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Beginner: First Batch - weak and bitter. Recipes?

Hi all,

Just made my first all-grain batch the other night and just had a few questions before I move onto the next. Based on the OG value (1.020) and a little sip I had before putting it in the fermenter, I’m expecting a fairly weak and bitter beer. Can anyone point out what I may have done wrong or what I could do better next time?

I tried to follow this recipe: http://www.howtobrew.com/section3/chapter18-2.html, replacing the Nugget with Chinook. I am fairly limited as to what I can make as I live in a country with an extremely homebrew community - all I can get are standard 2-row malts, biscuit, chocolate, black, wheat, and canadian pale ale malt.Only chinook and willamnette hops, and standard brewers yeast. I found it really hard to find any recipes with just these ingredients and don’t know what/how I can substitute.

Anyway I made an 8L batch but after mashing the wort didn’t taste sweet at all! I then sparged it over the course of a couple of hours with the same amount of water, hoping it would draw out some sugar, but I fear it only served to dilute the wort as it still wasn’t sweet and really didn’t have much flavour. Tried it again after the boil and of course it was extremely hoppy/bitter. I added some honey during the boil to try and give the yeast something to feed on. It’s now bubbling away ok so I’m confident I’m at least going to end up with beer in a few weeks.

My questions are:

  1. where can I find basic recipes with exact ingredients, times, and quantities?
  2. where can I find out suitable substitutes for ingredients?
  3. why wasn’t my wort sweet? Did I not use enough grain (I tried to work it out based on the recipe, converting the american units to english) or is my grain no good? (can’t get extract here) Maybe I didn’t grind it finely enough? Maybe I used too much water?
  4. Assuming it had been sweeter, am I right in thinking that the gravity would have been higher so it wouldn’t have taken on so much bitterness from the hops?

Thanks

I will reread this at a more sober time but it seems to me you just need something like promash or other assorted free web/mobile apps to configure efficiency and expected SG. It may be a process issue but first you have to know which ballpark your in.

Promash is a free download and you can save/modify 3 recipes before it “cuts” you off.

8L is only a gallon and a half (edit…lol… I knew I would do better the next day—8l = 2 gallons) “batch” depending on what you actually did here 1.020 could very well be the correct amount of SG expected to get with what you actually used and next time you can use the calculators to establish efficiency and expected SG.

Great, I’ll check it out. So where might I find beginner recipes that I could try with my limited ingredients? A lot of the recipes I’ve seen call for so many ingredients and often have percentages instead of quantities - is there always a fixed amount of grain to water?

Usually yes,

In most cases a brewer will used a specified ratio of anywhere from 1.0 to 2.0+
In most cases it is best to aim towards 1.3-1.5 quarts per pound for single infusions as specified in John Palmers book.
Many of these “recipes” you have been looking at might just be someones interpretation of that beer/style, when in fact most recipes are short and simple regarding grain makeup. So 2 row will make up the majority of your mainstream styles then you will add quite a few malts to darker styles and then absolutely no specialty malts other than pilsner malt when doing light lagers in many cases.
So recipes that advocate biscuit, 20L & 140L and carapils + melanoidin malt to make a bitter are way off base just for extreme example. When it might just need 2 row and a slight amount of 20L.

What was the temperature of your mash? How long did you mash?

Mashed for one hour at 67 degrees.

Sorry to say but all you did was wet the grains.

Order a kit from NB and follow the directions that come with the kit you can cut it in half if you can’t brew that much.

When I saw that I figured he was talking in Celsius as nobody would use 67f for anything. Must be in a locale where Celcius is common.
So 67C = 152.60F

Yeah sorry i meant degrees Celsius.

  1. I suggest you buy a book like 200 clones or something like that from amazon.

Say if you would post exactly your operation in detail. Grain used, water used for what steps (mash/sparge etc…) We know you used 2 gallons for something, and mashed that something concoction at 152f. Spell out what “recipe” was used with what process and I/we can help to give you an idea what happened this go round and what needs to happen next time if replicating this batch.

Sure:

I was following the all-grain options for this recipe, adjusted for 8L: http://www.howtobrew.com/section3/chapter18-2.html

So I used
1.44kg 2-row,
192g crystal 60,
48g chocolate,
then 9g of chinook at 60 minutes, 12g at 30 mins, and 12g at 15 minutes (along with about 150g honey).
Started off with 8L of water for the mash, and used another 8L for sparging.

Did you crush the grains!? Perhaps the mill was just set way too wide. Did you see much flour in the grist, or was it still mostly whole grains, or someplace in between? Extent of crush is often the very first variable that people need to fix if they experience low efficiency.

The other big thing is the accuracy of the thermometer. If your thermometer said 67 C but you actually mashed at 75 C or something like that, you’d kill the enzymes. Check your thermometer in plain boiling water to see if it hits 100 C. If it reads a lot less than 100 C in plain boiling water, then your thermometer is to blame.

Thanks Dave. I think the thermometer is ok as it hit 100 when it hit the boil. I suspect my grains may not have been milled fine enough - it was like large breadcrumbs with loads of husks.

[quote=“dazsnow”]Sure:

I was following the all-grain options for this recipe, adjusted for 8L: http://www.howtobrew.com/section3/chapter18-2.html

So I used
1.44kg 2-row,
192g crystal 60,
48g chocolate,
then 9g of chinook at 60 minutes, 12g at 30 mins, and 12g at 15 minutes (along with about 150g honey).
Started off with 8L of water for the mash, and used another 8L for sparging.[/quote]

Currently from what you have given me, using promash to analyze your process I can deduce only close guesses as I am missing other factors such as amount lost to your mash tun dead space, deadspace in kettle, amount collected preboil, amount remaining postboil, amount remaining postchilling etc… But here goes.

You used 3.20 Lbs of 2 row, 0.30 Lbs crystal 60, 0.10 Lbs Chocolate. Then added 0.30 Lbs honey to the boil.

You mashed with 2.1 gallons of water, this yielded a quart/pound ratio of 2.35 which is fine.
The grain will hold 0.43 gallons/1.62 L of water ( so this amount is lost completely.)
So if you drained the mash completely you collected 1.68 gallons at this point and then if 8L/2.10 gallons was added to the mash to sparge you maybe collected a total of 3.70 gallons preboil wort. You probably collected less than this due to deadspace losses.
Now just using 3.70 gallons preboil amount would equal a SG of 1.021 at 60% efficiency.
If you boiled for 60 minutes you were left with around 3 gallons due to boil off and chilling losses.
The SG for a 3 gallon postboil wort would be around 1.025 if you reached 60% efficiency.
With the added honey you boosted your final predicted postboil wort SG to maybe 1.003 points.
So if all were perfect and you had 3 gallons of final wort it should be around 1.028 if you reached a minimum of 60 percent efficiency.

The bottom line is this recipe was skewed from the getgo.
You were only shooting towards an SG of 1.025-1.035 (1.035 if you hit 75% efficency.)
In this simple pale ale recipe you were needing to get around a final SG of 1.050
So next time you would simply increase the amount of 2 row, dont worry about the other malts.
IBU is going to be way off now also.
You wanted somewhere around 35IBU you are going to end up with closer to 60IBU.
So it will be a very low gravity of around 2% ABV and a bitterness that is way too high for a light gravity. So planning was a severe afterthought as you seen due to the numbers obviously, but you really need to plan accordingly and use Promash, beersmith, other free online calculators to correctly gauge and plan recipes. Even a perfectly styled 3 gallon recipe will vary greatly from brewer to brewer depending on many things like your personal overall efficiency, dead space losses, boil off ratio etc…

The first few batches will see a few mistakes, but you can efficiently gauge against mistakes by careful planning. Many things will require learning unknown variables at this time, such as dead spaces/ boil off ratios/ overall efficiency preboil etc… The only way to find out these unknowns is to keep careful notes until you have every factor well known.

That being said even seasoned brewers continue to keep careful notes, just to be able to replicate batches in the future or diagnose if something does go wrong and how to avoid that mistake in the future.

For a future batch here are my recommendations:

A. Grain:

  1. 7.0 Lbs two row
  2. 0.30 Lbs Crystal 60
  3. 0.10 Lbs Chocolate (you can omit this grain if needed/ It adds slight golden colors and a slight flavor change at this amount which is appropriate as you dont want much chocolate if any in a APA.)
    If you keep it the color is 12 SRM if you drop it the color is 8SRM I would opt for lighter flavor/color in an APA you arent making a red ale.

These amounts using a predicted brew house efficiency of 60% will garner you a final SG of 1.051

Hops:

  1. Chinook 0.50 oz @ 60 minutes
  2. Willamette 1.0 oz @ 20 minutes
  3. Willamette 1.0 oz @ 5 minutes

These amounts of hops will yield a IBU around 38. Use Chinook in lighter amounts than previous.
Some people/very rare percentage like Chinooks so much that they will use them singularly. They have a very aggressive flavor/ bitterness that can be off putting. Use them as directed to give a good bitter along with some flavor then rely on the Willamette to give major flavor/ aroma to the beer.

Do exactly what you did before just with these amounts/times and make sure to record every amount used/collected etc…

I am going to suggest using 60% brewhouse efficency until you figure out your process stream.
If for some reason you find a higher % on this next batch you can always use a half gallon or so of distilled water to dilute the SG down. But trying to go up, like the situation your in currently is a bummer at best.

Good luck.

You can get recipes right here. Click on the beer kit that you like, then click on additional info, then click on recipe and instructions. Hope this helps.

Thanks. Unfortunately I can’t get extract here yet, and am limited to just a few varieties of grain and hops.

In what country do you live…Or did I miss it? :cheers:

China

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