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Home Brew Forums > Home Brewing Beer > All Grain & Partial Mash Brewing > Another Low Efficiency Post
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Old 01-28-2013, 02:55 PM   #1
justabrewin
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Default Another Low Efficiency Post

Yes, I have looked at the stickies on the subject. And yes, I have used google.

Note: This is my second all grain attempt on my new single tier brew stand. The first attempt I got 60%. This time I got 65%.

I wanted to lie out my process to the homebrew world and try and figure out what I am doing wrong or how I can improve. I’ll start out with my recipe and go in as much detail as possible.

Vanilla Porter

Mash:
8.3lbs Pale Malt, Maris Otter
.57lbs Caramel/Crystal Malt 120L
.3lbs Black Malt
.5lbs Brown Malt
.5lbs Carapils Malt
.5lbs Choclate Malt

Mash for 60mins at 155F

Hops
.5oz Magnum at 60mins
.4oz Challenger at 10mins

Spices:
2 Whole Vanilla Beans at 5mins in the boil

Efficiency Target: 70%

Yeast
1098 Wyeast (British Ale Yeast)

Here was my process:
I measured out 12.2 gallons of water at 163F, and transferred 8.5 gallons of that to my mash tun. After the transfer the temperature was 162F. I added my grain bill, making sure there were no dough balls. The mash temp started at 155F. After 60 minutes it fell to 153F.

I then did my vorlauf. After that, I began my fly sparge and here is where I think I am having issues. I transferred 3.5 gallons of water from the HLT to the mash tun at about the same speed as transferring the wort from the mash tun to the boil kettle. I tried to go as slow as possible with the pumps and keep 1-2 inches above the grain, however, it only lasted 33 minutes. I was hoping for 45-60 mins, but I can’t seem to get them to go at the same speed. I kept slowing one down and speeding the other up.

Note, I actually ended up transferring more than 3.5 gallons because I was worried I would not have enough water because my last brew was way short on volume. Also, I wanted to calculate for the lost water under the ball valve. I then ended up with too much water

After the sparge, I took a pre-boil gravity reading… 1.033. Beersmith estimated it at 1.048… So before I started my boil, I recirculated my wort from the boil kettle back through the grain. I’m not sure if there is wisdom in this, but I did it. It didn’t help. Same pre-boil gravity reading…1.033. I, of course, then transferred it back to the boil kettle.

My pre-boil volume was 7.5 gallons and I was shooting for 6 gallons. Again, I goofed this up. I did the 60 minute boil and hop/spice additions. I ended up with 6.25 gallons in the fermenter. Cooled the wort, added my yeast… blah blah blah.

My post-boil gravity was 1.041 and my target was 1.055…. That gives me a 65% efficiency.

So. How can I improve my efficiency? Do I use less water in the mash and more on the sparge? Vice versa? I know I need to have a longer fly sparge, but I went as slow as I think I can go… The LHBS crushes the grain, but they do a pretty good job of it.

Help please

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Old 01-28-2013, 03:05 PM   #2
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You could try milling the grains tighter.

You could try mashing for 2-3 hours, or overnight.

Idk if you are doing this but I always transfer my sparge water, stir a little and wait ten min before dumping the sparge.

My last brew I mashed for 3 hours ranging from 159 to 155 and got 82% efficiency

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Old 01-28-2013, 03:09 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Djuhnk View Post
You could try mashing for 2-3 hours, or overnight.
I lose 2 degrees an hour in my mash tun. If I did a 2-3 hour mash, would losing that much temperature effect anything?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Djuhnk View Post
Idk if you are doing this but I always transfer my sparge water, stir a little and wait ten min before dumping the sparge.
I didn't do this, but will give it a try next time around. Thanks!
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Old 01-28-2013, 03:11 PM   #4
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Evaluate your crush and pay closer attention to your volumes. Because you wanted 6 gallons and wound up with over 7 you diluted your beer and got a lower gravity then desired.

There are two efficiencies you need to pay attention to: Mash/lauter and total brewhouse

Your mash/lauter efficiency was down because your pre-boil was lower then expected and this tends to lean towards crush first as well as properly stirring and hitting your desired volume for pre-boil. Also your sparge was quick so try and slow that down and you should improve this efficiency

Your brewhouse efficiency takes into account the entire brew process and getting your final primary volume spot on with desired gravity. This will obviously be effected by the previous notes and control of your boil and losses.

With a lower than expected gravity you could have compensated by adding DME or by boiling longer to add concentration to the wort to get closer to your post boil gravity.

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Old 01-28-2013, 03:12 PM   #5
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I must be missing something. You added 15.7 gallons of water to your mash tun and only had 7.5 gallons pre boil? 11 pounds of grain should absorb about a gallon and a half. Where did the other 6.7 gallons go?

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Old 01-28-2013, 03:18 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by duboman View Post
Evaluate your crush and pay closer attention to your volumes. Because you wanted 6 gallons and wound up with over 7 you diluted your beer and got a lower gravity then desired.
I figured this was one of my problems. It looks like I over compensated for the last brew because I only ended up with 4.5 gallons pre-boil.

Quote:
Originally Posted by duboman View Post
There are two efficiencies you need to pay attention to: Mash/lauter and total brewhouse

Your mash/lauter efficiency was down because your pre-boil was lower then expected and this tends to lean towards crush first as well as properly stirring and hitting your desired volume for pre-boil. Also your sparge was quick so try and slow that down and you should improve this efficiency
Noted.

Quote:
Originally Posted by duboman View Post
Your brewhouse efficiency takes into account the entire brew process and getting your final primary volume spot on with desired gravity. This will obviously be effected by the previous notes and control of your boil and losses.

With a lower than expected gravity you could have compensated by adding DME or by boiling longer to add concentration to the wort to get closer to your post boil gravity.
I wish I had some DME on me. Next time I will make sure I have some.
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Old 01-28-2013, 03:23 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by WoodlandBrew View Post
I must be missing something. You added 15.7 gallons of water to your mash tun and only had 7.5 gallons pre boil? 11 pounds of grain should absorb about a gallon and a half. Where did the other 6.7 gallons go?
I think you may have misread. I mashed 8.5 gallons. I sparged a little more than 3.5 gallons. That's a little more than 12 gallons.

I obviously miscalculated something with my water volume, but not by that much. I added more than what beersmith called for because I was afraid of having too low of a pre-boil volume like I did on my first brew.

Note: The location of my ball valve is a little high, so I am left with 1-2 gallons at the bottom of my HLT.
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Old 01-28-2013, 03:28 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by justabrewin View Post
I measured out 12.2 gallons of water at 163F, and transferred 8.5 gallons of that to my mash tun. After the transfer the temperature was 162F. I added my grain bill, making sure there were no dough balls. The mash temp started at 155F. After 60 minutes it fell to 153F.
By my calculations, adding 8.5 gallons (34 quarts) to 10.67 lbs of grain is a water-to-grain ratio of 3.2 quarts per pound, where the recommended ratio is usually in the 1.25 - 1.5 quarts/pound range.

If your description is accurate, then it sounds like you used waaaaay too much strike water to dough-in. Such a high ratio would definitely negatively affect your efficiency.

If you need to make up wort volume, make it up on the sparge, or even add it directly to the boil kettle, but don't overshoot your mash volume. It directly impacts your efficiency.
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Old 01-28-2013, 03:31 PM   #9
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I've only done 1 all grain batch so you can take this comment for what it's worth but I have always read that you should initially mash 1.25 quarts per pound of grain as a general rule and about a half gallon per pound of grain for the sparge. Your post says you intially mashed in with 8.5 gallons of water. Using the 1.25 quarts per pound, I would have mashed in with 3.3 gallons and sparged 5.3 gallons. Of course these are approximations and could also need to be adjusted based on your equipment. It looks as if your sparge volume was less than your mash volume. My understanding is that this will lower efficiency. There are much more experienced AG brewers on here that could confirm or refute that and I would be interested to hear their opinions. It's just what I noticed straight away about your process.

EDIT: kombat posted what I was trying to say while I was typing my post only he was much more efficient at saying it!

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Old 01-28-2013, 03:31 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by justabrewin View Post
I think you may have misread. I mashed 8.5 gallons. I sparged a little more than 3.5 gallons. That's a little more than 12 gallons.

I obviously miscalculated something with my water volume, but not by that much. I added more than what beersmith called for because I was afraid of having too low of a pre-boil volume like I did on my first brew.

Note: The location of my ball valve is a little high, so I am left with 1-2 gallons at the bottom of my HLT.
okay, that explains it. 7.5/12=62.5%.
Your sugar is tied up in the 3 gallons left the the mash tun. If you get that out you should have better than 80% efficiency.
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