first batch of all grain problem

What went wrong? Was this supposed to happen? Should I throw it out? What do I do now?

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first batch of all grain problem

Postby bluegrass » Sat Mar 23, 2002 10:08 am

I was so hyped up about today. My brewing buddy and I were trying our hand at all grain for the first time after five years of malt extract. To make a long morning short, after mashing our grain at 154 degrees or so for 65 minutes, we ended up with a S.G. of under 1.020. We used 20 lbs of 2-row for a 10 gallon batch. I plan on throwing it out because of obvious reasons. What went wrong? There is a question as to whether my digital thermometer is accurate. If I really mashed at say, 135 deg. (for example), would that account for my low gravity? That would still activate the alpha amalyse for over an hour. Also, we heated the water to 165 degrees (by the same thermometer) before adding to the grain bed. This gave me a temp. of about 158 and then let it drop to what we thought was 154. This happened in a few minutes so we figured no real harm there. I am very bummed to say the least. I've got a half gallon of Sierra Pale Ale yeast starter that I will attemt to keep alive for another try next weekend provided I can figure out what went wrong.Thanks alot in advance. Luckily I have a reserve of homebrew that I plan on drowning my sorrow in. LOL. Take care all!!!!!>>Rich
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1st AG blues

Postby Fraoch » Sun Mar 24, 2002 2:20 am

by my calculations you were aiming for a beer of potentially 1060 SG right? Only 1020 is quite a short fall. Taking into account that 75% mash is about right for not knowing your system well you should have got somewhere around 1045. Still a beer and not a shandy.You may have achieved boil over, hot wort temps for hydrometer and the usual misdemeaners often attributed to incorrect readings, but by the sounds of it you know all this already due to 5 years extract. The only other causes i can think of (154f is fine) is poor sparging, this should be done SLOWLY allowing the bed to fill approx 1 inch above grain bed with water then almost run dry at outlet before filling again. Poorly crushed grain is a major factor, ensure that ALL grains are cracked. Also boil capacity is very important, if you require 10gals you really need to sparge above this to ensure all extract has been run off. Was your final reading on your run off around 1010? Maybe try mashing for 90 mins, 65mins may not have enabled full conversion to take place even if starch end point has been reached.

What ever the cause, dont be put off, you could boil the wort you have back to a reasonable SG, also most low SG's are due to poor sparging. My first AG was @ 60% and brewed out to 1001!!!!!
Maybe it's none of these factors in which case i'm sorry, i cant really think of any other reason. Maybe someone else has another idea.
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Hydrometer corrections and then some

Postby Azorean Brewer » Sun Mar 24, 2002 4:23 am

Hi, I really sorry that you first time out was not as you had hoped, however I have a few questions. First at what temp did you take you hydrometer reading ? Hydrometers are calibrated to be accurate at around 70 degrees, therefore if you ran a sample test at say 150F your readings are going to be way too shy. I have a correct factor table (table is non linear) that states you add .004 if your reading is 86F or add .010 if the wort is at 105F (that's as high as my correction table goes). So if I check my wort just before pitching yeast for example and the temp is 105F (which it would never be, just for this example) and my reading was say 1.040 I would have to add .010 making the final 1.050. The hotter the liquid the thinner the syrup and the lower the reading, does that make sense.

OK, nuff about that, second: my first all grain took 115 minutes (5 minutes shy of 2 hours) to reach full conversion, I never take a hydrometer reading, instead I use a few drops of tinture of Iodine (get it at any regular drug store) place the drops on a white plate and spoon about one tablespoon of your mash liqiud onto the plate and let it run into the iodine (caution, this stuff is poisonous do not let it get near your mash), if the color changes to black you have a ways to go, if it stays red all of the starches are converted to sugar. I find it helps to "sip" a spoonful of the clean mash liquid at the beginning and at the end so you can "taste" when it is done, liquid should be sweet at the end not starchy as in the begining.

From talking to my homebrew supply store, he told me that most city water is soft and high Ph, he recommended adding 1/2 teaspoon of citric acid and one teaspoon of Gypsum to my mash water before I dumped it in my graing, (this is my method and I know there will other comments about what is best, just trying to give you as much information as we can), hoever the second time I had full conversion in under 80 minutes. I use that method now all of the time.

I would be very careful to never run dry on your grain bed with your sparge water too until the end, you will end up with a stuck Lauter tun and a mess on your hands. Other than that I think you should have been OK, Anybody else out there did I miss anything.

If you still have your mash extract and it has cooled take another reading, if it is lower just conitue today and make your beer.

Good luck,
Paul.
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REpost: Hydrometer corrections and then some.

Postby Azorean Brewer » Sun Mar 24, 2002 4:31 am

I posted this to the wrong person sorry, this is a repost, I have not had my coffee yet ... dah:

Hi, I really sorry that you first time out was not as you had hoped, however I have a few questions. First at what temp did you take you hydrometer reading ? Hydrometers are calibrated to be accurate at around 70 degrees, therefore if you ran a sample test at say 150F your readings are going to be way too shy. I have a correct factor table (table is non linear) that states you add .004 if your reading is 86F or add .010 if the wort is at 105F (that's as high as my correction table goes). So if I check my wort just before pitching yeast for example and the temp is 105F (which it would never be, just for this example) and my reading was say 1.040 I would have to add .010 making the final 1.050. The hotter the liquid the thinner the syrup and the lower the reading, does that make sense.

OK, nuff about that, second: my first all grain took 115 minutes (5 minutes shy of 2 hours) to reach full conversion, I never take a hydrometer reading, instead I use a few drops of tinture of Iodine (get it at any regular drug store) place the few drops on a white plate and spoon about one tablespoon of your mash liqiud onto the plate and let it run into the iodine (caution, this stuff is poisonous do not let it get near your mash), if the color changes to black you have a ways to go, if it stays red all of the starches are converted to sugar. I find it helps to "sip" a spoonful of the clean mash liquid at the beginning and at the end so you can "taste" when it is done, liquid should be sweet at the end not starchy as in the begining.

From talking to my homebrew supply store, he told me that most city water is soft and high Ph, he recommended adding 1/2 teaspoon of citric acid and one teaspoon of Gypsum to my mash water before I dumped it in my graing, (this is my method and I know there will other comments about what is best, just trying to give you as much information as we can), hoever the second time I had full conversion in under 80 minutes. I use that method now all of the time.

I would be very careful to never run dry on your grain bed with your sparge water too until the end, you will end up with a stuck Lauter tun and a mess on your hands. Other than that I think you should have been OK, Anybody else out there did I miss anything.

If you still have your mash extract and it has cooled take another reading or run an iodine test on it, I'll bet you'll be good to go, if the reading is lower or iodine is red just conitue today and make your beer.

Good luck,
Paul.
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Thanks alot

Postby bluegrass » Sun Mar 24, 2002 11:15 am

First, I did take my gravity reading at a higher temp., directly after sparging. Also, I did not slow down my syphon when transfering to my kettle. Second, I did not use a method to make sure all my sugars were extracted. My pH too is high out here in the country. I thought that the acidity in the malt would make up for this. Does the pH affect the grain at the beginning then? What should I shoot for? Mine reads off the "chart" when using test strips so I can only assume that it's upwards of 9.5. I will correct these things and shoot for next Saturday. I'll let you all know how everything comes out. Thanks again!>>Rich
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Thanks for the help!

Postby bluegrass » Sun Mar 24, 2002 11:16 am

First, I did take my gravity reading at a higher temp., directly after sparging. Also, I did not slow down my syphon when transfering to my kettle. Second, I did not use a method to make sure all my sugars were extracted. My pH too is high out here in the country. I thought that the acidity in the malt would make up for this. Does the pH affect the grain at the beginning then? What should I shoot for? Mine reads off the "chart" when using test strips so I can only assume that it's upwards of 9.5. I will correct these things and shoot for next Saturday. I'll let you all know how everything comes out. Thanks again!>>Rich
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Desired PH ?

Postby Azorean Brewer » Sun Mar 24, 2002 12:55 pm

Rich, I am glad that I could help even with my limited experience, I know that Eric from Mesa Maltworks will read your post and help out, but in the mean time Papazian's "New joy of home brewing" states that the desired PH be between 5.5 and 5.2, mine out of the tap is generally around 7.0-7.5, You are correct in that the grain hulls will lower the PH but I have found that it will only lower it about 1.0 max, so you propably want to shoot form a starting reading around 6.5 and let the grain do the rest.

Yes PH will dramatically affect the conversion, the higher the PH the longer or less conversion will result. There are many products to help you lower your PH, check with your homebrew suppliers for help. Also if you do not have Papazian's "The new complete joy of home brewing" I highly recommend buying it around $14.95 or so. Although I don't agree with the all of the recipes in there, there is a lot of good information about all grain brewing and after reading the advanced section "All grain" a couple of times I felt confident enough to make my first all grain and it came out great. Also you want to "sparge" as slowly as possible, I find that a plastic crimp type hose clamp helps.

Good luck and don't give up, we all must learn to crawl before we can run LOL ... I know that others will add their experiences, take care OK?

Paul.
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Some Helpful Tips

Postby BillyBock » Sun Mar 24, 2002 1:47 pm

Rich: Make sure your thermometers and hydrometer are calibrated, or at least know what the offsets are. If you took a gravity reading at 150F, the correction is about +20. So I think your actual gravity was 1.040--you'll get more accurate readings the cooler the sample is. How much did you sparge into the kettle? What was the temp of your sparge water? What was your grist to water ratio? There are many things that affect extraction. There's been discussion so far on pH.

I've found the best investment I've made (outside of a water filter for chlorine removal) is a digital pH meter--I hate reading strips! As far as pH, you want the mash to be about 5.2-5.5. When sparging you'll want to make sure the runoff doesn't go past pH=6 or you'll risk leeching tannins. I live in Nebraska and we have some hard water here (sounds like you do to), the pH will vary anywhere from 8.5 to 9.3. Here's generally what I do. Usually, I don't fuss with salt additions, if I do I'll add them first. Then I'll acidify all of my water to pH=7 (neutral)--which helps in getting your mash pH closer to the target. As a point of reference, a mash of strictly pale malt w/ water of pH=7 will generally end up at a pH of 5.7 (I think I read that from John Palmer). Once I mash-in, I check the mash pH to ensure it's within the range. If not, I'll add gypsum or calcium chloride until I get close to pH=5.2. If I went too far, I'll add some chalk to bring it back up. I haven't had problems with 60 minute conversions, although I like to let it go to 90 minutes. As far as sparging, I'll acidify the sparge water to pH=5.7 so I don't have to be too concerned about the runoff leaching tannins. Anyway, if your water is alkaline (like mine) you will end up with a more alkaline mash, which reduces extraction. Roasted grains will naturally acidify the water. Look at Guinness for example. Their native water is high in carbonates, they use roasted barley to counteract the alkalinity in the mash. If you don't make adjustments to the pH, it's usually easier to brew darker beers with alkaline water than lighter beers. Another approach to adjusting mash pH is to stir lactic or phosphoric acid directly into the mash a drop or two at a time. When it's all said and done, the pH of your wort in the kettle should be 5.0-5.3--if it's not, adjust it with acid. When taking samples for pH make sure to cool them to room temp so you get an accurate reading. However, if you take a reading at mash temperatures, it will read about 0.3 pH lower. For instance, if your reading was pH=5.0 at 150F, then it really is pH=5.3 at room temp.

If you can afford it, go to your LHBS and buy a pH meter, lactic or phosphoric acid, gypsum, calcium chloride, and chalk--I believe these are the salts that are the most beneficial to newbie grain mashers. Also, see if you can get an analysis of your water for study later.

Hope this helps
Cheers!
--Bill
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Read This

Postby Sven » Sun Mar 24, 2002 11:56 pm

http://www.howtobrew.com/section3/index.html
John Palmer's website is an invaluable source of information. It will walk you through every step of the brewing process in great detail.
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Cracked

Postby KBrau » Mon Mar 25, 2002 4:51 pm

I see that you have already gotten some good suggestions, but the first thing that came to my mind was: How did you crack the grain? I have heard of cases where individuals do not adequately crack their grain and they end up with grossly inefficient mashes. it is just a thought.
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To all my beer bro's

Postby bluegrass » Tue Mar 26, 2002 5:01 pm

Hey, thanks so much for taking the time everyone! This has been an invaluable resource for the last year or two. My mill is a home-made one but very effective. The rollers (3" rolling pins) are at around a sixteenth inch between 'em. With a 12 inch width, it makes 20 lbs. go quick. Amen to John Palmer's site too. I'm sure my pH was a good deal to do with my woes. I may have to put an electronic tester on the back burner, but I will run some "dry tests" to adjust for my high alkalinity before brew day. I was using a 2-row pale malt. My wonderful wife actually suprised me with a hundred pounds for my b-day. Is that cool or what? Well, I will let you know how it comes out. Thanks sincerely again!!Cheers.>>Rich
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