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Home Brew Forums > Home Brewing Beer > All Grain & Partial Mash Brewing > First AG results and some help/feedback needed
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Old 09-18-2008, 04:39 PM   #1
zonabb
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Default First AG results and some help/feedback needed

OK, did my first all grain, Blue Balls Belgian Wit and have some issues I want to throw out and see what everyone says.

First though, and this might explain some issues, I had purchase a brand new digital thermometer, the one with a probe for meat that you can leave in a roast in your oven and the display on the over. Worked great… at the beginning! When I was prepping my sparge water, I started to notice that the thermometer was not reading right, in fact, I cracked the lid on the mash (5-gallon gott round cooler) and the temp had gone UP after 60 minutes so I knew something was up. I then went back and checked the sparge water, which I just flamed out, and it had gone up significantly. So I was in trouble at that point and all I could do was assume my sparge temp and mash temp was OK since I had no backup thermo.

So…. The results were… about 65% efficiency per my BeerSmith software. The beer has the great orange and coriander taste but the color is way light and the beer is thin (do to efficiency I assume), to the point where it’s crystal clear in the bottle. Tastes OK but could me maltier/thicker I think.

I think my cooler set-up is good. I created my own copper manifold as opposed to a SS braid. I wish I had a pic but I don’t. It’s basically a 9-inch square manifold with a middle copper pipe for added drainage and I cut the bottom slots every 3/8 inch all the way around. I batch sparged and it drained amazingly but the efficiency is off and the beer was thin and light so I can only think of these as issues:

1. The obvious thermometer issue. If not the thermometer, then one of the following.
2. The batch sparge drained too quickly? Could that be possible? I stirred it real well. Could or should I be holding the mash for 10 minutes to increase efficiency?
3. My set-up needs to be tweaked. It seems others have exceeded 70% efficiency with this same setup.

Lastly, on the efficiency issue. What is the generally accepted efficiency measure everyone uses? Is efficiency the post boil gravity or pre-boil gravity. I spent a great deal of my research and time on getting the system built and what the “process” of an AG was, not so much on recipe formulation and troubleshooting, which is why I chose a tried and true recipe. So, I’m trying now to bumble my way through this to get it better.

I think the recipe I used assumed 75% efficiency and because I did not achieve that, the beer turned out as it did.

As for the brewing itself, it went fine, easier than I thought. But being an extract brewing first, it made it easier.

I’m trying to develop a porter recipe but I certainly don’t want a thin, weak beer as a result. I obviously replaced the thermometer but other than that, my set-up remains the same.

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Old 09-18-2008, 04:58 PM   #2
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First of all congrats of the first AG!!! I just finished my 9th AG batch a couple weeks ago, and it's been a LOT of fun resulting in some great beer. I've answered your questions below, my responses are in bold.

1. The obvious thermometer issue.
Definitely get a new one, the dial types that you can mount through the wall of your cooler are great. Or if money is an issue, just get a normal glass thermometer. That's what I used for many batches and it works great.

2. The batch sparge drained too quickly? Could that be possible? I stirred it real well. Could or should I be holding the mash for 10 minutes to increase efficiency?
Definitely slow down the sparge, leave the valve only about 1/3 of the way open. In order to increase efficiency, make sure your sparge water is 185F. Add the water, stir for a couple minutes to get all the sugar into solution. Let the grain bed settle for about 5-10 minutes, then vorlauf and drain. With this method I've gone from 68% to 75% efficiency.

3. My set-up needs to be tweaked. It seems others have exceeded 70% efficiency with this same setup.
I wouldn't worry about your efficiency too much at this point, just get used to the process. As you get more familiar with the process, your efficiency will naturally get better. In order for your recipes to come out correctly, just account for your efficiency in your calculations. e.g. Just add another 1-2 lbs. of grain to get the gravity you desire.

Lastly, on the efficiency issue. What is the generally accepted efficiency measure everyone uses? Is efficiency the post boil gravity or pre-boil gravity. I spent a great deal of my research and time on getting the system built and what the “process” of an AG was, not so much on recipe formulation and troubleshooting, which is why I chose a tried and true recipe. So, I’m trying now to bumble my way through this to get it better.
You use post-boil gravity to determine the efficiency. On a 5.5 gallon batch I'll collect up to 8 gallons of wort, and will need to boil off quite a bitof water. If you take the pre-boil numbers, your efficiency will be quite a bit lower.

I think the recipe I used assumed 75% efficiency and because I did not achieve that, the beer turned out as it did.
I use 72% as a guideline. I take the pre-boil gravity to determine if I need to boil off a lot of water, or perhaps add some water at the end. However, you shouldn't worry about hitting your gravity right on especially for your first few batches. As long as you are within a few points, you're doing just great.

I’m trying to develop a porter recipe but I certainly don’t want a thin, weak beer as a result. I obviously replaced the thermometer but other than that, my set-up remains the same.
Often beer tastes thin when it is not aged enough. A beer at 2 weeks in the bottle will taste "thinner" than one in the bottle for 6 weeks. The stronger the beer, the more this will be the case. In order to get the proper gravity on your beer, estimate 70% efficiency for your recipe calculations. You can always keep boiling your wort until you hit your desired gravity.

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Old 09-18-2008, 05:21 PM   #3
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I just started AG as well so I can't answer your questions but I also was getting low efficiency ~67 to 68%. My problem is my APA fermented out to 1.004

When you guys batch sparge, do you drain off all the first runnings, pour in the sparge water, stir well and leave for 5-10 minutes and then volauf and collect again?

Regards & good luck
Al

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Old 09-18-2008, 05:23 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by zonabb View Post
OK, did my first all grain, Blue Balls Belgian Wit and have some issues I want to throw out and see what everyone says.
search the all-grain threads for stuff by Kaiser, Fly-Guy, and Bobby_M. You'll learn all you need to know.

I myself hit 62% eff. with my 1st two batches (an APA and an IPA).

This next batch, I'm going to try to really hit 185* with my sparge water (not just heat it to 185*, but actually sparge @ 185* - I think I'm losing a lot of heat between the kettle I heat it in, and the smaller kettle I use to pour it in to the MLT).

I'm also going to stir the sparge portion a lot longer - and try what TwoHeads said below (as have others), regarding wait time and lauter speed.

good luck!
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Old 09-18-2008, 05:24 PM   #5
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Of course you'll get a lot of different opinions on this but my 2-cents: Crush and sparge temp/method will have a big impact on efficiency. I do not however think sparge speed or leaving the sparge sit longer will be all that benefitial. If it were, I wouldn't get 90% on a stir and let'er rip process. MAYBE if your crush is really coarse it would help, but I'm leaning towards "other".

Mash 1.25 qts/lb.... it leaves more for sparging.
Drain first runnings before adding any more water.
Sparge water temp = 180F
Split sparge into two equal 1/2 volumes, stir, vorlauf and drain each one for a total of 3 runnings.

If that doesn't increase your efficiency by 10%, I'd be floored.

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Old 09-18-2008, 05:32 PM   #6
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Of course you'll get a lot of different opinions on this but my 2-cents: Crush and sparge temp/method will have a big impact on efficiency. I do not however think sparge speed or leaving the sparge sit longer will be all that benefitial. If it were, I wouldn't get 90% on a stir and let'er rip process. MAYBE if your crush is really coarse it would help, but I'm leaning towards "other".

Mash 1.25 qts/lb.... it leaves more for sparging.
Drain first runnings before adding any more water.
Sparge water temp = 180F
Split sparge into two equal 1/2 volumes, stir, vorlauf and drain each one for a total of 3 runnings.

If that doesn't increase your efficiency by 10%, I'd be floored.
Bobby,

that makes sense -- by stirring your sparge the goal is to get all the sugar in solution, right? So, if you stir and let it settle again, some of your sugars will stick to the grains. And the same if you drain slowly; makes sense -- I'm gonna try the "stir and let 'er rip" this weekend. I'm also gonna shoot for 185*F sparge because I'm gonna be mashing a little low (~149-150)
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Old 09-18-2008, 05:39 PM   #7
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As far as your probe goes, i am not sure if its a Pyrex or not, but i had the same problem. Turns out you cannot totally submerge the probe. Liquid can leak into the probe if its totally submerged. My pyrex has a braided steel wire and i just put the probe into the toaster oven and bake it for like 10 min which causes any liquid inside to evap and it starts working again.

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Old 09-18-2008, 06:22 PM   #8
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Bobby, thanks. I've replied quiet heavily on your website and thanks you for all you've put together to help the homebrewing community. In fact, I just got back to lunch where I spent my time reading your All Grain Brewing Primer AGAIN.

I like to think my thermometer and temps were an issue to begin with. The crush could be an issue as well, however it looked like the pics on Bobby's site, with some flour on the bag.

I'll just make some adjustments based on what everyone says and see where it goes.

Skins... I had a Pyrex, same one. I don't think I totally submerged it and in fact it was still not working 4 days later, which it should have been dry by then. So I returned it for another one.

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Old 09-18-2008, 07:46 PM   #9
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Bobby,

that makes sense -- by stirring your sparge the goal is to get all the sugar in solution, right? So, if you stir and let it settle again, some of your sugars will stick to the grains.
Once sugar diffuses off the grain and into the sparge water, it's going to stay in solution. Where I was really going is that waiting doesn't really do much in benefit, but it doesn't hurt anything other than adding more time to your brew day. The vorlauf is enough to set the bed.
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Old 09-18-2008, 09:05 PM   #10
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Skins... I had a Pyrex, same one. I don't think I totally submerged it and in fact it was still not working 4 days later, which it should have been dry by then. So I returned it for another one.
Yea mine wouldn't work for several days either until i baked it. Even if it was not totally submerged, it could have still gotten some liquid in it. I should have returned the Pyrex POS. The plug for the probe was messed up since day one (if it was bent a little it would read "Lo." and now its switching between F and C if i just look at it wrong.
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