General advice for higher ABV needed

Discussion in 'Beginners Brewing Forum' started by Jonny the Brewer, Jun 9, 2020.

  1. Jonny the Brewer

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    Hi there. I'm new to all this - I've now brewed, fermented and drunk two of those Brooklyn one gallon kits. They were ok, but the ABV was much lower than it says on the kit. The first was was the New England IPA kit which says 5% on the box, but I got OG 1042, FG 1021 (2.76%).

    The next I made was the Warrior Double IPA kit, supposed to be 7%. The OG was 1052 and FG 1021 meaning I got just 4.07%.

    I've since brewed three more (not kits but easy recipes) and bottling two this weekend so I'll know the FG then (OG for each was 1089 and 1062).

    I was wondering what I'm doing wrong? Am I not sparging enough? Should I circulate the wort over the grain 3-4 times maybe? I'm currently recirculating once (so twice total) as that's what the Brooklyn recipes say.

    I really try and push down on the strainer to get as much wort as I can but it's tricky with the stovetop set up I have. Any advice appreciated.

    Thanks as always

    Jonny
     
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  2. Nosybear

    Nosybear Well-Known Member

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    For this, it would help to know what's in the kit and the process it recommends.... I suspect there's a process problem somewhere so it would help if you could tell us exactly how you made the beer.
     
  3. Jonny the Brewer

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  4. Nosybear

    Nosybear Well-Known Member

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    #4 Nosybear, Jun 9, 2020
    Last edited: Jun 9, 2020
    Pretty standard. Now it would help to know how you did it. Did I read you were pouring wort over the grains as a sparge step? If that's true, that's the first place to look - because that will not work. You need to sparge with water, you're rinsing the sugar from the grains.

    Actually the most likely step resulting in too low OG is the boil. If you're not boiling vigorously enough, you will have more less saturated wort than you want. Here's a good way to track your gravity:

    Mashing --> sugars. Unless you add additional sugars, the amount of sugar is constant.
    Since sugar is constant, calculating results is simple proportions. G1*V1=G2*V2.
    The only way the amount of sugar can change is if you lose wort, for example to grain or hop absorption or wort left in the kettle.

    With that, inventory your sugars, should help you find where you're losing them.
     
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  5. Jonny the Brewer

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    No, I followed the steps to the letter and used fresh sparge water to the right temperature as in the instructions. I struggled though as I didnt have a sieve big enough so it was really messy. I have since bought a much bigger, newer one that helps - and that's shown by the higher OG values I guess in the brews since.
     
  6. Frankenbrewer

    Frankenbrewer Well-Known Member

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    Maybe you are not letting the yeast work long enough or the yeast is under pitched.
     
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  7. ^Tony^

    ^Tony^ Active Member

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    Could be your brew process.

    Or it could be more simple than that: Are you using a hydrometer or a refractometer to check the FG? The refractometer works great before fermentation...not so well after. I never get an accurate reading using a refractomter after fermentation due to the yeast and hop debris floating about. It always ends up giving me a BRIX reading which is too high so calculated ABV would be below actual. There are tools on line to help you convert your reading with a refractomer but I find the hydrometer the easiest, fastest, and most reliable.
     
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  8. Nosybear

    Nosybear Well-Known Member

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    His OG was low. That's why I'm thinking conversion or the boil. In a gallon batch, other losses should be minimal.
     
  9. Megary

    Megary Well-Known Member

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    A lot of good points above.

    Here's another thought.
    Did you correct your gravity readings for temperature? If you used a hydrometer and took your OG sample reading at mash temp it will be wildly incorrect. The reading has to be adjusted to your hydrometer's calibration temp (usually 68 or 60° F).

    https://www.brewersfriend.com/hydrometer-temp/
     
  10. BarbarianBrewer

    BarbarianBrewer Well-Known Member

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    #10 BarbarianBrewer, Jun 9, 2020
    Last edited: Jun 9, 2020
    I'm thinking it could be mash temperature. The range they give (144-152 F) is fairly broad. Mashing at the upper end will yield a less fermentable wort (higherFG) and conversely the lower end of that range will yield a more fermentable wort (lower FG). I don't think that explains the entire ABV difference, but it could explain a portion of it.

    @Jonny the Brewer, what is the expected OG of the first two beers? Also, what yeast are you using for these recipes?
     
  11. Craigerrr

    Craigerrr Well-Known Member

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    IMHO that mashing somewhere between 144 and 152 should not produce un-fermentable sugars.
    144 may take you lower than expected, but 152 should not cause the FG to be high.
    OP states
    "The next I made was the Warrior Double IPA kit, supposed to be 7%. The OG was 1052 and FG 1021 meaning I got just 4.07%."
    FG is way to low to get anywhere near 7%, and finishing at 1021 seems odd.
    Just my $0.02

    Jonny the Brewer
    Do you know what temperature the wort was when you pitched the yeast?
     
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  12. ^Tony^

    ^Tony^ Active Member

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    On the same line of it is your process (mash, pitch temp, etc) How long are you fermenting for? I had a kit that said ferment for 10 days then bottle but at 10 days the FG was still in the 1020 range so nowhere near done fermenting. It took another 10 days to finish up to to the expected 1012.

    Is it possible you are bottling too early? Are you waiting for the FG to be stable over about 3 days before you bottle? Have you had any gushers that may indicate bottle fermentation?
     
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  13. Jonny the Brewer

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    Thanks. I've never been sure about the boil so this could be it. With these one gallon recipes I am always left with about 4 fifths of a gallon of wort... The recipes say a "rolling boil" but I am never sure exactly what that is. I am often worried I'll lose too much due to evaporation (I could put the lid on of course - Maybe that's an idea?).

    But the mash might also be a factor. I strain on the stove top using a kitchen large strainer but I am never 100% happy I've got every last tiny bit of extract from the grain... I'd need to be there for about two hours pushing down on the grain if I wanted that.
     
  14. Jonny the Brewer

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    The yeast might also be it. I've recently worked it out by the gram. As of last weekend I just use a half packet now!
     
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  15. Jonny the Brewer

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    Thanks, this is also possible. Yes I had gushers but I also think I put in too much sugar (am using carbonation drops from now on).

    Maybe I should wait three week minimum before bottling now. Most recipes say two weeks. I dont want to take a reading due to loss of beer (only have a gallon remember).
     
  16. Jonny the Brewer

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    I sit it in the ice bath until just under 80c. Then I remove it, take reading and pour into the demi john. I then pitch the yeast as I figure it's around 70 by this point in time (admittedly I don't check).
     
  17. Jonny the Brewer

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    I do my best to keep the mash in this range so pretty sure it's not that... But what's the optimal temp? 150?

    I don't know the expected OG as they don't provide this detail in the recipes.

    The two I am bottling this weekend are:

    The New Abnormal IPA - I brewed 23/05 and it still bubbles maybe every 1-2 mins. This Saturday is three weeks so figure it's enough time?
    OG 1089.
    M44 West Coast Yeast - Only 1.7g so I think I under pitched it.
    (Propino / Citra)

    20 Years Sober IPA - Brewed 30/05 so it might be a bit early to bottle, but there is little to no bubbling.
    OG 1062
    820g Maris Otter
    200g Pale Wheat
    200g Naked Malted Oats
    50g Melanoidin
    3g [email protected] 10mins
    3g Mosaic @10 mins
    5g Citra @0 mins
    5g Mosaic @0 mins
    10g Citra dry hop after 7 days
    10g Mosaic dry hop after 7 days
    US05 2.62g (again under pitched it I think)

    From now on then I hope these things will make a difference, based on everyone's helpful advice on this thread:

    • Increase boil a bit
    • Pitch more yeast
    • Ferment longer (3 weeks instead of 2)
     
  18. Jonny the Brewer

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    I'll find out what my hydrometers calibration temp is. I take a reading just before I pitch the yeast so around 70.
     
  19. Jonny the Brewer

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    Just to clarify this. Although I use sparge water at 170 for the sparge, I do recirculate once after that - ie all of the wort (inc the original sparge water) back over the grain in my strainer. Is this ok?
     
  20. Trialben

    Trialben Well-Known Member

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    Looks like both batches were stuck fermentations then?
    I'm thinking maybe you had a temp drop during fermentation that caused the yeast to stall.

    Did you use the same yeast both batches?

    Another way to create a more fermentables wort is to just mash longer try a 90min mash maybe.

    Whatever the problem it's consistent eh it's replicating both brews.
     

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