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KTreu42

Newish brewer - Tried a few batches with the same poor result. Advice?

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Hi all, I've made 3 batches up to now but this is my first post because I am having the same problem each time, and need some advice!

 

I'm about to start brewing a Canadian Blonde, but from what I gather from some light forum perusal, the ingredients and instructions that come with Mr. Beer do not seem to be... optimal.  So here's my issue: I've made the Czech Pils, Mexican Cerveza, and Oktoberfest thus far.  The Pils came out a little skunky, which I thought was expected because A) It's a Czech pils and B ) it was my first go at brewing.  The Cerveza was even worse, and a tad flat.  I thought I had fudged the brewing process a little bit, I remember it got a little messy at times.  The third, the Oktoberfest (my favorite beer style), I had high hopes for because we were ultra-thorough with sanitation and accuracy, but when the time came, it once again tasted sort of weak, flat, and a touch skunky.

 

So here's where I stand, and what my current questions are that I would love to see answered:

- Those 3 recipes did not come with the Booster pack, which from what I understand adds body, %ABV, and overall taste.  I'm listing this first as it seems one of the biggest issues until now.  Does this sound accurate based on my ongoing issues?

- With the Canadian Blonde, I bought a packet of pale DME because I read on another thread that it works better than the Booster.  Is this true, and would I use it in the same way that I would the Booster (add to the cool water, bring to boil, add extract)?

- It seems to me like 2 weeks for fermenting and 2 weeks for bottle carbonation is a little short - for some beers more than others, I would imagine.  What is a more realistic and rewarding wait time for each step?

- Any other tips or notes to account for with making this beer? I'm using the plastic bottles - just got some new .5 L ones because most of my 740 mL ones have already gone missing.

 

Thanks for any and all help! 

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13 minutes ago, KTreu42 said:

So here's where I stand, and what my current questions are that I would love to see answered:

- Those 3 recipes did not come with the Booster pack, which from what I understand adds body, %ABV, and overall taste.  I'm listing this first as it seems one of the biggest issues until now.  Does this sound accurate based on my ongoing issues?

Better to use DME

- With the Canadian Blonde, I bought a packet of pale DME because I read on another thread that it works better than the Booster.  Is this true, and would I use it in the same way that I would the Booster (add to the cool water, bring to boil, add extract)?

See above

- It seems to me like 2 weeks for fermenting and 2 weeks for bottle carbonation is a little short - for some beers more than others, I would imagine.  What is a more realistic and rewarding wait time for each step?

Brew for 3 weeks and then leave in bottle to condition and carbonate for 4 weeks.

- Any other tips or notes to account for with making this beer? I'm using the plastic bottles - just got some new .5 L ones because most of my 740 mL ones have already gone missing.

Without more particulars it is hard to tell where you may have gone wrong. 

 

Brew at a wort temperature in the mid 60's (not an ambient air temperature).  Also make sure you clean everything that touches your brew and then sanitize.  This is very important.  Also, make sure to follow the brew and condition time of 3 weeks ferment and 4 weeks in the bottle and then 3 days in the fridge before drinking.

 

Thanks for any and all help! 

 

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Welcome!

 

First, it should be noted that until last Fall Mr. Beer did NOT include booster with the refills.  The standard refills are around 3.1% ABV, and the booster pops them to around 4.2%.  The standard refills are not very malty and not very strong, some find them "weak".  

 

Skunky has nothing to do with booster.

 

You should follow 3-4-3.  3 weeks fermenting (65 degrees is optimal), 4 weeks carbonating and conditioning in bottles (70 or higher), and at least 3 days in the fridge.  

 

I would suggest you remove any bottles from the fridge and give them at least another 2 weeks.  And, if you find the base refills weak, consider adding a packet of LME or moving to the Craft Series or Seasonal refills, which contain a lot more malt.

 

And read, read, and read some more.  Good info in my signature links.

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Skunky ... suggests that either the fermentation or the filled bottles were exposed to light. Sunlight or UV light, I think) reacts with the hops and creates a chemical compound that is "skunky". You want to make certain that your beer is not exposed to light.

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Thanks to all, I just finished brewing the Canadian Blonde.  I bet the problem is I've been following the instruction guide and fermenting/carbonating for only 2 weeks each.  I will follow 3-4-3 for this batch, and I bet between that and using the DME it will be much better.

 

Maybe "skunky" is the wrong word to describe the taste, it's not quite skunky in the usual sense, but previous batches all tasted off, in the same way each time.  I let the LBK and bottles sit in a cool dark space, so I'm pretty confident there are no problems with that part of the process.

 

Last question: I've read that the carbonation drops are basically a huge ripoff, and plain sugar is perfectly fine.  How much sugar should I be adding to a .5 L bottle, versus the 740mL ones that I've used in the past?  Thanks again.

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1 tsp for 1/2 liter bottles. Each carb drop = 1 tsp sugar.

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Using the Mr. Beer brown LBK, and brown bottles, light is not a problem.

 

As far as sugar goes, many like 75% of the Mr. Beer levels.  Do some at 3/4 tsp, some at 1, and decide for yourself.

 

sugar.png

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4 hours ago, KTreu42 said:

Thanks to all, I just finished brewing the Canadian Blonde.  I bet the problem is I've been following the instruction guide and fermenting/carbonating for only 2 weeks each.  I will follow 3-4-3 for this batch, and I bet between that and using the DME it will be much better.

 

Maybe "skunky" is the wrong word to describe the taste, it's not quite skunky in the usual sense, but previous batches all tasted off, in the same way each time.  I let the LBK and bottles sit in a cool dark space, so I'm pretty confident there are no problems with that part of the process.

 

Last question: I've read that the carbonation drops are basically a huge ripoff, and plain sugar is perfectly fine.  How much sugar should I be adding to a .5 L bottle, versus the 740mL ones that I've used in the past?  Thanks again.

I think with any MRB batch, the lighter the color, the longer you should condition. Granted porters and stouts are generally better aged longer... Basically dont try a beer until 4 weeks, then decide how much longer to go.

 

drops are cheaper other places. Just shop around, ie http://www.ritebrew.com/product-p/863384.htm

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I like creeps agree,4 weeks is a absolute minimum,i wait 6 weeks for all my brew's as a rule 

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You have been given some good suggestions.  A recap: Add some more malt if you feel the beer is too light. Ferment for a full three weeks at the lower end of the temperature range (65-68 deg F). Bottle and let it mellow for a month or more. Pop one in the fridge for 3-4 days and enjoy. My only additional comment is that I prefer less carbonation, so I use less priming sugar. Regular white granulated sugar is cheap and works well. Can't offer any hints on the skunky taste, unless you used clear plastic. 

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I have a sense that your "skunky" taste isn't the traditional hop-related flavor that European lagers get. If it's the same in each batch and they're all fermented and conditioned for a short time, you're probably getting acetaldehyde that isn't aged out. That along with a harsh edge associated with hopped extracts can give the impression of a strong flavor that just doesn't fit - maybe tangy or cidery, but harsh one way or another and not smooth malt flavor. 

In some cases, some yeast will deliver a sulphur smell and taste, too, though that's almost always lager yeasts and not the ale yeast used in the refills. And if you're using well water or municipal water with certain mineral content, the fermentation process might pick that up.

Make sure your water is good, use good sanitation, ferment cooler and longer, transfer to bottles carefully without aerating the beer, prime right, condition/carb for 3 to 4 weeks.

Study up on traditional brewing techniques. Everything that all-grain brewers do to get good beer (except for mashing the grains) applies to extract brewing. Become a better brewer and you'll get better beer.:)

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J A, I am guessing the taste issue is a combination of the first thing you said - not brewing long enough in the past - and simply not being used to drinking such low ABV beer that is traditionally higher especially in those types of beer. I think having the correct information on fermenting length and using DME should help solve my problems.

 

I only use fresh containers of spring water in the brewing process, and I sanitize my tools and myself aggressively during, so I'm pretty sure the problems were based on what has been discussed above.  Again I appreciate everyone's input and assistance. We'll see how it turns out.

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You're doing all the right stuff. It'll get there eventually. Explore more complex brewing methods and it'll put things in perspective. The more you know about the basic process, the easier it is to understand the HME recipes and make them work better.

 

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For what it's worth, right now I tend to wait at least six weeks before I consider a beer ready to sample. I may fool around a bit with a  bottle at week four or five (depending on the beer), but we do not get serious until week six. And for some of them it is more like ten, twelve weeks.

 

 

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Hey y'all, update: 

 

So it's been 3 weeks, and I am ready to bottle my beer. I kept it at 68° for the most part, although in the past few days it was a little warmer (~72°) because it's just been so hot out. 

 

I noticed that the LBK has a crusty film around the lid, and taking a quick look, the bottom of the lid is covered in brownish gunk. I know that some buildup on the bottom of the keg is normal, and there is usually some residual stuff floating in the LBK, but I just wanted to double check if this sounds normal/reasonable.

 

Aside from that, question about priming: does anyone use sugar cubes instead of loose sugar? They are supposedly a specific amount of sugar per cube which should make it easy to measure, so is there a reason to prefer loose sugar over cubes? 

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58 minutes ago, KTreu42 said:

Hey y'all, update: 

 

So it's been 3 weeks, and I am ready to bottle my beer. I kept it at 68° for the most part, although in the past few days it was a little warmer (~72°) because it's just been so hot out. 

 

I noticed that the LBK has a crusty film around the lid, and taking a quick look, the bottom of the lid is covered in brownish gunk. I know that some buildup on the bottom of the keg is normal, and there is usually some residual stuff floating in the LBK, but I just wanted to double check if this sounds normal/reasonable.

 

Aside from that, question about priming: does anyone use sugar cubes instead of loose sugar? They are supposedly a specific amount of sugar per cube which should make it easy to measure, so is there a reason to prefer loose sugar over cubes? 

 

You did not open you LBK before bottling did you? If so....DON'T DO THAT!

 

But yes. It is perfectly normal to have crust gunk and film. You must have had a strong, active, fermentation.

 

Regarding sugar - no. There is no reason to prefer loose over sugar. I myself use the bottling drops which is essentially a larger sugar cube.

 

Curious - when you say kept it at 68, what did you keep at 68? Wort? The air temp? How do you know? 

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59 minutes ago, MrWhy said:

 

You did not open you LBK before bottling did you? If so....DON'T DO THAT!

 

But yes. It is perfectly normal to have crust gunk and film. You must have had a strong, active, fermentation.

 

Regarding sugar - no. There is no reason to prefer loose over sugar. I myself use the bottling drops which is essentially a larger sugar cube.

 

Curious - when you say kept it at 68, what did you keep at 68? Wort? The air temp? How do you know? 

 

I did crack it open just for a second, I didn't realize that was a no no. I hadn't heard that anywhere.  Hopefully it's not going to mess anything up, but good to know for the future. 

 

Thanks on the sugar question, I'll decide which to use shortly when I begin bottling.

 

I kept the air temp at 68 in the room it was being stored, but I guess the AC couldn't keep up with the recent heat wave. The little strip thermometer I have on the side of the lbk still shows that it's in the optimal temperate range.

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In the future, you want it cooler. Wort can heat up to 6, 8, or even 10 degrees hotter during active fermentation.  Frozen water bottles in a cooler can help.

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17 hours ago, KTreu42 said:

 

I did crack it open just for a second, I didn't realize that was a no no. I hadn't heard that anywhere.  Hopefully it's not going to mess anything up, but good to know for the future. 

 

Thanks on the sugar question, I'll decide which to use shortly when I begin bottling.

 

I kept the air temp at 68 in the room it was being stored, but I guess the AC couldn't keep up with the recent heat wave. The little strip thermometer I have on the side of the lbk still shows that it's in the optimal temperate range.

 

It should be fine. People open it up to dry hop. But still, if you do not need to open it, don't. Why risk anything getting in there?

 

It is hard to say regarding temp. I mean, 68 consistent ambient seems like it should be fine, but I am leery. Is it really 68 ambient the whole time? What if it is running 70, 72 more often than you think? What if it turns out those first few days of active fermentation it was fermenting at 78...82?

 

I keep my beer in a fermenting fridge now and I've found keeping the fridge set at 64 degrees can still lead to a bit warmer temps than I like.

 

Here are a few things - I am a big believer in do the best you can. The second batch of beers I made, the ones that fermented way too warm....with enough conditioning time they have all turned out legitimately good. They are beers I enjoy drinking. 

 

Give your beers enough time to condition. Some of mine are going on week 12 and past. They just keep getting better.

 

Two - put a lot of flavor into your beers. If you do not have optimal fermenting conditions, make big, bold, hoppy, malty, beers. Those big flavors can really offset some of the other stuff that happens in fermentation. In fact, that other stuff becomes part of the flavor profile. Without strong temp control it will be hard to make light, crisp beers. Fine! Don't make them. Add the hops. Add the steeping grains. Go big.

 

Lastly - yeast. I just think when it is warm, use more yeast. Use T-58. Use S-5. Or 33. Whatever. There will be plenty of yeast in those packets to get things started.

 

 

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If temp probe is attached properly, WORT will be 64, not fridge...

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