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Old 08-07-2006, 01:55 AM   #1
Steve973
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Default Finally got our efficiency up to par!

Hey everybody,

A friend and I just brewed a stout today (specifically, Lancaster Milk Stout) and we finally seem to have our efficiency in line. Previously, we were only able to obtain about 65%, but we achieved the target 75% today. I figured I'd post what we've been doing differently, so that it might help others who are having some issues with their efficiency that are hard to explain. I really can't say that anything in particular made all of the difference, but I'll detail a few things that we did differently. I'd imagine each of the changes are partially responsible for the overall improvement.

We were using a "bazooka tube" in our mash/lauter tun (cooler), and I was never fully satisfied with it. So I ordered a stainless steel false bottom - the convex perforated type that is similar to a phil's false bottom, but actually stays put. I was under the impression that the bazooka tube was allowing channeling, since it allowed water to flow out from the center line, but I can't prove that's the case.

The false bottom came from Midwest Supplies, and they sent a brewing and winemaking dvd with my shipment. I have been brewing extract and all grain for about ten years (with most of my experience in the earlier part of this time) so I didn't know if I'd be able to learn anything from it or not, but I did take something away from it. Previously, I was doughing in my grains just by adding them all at once, then adding the strike water and stirring as thoroughly as possible. The video showed adding the strike water from the strike water pot through the valve at its bottom to the mash tun below with a steady stream and adding the grain a bit at a time, then stirring. The guy on the video repeated this untill all of the grain was doughed-in. So we tried that this time, and it worked well. We'll do this from now on.

I bought a phil's sparge arm. A few years ago, me and a former brewing buddy tried to use it and found that it didn't really work as described, so we forgot about it. So my buddy and I got a new one recently, and we used it this time. We heated all of our sparge water to near-boiling and put it in a spare cooler, and attached its ball valve to this sparge arm via a tube. Now we literally had a variable on-off switch for sparging, and this was a thousand percent easier than trying to control it by siphoning the sparge water and using a hose clamp to control it. We were able to keep our grain bed temperature up a bit higher throughout the sparge (at around 155, not at the recommended 170, though). It was far easier and simpler, and $25 well spent!

We've been using ph 5.2 stabilizer, and in the near future, we're going to get a corona mill to be able to customize our grind, since the homebrew store uses a non-adjustable mill that grinds too coarsely for our taste. We're also going to use a 5g bucket of ice water and pump this through our chiller, and have the chiller's output go back into the bucket. As the ice melts and the water warms, we'll replace some of it with more ice to keep the chiller water in the 30s.

Well, I hope this longwinded post is of some interest to a few people here. Let me know if any of you have improved your efficiency with other techniques, and happy homebrewing!

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Old 08-07-2006, 01:55 PM   #2
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Much as I love my bazooka, I can see how it would limit your efficiency if you fly sparge. For my setup & batch sparging, a recirculating pump was the big break-through.

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Old 08-07-2006, 02:00 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by david_42
For my setup & batch sparging, a recirculating pump was the big break-through.
Please explain how you are using a recirculating pump and how it makes a difference for you? Thanks.
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Old 08-07-2006, 04:05 PM   #4
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After I add sparge water, I stir the mash and recirculate wort from the bottom of the mash to the top. The flow helps strip sugars from the grain and settles the mash so I get a clear run.

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Old 08-07-2006, 04:23 PM   #5
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Ok, how long do you recirculate?

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Old 08-07-2006, 04:53 PM   #6
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Yes, we fly sparge, so I'm going to run far, far away from the bazooka tube and never look back!

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Old 08-07-2006, 04:54 PM   #7
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So how do you guys dough-in? do you do it incrementally, or do you do it all at once?

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Old 08-07-2006, 05:38 PM   #8
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I go a little at a time, more water than grain to keep things moving.

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Old 08-08-2006, 11:35 AM   #9
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At the end of the mash, perform a mash out by adding 1 - 1.5g of near boiling water, thus raising the mash to the desired sparge temperature. Sparging at the correct temperature will considerably increase the efficiency.

-a.

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Old 08-08-2006, 02:45 PM   #10
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do you all find it nessessary to keep your sparge H2O above your target 170 F after your mash out?? Or do you keep it at your desired temp of 170 F?
JJ

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