Author Topic: Astingency Strategy  (Read 622 times)

Offline braufessor

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Astingency Strategy
« on: June 23, 2014, 05:29:51 AM »
Hey - Got a question in regard to a process change  I tried recently.

I had been having some occasional, minor, astringency issues with some of the smaller (1.037-1.043)  beers I make like Ordinary Bitters, Milds, small APA's, etc.  I have highly alkaline water but cut 50-100% with RO depending on style.  Treat with gypsum and CaCl depending on style using Brun Water.   I think that perhaps the problem has come in because I have tried to collect 8 gallons of wort from a mash that has 7-8 lbs of grain and about 4 gallons of mash water (I have a gallon of dead space under my mash tun false bottom).    I am generally shooting for 8 gallons of wort to account for boil off, 3/4 gallon I leave behind in kettle with break material/hop debris and what I will eventually lose in fermenter, etc.  This amt. allows me to get 5.75 into fermenter and 5 gallons into the keg.

Basically, I think I was needing to oversparge in order to get the 8 gallons and eventually pulling out tannins, etc..... I have taken gravity readings on my final runnings of these beers and the final runnings vary, but are flirting with 1.010 at times.  Other times higher.  Once in a while they have gone under 1.010..... I don't check every time. 

Did an ordinary bitter the other day.  Added a bit more grain.  Mashed as normal.  sparged as normal.  When I got to 6.5 gallons in the boil kettle I took gravity reading and was at 1.040.  I stopped the sparge at this point and simply dumped the rest of my treated sparge water that was left, and some RO water into the boil kettle to bring the volume up to 8 gallons.  Then, I just boiled back down to 6.5 gallons to achieve the 1.040 gravity I was looking for in the first place.

This left my final runnings going into boil kettle higher - 1.015+.

Good idea?  Bad idea?  Is there something I am missing or not thinking about?  I don't care about an extra pound of grain if it allows me to avoid the need to oversparge......  Have not tried the beer in question yet - probably keg it next week.  Thoughts?

Offline reverseapachemaster

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Re: Astingency Strategy
« Reply #1 on: June 23, 2014, 07:00:22 AM »
Are you treating the sparge water for ph?
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Offline dmtaylor

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Re: Astingency Strategy
« Reply #2 on: June 23, 2014, 07:09:17 AM »
You are throwing away way too much perfectly good sweet wort throughout your process -- dead space, boil kettle, trub & samples.  So yeah, you're having to sparge way too far to get your volumes.  Work on ways to minimize these losses.  There is zero advantage to leaving anything behind in the boil kettle besides big particles of hops.  If you are trying to rack off the crystal clear wort from the cloudy break material, stop because you're not gaining anything there.  No need to lose 3 quarts in the fermenter either unless you are hopping the beer very very heavily.  For a less hopped beer, you should only lose like 1.5 quarts or something around that.  Fix your mash tun to drain every last drop out.

Also look at mash pH.  pH is the predominant cause of tannins and astringency.  If your mash pH is above 5.6, you've got issues.  Treat with phosphoric acid or other acids, or use acidulated malt, if needed to get this down closer to 5.3 which is the optimum.
Dave

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Offline braufessor

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Re: Astingency Strategy
« Reply #3 on: June 23, 2014, 07:31:51 AM »
In regard to my sparge water - I treat it exactly as my mash water.  So, in my recent Bitter, I used 75% RO and 25% Tap.  Added 2 grams of gypsum and 1 gram of CaCl.....  Did the same basic thing to sparge water.

I use B'run water to project mash ph.  I have used a pH meter to check and cross referenced with the 3-tab colorphast strips......  got consistent results between the two, so rarely use the pH meter anymore as it is a PITA and I am rebrewing the same recipe's with same profiles.  My pH (Projected and measured) is always in the 5.2-5.4 range - unless I purposely make it higher for porters, stouts, etc.

I am not necessarily concerned with "crystal clear wort" transfer I guess.......  Although, I don't go out of my way to dump all the trub/break/hop particles into my fermenter either. 

Just the way my system is.  I have a 15 year old, Morebeer, 3 tier gravity setup.  The way the spigots are on the pots, and the way the false bottom is in the mash tun - there ends up being dead space.  In addition, I have used bottling buckets in the past and currently use stainless brewbuckets for fermenters so that I can avoid siphoning and just use gravity to drain into kegs at end of fermentation (no secondary).  The stainless brewbuckets have a conical bottom and about 3/4 gallon is left behind.  So, leaving some behind there is a bit more of an issue because I do want to transfer as clean of beer as I can at this point.

With my hoppy beers, it is more of an issue transfering to fermenter, because I don't want to transfer 6-12 ounces of hop material into my fermenter if I can avoid it.

I realize I am "wasting" 1-2 pounds of grain..... but, I can live with $1.50.  I get 85% efficiency, so, overall,  I am still doing ok even with the deadspace loss.

LIke I said, it is not a MAJOR astringency issue.  But, I know it shows up from time to time.  I have had comments from judges on occasion about astringency/oversparging possibility. And, I know I am trying to collect too much wort from too little grain...... so, just wondering if this is a viable way of doing things?

Offline dmtaylor

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Re: Astingency Strategy
« Reply #4 on: June 23, 2014, 08:08:04 AM »
Wow... okay... so your efficiency is around 85%, and you are controlling your pH around 5.3.  That sounds great.  And your detailed description of your equipment and process all seems reasonable and not too outrageous.

So... let me ask you this:  You say the judges are picking up slight astringency, but... do YOU detect any astringency in your beers?  The reason I ask this is because I think the term "astringency" is sorely misunderstood by >50% of all BJCP judges.  I say this, and I am a BJCP Certified rank judge myself, so I am not just ragging on the BJCP.  I love the BJCP.  But I think there are a lot of misconceptions about astringency by an unbelievably high percentage of judges.  I have even seen scoresheets from National rank judges who claimed they could detect "astringency" in the AROMA!  So..... take judges' opinions with grains of salt -- judges ain't perfect, myself included.

So my real question is:  Is this truly astringency, or is it something else entirely?  If you aren't getting astringency at all when you taste these beers, then question whether it might actually be imagined by these judges, which is entirely possible.  If you know and respect the judges, then perhaps they are right, in which case... I don't know what to tell you without tasting the beer for myself, which I am happy to do for you or for anyone.

Cheers.
« Last Edit: June 23, 2014, 08:10:21 AM by dmtaylor »
Dave

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Offline braufessor

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Re: Astingency Strategy
« Reply #5 on: June 23, 2014, 08:33:03 AM »


So... let me ask you this:  You say the judges are picking up slight astringency, but... do YOU detect any astringency in your beers? 



Cheers.

Yeah - I think it is there.  I have tasted it.  Not bad.....and these are still beers that are scoring low to mid/upper 30's.  And, it is not every one of them. But, some of these low gravity beers do have a slight harsh/dryness to them.  And, I get it too when I am tasting them.  My thoughts are that I am riding such a fine line attempting to collect that much wort, from so little grain that I am generally either just sneaking by, or just crossing the line from one batch to the next. And, it is only these 1.040 beers.

I was listening to John Kimmich (Heady Topper/Alchemist) talk on the Chop and Brew show and he was discussing how high they cut off their sparge...... very high - to the point you could almost make another beer off the second runnings and that is when I decided to try this on my last bitter in an attempt to collect a higher quality wort and absolutely rule out the possibility of oversparging..... actually sort of decided to do it right on the spot as I was listening to the talk during my Mash.

So, yeah - I think the judges have pegged it correctly when they have suggested it.  But..... I guess the true test will be in a few days when I put the beer in the keg and taste it myself.  I agree that sometimes people try so hard to find something that they create things that may not be there.  I don't think that is the case here.
What I should do, is brew the same beer twice - once collecting all wort from sparge and once doing this method..... that would give me a real nice side-by-side comparison.   Hmmmmm..... that would be easy enough, maybe I will try to crank out another batch of bitter next week.  If I do, and if I notice a difference, I will send you a couple for a second opinion.

Other than using more grain...... is there any potential flaw or down side it collecting a higher gravity wort, adding comparably treated water, and boiling back down to that goal gravity?  It looks good on paper to me.... but, I am not sure if I am missing something or not accounting for something.

Offline morticaixavier

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Re: Astingency Strategy
« Reply #6 on: June 23, 2014, 09:06:30 AM »
Just a thought here, but when I do lower gravity beers I usually go no sparge. you take a small efficiency hit but I think, and this is largely subjective, that it improves the malt character significantly. It should also protect you from any worry about asitringency because the entire volume of wort is benefiting from the full buffering capacity of the grain rather than that buffer being slowly reduced with the sparge.

I can't think of a reason why you couldn't do a no sparge on a continuous sparge system, just add the necesary extra volume of water at the end of your mash and/or mash thinner.
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Offline mabrungard

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Re: Astingency Strategy
« Reply #7 on: June 23, 2014, 09:11:22 AM »
I chased a similar light astringency problem in my beers when I switched to my new system. As you might expect from me, the sparging water was properly acidified and its alkalinity reduced and the sparging water temperature in the HLT was in the 170 to 180F range. Since I run a RIMS, I also perform a mash out step to 168F. Most of my brewing is centered on low to mid gravity beers.

All that information seems typical in most brewing practice that I've seen. However, I did pick up a very light, almost nutty, tannin in the finish of several beers in succession. My friends and clubmates found the beers good, but that tannin note and the slightly excessive drying finish drove me crazy.

As a matter of practice, I had been using a final runnings gravity of 2 brix as my sparging cut off. Suspecting that this was a contributor, I revised my practice to stopping at 3 brix and that did solve the tannin and its astringency in my beers. So as pointed out by others above, I do consider a major contributor to astringency and tannin in beer to be over-sparging. While pH and temperature will wreck your beer if they are way out of line, it appears that over-sparging is a likely culprit when you have those other factors in line.
« Last Edit: June 23, 2014, 09:13:02 AM by mabrungard »
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Offline dmtaylor

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Re: Astingency Strategy
« Reply #8 on: June 23, 2014, 10:05:15 AM »
Just a thought here, but when I do lower gravity beers I usually go no sparge. you take a small efficiency hit but I think, and this is largely subjective, that it improves the malt character significantly. It should also protect you from any worry about asitringency because the entire volume of wort is benefiting from the full buffering capacity of the grain rather than that buffer being slowly reduced with the sparge.

I can't think of a reason why you couldn't do a no sparge on a continuous sparge system, just add the necesary extra volume of water at the end of your mash and/or mash thinner.

I couldn't agree more!  Good point, mort.
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Offline ynotbrusum

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Re: Astingency Strategy
« Reply #9 on: June 23, 2014, 11:04:08 AM »
Interesting thread and great idea Mort.  But isn't adding water at the end of the mash roughly equivalent to what happens with a batch sparge?  Maybe there are technical differences in the results that I am missing, so I am willing to be further enlightened by you guys.  I make a lot of small beers and the dark ones had some astringency issues, so I just went to a batch sparge and added the roast malts at e very end of the mash and it solved it for me...I think!
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Offline braufessor

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Re: Astingency Strategy
« Reply #10 on: June 23, 2014, 12:35:44 PM »
My sparge process is probably a little bit different as well, and maybe worth mentioning...... I am not really sure exactly what you would call it.  I guess it is sort of a hybrid batch sparge/fly sparge.

Basically, here is what I do (assuming a smaller beer):

* 4 gallons of treated strike water in my mash kettle..... keeping in mind I have a gallon of dead space under my false bottom. 
* Mash in about 7-8-9lbs of grain.  Stir thoroughly, break up doughballs, etc.  Put lid on.... generally mashing 150-155 depending on style.
*Heat Sparge water to 175 or so.
* At 55 minutes I give the mash a good stir and then manually recirculate the wort back through the grain bed using a stainless pot.  Collecting about a quart at a time and pouring back over grain bed.  This allows me to collect any husk and grain debris.  I collect and recirculate about 6-10 quarts and at that point the wort is running pretty clear and free of debris.  This only takes about 5 minutes and at that point my 60 minute mash is done.
* I have a "sparge ring" that hooks to my top pot and "rains" water down on the mash/grain bed.  I turn the spigot all the way open and start the sparge water into the mash tun. 
*At the same time, I have a short bit of tubing I put on the spigot of my mash tun to drain wort into boil kettle to avoid splashing.  I open that about 3/4 of the way.
*I am basically draining the wort from the boil kettle while raining sparge water on the grain bed.  Always keeping about 2 inches of water on top of the grain.  I am collecting wort pretty quickly, although not "wide open."
* I will usually gently stir the top of the grain bed (just top inch or so) to keep it from compacting too much.....maybe once or twice in the process.
* The entire process, including the 5 minutes of recirculating at the beginning, until I have collected 8 gallons of wort is probably 15-20 minutes.
* I do not bring mash up to "mash out temps" at end of my mash.  The 175 degree sparge water generally brings my mash to about 165 during the sparge process.  Never goes above 170.
*I also turn my flame on in the boil kettle as soon as I get some wort in the kettle.  So, the wort is basically getting to mash out temps. pretty rapidly anyway (at least that is what I figure).

I crush my grain with MM2 with a gap of .559 and get around 85% eff.  My eff. increased from around 77% when I switched to MM2 from old barley crusher on factory settings.  I tried the MM2 with a smaller gap but was getting slow/stuck sparge...... although I was getting over 90%..... it was a PITA.

So..... Not really batch sparge because I am not putting all the sparge water in and stirring, then draining.   Not really fly sparge because I am conducting this over the course of about 15 minutes...... Kind of a hybrid I guess.

Not sure if any of that would matter or not, but that is my process.
« Last Edit: June 23, 2014, 12:37:52 PM by braufessor »

Offline braufessor

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Re: Astingency Strategy
« Reply #11 on: June 29, 2014, 12:49:36 PM »
I kegged my Ordinary Bitter #1 today.  Tasted very nice out of the fermenter.  Decided to pursue this idea a bit further since I already had the one batch done, and could just take some of the yeast and repitch it.  Rebrewing the same recipe right now, with one key difference - Collecting all 8 gallons of wort by sparging.

Basically, this is what I am comparing:

Batch #1 = Ordinary Bitter, 1.040 OG obtained by collecting 6.5 gallons of 1.040 wort, topping up to 8 gallons (treated sparge water for consistency of minerals), boiled back down to 6.5 gallons of 1.040 wort.  Final runnings going into boil kettle were up around 1.018 when I stopped the sparge).  pH of final runnings was under 6.  Highest temp. obtained in grain bed during sparge was 165.

Batch #2 = Ordinary Bitter, 1.040 OG obtained by collecting 8 gallons of 1.031 wort and boiling it down to 6.5 gallons of 1.040 wort.  Final runnings going into boil kettle were 1.009.  pH did remain below 6  and temp. of grain bed climbed to 164. 

The only differences in the batches were:
*The method of obtaining the 1.040 wort
*Used a bit less base grain in Batch 2 because I was not topping off with water like batch 1.
*Batch 2 is a yeast repitch whereas batch 1 used a 2 liter starter from a stirplate.
*Batch 2 will be 10 days older than batch 1 when comparing them head to head.

Basically, I am curious to see if Batch 2 has any noticeable astringency or harshness due to the possibility of oversparging and trying to collect too much wort, from too little grain. 

Hopefully in 3 weeks or so, I will be at the point where I can compare the two beers and see if there is any noticeable difference or not.  I may follow up and try the same thing with two other low OG beers I brew regularly - Dark Mild and a smallish APA.
« Last Edit: June 29, 2014, 12:53:39 PM by braufessor »

Offline brewinhard

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Re: Astingency Strategy
« Reply #12 on: June 29, 2014, 01:21:02 PM »
Just out of curiosity, are you getting any grains/husk particulates into your boil kettle?  I would bet that just a couple tablespoons worth could also lead to some astringency from boiling them. 

Offline braufessor

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Re: Astingency Strategy
« Reply #13 on: June 29, 2014, 01:40:59 PM »
Just out of curiosity, are you getting any grains/husk particulates into your boil kettle?  I would bet that just a couple tablespoons worth could also lead to some astringency from boiling them.

No.... I recirculate the wort until it is pretty well clear.  There is some particular(tablespoon MAYBE) that might get in during sparge, but I have a small hand-held strainer that I scoop any particulate matter out with as it makes its way into my kettle...... but barely any goes through, and what does, I remove all of that or close to it.

Offline brewinhard

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Re: Astingency Strategy
« Reply #14 on: June 29, 2014, 04:26:50 PM »
Good.  Just trying to help you eliminate any process issues that might be leading to extraneous astringency.