Author Topic: Help! Want to “Fix” a Tasty but Slightly Flawed Stout!  (Read 732 times)

Offline dmtaylor

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Help! Want to “Fix” a Tasty but Slightly Flawed Stout!
« on: February 07, 2018, 03:52:43 PM »
I don’t know what the hell happened..... I brewed a decent rye stout (akin to an oatmeal stout), which has all the right flavors, nutty, cocoa, coffee, etc....... except the finished beer, ready to package, has this really crazy harsh bitterness to it.  And the IBUs aren’t even high, or shouldn’t be.  Recipe is below.  Mash pH was dead-on at 5.4 (room temp).  Water is from Lake Michigan, which is pretty moderate, same as I usually use, nothing too odd.  I added a touch of baking soda and gypsum (1/8 tsp each) when mash was done to try to match a British water profile, but that was about it for water treatment.  Four or five things I did with this brew that I don’t normally do:

1) I used Munton’s ale yeast.  The last time I used this yeast was at least 15+ years ago.  I just figured it was time to give it another try, it’s been so long and it’s still available.  I think I liked that yeast at the time, didn’t have trouble with it, but it’s hard to remember.

2) I added the dark roasted grains in the last 15 minutes of a 60-minute mash.  Usually I would mash everything the whole time, but figured I’d try something different, to hopefully smooth out the roast character.  In a way, I kind of think it worked, but maybe had the opposite effect?!

3) I used Phoenix and WGV hops.  I have never used those before in my life.  Phoenix I thought smelled AWESOME in the boil -- spicy and very “hoppy” in a general sense.  I’d use it again I think.  The WGV.... meh.....

4) I toasted 2 oz of the Maris Otter at 350 F for about 12-13 minutes, just about an hour prior to brewing with it, just long enough for the entire kitchen to smell awesome.  However, I have also heard that toasted malts need a couple of weeks(?!) to “mellow” and “avoid harshness”?!  I have used toasted Maris Otter in the past and didn’t get a harshness, so I kind of don’t know what to think here.

And one other thing is that efficiency was unexpectedly 91% with this batch.  Usually I get about 82%.  Not sure what was up with that, but I actually diluted with some distilled water to bring OG back down.

I am BJCP Certified, so I can tell you in a somewhat qualified manner that the beer has no other off-flavors except for the bitterness.  I have tasted it three separate times during fermentation.  It is NOT astringent, not puckering in any way, and not tart either, not yeasty, no DMS or chlorophenol or anything like that.

The bitterness could be from the water or the baking soda addition I think maybe, especially if the local water utility suddenly had something weird happen.  But like I said, I measured mash pH and it was fine.  The pH was measured just one time, about 15 minutes after hitting mash temp which was about 150 F. 

Could the bitterness somehow  be from adding the dark grains later in the mash?  This would have lowered the mash pH but I never measured it.  The beer does NOT taste tart.  I brewed in a bag (BIAB) but I never ever squeeze, instead I dunk-sparge, essentially a batch sparge but in a bag into a new container of hot water, with equal 1st and 2nd runnings.  The sparge water I think was about 190 F, around there, it had been boiled then allowed to cool slightly for ~10 minutes, but combined with 145-ish temperature grain bag, the temperature should have been fine.  After the sparge, I poured 100% of the sweet wort through a double thickness mesh to strain out larger particles prior to boil.  I didn’t measure pH of the sparge, but since it was essentially batch sparge, I wouldn’t think I’d need to.  Maybe I should have!?

This is frustrating to me because the beer tastes great IF you can ignore or put up with the harshness.  The first time I tasted a sample, I’ll admit I really hated the beer, it seemed really gross to me and I became very worried that this could turn out to be a dumper.  But then tasting a second time a few days later, I loved the beer!  It is indeed complex and tasty.  Then today, I had mixed feelings.  I detected the harsh bitterness the first time, but did NOT pick it up the second time, and then seemed to have been able to combine both perceptions of good & bad today.  Perhaps this will be a beer that will improve with age, or one where I’ll need to be in a special mood for a particularly acrid stout.  I dunno.  I think it is worth saving.  I’ll bottle it up tonight or tomorrow no matter what.  I just want to be able to enjoy the beer every time I drink it, instead of picking up crazy harsh bitterness half the time or whatever.

One other thing I am wondering about is the toasted Maris Otter, which was made immediately prior to brewing.  Could this have really affected the perception of harsh bitterness this much?!  It was only about 3% of the total grist.

Did I use too much dark roasted grains?  I do not believe so.  It’s not even a jet-black beer, but only a deep brown.

Do you all have good ideas on how I might be able to “fix” this?  Is this reversible, maybe??  I don’t want to add lactose because I only got 57% attenuation with Munton’s ale yeast as it is, so it sure doesn’t need lactose!  Would any kind of water treatment help?  Perhaps I should test the final beer pH and/or run some little experiments in several samples with different salt additions to see if it does anything?  What should the final uncarbonated beer pH be for a stout??  Temperature will be about 50 F.  Any ideas you have would be greatly appreciated!!

Recipe:

Rye Stout
2.6 gallons

OG=1.059
FG=1.026
ABV=4.3%
IBU=23
SRM~38
Brewhouse Efficiency = 91%

60-minute mash at 150 F
45-minute boil

Roast Barley 5.50oz
Rye Malt 5.00oz
Maris Otter 3.00lb
Crystal 80 3.00oz
Chocolate Malt 3.00oz
Maris Otter Toasted 2.00oz
Victory Malt 1.50oz
Black Patent 1.00oz
Phoenix 0.50oz (6.7% alpha, 40 minutes)
WGV 0.50oz (7.1% alpha, 3 minutes)
Munton’s ale yeast (only a buck, baby!)

By the way.... fermentation took off VERY fast within about 6 hours after pitching, but took about 8-9 days to hit terminal gravity.  I began the ferment in the basement at about 59 F, then when things slowed after ~4 days I brought upstairs to 68 F where it’s been for about 5 days now.  I’d use this yeast again I think as an alternative to Windsor or Wyeast 1099, but not if you believe it might have caused the weird harshness.  I don’t think it was the yeast.  But I’m all ears!

If you’ve made it this far and have some ideas to share, thanks so much!  Cheers!
Dave

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Online Robert

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Re: Help! Want to “Fix” a Tasty but Slightly Flawed Stout!
« Reply #1 on: February 07, 2018, 04:26:24 PM »
I can only chip in my 0.02 on 2 points, but:  1) adding the dark malts late should REDUCE harshness.  And 2) in my experience it is absolutely true that toasted malts need to mellow for a couple of weeks.  But on the other hand, Sierra Nevada makes Tumbler with roast malt that they brag  is straight off the kiln.  And at your low percentage I don't think it would be much trouble on a stout, though it might in a pale, subtle beer.  So maybe don't worry about those thimgs.
« Last Edit: February 07, 2018, 05:39:28 PM by Robert »
Rob
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Offline dmtaylor

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Re: Help! Want to “Fix” a Tasty but Slightly Flawed Stout!
« Reply #2 on: February 07, 2018, 05:38:09 PM »
Thanks, Rob.  That actually helped me to focus more on what really matters, I think.

Later...

Okay... now I’m thinking more and more that this is actually a hop thing.  Reasons:

1) Phoenix is a relatively high cohumulone hop.  So, when used for bittering, it’s going to be a little more harsh than other standard bittering hops.

2) Since efficiency was high, I added an extra 12% distilled water after the boil.  I know dilution could have reduced the IBUs somewhat; HOWEVER, it could have also increased the amount of time it might take to chill the batch.  More on that....

3) I always chill by submersion of the kettle in cold water in a tub sink.  However, on this batch I recall I didn’t fiddle with the cold submersion water every few minutes like I usually do with many other batches; this time, I just left everything to chill on its own for about 90 minutes.  It seemed to take a bit longer to chill down to pitching temp than normal, which could have resulted in higher IBUs, serving as a sort of unintentional “whirlpool” hop isomerization effect.

Well, crud.  So.... while in theory I was shooting for about 23 IBUs, I might have in fact ended up with as high as 35 IBUs for this small batch that was chilled extremely slowly... and on top of that, most of the IBUs were from relatively high cohumulone hops which only made matters more harsh.

Dammit!  I think that’s it.  I think that’s the whole thing.  It’s a hop thing and a slowness to chill thing.

The good news, whether or not I’m 100% correct, is that I sincerely believe that this character will mellow with age.  Perhaps after a good 4-6 months, this could turn out to be a really fantastic beer.  We’ll find out much later.

Yeah... I should have / could have accounted for all these things if I’d overthunk the process more, like I often do.  But I apparently didn’t overthink it quite enough this time, believe it or not.  Not until now when it’s kind of too late.  Oh well.

One final thought....... I suppose I could dilute the batch even more tonight before I bottle.  I mean... why not?!  It’s still higher in gravity than I intended, and it would reduce the IBUs another notch.  Heh...... I think I’ll do that actually!  Just add one more quart of water.  That should actually help I think!

If you’ve actually managed to read and absorb all that I've written here, then you are obviously either a saint or an idiot.  My sincere apologies for talking to myself in War & Peace format again.  :)  But I will still listen if you all have any additional ideas.  Thanks.

Cheers all.
Dave

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Online Robert

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Re: Help! Want to “Fix” a Tasty but Slightly Flawed Stout!
« Reply #3 on: February 07, 2018, 05:57:22 PM »
Dave, I learned something thank you) in your thread "what makes a good bittering hop?" a few months ago, got me to pursue it further.  High CoH really is not more harsh, it's just more efficient at isomerizing/bittering.  So since there can be less vegetative matter/tannins etc for the same amount of IBU,  it should actually  be smoother.  I think I've proven it to myself.  So you're probably getting more bitterness than expected, but apart from the possibility that the long steep on cooling extracted more of those vegetative substances, I wonder if you are just PERCEIVING harshness based on expectation?  But you're BJCP guy, so I trust your taste buds. Id probably just drink it and plan th e hops differently next time.

 [The formula I learned from your past thread for calculating RELATIVE bittering power of different hops is: Bittering power = %alpha × (1+(%cohumulone/2))]

Carry on, Tolstoy!
« Last Edit: February 07, 2018, 06:02:20 PM by Robert »
Rob
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Offline dmtaylor

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Re: Help! Want to “Fix” a Tasty but Slightly Flawed Stout!
« Reply #4 on: February 07, 2018, 06:15:41 PM »
Dave, I learned something thank you) in your thread "what makes a good bittering hop?" a few months ago...

 [The formula I learned from your past thread for calculating RELATIVE bittering power of different hops is: Bittering power = %alpha × (1+(%cohumulone/2))]

I'd love to take credit, but that wasn't me.

The harsh bitterness was perceived upon tasting only, not based on expectation at all.  If your taste buds aren't shot, it socks you right in the mouth, like a good RIS or something.  I did NOT want a RIS.

FWIW, I intended the BU:GU ratio to be 0.40.  If my theory above is correct, it actually ended up closer to 0.60.  That might not seem like a real big deal, but it does swing quite a bit towards a more bitter balance than intended for the style.
Dave

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Online Robert

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Re: Help! Want to “Fix” a Tasty but Slightly Flawed Stout!
« Reply #5 on: February 07, 2018, 06:21:07 PM »
No, 0.40 to 0.60 would be a real smack in the face.  As a pale lager guy, I know that's Helles to Pils, and they are not interchangeable!  I thought you were the OP on that thread, sorry if somebody else wants credit. (That was somebody's link, wasn't it...)  I'm just glad I can still remember that! ;D
Rob
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Offline coolman26

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Re: Help! Want to “Fix” a Tasty but Slightly Flawed Stout!
« Reply #6 on: February 07, 2018, 11:24:49 PM »
The positive is I think age will do it. I find this especially true with some hops. I’ve found it true with a batch of Nugget that gave me the same perception when fresh. I almost dumped a batch, only to find that it was fantastic when I tried it 8 weeks later.


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Offline BrewBama

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Re: Help! Want to “Fix” a Tasty but Slightly Flawed Stout!
« Reply #7 on: February 08, 2018, 12:22:47 AM »
The Mad Alchemist has come up with a formula for figuring out the RelativeBitterness Ratio (RBR) against the same numerical scale as BU:GU. Here’s what they say:

“ADF = Apparent Attenuation. 0.7655 is the average ADF of all beer styles. Since the Relative Bitterness Ratio takes into account balance relative to all beer styles, it uses this as a constant. You are comparing your beer's ADF against the average ADF (0.7655), then adjusting the standard Bitterness Ratio accordingly (it goes up if your ADF is higher than average, down if your ADF is lower than average). Just like BU:GU, higher numbers mean more bitter, lower numbers mean less bitter, and 0.5 is roughly average balance.”

Here’s the sum for a beer with 25 IBUs, OG of 1050 and 80% apparent attenuation:

RBR = (BU:GU) x (1 + (ADF - 0.7655))
RBR = (25/50) x (1 + (0.8 - 0.7655))
RBR = 0.5 x (1 + (0.0345))
RBR = 0.5 x 1.0345
RBR = 0.51725

So if you have two beers with the same IBU and same OG but one has a high apparent attenuation (85%, for example) and one with a low apparent attenuation (55%), they perception of bitterness will be different in both.


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Online Robert

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Re: Help! Want to “Fix” a Tasty but Slightly Flawed Stout!
« Reply #8 on: February 08, 2018, 12:41:29 AM »
^^^^
Cool! (You can put a formula to anything.) So the bittering power formula applied to a hop bill, then run through this, could really dial in the perceived bitterness of a recipe before the fact.
Rob
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Offline rburrelli

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Re: Help! Want to “Fix” a Tasty but Slightly Flawed Stout!
« Reply #9 on: February 08, 2018, 04:48:00 PM »
That is why I find this forum so interesting. We never know until we finally taste our beer what we are going to end up with. There are so many minute things that can happen during the process that will affect the outcome.

Then we mull over what might have happened. Try to come up with a sensible explanation and file that away for future use.

A real learning (and teaching) experience.
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Offline dmtaylor

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Re: Help! Want to “Fix” a Tasty but Slightly Flawed Stout!
« Reply #10 on: February 08, 2018, 05:40:49 PM »
Last night I tasted the beer for the fourth time.  Again I thought it wasn't all that bad.  Perception is totally in the mouth of the beer holder, and perceptions certainly can change from day to day, or even from minute to minute!  Fascinating really.

I'll bottle 'er up tonight, and hope that my perceptions continue to be not-so-critical in future(!?).  :)
Dave

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Online Robert

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Re: Help! Want to “Fix” a Tasty but Slightly Flawed Stout!
« Reply #11 on: February 08, 2018, 05:51:43 PM »
Last night I tasted the beer for the fourth time.  Again I thought it wasn't all that bad.  Perception is totally in the mouth of the beer holder, and perceptions certainly can change from day to day, or even from minute to minute!  Fascinating really.

I'll bottle 'er up tonight, and hope that my perceptions continue to be not-so-critical in future(!?).  :)

Oldest trick in the homebrew book:  if it doesn't taste like what it was supposed to be, rename the beer.  That's only cheating if you're a pro.  And maybe not even then.  8)
Rob
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Offline dmtaylor

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Re: Help! Want to “Fix” a Tasty but Slightly Flawed Stout!
« Reply #12 on: February 11, 2018, 11:15:03 PM »
Update....

Well, it seems my fears were a bit premature.  I'm consuming my first pint right now, bottled 5 days ago and already carbonated well enough.  This stout is indeed extremely bold, slightly too burnt/acrid and a touch too bitter for perfection, but with very deep notes of coffee and peanuttiness.... it's quite delicious I think.  I do believe age will be very kind to this brew.  It's great now but can only get better as it mellows.  Ultimately, I am declaring success.  Also I do believe it was a very good thing to have diluted this down more, I'm sure it makes the pint even more quaffable than it would have been otherwise.  There is definitely NO shortage of flavor or body in this brew.  Pretty full body actually.  Very creamy dark head.  Yay.  I'm happy.

Now..... what would I change?  I'd tone down the IBUs a notch or two.  And maybe use a more attenuative yeast, although the fruity flavors from the Muntons I think are pleasant, so a change here is actually optional.  Perhaps mash lower and longer to help the yeast ferment things out better, that might help.  But it's good either way.  To anyone interested... Munton's ale yeast only attenuated to like 57% on this batch.  Yeah.  Similar to Windsor or 1099.  But still good.
« Last Edit: February 11, 2018, 11:19:39 PM by dmtaylor »
Dave

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Offline dmtaylor

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Re: Help! Want to “Fix” a Tasty but Slightly Flawed Stout!
« Reply #13 on: April 17, 2018, 11:23:00 AM »
Update:

I just took a 2nd in competition out of 9 stouts with the one discussed above which used 99-cent Munton's ale yeast.  YMMV.  It turned out truly fantastic.  Uniquely fruity but the roasted malts override it to the extent that the fruit acted more as an accent and NOT a distractor.
Dave

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Offline rburrelli

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Re: Help! Want to “Fix” a Tasty but Slightly Flawed Stout!
« Reply #14 on: April 17, 2018, 04:53:18 PM »
Congratulations on taking 2nd.  As you stated, time was likely going to help this beer.  I might tak a shot at this one for my next stout.
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