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Old 03-30-2014, 06:49 PM   #1
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Default Efficient use of time and brewing process

I'm interested in everyone's thoughts/experience about my current process. I usually use a 90min mash in the normal single infusion temp range. Although my brewing process could use some help in terms of time efficiency (which may affect mash efficiency).

I have a single tier rims system but normally only recirculate for clarity, not temperature steps. With sparging, stirring, and recirculating, the mash/sparge can last 2+ hours. Sure, I can cut my mash to 60min, and I might. But here's the question:

Should I remove my mash insulation and apply gentle heat while recirculating in the last half of my mash, in order to do two things at once? Is the risk of losing heat by removing my insulation and pumping greater than the risk of applying too much heat during recirculation?

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Old 03-30-2014, 08:32 PM   #2
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My big question is if you enjoy doing your mash your way so that the 2 hours is mental therapy or do you hate the time it takes so it becomes mental torture? There are ways of cutting down the time from dough in to beer in the fermenter but it will take a big leap from where you are now to the real time cutting. Is that worth it to you?

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Old 03-30-2014, 08:52 PM   #3
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It would be worth it for me. I am not using my time effectively, maybe because I am approaching it too sequentially. I think I could overlap some processes to speed up the day. I am open to suggestions when and how to do this so I can adjust.

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Old 03-30-2014, 09:19 PM   #4
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Most of the reason for a 90 minute mash is a poor crush. Conversion takes less than 3 minutes for the majority of the sugars if the grain is milled very fine. Your system cannot deal with that fine of a crush or you will not be able to drain the tun but you certainly can crush fine enough to reduce that 90 minute mash to 60 minutes or less.

Get a bottle of iodine (about $10 at the pharmacy) and put 3 drops on a white plate, one drop in each location. When you mash in, take a drop of the wort and mix it with a drop of the iodine. It should turn purple to indicate the presence of starch. Take a second sample at 10 minutes and mix it with a different drop of iodine. Purple? It needs more time. (you would expect that). Try the third sample at 30 minutes. Now what color do you get?

Now drop another drop of iodine on the plate and get a sample with mostly crushed grains and put it next to but not touching the iodine. Carefully bring a little iodine to the grain. If it turns purple, the grain still has unconverted starch. Let this batch finish and get it in the fermenter. Now think about what you saw.

It takes time for water to wet through a piece of grain, the bigger the piece, the longer it takes. Crush finer and it wets through faster so you get conversion and then it takes time to leach the sugar out. The finer the crush, the less time it takes to convert and extract the sugars but when you get it too fine the (false bottom, manifold, bazooka tube, braid, whatever you use) clogs up. Part of the answer to that is to add a neutral agent that will help for a filter without clogging. Rice hulls are mentioned a lot for that. All of what I have mentioned up to this point is specific to your system.

I learned to mash in a bag. I use a paint strainer bag and with that as the filter, my grains can be milled until they are mostly flour. I have a Corona style mill and I set it so tight that the plates rub pretty hard when there is no grain in there to cushion them. With the grains milled that way, conversion takes only about 3 minutes and the sugars are pretty much on the surface of the grain particles so they rinse off very easily. I now usually mash for 10 minutes and get full conversion. As a plus to this, my efficiency is up to about 80% if I use the full volume of water for mashing and don't sparge. Add a couple quarts sparge and the efficiency goes up to about 85%. Whooeeee, I just saved 80 minutes of mash time and got better efficiency too. I usually have the wort heating while I do the sparge step so I save time there too. It will be a pretty big change if you decide to go this route so think about it a bunch before you change. Many people who have changed won't go back to a conventional tun.

Need your brew day shortened more yet? Read a bit about no-chill brewing. My last brew session had my wort in the fermenter and the tools put away about 2 1/2 hours from the time I got the tools out. I then waited 4 hours for the wort to cool before I pitched the yeast but I didn't have to watch anything for that period, in fact I just walked away and checked a couple times for temperature.

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Old 03-30-2014, 09:45 PM   #5
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RM MN - Thank you for the great post. My efficiency is about 72%, which isn't terrible, but isn't all that good either. This is with a crush from my LHBS. I iodine test the wort without getting any grain to test for conversion. But, your discussion of testing the grain itself to see what is going on is very insightful. I'll be testing next time to see whether or not there is still unconverted starch in the grain, as opposed to unconverted starch in the wort.

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Old 03-30-2014, 11:42 PM   #6
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Thanks for your insight, RM-MN. My mash efficiency is fine, I routinely get 80%. I am not concerned about my crush or tun filtration, just the time that the steps are taking. I also added a plate chiller and cut 30min off chilling time compared to my IC. Maybe I just want to have my cake and eat it too. I might just have to come to terms with the length of my brew day with the rig I brew on.

I suspect my issues are tied to the specifics of my system, in which case I will have to optimize that on my own. Are there any downsides to recirculating the entire mash besides the risk of unwanted temperature fluctuations?

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Old 03-31-2014, 12:04 AM   #7
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I dont' see any reason for a 90 minute mash, unless you are using a ton of adjuncts and/or mashing in the mid 140s so you need the extra time.

I generally do a mash out- mashing for 60 minutes, then raising up to mash out temps in 10 minutes or so- because it's super easy with my HERMS to do that. I recirculate during the mash but it's not necessary really. It just helps me hold temperatures. Then I sparge over about 40 minutes. Sometimes I batch sparge, if I'm in a hurry, and that takes about 5 minutes or so.

If you think your process is too time-consuming for you, then you could definitely cut down on the mashing time, and possibly the sparging time depending on how fast you currently sparge.

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Old 03-31-2014, 02:42 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Yooper View Post
I dont' see any reason for a 90 minute mash, unless you are using a ton of adjuncts and/or mashing in the mid 140s so you need the extra time.

I generally do a mash out- mashing for 60 minutes, then raising up to mash out temps in 10 minutes or so- because it's super easy with my HERMS to do that. I recirculate during the mash but it's not necessary really. It just helps me hold temperatures. Then I sparge over about 40 minutes. Sometimes I batch sparge, if I'm in a hurry, and that takes about 5 minutes or so.

If you think your process is too time-consuming for you, then you could definitely cut down on the mashing time, and possibly the sparging time depending on how fast you currently sparge.
Your sparge is 40min because you are fly sparging right? My batch sparge takes far longer than 5 minutes with stirring and resetting the grain bed. I am getting the picture that a 90min mash is just unnecessary.
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Old 03-31-2014, 12:23 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ColoHox View Post
Your sparge is 40min because you are fly sparging right? My batch sparge takes far longer than 5 minutes with stirring and resetting the grain bed. I am getting the picture that a 90min mash is just unnecessary.
Resetting the grain bed isn't necessary with a batch sparge. Stir the sparge water in, stir some more, and give it another stir- a quick vorlauf and pump to the boil kettle. Really, about 5 minutes.

I go back and forth, sometimes batch sparging and sometimes continuous sparging. My system favors continuous sparging (sometimes I get a stuck sparge when I batch sparge, due to the gap around my false bottom), but I still prefer batch sparging for the time savings.
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Old 03-31-2014, 12:41 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RM-MN View Post
"...have a Corona style mill and I set it so tight that the plates rub pretty hard when there is no grain in there to cushion..."
Pardon the newbie ignorance, but I thought too fine a grind was bad for tannin extraction, or is it only a matter of proper pH?
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