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My dark beers are tasting hard and bitter

Discussion in 'General Brewing Techniques' started by Bellyup, 18/4/19.

 

  1. Bellyup

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    Posted 18/4/19
    Hi Guys,
    I would appreciate your thoughts on this.
    My go to recipes for Porter and Stout are tasting hard with a somewhat bitter finish. The other strange thing/ flavour is liquorice almost like old fashioned cough medicine at the finish.... not good.

    I can only think of 2 things which may be the cause:

    Water. I have always used tank water until recently but due to the drought ( Orange NSW) I have changed over to tap water as the tank water was getting a bit manky.
    The water analysis supplied by Central Tablelands Water in brief is:
    Chloride - 21.0000 mg/L
    Iron - 0.0100 mg/L
    Magnesium - 7.6300 mg/L
    PH - 7.7
    Sodium - 15.0000 mg/L
    Sulfate - 2.0000 mg/L
    Total hardness as CaC03- 61.5000 mg/L

    These numbers mean nothing to me- I don't have an understanding of water chemistry.
    Is there something I should add to correct the water?
    My Pale ales taste fine - good in fact.

    Number 2:
    Country Brewer are my LHBS and they now use Joe White malts almost exclusively even for the specialty grains - maybe this was different in previous years??
    How do JW malts stack up in the scheme of things?

    Thanks fellas,
    Regards,
    Bruce.
     
  2. MHB

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    Posted 18/4/19
    Without getting too deep into water chemistry, there is nothing too frightening in your water (mineral wise) you would want to add some Calcium (50-100ppm), personally I would use mostly CaCl2 as I like my dark beers mellow.
    What I suspect the problem might be is Chlorine or Chloramine, you wont have any in your roof water but odds on its coming with the tap water.
    Look at ways to eliminate the Cl2 (Campden/metabisulphite, Boiling, Carbon filtering...)

    For the record Jo White malts are OK, I prefer Barrett Burston (especially the coloured malts - except the JW Roasted Malt which is a cracker) if you are going to use an Australian malt.
    Either way, I doubt that's where your problems are coming from.
    Mark
     
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  3. Bellyup

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    Posted 18/4/19
    Thanks Mark for your time,
    With the calcium addition you suggest, how much would you add for a Grainfather brew - typically a 28 ltr boil?
    Would you add the Calcium for both the mash and the boil?
    Many thanks,
    Bruce.
     
  4. Neil Buttriss

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    Posted 18/4/19
    How long are you conditioning for, I like to condition my dark beers for 6 weeks at about 10*. This seems to smooth them right out, also I only carbonate to about 1.7
     
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  5. Coalminer

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    Posted 18/4/19
    Use calcium in mash and sparge water. I use 100 -150 ppm
     
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  6. MHB

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    Posted 18/4/19
    Calcium is very important during fermentation. The aim is to have a decent amount of Ca left in the wort at the end of the boil.
    If your water is high in Carbonates more of your Ca gets used up trying to get the pH down to an acceptable range (~5.2-5.5pH), so if a lot of your Ca is used up during the mash its a good idea to top it up before the wort is knocked out.
    Your water is not high in Carbonates (the pH of 7.7 tells us that) so if you treat all your liquor (mash and sparge water) at the start, odds on you wont need kettle additions of extra Ca.
    Coalminer and I are on the same water, which isn't all that different from what you have, so here I doubt many brewers bother with extra kettle additions. Maybe a bit of Acid in the sparge water wouldn't hurt (I use Lactic).
    Best thing would be to get a bit more detailed analysis and plug it all into a good water calculator. Brewin Water is well regarded, or better yet heaps of study and a good pH meter if that your inclination, fair to say I like that side of brewing (bit of a lab rat).
    Mark
     
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  7. Schikitar

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    Posted 18/4/19
    Firstly, listen to MHB! Just another thought, have you tried cold steeping your roast malts before adding to the kettle, or as a late addition in the mash? That will give you colour and some roast but tone down that harsh bite..
     
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  8. Bellyup

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    Posted 18/4/19
    Hi Neil,
    I usually condition them at about -1 deg. for as long as I can wait, depends on what else is on tap at the time.
    I haven't tried conditioning at 10 deg. before....... at this time of year that would be the ambient temperature in my shed up here.
    Do you think if I pulled the keg out now and left it at ambient there would be a positive change?
    Thanks,
    Bruce.
     
  9. Bellyup

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    Posted 18/4/19
    Hi Coalminer,
    Thanks for your reply.
    How would I go about calculating to get 100 - 150 ppm of Calcium Chloride for my water, chemistry isn't my strong suit ........
    Many thanks,
    Bruce.
     
  10. Bellyup

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    Posted 18/4/19
    Hi Schikitar,
    I haven't heard of cold steeping before, how would you go about that process?
    With black and chocolate malts, when would you put them in as late additions in say a 60 min. boil.
    Many thanks,
    Bruce.
     
  11. Bellyup

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    Posted 18/4/19
    Thanks Mark,
    Really appreciate your detailed knowledge on this.
    I had a look for Brewin Water and found Bru'n Water, would that be it?
    My LHBS doesn't stock much in chemicals, just the little packs of Mangrove Jack stuff. Where's the best place to access these chemicals?
    Many thanks,
    Bruce.
     
  12. Coalminer

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    Posted 18/4/19
    Firstly I use Bru'n Water (paid version) to calculate the projected Calcium content of the mash water (not Calcium Chloride)
    (well worth whatever you are willing to donate as it gives extra functionality to the free version and free upgrades when available but is a steep learning curve)
    Then add sufficient Calcium Lactate to bring Calcium content up to a minimum of 100ppm
    you can't add the Calcium Lactate into Bru'n Water as there is no provision in its database for that so I calculate it as an extra addition to my mash and sparge water
    e.g. My local water has about 11ppm calcium so to add an extra 100ppm in a 26L mash and 7L sparge with Calcium Lactate (which is 13% calcium)
    100x26=2600mg calcium or 2.6 grams then 2.6/0.13=20 grams in 26L mash to end up with 111ppm
    100x7=700mg calcium or 0.7 grams then 0.7/0.13= 5.38 grams in 7L sparge to end up with 111ppm
    Bear in mind this does not take into account any Calcium Chloride or Calcium Sulphate you may be adding (if necessary)
     
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  13. huez

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    Posted 18/4/19
    I also use Bru'n Water, and once you get the hang of it and get you water profile correct, it's very rare that it's wrong on your mash pH. But as Coalminer has said, it's a very steep learning curve. If you're after something a little bit more basic, EZ Water calculator is a pretty good alternative.

    I'd start by filtering your water and go from there. Are you only getting these flavours in your dark beers or have you noticed it in lighter beers as well?
     
  14. MHB

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    Posted 19/4/19
    Yep "Bru'n Water" or one of the alternates.
    It takes a bit to get your head around the Chemistry of brewing water, but it isn't really as important as a lot of people make out. Provided you get rid of any Chlorine, have enough Ca and get the pH into the right range, anything further is really salt and pepper - add to taste!
    I use my local (Brewman) for chemicals, he is the only one that stocks Calcium Lactate which is an interesting choice but I thought it better to keep it out of an entry level discussion. But here goes
    To make CaLac we react Calcium Carbonate with Lactic Acid, this is exactly what happen when high carbonate water reacts with the natural Lactic Acid in malt (about 90% of the acidity in pale malt is Lactic Acid) this is a separate reaction to the way Ca reacts with malt Phosphate to lower pH.
    Playing around with CaLac came out of some experiments I was doing with Carbonate in stout, one side of the theory says Carbonate is the enemy, but having it in the water makes for much more flavourful stouts (see Guinness) and I wanted to know why.
    Calcium Lactate turn out to be a simple way to add Ca without affecting either Chloride or Sulphate, or in addition to any additions you want to make from the common brewing salts. To my mind its an important part of what makes stouts like Guinness unique, worth having a play with if you're seriously interested in big black beers.
    Mark
     
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  15. Bellyup

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    Posted 19/4/19
    Hi huez,
    I have had a look at Ez water, that might be a better place for me to start than Bru'n Water ( brain might explode) .
    If you use a water filter, what would you reset your water chemistry to?
    It's only been the dark beers that have been affected of late - my English Bitters are coming out with a lot of caramel and my Porters and Stout have had a hard and somewhat bitter finish.
    My mates aren't complaining about my P.A 's or Amber Ales, I reckon they are as good or better than when I used tank water.
    Thanks for your thoughts,
    Bruce.
     
  16. pete brews

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    Posted 20/4/19
    buy a tds meter off ebay for about 10 dollars to get an idea of how hard your water is, what type of filter are you getting?
     
  17. Schikitar

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    Posted 21/4/19
    My brother swears by this method mostly for his Black IPAs, also good in a porter depending on how roasty/bitter you like them. I like my stouts to have a bit of an espresso-punch so I wouldn't do it for my beers but it depends on personal preference.

    So basically just take your roast malts, typically you might want to up the quantity as you'll be extracting mostly colour and less flavour/aromatics. Just steep them in enough cold water to cover the grains (you might like to take, for example, 2 litres out of your mash volume to account for this). Let the grains steep for 24-48 hours in the fridge, drain and then add it after mashout or start of the boil. I think that's roughly it but do some research of your own to investigate the different methods/recommendations (eg. https://homebrewacademy.com/cold-steep-dark-grains-experiment/)

    If you can't be bothered doing a cold steep then the other thing you could do is not add your roast malts until the last half of the mash, long enough to pull the colour but not long enough to pull all the flavour out..
     
  18. keine_ahnung

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    Posted 25/4/19
    Hi Bellyup... interesting question. I like it!

    A few thoughts:
    1. As Mark has already mentioned; water, although very important, can be blown a bit of of proportion with homebrewers for some reason. Important is: to make sure that the big things are right (Carbonate-Hardness not too high, non-carbonate-hardness 2-3 x Carbonate-Hardness, Residual-Alkalinity not too high).
    However 2 big things lead me to start looking elsewhere for the cause of your conundrum.
    a) again, to repeat Mark, there's nothing remarkable about your water analysis
    b) a lighter (in colour!) beer with the same water ISN'T showing said signs of hard bitterness.

    In general harder water is better for darker beers. The acidity of the darker malts (due to melanoidines etc) does a better job of puffering the pH-rising carbonates in harder water.
    This has numerous flow on effects such as enzyme activity (optimum for amyloyse (starch breakdown) is pH5,6). Heading down to pH5 you'll start favouring the Peptidasen (Protein breakdown) and Phospotasen (Phosphates). Depending on the protein content of the original barley, and more importantly, the amount of soluble-nitrogen and FAN (free amino nitrogen)...this may be a good or a bad thing.
    Example: too much high-molecular protein in the wort can lead to a harsh unrounded bitterness...

    A higher pH in the mash and lauter tun increases the amount of tannins and other unwanted stuff out of the malt husks..
    A higher pH in the boil SIGNIFICANTLY increases the isomerisation of alpha-acid in the hops into iso-alpha-acid. Arguably, it can also affect not just the quantity of alpha-acid isomerisation but also the quality.

    To makes things even more interesting, if the pH in the mash is too low, it can increase the phosphotasen activity too much, resulting it a higher phosphate content. Phosphates have a "puffer affect" to the pH-drop during the fermentation. Result: the end beer pH is higher than it should be -> beer tastes harder, bitterness is less pleasant

    Now on to my next two main points:
    Your ingredients and your process.

    2)You said your LHBS has a new supplier of specialty malts...
    Is that also the case for the base malts? Were the malts from a different year/season? (if you can get a detailed malt analysis, I'd be very interested to see it)
    What else has changed in your process? Is you mash exactly the same? Boil?

    Where do you mash-in? (Temp?)
    Any chance that's below 60°C?

    3) Hops!!!!!!!
    This hasn't been mentioned yet, but thought I'd ask. Is there any chance they're different? Different year/season? (Hops are actually extremely complicated, and continually changing. When I first started learning about brewing, you pretty much only ever heard about alpha-acid. Which is the tip of the iceberg. Sure, it's not a bad gauge for seeing how big the rest of the iceberg is. But doesn't tell you about the makeup.
    Important are things like the ratio of Alpha-Fraction to Beta-Fraction, soft resins, hard resins..)
    How old/fresh are the hops??
    This seems like such an obvious thing and can be easily overlooked. However two things raise a flag for me here: Bitterness! (yep, Hops play an important role) and we're looking for something that is specific to your dark beers. (unless you're using the same hops as for your pales...then disregard this point completely. haha!)

    4) Autolysis of the yeast
    Question: how's the head on your beer? Still as good as always?
    If so, you can probably disregard this point.

    However, autolysis causes a rather unpleasant harsh-bitter taste, which could match your descriptions..


    Hope that helps.
    Sorry for the essay! Just that's a pretty open question with lots of factors to explore :)

    Sorry about any spelling mistakes and weird wordings. Converting a lot of it out of the German in my head with a few Augustiners also rolling round in there ;)
     
  19. Bellyup

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    Posted 26/4/19
    What a fantastic reply......thank you.
    Clearly we are in very different paddocks when you lend your knowledge, I will need to re- read this a few times to understand some of the technical aspects !!
    I have always used JW malts, both pilsener and pale.
    I wonder sometimes what role yeast may play. I always use Safale English yeast for porters and stout to avoid too much attenuation. I have made the mistake of using a high attenuating yeast and been disappointed buy the result but I am consistent with pitching, wort temp. and temperature control.
    Hops, yep.... no control over those little buggers. I do my best to treat them well.
    When recipes say " condition " your beer at 18 deg.for X days, would that be under forced carbonation or just in the keg with the oxygen blown off?
    Again, thank you for your time.
    Bruce.
     
  20. keine_ahnung

    joeblogsbier.com

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    Posted 28/4/19
    You're welcome :)

    Good to hear you're always consistent with pitching, wort temp and temp control. Potentially not quite as critical with ales as with lagers, but still good to be attentative there. Especially around the start of the fermentation. Up until recently, I didn't realise how critical the pitching-temp is. In ways, it's significantly more important than the remaining fermentation temp.
    The start of fermenation (i.e. the aerobic, exponential growth phase) is where the amount of higher alcohols and esters are largely dictated.

    Hmm...which recepes are you referring to?
    Initially reading that actually makes me cringe a little bit. Depending on when (in the fermentation) and how healthy your yeast ist, sitting at 80deg for several days, when there is very little "food" left for the yeast in the wort is significantly increasing the severity of autolysis. (In case you're not familiar with autolysis, it's basically when the older yeast cells who have already pumped out 20 kids, and been through 7 rounds of sitting around in the cold with no food for 3 weeks, then all of a sudden been thrown into a warm soup that is overflowing with sugar, having to adapt to that, then run out of food, then remain in a solution full of CO2 and Ethanol where they've run out of nutrients, their stomach starts to eat itself until they errupt. Then all the enzymes and unwanted biproducts of their metabolism end up in the beer.)

    So yeah, it's one you have to weigh up. Conditioning warmer speeds up the breakdown of fermentation biproducts (e.g. the infamous diacetyl), however it also speeds up autolysis of the older yeast cells. The good thing is, however, that the older less healthy yeast cells fall to the bottom before the others. So if you have the equipment, you can let the old yeast out from the bottom every day.

    Regarding forced carbonation, I can't really imagine how that would make a difference. What's your equipment? Are you able to naturally carbonate? Personally, that'd be my preference...purely in terms of brewing results. However I understand that it's probably much easier to force carbonate if it's just one or two kegs...

    I'd be very interested to hear your mash and fermentation schedules if you want to share..?
     

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