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Old 05-30-2011, 05:23 PM   #1
SantaClaus
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Default General -Dead space, mashing, sparging questions?

Hey all I have a couple questions regarding strike water and mashing volumes. I think I'm on the right path here, but missed my OG yesterday and am hoping the wise-folks here can help me out.

So here's the deal, I'm using a sanke keg with a PICO style false bottom for my MLT - http://www.homebrewing.org/Stainless...om_p_1010.html

With this I have 3gallons of space under the false bottom. I do, however, have a dip tube under the false bottom that sucks up all but a quart of water. To equate for this empty space I add 3 additional gallons of stike water to my mash, to bring the water level up to the false bottom.

For example if I'm mashing 15lbs of grain w/ 1.5quarts per lb
(15 x 1.5 = 22.5quarts or 5.6 gallons) I'll add a total of 8.6 gallons of strike water; 3 to fill the dead space and 5.6 to mash the grain.

At the conclusion of my mash, I'll fire up the burner (modest flame) and slowly recirculate from the bottom to the top of the grain bed until the mash bed has reached 168 - takes about 15mins.

From there I'll begin transferring wort into the brew kettle, while slowly fly-sparging the grain w/ 175degree water. I'll build up about 1.5 -2" of water on top of my grain bed, while draining wort off at the same rate water is being added. This takes about 45min - 1 hr to achieve the 6.5-7.0 gallons of wort for my boil.

Yesterday I brewed a Belgian dubbel which BeerSmith calculated having a 1.070 pre-boil gravity w/ 1.090 final. I was a bit shy of that 1.052 per-boil, 1.072 post.

Anyone have any ideas?

- is it that extra 3 gallons of water? - should I do away with that?

Could I batch sparge with this dead space, and if so how?

Thanks in advance for the help

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Old 05-30-2011, 05:29 PM   #2
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With this I have 3gallons of space under the false bottom. I do, however, have a dip tube under the false bottom that sucks up all but a quart of water. To equate for this empty space I add 3 additional gallons of stike water to my mash, to bring the water level up to the false bottom.

For example if I'm mashing 15lbs of grain w/ 1.5quarts per lb
(15 x 1.5 = 22.5quarts or 5.6 gallons) I'll add a total of 8.6 gallons of strike water; 3 to fill the dead space and 5.6 to mash the grain.


- is it that extra 3 gallons of water? - should I do away with that?

Could I batch sparge with this dead space, and if so how?

Thanks in advance for the help
Yes, if you're mashing in with 1.5 quarts PLUS 3 gallons, that's a very thin mash. Have you been able to take any pH readings?

You could batch sparge, but I'm not sure how to recirculate the mash well enough to make sure the grain was in contact with the water underneath the false bottom. Well, even with fly sparging I think that would be the case.

I never heard of any body who had 3 gallons of deadspace before. That's a LOT! Have you considered a HERMS, which would recirculate the mash and then make the the deadspace less of a factor?
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Old 05-30-2011, 05:53 PM   #3
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Yes, if you're mashing in with 1.5 quarts PLUS 3 gallons, that's a very thin mash. Have you been able to take any pH readings?

You could batch sparge, but I'm not sure how to recirculate the mash well enough to make sure the grain was in contact with the water underneath the false bottom. Well, even with fly sparging I think that would be the case.

I never heard of any body who had 3 gallons of deadspace before. That's a LOT! Have you considered a HERMS, which would recirculate the mash and then make the the deadspace less of a factor?
It dawned on me yesterday that the 3 gallons underneath might be culprit. I'm not sure if that's considered dead-space, because I can get almost all of that water out (minus 1 quart). Problem is, if I don't account for that extra 3 gallons, I'll have some incredibly thick mashes - too thick.

I haven't taken any PH readings - perhaps that's to blame.

The system is a single-tier direct fire RIMs system, so I could, but haven't recirculated the mash, other than during mash out.

I figured during the 15+min mash out, that water on the bottom has been taken from the bottom and replaced with denser mash-water within the grainbed. I also thought the 1.5-2" of sparge water on top of the grain is pushing the denser wort through. So those 3 gallons shouldn't be too big of a factor, but I'm starting to think it is.

This was my 3 batch brewed on this system, so i'm still working out the nuances.

Thanks for the reply
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Old 05-30-2011, 07:29 PM   #4
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Whoa here! Back up some and let's take a closer look at this. First off, verify that there is actually 3 gallons of "dead space". I don't like the term dead space. I prefer foundation space. The water and wort in that space will get mixed during circulation. It will be fully in play. Three gallons is a lot. Most converted keg set ups with a full FB have a foundation space of about one gallon.

Here is what I would do. Run an experiment on your next batch. Dough in cold to hit about 100*F with the more or less standard 1.5 qts/lb strike water. Stir very well and let it rest for 10 minutes. Eyeball the grain bed. It should be saturated about like quicksand. The grain should be kind of loose and floating. If it's thick like oatmeal or worse, add more water until it's fully saturated. Fire up the burner and apply heat while circulating either manually or with a pump. The grain bed should consolidate some and there should be a layer liquid above the grain. The depth of this liquid will increase as the starches are dissolved into the water. Ramp up as fast as you can manage to your desired mash temp and do the rest as called for. Now then, shut off the burner and stop circulation. Stir the grain bed very well then resume heating and circulating to bring the grain bed up to 168-170*F for the mashout. Circulate and maintain the grain bed temperature at 170*F from 10-30 minutes depending on how patient you are or if you believe it will make any difference or not. Next, stop and stir once more and resume circulation SLOWLY for about 5 minutes or until the wort is running clear. Begin your slow sparge. Keep track of any water you added to the mash beyond the initial 1.5 qts/lb so you will know next time what ratio works best. You can go as low as 1 qt/lb which will give you more room for the foundation water. So, try it without adding any additional water until you are forced to and measure how much that extra is.

The multiple stirrings will boost your efficiency considerably. The last stirring immediately before the sparge is the most important one. Don't take my word for it, give it a try and see for yourself. My buddy is following this regimen and getting 89%+ every time and a few times through the roof. More often than not, he winds up having to dilute the wort to hit his target OG. You will probably see a lot of opinions counter to this advice, but all I can say is try it before you brush it off.

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Old 05-30-2011, 08:07 PM   #5
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Whoa here! Back up some and let's take a closer look at this. First off, verify that there is actually 3 gallons of "dead space". I don't like the term dead space. I prefer foundation space. The water and wort in that space will get mixed during circulation. It will be fully in play. Three gallons is a lot. Most converted keg set ups with a full FB have a foundation space of about one gallon.

Here is what I would do. Run an experiment on your next batch. Dough in cold to hit about 100*F with the more or less standard 1.5 qts/lb strike water. Stir very well and let it rest for 10 minutes. Eyeball the grain bed. It should be saturated about like quicksand. The grain should be kind of loose and floating. If it's thick like oatmeal or worse, add more water until it's fully saturated. Fire up the burner and apply heat while circulating either manually or with a pump. The grain bed should consolidate some and there should be a layer liquid above the grain. The depth of this liquid will increase as the starches are dissolved into the water. Ramp up as fast as you can manage to your desired mash temp and do the rest as called for. Now then, shut off the burner and stop circulation. Stir the grain bed very well then resume heating and circulating to bring the grain bed up to 168-170*F for the mashout. Circulate and maintain the grain bed temperature at 170*F from 10-30 minutes depending on how patient you are or if you believe it will make any difference or not. Next, stop and stir once more and resume circulation SLOWLY for about 5 minutes or until the wort is running clear. Begin your slow sparge. Keep track of any water you added to the mash beyond the initial 1.5 qts/lb so you will know next time what ratio works best. You can go as low as 1 qt/lb which will give you more room for the foundation water. So, try it without adding any additional water until you are forced to and measure how much that extra is.

The multiple stirrings will boost your efficiency considerably. The last stirring immediately before the sparge is the most important one. Don't take my word for it, give it a try and see for yourself. My buddy is following this regimen and getting 89%+ every time and a few times through the roof. More often than not, he winds up having to dilute the wort to hit his target OG. You will probably see a lot of opinions counter to this advice, but all I can say is try it before you brush it off.
Dynomite! - thanks for the suggestions. I will certainly give that a try.

You're right, I don't think the term dead-space is in accurate description for what is going on here. That wort/water, while under the grain bed, will be in play. The last batch I brewed, which had the added 3 gallons of water, left me with a very soupy mash, too thin.

I'll give it a crack this weekend and see how we do.

Just to clarify:

~dough in at 1.5quart/lb, or enough to fully saturate grain, at 100 +/- (document added water for future calculation);

~raise temp and circulate until desired mash temp is reached;

~rest mash (no circulating/stirring) for rest-period;

~Following rest period, stir well, and raise the temp while circulating to 168-170 (10-30 mins mashout);

~Stir well and recirculate slowly until wort is clear;

~Begin sparge;

I haven't stirred before my mashout or start of sparge, but will give it a try. This is only my third time brewing on this equipment, and suffice to say it's a bit different than my cooler and braided -bazooka tube. So far my efficiency has been off on 2 or the 3 batches.

It's a work in progress, thanks for the help.

Ryan
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Old 05-30-2011, 09:07 PM   #6
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Dynomite! - thanks for the suggestions. I will certainly give that a try.

You're right, I don't think the term dead-space is in accurate description for what is going on here. That wort/water, while under the grain bed, will be in play. The last batch I brewed, which had the added 3 gallons of water, left me with a very soupy mash, too thin.

I'll give it a crack this weekend and see how we do.

Just to clarify:

~dough in at 1.5quart/lb, or enough to fully saturate grain, at 100 +/- (document added water for future calculation);

~raise temp and circulate until desired mash temp is reached;

~rest mash (no circulating/stirring) for rest-period;

~Following rest period, stir well, and raise the temp while circulating to 168-170 (10-30 mins mashout);

~Stir well and recirculate slowly until wort is clear;

~Begin sparge;

I haven't stirred before my mashout or start of sparge, but will give it a try. This is only my third time brewing on this equipment, and suffice to say it's a bit different than my cooler and braided -bazooka tube. So far my efficiency has been off on 2 or the 3 batches.

It's a work in progress, thanks for the help.

Ryan
You have it right except that you can circulate the wort during the entire mash which is what I do and add heat as necessary to maintain the target temp. My mash has lots of excess liquid @ 1.5 qrts/lb and I have about one gallon of foundation space below my Polarware 10 gal kettle.

IMO, stirring and stirrin a lot is the key to good efficiency and problem free lautering. I had an aversion to disturbing the mash bed for many years. Once I got over that BS, my efficiency jumped up a lot. Not a little, a lot. Don't forget that last part about SLOWLY circulating after the last stir. You don't want to avoid compacting the grain bed as much as possible at that point. Don't worry about the grain bed filtering ability when it's loosened up. It will consolidate in a few minutes and it's filtering abilities will be fully restored. Keep in mind that you are probably only circulating at about a gallon per minute or so. This means that it will take considerable time to turn over the entire mash volume and have it filtered by the grain bed. It could be 10 minutes for a full cycle depending on your mash volume (liquid portion). Might be less if you pump faster, but remember, you really don't want to do that at this point. Be patient and let the wort clear. It will happen fairly quickly. I think you will be surprised at the results for all of this.
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Old 05-30-2011, 11:11 PM   #7
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You have it right except that you can circulate the wort during the entire mash which is what I do and add heat as necessary to maintain the target temp. My mash has lots of excess liquid @ 1.5 qrts/lb and I have about one gallon of foundation space below my Polarware 10 gal kettle.

IMO, stirring and stirrin a lot is the key to good efficiency and problem free lautering. I had an aversion to disturbing the mash bed for many years. Once I got over that BS, my efficiency jumped up a lot. Not a little, a lot. Don't forget that last part about SLOWLY circulating after the last stir. You don't want to avoid compacting the grain bed as much as possible at that point. Don't worry about the grain bed filtering ability when it's loosened up. It will consolidate in a few minutes and it's filtering abilities will be fully restored. Keep in mind that you are probably only circulating at about a gallon per minute or so. This means that it will take considerable time to turn over the entire mash volume and have it filtered by the grain bed. It could be 10 minutes for a full cycle depending on your mash volume (liquid portion). Might be less if you pump faster, but remember, you really don't want to do that at this point. Be patient and let the wort clear. It will happen fairly quickly. I think you will be surprised at the results for all of this.
Thanks again for the suggestions. I really appreciate the help and input provided on these boards. What a tremendous resource this place is.

I'm looking forward to trying this method this weekend. I had been under the impression that you don't want to disturb the grain bed at all once settled, and by doing so you would loose the beds ability to filter. So i've always recirculated very timidly, too timidly I'm thinking. But the way you're describing sounds like a better method of getting the sugar out of the grain, and avoid stuck mashes. Thanks again for all the help - I really appreciate the guidance.

cheers
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Old 05-30-2011, 11:15 PM   #8
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Thanks again for the suggestions. I really appreciate the help and input provided on these boards. What a tremendous resource this place is.

I'm looking forward to trying this method this weekend. I had been under the impression that you don't want to disturb the grain bed at all once settled, and by doing so you would loose the beds ability to filter. So i've always recirculated very timidly, too timidly I'm thinking. But the way you're describing sounds like a better method of getting the sugar out of the grain, and avoid stuck mashes. Thanks again for all the help - I really appreciate the guidance.

cheers
Ah, well I have a HERMS. If I don't occasionally "cut" the grainbed, I can get some grainbed compaction issues. I don't stir much, but if the grain starts to compact, I do.

I've seen some commercial breweries with mash rakes. The rake continually stirs the mash, to increase and maximize efficiency. Not stirring the mash is a mistake, if you can maintain the temperature (RIMS or HERMS).
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Old 05-31-2011, 01:00 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by SantaClaus View Post
Thanks again for the suggestions. I really appreciate the help and input provided on these boards. What a tremendous resource this place is.

I'm looking forward to trying this method this weekend. I had been under the impression that you don't want to disturb the grain bed at all once settled, and by doing so you would loose the beds ability to filter. So i've always recirculated very timidly, too timidly I'm thinking. But the way you're describing sounds like a better method of getting the sugar out of the grain, and avoid stuck mashes. Thanks again for all the help - I really appreciate the guidance.

cheers
Be sure to post back with your results. I was under the same impression about disturbing the grain bed until not long ago. The thing to remember is that you can very easily reset the grain bed by gently resuming circulation for a bit before you start the runoff. I stir it thoroughly all the way down to the FB. The grain bed compacts from the bottom up, so it's important to get down to the bottom where it will be the most dense. Don't be overly concerned about a stuck mash. If it happens, just stop and stir then resume circulation. It's not a big deal at all. I actually expect the grain bed to get stuck at least once during the mash. I circulate as fast as I can get away with.
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Old 06-01-2011, 11:19 PM   #10
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I have the same false bottom. I Got the FOUNDATION water down to about 2 gallons by taking a grinder and nipping the corners of the stainless support plates so they sit down a little further into the round part of the Kettle.
I really like that bottom and typically get 85% Efficiency and conduct my mash very similar to the way Catt22 does.

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