Author Topic: Cursed at 1.020  (Read 5296 times)

Offline linenoiz

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Cursed at 1.020
« on: August 20, 2010, 12:40:35 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?

Offline bluesman

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Re: Cursed at 1.020
« Reply #1 on: August 20, 2010, 12:56:08 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.
Ron Price

Offline hamiltont

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Re: Cursed at 1.020
« Reply #2 on: August 20, 2010, 12:58:36 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.
If Homebrew & BBQ aren't the answer, then you're askin' the wrong questions... Cheers!!!

Offline svejk

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Re: Cursed at 1.020
« Reply #3 on: August 20, 2010, 01:23:54 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.

Offline saintpierre

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Re: Cursed at 1.020
« Reply #4 on: August 20, 2010, 01:30:12 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.
Mike St. Pierre
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Offline hamiltont

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Re: Cursed at 1.020
« Reply #5 on: August 20, 2010, 01:35:41 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."  ;)
If Homebrew & BBQ aren't the answer, then you're askin' the wrong questions... Cheers!!!

Offline saintpierre

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Re: Cursed at 1.020
« Reply #6 on: August 20, 2010, 01:48:21 PM »
Yup, completely glossed over that part.
Mike St. Pierre
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Offline saintpierre

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Re: Cursed at 1.020
« Reply #7 on: August 20, 2010, 01:50:47 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
Mike St. Pierre
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Offline diybrewing

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Re: Cursed at 1.020
« Reply #8 on: August 20, 2010, 02:05:45 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.
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Offline linenoiz

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Re: Cursed at 1.020
« Reply #9 on: August 20, 2010, 03:12:49 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. :)

Offline tygo

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Re: Cursed at 1.020
« Reply #10 on: August 20, 2010, 05:32:07 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. :)

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.
Clint
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On Tap: Lucifer's Hammer Golden Strong Ale, Dopplebock, Old Fuzzynut's Ale

Offline denny

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Re: Cursed at 1.020
« Reply #11 on: August 21, 2010, 09:14:14 AM »
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.
Life begins at 60.....1.060, that is!

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Offline dannyjed

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Re: Cursed at 1.020
« Reply #12 on: August 21, 2010, 11:40:28 AM »
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.
Dan Chisholm

Offline beerrat

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Re: Cursed at 1.020
« Reply #13 on: August 24, 2010, 04:55:02 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.

Offline linenoiz

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Re: Cursed at 1.020
« Reply #14 on: August 25, 2010, 12:08:59 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).