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Help with an off flavor

Hi guys. I’ve been struggling with an off flavor in many of my hoppy beers. I get a sourness on the finish that is fairly unpleasant, it is not puckering sour like a sour beer. It also doesn’t get progressively worse. Pretty sure it is not an infection, doesn’t taste like lacto and having had a couple wild yeast infections I am eliminating that too.

After doing some research, I came across an article by Brad Smith that says that astringent flavors can come off at sour. So I am thinking could be one of two things… My water or over sparging/too hot sparging.

I use my sparge on all my beers the same and since only hoppy beers get the flavor I thinking its not that. I use Denny’s batch sparge method and usually sparge about 1 gallon or so (I do 3.5 gallon batches, my pre boil volume is usually 5 gallons on a 75 minute boil). I sparge with 180-190 degree water.

I have very, very soft water (got it tested from Ward twice), so I build it up. For my water I am shooting for 110 ppm (Calcium), 18 ppm (Magnesium), 300 ppm (Sulfate), 50 ppm (Chloride), 50 ppm (Bicarbonate). I use this on all my hoppy beers. I use BeerSmith to calculate my additions.

Any thoughts?

Your water might be just a tad too soft, and your mash pH too low at 5.1 or something, depending on how much specialty malts are used in your recipes. Crystal malts and dark roasted malts can lower mash pH significantly. Since you’re adding a decent amount of calcium salts to soft water on top of that, your pH might be too low and carrying over into the finished beer. This can be countered in any of several ways:

  1. Blend your soft water with some hard water. Of course then you might want to get that water tested. Or,
  2. Use less specialty malts (reduce by 5-10% of the whole grist). This will increase mash pH by 0.1-0.2.
  3. Add a little less sulfate. Maybe shoot for 200 ppm instead of 300. This should increase mash pH by roughly 0.1.
  4. Add a smidgen more bicarbonate. This could increase pH by roughly 0.1.

This is all assuming, of course, that your mash pH is the issue. But maybe it’s not. I’ve been wrong before… but it’s not clear to me what else the issue could be.

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