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Old 08-17-2013, 09:53 PM   #1
DonnieZ
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Default Help with low efficiency!! Very frustrated!

Looking for some help troubleshooting my brewing.

Spent a good part of the day making the AG Bells Two Hearted clone:

10# Pale
2 # Vienna
.5# Carapils
.5# Crystal 20

for a total grain bill of 13#, shooting for a 1.065ish OG.

I'm using a 48qt. Coleman cooler with a ball valve and a "keg screen". Grains were crushed at the LHBS using their mill. I'm batch sparging.

I preheated my mash tun by putting about 4 gallons of 150ish water in and letting it sit while I heated up the mash-in water, 16.25 quarts.

Heated mash-in water to about 165 on my floating thermometer and poured it in the mash tun. Added my grains and stirred for about 3-4 minutes until the temp got down to about 153 (152 was my target mash temp, but I usually lose a degree or two because there's a lot of headspace in the tun.)

Mashed for 60-65 minutes, and then I started to recirculate until it was running fairly clear. Drained slowly into my bucket, then added 9 quarts of mash-out water at about 175 degrees, figuring it will cool a few degrees when poured and stirred.

Stirred this for a few minutes and then let it sit for 10 minutes and started to drain. Once the sparge water was below the grain level, (20 or so minutes later) I added the other 9 quarts of mash out water and drained slowly until I got about 6.5 gallons of wort to boil. The wort was almost clear by this point. which was about an hour from the end of the mash to 6.5 gallons ready to boil.

Boiled for 60 minutes, and the volume into the fermenter was around 5.5 gallons, and my OG was only 1.042ish. I was floored. I think this is probably the batch I've taken the most patience with. Somewhere I've got a hole in my system and it's really discouraging. Just to make sure, I went out and took another sample and it was the same.

Am I missing something big here? My two suspicions are

  • The mill at the LHBS gets used more than a three dollar whore and the crush is just all wrong. I've only got about 10 AG batches under my belt and maybe I just don't know what to look for in a good crush.
  • Temperature might be off. Are the floating thermometers you buy at the LHBS generally accurate? I used to use a digital meat thermometer with remote probe, but I have two of those and they always read off at room temparature.
  • A third possibility is that I just don't understand the sparging process and I'm doing it wrong.

I've gotten better efficiency by putting my grains in a bag, mashing in a small 5 gallon cooler, and then dunking the bag in a bucket full of mashout temp water, but that process works better for smaller batches / smaller grain bills. I'd like to get this process down.

So now I've got 5 gallons of watered down IPA. Hopefully it will still taste good, but I'd really like to figure out what's going on. Otherwise, it might be time to close down the garage brewery and just keep on buying commercial kegs.
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Old 08-17-2013, 09:58 PM   #2
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First, I'm unsure about the batch sparge and mashing out and then slowly draining. It's hard to picture what you're saying, so I'm making a couple of assumptions.

Don't drain the MLT slowly, and don't do a mash out. Although, it doesn't sound like a mash out at all, since you drained the MLT first? That makes it two rounds of batch sparging?

Anyway, next time, drain the MLT. Then dump in the sparge water and stir it like it owes you money. Vorlauf, and drain. That's it! If you're taking an hour to drain the MLT from a batch sparge, perhaps some of the sugars are settling back onto the grain. Do it quickly, and it should take about 10 minutes or less.

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Old 08-17-2013, 10:04 PM   #3
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What was your water to grain ratio? You could attempt lowering that. Also, I've found that when using this much grain and that targeted OG, that you should consider a longer boil and more storage volume. Case in point, I am sitting outside of my garage as I type this brewing a pumpkin beer at 1.066. I used ten gallons of water, 4.5 for the mash, and 5.5 in two 15 minute sparging sessions. I will boil for 90 and get down to around 5.5 gallons and my desired OG. Also using 13 pounds of grain, very similar to your brew.

In summary, I think you are expecting too much OG from such a small amount of sparge volume. I would increase this amount to help rinse the grains better and not leave all of those sugars behind.

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Old 08-17-2013, 10:07 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by perbe31 View Post
What was your water to grain ratio? You could attempt lowering that. Also, I've found that when using this much grain and that targeted OG, that you should consider a longer boil and more storage volume. Case in point, I am sitting outside of my garage as I type this brewing a pumpkin beer at 1.066. I used ten gallons of water, 4.5 for the mash, and 5.5 in two 15 minute sparging sessions. I will boil for 90 and get down to around 5.5 gallons and my desired OG. Also using 13 pounds of grain, very similar to your brew.

In summary, I think you are expecting too much OG from such a small amount of sparge volume. I would increase this amount to help rinse the grains better and not leave all of those sugars behind.
It looks like 18 quarts of sparge water here, if I'm understanding correctly. That's not terribly low, and would work well if the first runnings were 2- 2.5 gallons or so.
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Old 08-17-2013, 10:58 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Yooper

It looks like 18 quarts of sparge water here, if I'm understanding correctly. That's not terribly low, and would work well if the first runnings were 2- 2.5 gallons or so.
Ah,misread the post. I only saw the first sparge of 9 quarts, not the second. My bad...

How often is he stirring? Only other thing could be the mill...
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Old 08-17-2013, 11:28 PM   #6
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Ok.. Thanks for the replies.

I really didn't stir during the mash or sparge - only at the beginning. I generally don't stir after this. I sense this could be a problem?

Mash thickness was 1.25qt, and sparge volume was 18qt total. Beersmith said to do it in two steps, so that's what I did.

I gather more stirring is required? I'm trying to conserve heat during the mash so I generally leave it alone.

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Old 08-18-2013, 12:06 AM   #7
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Quote:
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I really didn't stir during the mash or sparge - only at the beginning. I generally don't stir after this. I sense this could be a problem?


I gather more stirring is required? I'm trying to conserve heat during the mash so I generally leave it alone.
Stirring thoroughly before draining the sparge addition is crucial. Stirring in the grain and water at the beginning of the mash is also crucial, but unimportant during the mash.

You can input the values into Beersmith- it doesn't "tell" you do do anything, as you input the correct information. The default settings might be for two additions, but it's certainly not necessary.

When you add the sparge water, stir like you mean it. Then stir some more. And then stir again. Vorlauf, and drain it. Repeat if doing a second round. It's really that easy!
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Old 08-18-2013, 05:53 AM   #8
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If you fill your mash tun with water up above the spigot and drain it down like you would on brew day, how much water is left when the siphon breaks?

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Old 08-18-2013, 12:12 PM   #9
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I have almost the same process as you. Things that helped me achieve 85% efficiency (and I've done only 5 AG batches so far):

- Good crush. Buy yourself a mill. Even if it's a Corona. There should not be any uncrushed kernels left.

- Don't stir during the mash. Not worth it. After the mash, drain the MLT completely (after vorlauf). Calculate the amount of water you need to reach your boil volume (usually about half a gallon per pound of grain). Then, sparge twice by using half that quantity each time, making sure to stir it like you mean it after each water addition. You don't want to stir during the drain, as this will destroy the grain bed which helps you filter out grain.

For high gravity beers, you'll usually end up with a very large wort volume that you'll need to boil off to reach desired OG. But for lower gravity beers, you should hit Beersmith's numbers, granted you entered the right boil off rate for your setup.

Finally, if you select "Single infusion, *** body, batch sparge" in Beersmith, it will tell you to use different quantities of water for each sparge, sometimes even telling you to do three sparges. I don't listen to him and it works well.

Keep it up!

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Old 08-18-2013, 12:44 PM   #10
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Two other things -

1) Consider taking interim gravity readings. You'll be much happier if you find the gravity problem *before* you boil.

2) Your temp could be really high and you're impacting conversion. Try calibrating your probe thermometer in boiling water to see how you need to adjust, and also test the temp either after stirring or during vorlauff (don't burn yourself). I've usually found that the temp on one static probe in my mash tun is usually off.

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