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General Category => Extract/Partial Mash Brewing => Topic started by: linenoiz on August 20, 2010, 07:40:35 PM

Title: Cursed at 1.020
Post by: linenoiz on August 20, 2010, 07:40:35 PM
I seem to have a recurring problem in my brewing. Hopefully someone can shed a little light on what I'm doing wrong... I apologize for the Wall O' Text.

I've been brewing for a little less than a year, and I have 7 batches under my belt. Three batches ago, I got a hydrometer and have been monitoring my gravity. Each of the last three batches had an OG of ~1.070 and each of them have stalled out at 1.020. I do a full boil in a turkey fryer, with a copper IC for cooling. I pitch yeast at ~65 degrees.

Cursed Batch The First:
Used 2 cans of Alexander's Pale LME and one pound of Rice Syrup Solids (DME). Split this batch into two Mr. Beer fermenters (2 gallons each). In one fermenter I used a packet of US-05 (rehydrated in 80 degree water for 10 minutes), in the other I used a packet of Coopers yeast (also rehydrated in 80 degree water for 10 minutes). Both fermented at 68 (as measured by a stick-on thermometer strip thingy) for four weeks. Took gravity readings at 2 weeks, and 20 days, both reading 1.020. Took the fermenters upstairs to warm up to ~72F, and swirled the fermenters a bit to get the yeast off the bottom. After a week, measured the gravity again, still at 1.020. Went ahead and bottled them. Resulting beer was too sweet. Frowntown.

About this time, I thought maybe the hydrometer was off, so I calibrated it with 60 degree distilled water. Perfect 1.000 reading. I figured I just needed to aerate more, and also that Mr Beer fermenters are sucky. Ditched those and picked up a 6.5 gallon bucket from the LHBS, and also an O2 aerator.

Cursed batch the second:
This one was a kit from the LHBS. All DME, with about a pound of specialty malts, and some dark rock candy sugar. Steeped the specialty malts in a grain bag in 1 gallon of water at 155 for 30 minutes, rinsed the grain sack with boiling water. Proceeded with the boil, adding the candi sugar in the last 15 minutes. After cooling, I measured the OG at 1.070 and aerated with O2 for 1 minute. Pitched a packet of US-05 and fermented at 68 degrees (as measured by the stick-on thermometer). Two weeks later, it was at 1.020. I left it alone (at 68 degrees) for another two weeks, still 1.020. The kit said this should get down to about 1.010-1.015. Despite that, this one actually tastes pretty okay.

Now I figured that maybe I need to pitch more yeast. So I bought some stuff to make a starter for my next batch. I also thought maybe my fermentation temperatures were swinging too much. so I bought a tub to put the fermenter in.

Cursed batch the third:
On Thursday before brewday (I brew on Sunday), I made a 2 liter starter (1.040) and pitched two vials of WLP001. On Saturday night, I put it in the fridge. I didn't measure the FG on the starter because I forgot (plus, if it said 1.020, I might have broken something).

This batch was 4 pounds Briess Amber DME, 5 pounds Briess Light DME and 1 pound of Crystal 40L. Steeped the crystal at 155 for 30 minutes, then rinsed the bag with boiling water. Boiled, chilled, measured OG (1.068), aerated w/O2 for 1 minute. Decanted the beer off the starter and pitched the slurry. Put the fermenter in the tub and filled the tub a little over half way with water. Over the next ten days, I swapped out frozen 1-liter bottles of water twice a day. Fermentation stayed around 65 degrees, near as I can tell. On the 10th day (this would be last night), I measured the gravity, and wouldn't you know it, 1.020.

I really hate 1.020.

So, any ideas on what I could be doing that is causing these things to stall out early? Any suggestions on things I can do to get it going again? I thought about pitching a packet of US-05 into the beer that is currently in the fermenter. Will that help?
Title: Re: Cursed at 1.020
Post by: bluesman on August 20, 2010, 07:56:08 PM
Try gently rousing up the yeast and warming up the beer to 70ish.  Be patient...give it a week and let us know your gravity reading at that point.
Title: Re: Cursed at 1.020
Post by: hamiltont on August 20, 2010, 07:58:36 PM
1.068 - 1.020 =  70% Apparent Attenuation. That's not all that bad for extract.  If you want to lower the FG some you can add a pound of cane sugar to the boil but that will change the beer's profile.
Title: Re: Cursed at 1.020
Post by: svejk on August 20, 2010, 08:23:54 PM
I had a very similar problem with my first batches of beer, and I never figured it out.  It was my motivation to switch to all grain brewing because I would have some control over the fermentability of the wort.  That said, in more recent years, I joined a homebrew club and have tasted multitudes of well attenuated extract beers so I know that there was a problem with my process that I should have been able to figure out.

You are on the right track with the starter and aeration, and WLP001 should have gone lower.  My only thought is to brew a saison with an OG of say 1.050 and pitch a starter of Wyeast 3711 French Saison.  That yeast will break the 1.020 barrier if anything will.  You can also ferment it really warm, so this is a great time of year for it.

Good luck.
Title: Re: Cursed at 1.020
Post by: saintpierre on August 20, 2010, 08:30:12 PM
Have you calibrated your hydrometer?  Get some distilled water and chill it to 60degF (the calibration temp for most hydrometers) and do a gravity reading. 

Just a thought.
Title: Re: Cursed at 1.020
Post by: hamiltont on August 20, 2010, 08:35:41 PM
Have you calibrated your hydrometer?  Get some distilled water and chill it to 60degF (the calibration temp for most hydrometers) and do a gravity reading. 

Just a thought.
OOPS.. Must have skipped over that part...  "About this time, I thought maybe the hydrometer was off, so I calibrated it with 60 degree distilled water. Perfect 1.000 reading."  ;)
Title: Re: Cursed at 1.020
Post by: saintpierre on August 20, 2010, 08:48:21 PM
Yup, completely glossed over that part.
Title: Re: Cursed at 1.020
Post by: saintpierre on August 20, 2010, 08:50:47 PM
You can also ferment it really warm, so this is a great time of year for it.

Good luck.
+1 since majority of the fermentation is over you shouldn't pick up many esters or off-flavors from the warmer fermentation
Title: Re: Cursed at 1.020
Post by: diybrewing on August 20, 2010, 09:05:45 PM
So one thing I am definitely noticing is that you use a large percentage of malt extract. I personally and in my shop when I am doing an extract batch of beer that has a large gravity, will depend more on grains and plain sugar then malt extract. Try adding some base malts and either do a mini mash or still steep it but go longer on the steep.  For our house IPA I will put the recipe below for you
6 lbs malt extract ( extra light)
1.5 lbs 2-row
1.5 lbs Pilsner
0.5 lbs Crystal 60
0.5 lbs Caramunich III
steep for 45 minutes in 2.5 gallons of water for a temperature of 150F.
1 oz Columbus 60 min.
1 oz Cascade 15 min
1 oz Cascade flameout
1 oz Amarillo Dry hop

This beer comes out at 1.063 and is highly fermentable we get it down in store with making the starter and aquarium pump down to 1.014 and it comes out beautiful.
You could take this recipe add a 1lb of corn sugar and it would 1.070 and you would finish at 1.015 or so with it.
Title: Re: Cursed at 1.020
Post by: linenoiz on August 20, 2010, 10:12:49 PM
Thanks for the suggestions, everyone. I will rouse and warm this batch up and cross my fingers. And if that doesn't work... I guess it's time to go AG. :)
Title: Re: Cursed at 1.020
Post by: tygo on August 21, 2010, 12:32:07 AM
Thanks for the suggestions, everyone. I will rouse and warm this batch up and cross my fingers. And if that doesn't work... I guess it's time to go AG. :)

Sounds like a good plan.

I didn't measure the FG on the starter because I forgot (plus, if it said 1.020, I might have broken something).

I read your original post earlier today and have been chuckling about that since then.
Title: Re: Cursed at 1.020
Post by: denny on August 21, 2010, 04:14:14 PM
Remember that when you use extract, you're stuck with the fermentability that was decided by the manufacturer when they mashed the grain to make the extract.  In addition, anything other than the lightest extract will have grains added to it (like crystal, maybe chocolate malt, etc.) that will further reduce its fermentability.  You might want to plan on always subbing a lb. of sugar in for a lb. of DME.
Title: Re: Cursed at 1.020
Post by: dannyjed on August 21, 2010, 06:40:28 PM
When I used extracts I rarely got below 1.020.  The sugar will help, but I really suggest going all grain.  Your beers will get under 1.010.  I was relunctant to go to all grain at first because I thought it would cost a lot $, but I use Denny's cooler, batch sparge method and it barely costed me anything.  You already have a turkey fryer and are used to doing full boils, so this won't be a huge step for you.
Title: Re: Cursed at 1.020
Post by: beerrat on August 24, 2010, 11:55:02 AM
My first question is, despite the FG, how is the beer - is it to style you intended - taste, aroma, mouthfeel, etc?  I'm not aware of a SG check at a tasting event ;-) If all good, a little high or low for style no longer matters to me.

The talk about extract and final gravity made me look at my brew logs, as I'm primarily an extract brewer with steeping grains. Only been brewing since 2008, but have made 30 batches of beer/mead/wine in that time.
I'm usually hitting 1.010 -1.020 range depending upon style and yeast. Some at higher end of style, others finishing below 1.010.

Observations: Seems like the LME finishes higher - - unless corn and/or honey added based on recipe.  High finishing ones were Muttons LME and Williams Brew kits.

I now use mostly DME and see better attenuation.  I learned a lot on technique/temp control prior to switching to DME, so will only partially credit the DME switch from LME, but my DME extract beers have been winning some ribbons, including a BOS, at contests. While none got past first round of NHC this year, the DME's scored in the 30's.My all-grains did worse, but that was due to me learning AG, and also trying to lager.

I like extract due to less time to brew, and with good quality/fresh DME, I produce party pleasing beer.  
 
What I do,  your milage will vary...
DME - Briess.
Pitch a lot of yeast.  Use a starter, or multiple smack packs or multiple rehydrated dry yeast packets.
Aerate very well -  I use the shake the carboy method 5 minutes (and time it - good for arm muscles!)
Rouse yeast every day for the first week.
Temp control, temp control, temp control.
I ferment for about 21 days before racking to keg or bottles - although looking at records, the ales since doing this method has the gravity pretty settled by day 14.  Extra week allows for yeast to settle out a bit.

Best of luck.
Title: Re: Cursed at 1.020
Post by: linenoiz on August 25, 2010, 07:08:59 PM
I stirred the beer a bit and brought it upstairs where it sat at ~72 for the last week. Measured again last night, and still at 1.020 (I drank the hydro sample, but I have yet to master the art of drinking warm flat beer and imagining what it will taste like when it is cold and carbed... It wasn't terribly good, but in my experience, hydro samples never are). I guess that's that; I will be bottling it this weekend and dealing with yet another batch of mediocre beer.

As for the taste of the beers: they have all tasted like I took a perfectly fine beer and added a teaspoon or two of sugar to it. Overall, I don't too much care for the results, but I will still drink it. So, somewhere between "Yeck" and "Meh."

I spent last weekend building my MLT, so I'm just about ready to put on my big boy pants (once I figure out my water).
Title: Re: Cursed at 1.020
Post by: bonjour on August 25, 2010, 07:23:25 PM
Try and drop a pound of extract and substitute a pound of sugar.  See if that helps.
Title: Re: Cursed at 1.020
Post by: astrivian on August 27, 2010, 04:04:28 AM
Is it true that corn sugar ferments better (more) than table sugar?

I seem to be stuck at 1.020 as well with my beers, but i generally have an OG of 1.100 and shoot for 10-12% ABV so i can't really complain  ;D

I agree about the tasting though. If it tastes good then it tastes good. I used to get pissed at 1.020 as well but now i have just come to accept it. I like 20 or 30 FG for the higher ABV beers anyhow; the maltiness helps take the edge of the alcohol.
Title: Re: Cursed at 1.020
Post by: tubercle on August 27, 2010, 04:36:45 AM
Is it true that corn sugar ferments better (more) than table sugar?

 No. Just  different. The enzymes from the yeast just do a different dance to get it to alcohol.

 This is science as Tubercle understands it.
Title: Re: Cursed at 1.020
Post by: tschmidlin on August 27, 2010, 05:00:08 AM
Is it true that corn sugar ferments better (more) than table sugar?
Corn sugar is glucose, it is easily transported into the cell and broken down.

Table sugar is sucrose, which is a disaccharide of glucose and fructose.  The yeast first has to break the bond between the two units (although this happens by itself at some rate under acidic conditions), then break them down further.  But both of the subunits are easily broken down by most yeast.
Title: Re: Cursed at 1.020
Post by: astrivian on August 28, 2010, 03:21:39 AM
Is it true that corn sugar ferments better (more) than table sugar?
Corn sugar is glucose, it is easily transported into the cell and broken down.

Table sugar is sucrose, which is a disaccharide of glucose and fructose.  The yeast first has to break the bond between the two units (although this happens by itself at some rate under acidic conditions), then break them down further.  But both of the subunits are easily broken down by most yeast.

Ah interesting. I noticed that my beer program gave me just slightly more ABV per LB of corn sugar than it did for table sugar. I was wondering why.
Title: Re: Cursed at 1.020
Post by: malzig on August 28, 2010, 01:00:21 PM
Is it true that corn sugar ferments better (more) than table sugar?
Corn sugar is glucose, it is easily transported into the cell and broken down.

Table sugar is sucrose, which is a disaccharide of glucose and fructose.  The yeast first has to break the bond between the two units (although this happens by itself at some rate under acidic conditions), then break them down further.  But both of the subunits are easily broken down by most yeast.

Ah interesting. I noticed that my beer program gave me just slightly more ABV per LB of corn sugar than it did for table sugar. I was wondering why.
There seems to be some confusion here.  You might want to double check your beer recipe program, because if that's what it says I'm pretty sure it's wrong. 

Both Table Sugar (Sucrose) and Corn Sugar (Glucose) are fully fermentable.  However, Table Sugar will produce slightly more CO2 and alcohol for a given weight than Corn Sugar.  This is just because a molecule of Table Sugar has a lower Formula Weight but just as many carbons as two molecules of Corn Sugar, so Sucrose has more carbons for and given weight.
Title: Re: Cursed at 1.020
Post by: beerrat on September 02, 2010, 08:27:06 PM
I was just rereading Ray Daniels' "Designing Great Beers" and in his chapter on extracts, he sites a study done in 1991 showing "several worts would not ferment lower then 1.020, while others fermented to less then 1.006".  The study also shows false labeling of some extracts as " all malt", when in fact they had adjuncts.

Here is the abstract, http://www.asbcnet.org/journal/abstracts/backissues/49-03.htm (http://www.asbcnet.org/journal/abstracts/backissues/49-03.htm)
More info: http://www.brewingtechniques.com/library/backissues/issue1.2/lodahl.html (http://www.brewingtechniques.com/library/backissues/issue1.2/lodahl.html)

Now that was in 1991, you used many brands, and have added adjuncts to your recipes, so the 1.020 you are seeing is interesting.

Daniels suggest doing a fermentability test on your chosen extracts, making a 1qt beer with 5oz of extract, take the OG, add usual yeast, ferment completely, chill to drop yeast, take FG measure and calc apparent attenuation, and of course taste it.

Anyway,  I'd be interested in any changes in your next brew, as I'm mostly an extract brewer.
Title: Re: Cursed at 1.020
Post by: timmyr on September 05, 2010, 02:07:27 PM
1.068 - 1.020 =  70% Apparent Attenuation. That's not all that bad for extract.  If you want to lower the FG some you can add a pound of cane sugar to the boil but that will change the beer's profile.

No doubt, 70% is not bad at all.  I used to sub about 5-10% of my LME/DME for cane sugar to help dry out my beers before I switched over to all grain brewing.  Another option is to perform a "mini mash" with your LME/DME and about a pound of 2-row or pilsner or other base malt.  This can help convert some of the longer chain sugars in the extract and make them more accessible to the yeast (hopefully I said that correctly.)
Title: Re: Cursed at 1.020
Post by: rbclay on September 06, 2010, 02:42:51 AM
I'm an extract brewer also. I rather like the idea of fixing the attenuation issue before (instead of  ;)) going AG. You may still end up with the same issues. You may make a more fermentable wort, but the job of turning wort into beer is up to how you handle your yeast and fermentation process, and that ain't gonna change when you go AG.

One thought- when you are oxygenating your chilled wort are you letting the oxygen bubble gently into the wort? If you do it too vigorously you may just be sending the O2 right through the wort and into thin air. Slow it down and go for 2 minutes.

Also, the higher percentage of dark grains in your grist, the higher your FG will be. And big beers with really high OG's will also tend to finish a little high. But you did say that your problem batches tend to taste too sweet.

Several people suggested subbing out some extract for sugars. Personally I would only ever do this if that ingredient is appropriate for the style. Yes, sugars are more fermentable than malt extract, but is that part of the flavor profile you are after?
Title: Re: Cursed at 1.020
Post by: tygo on September 06, 2010, 04:06:46 AM
I'm an extract brewer also. I rather like the idea of fixing the attenuation issue before (instead of  ;)) going AG. You may still end up with the same issues. You may make a more fermentable wort, but the job of turning wort into beer is up to how you handle your yeast and fermentation process, and that ain't gonna change when you go AG.

You can easily make a more fermentable wort by going all grain and controlling the mash schedule.  I found that my main issue when I first went all grain was that my worts were more fermentable than I had planned for based on my previous experience with extract brewing.  In my experience 80% attenuation is more the rule than the exception unless you mash at pretty high temperatures.

A healthy fermentation will ensure that all of the fermentable sugars are eaten up but that won't improve your attenuation if you have a higher amount of unfermentable sugars.  And large amounts of extract will give you more of those.
Title: Re: Cursed at 1.020
Post by: timmyr on September 06, 2010, 12:33:44 PM
I'm an extract brewer also. I rather like the idea of fixing the attenuation issue before (instead of  ;)) going AG. You may still end up with the same issues. You may make a more fermentable wort, but the job of turning wort into beer is up to how you handle your yeast and fermentation process, and that ain't gonna change when you go AG.

You can easily make a more fermentable wort by going all grain and controlling the mash schedule.  I found that my main issue when I first went all grain was that my worts were more fermentable than I had planned for based on my previous experience with extract brewing.  In my experience 80% attenuation is more the rule than the exception unless you mash at pretty high temperatures.

A healthy fermentation will ensure that all of the fermentable sugars are eaten up but that won't improve your attenuation if you have a higher amount of unfermentable sugars.  And large amounts of extract will give you more of those.

You know, its interesting on my system as I've found that I typically attenuate per the recipe or slightly less leaving my FGs a touch high...except for one batch that overattenuated which was just enough to keep me from drastically changing my mash temps.  I have just started to tweak my mash down 1-2 deg F to see if that is enough to adjust my results.  It just goes to show you how every system/process is a little different.  I moved  to 10-gallon AG last summer and am still refining my process and learning my equipment (I brew about every 6-weeks).

Good discussion.
Title: Re: Cursed at 1.020
Post by: tygo on September 06, 2010, 04:10:51 PM
You know, its interesting on my system as I've found that I typically attenuate per the recipe or slightly less leaving my FGs a touch high...

What temps are you mashing at?  I'm generally infusion mashing right around 152 when I see the 80% attenuation.
Title: Re: Cursed at 1.020
Post by: timmyr on September 08, 2010, 01:40:14 AM
You know, I typically do just fine and target 152F with minor variances as I mash in a direct-fire kettle with a recirculation pump attached and ready.  I'll have to look at my last year of batches (since I changed all my equipment) and see if I have a trend or just minor ups and downs due to process variability (which is what I expect)....my only real suprise was my Oktoberfest which only attenuated 67% with WLP820 and WLP833.  
Title: Re: Cursed at 1.020
Post by: gimmeales on September 15, 2010, 08:48:08 PM
One thing that jumped out at me from your third batch (and may be a factor in your earlier batches) is the Amber Extract.  The darker the extract, generally the low amount of fermentables within.  Plus since you don't know what darker grains were used to make the darker extract, flavor profiles may end up inappropriate (or at least unexpected) for the style.

I had the best luck with my extract batches by using the lightest extract possible and getting my color and character from steeping grains.  I regularly got final gravities in the 1.014-1.018 range with this method and pitching plenty of healthy yeast (which is sounds like you're doing)
Title: Re: Cursed at 1.020
Post by: kramerog on September 16, 2010, 05:35:23 PM
Slow it down and go for 2 minutes.

If you are using air to oxgenate, there is no reason to not oxgenate for at least 5 or 10 minutes.  One study suggested that you need to run an aquarium pump for 30 minutes to adequately oxygenate wort through a stone. 

Some studies say that aerating the wort while racking into the fermenter, e.g., fan the wort on the side of the fermenter as you rack and occasionally shaking the fermenter, is better.

I usually do both.