LME is fine, but it's known to darken things up more. Also, DME is just better. (Someone is bound to disagree here)

4. For what it's worth, ferment at a low-ish temp - It's easy to set the thermostat to 70 and leave it alone, try fermenting closer to 66 or so. This may not effect the color, but it can't hurt.
 

cd2448

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I'm thinking adding heat while you add the DME is a mistake, because that can cause more caramelization. That could also cause the beers to taste like each other. Lawnmower and Boddingtons are not that far apart I would think, we'd need to look at the details of the recipe to see if they really should be widely differing in taste.
 

Grinder12000

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At SOME POINT - You should look into water Chemistry if you are aiming at lighter color brews and are getting obsessed into the sport of home brewing. . Dark grain will lower PH and help extract the needed sugars but light grain will not. If your water is hard like MOST people light beers can come out . . . . twangy or I THINK hops utilization will be diminished.

It's the main reason peoples IPAs turn out not wonderful. Hi PH water. 5.2 buffer will make all water 5.2 ph which is sort of perfect. Of course you could do all sorts of other things but start with that.

Remember - the lighter the beer the more problematic they are. Stouts - hell - my dog could brew one . . . but he would add poop for flavor AND LIKE IT LOL

Cascade 60 min
Amarillo 15 min
poop 5 min
Dry hop poop
 

Berlbrew

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mklawz and cd2448 are right. Definitely fool around with different types of yeasts and grains and definitely do not add DME while your boil is on the burner, always take it off the flame, pour you DME slowly, and mix really well before bringing it back to a boil.

Your process sounds good, I have one question- is there any specific reason you're sparging your grains? Generally, with extract I just get my 4.5 gallons up to 160, cover the pot, steep the grains for color and flavor then toss 'em in the trash. Also, are you cooling your wort enough before pitching your yeast?
 

craigd

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Another cause of dark color with LME can be the age of the extract. Older extract darkens quite a bit...
 
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scottaustingreen
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The lawnmower and boddingtons are nearly identitcal, one uses corn, one uses oats. My main issue was,
- Similar bitter taste
- Dark Color and Heavyness of beer
I think we can explain the color and fullness of the beer on the early addition of DME

As far as my recipe i posted on the first page, has anyone tried something similar ? I brewed last night with a full early addition of the DME, so unfortunatley it wont be as light as i had hoped.
 

SumnerH

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At SOME POINT - You should look into water Chemistry if you are aiming at lighter color brews and are getting obsessed into the sport of home brewing. . Dark grain will lower PH and help extract the needed sugars but light grain will not. If your water is hard like MOST people light beers can come out . . . . twangy or I THINK hops utilization will be diminished.

It's the main reason peoples IPAs turn out not wonderful.
Hmm. Burton-on-Trent, which made IPAs famous, usually attributed the taste to their very hard water. I always thought of hard water, and especially higher-than-usual gypsum content, as being important to getting that authentic IPA taste.

BT - India Pale Ale, Part II: The Sun Never Sets-- says:
As discussed in last issue (3), the calcium and sulfates in the Trent basin led to the Burton brewers' success with this style. The calcium and sulfates have two effects. First, calcium helps extract hop bitterness and reduce haze. Second, the sulfates give beer a dry, fuller flavor that enhances hop bitterness. I find that the addition of gypsum to the boil yields a crisper and cleaner bitterness.

The water for brewing India Pale Ales should mimic the water of the Burton region -- hard water full of mineral salts
 
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