Originally Posted by hopandgator
Let me ask this...could I be using too much sparge water, and could this be diluting my wort too much? Should I drain a great deal of wort initially before I start fly sparging?
I don't think it works that way. Well kind of....if you collect too much that means in order to get back down to the sugar concentration for your recipe size your boil off would have to be increased. In other words, what you extract from your grains in terms of amounts of fermentable sugars is fixed...so long as you have extracted pretty much all that you can, there is not much more to it I believe. I have a 5 gallon igloo cooler and fly sparge but usually keep just a small amount of water above my grains to keep it from compacting. I have been getting high efficiencies. What is the design of your manifold and how long does it take you to lauter your typical batch?
That all being said, I don't think your water is the problem for your efficiency, but is a taste factor which you have mentioned. It is hard to make bad water taste good. If you can find a spring (that is clean...you may wish to have it tested as well) then use that, or buy 'spring' water from the store. Don't use distilled water. It has zero character and will need to be doctored.