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Something I've Noticed

Good morning fellow brewers,

I’m hoping someone is able to explain a trend I am seeing in my beer. I have noticed that my “dark” beer always tend to finish on the higher side, like in the 1.018-1.022 range independent of the starting gravity. For example, I made a Winter Ale that started at 1.068 and finished at 1.018 and I’ve made a Porter that started at 1.050 and finished at 1.020, both of which are a little higher than where I expected them to finish.

My amber and light colored beer always come out right where I expect them if not better than expected. Recently I just made a Belgian Tripel that started at 1.092 and finished at 1.008. So I’m fairly certain its not my technique and some intangible I can’t put my finger on.

Just for information, I do partial boil extract brewing and use light, amber and dark LME (and appropriate specialty grains) for the color of the beer I desire.

I’m wondering why my dark beers always seem to finish “higher” and is there anything I can do to get a little more attenuation out of them. For the record, I’ve never thought any of them tasted horrible but wonder how they might taste if I get a little more out of it.

Thanks for your time gentlemen.

dark extracts are less fermentable because they use crystal malts to make them. so if you are use a darker extract and steeping crystal malts you could be adding more unfermentables than you realize.

some people recommend using the lightest extract you can find and the getting all your flavor color and body from steeping and mini mashing the appropriate malts.

+1 to that. When I was doing partial mash, I had the same issue until I switched to using only light or extra light DME. My advice would be to mash as much grain as you possibly can and substitute the littlest & lightest DME you can.

On the flipside, you said your Tripel ended at 1.008. Anytime you add sugar (Tripels usually call for candi sugar) , expect your FG to drop a few points since sugar is 100% fermentable.

Thanks for the replies guys…I never knew that about dark LME…looks like a change in procedure is needed. And perhaps, since this will be new to me, a little guidance.

Getting light LME is not a problem as I have a pretty awesome LHBS 10 minutes from where I live. Let’s use my RIS recipe as a talking point. It consists of 12# of dark LME and an assortment of specialty grains (chocolate, roast barley, black)…what would be a good “mix” of my specialty grains to give me the right color/body with 12# of LIGHT LME.

Thanks again guys, as as always…CHEERS!!!

I would keep all the specialty grains the same, if it has say, crystal 80 in it, I’d up it by 50%. If it doesn’t have any c-80, I’d add a half pound or so. Keep in mind that I’m just throwing this out as a place to start, you’ll probably have to do some experimenting to get your recipes tweaked the way you want them.

Another option would be to look over all grain recipes and use the specialty malts they call for and sub the light extract for the base malt in the recipe.

Rather than changing recipes, you can just sub in 10%-20% sugar for the dark LME. That should knock the FG down by 10%-20% since the sugar will ferment completely. It will still have an effect on the final flavor but if you want a dryer beer this is one way to go. I wouldn’t go over 20% sugar, and I’d watch my ferm temps closely since the easily fermentable stuff can make things go fast and generate more heat than normal.

Personally I advocate the light extracts as others have already suggested, but sometimes you cna find a tasty darker LME that you want to use for the flavors it brings. In taht case sugar is helpful in balancing. Or just let it be 1.018, thats not too bad is it?

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