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Critique of my disaster?

First, I apologize that this is so long. Second, thank you to anyone willing to slog through it and tell me how I screwed up. I expect to dump my last 3 brews, 25 gallons, due to severe under attenuation.

These brews were my 57th, 58th, and 59th batches. All were primarily extract, although two involved a mini-mash with a tiny amount of Munich.

I brewed a pale ale first, with an OG of 1.043. I made a 1-liter starter (1.035–40) with a very fresh pack of 1056 the night before on a stir plate, and pitched the entire starter. FG 1.024, or about 48% attenuation.

Second was a big red ale (Gordon clone attempt), using the amount of slurry called for by the Wyeast calculator. When fermentation had slowed down, I found it very underattenuated, and pitched two different dry yeasts in an attempt to help if finish, to no effect. It had 50% attenuation.

My third batch was a RIS. It was obvious that the 1056 was not attenuating, so instead of using the slurry from the red ale, I double-pitched S-05 dry yeast (2 packs per fermenter, rehydrated before adding). The fermentation looked normal, lasted a normal time, but attenuation was 46%. I added Wyeast yeast nutrient per directions to the red and RIS.

For all, pitched at 65-70F, I kept the fermentation chamber (temperature controlled freezer) at 68F (max), but for the red ale and RIS I increased the temperature to 71 from days 3-5+. All were allowed to remain in the fermenter for 2 weeks. I tried rousting the yeast for the red, but didn’t bother for the RIS.

All this convinces me that the wort had very low fermentability. I have brewed two of the three recipes before with good results. The last time I brewed the same RIS recipe, the attenuation was 86%.

Trying to figure out what went wrong, I made a chart of my latest 20 brews, comparing attenuation, recipe type, and whether extract or all-grain. The lowest 5 attenuated brews were all extract, counting these 3. 4 of the top 5 attenuated brews were all-grain, save only the RIS I mentioned at 86%.

All this led me to the conclusion that the Breiss Golden Light DME I used for most of the fermentable was seriously defective. I know I will never brew with it again. I suspect that it was a bad batch, as I know that many have brewed successfully with it. But I wasted a lot of money, effort, and time using it, and see no other explanation that the Breiss DME had very low fermentability due to errors in production.

I would love to learn that I am overlooking a flaw in my process, though, and am not afraid of criticism. I’m just afraid of bad beer! And I have 25 gallons of it in my beer fridge!


Are you measuring SG with a hydrometer or refractometer? Refractometers need to be corrected when alcohol is present in the sample.
Is your hydrometer calibrated.

I’m with flars, test your measuring equipment and make sure you’re using it right. First time I used a refractometer I freaked out before remembering to compensate for alcohol content.

i agree, check your measuring equipment first. Did you oxygenate your wort?

+1 to the above.

Was the OG what you expected? 1.043 seems reasonable for an IPA so why suspect the DME?

How do they taste?

Do they taste overly sweet?

As stated numerous times before this post, my first guess would be your measuring equipment. If you are using a hydrometer, make sure its reading 1.000 accurately in water.

I supposed its possible that the DME is creating highly unfermentable wort but that would be quite a bit of unfermentable sugars which I can’t imagine how that would occur and get past quality control.

Beyond checking your measurement equipment, are they drinkable or not? There’s no need to dump good tasting beer…

I apologise that work kept me from responding more quickly, and thank those who responded suggestions. To answer the questions asked:

  1. I checked FG with a refractometer, using brewing software to compensate for the alcohol by entering my OG and the temperature of the measurement.

  2. I was expecting a FG of around 1.010 for the pale ale, and 1.020 for the other two. The OG was as expected in all cases.

  3. I added Oxygen to the red and RIS, giving about a minute or so in each fermenter.

  4. I’m going to give them some time, but they do not seem drinkable at all. Way to sweet.

I think I got all the questions. I should have anticipated those. I know I have freaked out over failing to compensate for the alcohol when using a refractometer before, but 14 P is pretty high, and I did use software to compensate for the OG.

I suppose it is not impossible there is a refractometer error, either in the instrument or my use of it. But all you need to do is taste the beer to know it isn’t right. Maybe over waffles, but not so much in a glass. As for the refractometer, I did verify that it read 1.000 with water. Is there a simple way of verifying its reading at some other level? Obviously there is for someone less math challenged.


Here is an article on how to calibrate a hydrometer. You can also use the calibration solution to check your refractometer.

Some more information on refractometer use. ... r-blindly/ ... on-factor/

FG recorded could be in error from the refractometer not functioning the way it should, but this would not have anything to do with the sweet taste of your beers.
Test the Briess DME with a starter. Make a 1 liter starter, with a yeast you know is viable, measure the FG with a calibrated hydrometer. Keep the starter on the stir plate longer than normal so there can be no question about the yeast having the time to fully ferment the available sugars.

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