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My first homebrew just reached the point where I can drink it about a week ago. I used a wheat extract (Edit: It was this Munton's Wheat) and it turned out drinkable, but not good.

It tastes nothing like a wheat beer. It is watery and sweet, and I mostly taste the sweetness and alcohol when I drink it. There is not even a hint of wheat flavor that I can taste, and the sweet and alcohol flavors don't blend together at all. It tastes like a slightly sweeter generic light beer (miller lite, bud light, take your pick). The two areas I am guessing I screwed up on (but not sure and would like some suggestions) were these:

  • I may have stopped fermentation too soon: I didn't take the original gravity of the beer, because I hadn't yet bought my hydrometer. I stopped the fermentation in first food grade plastic bucket at about a week and a half. The air lock was still bubbling every 20 to 30 seconds or so, but I moved it over to the carboy for clearing.
  • I may have added too much water: I made around 2 gallons of wort and added around 3 gallons of water to the fermenter after cooling. I wasn't really sure where the 5 gallon mark was for the bucket, so I just guessed on how much water to add.

If you have any ideas on what could have gone wrong from the taste of the beer I described, or if you have any suggestions, please help.

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Lots of questions to help narrow down an answer for you... -How much wheat extract did you use? -Did you use any hops? -What type of yeast (dry/liquid/brand)? -Was this a pre-packaged kit or did you buy the ingredients separate? –  Arlo427 Jan 31 '10 at 21:41
    
Lots of questions to help narrow down an answer for you... -How much wheat extract did you use? -Did you use any hops? -What type of yeast (dry/liquid/brand)? -Was this a pre-packaged kit or did you buy the ingredients separate? –  Arlo427 Jan 31 '10 at 21:41
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Lots of questions to help narrow down an answer for you. How much wheat extract did you use? Did you use any hops? What type of yeast (dry/liquid/brand)? Was this a pre-packaged kit or did you buy the ingredients separate? –  Arlo427 Jan 31 '10 at 21:43
    
Would be best if you post the recipe. –  Dean Brundage Jan 31 '10 at 23:02
    
Yeah, without a recipe not much can be done. If you used a brewferm kit though, it's most unlikely that it came out with less than a great body without doing something wrong. The brewferm kits produce really full-bodied beers. –  Tetragrammaton Feb 1 '10 at 7:51

4 Answers 4

up vote 3 down vote accepted

Munton's beer kits always make light beers. They're not bad, but you have to add some more extracts on your own in order to have a good result. You can see that clearly by comparing the munton kits with the brewferm kits: while they use about the same amount of malt extract, munton's suggests you use it for about double the wort quantity brewferm does. Personallly, when using Munton's kits, I choose either to add some extra DME and probably hops, or use more than one kits.

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Could be a lot of factors at play here, but lacking a hygrometer to take an initial gravity reading is likely a big factor here. What was your final gravity? Adding water is a non-issue from this condensed-wort brewer. I just recently picked up a 7.5 gallon brew kettle, and for the past 5 or so years have been using a 2-3 gallon boil with top-off to 5 gallons using clean, filtered water. As Arlo427 said, we need more info. What was your ingredient list and process?

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The extract canister says the the original gravity should be between 1040 and 1044. So I estimate with a made up attenuation of 75% that the final gravity of the beer should be around 1010 and 1011. Not very useful since all of that is horrible estimation. I will take a final gravity reading and post it here later. –  bfrederi Feb 1 '10 at 17:26

There sounds like a lot of variables here, any one of which could have resulted in characteristics you describe. Here are a few tips for your next batch.

  1. Don't give up, you will be surprised how much better your next batch is.
  2. Pay close attention to the liquid volumes. Pre-mark the inside of the bucket with a sharpie.
  3. If you followed the instructions and got the right volumes, the gravity reading would be spot on.
  4. If its still bubbling vigorously, then its probably still fermenting, don't rush to secondary.

Point 4 is especially true with a wheat beer that isn't expected to clear up anyway. There is a lot of discussion about yeast off-flavors when left in the primary too long but most people agree that it has to be way long to have a significant effect. Also less of an issue in a wheat beer.

And now the most important tips:

  1. If you have a local brewstore, even though they may be more expensive than the online places, go there and make friends with the owner and other customers. They are you best source of advice. Next best is a local brew club.
  2. Grab a book like Dave Miller's Homebrewing Guide or Charlie Papazian's Joy of Homebrewing. These are invaluable resources and no brewhouse should be without them.
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I have no experience with Munton's extracts. However, after a little research, I see two potential problems.

Not enough fermentables

Since you didn't have a hydrometer to measure the OG with I have to speculate. The can of extract weighs 1.8 kg which, if it is a typical liquid malt extract, should yield 5 gallons of 1.029 wort (reference). You mentioned that the container said the OG should be 1.040 to 1.044. Did you add extra sugar?

Neglecting the extra fermentable sugars would account for the weak & watery taste. What about the hop bitterness? Is it out of balance with the maltiness? Since the can contains all the hop flavor, but not enough malt, it should be on the bitter side. Wheat beers are generally lightly hopped, so this may not be apparent.

The lesson here is carefully measure volumes and specific gravity.

Infection

Assuming you followed the directions, an infection could have consumed sugars that brewer's yeast normally would not. This may result in an alcoholic, watery beer. Are there any hints of infection, such as sourness or vinegary flavors?

Try, try again

Canned beer kits are a great way to start out with the hobby. As you learn more and gain experience your beers will improve. There are good resources here when you are ready to upgrade to a first-time setup or go straight for all-grain. Keep it up.

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We did add the extra sugar required. I'm not ruling out an infection, but I didn't really taste any sour or vinegar flavor. I still need to take a reading of the final gravity and post it. I just keep forgetting to do it when I am around the beer. –  bfrederi Feb 3 '10 at 15:14
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If the beer is carbonated it will change your hydrometer reading. Shake the CO2 out of the sample, or better, put it in the blender. –  Dean Brundage Feb 3 '10 at 16:17

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