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Old 01-15-2013, 01:52 AM   #11
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All ways preheat the cooler even if it is just hot tap water you want it warm for the grain to go into and and if it is already warm you won't loose temp as much. image.jpg
This is the false bottom I used in my Ice Cube ice chest

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Old 01-15-2013, 04:02 PM   #12
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I'm not sure on mash tun pre heating. Brew software like beer Smith has a correction for that.

But as far as water profile goes, you can send it away to be tested for twenty dollars or so.

I recommend getting some ph strips, testing your mash after ten minutes then adjust as needed with lactic acid or phosphoric acid

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Old 01-15-2013, 05:18 PM   #13
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+1 to testing and adjusting pH for how much lactic acid is needed check here:
http://woodlandbrew.blogspot.com/2012/10/mash-ph.html

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Old 01-15-2013, 10:44 PM   #14
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Question: could using purified "bottled" water be better than tap? Like I said previously, I have HORRIBLE tap water. There's a chemical company in town and they may or may not have contaminated the water supply (years ago) and now the water treatment facility way over treats the water. Replace bad chemicals with good chemicals? I don't exactly understand how that works, but that's the way things are here.

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Old 01-15-2013, 10:50 PM   #15
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+1 to testing and adjusting pH for how much lactic acid is needed check here:
http://woodlandbrew.blogspot.com/2012/10/mash-ph.html
Very nice write up. I guess my previous post proves erroneous? Or is there still legitimate value in using bottled water?
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Old 01-15-2013, 11:00 PM   #16
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Quote:
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Started with 26 qts in my mash tun to my 14 lbs of grain. Batch sparged with an additional 4.75 gallons in order to hit my volume numbers. I would have only sparged with 3.75 gallons but I was 1 gallon low. The mash tun is a coleman chest style cooler. I wish I remembered how large it actually is...wal-mart sells it and it's around 35 bucks. It's large. I want to say it's a 70 qt. That sounds about right.

I'm still a little bothered by of efficiency. Are there any other ways I could increase it without a major overhaul?
5 gallon batches in a 70qt cooler? I rarely suggest mash tun geometry as an issue, but do you think that could be the case here? I.e. your mash is too shallow and it's making it hard to rinse thoroughly enough to get the sugars out?
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Old 01-16-2013, 04:03 AM   #17
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I'm getting the same astringency as you. I'm actually very happy you brought that up. What kind of money are we talking by testing the water and then correcting it? And no, I'm not pre-heating my mash tun. Should I dump 1-2 gallons of hot water in my mash tun first? My strike water is usually 5-10 degrees hotter than my mash. I didn't realized that the pH could have such a profound effect on the efficiency.
Check out ward labs.com
For about $30 they'll test a sample you send them. Or you can get your municipal report from your city hall I believe for free, but then you are trusting them. I live in Florida, so I know my straight tap water is junk. That worked in my favor though because it forced me to learn about water chemistry early on. Check out the water chapter in "How to Brew", and "Designing great Beers". Both give a way to estimate mash PH without a PH meter, which are expensive and inaccurate anyway. Then for a few bucks worth of salts (gypsum, calcium chloride, epsom salt etc) and a few gallons of distilled water from your grocery store, you can cater your water profile to your grain bill. Your efficiency will likely go up but more importantly you'll brew better beer. Guys like numbers. "I get xx% efficiency, I'm awesome!" Who cares, grain isn't that expensive on the homebrewing scale. A 10% jump in efficiency might save you $2 a batch. But if your beer tastes better, what value would you place on that? Think of cooking. If you have great ingredients and a great recipe, does it matter if you're cooking on a Walmart pan? Does the $500 frying pan make the junk wrong ingredients taste better? Water is a key ingredient in beer....
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Old 01-16-2013, 04:53 AM   #18
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If you started with 26 quarts and added 4.75 gallons, you had 11.25 gallons in all. Assuming you collected seven gallons, you have 4.25 gallons left to account for. If your grain absorbed .15 of a gallon per pound, you could say 2.1 gallons went to that, but that still leaves you with over two gallons in your MLT.

Also, if your cooler really is 70 quarts, I would have to wonder how deep your grain bed is. A smaller MLT might allow you to better rinse your grains and improve your efficiency. Another way to improve your efficiency would be to crush your grains finer, but I wouldn't recommend that as others claim it leads to astringency.

And speaking of astringency...+1 on treating your water with acid if you are having a problem. Astringency was ruining my beers until I started treating my sparge water, and this has led to the single biggest improvement in my beers. My mash pH is usually fine without any adjustment, but I won't brew another batch without treating my sparge water. FWIW, Gordon Strong recommends phosphoric acid first and lactic acid as a distant second. In Brewing Better Beer, he writes, "Sparge water should be treated to have a pH lower than 5.8 to 6.0 (5.5 is a good choice) at sparge temperature to reduce the chances of extracting harsh and astringent tannins from the grain; pH has a much greater effect on tannin extraction than temperature."

When it comes to pH, I'd skip past the strips and go straight for a pH meter. I got the Milwaulkee Instruments pH 600, and despite a bunch of mediocre to bad reviews, it has served me well (I'm just looking to be close, not exact). I ordered some electrode storage solution and a calibration solution for it, and it works great for me. Certainly go for whatever you want, but I strongly recommend getting one and treating your sparge water if you are having astringency issues.

+1 that my efficiency improved when I started adjusting for pH. Additionally, my FG was much closer to my target as well.

I always heat my mash tun as well because I think it makes it easier to hit my mash temperature. I know there is talk of tannin extraction at temperatures above 170, and heating the mash tun makes that easier to avoid. However, I think that this goes more to a discussion about FG than efficiency. In order to heat my mash tun, I put on a pot of water (probably closer to 1/2 a gallon than a whole) when I get started, and bring it to a boil. Once I'm ready, I put it in the tun. By the time I have everything else ready, my mash tun is good to go. Those coolers really seem to hold the heat pretty well; whenever I open the lid to dump the water out, there's always some steam.

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Old 01-16-2013, 09:37 AM   #19
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Very nice write up. I guess my previous post proves erroneous? Or is there still legitimate value in using bottled water?
If your water tastes bad then use bottled water. I'm blessed with decent water. You can use the equation in that post for RO, spring or tap water. Unless you have tons of alkalinity then the main driver of pH is the grain.
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Old 01-16-2013, 10:07 AM   #20
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My efficiency is about the same as yours. Until recently, I was a little lower. I increased my sparge water a little, and, I think more importantly, I significantly increased how much I stir the mash when adding the sparge water. Previously, I stirred enough to get everything mixed together (or so I thought!), maybe a half a minute or so, at most. Now I stir the mash for a few minutes. The radio helps. Stir for the length of a song such as Cream's Sunshine of Your Love.

That increased my efficiency by nearly 5 percentage points.

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