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New brewer. Birst batch disaster

Not long ago I brewed my very first batch of homebrew. It was the IPA extract plus specialty grains kit from Northern Brewer. I read several books on homebrewing and found a great deal of information online to hopefully ensure that my first batch would be successful… good lord it was anything BUT.

The beer is BITTER. No, not like “India Pale Ale is characteristically bitter”, more like “Battery acid is characteristically bitter”. I’ve read several different takes on why this could happen on this forum and others but nothing seems to really quite fit the bill. The most common I hear are infection and overcarbonation (I kegged my beer). Correct me if I’m wrong, but if it were infection shouldn’t I have more offputting flavors than just bitterness? I should clarify that this beer is delicious up front. It reminds me of Dogfish Head’s 60 minute. However on the back end there is a strong bitterness that sticks to the back of your jaw for several minutes.

For overcarbonation, I understand that (again, correct me if I’m wrong) that 11 psi is for from overcarbonating. Still, due diligence suggested that I degas the brew and see if the problem was carbonic acid but this didn’t seem to help. Any ideas?

What’s the recipe? Did you make any changes or possibly add hops at the wrong time? If all you have is bitterness, my initial suggestion is just to let it mellow a week or two.

How old is it?

Did you do a secondary?

Another thought would be astrigency.

Astrigency is characteristically bitter in the finish of a beer in my experience.

[quote=“John Palmer”]Astringent
Astringency differs from bitterness by having a puckering quality, like sucking on a tea bag. It is dry, kind of powdery and is often the result of steeping grains too long or when the pH of the mash exceeds the range of 5.2 - 5.6. Oversparging the mash or using water that is too hot are common causes for exceeding the mash pH range. It can also be caused by over-hopping during either the bittering or finishing stages. Bacterial infections can also cause astringency, i.e. vinegar tones from aceto bacteria.

The brown scum that forms during fermentation and clings to the side of the fermentor is intensely bitter and if it is stirred back into the beer it will cause very astringent tastes. The scum should be removed from the beer, either by letting it cling undisturbed to the sides of an oversize fermentor, or by skimming it off the krausen, or blowing off the krausen itself from a 5 gallon carboy. I have never had any problems by simply letting it cling to the sides of the fermentor.


If its acidic is it like vinegar? Maybe you got an acetobacter infection?

Did you boil the steeping grains or get a lot of them through the bag into the kettle?

Did you ferment too warm? Mid-60’s ambient temp is where you want to be since the fermentation will generate heat and warm up the beer another 5F. Starting at 70+F you’ll get a ferm temp that goes into the upper 70’s and that gives you lots of nasty esters that could be described as bitter.

Did you make a starter? What was your OG? Possibly a low pitch rate could have contributed, especially if the ferm temp was too warm.

Those seem like the most likely culprits.

Thanks for all the replies so quickly! Ill try to address each suggestion individually.
@Mvsawyer- … kit-1.html I believe this is the kit I used and I don’t recall changing anything… I tried to follow the recipe exactly. Maybe I boiled 2.25 gallons and not quite 2.5… I was ill equipped in the kettle department.
@Deadeye- I fermented for one week and then moved to secondary in a glass carboy. The secondary was against the reccomendation of my LHBS owner but I wanted to rack the beer off the primary as a lot of the hop pellet sludge made it in.
@Gregscsu- I think I’m having trouble fingering the differences between acidic, bitter, and astringent. I wouldn’t call the flavor vinegary. Remember when you were a kid and you ate those sour candies that kinda made the muscles in the corner of your jaw tense up? It’s like that. Maybe puckering and astringent are the right words.
@Tomsawyer- I did not make a yeast starter but i did bloom my yeast in tepid water and sprinkle a bit of sugar on them to be certain they were not expired. I used an old wine fridge with a digital thermostat for temp controlled fermentation and maintained an air temp of 65f.

Is hop OVERutilization ever a concern? The epic battle to cool this beast raged on for hours. I made the never-to-be-repeated mistake of pouring the boiling wort from the kettle to the plastic fermenter and then topping off to five gallons with sterilized (boiled) water which was still warm… and THEN trying to cool the whole lot in what I now realize was being insulated by plastic. /facepalm.

All the while 90% of the hop sludge that went in to the boil sat in the very hot final wort, and throughout the seven day fermentation.

Maybe I boiled 2.25 gallons and not quite 2.5… I was ill equipped in the kettle department.

Did you boil the steeping grains? This would add a lot of tannins that would produce off flavors. I’m not sure how they would be described.
The amount of water should not make a big difference.

I fermented for one week and then moved to secondary in a glass carboy.

Had the primary fermentation finished? Did you take final gravity readings over a couple of days and get the same #'s?
This would also lead to off flavors, but to a lesser extent. (I think)[/quote]

How’s your water? I have very hard water and have a softener… If I use my softened water, the beer gets extremely harsh and bitter. Dominates everything else. Barely drinkable IMO. Just a thought.

I don’t think that is causing your issue. Hop utilization is a very gradual curve that tapers off the longer the hops are boiled.

IIRC the difference in utilization between 60 and 90 minute boil times is only around 10%.

I didn’t boil the grains I hung them from the side of my kettle and brought the water to 150 and hovered between 150 and 155 for 30 minutes. Then i removed the grain bag. When I finally had the monster cooled it was ~4am so it slipped my mind to take an OG reading but I did not rack to secondary until I got three consecutive FG readings. I dontt recall the exact FG at the moment but I do remember it was spot on per the included directions with the kit.

At the time I made the batch I was living in an apartment so I don’t know if the water was softened or not. I did buy a PUR faucet filter and use that. Was that a mistake?

How long did you secondary?

How much water did you steep the grains in?

I steeped the grains in the same 2.25 gallons of water.

I fermented for 7 days and then put to secondary for around 10 days. My carboy would not fit in the wine fridge, however, so while I’m sure it fermented at 65f it probably was in the carboy around 70-75f.

Something else that just occurred to me is that the beer never got the chance to condition in the keg at room temp. 1 week @65f. 1.5 weeks @75f off the yeast. Then, straight to 50f for serving.

Is it cloudy? It might not have cleaned up properly

It’s certainly not clear… but it’s not milky either. It looks pretty pleasant, and smells incredible. It even tastes great until you swallow it lol. I can post a pic of a glass of it later if you like. So you can see the color and clarity.

1 Lb. of grain steeped in 9 quarts of water would cause the PH in the “mash” to definetaly be above 6.0, which would cause the extraction of tannins.

Next time steep the grain in 2qts water per Lb. of grain @ 150F for 30 minutes. Then remove the grain and top up to 2.5 gallon boil amount, using someoff the top off water to rinse the steeping grains.

I think you’re over analyzing this. I’d give it a couple of weeks to mellow out, then try it. You’d be surprised what even a week will do.

Sorry, I guess I failed to mention that it’s been in the keg for over two months. The bitterness did mellow a bit but on a scale of 1 to 10, 1 being water and 10 being intolerable, it mellowed from a 12 to a 10.

I thought if I was steeping and not mashing then I would need to consider the PH and safely steep in my full boil amount.

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