Originally Posted by jbenedetto
I'm inexperienced, but I've been reading about the mashing/lautering process lately. It's a fairly simple process that for some reason gets overcomplicated when an explanation is attempted. I think I understand it, so here goes:
Sparging is the process of rinsing to extract fermentable sugars from the grain. As I understand it, it involves pouring the wort back into the mashtun after draining/"lautering" the initial mash. Think of it as a second rinse for the grains.
There's fly sparging, where you spray the wort in and drain it at the same time/rate. Fly sparging is generally considered the most efficient, meaning more fermentable sugars are extracted from the grains. Batch sparging is where you pour it all in at once, and then drain. It is a much simpler method, but considered less efficient and thus may require more grain to get the right starting gravity. Most homebrewers get acceptable results using this method.
You do not sparge with wort....that would be a little counterproductive if you think about it. You sparge with hot water, usually between 170 and 180 degrees.
For batch sparging, when your mash is complete you vorlauf, then drain the "first runnings" from the mash, then you add your hot sparge water to the mash tun and stir it up really well. Then you vorlauf, and drain these "second runnings" from the tun, adding them to the first runnings. Then you can start your boil.
For fly sparging, the tun never goes empty. When your mash is complete you vorlauf, then start adding your sparge water while the mash tun is emptying - these happen simultaneously until you hit your boil volume or until your runnings get below a certain gravity.
*Vorlauf means to recirculate some wort (ie drain some from the mash tun, then carefully add it back to the mash) until it starts to run clear. You are basically creating a good filter bed before draining the mash.