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Full conversion but wimpy flavor

The subject says it all. I think it’s a water issue but I’ve also read that it may be contamination (bad bugs chewing up residual sugars that would otherwise have lent themselves to a more flavorful beer). I’ve brewed the Pattersbier, Oatmeal Stout and Sierra Madre recipes from this site as well as a few ESB’s and all across the board I have the same issue of very low pronounced hoppiness/ maltiness. I don’t even drink the beers I brew. Not because they’re spoiled or undrinkable but because they are flat out boring…

They’ve all been All-Grain batches using purified Alhambra water. They’ve all been in spec as far as OG/FG. I’m not using DI or distilled water.

I’m also sort of wondering if it’s a mash temperature issue?

Bottom line is I have no idea what it is but it’s a very frustrating problem to have since I can’t seem to put my finger on it. Thanks in advance for any mentoring anyone can give me.

Recipes, mash schedules, yeast, profile of the water??? You need to give us something to work with if you want an informed answer.

Sorry. You’re right.

I’ll use my last batch as an example, an ESB taken from Brewing Classic Styles:

12# Maris Otter
0.5# Crystal 15
0.25# Crystal 120
2oz EKG (5.8% Alpha)- 60min
White Labs English Ale- 2 vial: 2L starter made 48hrs before brew day

Struck w/ 6 gallons @162F (I mash with more water to accommodate my false bottom. Is that good practice?)

Mashed @152F for 60min
Boiled 60min

OG= 1.058
FG= 1.012

FWIW, I clean and sanitize thoroughly. I’m a winemaker by trade but I’ve found that winemaking and brewing are as different as cooking and baking.

As I said, the water I use is typically bottled purified water (for which I don’t have a profile for) but I have used tap water before and had the same issue of very little flavor. My municipal water profile is:

26ppm Bicarbonate
4.4ppm Calcium
2ppm Chloride
1.1ppm Mg
15ppm Na
Total Alkalinity (as CaCO3) = 33ppm

Again, thank you for any advice which anyone provides.

The one thing that jumps out is there is practically no Calcium in your water. The water report is also incomplete as there is no SO4 number listed among other things although based on the other ions that is probably very low as well. The first thing I would do is add Calcium to the process. Get the Ca+ number up to at least 50-75ppm for improvements to the mash processes. Also obtain a more complete listing of brewing ions for the water. That, along with the type of beer being brewed, will help you determine what calcium salt(s) to use. As a temporary measure add 1-1.5 tsp of calcium sulfate (gypsum) to that ESB recipe.

Based on your recipe, and gravity, I wouldn’t think your beers should taste “wimpy.” If the other beers are of similar starting and finishing gravity, there is something going on.

I agree on the water - there is nothing really in it. I am a big fan of this book/chapter as far as a lot of the basics surrounding water:

Certain minerals really help to accentuate the flavors of hops or malt, and if you don’t have them, that could be part of the problem (or, all of the problem). I would also consider some water additions - a tsp of Gypsum (CaSO4) and maybe .25 or .5 CaCl2. But read up on it and get a complete water report (ward labs is great for this - check under “submit a sample” link for homebrewer test).

A couple other thoughts - you mention your your disappointment in low hop flavor - not sure if you were speaking to this particular recipe, but you only had 2 ounces of EKG in that beer and I would not expect that to give much hop profile in your beer. Once you get the water profile confirmed, a hoppier beer - Dead Ringer kit for example - which has a big hop profile, could just be some of your choices in the beers you are brewing. Or add a couple ounces of dry hop to kick up a recipe as far as hop profile.

Last thought, what do you clean/sanitize with? Any chance some residue is getting left behind and causing some problems?

Here is a good podcast that focuses on the impact of water, there are other episodes that do as well. (basic brewing radio)

another good one - go to 01-11-07 episode:

Thanks guys. I think I’ll definitely be looking into improving or even building my water and I’ll stick with the ESB recipe until I get it locked in. There is an additional 1oz 0min EKG add that I failed to mention. I think I may increase that or make a mid-boil addition.

I forgot to list it but my local water SO4= 12ppm

I clean with peroxycarb and sanitize with StarSan now (used to use iodophor).

I would say it is your water, all of your minerals are low. Your sanitizers are definitely good. I don’t think it is infection because you said your beer is “fine” as far as taste. Infection does not result in drinkable beer from my experience. Listen to that second podcast and see if the early part of his descriptions don’t sound familiar.

I think you’re overpitching, which could easily lead to a lack of flavor. 2 vials (unless they’re 2-3 months old) in a 2 liter starter gives you approximately 300 billion cells. Granted, that’s only about 100 billion more than you need, but with some strains that can make all the difference. Sometimes it’s good to stress the yeast out a little bit, you’ll get more ester production.

Your mash is a little on the thin side (1.88 qts/lb), but that shouldn’t matter too much. I’d also say that your water is actually ideally for most anything, because you can add mineral salts to harden it up. Dark beers might be a bit more challenging, but still doable.

Are you kegging or bottling? Drinking the beer straight from the bottle? Carbonation and presentation can have a lot to do with your perception of the beer.

For me its been a combination of things. Getting my water right with RO plus salts has helped. Oxidation also seems to be affecting things, and I’ve gotten better results by racking to secondary towards the end of fermentation (and racking over a lot of the yeast so things don’t stall prematurely) keeps the beer under protective CO2 blanket longer than my leaky buckets.

One thing specific to your recipe, is to use English crystal rather than domestic. I think it has more flavor. Your Maris Otter is good stuff.

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