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Beer Harsh Bitterness

I brewed the Smashing Pumpkins Ale extract kit and I’m noticing a harsh bitterness even though the IBUs are supposedly only at 23. Actually, I notice this harsh bitterness with the very first two batches of beer I’ve made (Carribou Slobber, Cream Ale, and this is the third batch). I pitched at ~75ºF (which I now know was too warm) with ambient temp of 63ºF, and left it in the primary for 4 weeks and bottle conditioned for 3 weeks (75ºF, 70ºF, 60ºF). I just used unfiltered tap water, and recently noticed that my home water supplier uses chloramines/chlorine. Could this be the case of the harsh bitterness? It seems more like an upfront lingering bitterness.

I haven’t sent in my tap water for testing, though, I have a 2012 annual water report.

Hardness (as CaC03) → 103 [Range: 67 - 127]
Chloride → 78 [Range: 54 - 85]
Sodium → 51 [Range: 42 - 62]
Sulfate → 47 [Range: 24 - 66]

Total Chlorine → 1.1ppm
Total Chloramines → NA

Does anything seem out of the ordinary?

Could the harsh bitterness also be due to fermenting too hot? Or does that only produce a fruity taste along with fusel alcohols?

Fermenting too warm can give all kinds of off flavors depending on the yeast pitching rate and yes, exactly what the temperature is. Chloramines are suppose to give a Band-Aid flavor, but I haven’t experienced it so that’s just what I’ve read. Adding 1 Camden tablet per 20 gallons of water you will be using will totally eliminate the chloramines, so that is easy to address if that is the cause. Doing something to get your fermentation temperatures under control would make a big impact on your beer, so I would advocate you do that even if it is not the cause of this specific problem.

Are you using extract or AG? If the later, the problem could be due to water chemistry or tannin extraction from the malt. Is this bitterness astringent like a cup of tea or something else?

[quote=“rebuiltcellars”]Fermenting too warm can give all kinds of off flavors depending on the yeast pitching rate and yes, exactly what the temperature is. Chloramines are suppose to give a Band-Aid flavor, but I haven’t experienced it so that’s just what I’ve read. Adding 1 Camden tablet per 20 gallons of water you will be using will totally eliminate the chloramines, so that is easy to address if that is the cause. Doing something to get your fermentation temperatures under control would make a big impact on your beer, so I would advocate you do that even if it is not the cause of this specific problem.

Are you using extract or AG? If the later, the problem could be due to water chemistry or tannin extraction from the malt. Is this bitterness astringent like a cup of tea or something else?[/quote]

It was an extract kit. I pitched around 75ºF but ambient temps were around 63ºF. Even though, the wort will eventually cool down towards 63ºF (within 24 hours?), would that still significantly affect the amount of off flavors? I also made a starter with the Wyeast 1056.

I don’t detect any astringent like qualities to the bitterness. I’m not sure what the band-aid flavor tastes like either.

I’ve had the same experience with the Caribou Slobber extract kit. Started out a bit bitter and astringent after three weeks bottle conditioning, but after about two more months it mellowed and was awesome. I have found this to be true with almost all the dark beers I have brewed (all extract).

Also, try getting your temps down to around 60* or so before pitching (I keep my top off water in the freezer for about an hour before I’ll need it). Don’t know if this has any effect on bitterness, but it will help reduce some off flavors and the alcohol taste you can get from high ferm temps.

If you’re like me, and are not a big fan of “bitter” beers, you can try reducing the amount of bittering (60 min) hops in the boil. Sometimes I’ll cut them by 1/2. Reduces some of the bitter for me, but I realize there are different kinds of “bitter”.

Ron

One important thing that is not presented in that water data is its alkalinity or bicarbonate content. Elevated alkalinity can raise the pH of the kettle wort and that can affect the extraction of tannins and silicates from any steeping grains and it makes the hop bitterness ‘rough’.

Do find out about the alkalinity of that tap water and that can help you figure out what treatment you might need to perform on your brewing water. Water still matters to extract brewers too!!!

[quote=“Frenchie”]I’ve had the same experience with the Caribou Slobber extract kit. Started out a bit bitter and astringent after three weeks bottle conditioning, but after about two more months it mellowed and was awesome. I have found this to be true with almost all the dark beers I have brewed (all extract).

Also, try getting your temps down to around 60* or so before pitching (I keep my top off water in the freezer for about an hour before I’ll need it). Don’t know if this has any effect on bitterness, but it will help reduce some off flavors and the alcohol taste you can get from high ferm temps.

If you’re like me, and are not a big fan of “bitter” beers, you can try reducing the amount of bittering (60 min) hops in the boil. Sometimes I’ll cut them by 1/2. Reduces some of the bitter for me, but I realize there are different kinds of “bitter”.

Ron[/quote]

I guess I’ll let them mature a few months or so.

Yea, I thought it was vital to pitch yeast as soon as possible to prevent the risk of infection, but the next brew I’ll leave it overnight to cool down to 60ºF.

The Smashing Pumpkin Ale kit only has 1 oz of Cluster hops @ 60 min. Because my previous 2 batches also had that harsh bitterness, I reduced the time to 45 min but it still tastes bitter.

I had a IIPA (~100 IBU) and even though it was bitter, it was a pleasant hoppy bitterness.
I would say the harsh bitterness from this Smashing Pumpkin Ale batch tastes more bitter than that IIPA.

[quote=“mabrungard”]One important thing that is not presented in that water data is its alkalinity or bicarbonate content. Elevated alkalinity can raise the pH of the kettle wort and that can affect the extraction of tannins and silicates from any steeping grains and it makes the hop bitterness ‘rough’.

Do find out about the alkalinity of that tap water and that can help you figure out what treatment you might need to perform on your brewing water. Water still matters to extract brewers too!!![/quote]

I couldn’t find the alkalinity or bicarbonate content from the annual water report. I guess I’ll have to send water samples to get the reading.

[quote=“maltybeer”]I guess I’ll let them mature a few months or so.

Yea, I thought it was vital to pitch yeast as soon as possible to prevent the risk of infection, but the next brew I’ll leave it overnight to cool down to 60ºF.[/quote]
Bitterness will mellow with time, good plan.
Waiting for the wort to cool before pitching the yeast is a better way to go, and the risk of infection due to waiting is pretty tiny if your sanitation was good.
The advantage of pitching fast is that IF you have some unwanted microorganisms present in the wort, it is possible that a quick pitch with lots of healthy yeast can outcompete the infection agents and keep them from affecting the final product. So you can think of a fast pitch as adding an additional, secondary level of protection against infection, but you are better off simply practicing good sanitation to prevent infection in the first place.

I was able to get more information about my tap water.

Hardness (as CaC03) → 103 [Range: 67 - 127]
Chloride → 78 [Range: 54 - 85]
Sodium → 51 [Range: 42 - 62]
Sulfate → 47 [Range: 24 - 66]

Total Chlorine → 1.1ppm
Total Chloramines → NA

Total Alkalinity → 71 mg/L
pH → 7.9
Calcium → 18 Mg/l (** it was listed as Mg not mg, is that a typo?)
Magnesium → 13 mg/l
Potassium 3 mg/l

It seems like Calcium is either too high or too low. It was listed as Mg (megagrams) instead of mg. I’m think that’s just a typo.

Does my tap water look ok?

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