Help me make a better stout

Good morning, everyone.

A week ago, We brewed a stout with 8# 2-row, 4# Victory, 1# C80, 1.25# Roasted Barley, .25# Chocolate, .25# Black, and 1# Flaked Barley (added all roasted malts at beginning of sparge). We mashed at 1.5/1, about 6 gallons, at 154 for 60 min., then sparked with about 5 gallons. We pulled all the liquid, which never reached below 1.014 or so. We were shooting for 5.5 gallons (pre-boil calculated at 7.5) of 1.080, but got 7 gallons (pre-boil measured at 9.5 gallons) of 1.070 (sorry I don’t have pre-boil gravity numbers handy). We boiled for 1.5 hours. We added 2 oz. of Northern Brewer cones at 60 min. and 1 oz. at 30 min. Then we dropped about 6.5 gallons in the fermentor with about 350 billion cells of 1056 (I made a 2L starter with two packets, thinking we were gonna get 1.080, and after 36 hours this monster was still bubbling away, and I put it in the fridge before it stopped bubbling). I’ve kept the fermentation between 66-68, holding steady for two days now at 66.6. It is still bubbling slowly, and after six days in the vessel it has reached 1.022 approx.

This beer was developed with a friend who owns a cafe/bike shop, and she supplied the coffee beans for this collaboration coffee stout. But I have a few questions regarding the finished product, if you’d be so kind to help a friend out.

As far as my numbers or recipe above, would you change anything, as pertains to your experience?

Did I do something wrong by putting the starter in the fridge before it completed fermentation?

What would be the reason our pre-boil gravity was so low, yet yield so high?

What has been your own perceived taste difference between stouts mashed with roasted grains versus adding roasted grains to the spare, post-mash?

Did I overdo it with the hops? Because I was shooting for 1.080+, I was adding more hops, but in the energy of brewery, I didn’t recalculate for new gravity. I hope I didn’t hop too high. Thoughts?

As for future stouts, what is your recommended grist ratio, and mash temperature? I like thick, creamy stouts, not very sweet, more bitter and toasty than sweet, with hints of chocolate and coffee and toast.

That’s all I can think of for now, but I am a stout fanatic and I want to create the best stouts I can: thick, toasty, creamy.

Cheers, and thanks in advance for your time and advice.


The glaring mistake is your yeast. 1056 is a clean American ale yeast better use an English yeast s-04 or its liquid equivalent

I’ve used the Yorkshire strain in an oatmeal stout and it was delicious. For this brew, I decided to let the roasted grains and the coffee stand out. As I pulled it from the fermentor this morning to read the gravity (at about 1.022 now) and taste it, I noticed it was very clean, and the hops did overcome the roast element. I’ve heard Irish yeast is killer in stouts. Opinions?


Your lower OG was due to over sparging. Recipes don’t work out very well if it’s figured for 7.5gal preboil and you run off 9.5!

With those numbers, assuming they are very accurate, you got pretty good efficiency. With that mash temp and that much ufermentables your are likely going to finish a little higher… 1.018 - 1.020.

I’m with @brew_cat that I would use an English strain or an Irish strain.

Same here, I like Wy1084 Irish ale.

Plenty of stouts use 1056. Not too much of a faux pas, in my opinion.

Sure you can. You can make just about any ale you want with it except maybe a Belgian. Many small breweries do since they just use one yeast. At home brew scale its not that expensive to change yeast so why not.

Hey, Loopie,

The water requirements for the sparge required 5 gallons for 17.5 pounds of grain. And the mash was at a level 1.5/1 ratio. This is a constant for us, getting more liquid than we call for.

I suspect if we collect 3.5 gallons of the first runnings, and need 7.5 gallons for the boil, then we increase the sparge water accordingly? Is this correct? Why in the world am I getting more liquid in the boil pot, way more, if I’m following from the water calculator?



Unless I’m missing something you only have 15.75lbs of grain. If your figuring your numbers off 17.5lbs that’s going to lead to too much strike and sparge water.

Are you using a brewing program. It is really important to have your system dialed in and accurate to hit your volumes correctly.

15.75 pounds, yeah, measured at 1.5 Q/pound I get roughly 6 gallons for mash. I dialed in my equipment and, aiming for 5.5 G in the fermenter, boil time of 1.5 hours, sparge was 4.5 gallons (I did 5 instead).

From the mash we pulled just over 4 gallons, which means we only lost just under 2 G of water to absorption. But from the 5G we sparged with, we pulled almost all of it out.

Does this sound fishy to you?


Ah… not fishy at all. Think of it this way… your grain soaked up and held on to a ton of strike water. Any dead space in your mash tun is full of water. There’s no place for your sparge water to hide… you’ll get back exactly what you put in with little or no loss.

So after you pull out your mash, figure out how much more you need in the kettle. Sparge with exactly that much.

It’s pretty easy to figure out your water needs if you just work backwards from what you want in the fermenter:

5.5 G in fermenter
+0.5G trub loss (depends on your recipe and system, but 1/2G is about right for me)
+1.5G boil off (figure about 1G/hr, but depends on environment, boil strength, etc)
+1.5G grain absorption (0.1G/lb works about right for me, sometimes I lose even less)

=9G total water (split it between mash/sparge however you see fit)


What kind of stout are you aiming for?

Dry Irish shout? American stout? Russian Imperial?

All roads don’t lead to the same stout. I’m kind of a stout fanatic myself but my favorite is a simple dry irish stout. 1.050ish, dry and roasty, full bodied yet drinkable.A bit bitter and dark as my shriveled black heart.

[quote="dannyboy58, post:13, topic:20628]A bit bitter and dark as my shriveled black heart.

Say it ain’t so :grinning:

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