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Talk me off the ledge........... or push me off

5 batches into AG and I am frustrated to the to the point of considering going back to extract and relinquishing my man card.
1st. Farmhouse biere de table, Bottled while still fermenting, not bottle bombs, but highly carbonated.
2-4, I can’t get my efficiency over 61%. I’ve tried double crush, increasing grain bill 10%, PH buffer 5.2, more water, less water, but I am consistently between 59 and 61%.
5, Digital thermometer went to hell and I mashed 40 degrees below target before I figured out what the heck was going on 1/2 hour into mash.
I just tasted my second AG " Speckled Heifer" all I can say is insipid. Boring, light color, lacks flavor, no body. Agggggggggggggh!
I just kegged a Black IPA (3) and an ESB (4) and they tasted really good out of the fermenter. Please tell me there is hope. My extract batches were good to very good, but I’m really disappointed in my AG results. PS Batch sparge.

[quote=“flytyer”]5 batches into AG and I am frustrated to the to the point of considering going back to extract and relinquishing my man card.
1st. Farmhouse biere de table, Bottled while still fermenting, not bottle bombs, but highly carbonated.
2-4, I can’t get my efficiency over 61%. I’ve tried double crush, increasing grain bill 10%, PH buffer 5.2, more water, less water, but I am consistently between 59 and 61%.
5, Digital thermometer went to hell and I mashed 40 degrees below target before I figured out what the heck was going on 1/2 hour into mash.
I just tasted my second AG " Speckled Heifer" all I can say is insipid. Boring, light color, lacks flavor, no body. Agggggggggggggh!
I just kegged a Black IPA (3) and an ESB (4) and they tasted really good out of the fermenter. Please tell me there is hope. My extract batches were good to very good, but I’m really disappointed in my AG results. PS Batch sparge.[/quote]

First of all, don’t listen to Gordon Strong as there is nothing wrong with extract brewing. In fact, I went back to it for the better part of a year to hone in (or attempt to hone in) my cold side procedures (fermentation time/temps/aging, etc.)

It sounds like you have some cold and hot side issues. Not reasons to stop brewing, just issues…that can be corrected.

bottle bombs, happened on my first saison. WLP 565 stalled on me, pitched a 1.090 OG saison onto a FULL hefe cake when it stalled @ 1.040. Still had them, and they are very dangerous. Make sure to keep your BDT cool/cold. On future batches, make sure you pitch enough (check mr malty), let your beer reach its final gravity, then keep it on the yeast for another week or TWO to clean up after itself.

Can you give some more detail on your mash tun? Manifold? False bottom? bazooka screen? I am trying out brew in a bag (people report efficiencies into the mid-70’s with a FRACTION of the gear…but many homebrewers just LUUUURVE their gear, so turn their nose up at this method.

The efficiency likely has a lot to do with mash temp.

Honestly, I have found that thermometers are like binoculars. You can either buy a new cheap one every year, or couple of months, over a lifetime, and end up with a closet full of junk (literally), or just sack up, break the piggy bank, and buy a $80 mother$%#@!ing Thermapen that will last you a lifetime and will ALWAYS give you accurate results (on meat and beer!)

Need more detail on your sparging as well (single sparge?)

Mash temp will not affect his efficiency unless he is WAAAAAAY off.(like mashing 20 degrees too cold or something)

Mash temps affect the attenuation but should not change the starting gravity of your beer much if at all.

Stop using 5.2! Most people find it doesn’t actually work and the large amount of sodium in it gives the beer a weird flavor.

You’ll figure it out. All grain is not a smooth process for everyone to begin with and I started out around your efficiency before getting it up to a consistent 70% which I’m cool with because it is consistent.

Be careful with the digital thermometers. The probes are waterproof but more often than not the wires and where they connect are not so you can easily ruin one buy dipping it in too much or even just getting too much steam in it.

Are you using any software to help you out? I’d strongly suggest Beersmith to help with your sparging and water volumes. It is way easier than trying to figure it out on your own.

While it can be intimidating at first, the bru’nwater spreadsheet is a great tool for predicting and adjusting your mash pH. As Denny posted, the 5.2 product probably isn’t helping you, but bru’nwater will get you very close to the actual pH.

There are a lot of variables in AG brewing, which is what makes it so much fun (or aggravating, depending on your results), and nailing down a problem can take a while. You might want to step back and do a really simple batch, make use of your fundamentals learned from extract brewing, and focus on just one or two aspects of AG like mash temp and pH and get comfortable with those first.

It sounds like you are getting a consistent 60% efficiency. Nothing wrong with that. Consistency is the most important part, so now you can just adjust your recipes to account for your slightly lower efficiency. Maybe buy an extra pound or two of base malt and add that to your recipe kit. Or better yet get a program like BeerSmith or Promash and create your own recipes. You can adjust the efficiency right in the program for 60%.

Sounds like you know what went wrong on the first batch - just let the beer finish fermenting before you bottle.

The last batch wasn’t your fault - it was equipment error. Get yourself a new thermometer and you are good to go.

Sure looks like you’re on the path to figuring it out by outlining problem areas.

Point 1: “Over carbonation”

  • not an AG specific problem as I see it. Maybe a patience issue? :wink:

Points 2-4: “Poor efficiency”

  • additionally to what others suggest, verify you are using your refractometer correctly and that it is calibrated.
  • use a calibrated thermometer

Point 5: “Bad thermometer”

  • you know what to do

Over the weekend I treated myself to my Petite Saison (recipe compliments of NB) which was brewed almost 18 months ago. It took a year for it to start being enjoyable and is improving yet. Maybe the “Speckled Heifer” typically turns out the way you described or maybe a bit more time is needed.
I see the advice of “give it more time” given a lot but speculate it isn’t heeded enough. I know I will tend to drink my beers way too soon because I’m impatient.

And yes, there is hope!

Good Luck!

I batch sparge using Denny’s method. Why? I’m cheap,the wife checks receipts, and I thought this would be an inexpensive way to get into AG.

I use a 50 gallon cooler with a 12" braid. Why? I’m cheap, the wife check receipts, and the cooler is the same color as Denny’s so it’s gotta be good.

I use Brewheads software. Why? it’s free and I’m cheap, the wife checks receipts, and the data entry is really straight forward, easy to input, and compatible with my lack of computer skills.

Refractometer has been initially calibrated,and recalibrated using distilled water and I don’t think it is the problem as I have cross checked it using the hydrometer I haven’t broken yet.

The digital thermometer is already dead. Why? It didn’t survive the flight or should I say the sudden stop against the house after I fiound it was off 40 freakin degrees. PS It didn’t solve the problem, but violence against inanimate objects is really kind of fun.

[quote=“flytyer”]I use a 50 gallon cooler with a 12" braid.[/quote]What’s your typical batch size with that huge cooler?

I assume that should read 50 qt cooler

Is that your answer for when your wife asks why you need a new therm? Sounds believable to me. :wink:

50qt. Not only am I goodly book learned my numbers, but I speak more gooder English.

[quote=“sethhobrin”]Mash temp will not affect his efficiency unless he is WAAAAAAY off.(like mashing 20 degrees too cold or something)

Mash temps affect the attenuation but should not change the starting gravity of your beer much if at all.[/quote]

[quote=“flytyer”]
5, Digital thermometer went to hell and I mashed 40 degrees below target before I figured out what the heck was going on 1/2 hour into mash.
I just tasted my second AG " Speckled Heifer" all I can say is insipid. Boring, light color, lacks flavor, no body. [/quote]

half his mash was 40 degrees off (?)

[quote=“Pietro”][quote=“sethhobrin”]Mash temp will not affect his efficiency unless he is WAAAAAAY off.(like mashing 20 degrees too cold or something)

Mash temps affect the attenuation but should not change the starting gravity of your beer much if at all.[/quote]

[quote=“flytyer”]
5, Digital thermometer went to hell and I mashed 40 degrees below target before I figured out what the heck was going on 1/2 hour into mash.
I just tasted my second AG " Speckled Heifer" all I can say is insipid. Boring, light color, lacks flavor, no body. [/quote]

half his mash was 40 degrees off (?)[/quote]

Yep, that woiuld do it!

flytyer, have you ever brewed with another brewer before? This could give you some insight on the process and maybe you’re missing something simple. I only have 30 all grain batches under my belt, but I have made 30 damn good batches of beer, and never felt overwhelmed, etc. It’s all about planning and research.

You’re local, so I’d be glad to watch you brew or vice versa, more than welcome to watch me on my Denny inspired system :slight_smile:

Do you get your grain at norther brewer? Do you crush it there? I was only get 66% effeciency doing that, I bought my own mill and I’m at 78% with a single sparge.

G’luck and let me know if you need any help!
justin

I like my failures private ( sex, flytying, brewing). Yes, I do my crush at NB. I’d like to get a mill, but as stated in my earlier post I’m cheap, the wife checks receipts, and I’d probably lose a digit using it.
The people at NB have been a great resource for my steady stream of stupid questions, and haven’t laughed at me to my face yet. Behind my back I’m assuming I’m the source of much amusement.
Send me a private message as my pie pumpkins will soon be ripe, if interested (smashing pumpkin) and I have some beautiful Brewer’s Gold hops almost ready (see post in hops forum).

It may be worth the time to use jlachowin’s mill to crush your grains for a couple of brews. She how that effects your efficiency.

You’re killing me :!:

The things you aren’t happy about are things you’ll over come pretty easily. Seems like your bad thermo may have caused you the most grief.

I’ve never brewed with anyone before either but am sure I would learn a different way of doing something if I did. Maybe the other person may learn something too. :wink:

Have a good one!
Brew On

The mills at NB in MN have an adjustment on them to allow for a finer crush. Perhaps adjusting them will be worth while (If available at the Milwaukee shop). Also I have heard of running the grain through the mill twice.

Someone else could pipe in on the setting to use, but I want to say its 1 mm, 0.039 in or something.

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