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Old 02-11-2013, 04:26 PM   #1
thekage
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Default Frustrations in all grain brewing...

So I have been all grain brewing for about 6 months, doing 11 batches. In not one of those have I even been close to target on gravity. I always hit my gravity when I was using extracts. Im pretty sure the issue is in my sparging.
My setup is simple, heat water on burner, hand move the water into my mash tun, dough in, let it mash for 60 minutes, vorlauf, pull the wort off, stir in my batch water, let it set for 10-15 minutes, vorlauf, drain and start boil. I have been using brew 365 calc for my calculations on my water and sparging. Is there a better calc out there? Or is it just something I'm missing in my process. It seems like I always end up with a half gallon or more extra wort and end up with low gravity and poor hop utilization. My mash tun is a square cooler with a pvc manifold.

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Old 02-11-2013, 04:31 PM   #2
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Who's crushing your grain? Have you tested your mash tun for dead space? Put 2 gallons of water in you tun and drain it through the manifold. Now dump whatever is left over into a measuring cup.

Also, if you're always ending up with more wort than you wanted, it means your boil off rate is lower then the calculator thinks. Sparge with slightly less water or boil harder.

If you can't figure out how to get better efficiency, plan your recipes with a lower expected efficiency so that it makes up for it in base grain weight.

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Old 02-11-2013, 04:37 PM   #3
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The crush is coming from my LHBS, he uses the same crush he says in his own commercial brewery.

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Old 02-11-2013, 04:42 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by thekage View Post
The crush is coming from my LHBS, he uses the same crush he says in his own commercial brewery.
Have him crush it twice next time and see how it goes.
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Old 02-11-2013, 04:44 PM   #5
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I did my first batch or two using one of those online calculators as a starting point. I then tweaked the numbers to match my system. I do it very similar to you - boil water on burner, transfer it to a cooler by hand, Mash for 60, vorlauf, drain, pour in some sparge water and stir for 5 minutes. Let sit a minute. Stir some more, vorlauf, drain, then boil.

I found that I do not boil off anywhere near the 1 gal/hr that some calculators use. I also found that I am always short on sparge water if I use the calculator.

My point is, take some good notes about the differences between what you thought would happen and what actually happened. Then make small adjustments!

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Old 02-11-2013, 04:45 PM   #6
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Nothing jumps out at me as you doing anything wrong in your process. You can learn to apply correction factors to what the calculator is telling you. Or you can just move on to a more thorough calculator.

I prefer BeerSmith. There's way more features than I can figure out how to use so far, but everything that I've run into is tweakable so far.

For example, I had told BeerSmith my tun weighted 18 lbs and was all plastic. On brew day, I mashed in and realized I forgot to tell it the weight of my copper manifold and account for colder grain from crushing outdoors. Had to add extra water to bring the temperature up to where I wanted it. Fixed both numbers while mashing so it won't happen again. When I collected my runnings, I came in low-gravity and too much wort as expected; I told BeerSmith what those measurements were while bringing up to boiling and it adjusted the boil schedule on the fly to compensate.

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Old 02-11-2013, 08:00 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by thekage View Post
It seems like I always end up with a half gallon or more extra wort and end up with low gravity ...
Sounds like you're not boiling off enough. You need to match your starting volume to your boil-off rate the get the proper final volume and gravity. Calculators do this, but you have to input the correct value of the boil-off rate for your kettle, burner, and conditions (if you boil in the wind it makes a big difference.)

From your past brews, you should know your final volume (half-gallon high), your starting volume and your boil time. (starting vol - final vol)/boil time = boil-off rate.
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Old 02-11-2013, 08:27 PM   #8
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From your past brews, you should know your final volume (half-gallon high), your starting volume and your boil time. (starting vol - final vol)/boil time = boil-off rate.
This ^ = awesome.
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Old 02-11-2013, 08:35 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by thekage View Post
I always end up with a half gallon or more extra wort and end up with low gravity and poor hop utilization. My mash tun is a square cooler with a pvc manifold.
Does the math work out?

In other words - take your gravity, multiply by the volume you collect. Then take that number and divide by what your calculator says you should have collected for volume. How close is that to your expected gravity?

That'll tell you whether your procedure is good. You don't need to start looking for solutions until you know what the problem is.

Sounds to me like you're just putting too much water in your sparges.
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Old 02-11-2013, 11:01 PM   #10
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This excellent wiki should get you started in the right direction.
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