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General Category => All Grain Brewing => Topic started by: nateo on February 21, 2011, 12:28:46 AM

Title: Help troubleshoot intermittent husky/grainy off-flavor
Post by: nateo on February 21, 2011, 12:28:46 AM
I've been digging through the "Search" function for a few hours now, trying to get info, but I'm at an impasse.

I've gotten a husky/raw grain/ astringent? flavor on a few beers I've done recently. The obvious culprit is tannin extraction, and the most common cause of tannin extraction is sparging too hot and at too high of a pH. I've read that tannins could also be from break material in the fermenter. But I've also read that break material and trub don't affect the beer.

Here's my process: I use the Deathbrewer BIAB method, squeeze the bag, sometimes use decoctions, batch sparge, don't filter the wort going into the kettle, or into the fermenter. Sparge @ 165* and I acidify the sparge water with 88% lactic acid to make sure it's under 5.8 before sparging. Mash pH between 5.2-5.5.

I've made a lot of beer (20+ batches) with the above method without grainy flavor. I'm trying to pin down when exactly the flavor started, and I think it was about the time I bought my last bag of malt. I've made about 6 batches with malt that was milled by a maltster, instead of my 2-roller mill. The crush is finer than I get on my mill, and extract efficiency is better. I also used to use a metal colander to strain out hop particles going into the fermenter, but in the last 6 batches haven't bothered.

Going over my brewing log, the only differences between the 3 batches with the grainy flavor and the 3 batches without has been the OG, with the lower OG batches not showing the graininess, and the high OG batches showing it.

I notice a bit more fine grain going into the boiler than before, and I wonder if filtering before the boil might help. Also, I wonder if straining the hops out pre-ferment might help, maybe by catching some of the break material in the process.

Any ideas?
Title: Re: Help troubleshoot intermittent husky/grainy off-flavor
Post by: Hokerer on February 21, 2011, 02:12:30 AM
Not sure what you mean by fine grains going into the boiler, but if you mean that actual bits of the grain, husks, and such are getting into the kettle, that could definitely be your problem.  Break material and hops getting into the kettle won't cause it.
Title: Re: Help troubleshoot intermittent husky/grainy off-flavor
Post by: davisdandrew on February 21, 2011, 02:21:01 AM
It sounds like this might be a classic case of having too much crud in the fermenter. if you are not removing anything from the wort (hops, break material) you could be picking up a lot of flavor from that which could be percieved as husky/grainy/astringent. as for this flavor increasing with the gravity, break material and usually hops increase with gravity and this could be pushing the flavor contribution past threshold and giving you flavors you didnt get in lower gravity beers.
 you should really try to remove some of that material even if it is not the source of the husky flavor problem, there are countless reasons to do so
good luck!
Title: Re: Help troubleshoot intermittent husky/grainy off-flavor
Post by: nateo on February 21, 2011, 03:41:34 AM
"Not sure what you mean by fine grains going into the boiler, but if you mean that actual bits of the grain, husks, and such are getting into the kettle, that could definitely be your problem."

I can see little bits of flour from the mash going into the fermenter. Doing the BIAB thing, I can't really vorlauf. Any ideas for filtration before boil? I thought about cheesecloth, but don't know if that'll catch the flour. A coffee filter would, but it would take forever to run through.

" if you are not removing anything from the wort (hops, break material) you could be picking up a lot of flavor from that which could be percieved as husky/grainy/astringent. as for this flavor increasing with the gravity, break material and usually hops increase with gravity and this could be pushing the flavor contribution past threshold and giving you flavors you didnt get in lower gravity beers."

That's what I was suspecting, that the increase in grain/hops pushed it to a level where I noticed it. Aside from whirlpooling and straining going into the fermenter, any other ideas for filtering?
Title: Re: Help troubleshoot intermittent husky/grainy off-flavor
Post by: richardt on February 21, 2011, 07:04:23 AM
Use a second extremely fine nylon mesh bag that fits your boil kettle and/or fermentation bucket--pour your wort into the kettle or bucket and lift out the bag when the transfer is done--it should help strain out the fine bits.
Title: Re: Help troubleshoot intermittent husky/grainy off-flavor
Post by: dmtaylor on February 21, 2011, 02:04:27 PM
A few thoughts...

Make sure you don't squeeze your grain bag too hard.  You could be getting unconverted starches as well as tannins.  Either one could screw up the taste of your beer.  Tannins obviously cause astringency.  And starches are attractive to bacteria, which could infect your brew and cause all sorts of strange flavors, likely including the sort of "huskiness" that you are detecting.

Perhaps have too rough a mesh on your grain bag??  You want a super-fine mesh on your bag to prevent grainy stuff from getting to your boil kettle.  You say you don't "filter" at all.  So, if you are getting any chunks of grain and then boiling that, this can definitely cause astringency.  I do BIAB a lot myself, and yes, I have experienced astringency before, which after much research, I was able to attribute definitively to chunky stuff in my boil kettle.  So now what I do is actually recirculate my runnings through the grain bag and a colander.  Basically, pull out the grain bag as normal, but also set it in a colander, which I set onto the boil kettle, then pour the whole mess through the bag again.  It's tedious but effective -- I haven't had any problems with astringency since.  I know another guy who just puts a fine colander into the wort and pulls out chunks that way.  I haven't tried that yet, but I really think it should help a lot.

Yeah, it could be choice of base malt, too.  What are you using?  Any 6-row malt will have a greater chance at both huskiness and astringency.

My wager is on boiling chunks of grain that didn't get strained out.  You really need to get that stuff out of the boil kettle.
Title: Re: Help troubleshoot intermittent husky/grainy off-flavor
Post by: nateo on February 21, 2011, 03:13:20 PM
"Perhaps have too rough a mesh on your grain bag??"

Now that you mention it, I also switched from cheesecloth bags to poly paint strainer bags, which are a bit coarser. Forgot about that.

" So now what I do is actually recirculate my runnings through the grain bag and a colander."

I like that idea. I'll try that next time I brew.

I'm using high quality 2-row, so I don't think the base malt itself is the issue. It was milled by the maltster, and it has a much higher flour-to-grits ratio than I can get with my 2-roller mill. I assumed the "chunks" I'm getting in the brew kettle were the flour, but it may have little bits of finely ground husk too.
Title: Re: Help troubleshoot intermittent husky/grainy off-flavor
Post by: denny on February 21, 2011, 04:31:46 PM
I'm trying to pin down when exactly the flavor started, and I think it was about the time I bought my last bag of malt. I've made about 6 batches with malt that was milled by a maltster, instead of my 2-roller mill. The crush is finer than I get on my mill, and extract efficiency is better.

Often times when you buy pre milled malt, the husks gravitate toward the top of the bag while the fines fall to the bottom.  Unless you make an effort to somehow remix it, I think it's possible that you're getting a higher than normal % of husks.  It should go the other way by the time you get to the bottom of the bag.
Title: Re: Help troubleshoot intermittent husky/grainy off-flavor
Post by: Kit B on February 21, 2011, 08:22:23 PM
Don't squeeze the bag.
Just let it drain, gently.
Title: Re: Help troubleshoot intermittent husky/grainy off-flavor
Post by: denny on February 21, 2011, 09:28:58 PM
Don't squeeze the bag.
Just let it drain, gently.

I really don't think bag squeezing causes astringency.  Have you found that it does?
Title: Re: Help troubleshoot intermittent husky/grainy off-flavor
Post by: alikocho on February 21, 2011, 10:24:36 PM
Don't squeeze the bag.
Just let it drain, gently.

I really don't think bag squeezing causes astringency.  Have you found that it does?

I don't use brew in a bag, but I do make fruit jellies. Squeezing can cause some particles to come through, and you can end up with cloudy jelly, so squeezing the bag could result in some grainy bits ending up in the boil I guess.
Title: Re: Help troubleshoot intermittent husky/grainy off-flavor
Post by: denny on February 21, 2011, 10:35:09 PM
I don't use brew in a bag, but I do make fruit jellies. Squeezing can cause some particles to come through, and you can end up with cloudy jelly, so squeezing the bag could result in some grainy bits ending up in the boil I guess.

While it could, I've never found it to happen when I've tried it.  I'm looking for somebody with personal experience in this so I can find out if my experience is an anomaly.
Title: Re: Help troubleshoot intermittent husky/grainy off-flavor
Post by: richardt on February 21, 2011, 10:46:34 PM
When I brewed with extracts or partial mash kits that had disappointing results, I'd figured the astringency more likely to be due to oversparging (a common newbie error that I made) and or use of high-alkalinity local water. 

Simply lifting the mesh bag out of the kettle and letting the weight of the wet grains compress against the side of the kettle to encourage draining did not strike me as "excessively squeezing" the steeped grains.
Title: Re: Help troubleshoot intermittent husky/grainy off-flavor
Post by: nateo on February 22, 2011, 04:48:10 AM
So, I've been thinking, and trying to tease out variables that have changed since I started getting the astringency. I've done 20+ batches of BIAB without this issue, all of varied gravity, with the same techniques (squeezing, water treatment, decoction mashing, etc). To summarize:

1) Switched to a poly paint strainer bag instead of cheesecloth.
2) Switched to pre-milled grain instead of milled-at-home grain.
3) I used to filter out the hops/break material going from the kettle to the fermenter, but haven't recently. Lately I've just dumped it all in, at the advice of quite a few people who say that it doesn't make a difference.

The possible differences that has made are:
1) More small particles getting into the wort. This seems to be confirmed by me seeing more grain bits floating to the top of the wort before the boil really gets going. I skim as much off as I can, but I can't get it all off.
2) More flour in the grist to begin with, so maybe that contributes to the particulates.
3) Maybe the hops in the colander acted as a filter to strain break material and grain bits from the wort.

So of the variables that I know have changed (not including variables I don't know I've changed) it seems that particulate matter in the wort is the most likely culprit. Does this sound correct?

Maybe squeezing the bag can cause astringency in some cases, and maybe I've just gotten really lucky in the past when I haven't had this problem when squeezing. And if squeezing does cause astringency, would it be because of the excessive particulates in the wort, or is there some other factor to this?

On a side-note, can anyone describe the mesh-size difference between cheesecloth and voile? I know my paint strainer bag is coarser than cheesecloth, but I haven't seen voile, and I know that's what most BIAB guys recommend using.

Title: Re: Help troubleshoot intermittent husky/grainy off-flavor
Post by: mabrungard on February 22, 2011, 01:58:38 PM
I have a difficult time believing that squeezing the grist will cause astringency by itself.  I know of several commercial brewing systems that use press plates that squeeze the grist in the lauter tun to improve extract. 

If the squeezing causes particulates to exit the grist and enter the wort, then I believe that the process could add astingency to the finished beer.  Its the filtering, not the squeezing that needs careful consideration. 
Title: Re: Help troubleshoot intermittent husky/grainy off-flavor
Post by: dmtaylor on February 22, 2011, 02:01:29 PM
I really think it's the chunks of grain getting boiled.  It happened to me a couple of times when I first started all-grain, and at the advice of homebrewers at the time (this was like 6 or so years ago), ever since I started vorlaufing, I haven't had the problem again, so I really think it makes a difference.  And after a couple of botched batches those many years ago, I don't really care to run experiments skipping vorlaufing to confirm definitively whether it makes a difference!

Sorry, I don't know much about mesh size with different materials.  I can tell you that I buy grain sacks from Northern Brewer and they've been good.  Mesh size seems to have gotten finer over time.  The bags I bought 6 years ago have a rougher mesh than the ones I bought last year, which have a very very fine mesh, probably most appropriate for BIAB which has become very popular over the past year or so.  But mesh size doesn't seem to make any difference in quality, as long as you vorlauf.  If you want to skip the vorlauf, well then... I don't know.
Title: Re: Help troubleshoot intermittent husky/grainy off-flavor
Post by: nateo on February 22, 2011, 04:05:55 PM
Thanks everyone for all the help. It's given me a lot to think about.

DMTaylor: Do you vorlauf just the first runnings, or the sparge as well? I ask because I usually batch sparge, but would a fly sparge work better once the grain bed is established?

Title: Re: Help troubleshoot intermittent husky/grainy off-flavor
Post by: denny on February 22, 2011, 04:08:43 PM
DMTaylor: Do you vorlauf just the first runnings, or the sparge as well? I ask because I usually batch sparge, but would a fly sparge work better once the grain bed is established?



Nope, not better, just different.  I still think it's the precrushed grain.  Why not do a batch using other grain and see?  That should be easy.
Title: Re: Help troubleshoot intermittent husky/grainy off-flavor
Post by: dmtaylor on February 22, 2011, 05:21:57 PM
I am a batch sparger.  You need to vorlauf both the first and second runnings, which is no big deal -- basically, collect the first quart and a half of each of the runnings and pour it back in, then start collecting the clean runnings.  It only takes a minute!  Certainly not worth the trouble of setting up fly sparge -- no thanks.  I know a lot of people love their fly sparge, but I can get up to 90% efficiency with batch sparging, so I see zero benefits in the extra time and equipment needed to fly sparge -- at least for any brewer who's never fly sparged before.  If you got it, go for it, but it's not all some think it's cracked up to be.
Title: Re: Help troubleshoot intermittent husky/grainy off-flavor
Post by: nateo on February 26, 2011, 10:18:10 PM
Brewing another beer right now. I have vorlaufed (vorgelauft?) for about 2 hours to get the wort clear, but boy is it crystal clear. I think because the grain bed wasn't thick enough to filter well enough? Today has convinced me to construct a proper MLT.

Also, the difference between what my wort currently looks like, and used to look like, is striking. I had no idea I was getting so much grain into my boiler. Like, really, a ton of grain.
Title: Re: Help troubleshoot intermittent husky/grainy off-flavor
Post by: mabrungard on February 27, 2011, 12:28:27 AM
Brewing another beer right now. I have vorlaufed (vorgelauft?) for about 2 hours to get the wort clear, but boy is it crystal clear. I think because the grain bed wasn't thick enough to filter well enough? Today has convinced me to construct a proper MLT.

Also, the difference between what my wort currently looks like, and used to look like, is striking. I had no idea I was getting so much grain into my boiler. Like, really, a ton of grain.

That is a nice thing about having a RIMS, the constant recirculation produces a very well filtered wort.
Title: Re: Help troubleshoot intermittent husky/grainy off-flavor
Post by: Kit B on March 02, 2011, 06:33:17 PM
I really don't think bag squeezing causes astringency.  Have you found that it does?
Actually, Denny...To be 100% honest...No.
In recent years, I have read several peoples' instructions stating that it 'could'.
In fact...I've done it several times & never noticed anything negative.
Maybe we can throw that statement out the window.
Has anyone else ever noticed astringency from squeezing your bag?

 :o
Title: Re: Help troubleshoot intermittent husky/grainy off-flavor
Post by: dbeechum on March 02, 2011, 07:29:56 PM
Has anyone else ever noticed astringency from squeezing your bag?

Leaving my personal life out of it for a moment, I think the actual problem with squeezing the bag is mechanical lipid release which won't cause astringency, but would cause fatty flavors that could easily spoil into rancidity.

-- Drew
Title: Re: Help troubleshoot intermittent husky/grainy off-flavor
Post by: morticaixavier on March 02, 2011, 07:44:21 PM
Brewing another beer right now. I have vorlaufed (vorgelauft?) for about 2 hours to get the wort clear, but boy is it crystal clear. I think because the grain bed wasn't thick enough to filter well enough? Today has convinced me to construct a proper MLT.

Also, the difference between what my wort currently looks like, and used to look like, is striking. I had no idea I was getting so much grain into my boiler. Like, really, a ton of grain.

Wow! I don't think you need to vorlauf for that long! ussualy I think you only need to do about a quart or two. You aren't looking for crystal clear wort out of the mashtun just no chunks.
Title: Re: Help troubleshoot intermittent husky/grainy off-flavor
Post by: nateo on March 03, 2011, 04:18:07 PM
Wow! I don't think you need to vorlauf for that long! ussualy I think you only need to do about a quart or two. You aren't looking for crystal clear wort out of the mashtun just no chunks.

It's not something I plan on doing for all my brews, unless the results are just fantastic. I wanted to try brewing with as little particulate matter as possible to see if the astringency was caused by grain material in the boil, or some other factor. It should be done fermenting in a week or so, and I'll report back with my findings.

One thing I noticed while chilling, the wort had incredible foam stability. I use an immersion chiller, and to finish the last 20* or so to get to pitching temps, I raise and lower the cooler rapidly. It foamed up a lot more than usual, and the foam persisted for a much longer time. Any ideas what would have caused that?
Title: Re: Help troubleshoot intermittent husky/grainy off-flavor
Post by: morticaixavier on March 03, 2011, 04:21:22 PM
Wow! I don't think you need to vorlauf for that long! ussualy I think you only need to do about a quart or two. You aren't looking for crystal clear wort out of the mashtun just no chunks.

It's not something I plan on doing for all my brews, unless the results are just fantastic. I wanted to try brewing with as little particulate matter as possible to see if the astringency was caused by grain material in the boil, or some other factor.

cool! let us know!
Title: Re: Help troubleshoot intermittent husky/grainy off-flavor
Post by: denny on March 03, 2011, 05:14:18 PM
It's not something I plan on doing for all my brews, unless the results are just fantastic. I wanted to try brewing with as little particulate matter as possible to see if the astringency was caused by grain material in the boil, or some other factor. It should be done fermenting in a week or so, and I'll report back with my findings.

One thing I noticed while chilling, the wort had incredible foam stability. I use an immersion chiller, and to finish the last 20* or so to get to pitching temps, I raise and lower the cooler rapidly. It foamed up a lot more than usual, and the foam persisted for a much longer time. Any ideas what would have caused that?

Unless you actually have chunks in your runoff, clarity of runoff really isn't related to the clarity or flavor of the finished beer.
Title: Re: Help troubleshoot intermittent husky/grainy off-flavor
Post by: nateo on March 04, 2011, 05:09:57 AM
Unless you actually have chunks in your runoff, clarity of runoff really isn't related to the clarity or flavor of the finished beer.

How big is a chunk? How much particulate matter / flour is acceptable?
Title: Re: Help troubleshoot intermittent husky/grainy off-flavor
Post by: dmtaylor on March 04, 2011, 02:24:16 PM
A chunk is macroscopic -- you can easily pick it out by eyesight (20/20 vision).  Acceptable particles, on the other hand, don't look chunky but just cloudy.

By the way..... by vorlaufing for 2 hours, you have basically mashed for an extra 2 hours.  Therefore, I predict your attenuation will be crazy high.  It depends also on the strain of yeast that you have used, and other factors, but this could very well be a really bone dry beer with very very little sweetness.  Might even seem watery.  Just so you're not surprised by it later.  There are reasons why most folks don't mash for that long, and this is a big one.
Title: Re: Help troubleshoot intermittent husky/grainy off-flavor
Post by: nateo on March 04, 2011, 03:43:17 PM
By the way..... by vorlaufing for 2 hours, you have basically mashed for an extra 2 hours.  Therefore, I predict your attenuation will be crazy high.  It depends also on the strain of yeast that you have used, and other factors, but this could very well be a really bone dry beer with very very little sweetness.  Might even seem watery.  Just so you're not surprised by it later.  There are reasons why most folks don't mash for that long, and this is a big one.

I made a saison, and I hoped for 90%+ attenuation, so I'm not too worried about over-mashing.

I picked up a copy of New Brewing Lager, and found a ton of info, including this: "A lot of draff carried into the kettle is a recipe for astringent beer, but a small amount may improve trub coagulation. The majority of brewers recycle until the runoff is no longer heavily clouded; this is generally accomplished in less than ten minutes. Excessive recycling may lead to greater lipid levels in the wort and ought to be avoided."
Title: Re: Help troubleshoot intermittent husky/grainy off-flavor
Post by: dmtaylor on March 04, 2011, 03:49:29 PM
Perfect!  I'm so glad it was a saison.  Perfect.

Ooh, lipids.  That doesn't sound good.  I am very interested to find out how this one turns out for you.  Keep us posted.
Title: Re: Help troubleshoot intermittent husky/grainy off-flavor
Post by: denny on March 04, 2011, 03:55:50 PM
I usually vorlauf a qt., never more than 2.  It takes me maybe 2-3 min.  If you have to vorlauf longer, I'd look at your system to see what could be improved.
Title: Re: Help troubleshoot intermittent husky/grainy off-flavor
Post by: nateo on March 04, 2011, 04:34:28 PM
I usually vorlauf a qt., never more than 2.  It takes me maybe 2-3 min.  If you have to vorlauf longer, I'd look at your system to see what could be improved.

Thanks again for all your help guys. And Denny, yes, I definitely have a lot to improve!
Title: Re: Help troubleshoot intermittent husky/grainy off-flavor
Post by: nateo on March 28, 2011, 10:28:43 PM
To recap, I made a saison, which I got the runnings as clear as possible. After that, I made a wit with fairly clear runnings. My saison is still chugging away, but I bottled my wit today. I tasted a bit of the wit before I added the priming sugar, and it tastes fantastic. Not a hint of astringency. So I'm tentatively declaring success.

Thanks everyone for your help.