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Old 04-24-2009, 12:39 PM   #1
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Default Help me improve my efficiency?

So, I downloaded a trial beersmith and plugged in the numbers for my last brew, set it up for a system with 15gal boil pot and 10 gal mash tun, etc, if for no other reason it is time to start working on our efficiency.

Beersmith says that if I had 75% eff., the OG should have been 1.071 (with projected FG of 1.020), my OG was at best (Refractometer) 1.058 after boil. So then I tweak the numbers on brewsmith, change the efficiency until the Est OG matches the actual OG and it says efficiency is 56%, it also changes the projected FG to 1.015.

You probably need more info to help me, so I’ll try to give out what I can.
Our process involves Single step infusion with english batch sparge (I think that’s what it’s called). We have a basic manual system with no pumping, gravity, or scooping and pouring everything as follows:
First we grind with the old feed grinder, it’s a large corona type mill.
Then we mash in trying to get close to 150F, which we have been able to do with no problems. We have typically only stirred during mash in, then we leave it for an hour. The cooler holds the temp well, temp will fall in the winter maybe 1-2 degrees. We have three thermometers, two hydrometers and refractometer we try to cross check with.
After an hour we drain the first runnings (we usually forget to vorlauf, but it is also usually clear anyway), still no more stirring, then sparge with water (appx. 185F) trying to get close to sparge temp of 170F in the bed, stir it in, wait a few minutes then drain that. We taste the final runnings of that sparge and if it’s still sweet, we sparge again and repeat until it’s not sweet. We do all this without much measuring of water, just “eyeballing” the thickness of the mash.

Keeping in mind I want to increase our efficiency, specific questions I have are:
1. Do we need to change the basic mashing process, if so, what?, automatic sparging? Step mashing? Etc?
2. Do we need to stir more?
3. Is the grinder up to spec? The grind looks good to me, dunno.
4. Do we need to measure the water? Etc?
5. Is this even a good way to check the efficiency? Is this brewhouse efficiency?
6. Anything else?

I hope this is posted in the right catagory, thanx for any help, Vern.

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Old 04-24-2009, 12:48 PM   #2
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1. Do we need to change the basic mashing process, if so, what?, automatic sparging? Step mashing? Etc?
No, you can get good results with batch sparging. You just have to perfect your technique.

2. Do we need to stir more?
After you sparge it is a good idea to stir the mash vigorously.

3. Is the grinder up to spec? The grind looks good to me, dunno.
Can you post a photo of the ground up grain? That is the only way to tell. It is very likely that your crush is the reason for your low efficiency.

4. Do we need to measure the water? Etc?
How many quarts per pound of grain are you mashing with? You should always measure your water for everything.

5. Is this even a good way to check the efficiency? Is this brew house efficiency?
Yes, Beersmith is very accurate and gives you three types of efficiency; Brew house, into boiler and into fermenter.

6. Anything else?
Read these threads, there is some good information in them that you might find useful.
http://www.homebrewtalk.com/f36/attention-new-all-grain-brewers-30466/
http://www.homebrewtalk.com/f36/maximizing-efficiency-when-batch-sparging-77125/

Speaking from personal experience it takes a little while to dial in beersmith with your equipment. You can create a custom profile matching the specs of your equipment and account for things such as dead space, evaporation, cooling loss, lost to trub/chiller. These things are all taken into consideration by the program in order to help you reach your final volume of wort. How is your final volume?

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Old 04-24-2009, 12:59 PM   #3
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I had a similar problem for a while, until I really slowed the sparge wayyy down. Channelling was killing me, apparently. I went from eff in the 50s to the 80s immediately. I also use a Corona mill, might need to adjust the crush a bit. Good luck.

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Old 04-24-2009, 01:01 PM   #4
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Not a "Pro" like many here - but the one thing that stands out to me is your comment: ..."(we usually forget to vorlauf, but it is also usually clear anyway)...

I have done two AG batches (10 gallon igloo cooler converted to a MLT and a turkey frier) and the first batch was 65% efficiency into the fermentor. I had my grains crushed from the online supply shop and I thought the crush was not good (still had many whole uncracked grains). When I ordered the second batch I requested a finer crush, and I felt the crush I got the second time was perfect - not powder but mostly grain "pieces". This time the efficiency jumped up to 71%, but I noticed I had to vorlauf several times before it ran clear.

Maybe your grains are not crushed enough(?)

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Old 04-24-2009, 01:09 PM   #5
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I think the 2 biggest areas for you to look at is mash thickness. You should have at least 1.25 quarts per pound of grain, and many people have had better efficency with a ration of 2 quarts per pound.

Your crush is also an area that may need improving.

It will help if you started measuring the amount of water you are using. Measuring will allow you to get repeatable results once you have improved your efficency.


Ed

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Old 04-24-2009, 01:18 PM   #6
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Here's a picture of the grind, but it probably needs to be more of a closeup for you to tell?

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Old 04-24-2009, 01:24 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by COLObrewer View Post
Here's a picture of the grind, but it probably needs to be more of a closeup for you to tell?
Yeah, we need to see the flour and husks upclose.
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Old 04-24-2009, 01:30 PM   #8
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close up might be good....From this angle, it looks like the crush *might be* alright (best way to tell is to make sure there's no intact husks in your bill). One other culprit for low efficiency is PH of your water (if it's extremely wonky).....but basic mash schedule/sparging may have a major effect if you're not doing it right. Assuming you are mashing/sparging with numbers beer smith gives you....the first thing I would check is that your thermometer is correct (I stay paranoid about thermometers and always have at least a couple).

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Old 04-24-2009, 01:34 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by schweaty View Post
Speaking from personal experience it takes a little while to dial in beersmith with your equipment. You can create a custom profile matching the specs of your equipment and account for things such as dead space, evaporation, cooling loss, lost to trub/chiller. These things are all taken into consideration by the program in order to help you reach your final volume of wort. How is your final volume?
We've had no final volume problems, however we just sparge until all sweetness is gone, have not had to extend any boiling to reduce volume. We do have larger fermentors that we sometimes utilize but usually we plan for that. I.E. double batches etc. Is the water per lb. figure for initial mash or for total mash/sparge volume? May need to adjust the amount for mash vs. sparge? We mash in till it looks like thick oatmeal, like this:
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Old 04-24-2009, 01:55 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by schweaty View Post
Yeah, we need to see the flour and husks upclose.
Here's a crop of the same pic, hopefully it's not too fuzzy, I remember seeing intact kernels in all our grinds, might be able to go a hair tighter if needed.
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