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Old 11-07-2010, 06:31 AM   #1
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Default E-HERMS--What kind of efficiency should I be getting?

So I've built a semi-automated cooler-based E-HERMS (based mostly on ideas stolen from these boards), and on my first mostly-successful brew day using my completed setup, I was slightly disappointed with my efficiency. So I thought I would go through my process, and someone might be able to tell me where I'm making a mistake.

I was doing a 6-gallon batch, grain bill just over 18 pounds. (19 counting the rice hulls--by the way, I added the rice hulls in dry; was that a mistake?) After making sure to stir everything really well, I set the pump to recirculate. My first rest was 122 (although I overshot by about 1-2 degrees) for 15 minutes. During this initial rest, I realized that my sparge arm had fallen from the cooler lid and that my pump was just shooting wort directly down into the grain bed. I fished the sparge arm out and put it back in place, and everything seemed to be fine.

When the 15 minutes were over, I ramped up to 149, which took about 40 minutes total. After letting the mash sit at 149 for an hour, I ramped up to 165 or so and then started sparging (at 170). After pumping sparge water in for maybe 12-15 minutes, I shut the pump off and let the wort continue draining into the kettle for another 15 minutes or so. When I had a little over 8 gallons (My kettle is wide, so my boiloff rate is high--and I was doing a 105-minute boil.), I stopped draining.

After boiling down to ~6 gallons, I had an OG of about 1.075. I was shooting for 1.090, which I would have gotten at 80% efficiency.

If you're still with me after that novel... what am I doing wrong? Did I sparge too fast? Did I recirculate too fast and cause channeling? Did I not mash for long enough? Any ideas would be appreciated.

As an aside: I wrote my own software to control my brewery using an Arduino. It's still a work in progress. (One day I'll automate the valves and figure out how to precisely monitor volumes and stuff.) It's a bit of a hack job, but if anyone's interested in this kind of system for an E-HERMS, you're welcome to the code. Just let me know...

Here's the control panel:

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Old 11-07-2010, 03:18 PM   #2
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i'm running at about 70% if i'm calculating it right.

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Old 11-07-2010, 03:45 PM   #3
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I've never bothered to calculate efficiency, but I did just brew 11 gallons of beer yesterday with my eHERMS and got 1.062 SG with 24 lbs of grain.

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Old 11-07-2010, 03:56 PM   #4
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It depends on the recipe- if you used all two-row, 18 pounds of grain should get you about 1.080 or so at 75% efficiency. At 70%, 1.075.

Why the protein rest? I'm concerned that you did a protein rest, and then took over 40 minutes to get up to the saccrification rest.

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Old 11-07-2010, 04:50 PM   #5
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Thanks for the replies. From my calculations, I think I'm somewhere between 65% and 70%.

Yooper, the malt bill was mostly German pilsner malt, plus a little over a pound and a half of amber malt.

I did the protein rest, honestly, because I was following the BYO recipe for Dogfish Head 90 Minute, and that's what it said to do. I think I need a bigger element in my HLT--the 1500W I have in there now is a little slow.

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Old 11-08-2010, 01:43 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by utopeya View Post
Yooper, the malt bill was mostly German pilsner malt, plus a little over a pound and a half of amber malt.
That still does not answer Yooper's question. You can find domestic German style Pilsner Malts that are fully modified that can be brewed with a single infusion. What did the malt analysis sheet say? Was it undermodified or fully modified? My bet is that it was undermodified and the step schedule you used did not allow you to convert enough starch to sugar hence your low efficiency.
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Old 11-08-2010, 06:27 AM   #7
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My malt was Weyermann Pilsner. I don't have the analysis sheet (I order my grains from Brewmaster's Warehouse, and they come pre-crushed and pre-mixed.), but the Weyermann site says it's "well-modified."

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Old 11-08-2010, 12:07 PM   #8
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Quote:
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My malt was Weyermann Pilsner. I don't have the analysis sheet (I order my grains from Brewmaster's Warehouse, and they come pre-crushed and pre-mixed.), but the Weyermann site says it's "well-modified."
If the malt is well modified, a step mash robs the beer of it's body and head retention making a watery beer.

The following is from Palmer's "How to Brew"
Quote:
Using this rest in a mash consisting mainly of fully modified malts would break up the proteins responsible for body and head retention and result in a thin, watery beer.
If you don't mind be asking why did you think you had to use a stepped mash schedule?
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Old 11-08-2010, 03:18 PM   #9
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For three reasons:

1. I didn't remember that from Palmer's book.
2. I didn't know about Weyermann Pilsner specifically, and I had read that German Pilsner malts were less modified than their US counterparts.
3. That's what the recipe I found said to do. (I've only brewed three batches so far, so I'm still a novice when it comes to things like this.)

Thanks again for your help.

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Old 11-08-2010, 05:00 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by utopeya View Post
For three reasons:

1. I didn't remember that from Palmer's book.
2. I didn't know about Weyermann Pilsner specifically, and I had read that German Pilsner malts were less modified than their US counterparts.
3. That's what the recipe I found said to do. (I've only brewed three batches so far, so I'm still a novice when it comes to things like this.)

Thanks again for your help.
I'm guessing you are making a pilsener? Pilseners and many lagers are supposed to be crystal clear, so I too would consider a step mash. Especially if you, like me some times, are getting chill haze in your beer. There are other means for dealing with haze, such as gelatin, but it too takes away from the beer. I am working on doing a wirlpool after the boil which may also help.
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