Author Topic: Help! I've brewed a watery mess  (Read 3831 times)

Offline bathtubbrewer

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Help! I've brewed a watery mess
« on: November 18, 2011, 06:56:11 PM »
I've got three AG batches under my belt, and they seem to be getting progressively worse.  The overall problem is that they are very watery; almost no malt flavor at all.  Not much hop flavor, for that matter, either.  On my most recent batch, an ESB, I mashed at 152(4 gallons) for 60m, drained, then batch-sparged in two steps (both at 168, the 1st about 1.5 gallons, the 2nd about 4 gallons).  My grain bill was 10lbs pale 2-row, 8 oz Crystal 40, and 4 oz Crystal 120.  The gravity of the final running was 1.012.  I drained as slow as I could, about 1L a minute.  The SG was 1.042, a little under my desired 1.046.  I boiled for 60 minutes.  About 7 gallons went into the kettle, about 6 g came out, and about 5.5 went into the fermenter.  One problem was I broke my hydrometer (my fourth in as many sessions) before I could take a final reading.  My equipment is as follows:  10 gallon igloo cooler as my mash-lauter tun, 15 gallon brew kettle. I wouldn't be so concerned, but like I said, my two batches before this had pretty much the same result.  What am I doing wrong?  Thanks in advance...

Offline euge

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Re: Help! I've brewed a watery mess
« Reply #1 on: November 18, 2011, 07:32:18 PM »
Do not despair! Yet.

First thing that comes to mind is that your mash (actually the thermometer) is off and down into the 140's. Maybe the tun is losing heat quickly. And maybe the pH is off as well. How about your grist? Is it real coarse? If it is a coarse grist you need to mash for longer than 60 minutes.
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Offline tubercle

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Re: Help! I've brewed a watery mess
« Reply #2 on: November 19, 2011, 06:47:38 AM »
Are you grinding the grain or buying it per-ground?

What Euge said about the thermometer. Somethings wrong.


Broke 4 hydrometers? I have broke zero in 20 plus years. You need to re-examine how you handle these. You're not putting them in hot wort, are you?
 
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Offline duboman

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Re: Help! I've brewed a watery mess
« Reply #3 on: November 19, 2011, 07:11:45 AM »
Aside from the above comments, something is wrong with your quantities as well. According to the water calculations you have 9.5 gallons of water but only got 7 gallons of wort so somewhere there is some missing wort. Absorption should be about 1.25 gallons which would yield 8.25 gallons of wort, where's the other 1.25 gallons.

I mention this because it has been mentioned to me several posts below in trying to figure out my own efficiency issues. After several AG batches I have become a lot more attentive to mash quantities, temperatures, ph levels, etc and my efficiency has shot up tremendously! While I am definitely still learning, there is really a lot to AG brewing. My above calculations may be off based on your setup but other, more experienced brewers can certainly elaborate. Many of these issues are addressed in the feed on my post several streams ago.
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Offline flapjack

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Re: Help! I've brewed a watery mess
« Reply #4 on: November 19, 2011, 07:54:22 AM »
We had a similar issue when we first started grinding our own grain, took a couple batches to get the grind just right. If you are grinding your own, I would examine that as well as looking into the previous comments.
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Offline malzig

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Re: Help! I've brewed a watery mess
« Reply #5 on: November 19, 2011, 08:47:55 AM »
Malt flavor has a lot to do with the quality of the malt.  A lot of American pale malt is quite mildly flavored  For an ESB, I'd recommend a British Pale Ale malt, or it's not going to taste very British.  Otherwise, I've been very happy with the flavor with the Canada Malting Pale Ale Malt I've been using lately.  Look for Pale Ale Malt, as opposed to malt listed as simply "2-row".

The other aspect of "watery" beer is the body, which the others have mentioned.  Usually the solution to that is to mash warmer.  It would be helpful if you knew the FG of the beers.  If the beers aren't ending with a low FG, then that probably isn't the problem.

Also, watch out for over carbonation.  Low gravity beers lose a lot if they are over carbonated.  The right amount of carbonation can add to the sensation of body, but too much can make the beer seem like soda pop.  Also, the carbonic bite can obscure the malt flavors.  I made a Bitter early on that I overcarbonated and it was dry and flavorless.  If I knocked much of the carbonation out it improved immensely (over hopped, but that was a different problem).

Offline bathtubbrewer

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Re: Help! I've brewed a watery mess
« Reply #6 on: November 19, 2011, 05:23:18 PM »
thanks for all the advice.  I buy my grain from my LHBS; I'll check the grind next time I buy some.  I'll also pay closer attention to my volume levels.  Always seem to forget to measure, somewhere along the line. 

Offline davidgzach

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Re: Help! I've brewed a watery mess
« Reply #7 on: November 21, 2011, 06:27:44 AM »
thanks for all the advice.  I buy my grain from my LHBS; I'll check the grind next time I buy some.  I'll also pay closer attention to my volume levels.  Always seem to forget to measure, somewhere along the line. 

+1 to checking the thermometer.  Is it a digital or dial?  That could make all the difference right there. 

If you keep breaking hydrometers, look in to a refractometer.  Sounds like you are 60% at the cost already.....

Lastly for me is to check your mash PH.  The strips are cheap and will let you know if you are far off or not. 

Dave 
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Offline bathtubbrewer

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Re: Help! I've brewed a watery mess
« Reply #8 on: November 21, 2011, 08:09:18 PM »
Don't think it's my thermometer. I use the therma pen I have for cooking.  Will definitely look at a refractometer and pick up some pH strips.  Appreciate all the responses!

Offline malzig

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Re: Help! I've brewed a watery mess
« Reply #9 on: November 22, 2011, 07:44:07 AM »
Don't think it's my thermometer. I use the therma pen I have for cooking.
Do you calibrate it?  As anyone that uses precision equipment should know, the best, most expensive equipment in the world is no better than the accuracy of it's calibration.

In addition to the other factors mentioned, have you checked the temperature after 10 minutes or so?  If you are losing a lot of heat to your tun, you may be mashing at a lower temperature than your initial measurement. 

There's a broad range of mash temperatures that are appropriate for brewing, anywhere from 145-158°F are common for single infusion mashing.  Its my opinion that, if you find that your beers need more body, you raise your mash temperature and don't get hung up on a particular number like 152°F.  There are enough variables between breweries and beer preferences that one brewer's 152°F may not be the same as another's 152°F.

Offline Kit B

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Re: Help! I've brewed a watery mess
« Reply #10 on: November 22, 2011, 08:16:48 AM »
I'd like to know what kind of water you're brewing with.
You might need fairly soft water to get away with that grain bill.
If your water is hard & has high alkalinity, you might be seeing that manifest in your brews.

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Offline morticaixavier

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Re: Help! I've brewed a watery mess
« Reply #11 on: November 22, 2011, 08:51:44 AM »
+1 to higher mash temp. When I am brewing a low gravity ale I will often mash at 158 just to get as much body as I can. I think that a 3% beer with lots of body is just as satisfying as a 6% beer
« Last Edit: November 22, 2011, 09:26:56 AM by morticaixavier »
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Offline denny

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Re: Help! I've brewed a watery mess
« Reply #12 on: November 22, 2011, 09:23:07 AM »
Don't think it's my thermometer. I use the therma pen I have for cooking.  Will definitely look at a refractometer and pick up some pH strips.  Appreciate all the responses!

The problem with using a Thermapen is that it only shows what the temp on the top of the mash is.  If you haven't stirred thoroughly enough, the actual temp could be much different.
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Offline euge

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Re: Help! I've brewed a watery mess
« Reply #13 on: November 22, 2011, 11:58:23 AM »
Don't think it's my thermometer. I use the therma pen I have for cooking.  Will definitely look at a refractometer and pick up some pH strips.  Appreciate all the responses!

The problem with using a Thermapen is that it only shows what the temp on the top of the mash is.  If you haven't stirred thoroughly enough, the actual temp could be much different.

The Thermapen is only Splashproof. Not waterproof. Learned the hard way by sticking the pen deep inside the mash. Some wort got into the hinge and now I have to work it back and forth to get it to stay on.

So it is likely I'll buy another long long stemmed probe at some point just to measure the mash.
The first principle is that you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool. -Richard P. Feynman

Offline thcipriani

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Re: Help! I've brewed a watery mess
« Reply #14 on: November 25, 2011, 10:58:35 PM »
I don't feel like mash temp is going to be the main factor when calling a beer watery. Mash temp shouldn't be affecting your malt character, but your mouthfeel. A low mash temp would cause the  final beer to be starchy (if you're not getting full conversion) or have a dry body - the malt character should come through regardless.

There is a lot of leeway in grain mill gap, malt quality and mashing/boiling procedures. I'm guessing that almost everyone has a slightly different preference for the combination of mill gaps, mashing procedures, maltsers, mashing temperatures and method of temperature measurement. As long as your mash converts, I think you'll have malt flavor PROVIDED you meet the following three requirements:
 1. Avoid bad malt
 2. Use an appropriate pitching rate
 3. Avoid Infection

#1 is pretty easy - as long as the friability of the malt is still good, and you got it from a known maltser it'll make a beer that has malt flavor - the best flavor? Perhaps not, but it likely won't be described as watery.

The most likely culprit, in my early brewing and in commercial and homebrews that I would call watery is #2 (in concert with #3). If you're not using the mrmalty calc then use it. If you are using the calc try using a 20% larger starter and brewing the same beer - sometimes the estimates you get from the calc can be off. Last week I brewed a beer for which the calc recommended a 1.2L starter, I did a 1.5L starter and came up 10% short after a cell count. The calc is a great guideline, but if your beer is coming out watery then you need more healthy yeast.
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