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Bitter tasting beer

I know i been complaining about the last 3 batches of beer i made being on the bitter side. Theres got to be a logical explanation for whats going on. Im gonna brew a all grain kolsch this weekend from NB and theres no instructions. I hate to be a pain but can someone take me under there wing and guide me through a brew. lol im not brand new at this i have about 14 brews under my belt, im having a bit of a bad luck . Ive made some kickass beer in the past and cant remember what made it so good. I need some help guys

I’ll venture an attempt at help here…although I can’t help with the all-grain thing…I’m strictly an extract brewer…

  1. Back to basics…ensure everything that touches beer is clean/sanitized (what condition is your tubing in?)…spigots on fementers/bottling buckets clean?

  2. Fermentation temps

  3. Enough healthy yeast (Do you need a starter?)

  4. You say you’ve made lots of great beer and something’s just recently gone wrong…have you changed anything? (Different water source, switched yeast brands/types?)…

Just throwing a few ideas out there…Hope you get back to your brewing Happy Place soon!


Maybe your water is better suited for certain styles and isn’t so good for others. My own water is high enough in sulfate and hardness that it doesn’t make good light-colored beers but does great on amber and darker. I now use some RO water to lower the salts and hardness and I’ll add back what I need. A Kolsch is the lightest of the light, I’d dilute at least 1:1 with RO water. You might also need to add a teaspoon of calcium chloride to get the right mash pH.

Other than that, Jimmie’s advice on ferm temps and enough yeast are spot on.

I been using the same water from day one. Kentwood water in the bottle. My city water is highly chlorinated. I dont usually make a starter cause most of my beers are around 1.045 and less. The california common was a kit beer and it had hops pellets. After fermentation (1 week) i left the hops in the fermenter for the next 2 weeks as it was cold crashing @35 degrees. Could it have made the beer bitter leaving the hops in and not straining out before cold crashing? Would bottled water work well for the kolsch im gonna brew this weekend?

what was the ibu’s on that? you are going to have some bitterness with a common. and how soon after the three weeks did you start drinking it? This beer can really benefit with some lagering time. which will make the flavors really come together and the malt to show through over the bitterness. Oh and one smack pack would be underpitching for this beer. It really should be fermented on the cold side and requires more yeast.

[quote] 7B. California Common Beer

Aroma: Typically showcases the signature Northern Brewer hops (with woody, rustic or minty qualities) in moderate to high strength. Light fruitiness acceptable. Low to moderate caramel and/or toasty malt aromatics support the hops. No diacetyl.

Appearance: Medium amber to light copper color. Generally clear. Moderate off-white head with good retention.

Flavor: Moderately malty with a pronounced hop bitterness. The malt character is usually toasty (not roasted) and caramelly. Low to moderately high hop flavor, usually showing Northern Brewer qualities (woody, rustic, minty). Finish fairly dry and crisp, with a lingering hop bitterness and a firm, grainy malt flavor. Light fruity esters are acceptable, but otherwise clean. No diacetyl.

Mouthfeel: Medium-bodied. Medium to medium-high carbonation.

Overall Impression: A lightly fruity beer with firm, grainy maltiness, interesting toasty and caramel flavors, and showcasing the signature Northern Brewer varietal hop character.

Comments: This style is narrowly defined around the prototypical Anchor Steam example. Superficially similar to an American pale or amber ale, yet differs in that the hop flavor/aroma is woody/minty rather than citrusy, malt flavors are toasty and caramelly, the hopping is always assertive, and a warm-fermented lager yeast is used.

History: American West Coast original. Large shallow open fermenters (coolships) were traditionally used to compensate for the absence of refrigeration and to take advantage of the cool ambient temperatures in the San Francisco Bay area. Fermented with a lager yeast, but one that was selected to thrive at the cool end of normal ale fermentation temperatures.

Ingredients: Pale ale malt, American hops (usually Northern Brewer, rather than citrusy varieties), small amounts of toasted malt and/or crystal malts. Lager yeast, however some strains (often with the mention of “California” in the name) work better than others at the warmer fermentation temperatures (55 to 60?F) used. Note that some German yeast strains produce inappropriate sulfury character. Water should have relatively low sulfate and low to moderate carbonate levels.
Vital Statistics: OG: 1.048 – 1.054
IBUs: 30 – 45 FG: 1.011 – 1.014
SRM: 10 – 14 ABV: 4.5 – 5.5%[/quote]

I didnt use the lager yeast i used us05. I fermented @62 degrees for 1 week the cold crashed it for 2 weeks. I tasted it the same day i kegged it. It wasnt carbbed yet but the bitterness was bad. The kit said OG 1.045 and IBU 19.

Can I see the recipe. Because that is well under hopped for the style. And you are saying the bitterness is bad.

And I hate to say that isn’t a california common. At least not to style. Wrong yeast, not enough ibu’s and doesn’t hit to og specs.

And I think you would really find some improvement if you allowed it to ferment longer. I don’t do anything less that three weeks primary. It will really clean up off flavors.

The recipe is from a TRUE BREW kit. So u let ur beer sit on the yeast for at least 3 weeks then what do u do.? I have a creme ale fermenting now. should i do the same with it?

yes sir. I leave my beer on the yeast for a minimum of three weeks. Cleans up off flavors and really seems to make much better beers.

On must beers, I do atleast three weeks in primary>cold crash for a few days>keg. The only one lately that I did not follow this order was an english premium bitter. I did two weeks>keg. But it was only an 3.8% beer.

Following the directions I found for a true brew kit online, I don’t see how they got 22 IBU’s.

[quote]Thanks for purchasing a True Brewtm ingredient kit. We warrant that the contents of this kit are fresh, and the highest quality ingredients available.

Brew Stats:

Beginning Gravity: 1.048 - 1.051

Final Gravity: 1.012 - 1.014

Hop Bittering Units: 22.0[/quote]

[quote]Unhopped Light Malt Extract – 2 cans

Dark Crystal Grains – 8 oz

Northern Brewer Hop Pellets – 2 oz

Cascade Hop Pellets – 1 oz

Lager Yeast – 1 pack

Grain Steeping Bag

Priming Sugar – 5 oz

Bottle Caps[/quote]


  1. Brewing:
    bullet Remove the label from cans of malt extract, wash the cans, and place it in a pot of hot water to soften the syrup.
    bullet Place 1-1 ½ gallons water in the brewpot, and bring to a boil.
    bullet Turn the heat off. Place the grains in the steeping bag, and steep in the hot water for 20-30 minutes. Then remove and discard the spent grains, and heat the water again to near boiling.
    bullet Turn the heat off (on an electric stove, temporarily remove from burner). While stirring the water with a long-handled spoon, slowly pour both cans of extracts into the pot. Continue stirring while adding both packs of the Northern Brewer hops. Stir until materials dissolve, then return to heat and bring to a boil. Note: When it first boils, the mixture will foam. Reduce heat, or remove from burner and foam will subside. Turn heat back on, and repeat process until foaming stops. Then boil for 20-30 minutes. One minute before you end the boil, add the Cascade Hop Pellets.
    bullet Place 3 gallons of cold water in your fermenting vessel, and slowly pour the hot mixture into the vessel. Fill with additional cold water up to 5 gallons.[/quote]

So following the directions with a 30 min boil like it says to do and the hop additions like directed here is what I get when entering into brewing software. a whole 34 ibu’s more at 56.6ibu’s.

shawns ca common
California Common Beer

Recipe Specs

Batch Size (G): 5.0
Total Grain (lb): 7.400
Total Hops (oz): 3.00
Original Gravity (OG): 1.053 (°P): 13.1
Final Gravity (FG): 1.013 (°P): 3.3
Alcohol by Volume (ABV): 5.21 %
Colour (SRM): 11.4 (EBC): 22.5
Bitterness (IBU): 56.6 (Average)
Brewhouse Efficiency (%): 70
Boil Time (Minutes): 30

Grain Bill

6.600 lb Liquid Malt Extract - Light (89.19%)
0.800 lb Crystal 80 (10.81%)

Hop Bill

2.00 oz Northern Brewer Pellet (9.6% Alpha) @ 30 Minutes (Boil) (0.4 oz/Gal)
1.00 oz Cascade Pellet (7.8% Alpha) @ 1 Minutes (Boil) (0.2 oz/Gal)

Misc Bill

Single step Infusion at 151°F for 60 Minutes.
Fermented at 65°F with

Recipe Generated with BrewMate

SO what ur telling me was the recipe i used in the true brew kit was off . The IBU was really 56 . Could have a lot to do with the bitter taste

If the kit was the same as the one I found the directions for as stated and the northern brewer had their average 8-10% alpha then yes the ibu’s would be 56. Roughly three times more bitter than the 19 ibu’s you thought you would end up with.

I gave it a taste last night as its fully carbed now. Its got a good taste its just so damn hoppy. It will be ok. Ill know better next time. The creme ale i have in the fermenting chamber is still bubbling. Im gonna leave it there and hold it @ 64 degrees for 3 weeks like u said then keg

[quote=“muddywater_grant”]Roughly three times more bitter than the 19 ibu’s you thought you would end up with.[/quote]Good catch there - wouldn’t have thought that a recipe kit could be that far off on the numbers. Another reason to buy kits from a quality provider like our sponsor.

Cali common beers are typically on the bitter side, I found a beer guide from Brewers Association that says they’re in the 35-45 IBU range (sorry didn’t notice muddywater had it listed as 30-45). It doesn’t seem that they’d create a recipe that far off on bittering, so the 19 might be from fat-fingering more than a miss on the recipe.

Also - the recipe posted looks like it is for a 1.5 gallon boil (plus the liquid extract volume), so the hop utilization would be a fair amount lower than muddywater’s calcs that were based on a 5 gallon boil. Add hops to the equation that may lean toward the high end of their alpha range and that would get you extra bitter beer. I don’t think the recipe was off, maybe your process was different than what the recipe assumes. What was your actual boil volume?

I know the NB kits assume 2-1/2 gallon boils, I typically boil around 3-1/2 to 4 gallons and it has caused my beers to end up on the high end of bitterness given the included ingredients.

Hopville’s beer calculus lets you set up different boil vs. ferment volumes which will affect its bitterness calculations.

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