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Old 06-11-2012, 04:15 PM   #1
BrewDoc22
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Default Abysmal Efficiency (55%-ish). Help?

The efficiencies for my last three batches have been 57.6%, 51.5%, and 59.1% from past to most recent. Up until now I have been using a cheap rectangular 50-qt. coleman cooler (holds temps pretty well, though) as my mash tun with slotted CPVC as my manifold. I tried to make several improvements to my mashing technique with the last batch, but was disappointed that it still didn't even crack 60%. Here's what I did:

Used barley crusher with gap set at 1 mm.
Mashed for 60 min. at 152˚F
Mash thickness 1.35 qt./lb. of grain
Used 5.2 pH stabilizer
Semi-fly sparge using 1 qt glass pitcher to manually pour sparge water onto tupperware lid placed over grain bed.
Sparge water at 180˚F initially (probably ended at 165˚F when I added the last of it).
Collected 6.5 gal. wort for 5.5 gal. batch in about 20 min. (too fast, I know).

For my next batch (in about a week), I have converted an Igloo 10-gallon cylindrical cooler into a new mash tun and my old one will hold my sparge water. I'm hoping this will give me a sizable boost in eff% since I will have a much deeper grain bed and more even temperatures. I converted my CPVC manifold to fit the Igloo cooler (can't make the copper investment yet). Additionally, I have constructed a sparge arm out of CPVC and I am shooting for a much slower sparge of about 1-1.5 pt. per minute.

I'm hoping all of these efforts will get me at least to a semi-respectable 70%. But I'll have to cross my fingers.

Any other suggestions I should consider before my next brew day?

Thanks,
Robert

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Old 06-11-2012, 04:53 PM   #2
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It could be that your grain bed isn't very deep. Do you stir a lot during the mash? Though I use a converted keg now and direct fire, I prefer the round cooler over the rectangular for that type of tun. I'm no engineer, but that to me seems like a better design for mashing. Here's another recent thread that you may pick some tips in as well.

Not sure about your grain crush. I do mine at the LHBS and with my process, get 75-80% efficiency. You may want to post a pic of the crush and allow people to comment as much as they can.

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Old 06-11-2012, 05:03 PM   #3
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Fly sparging in a rectangular cooler, and too fast at that, is your issue- assuming your crush is ok (pics of that would help). The wide shallow grain bed will rinse poorly during a fly sparge because the water is flowing through a small portion of the grain. Moving to a round cooler will boost you, as will slowing down. Fly sparge for an hour in a round cooler, or double batch sparge the rectangular one. I would also reccomend ditching the 5.2 if you dont know your exact water profile.

Dont stress reaching a high number, stress a consistant number. 68% every time is better than drifting between 75-80% imo.

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Old 06-11-2012, 05:08 PM   #4
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Mill gap should be ok. That's about 0.04 inches, and I know of commercial breweries using 0.045. 20 minute runoff could have been your culprit right there. You need to go about an hour. The sparge system you made will be fun, no doubt, but using the pitcher was ok... that's what I do, more or less. I diffuse mine over a wooden spoon and get it all in in 10 minutes or less. Don't stir the mash after you start your run off. Grain bed depth can have an adverse effect on wort quality, but with proper runoff time it should be minor... with the size tun you used, it should be fine. I THINK that is the size mine is. I get consistent 80% efficiencies.

I disagree about the rectangular cooler comments. With a proper manifold it will work fantastic.

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Old 06-11-2012, 05:32 PM   #5
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I noticed that I get higher efficiency when I mash thinner, around 1.5 qts per pound. I only batch sparge so I can't comment on fly sparging. I too use a rectangular cooler but with a stainless braid and get around 70% efficiency.

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Old 06-11-2012, 05:39 PM   #6
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One idea that occurs to me is to skip the 'semi-fly sparge' and just do a regular old batch sparge and see if that helps. Pour in the hot liqour, stir well, let it sit for ten minutes, vorlauf, drain. Repeat until you hit your pre-boil volume.

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Old 06-11-2012, 05:52 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by texasbrewer73 View Post
It could be that your grain bed isn't very deep. Do you stir a lot during the mash? Though I use a converted keg now and direct fire, I prefer the round cooler over the rectangular for that type of tun. I'm no engineer, but that to me seems like a better design for mashing. Here's another recent thread that you may pick some tips in as well.

Not sure about your grain crush. I do mine at the LHBS and with my process, get 75-80% efficiency. You may want to post a pic of the crush and allow people to comment as much as they can.
I do stir quite a bit during the mash. About 30 sec. of stirring every 10 minutes.

I completely understand about the rectangular vs. cylindrical MT. I chose the rectangular one for my first MT because the price was right (about $30 cheaper than an equivalent volume cylindrical one). I'm hoping the new MT will help things quite a bit.

I'm brewing with my Dad for Fathers Day, so I'll post a pic in this thread or a new one once I have some more crushed grain on hand. The most recent brew (@ 59% eff) was my first one using my own barley crusher. There's no real homebrew store in Iowa City and when I asked MidwestSupplies to crush my grains for me, it seems like they are using a crusher with about a 2 mm gap (a.k.a. barely crushed at all).

Thanks for the link to the other thread. I'm picking up some good tips there too!
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Old 06-11-2012, 05:59 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ahurd110 View Post
Fly sparging in a rectangular cooler, and too fast at that, is your issue- assuming your crush is ok (pics of that would help). The wide shallow grain bed will rinse poorly during a fly sparge because the water is flowing through a small portion of the grain. Moving to a round cooler will boost you, as will slowing down. Fly sparge for an hour in a round cooler, or double batch sparge the rectangular one. I would also reccomend ditching the 5.2 if you dont know your exact water profile.

Dont stress reaching a high number, stress a consistant number. 68% every time is better than drifting between 75-80% imo.
Also a good point. Makes sense why my second-to-last brew had a 51% eff. I had a really poor crush on the grain (this was before I got my barley crusher) and it was my first time using the "Semi-fly sparge" method vs. batch sparging.

I'm going to be brewing a lot this summer so I may play around with comparing batch sparge in my old rectangular MT and fly sparging in my new cylindrical one.

edit: About the water profile: I use spring water for that reason. I've been assuming spring water has a pretty consistent mineral profile compared to tap water so 5.2 should have the desired effect.

I saw in another thread that doing a mash out with boiling water before starting your sparge can also boost efficiency. anyone tried this with good/bad results?
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Old 06-11-2012, 06:06 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BrewDoc22 View Post
Also a good point. Makes sense why my second-to-last brew had a 51% eff. I had a really poor crush on the grain (this was before I got my barley crusher) and it was my first time using the "Semi-fly sparge" method vs. batch sparging.

I'm going to be brewing a lot this summer so I may play around with comparing batch sparge in my old rectangular MT and fly sparging in my new cylindrical one.

I saw in another thread that doing a mash out with boiling water before starting your sparge can also boost efficiency. anyone tried this with good/bad results?
I have a buddy who swears mashing out increases his efficiency by 3-5 points. I sparge with 175-180 degree water doing essentially the same thing without an added step and get slightly higher efficiency than he does. All systems are different though. It is definitely worth trying and seeing what is going to work best for you.
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Old 06-11-2012, 06:14 PM   #10
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When sparging, you need to raise the temp of the grain bed to 170F. For me, that means my first round of batch sparging needs to be around 200F. You will grab several points, if not more, this way. I get about 80% with a Home Depot cooler and braid, batch sparging.

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