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Old 09-28-2011, 12:59 PM   #1
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Default Possible to vaporize the sugars?

Hey guys,

My friend rigged up an e-kettle about a year ago and ever since he started using it, he has been suffering from very low OG's.
He used to do stovetop and propane burner brewing and everything was fine.
But ever since he started with the electric brewing, he has been suffering from low gravities.
I gave him my refractometer so he can measure the gravities before & during the boil to try and narrow the problem down.
I also thought he should try another propane batch to see what happens.
So maybe he'll get it figured out that way.

But we were also wondering if maybe his boil was simply too strong.
He was using a 4500w element but only doing 5 gallon batches. (The kettle is 11 gallons) His boil off rate was pretty high and he was having to start with over 8 gallons for the 5 gallon batches.

In theory, only the water should boil off, right? But is it possible that things are getting so hot around the element that some of the sugars are being boiled off too?

He just bought a 3500w element in an effort to tone down the boil and he's going to try that out this weekend.
But I've been meaning to post about this for a while now and wanted to get your opinions on this.

thanks

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Old 09-28-2011, 01:04 PM   #2
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All Grain or Extract? if it is all grain, I wonder if the mash isn't going right. Sugars are not 'volital' like water. Look at honey which is just glucose and fructose (and water and trace others) the sugar doesnt' come out of by vaporization. Crystalizeses, but that stays in the honey jar.

Anyhow if this is AG, then I bet tehre is a problem witht he mash and he isn't gettign the sugars into the wort. A check before boil should answer that.

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Old 09-28-2011, 01:07 PM   #3
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No, the sugars won't "go" anywhere. The wort could carmelize a bit if the boil was exceedingly too hot and thick (like when you make hard candy, the temperature goes up over 300) but I can't imagine that happening in regular wort as there aren't enough sugars to raise the boiling temperature over 212, no matter how powerful the element is.

I'd check the preboil gravity and see where the low efficiency is coming from. It could be from conversion (check for conversion with iodine), a poor crush, lautering inefficiently, etc.

If he's starting with 8 gallons, it could be something very simple like oversparging to get that much wort. The last runnings could be very low in gravity- have him check that first!

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Old 09-28-2011, 01:25 PM   #4
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He does AG. I assumed it was a mash problem too. The weird thing is it's not like this is his first setup, he was brewing before the e-kettle and his numbers were always right on or close enough (and the beers were good). So it's not like he doesn't know what he's doing or changed his entire system, he's still batch sparging with a round cooler like he always has. It's just the boil kettle has changed.
I know he's tried crushing his grains more than usual too and it hasn't helped.
He was starting to mash pretty thin to help with the amount of runnings he needed, but he went back to a "normal" ratio last batch and it helped but he was still lower than he wanted.
He bought his own refractometer now so I guess he'll just have to monitor the gravity of all his runnings and the total preboil OG and see what happens.

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