1st Homebrew - How to make it better?

Discussion in 'Homebrewing' started by GoGators, Dec 22, 2012.

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  1. GoGators

    GoGators Crusader (751) Aug 5, 2010 New Jersey
    Subscriber Beer Trader

    Just drank my first homebrew. An Imperial IPA (Kit from LHBS). Fermented for 2 weeks, dry hopped for 10 days and has been bottled and carbonating for around 11 days now. i know it should carbonate more but the aroma and taste is just not what i had hoped for. My question is not really for this particular brew (although if you have an answer I will be grateful), but in general, how do you correct mistakes in future home-brews, if you really can't put your finger on what is not right?
  2. koopa

    koopa Poo-Bah (1,825) Apr 20, 2008 New Jersey
    Beer Trader

    Generally speaking you post a specific description of what your homebrew tastes like, what you don't like about it, what process you used making it, and how you want it to taste on this forum then receive feedback from others.
    Ricelikesbeer likes this.
  3. kjyost

    kjyost Meyvn (1,175) May 4, 2008 Manitoba (Canada)

    General guesses:
    #1: Fermentation temperature. Keep it under 65F ambient to keep esters & off flavours down
    #2: Partial boil for a DIPA is deadly. You can't get the IBUs and hop flavours because you diluted them.
    #3: Bad recipes. Generally DIPAs in kits need more hops to get the flavour and aroma. They tend not to add as much due to the cost. It could also have too much extract with crystal in it.

    We need to know your exact recipe & method of making it though to give you a better idea.
    JimSmetana and pweis909 like this.
  4. GreenKrusty101

    GreenKrusty101 Crusader (724) Dec 4, 2008 Nevada

    I wouldn't be too disappointed after just 1 attempt at homebrewing. A good way to speed up the learning process is to read this if you haven't already: http://www.howtobrew.com/intro.html

    IIPAs are one of the harder styles to brew I think...a Pale Ale is a good starting point until you get the process down.
    bgjohnston and HerbMeowing like this.
  5. brewsader

    brewsader Initiate (0) Dec 7, 2012 New York
    Beer Trader

    focus all your efforts on sanitation and fermentation control (pitching/fermenting temperatures, making appropriate sized starters, etc.) you'll see your beers clean up a lot more and your yeast wont produce as many off flavors.
    yeastpuppet and freewheelinbob like this.
  6. HerbMeowing

    HerbMeowing Aspirant (270) Nov 10, 2010 Virginia

    An Imperial IPA only 11 days in the bottle is green.
    Let it sit another six to eight weeks and try again.

    You'll be amazed at the difference a little time in the bottle can make.
    yeastpuppet, bgjohnston and inchrisin like this.
  7. inchrisin

    inchrisin Defender (654) Sep 25, 2008 Indiana

    I agree with Koopa on a lot of this. If you tell us more about your process and your results we can help guide you. Generally peoples' first homebrews are memorable because they weren't the best beers they ever brewed. :slight_smile: Don't give up and feel free to pick our brains.

    As for general advice, take lots of notes for at least your first few batches. Take original and final gravity readings and keep track of the things you DO and DON'T like about each of the beers you brew. Try differnt styles and see if you can make something really tasty in the first 5 or 6 batches you make. If you do you'll be hooked.

    Also, beer is more like wine than many new homebrewers think. You usually don't go out and buy a 2012 bottle or reisling. It's aged. While most beer doesn't take THAT long, you need to develope a patience to let your beer mature, for mistakes to mellow out, and let your beer hit its prime. Lots of people will argue that IIPAs are best very fresh, and others argue that they need a little time to mellow. Maybe you're in the latter camp. Again, it's your first beer and as Kjyost said, there are a few things that may not have added up in your favor.

    Cheers, and welcome to the obsession!
    JrGtr likes this.
  8. kbuzz

    kbuzz Champion (849) Jan 22, 2011 North Carolina
    Beer Trader

    just keep brewing...simple as that
    uptomonto likes this.
  9. pweis909

    pweis909 Poo-Bah (1,620) Aug 13, 2005 Wisconsin
    Supporter Subscriber

    kjyost does a good job pointing out likely reasons a newbie might not make the DIPA of his dreams. As to the more general nature of the question you need to develop a familiarity with what you like and off flavors. Sample lots of beers, read, ask questions,get others to sample your beer, gather feedback, brew beer, repeat.

    How to Brew has a section on off-flavors that you might want to read: http://www.howtobrew.com/section4/chapter21-2.html
  10. rocdoc1

    rocdoc1 Aspirant (268) Jan 13, 2006 New Mexico

    Start looking at the ingredients first. How were the hops stored at the store? Did the y come out of a freezer or off a shelf? Are these kits custom made or boxes sitting on a shelf. Store owners need to to sell those kits to make money, even if they're a year old so try to get the freshest kits or even custom kits if they'll make them for you.
    The 2 things I did that drastically improved the quality of my beer was pitching a lot of yeast and keeping fermentation temps as low as possible for the yeast I'm using.
    But as mentioned above patience is really the key ingredient that you need to develop. I'd drink one bottle each week until you decide it's at its peak, then drink the rest of it that day because it starts going downhill fast. That's a joke, kind of, because once you realize just how good it is it won't last very long. For an Imperial IPA I think a month in the bottle at around 65-75F will be about the right time frame.
  11. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (3,113) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania

    Permit me to be a nag but your need to exercise patience; you beer is still very young at 11 days in the bottle.

    From my previous post of 11/21/12 concerning your DIPA:

    · Let you primary fermentation go for at least 10 days (and maybe even 14 days)
    · Add you dry hops to the primary fermenter after the above time frame and let them have a contact time of 7-14 days (my personal preference it 14 days)
    · I am assuming that you are bottling your beers. While the beers will be carbonated in two weeks I highly recommend that you give the beers additional conditioning time in the bottle before drinking.

    I fully recognize that the above requires a lot of patience (particularly since this is your first batch) but I believe the patience will reward you with a tasty beer.

    HerbMeowing likes this.
  12. GoGators

    GoGators Crusader (751) Aug 5, 2010 New Jersey
    Subscriber Beer Trader

    Appreciate the help. The basic kit came with the ingredients below.
    For whatever reason they substituted the Columbus hop for the warrior as a bittering hop. I bought 10 oz of a mix of Columbus, Citra and Chinook, dry hopping for 10 days with an oz. of each, and the other 7 oz. were added at recommended stages during the boil. Left in primary fermenting bucket for 2 weeks, then dry hopped for 11 days before transferring to bottling bucket. Hope that those that say 11 days is too early are right. Color and carbonation seem perfect, just aroma (no floral or hoppy hints at all) and taste (has a somewhat sour taste if that makes sense (and not the Flanders Red Ale type of sour).
    Will be patient but I guess all in all not a horrible effort for a 1st brew, just not the home run I wanted to hit.
    Thanks to all for their help.
  13. ipas-for-life

    ipas-for-life Disciple (347) Feb 28, 2012 Virginia
    Beer Trader

    A lot of ipa's use warrior as bittering hops. So that should be ok. The sour taste that you mentioned. Is it a twang type of taste that a lot of people talk about with homebrew? Also the steeping grains included seem a little odd to me with the carapils.

    I'm still a newbie but I just tasted my most recent Ipa around the same OG as yours after 13 days in the bottle. And it tastes amazing. This was my 4th Ipa and it is 90% better than the other 3. Here is what I did differently. The first 3 used a mix of Lme and dme, were fermented around 70 degrees and I used one pack of dry yeast. All three were decent and drinkable but had a tiny bit of that twang taste I mentioned. Just felt like something was missing. The first thing I did was start using all DME in my beers and that has seemed to solve the twang. The next thing was fermenting at 64 degrees instead of 70. And the final thing was adding 2 packs of dry yeast instead of one.

    Don't get discouraged. If your 1st brew is drinkable you accomplished something. They will keep getting better and better as you improve your process.
  14. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (3,113) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania

    “…just aroma (no floral or hoppy hints at all) and taste (has a somewhat sour taste if that makes sense (and not the Flanders Red Ale type of sour).”

    You report that the beer is fully carbonated (“…carbonation seem perfect”) but you are not smelling the hops (you used 3 ounces of hops for dry hopping). Well, I must confess I am at a loss for explaining that. I personally do not make DIPAs but I make IPAs a lot. A total of three ounces of dry hops should produce a recognizable aroma (if the beer is fully carbonated). The reason that I am harping on “carbonation” is that the CO2 bubbles will carry the aromatics to your nose; a poorly carbonated beer will have a lesser amount of CO2 and therefore a lessor amount of aroma will be carried up to your nose.

    As regards the aspect of “sour taste” you made reference to Flanders Red Ale. It is indeed true that the presence of Pediococcus and Lactobacillus can introduce sour flavors; in a DIPA that would be considered an infection. I am uncertain what would introduce a sourness aspect to your DIPA. A possibility is that there is still a fair amount of acetaldehyde still present in your beer; acetaldehyde is commonly described as a green apple flavor. Would you describe the sour taste in your beer as being similar to green apple? The ‘good news’ is that with additional conditioning time in the bottle the yeast can metabolize the acetaldehyde and this flavor can go away (if that is the issue).

    So, my ‘hope’ is that you beer is not fully carbonated and conditioned yet and that with additional time in the bottle (for carbonation and conditioning) the beer will improve:

    · More CO2 = more aromatics (more hop aroma)
    · Less acetaldehyde which means less green apple (less sour taste)

    Permit me to discuss the hops you used for dry hopping a bit:

    · I have used Citra for dry hopping: my palate perceives this hop as tropical fruit flavor/aroma
    · I have never used Chinook for dry hopping (only bittering). I had all Chinook hopped IPA from Sixpoint brewery and I was not a fan of the flavor/aroma of that hop (beer). Sixpoint described Chinook as “intense pine, wild onion, pungent spice”. My palate does not perceive pine; I did perceive pungent spice(?). That beer just had a weird flavor/aroma for me.
    · I have never dry hopped with Columbus hops. I have had a Hill Farmstead IPA which was dry hopped with Columbus (Harlan IPA). I did not really enjoy the aroma of that beer. A common descriptor of the flavor/aroma of Columbus is “dank”. Some people describe it as being of a marijuana quality.

    The reason I discussed the three hops is that for me, two of those hops do not have aroma qualities that are “floral’ but for me are weird. Now, maybe the combination of Citra, Columbus and Chinook will equate to a very pleasant aroma but I have my doubts. So, it may just be that the aroma that you will obtain may not exactly be your favorite?

    My personal favorite American aroma hops are: Centennial, Citra, Simcoe and Amarillo.

    Please give your beer another week (or more) and report back.

  15. brewsader

    brewsader Initiate (0) Dec 7, 2012 New York
    Beer Trader

    if you get off flavors/infections, those can sometimes mask the more volatile hop aromas that are actually supposed to be there. cleaning up your process should help those aromas come through a bit more.
  16. hopfenunmaltz

    hopfenunmaltz Meyvn (1,316) Jun 8, 2005 Michigan

  17. reverseapachemaster

    reverseapachemaster Aspirant (244) Sep 21, 2012 Texas
    Beer Trader

    This is terrible advice.
  18. reverseapachemaster

    reverseapachemaster Aspirant (244) Sep 21, 2012 Texas
    Beer Trader

    Unless this beer is particularly high ABV, and it doesn't look like it is, then the beer is a carbonated as it's going to be. There might be some harsh off flavors from inexperienced brewing process that will probably age out, so I wouldn't be too worried about what you're detecting from the sour twang. It will probably go away on its own. My only concern would be whether you are using tap water with chlorine/chloramines that is causing off flavors (or well water with too high of mineral content). That can easily be resolved by using store-bought water or adding campden to your water the night before brewing.

    No amount of age will make your hop character increase. The hop character can be a little rough early on but it should be very apparent. It seems like your LHBS probably sold you some old hops (or possibly incorrectly marked hops) in that kit. Looking at the grain bill I'm somewhat suspicious about the quality of the kit to begin with but with that much hops you definitely should notice it's there. I'd suggest trying another shop's supplies to see if you get better results.
  19. GoGators

    GoGators Crusader (751) Aug 5, 2010 New Jersey
    Subscriber Beer Trader

    It is sort of a green apple taste and when I mentioned Flanders Red it was just to not confuse the word sour, with an actual Sour (Beer).
    I say its fully carbonated based on the the head produced in the pour but thats probably faulty logic. I fully intended to let it sit in the bottles longer but just figured i would pop one open to see what it tasted like. I didnt realize hop aroma might improve with additional carbonation so maybe there is hope yet. Thanks for your help.
  20. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (3,113) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania

    “It is sort of a green apple taste…” Well, from my perspective that is good news! The acetaldehyde should diminish with additional bottle conditioning time as the yeast ‘processes’ that compound. When folks refer to a beer as having a ‘green flavor’, the presence of excess acetaldehyde is to large measure what that means.

    At 11 days it is probable that you beer is pretty well carbonated. Hopefully it will carbonate a bit more. I will be honest with you, even with the amount of carbonation created by 11 days of bottle conditioning I would have expected that you would notice the aroma of 3 ounces of dry hopping. I do think you will get some more CO2 from a few more days of bottle conditioning but I suspect that the amount (and ‘type’?) of aroma you will ultimately obtain will not be ‘optimum’ for you. I still think that 1-2 weeks of additional bottle conditioning will improve things from an overall perspective.

    In past threads I have utilized a descriptor of aroma ‘potency’ when discussing various hop varieties. It has been my personal experience that Citra is a very potent hop from a flavor/aroma perspective. 1 ounce of Citra for dry hopping should provide a very noticeable amount of flavor/aroma (a tropical fruit flavor/aroma to my palate). I have absolutely no idea what potency Chinook and Columbus provides. I would guess (and it is only a guess) that they are less potent than Citra. If my guess is correct that for my palate that is sort of a good thing; the yummy tropical fruit flavor/aroma should dominate and the pungent spice & dank should be less dominant.

    Every batch is its own experiment and we should let this experiment still play out and see what we get.

  21. fuzzbalz

    fuzzbalz Disciple (315) Apr 13, 2002 Georgia
    Beer Trader

    My ipa's didn't start improving until I started adjusting my water. You did a grain steep and didn't mention the type of water you used, also your recipe called for 1 1/2lb grain to 2 1/2gl water? To me that seems like way to much water for steeping grains, should be less than a gallon water per pound of grain, you could have extracted some tannins using that much water.
  22. pweis909

    pweis909 Poo-Bah (1,620) Aug 13, 2005 Wisconsin
    Supporter Subscriber

    Certainly sounds like acetaldehyde, as Jack suggested. The yeast usually clean this up on their own. Give it some time. For next time: it is good practice to taste your beer during the process to let that guide your next streps. For example, if I tasted acetaldehyde, I probably would wait a bit before dry hopping to give the yeast a chance to clean it up. Then I would dry hop. You are better off dry hopping after most of the yeast has flocculated as hop oils may stick to yeast membranes and then fall out of solution. One you are satisfied with the dry hop (again, taste the beer), then bottle. Although yeast often can take of some off flavors during bottle conditioning, you are risking less if you let them take care of those off flavors before bottling.
  23. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (3,113) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania


    The OP kept his beer in the primary fermenter for a total of 22 days (two week of fermentation and 10 days of dry hopping). In any of the beers that you have homebrewed have you had ‘excess’ acetaldehyde present with that timeframe? Is that fact that it is a DIPA (higher gravity) beer make a difference in this regard?

    I also have no experience with Wyeast 1272. Does that yeast take ‘longer’ to clean up after itself?


  24. pweis909

    pweis909 Poo-Bah (1,620) Aug 13, 2005 Wisconsin
    Supporter Subscriber

    I have not had acetaldehyde issues when I kept a beer in primary for that time frame. I've had prominent acetaldehyde in two beers, a pale ale and a wheat ale, both cases were fermented with US-05 and both cases were bottled at less than 2 weeks. These were early mistakes that factored into my "taste the beer" mentality. The acetaldehyde did fade with time in the bottle (perhaps by the 3rd or 4th week). I don't brew a lot of high gravity beers, so I'm have no first hand experience to say whether it should take 22+ days for the yeast to clean up the acetaldehyde, but my prediction is that it does take longer with bigger beers.

    I've only brewed with 1272 once (American Brown with centennial and simcoe, mmm...) and didn't have an issue, but that was a 2012 brew, and I had learned a lesson or two about rushing the beer by then. Wyeast describes this strain as producing a "clean profile with hints of nut, and a slightly tart finish." It could be that GoGators is picking up on the slightly tart finish, but I'm still thinking it could be acetaldehyde. I don't recall a slightly tart finish in my beer, but perhaps the specialty malts in an ABA overpower my ability to perceive something that is "slightly tart."


  25. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (3,113) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania

    Well the good news is: “The acetaldehyde did fade with time in the bottle (perhaps by the 3rd or 4th week).”

    Hopefully the OP will have the same experience!

  26. HerbMeowing

    HerbMeowing Aspirant (270) Nov 10, 2010 Virginia

    HerbMeowing said:
    Let it sit another six to eight weeks and try again.​
    It's one thing to disagree with someone else and quite another to disagree with yourself.
  27. bgjohnston

    bgjohnston Initiate (0) Jan 14, 2009 Connecticut

    Your beer is made, is in the bottle, and is conditioning. It will continue to improve with more time. I too recently fell into the trap of opening a bottle on a batch to taste it before its time. It was an imperial red, high ABV, had lots of Chinook hops in it, and it was a mess at 2 weeks. It was nearly 7 gallons worth of very expensive ingredients, too.

    To my relief, it is a lot better after 6 weeks in the bottle.
    HerbMeowing likes this.
  28. reverseapachemaster

    reverseapachemaster Aspirant (244) Sep 21, 2012 Texas
    Beer Trader

    By big beer I mean one in the double digit ABV. Not applicable here.
  29. uptomonto

    uptomonto Initiate (0) Dec 15, 2012 Indiana

    Among all the incredible advice given maybe kbuzz said it best - just keep brewing. You still have tons to learn, but it takes time - you don't have to learn it all right away. Keep this thread handy for future reference, there is alot of great advice.

    If I could add anything, and hopefully it hasn't already been said, keep detailed notes when you can. I know there is alot for a new brewer to do/remember when just starting out, but if you try to start to write down things like the exact ingredients used, exact Alpha Acids of hops used, times hops were added, exact amt of water, what type/ratio of water (tap, RO, distilled, blend?), additives (gypsum, yeast nutrient, irish moss/whirlfloc, etc.), gravity readings, temp at which yeast was pitched, temps of fermenting beer as days progress, etc. Look online for brew-day recipe notation sheets, there are a few out there.

    Someday you will look back as you are brewing batch #312, as you sip on pours from batches #310 and #311, and you'll reflect on how much you have learned and how much better your beers have become.
    PortLargo likes this.
  30. GreenKrusty101

    GreenKrusty101 Crusader (724) Dec 4, 2008 Nevada

  31. samtallica

    samtallica Initiate (108) Jul 22, 2010 North Carolina

    That yeast is pretty unforgiving as far as fermentation temperature. I wouldn't use it unless you have temp control. Stick with US-05/WLP001/WY1056. I'm willing to bet esters are covering up your hops.
  32. HerbMeowing

    HerbMeowing Aspirant (270) Nov 10, 2010 Virginia

    Plenty of Imperial IPAs have double-digit ABV so apparently you agree it's not terrible advice to wait about two months.
  33. WickedSluggy

    WickedSluggy Devotee (400) Nov 21, 2008 Texas
    Beer Trader

    This is a really nice combination of flavor/aroma hops additions (late boil/flame out/hopback/dry hop).

    Citra/Amarillo are exceedingly good at complimenting one another. And either Simcoe and/or Centennial are good at filling in the middle. If you use more Citra than Amarillo then use more Centennial than Simcoe. If more Amarillo then reverse that. But I always say not to make the same mistake as I have made and use too much citra - unless you like beer that tastes like the syrup from canned peaches.
  34. rocdoc1

    rocdoc1 Aspirant (268) Jan 13, 2006 New Mexico

    Is that what's wrong with every DogFishHead beer I've ever tasted?
  35. Soneast

    Soneast Crusader (745) May 9, 2008 Wisconsin
    Beer Trader

    Another possibility could be yeast bite. The beer may be fully carbonated after 11 days but there is likely plenty of yeast still in suspension in the bottles. I don't know if I would call yeast bite "sour" but it does have an unpleasant astringency that can come off as "tart," IME. Of course, that wouldn't explain the lack of hop aroma, unless a "yeasty" smell is overwhelming the hops which seems unlikely. I find that many of my beers might be carbed within 7-14 days, but they really don't mature for another couple weeks. Either way, the recommendation to wait another week or 2 before making final judgement is sound, IMO.
  36. GoGators

    GoGators Crusader (751) Aug 5, 2010 New Jersey
    Subscriber Beer Trader

    I have no idea whether it was the acetaldeyde or not but am happy to report that after another 2 weeks in the bottle (4 weeks total so far) the aroma and taste have improved. Still not quite as hoppy in the aroma as i would have thought but I am now getting hints of hops in both the aroma and taste. I guess as far as 1st efforts go with the little knowledge i possess, it is not a bad effort.
  37. GoGators

    GoGators Crusader (751) Aug 5, 2010 New Jersey
    Subscriber Beer Trader

    I did use 2 & 1/2 gallons of TAP water to steep 1 & 1/2lb of grains which is what the kit called for. And topped off in the primary fermenter after the boil with approx 3 gallons of SPRING water (to get up to 5 gallons). If that is not a good combination, then the water may in fact be part of my problem.
  38. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (3,113) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania

    I am glad to hear that your beer ‘improved’ with additional bottle conditioning time. I suspect that with another week (or two) that you will like your beer even better. Patience is key in homebrewing (especially brewing of high gravity beers)!

    As regards your use of tap water, I use my tap water for homebrewing but I do run the tap water through my kitchen sink’s dual stage carbon block filter. I filter the water to remove chlorine/chloramine. The presence of chlorine/chloramine in your brewing water may lead to the formation of chlorophenols which can have off-flavors described as medicinal and/or plastic like flavors.

    For future batches I would recommend that you take steps to remove chlorine/chloramine from your tap water. You can filter it through carbon block filters or another method to remove chloramine is to add campden tablets to the water prior to using it: ¼ tablet per 5 gallons of tap water. The other option is to solely use spring water but I find it more convenient to just use my tap water (with the chlorine/chloramine removed).

  39. JimSmetana

    JimSmetana Initiate (0) May 11, 2012 Illinois

    Wont simply boiling the water you are adding to the primary remove the chlorine? Add the Campden to get rid of the chloramine and you are set. No carbon filtering needed unless your water tastes just plain bad.
    If I am wrong please tell me...
  40. dfess1

    dfess1 Initiate (0) May 20, 2003 Pennsylvania

    Where are you located? I'm down in Flourtown, and the water in our area is perfect for brewing. If you are interested, my wife and I run a club that meets out of Chestnut Hill. Send me a PM if you want further details.
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