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Home Brew Forums > Home Brewing Beer > All Grain & Partial Mash Brewing > 1st All-Grain a DISASTER!
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Old 12-03-2008, 09:58 PM   #1
cellardoor
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Default 1st All-Grain a DISASTER!

I was so excited yesterday to get my grains from UPS yesterday I decided I couldn't wait until Sunday to brew and I had to do it last night. It all went well until I needed to sparge. I drained my mash water, put in about 2 gallons for my first sparge and let it drain. So far so good. My second sparge of about 2 gallons is where It all went wrong. Nothing would drain from my MLT. I assumed that I had a stuck sparge and not knowing what to do I stuck my stir spoon down into my cooler and gave it a stir and tried to scrape any grains off my stainless braid. This worked for a little bit but the sparge became all cloudy and grainy (luckily I put the output hose in a measuring cup and not the keggle).

At that point It was getting late, I could think of no solution and I just wanted to finish that I decided to just boil what I had (about 4 gallons) and add my additions as planned. So after the hour boil I ended up with roughly 2.75 gallons of 1.086 wort instead of the 5.5 gallons of 1.056 I intended. I pitched the Wyeast 1056 and hoped for the best. When I got home from work today it has started to bubble already. I have no idea how this is going to taste in the end but it was my 1st all-grain and it can only get better from here on out.

Some questions I have are:

I did a cooler conversion via FlyGuys thread and the conversion itself is leak proof but I'm questioning the stainless braid method. I did insert notched vinyl tubing to prevent the braid from collapsing but I feel that a copper or CPVC manifold system is better. Any thoughts?

Also how does one effectively unstick a sparge?

Thanks and I really hope to solve this problem since I'm brewing another batch on Sunday.

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Old 12-03-2008, 10:26 PM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cellardoor View Post
I was so excited yesterday to get my grains from UPS yesterday I decided I couldn't wait until Sunday to brew and I had to do it last night. It all went well until I needed to sparge. I drained my mash water, put in about 2 gallons for my first sparge and let it drain. So far so good. My second sparge of about 2 gallons is where It all went wrong. Nothing would drain from my MLT. I assumed that I had a stuck sparge and not knowing what to do I stuck my stir spoon down into my cooler and gave it a stir and tried to scrape any grains off my stainless braid. This worked for a little bit but the sparge became all cloudy and grainy (luckily I put the output hose in a measuring cup and not the keggle).
Yep, you had a stuck sparge. Stirring and trying to drain again helps. Just give the grain bed a few minutes to settle, and recirculate the wort back into the lauter tun until it runs clear(ish).

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Originally Posted by cellardoor View Post
At that point It was getting late, I could think of no solution and I just wanted to finish that I decided to just boil what I had (about 4 gallons) and add my additions as planned. So after the hour boil I ended up with roughly 2.75 gallons of 1.086 wort instead of the 5.5 gallons of 1.056 I intended. I pitched the Wyeast 1056 and hoped for the best. When I got home from work today it has started to bubble already. I have no idea how this is going to taste in the end but it was my 1st all-grain and it can only get better from here on out.
It will have a higher ABV and less emphasis on hops, due to the relatively high gravity. It should certainly be drinkable, and probably pretty good.

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Originally Posted by cellardoor View Post
Some questions I have are:

I did a cooler conversion via FlyGuys thread and the conversion itself is leak proof but I'm questioning the stainless braid method. I did insert notched vinyl tubing to prevent the braid from collapsing but I feel that a copper or CPVC manifold system is better. Any thoughts?
I've always used a braid with no reinforcement. Where did you buy the braid? Lowe's has actual stainless braided toilet connectors. Home Depot has some that are braided plastic that only looks like stainless steel, and are notorious for collapsing, resulting in stuck mashes.

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Also how does one effectively unstick a sparge?

Thanks and I really hope to solve this problem since I'm brewing another batch on Sunday.
You were on the way. Stirring up the grain bed can be helpful. Sometimes, all it takes is to blow back into the hose until you see bubbles in the mash.
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Old 12-03-2008, 10:33 PM   #3
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Yup, stuck sparge. Sounds like you did everything you could... I don't use bazooka screen for that exact reason. I went with a false bottom in my igloo cooler from Adventures in Homebrewing... havent had a stuck sparge yet! Maybe if you find that you're ending up with alot of stuck sparges, try just trickling in on top and trickling off your sweet liquer so that you're not creating so much suction on your mash. Keep about an inch or so of water on the grain bed and you should be able to keep the mash nice and loose. Good luck!!!

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Old 12-04-2008, 12:00 AM   #4
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I've always used a braid with no reinforcement. Where did you buy the braid? Lowe's has actual stainless braided toilet connectors. Home Depot has some that are braided plastic that only looks like stainless steel, and are notorious for collapsing, resulting in stuck mashes.
Yup it's a stainless braid but I read somewhere on the FlyGuy cooler conversion thread the notched vinyl can help prevent collapsing of the braid. Maybe on Sunday I'll try it without the vinyl.

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You were on the way. Stirring up the grain bed can be helpful. Sometimes, all it takes is to blow back into the hose until you see bubbles in the mash.
Blowing bubbles back into the mash is a good idea. Thanks for the idea. I also was vorlaufing after stirring but flow would stop immediately after I stopped stirring from the bottom of the tun. I was also wondering about sparging technique. Since i don't have a fancy sparge arm I pretty much just dumped the 2 gallons of sparge water on top of the grainbed. Was the the right thing to do or should I have poured it slowly or maybe through a colander?

Thanks for the help already.
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Old 12-04-2008, 12:06 AM   #5
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You could have diluted the "super" wort with 1.5 gallons of water. Then you would have 4.25 gallons of wort @ 1.056.

I would also think about switching to a manifold, either copper or pvc. They can't collapse, i've never had a stuck sparge with pvc.

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Old 12-04-2008, 01:04 AM   #6
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You could have diluted the "super" wort with 1.5 gallons of water. Then you would have 4.25 gallons of wort @ 1.056.
I thought about that, but this was my first time being capable of a full boil so dammit I'm not topping off anything
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Old 12-04-2008, 01:38 AM   #7
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You could have diluted the "super" wort with 1.5 gallons of water. Then you would have 4.25 gallons of wort @ 1.056.

I would also think about switching to a manifold, either copper or pvc. They can't collapse, i've never had a stuck sparge with pvc.

I use a stainless braid from a water heater connector. I made a 1.1ish barleywine and no noticeable crushing. I am sure I could crush it if I tried, but no grain is going to.
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Old 12-04-2008, 01:43 AM   #8
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Yup it's a stainless braid but I read somewhere on the FlyGuy cooler conversion thread the notched vinyl can help prevent collapsing of the braid. Maybe on Sunday I'll try it without the vinyl.
If you are going to use a plastic braid, then you need to either reinforce it with tubing stiffer than vinyl (it gets too pliable when soft), or put a piece of slotted copper tubing inside it (easier and cheaper than making a manifold).

One thing you might try is re-using the original tubing that was inside the braid to begin with. But it will only work if it is very stiff.

Personally, I would just toss the plastic braid and get a good, quality stainless braid. I found them at my local Rona (like a Canadian Lowes) for about $4.

Sorry to hear that you had stuck sparge woes -- perhaps I need to add some notes in BIG RED LETTERS not to use plastic braids.
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Old 12-04-2008, 01:47 AM   #9
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just toss in 2 or 3 handfuls of rice hulls when you dough in. they are dirt cheap and pretty much eliminate stuck sparges.

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Old 12-04-2008, 02:04 AM   #10
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Sorry to hear that you had stuck sparge woes -- perhaps I need to add some notes in BIG RED LETTERS not to use plastic braids.
It is a stainless steel braid that I'm using (I made sure of that) and I modified it with the notched vinyl as in your picture here



I think I'll just get a small piece of copper pipe and cut slits in it and attach that with a small piece of tubing to the barb on the inside of the cooler. If I'm batch sparging a straight piece of copper is going to work just fine.
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