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Home Brew Forums > Home Brewing Beer > All Grain & Partial Mash Brewing > Efficiency
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Old 01-03-2011, 05:12 PM   #1
jamen46
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Default Efficiency

It has been a while since i have posted on this site, but I find there is a good bit of knowledge hanging around here, and I have been getting pretty frustrated with my brewing.

I have been brewing for about 2 years now and have been brewing all grain for about 1.5 years. I like to think I have a pretty good understanding of what is going on throughout the processes involved, i.e. mashing, sparging, and the actual brewing. I use beersmith to build my recipes and my beers usually taste pretty good. I use a standard 48 quart ice chest for a mash/lauter tun and a 30 quart stainless steel turkey fryer for a brew kettle. I buy my grain from my local homebrew supply shop and he crushes the grain for me. I always brew within a day or two of crushing. I think my longest has been maybe 4 days from crush to brew.

My problem is I can't get decent efficiency...Wait, correction, I can't get consistent efficiency. It is really mind boggling to me. I use the same process, I don't adjust the software, yet, my effeciencies run from 50-80%. Its really not that big of a deal when I do larger beers, because I tend to stay in the style, but session beers are tough. And, how am I supposed to get any consistent recipes when my beers come out different every time?

I realize I am not using a top of the line system, but I would think I could get some consistency with my system.

Please, any advice would help.

Thanks,
J

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Old 01-03-2011, 05:20 PM   #2
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Do you ever change your process or tweak it from one brew to the next? I repeat the exact same steps for every brew regardless of the style or size. I also found a great sway on efficiency when I was getting my grain milled at the LHBS, after getting a mill I am rock solid in consistency with my brews.

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Old 01-03-2011, 05:24 PM   #3
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Thanks. Yeah, I'm working on convincing the wife that I need my own mill. Its tough with the new baby and all, but that is definitely something I've been looking into and its good to know that is something i can look at for some hope.

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Old 01-03-2011, 06:06 PM   #4
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Have you compared your thermometer with a lab grade one? It's possible that you are mashing one at 145 and the next at 158 while your thermometer is reading 152. That alone would get you lots of variation in efficiency.

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Old 01-03-2011, 06:13 PM   #5
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My thesis on efficiency problems is as follows:

1) are you completely sure your ingredients are properly weighed?
2) are you completely sure your volumes are incredibly accurate (aka, don't use the ale pail factory markings)
3) are you completely sure your temperatures are accurate (aka, calibrated thermometers)
4) are you completely sure your gravity readings are accurate (aka, calibrated & temp corrected numbers from your hydrometer and/or refractometer)

If any of the above are off - all of the water profiles, crushes, process', water volume adjustments for temp, etc. won't matter...

I'm convinced that mis-meaurement (temp, volume, weight, gravity) is the cause of "help, my efficiency sucks" 90% of the time...

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Old 01-03-2011, 06:38 PM   #6
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In my experience, no part of the process (outside calculating errors [i.e. mis-weighing grains]) effects efficiency calculations more than your crush. I had the worst efficiency numbers until I broke down and built a pasta roller grain mill (http://www.homebrewtalk.com/f11/usin...l-grain-75784/). I've hit 80-82% on all 5 brews since I started using it. My total investment (not counting the drill I use to grind) was less than $50.

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Old 01-03-2011, 06:40 PM   #7
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How do you guys accurately measure the volumes of liquid you are putting in the kettle for mash and sparge?

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Old 01-03-2011, 06:43 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MikeRoBrew1 View Post
How do you guys accurately measure the volumes of liquid you are putting in the kettle for mash and sparge?
calibrated sight glass on the kettle, calibrated ale pails (I use a known gallon amount of water, then mark with a sharpie on the pail)
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Old 01-03-2011, 07:10 PM   #9
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There really aren't many factors contributing to efficiency. Here is my list for batch sparging.

  1. Crush - access to starches has the biggest impact.
  2. Draining the tun completely - dead space will take points away.
  3. Stir the sparge completely - all runnings should be of consistent gravity.
  4. pH during conversion - ph during lauter is not going to have much effect on BHE but proper pH will make higher quality wort.

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Old 01-03-2011, 07:23 PM   #10
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Wow, thanks everyone.

1. Thermometers - I usually use either a clip on dial thermometer and/or my digital meat thermometer in my kettle, then I use a mercury type floating thermometer in my mash tun. They seem to all read around the same, so I have to assume they are accurate.

2. Weights and volumes - I'm pretty sure all ingredients are weighed properly. I usually pull and weigh my own grains at the shop. Of course, thats assuming his scale is accurate. Its a nice digital scale. I feel comfortable with it. As far as volumes of water, I heat up the volume of water in my kettle and then just pour it in the mash tun on the grain. I usually go a little over to make up for any evaporation. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't see how the volume of water is that important (in the mash). I mean, the important thing is to 1) hold the grain at a certain temperature to activate the enzymes, and 2) hold it for a certain amount of time so that most sugars are converted. It seems to me that if you were short on water in the mash/lauter tun, you would just get a more concentrated wort, which you can correct with top up. Of course, that is assuming you get decent wash with your sparge. (which I actually think might be my biggest problem)

3. Gravity - I use a standard hydrometer and use the converter in beersmith to adjust for temperature.

Man, I certainly appreciate the insight. Keep it coming, please.

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