The problem is efficiency.
Ill start out by saying I have been AG brewing for about 4 years. In the last year or so I have noticed a steady decline in quality of beer and been unable to reliably predict OG (It has been consistantly low and my efficiency has been 50-60% ). The worst part is there is no excuse for the low efficiency, I have my own Barley crusher so I set my own tollerances, I have solid equipment for 10 gallon batches, false bottom keggle setup and i batch sparge. Last year I moved in to a new place which has some rediculously hard well water and I assumed that was the problem, but lately I have been thinking otherwise. So I decided that I am going to take major steps to resolve the issues. Here are the steps I took, cumulative results at the end. And dont be shocked, all the things I did are pretty standard practice by most brewers, I guess the old standards just got worse and I got lazy.
1. New digital thermometer. I kept having inconsistant readings, temps are super important in brewing. I calibrated 2 mechanical thermometers to verify my new digital was accurate.
2. Adjusted Mash tun dead space. It took some fooling around but i took the gap in the bottom of my mash tun from 1/2" to > 1/8th inch.
3. Adjusted my Barleycrusher to .028
4. Conditioned the malt, I wasnt going to run an .028 setting and not condition...
5. Filled my 10gallon cooler lid with spray foam. I think this was a major contributor to maintaining temps.
6. Adjusted my mash to 1.5 from 1.25. This also completely filled the deadspace in my mash tun.
7. Hit my temps dead on perfect. I had to pay a lot more attention, but it was completely worth it in the end
8. Tracked my volumes very carefully. I tried to get as close as possible, usually I am OK with a half gallon off one way or another (Did I mention lazy as a problem?)
9. Carefully throttled my run-offs. I ran off slowly enough to avoid a stuck sparge, but fast enough not to go crazy. I also made sure to get every drop out of each batch before dropping in more sparge water.
10. I paid attention to what was going into my boil kettle. The product was lighter than anticipated (I have made a lot of Irish Red, and this was more of a golden color.) I was also about a half gallon over on my runnings, this worked out perfectly. I pulled 3 quarts out of my BK and started boiling it off in a spare kettle. I boiled it down for about 30 minutes until it was a syrupy, dark mahogony color. This fixed the color issue as well as the volume issue.
11. Checked pre-boil gravity. This isnt something I normally do, but with all of my attempted improvements I thought it would be a good idea. It turned out that I was going to be way high on gravity, perfect time to adjust hops.
12. Started boil before adding hops. It seems like every time I get the boil going I lose a bunch to boil over, the hops float so they run out first, which messes with my hop content (I dont use hop bags, spiders ETC.) I also paid more attention to the boil did my best to prevent much boil over.
13. I waited for a warm day. It has been below freezing the last few times that I brewed. Trying to defrost equipment and keep hoses and pumps unfrozen sucks.
Here is the recipe for today:
Irish Red Ale
Type: All Grain Date: 1/3/2013
Batch Size (fermenter): 11.00 gal Brewer:
Boil Size: 13.98 gal Asst Brewer:
Boil Time: 60 min Equipment: Stainless Kegs (10 Gal/37.8 L) - All Grain
End of Boil Volume 12.48 gal Brewhouse Efficiency: 73.00 %
Final Bottling Volume: 10.25 gal Est Mash Efficiency 79.6 %
Fermentation: Ale, Two Stage Taste Rating(out of 50): 30.0
Amt Name Type # %/IBU
16 lbs Pale Malt (2 Row) US (2.0 SRM) Grain 1 81.9 %
2 lbs Pale Malt, Maris Otter (3.0 SRM) Grain 2 10.2 %
1 lbs 8.0 oz Caramel/Crystal Malt -150L (150.0 SRM) Grain 3 7.7 %
0.5 oz Roasted Barley (600.0 SRM) Grain 4 0.2 %
2.00 oz Willamette [4.00 %] - Boil 80.0 min Hop 5 14.5 IBUs
0.50 oz Fuggles [4.50 %] - Boil 50.0 min Hop 6 3.7 IBUs
0.75 oz Fuggles [4.50 %] - Boil 30.0 min Hop 7 4.5 IBUs
Est Original Gravity: 1.047 SG Measured Original Gravity: 1.046 SG
Est Final Gravity: 1.011 SG Measured Final Gravity: 1.010 SG
Estimated Alcohol by Vol: 4.7 % Actual Alcohol by Vol: 4.7 %
Bitterness: 22.7 IBUs Calories: 151.6 kcal/12oz
Est Color: 13.0 SRM
Mash Name: Single Infusion, Medium Body, Batch Sparge Total Grain Weight: 19 lbs 8.5 oz
Sparge Water: 9.00 gal Grain Temperature: 72.0 F
Sparge Temperature: 168.0 F Tun Temperature: 72.0 F
Adjust Temp for Equipment: FALSE Mash PH: 5.20
Name Description Step Temperature Step Time
Mash In Add 33.30 qt of water at 160.5 F 152.0 F 60 min
Sparge Step: Batch sparge with 3 steps (Drain mash tun, , 4.50gal, 4.50gal) of 168.0 F water
Mash Notes: Simple single infusion mash for use with most modern well modified grains (about 95% of the time).
Carbonation and Storage
Carbonation Type: Bottle Volumes of CO2: 2.3
Pressure/Weight: 8.05 oz Carbonation Used: Bottle with 8.05 oz Corn Sugar
Keg/Bottling Temperature: 70.0 F Age for: 30.00 days
Fermentation: Ale, Two Stage Storage Temperature: 65.0 F
I have been struggling to make a truly good Irish Red ale for a long time, it never seems to go quite right. But today, I hit 1.060 (Beersmith seems to think 91% brewhouse efficiency at about 97.5% mash efficiency). I think the recipe is solid and I am pleased as punch to finally have killed my efficiency issues. Hopefully I didnt overextract or anything crazy like that, I didnt expect to see such a drastic change. I actually cant wait to taste this beer.