Help - What am I doing wrong?

It seems I am in some sort of brewing slump. I am not necessarily having complete failures on all batches, but batches are not turning out quite like they should be.

2 weekends ago I brewed 2 batches.

The first batch was a hefe. First time using my grain mill. I had quite a few kernels fall through and had some drill issues. The beer tasted very thin and I had poor efficiency so I added some DME at the boil. After tasting before bottling tonight it tasted very thin and yeast characteristics were very muted. My volumes were right on and also this was a first for me doing a decoction. So to some degree with the new process and equipment I am thinking this is not a total failure.

The second batch was an IPA. This recipe I brewed before using malt extract. It received pretty good scores last year at a home brew competition. One of the critiques that was common among the judges was that there was not enough bitterness. So I played with the recipe and upped the bittering hops. After tasting tonight as transferring to secondary for dry hopping it still did not have the punch of hops I was looking for. I also noticed that it also had a very thin taste to it. My pre-boil and SG were both lower. My eff. was 62 when recipe was set for 70. I also did a rest for 90 min to make sure I had full conversion.

A reoccurring theme in my beers is they are turning out thinner than I would like. I have noticed that all have happened with batches that I have either milled or my LHBS has milled. Both using a Barley Crusher. When I have got milled grains from NB or other stores it seems beer does not seem so thin. I am using factory settings on my Barley Crusher.

My question is do I need to adjust my mill? Is this causing a thin taste and poor eff? Would mash temp cause not enough extraction of sugars causing a thin or low mouth-feel? Is this a combination of both mash temp and crush or water to grain ratio? I am thinking about brewing again this weekend but not just sure what I can do to prevent thin beer? At this point I am willing to try anything.

Could be a couple things, or a combination:

  • By “factory setting” I assume you mean .039", try tightening it up to .03". If you get a stuck sparge back it off to .032" or add rice hulls.
  • What’s your mash temp? A higher mash temp will increase mouth feel, but will also decrease the fermentability of the wort. This is obviously a sliding scale with no absolute values, but to keep it simple I like to think of the “breaking point” at 150 degrees. If I want a drier beer I mash at 147, if I want a beer with more body I mash at 153. I have a brew buddy that mashes at 158, I personally wouldn’t go that high, but he has very good results.
  • IMO, nail down your process and your equipment before trying decoctions. Our modern grains are heavily modified which allow for very good conversion with a simple mash schedule. There are very few recipes that truly benefit from decoction. On your next brew pick a mash temp and keep it there for 60 minutes. Do an iodine test if you’d like to be sure, but again, modern grains will convert pretty quickly and all you’ll need is the 60 min.
  • In my experience, water to grain ratio is more a factor of what you can fit with your equipment, and has very little bearing on efficiency.

TL;DR summary - for your next brew, tighten up your mill and bump up your mash temp by 5 degrees. Brew on.


Oh yeah, one more thing. You could also try adding carapils/dextrine malt, which improves mouth feel. About 5% of the grain bill.

Agreed with all the above advice and would like to add one thing: check your thermometer. Put it in crushed ice and water and it should be at 32-33. Put it in boiling, 212*. Try checking it against other thermometers if possible around 150* to see if it’s on par with them. This is one of the most important pieces of equipment you have if doing all grain. Important and overlooked.

What yeast are you using for your beers? Switching it up, using the same one? That could be another factor. For example US05 chews through almost everything while another yeast will leave behind more complex sugars resulting in a thicker mouthfeel.

I think I will start by checking my thermometer even though it is a glass lab thermometer. I will also tighten up my mill. Most beer that I brew do include carapils or carafoam unless the style does not call for it. Also I have used a variety of different strains of yeast with the same result. Another thought that I had is water profile. I use latic acid to acidify the mash because my water is crap. Would there be anything with with water additions that would cause a thin taste?

I don’t think you said, what temp are you mashing at?

Have you had a water analysis? Do you check the pH after adding the lactic acid?

A couple of questions: What are your original and final gravities? Have you changed your aeration techniques?

If you’re oxygenating your wort enthusiastically, some yeasts will chew through too much sugar and leave you with a very thin beer. The solution is to use a less viscous yeast.

I usually mash at 152.

Here is my water profile.

Calcium (Ca) 61.0 315.0 Bicarbonate (HCO3)
Magnesium (Mg) 32.0 0.9 Carbonate (CO3)
Sodium (Na) 77.0 162.0 Sulfate (SO4)
Potassium (K) 12.0 11.0 Chloride (Cl)
Iron (Fe) 0.0 2.2 Nitrate (NO3)
0.0 Nitrite (NO2)
1.2 Fluoride (F)

Reported Total Alkalinity (as CaCO3) (mg/L or ppm) Reported or Measured Water pH
259.0 7.8

I am usually diluting this with 80 to 90 distilled water.

I have not checked ph after adding lactic acid. but mash ph seems to be ok.

I do not oxygenate the wort, but I do aerate it with fish aquarium pump.

I did a thermometer check tonight and it was right on in ice cold water at 32 degrees. On the high end it was reading 206 at boiling.

A couple of other questions I have are:

At what location do others measure strike water temp? (At the top/middle or bottom of kettle)

Also when mashing in how long do you wait till taking a temperature and in one location or multiple spots?

Here is my current process. I use Denny’s batch sparge setup. I heat my strike water check temp at various places in the kettle. Once I am at temp I take a gallon or so out and put it in mash tun to preheat it. Let it sit for a couple of minutes and add rest of water and then grain. Stir it up let it sit a couple of minutes and then check my temp.

Any suggestions you guys would have would be great just want to get back on track of making great beer again.

For temp measuring, stir vigorously and check at least two spots. Do this for both strike water and the mash. Your thermometer is obviously a little off on the high end, but that’s close enough for government work. Your process sounds great to me, so I think we’re back to tightening up your mill.

:lol: this always gets me. Especially working away from the govt. jobs these days.

If you’re oxygenating your wort enthusiastically, some yeasts will chew through too much sugar and leave you with a very thin beer. [/quote]

I have never heard of this. Citation?

I vote better crush, but I would also recalibrate thermometer from 206F to 212F, and also add some Ca salts to water to hit 50ppm from the serious dilution.

No citation, no scientific proof, just personal observation. Since I’ve started using O2 injection I’ve had 1.050 to 1.055 OG lagers ferment down to 1.006 using White Labs German Lager and S-23. It’s entirely possible some other factor is causing the high attenuation, but the O2 is the only significant change I’ve made.

Unfortunately, I lost most of my history during an unfortunate downgrade from a mixed Win XP and Linux environment to Win 8, so I don’t even have my notes on most of those brews.