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astringent bitterness

Discussion in 'All Grain Brewing' started by theredone, 6/9/19.

 

  1. theredone

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    Posted 6/9/19
    didnt want to be that bloke asking these sorts of questions but im at a bit of a loss as to what im doing wrong.

    im about 6 brews deep(second time picking up the hobby) and brews 4 and 5 had a strange almost unbearable chemically bitterness to it. given brew schedule and fermenting etc it doesnt surprise me to be two batches in before i actually notice an issue and try to rectify.
    so things ive done to try and rectify is giving the brewzilla a massive clean with PBW, and re calibrated thermometer (it was off a bit) and put on another batch that is currently nearly finished fermenting, just took a gravity ready and its displaying the same weird bitterness. im at a loss as to what this might be. its got to be somewhere in the mash, fermenter is spotless and always sanitized, kegs too for that matter every brew that goes in. from brew 3 onwards i was messing with water (brew 3 turned out perfect) and adding a teaspoon of calcium sulphate and half teaspoon of calcium chloride - brisbane tap water, and a third of a teaspoon of potasium metabysulphate (no cambden at shop). and phosphoric acid to lower PH to 5.2
    even though brew three was great im wondering if there might be something with my salts, likley candidate being the potasium metabysulphate maybe? maybe the phosphoric?

    just wondering if anything is standing out to anyone as a potential issue with my process here?

    cheers

    red
     
  2. MHB

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    Posted 6/9/19
    Do you sparge your grain?
    If you aren't weighing your Metabisulfite addition, it could be a bit on the heavy side, you can get pretty accurate 0.01g scales on places like eBay for not much (certainly a lot less than the cost of a couple of spoiled brews).
    Next brew don't use the Met, just fill up your Zilla the night before, bring it to a boil to eject he Cl, let it cool till the next day.
    But do you sparge your grain?
    Mark
     
  3. theredone

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    Posted 6/9/19
    Yeah sorry I do spare, mash is about 4ltrs per kg, then sparse through the remainder at 75 degrees to bring me up to volume.
    Was thinking of cutting sparge in half as well just in case but I don’t think it’s all that big
     
  4. MHB

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    Posted 7/9/19
    Well a sparge of roughly 2L/kg isn't huge, but if you aren't acidifying or if the temperature is a fair bit higher than you think its a very likely suspect.
    Process errors like a badly out of wack thermometer, not stirring your sparger water so the temperature is same all through, a badly set up sparge so that all or most of the water is going through one path...
    Without being there and having a look your sparge is what I would be thinking of first.
    Maybe a batch sparge would be better than a pour through.

    There are other possible causes, if you have a really good HBS, a brew club or even a good micro near you, nothing wrong with getting some other opinions. No substitute for actually having an experienced brewer taste you beer.
    Mark
     
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  5. theredone

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    Posted 7/9/19
    cheers, i dont have a big second vessel to batch sparge with unfortunately. and maybe i am a bit of a lazy fly sparger, generally adding quite a lot of water and letting it drain through and repeating this 3-4 times. might try to slow this down adding only a liter at a time or something?
    my sparge water is stirred quite thoroughly so im not sure this would be a big issue but ill also drop sparge temp a bit to be on safe side for next brew.
     
  6. MHB

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    Posted 7/9/19
    Notice I avoided using the term Fly Sparge, bit like ATM Machine, call it a pet hate.
    You don't need to get too high tech. When I started out it was all plastic buckets and cut off kegs.
    Tip all the mash grist into a bucket, add 80oC acidified water, stir well, allow to rest, carefully pour into the kettle try to trap all the chunky bits (I used to pour it through an oil strainer bag but a tea towel would work).
    Mark
     
  7. Reg Holt

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    Posted 7/9/19
    I would be tasting the wort before the boil, just for elimination, hop debris in the fermenter wouldn't help either.
    Another thing how are you cooling the wort?
     
    Last edited: 7/9/19
    wide eyed and legless and krz like this.
  8. theredone

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    Posted 8/9/19
    I keep forgetting to try the wort before boil, and yeah I have an immersion chiller, goes in 15 mins before boil is done
     
  9. peteru

    Here, taste this!

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    Posted 9/9/19
    Based on the chemical aspect, I would expand my investigations to fermentation. In particular, yeast health, appropriate temperature for the strain and possible sources of contamination.
     
    theredone and Eddy Monsoon like this.
  10. keine_ahnung

    joeblogsbier.com

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    Posted 9/9/19
    Hey,

    might I suggest that you wind back your chemical additions.
    I just googled up an old analysis of Brisbane water (would happily review a recent one if someone has one) and did some quick calcs.

    It's already pretty decent water for brewing. And the addition of more salts is not going to iron the current "imperfections"...rather, worsen the situation.
    From the analysis I have:
    Total-hardness = 13°dH ("medium hard") -> Optimum: depends on beer type, but in general, softer is "better"
    Carbonate-hardness = 3.9°dH -> Optimum: 1-3°dH
    Non-carbonate-hardness = 9.1°dH -> Optimum: should be 2-3 times Carbonate-hardness, providing Carbonate-H isn't too high (right on target)
    Residual-alkality = 1.1°dH -> Optimum: <5°dH for bright (light in colour) beers, <2°dH for hop-driven beers
    Sulfate = 20-100mg/L -> Optimum: <240mg/L

    As you can see, pretty much all paramaters are at worst "ok", in all, more like "good".
    The only thing that catches my eye a bit, is that the Magnesium hardness is slightly higher than the calcium-hardness (Ca should be higher than Mg).
    But without a method to take the salts out of the water, there's not much sense in trying to screw around with this water.
    You could add a bit of CaCl, like you've mentioned, but then you'll bring the non-carbonate-hardness up to a level that could leave the beer tasting a bit "salty".
    Personally, I wouldn't be adding anything to this water. Apart from malt, hops and yeast.

    A simple test, without all the chemistry stuff above:
    add the same amount of salts and stuff that you're throwing into your brew in the same volume of water, and then see how the water tastes.
    If the water itself doesn't taste good, why should the beer brewed with that water taste good?
     
    krz, Jens-Kristian, theredone and 4 others like this.
  11. theredone

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    Posted 11/9/19
    Thanks for the replies.
    Re yeast: I do two litre starters generally, and did a 4 last batch. Always taste them before pitching etc.
    Re salts. You raise a good point, I’ve been referred to a couple of water testing places, I’ll hold off on any additions until then. Was just working off an advise made on home brew website here in Brisbane
     
  12. theredone

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    Posted 11/9/19
    double post...
     
  13. keine_ahnung

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    Posted 15/9/19 at 8:30 AM
    Hi theredone,

    You're welcome.
    Yeah unless you already know what your water is really doing, and you've got a pretty good idea about water chemistry (and/or the means to measure/control what your chemical additions are doing) I'd be very wary about adding all sorts of salts and shit.
    I know it's become very popular in the home brewing community. But the level of "importance" it receives, seems to massively out of proportion with the level of understanding for it.

    Look at it this way: chemical additions to water are illegal in Germany, and there's thousands of breweries here making exceptional beers that you can drink all day long.

    A little bit of water adjustment can be the difference between your beer being 90% or 99% on point for the style you're making.
    But one or two little brewing faults (like too many higher alcohols, too estery, too young, autolysis, wort infection, yeast infection, DMS) is more like difference between being 90% on target for your beer style, or being 20% on target.
    I.e. one could still call it "beer", but no one would ever buy it.

    In general, make sure the rest of your brewing process is as close to perfect as possible. Then, if you still want the last few percent of perfection, look into your water hardness.
    Darker beers worker better with a little bit of hardness, lighter coloured and more delicate beers with softer water.
    But the less shit you have to add to your water, the better. If anything, maybe a little bit of CaCl for bright beers (increases your non-carbonate hardness --> reduces pH of the mash). But start very very small.
    Like I said above. At the end of the day, you're adding salts. Anyone who's cooked know's that tiny bit can make the meal much better, but go a little bit too far.....and it tastes like Sh??
     
    theredone and MHB like this.
  14. krz

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    Posted 15/9/19 at 11:17 AM
    I like the comments about tasting the wort as you go.
    One of the pleasures about brewing is tasting. I love how you start off with a sickly sweet wort, then as you add the hops the tastes are different. I love the taste of hopped wort. You should taste the wort before fermenting, and after of course.
     
  15. OATY1KENOBE

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    Posted 15/9/19 at 11:12 PM
    pH..... If your sparge water is above 6pH, you'll be stripping Tannins left right and centre from my understanding. I had similar issues starting off.... our town water's PH is 8.2 !! All my beers were shit no matter what I did.... then I started adding salts / acid to my mash AND sparge water have not had a bad brew since ! In fact the beer I've been making since is as good as any brewery's I've drank at recently ... buy a pH meter and go for gold. Also, Don't sparge to under 1.010. Measure your run off with a refractometer & adjust for Temp. I usually stop at 1.012 just to be safe.
     
    Last edited: 15/9/19 at 11:56 PM
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  16. theredone

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    Posted 16/9/19 at 12:36 AM
    Thanks again some great advise. And to the two of u mentioning sparge ph I’m hoping u hit the nail on the head, it’s not something I had considered, I had only been adjusting mash ph so made sure to do sparge water too over the weekend along with the other suggestions of no salts, no cambden and slower sparging. Fermenting now so I’ll report back later
     
  17. PaulS

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    Posted 16/9/19 at 4:04 PM
    I'll add another vote for pH. When I started out, my pale beers all had a touch of astringency, which I initially thought was due to over-sparging, but I eventually I bought a pH meter and discovered my mash pH was around 5.8 for lighter beers. I used lactic acid to reduce the mash pH to about 5.2 to 5.3 and the astringency went away.
     
  18. peterlonz

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    Posted 17/9/19 at 2:54 AM
    Any reliable & reasonably priced Ph meter recommendations?
     
  19. theredone

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    Posted 17/9/19 at 9:13 PM
    got mine at kegland
     

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