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Old 07-22-2009, 02:54 PM   #1
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Default Batch Sparge Questions

My efficiency was horrible last time, so I'm trying to nail down the best batch sparge process for next time. Last time I stirred in grain, let it rest for an hour untouched, then slowly drained a few pints, carefully added them back (trying not to disturb the grain), then drained the rest close to full speed. I added more sparge water, stirred well, waited 10 minutes, then repeated drain.

From what I've read about batch sparging, channelling is no longer an issue of concern since you're draining all of the water with each sparge. I read a post here somewhere talking about using aluminium foil on the top of the grain bed to poor the first few pints of runoff back onto to keep from disturbing the grain. I planned on adding this to my process next time, but now I'm wondering...

Do I care whether I disturb the grain or not?

If not, can/should I also stir the grain any during the initial rest?

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Old 07-22-2009, 03:02 PM   #2
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If you get your grain stirred up well enough as soon as you add your strike water, I don't believe that stirring during the mash will make any significant difference. When I vorlauf, I usually just pour the runoff back in the MLT very slowly and let it run down the sides of the cooler rather than pouring it in directly.

I use 1.25 qts per pound of grain for my strike water volume. My batch sparging occurs in either one step or two equal steps depending on the grain bill. You might also want to take a look at the quality of your crush if you are having an efficiency problem.

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Old 07-22-2009, 03:05 PM   #3
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I usually add some real hot water at the end of the mash and stir for a couple of minutes before the initial run off. I pour the vorlauf over my mixing spoon to break up the flow and not disturb the grain bed to much. This is not likely the source of bad efficiency. Usually the grain crush has the most effect on efficiency. Do you have the LHBS crush your grain?

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Old 07-22-2009, 03:06 PM   #4
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Yes, it is most likely that your low efficiency is not coming from your lauter process but from your mashing where you may not convert a sufficient amount of starches because. Check your crush, pH and maybe try a tinner mash.

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Old 07-22-2009, 03:21 PM   #5
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I did get my crush from the LHBS, but I won't be buying grain there again, so that might resolve some of the problem.

If I stir right before initial run off, it doesn't seem like I would need to take steps to keep from disturbing the grain bed. Does the bed setup somehow for the couple of minutes between stirring and pooring back in the initial runnings?

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Old 07-22-2009, 03:50 PM   #6
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+1 on importance of the milling process.

What was the size of your grain bill? What was your mash thickness? What is your target pre-boil volume?

These are all important for a successful batch sparge. I get between 70%-80% efficiency, depending mostly upon the amount of grain I use (more grain = less efficiency).

Here's my current process.
1. heat tun with water for 1.25qt/lb mash thickness at 10° F over strike temp and let temp come down to strike temp and heat tun.
2. add grain and stir, stir, stir
3. wait ten minutes and check temp, adjust if needed
4. do something else for 50 minutes
5. iodine check for conversion
6. drain tun ( I don't vorlauf anymore as the particulates settle out in the trub and yeast cake)
7. target pre-boil volume - first runnings = sparge volume
8. sparge with half the volume in 7 at 180°F, stir, drain, repeat.

Pretty simple, eh? Hope this helps, or at least gives you some insight into another's process to help troubleshoot yours.

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Old 07-22-2009, 05:05 PM   #7
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Thanks for the rundown. Sounds pretty similar to what I did, but I think I'll split my second batch in two next time like you mentioned. Now I need to go read about step 5. I assume there's some sort of step 5a depending on the results of the iodine test...(?)

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Old 07-22-2009, 05:58 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by carrotmalt View Post
I did get my crush from the LHBS, but I won't be buying grain there again, so that might resolve some of the problem.

If I stir right before initial run off, it doesn't seem like I would need to take steps to keep from disturbing the grain bed. Does the bed setup somehow for the couple of minutes between stirring and pooring back in the initial runnings?
Don't stir before you take your first runnings. That will disturb the grain bed and it will take you a lot longer to clear it up in the vorlauf process. The grain bed is acting as a filter, so you want it intact.
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Old 07-22-2009, 06:19 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JMSetzler View Post
Don't stir before you take your first runnings. That will disturb the grain bed and it will take you a lot longer to clear it up in the vorlauf process. The grain bed is acting as a filter, so you want it intact.
I don't disagree entirely, but I don't think that's your problem. Denny Conn stirs before he vorlaufs (unless I misinterpreted his descriptions), and pretty much invented this.

Don't worry too much about disturbing the mash is my point, YES - it is your filter, and YES you want it intact. But even if you stir it just prior to run-off, it will only take you about 4-6 qts of recirc/vorlauf to get clear wort running into the kettle. Or at least that's what I find. Either way, the vorlauf sets the grain bed rather quickly. So this isn't a huge deal in the grand scheme.
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Old 07-22-2009, 06:23 PM   #10
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2 other common oversights can be:

1. Lumps! you didn't stir all the grain well enough. Water doesn't get to the inside of a doughball very efficiently!

2. Volume! Most homebrewers don't have really accurate volume measurements. I.e. if you don't exactly know how much water you put in, how much you collect in runnings, how much you boiled, how much you boiled off, and how much you collect from the kettle, then it's tough be extremely accurate in predicting or measuring your efficiency. When I started measuring more carefully I got more consistent results. I only get about 70% though. I suspect it's the LHBS crush holding be back from more, but I don't care too much.

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