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Old 05-10-2010, 01:47 PM   #1
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Default Batch sparge not working well

Whenever I hit my volumes my efficiency stinks. My last two batches were 54.35% and 61.95%. If I go over my volume and then do a boil off, I am then usually in the 80% range, which I consider acceptable.I have a 10 gallon round Igloo cooler with a stainless steel false bottom. My volumes are good, my temperatures are good, and I am using the Palmer method of batch sparging. I know that I can use BrewSmith to add some grain to my mash to compensate, but that just seems wasteful. So here's my question ... will going to a 90 minute mash, or doing decoction raise my efficiency 20%? Or should I just toss in the towel and go to fly sparging?

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Old 05-10-2010, 01:59 PM   #2
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So here's my question ... will going to a 90 minute mash, or doing decoction raise my efficiency 20%? Or should I just toss in the towel and go to fly sparging?
None of the above! A couple of reasons why- a 90 minute mash won't help unless you're not getting conversion in a 60 minute mash, and you may find the character of the beer will change with a longer mash. A decoction may raise your efficiency, but if it's not a beer that typically benefits from decoction, I don't see the advantage. And it won't raise your efficiency 20% anyway- maybe 2% or so.

Fly sparging may improve your efficiency- but only a small amount. It sounds like there is something in your process that is causing the issue. If that's the case, fly sparging won't help.

First, crush. That's usually the #1 reason for poor efficiency.

Secondly, conversion. I suggest an iodine test to see if you're getting conversion.

If you have a good crush, and you're getting complete conversion, then you can consider lautering efficiency.

Water chemistry can cause some problems with conversion (pH issues) so if that is checked off, we can look at the lautering/sparging portion of your technique.

What's your process?
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Old 05-10-2010, 02:20 PM   #3
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First, crush. That's usually the #1 reason for poor efficiency.
+ 1 as the first place to look. Its one of two reasons I ended up getting my own grain mill (the other was so that I could buy grain in bulk and save some cash).
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Old 05-10-2010, 02:36 PM   #4
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First, crush. That's usually the #1 reason for poor efficiency. - I have my LHBS do the crush for me.

Secondly, conversion. I suggest an iodine test to see if you're getting conversion. - Hmmm ... I haven't done that. But if it does show that I am not getting full conversion, what do I do about it?

If you have a good crush, and you're getting complete conversion, then you can consider lautering efficiency. - I believe this is where my problem is. How can this be increased?

Water chemistry can cause some problems with conversion (pH issues) so if that is checked off, we can look at the lautering/sparging portion of your technique. - I have not personally checked this. The guys at my LHBS said that my Detroit City water is almost perfect for all grain brewing and that I shouldn't have to do anything to my water.

What's your process? - 1) Pre-heat my tun\cooler 2) Empty the pre-heated water, dump in the gain, add my strike water 3) Stir for 5 minutes 4) After 15 minutes give the mash a gentle stir 5) Let sit for 45 more minutes 6) Vorlauf until clear (I use a piece of aluminum foil on top of the grain to keep from disturbing the bed) and then drain out all the wort 7) Add sparge water and stir 8) Let sit for 15 minutes 9) Vorlauf until clear and then drain wort until pre-boil volume is reached.

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Old 05-10-2010, 02:39 PM   #5
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First, crush. That's usually the #1 reason for poor efficiency. - I have my LHBS do the crush for me.
Bingo - 90% chance that's the reason. When LHBS crushed my grain, I had a hard time getting over 60%, first time I used my own mill, I got mid 70s.

You could ask them to put it through their mill twice, or ask them if they could adjust their mill a little tighter for you.
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Old 05-10-2010, 02:39 PM   #6
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+ 1 as the first place to look. Its one of two reasons I ended up getting my own grain mill (the other was so that I could buy grain in bulk and save some cash).
That may be an option I need to look in to. Using the same method I described above I have had efficiency rates from 53% up to 82%. I think that my process is consistent and the only other variable is the crush. But I would like to rule out any stupidity on my part before spending money on a crusher.
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Old 05-10-2010, 02:43 PM   #7
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What's your process? - 1) Pre-heat my tun\cooler 2) Empty the pre-heated water, dump in the gain, add my strike water 3) Stir for 5 minutes 4) After 15 minutes give the mash a gentle stir 5) Let sit for 45 more minutes 6) Vorlauf until clear (I use a piece of aluminum foil on top of the grain to keep from disturbing the bed) and then drain out all the wort 7) Add sparge water and stir 8) Let sit for 15 minutes 9) Vorlauf until clear and then drain wort until pre-boil volume is reached.
This looks textbook perfect to me.
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Old 05-10-2010, 02:46 PM   #8
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GR, is your avatar a picture of the home you live in?
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Old 05-10-2010, 02:46 PM   #9
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This looks textbook perfect to me.
Yep! It is exactly what you should do.

You could make sure that your grainbed during the batch sparge is at 168, just in case it's lower. The sugars are more soluble in warmer water, so sometimes I've had to add water as high as 179 to get my first round of batch sparging in the 168 range.

What is your preboil volume?
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Old 05-10-2010, 02:54 PM   #10
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First, crush. That's usually the #1 reason for poor efficiency. - I have my LHBS do the crush for me.
Think about it, is there any reason why a LHBS would under-crush grains?

Two reasons I can think of:

1. Low efficiency causes customers to increase the amount of grain they buy.

2. Better crush may lead to stuck sparges in some recipes/systems and would cause customer complaints.

If you want to prove to yourself that the crush is to blame, then have your LHBS run your grain through their mill twice and see if that increases efficiency. They might complain/charge extra, but you'll have your answer.
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