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Old 05-24-2008, 05:06 AM   #1
EinGutesBier
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Default What Are Your Methods for Achieving High Efficiency?

Even after installing a dip tube on my MLT and using 5.2 buffer, my efficiency is still about 70%, maybe sometimes in the high 60s or low 70s. Though I feel my sparging setup might need an overhaul to achieve better efficiency, I'm still contemplating my techniques overall in order to improve my yield. Related to this, I do have one quick question: would it affect your efficiency (OG) in a noticeable way if you overshot the amount of wort you need by 1 to 1.5 gallons?

I figure not having that amount condensed into the original batch volume could be one problem. Though I hate to admit it, my last OG was off, I suspect, by having about 1.5 gallons of wort than originally anticipated. It was supposed to be a 6 gallon batch but I ended up filling my primary up to about 6.5 gallons and had an extra gallon which I'm fermenting in a growler with an extra yeast. You know, for the love of science.

Anyway, I know that there a lot of accomplished home brewers here on HBT, as well as folks who are learning a lot about the process over all. I'd definitely be interested in hearing about your techniques on how you improve your efficiency.

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Old 05-24-2008, 06:49 AM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by EinGutesBier View Post
Related to this, I do have one quick question: would it affect your efficiency (OG) in a noticeable way if you overshot the amount of wort you need by 1 to 1.5 gallons?

I figure not having that amount condensed into the original batch volume could be one problem. Though I hate to admit it, my last OG was off, I suspect, by having about 1.5 gallons of wort than originally anticipated.

I don't believe it would effect the efficiency negatively, but your OG is the the measurement of the concentration of sugars in the wort. By having more wort volume you lower your OG but not your efficiency. Boiling the wort down to your intended amount will increase the sugar concentration and thus, increase the OG.

If I understand what you are saying correctly, it sounds to me like you are getting better efficiency than you think you are.
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Old 05-24-2008, 07:34 AM   #3
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If you are calculating your efficiency using your anticipated volume, the number you get will definitely be incorrect if you overshot it by 1 1/2 gallons. Adjust your math, or brewing software, so you are calculating using a 7 1/2 gallon batch and that number will be correct.
I use ProMash and I've had to play with the water needed section quite a bit in order to account for loss due to grain absorption, wort left in the MLT and brew pot, and evaporation rate. I've finally got it close now so I know if I need to do longer boils for higher gravity beers. One thing lots of people do is adjust their efficiency down on bigger beers and use more grain. When you do that you can hit your OG without having to do an extended boil to concentrate the wort to your desired volume.
I hope my explanation helped and wasn't confusing!

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Old 05-24-2008, 11:40 AM   #4
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Crush, crush, crush.

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Old 05-24-2008, 12:58 PM   #5
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+1 on Dude's advice. I think most people are afraid to crush too fine. It's fine to crush fine!

Also, I drain a gallon of the mash water and set it to boil then add it back into the mash. It heats up the sugar more so it better dissolves and helps with a mashout. I use bobby_M's method I'm sure he can asplain it better than me.

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Old 05-24-2008, 03:21 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by EvilTOJ View Post
+1 on Dude's advice. I think most people are afraid to crush too fine. It's fine to crush fine!

Also, I drain a gallon of the mash water and set it to boil then add it back into the mash. It heats up the sugar more so it better dissolves and helps with a mashout. I use bobby_M's method I'm sure he can asplain it better than me.
That technique sounds really interesting. Sometimes I wonder if I'm getting full conversion of my sugars and enzymatic action, though my wort hasn't failed the iodine test yet.

On a side note, I can't really control my crush until I get my own mill - as it stands, I depend on Midwest Brewing Supplies' gap settings.
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Old 05-24-2008, 09:33 PM   #7
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I guess to answer your original question, I'll tell you what I do. I've never had (not trying to brag here) efficiency below 90%. Even on my first brew. I had such a hard time believing this on my first few batches that it took me 4 batches to finally admit (in practice) that my efficiency was so high. I'll give a few factors that may be affecting my effiency.

-Water: my well water is soft and the pH is 5.7, so I don't mess with it at all for the mash.
-Crush: Initially, my LHBS crushed my grains, but I wanted to buy bulk, so I bought a Barley Crusher and set it a few points finer than the factory setting. My efficiency didn't change, so I guess the LHBS had a good crush.
-MLT: I use a keggle with an SS false bottom. I think this helps with uniform rinsing of the grain.
-Fly Sparge: I don't have anything against batch sparging, but for the flip of a coin while building my system, I chose to fly-sparge and since my efficiency was so high... 'if it ain't broke...'

That's all I can think of. I've tested the mash-out vs. no mash-out and that didn't seem to make a difference. Anyway, good luck!

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Old 05-24-2008, 10:36 PM   #8
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Thanks, menschmachine. I think that my sparging setup is definitely suspect. Would anyone like to recommend a method or equipment (DIY or otherwise) that would allow for uniform sparging of the grains?

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Old 05-25-2008, 02:06 AM   #9
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First, verify that your sparge is suspect.
If you are batch sparging, take a sample of the last batch, and measure the gravity after cooling (or use a refractometer). I get a gravity of ~1.020 and a mash efficiency of about 80%
If you are fly sparging, measure the gravity of your final runnings, then add an extra gallon or so of 170F water (if your grain bed is dry - not required if the sparge is wet enough to stir), stir well, and measure the gravity again. My final runnings come out at 1.008 - 1.010, and after adding extra water, and stirring, the gravity drops.
If your gravity rises, you have channeling caused either by faulty procedures, and/or by unsuitable equipment.
Methods to improve sparge efficiency:
1. Keep the grain bed at 168 - 170F throughout the sparge. This may require hotter water for the first batch of a multi-batch sparge, or a mash out prior to starting the sparge. (Use the 5.2 buffer in the sparge water to prevent tannin extraction problems.)
2. Sparge slower. This can have a dramatic effect with fly sparging if you are sparging too fast and causing channeling. It probably has a very minor effect when batch sparging.
3. Stir well before commencing the sparge, then vorlauf until the runnings contain no noticeable grain particles.
4. Make sure your thermometer is accurate by calibrating in boiling and iced water. (If you have an inaccurate digital thermometer, try replacing the battery.)
If the sparge checks out OK, try an iodine test to check for complete conversion. A longer mash will even compensate to some extent for an inadequate grain crush.

Hope this helps.

-a.

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Old 05-27-2008, 04:25 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ajf View Post
First, verify that your sparge is suspect.
If you are batch sparging, take a sample of the last batch, and measure the gravity after cooling (or use a refractometer). I get a gravity of ~1.020 and a mash efficiency of about 80%
If you are fly sparging, measure the gravity of your final runnings, then add an extra gallon or so of 170F water (if your grain bed is dry - not required if the sparge is wet enough to stir), stir well, and measure the gravity again. My final runnings come out at 1.008 - 1.010, and after adding extra water, and stirring, the gravity drops.
If your gravity rises, you have channeling caused either by faulty procedures, and/or by unsuitable equipment.
Methods to improve sparge efficiency:
1. Keep the grain bed at 168 - 170F throughout the sparge. This may require hotter water for the first batch of a multi-batch sparge, or a mash out prior to starting the sparge. (Use the 5.2 buffer in the sparge water to prevent tannin extraction problems.)
2. Sparge slower. This can have a dramatic effect with fly sparging if you are sparging too fast and causing channeling. It probably has a very minor effect when batch sparging.
3. Stir well before commencing the sparge, then vorlauf until the runnings contain no noticeable grain particles.
4. Make sure your thermometer is accurate by calibrating in boiling and iced water. (If you have an inaccurate digital thermometer, try replacing the battery.)
If the sparge checks out OK, try an iodine test to check for complete conversion. A longer mash will even compensate to some extent for an inadequate grain crush.

Hope this helps.

-a.
does a longer mash time have any down side? or side effects to the finished result?
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