Most brewers who use  a beer kit often experience a watered down beer or characterless beer. There is however the case of the extract brewer who doesn’t understand ingredients very well and will experience the same if a recipe is not structured properly…

Here’s the story:

*** QUESTION***

So my first brew I planned to follow the KISS method and I think I accomplished my goal. My beer actually tasted better than the beer they sell at stores according to my friends who seemed to enjoy it more than I did. I say that because I think the beer lacked body, or just felt watered down.

The taste was fine, it was just watery. It was almost like taking a sip of good beer followed by a drowned watery taste.

I’m thinking two things could have happened. First, the amount of water I used. Since it was supposed to be a 5 gallon batch and I was accounting for water evaporating during the boil, I started with 6 gallons! I had to boil it 3 gallons at a time since my electric stove doesn’t have the power to boil 6 gallons, and yes it took an eternity to boil.

Second, the recipe I used was pretty basic:

2 lbs Amber DME
3 lbs Pale LME
Hops of your choice and walla
Yeast Safale S-04

Pretty basic and now I wonder what I should do next? I have read about only using Crystal DME and getting color from steeping grains or partial mashing which in addition could add more body. Anyways, this is just a little bit of info I have picked up but I may be wrong so please set me straight or give me some ideas.

Cheers to a better beer,

Kelly
Spokane, WA

>>>MY COMMENTS

Whoa… that’s barely enough malt to brew a four gallon batch, if that. So I guess it’s both, the amount of water you used and the ingredients you used. Nothing wrong with the recipe other than you used too much water for it. Or it could be stated the other way around, nothing wrong with the amount of water you used only that you needed to almost double the amount of ingredients (Malt).

Here’s a couple recommendations…

First off, when it comes to brewing and the reason why I like extract brewing is because of the flexibility you have. A basic recipe for a pale ale is really nothing more than a base malt plus 1/2 lb of Caramel malt.

That’s for a 5 gallon batch… now the questions as to how much base malt you would use will vary, but for a five gallon batch you want to use at least 5 lbs although a better beer will be brewed if you add 6 lbs of DME. More DME will add a little bit of body, but most importantly will add more fermentables to get a good brew.

If you want to add even more body, without adding the extra alcohol, then I suggest you add more Caramel malt/Crystal malt. You may want to limit or avoid using anything higher than Crystal malt 80 °L since these malts have more of a raisiny, burnt sugar-like flavor and may be too dark for a pale ale.

Also, you are right about using plain DME and using specialty grains to add color. See Amber DME is nothing more than plain DME with specialty grains to give it color. By using specialty grains you have more control over it and know how much fermentable sugar went into your wort.

Both english and american pale ales need to have at least an Original Gravity of 1.045 (1.048 American) and no more than 1.060. So keep that in mind when you decide on the amount of ingredients you are using.

Last, there is no need to complicate brewing and attempting to boil all 5 gallons of beer. When you boil less than 5 gallons, what you have to account for is wort darkening (meaning your beer will turn out a bit darker) and that hops will not bitter the wort as much because of the density of the wort. This may be noticeable if you boil 2-3 gallons, but most electric stoves can handle 4 gallons pretty well, and some may even push the 5 gallon boils, but remember that handling that much boiling hot wort can be dangerous if you have to move the pot somewhere else to be cooled.


    4 replies to "How To Add Body To A Basic Ale Brew"

    • Sean

      Regarding “hops will not bitter the wort as much because of the density of the wort,” remember if you are boiling less than your batch size (e.g. batch size 5 gal, 3 gal boil) you can always add a portion of your fermentables later in the boil so that your initial boil density is more appropriate.

      I’ve read that optimal hop isomerization occurs at 1.040. I only have a 2 gallon pot right now, so I do my first 45 minutes of the boil having added DME to make a 1.040 wort. Then I add the rest of my DME with 15 minutes to go to sterilize it and dissolve it in.

      The only thing to remember here is the hop bitterness ceiling of 100 to 120 IBUs. Since you’re essentially taking an ‘imperial’ 2 or 3 gal wort (high grav, high bitterness) and watering it down to be a pale ale (or similar), the bitterness ceiling is much less.

      E.g. You can’t do a 80IBU pale ale if you’re doing a half-size boil, as the original wort would need to be 140IBUs, which is allegedly not possible.

      • Jorge

        All good points… thanks for sharing…

    • BrewerBeev

      I’m going to preface this by saying I’ve been home brewing for over a year and have read three books (twice each) by reputable experts on brewing beer and home brewing. Most of my knowledge comes from actually reading these books and researching before claiming I know what I’m talking about. While I will agree with you on some points, I have some issues with credibility and a couple of your premises/claims. First of all, suggesting that the inquirer add more “caramel” malt and avoid “crystal” malt is a moot point and misleading. Caramel and Crystal malts are the exact same thing (so I have to initially question your credibility at this point). Secondly, you are way off on correct OG range. Per the BJCP beer style guidelines, correct OG range for American Pale Ales is 1.045-1.060. For an English style Pale Ale it’s 1.048-1.060. Lastly, in your last paragraph you claim there is no need to “complicate” brewing by doing a full volume boil (what you are unknowingly referring to). You actually have to boil about 6-6.25 gallons or wort to account for boil off. There are several benefits to doing a full volume boil and it hardly complicates the process. With a full volume boil there is less likelihood of foreign body contamination, a fuller and more consistent flavor profile, better hop utilization, and better distribution of fermentable sugars throughout the wort.

      • Jorge

        Thank you for this comment… really! I realize that this is not the best blog post I’ve written and I’ve made a few corrections based on your observations…

        I had previously written “If you want to add even more body, without adding the extra alcohol, then I suggest you add more Caramel malt. Crystal malt has more of a toffee like flavor and may be too dark for a pale ale.”

        I’m still trying to figure out what I meant by this, but it’s kind of hard to remember why I wrote this years ago… Is caramel and crystal the same? Well, they are made the same, the term is used interchangeably… the main difference you’ll find is that caramel malts are made using domestic 2-row, while crystal is either English or European… at least Briess and Muntons… not something I would waste time debating…

        OG… yes I was way off and have corrected myself. I seem to have listed the parameters for a premium bitter.

        On doing full boils… my stove was barely able to bring to a boil over 4 gallons of wort… I could have never done a full boil on my stove… not to mention that movin around hot boiling wort is indeed dangerous… when I wrote this post I had in mind extract brewing and limited equipment…

        I still remember a beer I brewed that took about 90 minutes just to bring to a boil… so when I wrote complicated, I was probably referring to this…

        You can get as good or even better hop utilization doing a late kettle addition. Doing a full boil is not going to give you a fuller or more consistent flavor profile… if it does, I’d like to hear how that happens…

        Sure some brewers get bad OG readings because fermentable sugars are not well distributed when they first dilute their wort, but when the beer is done, everything is mixed just fine…

        Are full boils better? I think so… but I have to keep in mind those who don’t have the equipment I do… those that may have struggled like I did before I built up my equipment… Unfortunately not everyone has the same equipment or experiences with brewing, whih makes teaching the craft a bit difficult…

        You are going about learning the right way… though if I may make a suggestion… you say “Most of my knowledge comes from actually reading these books and researching before claiming I know what I’m talking about.” that’s good… I’d like to say I’ve been there… most of the mistakes I made when writing posts like this years ago was that I was getting my knowledge from reading books and researching… I will suggest to take what you read and get experience before claiming you know what you’re talking about. I don’t mean that in a rude way, just friendly advice…

        I’ve come a long way since this post and sometimes I still feel like I don’t know what I’m talking about…

        Most of my knowledge now comes from experience… just like you question my credibility I have questioned the credibility of some of the so called experts… then I realized I’m no one to judge… we are human and we all make mistakes. I have read countless magazines, forum posts, articles, over 10 brewing books (many of them have been read upwards of 4, 5 or 7 times… some sections of these books so many times that I’ve lost count…) I’ve written 2 books… and the more I learn the more I realize there is too much to learn and how little I know…

        Cheers!

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