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Old 03-18-2012, 08:52 PM   #1
mother_night
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Default Consistently (really) low efficiency, here's my notes.

So I've brewed about 6 all grain batches so far and my efficiency is consistently really, really low. I know everyone says don't be too concerned about that as long as it's consistent but A) It's not particularly consistent and usually bounces around somewhere between 48%-58% B) If I'm using so much more grain than I would with a higher efficiency I can't fit enough grain in my mash tun for bigger beers C) It's totally emasculating to have such poor efficiency

I'm frustrated and am considering just adding a pound of DME into each batch, but I feel like that is treating the symptom not curing the disease.

So I thought I would take detailed notes on my entire process hoping to get some feedback on it. Some of the notes were for myself and some were intended for feedback, so if some parts seem irrelevant please ignore. Also, please keep in mind that I am making 2.75 gallon batches, so all my amounts should be half that of normal 5 or 5.5 gallon batches.

My equipment is a 5 gallon orange cooler with a braided steel tube screen thing. I do full wort boils in a stainless pot, then cool with a wort chiller attached to my kitchen faucet.

Here we go. Like I said, any feedback would be great. Also, feel free to try the recipe yourself. I originally set my efficiency for 65% (wishful thinking) but only achieved about 50%, so it's probably going to be way overhopped.

Recipe: Dog Days Summer Ale 1.0
Brewer:
Asst Brewer:
Style: Blonde Ale
TYPE: All Grain
Taste: (30.0)

Recipe Specifications
--------------------------
Boil Size: 4.14 gal
Post Boil Volume: 3.64 gal
Batch Size (fermenter): 2.75 gal
Bottling Volume: 2.50 gal
Estimated OG: 1.039 SG
Estimated Color: 5.8 SRM
Estimated IBU: 29.3 IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency: 50.00 %
Boil Time: 60 Minutes

Ingredients:
------------
Amt Name Type # %/IBU
0.50 Items Gypsum (Calcium Sulfate) (Mash 60.0 mins Water Agent 1 -
5 lbs Pale Malt (2 Row) UK (3.0 SRM) Grain 2 84.2 %
6.0 oz Cara-Pils/Dextrine (2.0 SRM) Grain 3 6.3 %
5.0 oz Munich Malt - 10L (10.0 SRM) Grain 4 5.3 %
3.0 oz Aromatic Malt (26.0 SRM) Grain 5 3.2 %
1.0 oz Honey Malt (25.0 SRM) Grain 6 1.1 %
0.25 oz Palisade [7.50 %] - Boil 60.0 min Hop 7 11.9 IBUs
0.25 oz Palisade [7.50 %] - Boil 30.0 min Hop 8 9.1 IBUs
0.25 oz Styrian Goldings [5.40 %] - Boil 20.0 mi Hop 9 5.2 IBUs
0.50 Items Irish Moss (Boil 10.0 mins) Fining 10 -
0.25 oz Styrian Goldings [5.40 %] - Boil 10.0 mi Hop 11 3.1 IBUs
1.0 pkg London ESB Ale (Wyeast Labs #1968) [124. Yeast 12 -


Mash Schedule: Single Infusion, Light Body, Batch Sparge
Total Grain Weight: 5 lbs 15.0 oz
----------------------------
Name Description Step Temperat Step Time
Mash In Add 2.30 gal of water at 159.2 F 150.0 F 75 min

Sparge: Batch sparge with 2 steps (0.61gal, 2.20gal) of 168.0 F water
Notes:
------

Total mash used 3 gallons bottled water, the rest was tap water. Initial mash was all bottled water with salts added. Sparge was mostly tap water with some bottled water, no salts added.

Reset mash temperature to 150 (although 'light' setting in BeerSmith is 148). It told me to dough in at 159.2 for 150, I doughed in at 165.2 (6º higher) and still was at 148.1 by the time all my grains were in. From now on know that I need to add 8º (maybe even 9º) to whatever BeerSmith tells me. This is with a pre-heated mash tun where I let the hot water sit in there for about 15 minutes slowly adding icecubes to hot water until it lowered to my desired mash in temperature. Mash for 60.

Stirred after 15 minutes. Temperature is down to 146.8. Not sure if the temperature is dropping that fast or if it's just cause I mixed it.

Stirred after 45 minutes. Temperature is down to 143.2. It's dropping.

After 60 minutes it is 142. I guess I should expect to lose about 6 degrees per hour. So from now on I guess take whatever I want to mash at, add 2º, then add 8º to that. Therefore, mash in at 10º higher than what I want to mash at and it should be on.

Vorlaufed and drained fairly slowly. When it hits it has the high pitched splattering sound not the low pitched pouring sound.

Drained completely, got about 1.5 gallons initial runnings. I guess that means 6 lbs of grains absorbs about .8 gallons of water? BeerSmith told me to sparge with .6 and 2.2 gallons. Why? Sparging with 1.4 and 1.4. Drain after initial runnings, add in 1.4 gallons 170º water, mix, vorlauf, drain, repeat. Ended up with about 4.15 gallons, perfect.

Boil for 60 minutes with proper hop additions.

Rehydrated Irish Moss with hot tap water, sit for one hour and added at 10 minutes. Really mossy!

Cooled with wort chiller to mid 70's. Collected about 2.6 gallons (wanted 2.75). 1.042 for efficiency of 50%.

Pitched yeast and put into fridge to ferment at 64º. Going strong.
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

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Old 03-18-2012, 09:09 PM   #2
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The low temp might have prevented you from getting full conversion. If you can fit all the sparge water in your tun at once, there's no reason to do 2 sparges.

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Old 03-18-2012, 09:13 PM   #3
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Regarding the efficiency, I found (as have many here, I think) that grinding my own grain made a huge difference. For me, it was 15 to 20 points difference. FWIW, my system and procress are dialed in for 70% efficiency.

Regarding your mash temperatures, that's troubling to me, because mash temperature is really critical. Perhaps it has to do with your small batches? I use a round HD cooler and Beersmith and have no troubles with temp at all - in fact, its the aspect of Beersmith that's the most useful to me. Do you have both your batch size and equipment correctly entered? Are you preheating your tun (by pouring some very hot water into it, letting it sit and then dumping it out)?

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Old 03-18-2012, 09:25 PM   #4
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It might be temperature, this is the first time I have paid attention to temperature post dough-in and I have noticed that along with my low efficiency I have had consistently thinner beers than I intended.

It might be the grind. I remember once asking my LHBS to reset their mill to some suggested setting I saw here, they did and I noticed that was my highest efficiency to date.

All my equipment settings in BrewSmith are accurate. Although It's strange that I have to use such higher temperatures than it gives me. Had I used it's temperatures I probably would have mashed in at about 140º. I am preheating it. I add in water quite a bit hotter than I intended to mash into then let it cool in my mash tun before adding my grains.

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Old 03-18-2012, 09:46 PM   #5
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For preheating your mash tun, you should just add about a gallon or so boiling or close to boiling water and let that sit for 10 - 15 minutes. Then dump that water out and continue with the mash in. You're losing temp because the mash tun isn't full and you're not preheating it enough.

As for beersmith mash in temp being off I also have to add about 6 - 8 degrees on my system so I hit my mash temp right. Not a big deal, just try to be consistent with your preheating. Also, keep your grains in the house before brewing so they are at least room temp before you start.

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Old 03-18-2012, 09:52 PM   #6
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Hi, I have the same mash tun as you, and I've had no problems maintaining temp for 60 mins. I am also doing 2.5 - 2.75 gallon batches.

One thing I picked up on here, is while you are heating your strike water, throw a couple of quarts of near boiling water in the mash tun, and put the lid on. As it sits, it heats up the MT. Before you add the strike water, empty the MT.

Yesterday I doughed in with water at 166, got it to 152 / 153, then added some room temp water and mixed until I got to 150 / 151 (my desired mash temp). I closed it up, put on a bunch of towels, and let it sit. I took the temp before I drained the inital runnings, and it was at 150.

Oh, I also wrapped some folded reflectix around the top, where the lid meets the body, but I'm not sure if that even did anything. It was a last minute attempt.

Also, on the contrary to you, I always get higher efficiency then I expect, so my beers are stronger than anticipated.

I've only done 8 batches, so take my advice with grain of salt.

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Old 03-18-2012, 09:52 PM   #7
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Just to note, you will lose more thermal energy through a smaller container. So, those using a larger volume for mashing, or a larger container (again, pretty full with hot liquid) will see that container retain more heat.

If your temp drops too low, you can always add some hot water to help maintain your mash temp, or at least keep it from dropping so far. I just made my first AG BIAB brew, and that's how I kept my mash temp from dropping too far. I just used a bit of my sparge water, heated it to 190°F or so, and then poured it into the mash and stirred it up. Temp went up a few degrees each time.

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Old 03-18-2012, 10:25 PM   #8
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Thanks for everyones advice. I'll focus on pre-heating my mash tun properly and my mashing temperatures on the next batch and see if I see any changes.

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Old 03-18-2012, 10:34 PM   #9
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I'd say;
1) check and calibrate thermometers
2) pre-heat your MLT
3) get a grain mill and dial in a perfect crush for your system
4) mash longer if you have to, and do iodine test to check for converssion
5) heat up your sparge water to about 185F before infusing
6) stir your sparge like a mad man and then stir some more
7) let the sparge sit for 10 or 15 mins before draining

These are the changes I made recently (except I still haven't bought a mill, yet), and I went from 60% to 79% efficiency..

Good luck

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Old 03-19-2012, 12:29 AM   #10
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What's the gypsum in the mash for? Did you check the pH and need to adjust it with the gypsum? I don't think mash pH is totally responsible for poor efficiency, but it wouldn't help. How much did you use?

I am on a netbook, so it's hard to see it all at once but it looks like you're using 1.5 quarts of water per pound of grain in the mash? That would be a good amount.

As was mentioned, preheating the mash tun would be helpful.

Do you have any iodine or iodophor? I would recommend checking the mash for conversion before sparging, as at 148 or so, it might take longer than 60 minutes to convert.

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