Author Topic: Why won't this beer clear?  (Read 3414 times)

Offline skyler

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Why won't this beer clear?
« on: May 13, 2011, 12:29:44 PM »
So I brewed an ESB a few weeks ago and am boggled by its lack of clarity. At first I thought that my yeast (said to be highly flocculant) just wasn't falling out of suspension, but when cold crashing and racking to secondary didn't work and neither did gelatin... I started to suspect something more nefarious. One consideration is that I used a base malt I am not particularly familiar with - Great Western Pale Ale malt. And another is that I used a fairly large amount of specialty malts. Anyway, the recipe and process are posted below. Please let me know what you think could be the culprit, so I avoid it next time. Oh, and I used a Burton water profile - which I created by adding gypsum to my nearly-identical-to-Dublin water.


Recipe: Squishmaster ESB
Style: 8C-English Pale Ale-Extra Special/Strong Bitter
 
Wort Volume Before Boil: 8.50 US gals
Wort Volume After Boil: 5.00 US gals
Volume Transferred: 4.50 US gals
Water Added: 1.00 US gals
Volume At Pitching: 5.50 US gals
Final Batch Volume: 5.02 US gals
Expected Pre-Boil Gravity: 1.041 SG
Expected OG: 1.057 SG
Expected FG: 1.014 SG
Expected ABV: 5.8 %
Expected ABW: 4.5 %
Expected IBU (using Tinseth): 39.6
Expected Color: 10.7 SRM
Apparent Attenuation: 75.5 %
Mash Efficiency: 82.0 %
Boil Duration: 90.0 mins
Fermentation Temperature: 64 degF

Fermentables
US Pale Ale Malt 8lb 0oz (67.9 %) In Mash/Steeped
UK Pale Ale Malt (Maris Otter) 2lb 4oz (19.1 %) In Mash/Steeped
UK Medium Crystal (120EBC) 1lb 0oz (8.6 %) In Mash/Steeped
US Flaked Barley 3.80 oz (2.0 %) In Mash/Steeped
Belgian Special B 2.20 oz (1.2 %) In Mash/Steeped
US Special Roast Malt 2.20 oz (1.2 %) In Mash/Steeped

Hops
US Glacier (5.6 % alpha) 40 g Loose Whole Hops used 60 Min From End
UK Golding (5.7 % alpha) 28 g Loose Whole Hops used 25 Min From End
UK Golding (5.7 % alpha) 28 g Loose Whole Hops used 5 Min From End

Yeast: White Labs WLP006-Bedford British Ale

Mash Schedule
Mash Type: Full Mash
Schedule Name:Single Step Infusion (66C/151F)
Step: Rest at 151 degF for 60 mins

Offline thomasbarnes

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Re: Why won't this beer clear?
« Reply #1 on: May 13, 2011, 12:46:35 PM »
So I brewed an ESB a few weeks ago and am boggled by its lack of clarity.

Your recipe looks sound. Have you tasted the beer? If so, have you noted any "off" characteristics in Aroma, Flavor or Mouthfeel? Hazing can emerge from a whole bunch of sources, so just giving the recipe isn't enough for a diagnosis.

As a SWAG, I've got 3 likely scenarios:

1) You went a bit wild with the Burton salts, perhaps missed your mash pH as a result, and picked up some chill haze due to husk extraction from your grains. If you get a harsh bitterness and a drying, mouth-puckering, "oaky" sensation in the mouthfeel and aftertaste (astringency) and your haze vanishes as the beer warms up, then chill/polyphenol/tannin haze is your culprit. Fortunately, you can sort of clear this up by adding cask finings (e.g., polyclar/PVCC, Isinglass, brewers gelatin, etc.) or by crash cooling and then filtering. Even so, your beer might have an unpleasant astringency.

2) The other possibility is that you got some starch haze. The new malt might not have converted completely, carrying some starches into your beer. This is harmless other than appearance and possible storage instability. Again, finings are your friend.

3) The final likely possibility is just that your yeast hasn't flocced yet. Some British strains are very "powdery" and need to be fined or filtered.

In all cases, your first step should be to sample the beer to further troubleshoot the problem. After you know the origin of your haze, your next step should be to add finings. If that doesn't work, and you have the technology to do so, it's filtering time.

Offline hokerer

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Re: Why won't this beer clear?
« Reply #2 on: May 13, 2011, 01:03:00 PM »
Also, not that it has anything to do with your problem, but do you really boil off 3.5 gallons ??
Joe

Offline skyler

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Re: Why won't this beer clear?
« Reply #3 on: May 13, 2011, 01:16:25 PM »
The taste was good when I racked it - medium body, no astringency, toasty. I have it in secondary at 32F right now and added gelatin. So far it has been about 18 hours since I added the gelatin. Hopefully this will clear if I give it until Sunday before racking. I don't think I went overboard with the salts - I have done the same thing with previous English styles without any problems. Also, I added 5.2, FWIW. I just realized that I used this base malt (with a couple pounds of TF maris otter) for a brown ale that had WAY more specialty malts, and that one cleared just fine with WLP001. So I am really perplexed.

And yes, on this batch I made the boil very vigorous and ended up boiling off 3.5 gallons. I typically boil off 2 gallons, but this time I must have gone overboard with the flame. The beer also looks more like 13 SRM than 10.7.

Offline denny

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Re: Why won't this beer clear?
« Reply #4 on: May 13, 2011, 01:31:07 PM »
In my experience, Great Western pale ale malt is great stuff and has never caused a clarity issue.
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Offline mabrungard

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Re: Why won't this beer clear?
« Reply #5 on: May 13, 2011, 01:47:29 PM »
I would not be surprised if the 5.2 Stabilizer addition was your problem.  It should actually be called 5.8 stabilizer since that is where both AJ Delange and Kai Troester have found that it tends to put the mash pH.  It is not a good addition to brewing and it also adds a substantial sodium content to your wort.  A 5.8 mash pH can cause problems. 

If your water is alkaline, you would be better served by learning to use acid for pH control. 
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Offline bluesman

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Re: Why won't this beer clear?
« Reply #6 on: May 13, 2011, 02:01:52 PM »
Determining the cause of the haze is the key to finding the cure.

Haze can be caused by several things and trying to cure an undiagnosed problem (permanant/temporary?) is a difficult task. Could be residual yeast in the beer, starch haze, lack of adequate hot/cold break, etc...,etc...

What was your O.G. and F.G.? How long did you ferment and at what temp? Was the beer cloudy upon racking?
Ron Price

Offline narcout

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Re: Why won't this beer clear?
« Reply #7 on: May 13, 2011, 02:37:12 PM »
Oh, and I used a Burton water profile - which I created by adding gypsum to my nearly-identical-to-Dublin water.

If your water really is similar to Dublin's, I think you'll be better off diluting it heavily with RO water instead of adding more ions.

Offline skyler

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Re: Why won't this beer clear?
« Reply #8 on: May 13, 2011, 03:07:56 PM »
Few things - I live in a second-floor apartment. Bringing RO water upstairs just isn't worth it to me. With this batch, I could have done it since it was only a 5 gal batch and I would have only needed 10 gallons of water at most... but typically this isn't the case. Also, my car is always parked very far from my apartment, so walking with all that water and then carrying it upstairs is a serious issue. As to the 5.2 - you may be on to something. Some guys in my club (science Ph.D candidates) have done tests of 5.2 and found it to stabilize the wort consistently, but I have read a lot of people on the forums having different outcomes from their own experiments. I have used this same water profile without 5.2 and made similar-SRM beers without a problem. Also, I have used 5.2 with this same water and no salts and had decent outcomes.... but I really can't wait until I move back to the Oakland/Berkeley area this summer and get back to using nice soft water. As to using acid, I guess I am a little unfamiliar with the process. How does one determine hoe much acid to use. I have a thing of lactic acid, but I just am boggled by how I would use it in the mash. Am I to add it to my water and test the pH? Do I add it to the mash tun?

And my OG and FG are all on the OP - 1.057 and 1.014 respectively - exactly as I expected. I pitched at 60F and let it rise to 64F and fermented there for a week, letting it rise to about 72 after fermentation appeared complete. I then gave it 2 weeks at ambient (72) before dropping it to 30F for 4 days at which point I checked to see whether it needed to be fined and it clearly did, so I racked it to secondary in order to fine it with gelatin (since I wanted to harvest the yeast from primary). Normally my beers get visibly more clear 12 hours after I hit it with gelatin when it is at 30F, but this one is still obviously cloudy. I definitely had very little cold break since my wort chilling in the summer is terrible. My immersion chiller takes over an hour to get it to 75F or so, then I have to give the fermenter full of warm wort a couple of hours in the chillbox to drop down to pitching temperature.
« Last Edit: May 13, 2011, 03:16:18 PM by skyler »

Offline bluesman

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Re: Why won't this beer clear?
« Reply #9 on: May 13, 2011, 07:01:16 PM »

And my OG and FG are all on the OP - 1.057 and 1.014 respectively - exactly as I expected. I pitched at 60F and let it rise to 64F and fermented there for a week, letting it rise to about 72 after fermentation appeared complete. I then gave it 2 weeks at ambient (72) before dropping it to 30F for 4 days at which point I checked to see whether it needed to be fined and it clearly did, so I racked it to secondary in order to fine it with gelatin (since I wanted to harvest the yeast from primary). Normally my beers get visibly more clear 12 hours after I hit it with gelatin when it is at 30F, but this one is still obviously cloudy. I definitely had very little cold break since my wort chilling in the summer is terrible. My immersion chiller takes over an hour to get it to 75F or so, then I have to give the fermenter full of warm wort a couple of hours in the chillbox to drop down to pitching temperature.

Sorry...I didn't see the OG and FG in the OP. Funny.  :) I just made a nice chorus for a for a hip-hop tune.

Anyway...one potential issue is your cold-break. You indicate that it takes over an hour to get your wort down to 75F. I recommend chilling your wort down faster. I suggest getting your wort down to 145F as quickly as possible in an effort to achieve a good cold break. Try using an ice bath (pre-chiller) with a submersible pump in conjunction with your IC.
Ron Price

Offline skyler

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Re: Why won't this beer clear?
« Reply #10 on: May 14, 2011, 01:22:29 AM »
Yeah, a pump is definitely the next big purchase for my brewing system. I would also like to get a plate chiller or counterflow or even a bigger Jamil-style CF, but right now the old CF is definitely the weakest link in my equipment. The wort chilling is more effective for me in colder months right now. Hopefully 3 days of gelatin at 30F will be enough to clear this one, though. Normally my beer is clearer than most craft beers when it goes into the keg, and it gets crystal clear within a week.

Offline thomasbarnes

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Re: Why won't this beer clear?
« Reply #11 on: May 14, 2011, 03:04:05 AM »
I would not be surprised if the 5.2 Stabilizer addition was your problem.  It should actually be called 5.8 stabilizer since that is where both AJ Delange and Kai Troester have found that it tends to put the mash pH.  It is not a good addition to brewing and it also adds a substantial sodium content to your wort.  A 5.8 mash pH can cause problems. 

If your water is alkaline, you would be better served by learning to use acid for pH control. 

But a 5.8 pH mash would cause astringency, too, and we've eliminated that as a cause. Likewise, no off-flavors due to metallic notes, so we can eliminate that as a haze former.

I'm also not convinced that cold break is the problem, since this is a new problem and Skyler's had good results with his system so far. Anyhow, it's my experience that cold break tends to drop out of solution reasonably well, and excess cold break is more of a storage problem than a haze former.

I think it's a grain problem. Either poor crush or mash problems resulted in incomplete conversion and that threw a starch haze. Protein haze is another possibility. In Gordon Strong's new book, he says that some malts, even identical malts from different maltsters, sometimes need a protein mash at 131 F for 15? minutes in order to get good clarity. While Great Western malt might work well for most brewers, oddities with Skyler's water and/or system might mean that it doesn't work so well for him. I haven't had this problem on my system and I haven't used GW malt, so I'm guessing, though.

How about body and head formation and retention? Is the beer a bit chewier than you'd expect? Did you notice it having unusually high or low foam during krausen? Are you getting any doughy, floury or "worty" notes from your malt?

As for using acids to adjust your pH, generally 1-3 tablespoons of food grade lactic or phosphoric acid per 5 gallons of water will do it, based on mineral profile of your water and grist. Take a sample of your cold brewing liquor, carefully add your acid drop by drop (and eye dropper works well, figure about 1 ml per drop) and test pH using good-quality pH strips or a pH tester as you go along. Since your mash pH will drop at conversion temperatures, subtract 0.4 pH to get your true mash pH. Once you've got your mash pH adjusted, you can convert units and scale up to apply the correct amount of acid to all your brewing liquor (mash and sparge). Don't sweat it too much, though, you just need to be in the ballpark - 5.2-5.6 pH.

I think it's much more critical to monitor pH during runoff. Anything above about 5.7 pH and you start getting tannins, which is a sure road to misery.

Offline mabrungard

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Re: Why won't this beer clear?
« Reply #12 on: May 14, 2011, 06:11:03 AM »
As for using acids to adjust your pH, generally 1-3 tablespoons of food grade lactic or phosphoric acid per 5 gallons of water will do it, based on mineral profile of your water and grist. Take a sample of your cold brewing liquor, carefully add your acid drop by drop (and eye dropper works well, figure about 1 ml per drop) and test pH using good-quality pH strips or a pH tester as you go along. Since your mash pH will drop at conversion temperatures, subtract 0.4 pH to get your true mash pH. Once you've got your mash pH adjusted, you can convert units and scale up to apply the correct amount of acid to all your brewing liquor (mash and sparge). Don't sweat it too much, though, you just need to be in the ballpark - 5.2-5.6 pH.

I think it's much more critical to monitor pH during runoff. Anything above about 5.7 pH and you start getting tannins, which is a sure road to misery.

In a broad sense, Thomas' advice is sound since he is advocating testing as you add acid.  Its workable, but its not convenient or quick.  With alkalinity information on the brewing water, its easy to calculate exactly how much acid is required to bring either the mash or sparge water pH into proper range.  The only program I know of that brings this capability is Bru'n Water.  The statement that 1 to 3 tsp of lactic is suitable might be fine for Thomas' water, but cannot be applied to every brewer.  There will be some bad pH consequences with that advice.

Regarding the issue of astringency, a pH of 5.8 is just barely into the range the could promote tannin extraction.  On top of that sparge water temperature has a larger effect on tannin extraction than pH.  Maybe the sparge temp was well under 170F and that was not an issue?  In any case, the lack of percieved astringency is probably not a good indicator that pH was not a problem.

Regarding 5.2 Stabilizer again, it is quite effective at keeping the pH of water with low alkalinity from dropping too much when brewing with dark grists.  Unfortunately, that is not the brewing condition for a lot of brewers.  For those with elevated brewing water alkalinity and lighter grists, it is well proven to be ineffective.  A good brewer would avoid it at all cost.
« Last Edit: May 14, 2011, 06:14:20 AM by mabrungard »
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Offline gordonstrong

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Re: Why won't this beer clear?
« Reply #13 on: May 14, 2011, 06:36:13 AM »
With alkalinity information on the brewing water, its easy to calculate exactly how much acid is required to bring either the mash or sparge water pH into proper range.  The only program I know of that brings this capability is Bru'n Water.  The statement that 1 to 3 tsp of lactic is suitable might be fine for Thomas' water, but cannot be applied to every brewer. 

Trial and error to hone in on how to adjust your typical water used to be what you had to do. It's what I did.  It works, but it is a bit tedious to figure it out.  As long as your water profile is similar, then you don't have to worry about it much.

If your program can predict this, then I think that's a major improvement for homebrewers. Obviously, you still have to validate that it does what is predicted, but if it helps you get closer on the first pass, that should make the whole process much less tedious.  I look forward to trying it out.

My caution is that you don't always have the profile of your brewing water to enter into the program.  You might have had it tested, but is it the same this time as when you had it tested? Unless you're testing it each time, you can't really be sure.  Even when using RO water, like I do.  That's why I run a quick TDS check to see if I need to give it more attention.

Martin, is there a good way in your opinion to check your current water against your reference profile?  I still advocate testing after you make your adjustment in case it's off, but if you know that you're using something you've already dialed-in, then you shortcut the process.
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Offline Mark G

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Re: Why won't this beer clear?
« Reply #14 on: May 14, 2011, 07:38:28 AM »
I've been using Martin's program for my last 6 batches, and have found that the pH has been within 0.1 of the predicted value each time. I too am concerned that my water profile could be different every time I brew. So what I've been doing is adding about 3/4 of the total amount of acid that the program says I will need, then testing the pH before adding the rest incrementally until I hit my target. So far, I've ended up adding the amount the program has called for each time. Kudos to Martin for creating Bru'n Water. I also like Gordon's idea of testing TDS to have an idea if your profile may have changed.
Mark Gres