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General Category => All Grain Brewing => Topic started by: gmac on April 08, 2011, 01:39:36 AM

Title: Watering down beer
Post by: gmac on April 08, 2011, 01:39:36 AM
This question will likely seem like sacrilege to many of you but I'm wondering what your thoughts are on adding water to beer after the initial fermentation has slowed.  I don't really want an above normal alcohol content in my beer (normal being about 5%) and I'm looking for a session style beer that I can drink with friends for an evening and not get too loaded or too hung-over the next day. 

My last 3 brews have higher than expected extraction so my beer is a bit higher alcohol potential than I'd like.  Also, I overfilled my carboy today so I am expecting to lose a good amount through the blow off tube.  Can I just top it up with boiled and cooled water after the initial krausen surge is over?  Will this make it too watery?  I am sure that if I had more room to ferment, adding water prior would have been preferred but all I have available is one 5 US gal carboy. 

I used 9 lbs MO, 1 lb of Crystal 40  and ended up with 1.062 OG instead of the 1.058 I got last time.  I really wanted something in the 1.050 - 1.054 range so next time I'm taking the crystal and MO each down 1/4 lb.

Anyway, should I leave well enough alone or should I water it down a bit?
Thanks
Title: Re: Watering down beer
Post by: tygo on April 08, 2011, 01:41:48 AM
I've never done it but this is the way the macro-breweries do it if I'm not mistaken.  If I were going to do it I'd wait until bottling or kegging and add the extra water then. 
Title: Re: Watering down beer
Post by: a10t2 on April 08, 2011, 01:50:13 AM
I know Mike McDole is a big fan of this technique. He'll have a ~8% ABV beer on tap, along with a keg of carbonated water, and dilute to whatever strength he wants.
Title: Re: Watering down beer
Post by: tschmidlin on April 08, 2011, 01:55:22 AM
Whether it comes across as too watery depends on the beer, you could certainly give it a try.  I think it's better to do it at packaging so you can taste it and see how much you'd like to add.
Title: Re: Watering down beer
Post by: bluesman on April 08, 2011, 02:03:52 AM
I know Mike McDole is a big fan of this technique. He'll have a ~8% ABV beer on tap, along with a keg of carbonated water, and dilute to whatever strength he wants.

Mike (Tasty) McDole is a seasoned veteran homebrewer, so if he does it ...it's probably a viable method.
Title: Re: Watering down beer
Post by: jeffy on April 08, 2011, 11:52:38 AM
I know Mike McDole is a big fan of this technique. He'll have a ~8% ABV beer on tap, along with a keg of carbonated water, and dilute to whatever strength he wants.

Mike (Tasty) McDole is a seasoned veteran homebrewer, so if he does it ...it's probably a viable method.
I have talked to other award-winning brewers who do the same thing.  It's easy to get three substyles out of one keg for Scottish Ales, English Pale Ales and some Light Lagers.  I think they boil the water, then keg and carbonate it for blending.
Title: Re: Watering down beer
Post by: Mark G on April 08, 2011, 11:56:04 AM
I know Mike McDole is a big fan of this technique. He'll have a ~8% ABV beer on tap, along with a keg of carbonated water, and dilute to whatever strength he wants.

Mike (Tasty) McDole is a seasoned veteran homebrewer, so if he does it ...it's probably a viable method.
I have talked to other award-winning brewers who do the same thing.  It's easy to get three substyles out of one keg for Scottish Ales, English Pale Ales and some Light Lagers.  I think they boil the water, then keg and carbonate it for blending.
I think the key is to boil the water to de-oxgenate it, then keg and carbonate it to keep any additional oxygen from dissolving back in.
Title: Re: Watering down beer
Post by: bluesman on April 08, 2011, 12:29:45 PM
I know Mike McDole is a big fan of this technique. He'll have a ~8% ABV beer on tap, along with a keg of carbonated water, and dilute to whatever strength he wants.

Mike (Tasty) McDole is a seasoned veteran homebrewer, so if he does it ...it's probably a viable method.
I have talked to other award-winning brewers who do the same thing.  It's easy to get three substyles out of one keg for Scottish Ales, English Pale Ales and some Light Lagers.  I think they boil the water, then keg and carbonate it for blending.
I think the key is to boil the water to de-oxgenate it, then keg and carbonate it to keep any additional oxygen from dissolving back in.

Yes^^^^^this is the logical method.

The other option is to carbonate the water to tie up the O2.
Title: Re: Watering down beer
Post by: Hokerer on April 08, 2011, 03:02:23 PM
Or, to avoid the wateryness, another option would be to brew another batch that's below your target and then blend to two to get it where you want.
Title: Re: Watering down beer
Post by: gmac on April 08, 2011, 04:00:35 PM
Or, to avoid the wateryness, another option would be to brew another batch that's below your target and then blend to two to get it where you want.
Probably the best idea but I don't have anymore free carboys.  I suppose this could stay in the primary some extra time and I could try to figure out a way to keep it until the next batch is done.
Title: Re: Watering down beer
Post by: maxieboy on April 08, 2011, 04:34:56 PM
Is it just me or is anyone else pleased there's a tad bit more alcohol than you planned in a beer?  ;D  I've never considered watering down(with the resultant time commitment), just worked harder to hit my numbers.
Title: Re: Watering down beer
Post by: gmac on April 08, 2011, 04:43:55 PM
Is it just me or is anyone else pleased there's a tad bit more alcohol than you planned in a beer?  ;D  I've never considered watering down(with the resultant time commitment), just worked harder to hit my numbers.
Hey, I'm not upset that my efficiency is getting better (this is only my 4th all grain) but I am weak.  See, when my friends come over and we have a beer, it usually turns into a few which turns into many.  Then, I get up with a nasty headache the next day.  See, if I had any sort of self-control or restraint when it came to beer, I'd be fine but it's just so darn tasty that I can't help myself. 

I'll probably end up leaving well enough alone but if this does blow out a bunch of krausen, I may try to top it up at bottling.  Right now the yeast seems pretty lazy compared to an ale so it may not even be an issue (Wyeast 2112 @ 60 degrees).

For me, the best plan would be to try to find a 3.5% mild recipe or something.  If I could make a full bodied, good tasting 3.5% beer, that's really all I want.  If I ever made a barley wine, you'd be scraping me up off the carpet.
Title: Re: Watering down beer
Post by: maxieboy on April 08, 2011, 04:50:30 PM
As in: who carpeted the wall?  :D  I hear ya on the low power beers, just not gonna subscribe to it. ;D Great hobby, huh?
Title: Re: Watering down beer
Post by: bluesman on April 08, 2011, 04:56:49 PM
For me, the best plan would be to try to find a 3.5% mild recipe or something.  If I could make a full bodied, good tasting 3.5% beer, that's really all I want.  If I ever made a barley wine, you'd be scraping me up off the carpet.

I think a good Ordinary Bitter would fit your bill. 3.5%ABV and about 30IBU'S.

A really nice session beer for sure.
Title: Re: Watering down beer
Post by: IHBHS on April 09, 2011, 10:13:42 PM
I would add water to your primary to get the gravity down so you wont produce as much alcohol.  BeerSmith's dilution tool is a great help for doing this.
Title: Re: Watering down beer
Post by: tubercle on April 09, 2011, 11:54:34 PM
Tubercle wishes he had this problem :P

 A pound bag of sugar is always handy. ;D
Title: Re: Watering down beer
Post by: jamminbrew on April 10, 2011, 12:58:55 AM
Is it just me or is anyone else pleased there's a tad bit more alcohol than you planned in a beer?  ;D  I've never considered watering down(with the resultant time commitment), just worked harder to hit my numbers.
I do get excited when my beer is stronger than expected too.  Most of the beers I drink are big beers anyway.  I drink'em slow, so getting too drunk is usually not an issue... usually! ;D
Title: Re: Watering down beer
Post by: a10t2 on April 10, 2011, 02:53:06 AM
For me, the best plan would be to try to find a 3.5% mild recipe or something.  If I could make a full bodied, good tasting 3.5% beer, that's really all I want.

I've been on a similar quest recently. I think the key is to keep the sparge runnings high in gravity (or do a no-sparge mash), mash for moderate-to-low attenuation, and use a yeast that will contribute a lot of esters. I have a split batch of 3.6% ABV blondes on tap right now (one with English yeast, the other Belgian) and it's great. My 7.5% IPA feels thinner.
Title: Re: Watering down beer
Post by: punatic on April 10, 2011, 03:40:06 AM
When I worked at the power plant part of my area of responsibilty was analysing and controling cooling tower chemistry.  We bought our circulating water scale inhibitor from Nalco.  Part of the contract was a Nalco rep would come to the plant once a week to do a circ. water analysis and write his recommendations.  (I always though this was amusing because I ran a more comprehensive circ. water analysis twice a day).

Anyway, this rep and I became good friends.  When he found out I was a homebrewer he was excited.  Part of his service area also included the AB and Schlitz breweries in Tampa.  He told me that both breweries brewed strong beer and then "de-brewed" the beer with the addition of carbonated water just prior to bottling or kegging.  AND the only difference between their standard beers and their light (lite) beers was the amount of water added during the de-brewing step.

He told me the tasters at the breweries spent a lot more time insuring that the carbonated water tasted right then they did on making sure the beer tasted right.  He said they were supremely confident in their brewing skills and beer.  It was the carbonated water that was the most variable.

He also said that they let him try the beer from the pigtail valve on the bright tanks - the strong beer before de-brewing.  He said it was very good beer; much better than what they sold.  He wanted to know if I could brew something like that.  He really liked my pre-pro pils (thank you George Fix).

So, a little while later (summer 1994) I got the chance to take a tour of the Coors plant in Golden.  We were served some of the strong beer from the pigtail on that tour.  Who knew Coors could brew beer like that?  Veeeerrrry tasty!
Title: Re: Watering down beer
Post by: gmac on April 10, 2011, 04:16:26 AM
For me, the best plan would be to try to find a 3.5% mild recipe or something.  If I could make a full bodied, good tasting 3.5% beer, that's really all I want.

I've been on a similar quest recently. I think the key is to keep the sparge runnings high in gravity (or do a no-sparge mash), mash for moderate-to-low attenuation, and use a yeast that will contribute a lot of esters. I have a split batch of 3.6% ABV blondes on tap right now (one with English yeast, the other Belgian) and it's great. My 7.5% IPA feels thinner.
Here's what I was thinking.
4 lbs MO, 1/2 to 3/4 lb C40, 1 to 2 oz of Black Patent Malt added at the end of the mash.
Keep the mash temp high (156 - 158) and mash in with 25 quarts of water which should give me about 20-21 quarts pre-boil.  Do a small sparge to get another 6-8 quarts (or just do 32 quarts at the start).  I like to have about 28 quarts pre-boil and I usually finish around 20 with a bit left in the hop pellets etc at the bottom of the brew kettle.

1 oz Northern Brewer 7.8% at 60
1/2 oz East Kent Goldings at 15
1/2 oz East Kent Golding at flameout.

What I'm wondering though, would it be worthwhile to add some thing like rolled oats to the grain bill?  I'm thinking Oatmeal Stout and the body that the ones I've had seem to have.  My fear is that if I back off the grain bill so much for 5 gals, it's gonna get pretty thin.  
My yeast is going to be Wyeast London III because that's what I'll have washed and ready for a starter next.  
This may be better in another thread.  I'm hijacking my own thread here...
Title: Re: Watering down beer
Post by: malzig on April 10, 2011, 03:21:28 PM
Oats can be good source of body in a small beer, as can Torrified Oats.  I've found that a pound will add body and allow you to dry the beer out a little more, without making it sweet, which increasing the Crystal Malt can do.  The British brewers that I've talked to have generally used Crystal malts in the 2.5-5% range, when they use them at all.

Other character malts, like Amber Malt and Mild Malt, can add complexity that will help make the beer seem bigger.

On small beers, be careful about extra sparge water.  Tannic qualities in the wort will quickly show up as astringency, which can make the beer seem watery.

Historically, British beers tend to have hops at the equivalent of 60', 30' and near flameout, or some combination of the two.  However, they are usually allowed to steep on the flameout hops for a while, which makes for much more flavor than you would usually get from late hops with the usual homebrewer's rapid chilling techniques.
For me, the best plan would be to try to find a 3.5% mild recipe or something.  If I could make a full bodied, good tasting 3.5% beer, that's really all I want.
I've been on a similar quest recently. I think the key is to keep the sparge runnings high in gravity (or do a no-sparge mash), mash for moderate-to-low attenuation, and use a yeast that will contribute a lot of esters.
I've been lucky to be in a position to get a lot of very fresh British beers.  I've had 100-200 over the last 5 years, and another 20 that I had never had before, just last week.

I have a real fondness for 3.2-4.2% Bitters.  A lot of them are very light and refreshing beers, which I've learned to appreciate.  Still, it amazes me that many of them have quite a bit of body, but have very little to no Crystal Malt and are mashed at 150°F.  There are occasional sweet ones, but most of them are as dry, or probably drier, than most US beers, but with a softer malt character.   Another trick is to keep the carbonation low, since carbonating a low gravity beer too highly can really cut the body and turn it into soda pop.

While some have subdued esters, the yeast is a big part of the best of them.   A strong ester character does a lot to make a beer seem bigger.  I taste WLP002 character in some of them, but a lot use much more characterful yeasts.  

My experience has been that it's not too difficult to get a very tasty beer down to about 3.5% with a little creativity and attention to detail.  It might require more recipe development to get something you like below that.
Title: Re: Watering down beer
Post by: liquidbrewing on April 14, 2011, 06:09:42 PM
I know Mike McDole is a big fan of this technique. He'll have a ~8% ABV beer on tap, along with a keg of carbonated water, and dilute to whatever strength he wants.

Great Brew Strong show that addresses this issue.  It's the High Gravity 4 show http://www.thebrewingnetwork.com/shows/667.  I understand why he's doing it.  He simply doesn't have enough time right now to brew 20 gallons of a 4% beer.  He does have time to brew 10 gallons of an 8% beer.  His dilution process sounds spot on.  However, I personally don't agree with diluting beer, no offense Tasty!  All the guys on Brew Strong definitely know their stuff.