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Old 05-23-2012, 05:35 PM   #1
panicbuttonguy
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Default A few questions about my process

First let me start out by saying that I've been having an issue with efficiency so I've been trying to troubleshoot my process. Everything from crush to pH to thermometer and hydrometer corrections and calibreations. That being said I'm still running into issues but getting better since I've started this new process. I'm just wondering if this new process is "bad" in some way.

What I've been doing is batch sparging to get a higher preboil volume than normal and then boiling for like 15 - 20 mins before I add my first hop addition. This way I figure that I'm only concentrating the sugar in the wort down and then still getting my desired IBU's/hop utilization. Is there an issue with this process? I'm only adding .25 gallons to each sparge to end up with an extra 1/2 gallon for per boil. This has gotten me a lot closer to the numbers I'm after.

Another question is about vorlaufing. I run my runnings through a strainer before they go into the kettle. I feel like this helps collect a bunch of grain that makes it though the false bottom and keeps the wort clear. The 2 part question is, do I need to vorlauf if I'm going though a strainer anyway? and Is there an issue with using that method of straining while collecting runnings?

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Old 05-23-2012, 07:56 PM   #2
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The two things that you are doing as stated are not a problem IMHO but neither will they assist in your efficiency issues.

First thing is the quality of crush, if it's too course your efficiency will suffer greatly

Second is temperature and control, if your thermometer is off and you are mashing high you will get a less fermentable wort so be sure you are using a calibrated thermometer.

Sparging volume is a third, if you over sparge you will dilute the wort, you would be better off using the 1-1.25qt/lb for your mash volumes and then sparge with the correct volume to hit your pre boil volume

Fourth is your hydrometer, are you sure it is calibrated? It should read 1.000 at 60f in water, if not then adjust your readings according to the difference

All of the above are typical issues associated with efficiency problems whether apparent or real. If you calibrations are off you may actually be at 75-80% and not know it. Generally if you are hitting 70-75% you are in a good place

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Old 05-23-2012, 08:59 PM   #3
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The LHBS wouldn't let me set their mill to lower than .040" saying that it will not crush lower or take too long to do (in their defense it was closing time). I'm going to either run it though twice or try and set it to that next time.

I've checked my dial thermometer against the digital and they are both on. I just got a refractometer and will use that to check my 2 hydrometers.

So your saying that I should use a thicker mash and then still sparge to my desired pre boil volume rather than gravity? Currently I using a 1.30 ratio.

I think the most likely scenario is pH or leaving fermentables behind in the grain and mash stabilizer 5.2 didn't really help.

I did 2 identical batches at the same time and collected more wort from one 8 gallons and collected my regular amount from another and the one where I collected more resulted in a higher pre boil gravity. I used the logic that I was leaving sugar behind. So there isn't an issue with boiling off that extra 1/2 gallon before I add my hops.

I mean I definitely don't want to over sparge but I don't think I'm doing that since I'm getting a more fermentable wort. Right?

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Old 05-23-2012, 09:39 PM   #4
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I say use a thinner mash. Start at 1.25qt/lb. Start the strike water a few degrees above what you want and stir like crazy after you dough-in until you reach mash temp. You can stir at 30m. too as conversion is likely done and temperature doesn't matter so much there.

I would then mash-out by adding 185* water until you reach the mid 160's to 168 and stir like crazy. Then vorlauf and drain those runnings off, add second sparge addition (at 170) and stir like crazy, vorlauf, drain.

Keep your eye on the preboil volume while you're sparging. Use a measured stick or mash spoon/paddle to know where you are and stop when you hit the proper volume. If for some reason you end up low on preboil volume you can run some more sparge water, at a lower temp like 150, through the grain and vorlauf/drain until you reach pre-boil. That's better than adding straight water as there will at least be some sugar in the liquid.

As mentioned crush the grain as fine as you can so long as there are still some mostly-whole husks left. Use rice-hulls until you get a feel for the sparge. A handful for a 5g. batch (rinsed first) added to the mash can help flow.

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Old 05-23-2012, 10:03 PM   #5
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So what I'm doing is aiming for a higher pre boil volume so I can hit my pre boil gravity. Everytime I use the preboil volume that gets a little over 5 gallons in the fermenter my OG is low (according to BeerSmith's default brewhouse efficiency or whatever)

So what I did last brew day was sparge until I got 8 gallons instead of 7.5 (my normal amount) and then I boiled off the extra .5 gallon (which took like 15 mins) and then added my first hops. Using this method I got really close to my desired OG. The main question . . . Is this method ok? Or should I be doing something else?

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Old 05-23-2012, 10:19 PM   #6
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If your aiming for 5 gallons in the primary and you are consistently more than your OG will be lower and you need to boil longer or as stated above follow those mash procedures to get the correct volume and gravity pre-boil and then do your 60 minute boil so you get the 5 gallons.

All in all I would say you are on the right track you just need to tweak your process a bit with your measurements and everything else will follow suit

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Old 05-23-2012, 10:21 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by panicbuttonguy View Post

So what I did last brew day was sparge until I got 8 gallons instead of 7.5 (my normal amount) and then I boiled off the extra .5 gallon (which took like 15 mins) and then added my first hops. Using this method I got really close to my desired OG. The main question . . . Is this method ok? Or should I be doing something else?
That's absolutely fine, and in fact some brewers (like Jamil Z) say that a 90 minute boil is actually preferred.

Northern Brewer will NOT let you adjust their mill, so if that is where you are getting your grains crushed, don't even ask. It's "locked" right where it is, but that's ok if you know it in advance.

I'd suggest getting a water profile ($16.50) so that you actually know your water profile before adding anything to it, especially that 5.2 stabilizer (lots about that in the Brew Science Forum are).

What IS your typical efficiency? If it's above 68%, I'd quit chasing the number and just work on consistently getting the same efficiency. It's one thing if it's 55% one time and 75% another time- that's a real problem. But if it's in the high 60s each time, that's fine.
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Old 05-23-2012, 10:33 PM   #8
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Thank you. That's was I was looking for. I'm just looking for consistency with an efficiency in the 70's (no this is not a rap song). I know that I just need to dial in my process and figure out what will get me something in an acceptable efficiency range. I think once I get there consistency will follow.

So once I get the consistency I'm looking for do I just adjust the brewhouse efficiency in BeerSmith to the number I'm getting and then just always shoot for that?

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Old 05-24-2012, 07:31 PM   #9
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So once I get the consistency I'm looking for do I just adjust the brewhouse efficiency in BeerSmith to the number I'm getting and then just always shoot for that?
Yep! That's what I do now- find a recipe I like, and simply adjust the amount of the grain to my efficiency. It's easy with Beersmith!
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