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Old 09-27-2013, 03:02 AM   #1
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Default Help with awful efficiency

I brewed with a friend for the first time today. He was brewing a Celebration IPA clone, and shooting for 1066. He got 1045ish (53% eff or so). He used my mill which I get about 85% from.

He has a rectangular cooler. He poured the water right into the grain bed during the fly sparge. He also had his cooler resting at a bit of an angle for the sparge, so I'm wondering if the manifold started sucking air from the high end while there was some good wort to get out of the low end. Even though some of his practices seem inefficient, I wouldn't think this set-up would net such a huge efficiency loss.

What steps can he take to get better efficiency? I'd think batch sparging would help, but maybe just a flat surface for the runoff wouldn't be bad. I'd like to help him out, but I also don't want to be too pushy, since he still enjoys brewing, despite missing his numbers (which he doesn't try to correct with extra grain). Thoughts?

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Old 09-27-2013, 03:28 AM   #2
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Fly sparging requires the sparge water to be introduced gently so as not to disturb the grain bed and to allow hydrostatic pressure to slowly displace sugar-rich wort with sparge water.

"Pouring" sparge water into the tun will cut right through the grain bed and leave good wort behind. Pretty much the worst of both worlds, it's surely not fly sparging, and apparently is even less efficient than batch sparging ("dilute and drain") would have been, probably because the dilution part was wildly uneven.

Can't say much about the way he positions his tun without seeing his manifold, but bottom line his sparging technique needs a tune-up

Cheers!

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Old 09-27-2013, 03:45 AM   #3
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Manifold runs flat along the bottom the length of the cooler, but he had the whole thing set so that the far end from the drain was a few inches higher, meaning the drain hose lost suction because air came in that end before the whole thing was done. I might recommend throwing in all his sparge water for mashout and draining all at once after letting it sit for 10 min. This beer will be so hoppy with that little efficiency.

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Old 09-27-2013, 10:42 AM   #4
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I would just batch sparge, considering the time saved and the minor efficiency differences he'll be better off.

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Old 09-27-2013, 11:34 AM   #5
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Are you sure it's the sparge that is the problem? I had some efficiency problems. For me, it ended up being 2 issues: crush and dough balls. We can rule out crush here. Could it be that he's not stirring well enough? I tried to avoid over stirring because I was worried about maintaining my temps. But it ended up that I missed breaking up small dough balls.

One way to test this is to mash thinner and sparge less. I found out by trying a no sparge mash (mashed with full volume).

Good luck.

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Old 09-28-2013, 06:04 PM   #6
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I wasn't there for the mash, but he has a huge dowel he stirred with. Maybe he didn't stir enough.

Would doughballs effect efficiency or only final gravity? It seems like doughballs would still mean extracting starch which would add gravity but not being fermentable. But maybe I'm wrong. If it comes up, I'll try suggesting a batch sparge. He even mentioned no-sparge while he was pouring in sparge water.

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Old 09-28-2013, 06:18 PM   #7
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I "fly sparge" (hate that stupid term), always have. My efficiency on my home systems (depending on the particular build) Average 80%, currently 85%. I get all my sparge water in the tun in about 10 minutes, pouring it over a wooden spoon so it doesn't gouge the grain bed. I have experimented with this basic principle on on my various home setups and on multiple commercial brewhouses. Basically, if you don't disturb the bed it doesn't matter a tick whether you run the sparge a few minutes or the entire duration of the run off. However, if you pour the sparge directly into one spot it can dig into the bed and cause channeling... which could account for part of the problem... What about the DURATION of the runoff? A fast runoff can lead to low efficiency.

So, if the crush were good, I would look towards channeling and a quick runoff as the likely culprits

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Old 09-28-2013, 06:21 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tennesseean_87 View Post
I wasn't there for the mash, but he has a huge dowel he stirred with. Maybe he didn't stir enough.

Would doughballs effect efficiency or only final gravity? It seems like doughballs would still mean extracting starch which would add gravity but not being fermentable. But maybe I'm wrong. If it comes up, I'll try suggesting a batch sparge. He even mentioned no-sparge while he was pouring in sparge water.
A doughball is a ball of grain that's wet on the outside but completely dry on the inside. Dry grain equals unconverted starches which equals lower efficiency.
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Old 09-28-2013, 06:23 PM   #9
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Hmm yes, dough balls could be an issue as well... I guess the idea that someone wouldn't stir their mash sufficiently when mashing in seems too foreign to me to even consider right off LOL

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Old 09-28-2013, 06:36 PM   #10
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I'm not sure if this is what he already does or not, but I find that having the grain in a clean trash bag and cutting a small hole in the end to sprinkle the grain slowly into the mash water versus dumping it all in at once or pouring the mash water into the dry grain helps prevent dough balls. I've not had an issue with them since doing that and I only need a minor stir to get the bed uniform.

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