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Old 08-15-2008, 08:27 PM   #1
FlyGuy
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Default Hybrid Batch Sparging for High Gravity Brews

It is relatively common knowledge that extract efficiency in batch sparging is highly dependent on the volume of sparge water used in the brew. For high gravity recipes, the volume of grain is so great that a large volume of water is needed to mash the grains, and only a small volume of sparge water is needed to reach the target pre-boil volume. Unless one is willing to boil longer and evaporate extra water out of the wort, this is a potential problem because there is less water available to pull sugars out of the mash on the batch sparge(s).

Another potential problem with batch sparging a high gravity brew is that the grainbill is so large it might fill the mash tun. This is a big problem for batch spargers because some extra room is required to accommodate sparge water. If room is not available, many sequential batch sparges become necessary, taking considerable extra time and negating one of the biggest benefits of batch sparging.

After reading Biermuncher’s article on ‘Hybrid Fly Sparging’ as well as the subsequent discussion, I realized that some of the ideas here could be used to alleviate the issues (above) that are encountered when batch sparging high gravity brews. Here is the method I propose -- perhaps it is not a new idea, but I certainly haven’t seen it discussed much.

My proposed hybrid batch sparge technique is a two-step process. First, once the mash rests are completed, the mash is vorlaufed and drained quickly as per a normal batch sparge. Heating the mash and/or a mash-out infusion may also be used prior to draining the grainbed to increase sugar solubility and facilitate lautering.

In the second step, sparge water is added to the grainbed and the entire grainbed is stirred and vorlaufed, as one would normally do when batch sparging. But here comes the hybrid part. Instead of simply draining and repeating the batch sparge process two or three times (or more, if you have a REALLY full mash tun), continually add sparge water evenly to the top of the grainbed as wort drains out the tun (aka fly sparging). The advantage here over traditional batch sparging is that you avoid the time and effort associated with adding water, vorlaufing, and draining. Instead, use the ‘set and forget’ method of fly spargers until you have collected enough additional runnings to reach your boil volume. If all goes well, the extract efficiency of the fly sparge (as opposed to multiple batch sparges) should be higher also.

Could this method be used for low to moderate gravity brews? Yes, it could, but I don’t think it would have any substantive advantages over a traditional batch sparge. It might result in a small increase in extract efficiency, but this benefit would be outweighed by the added cost of extra time and effort (sort of the worst of both worlds of batch and fly sparging).

Is this method going to be better than just plain old fly sparging? In theory, it should still be quicker than a fly sparge because the entire first runnings were just drained quickly. One could probably also sparge the mash very quickly using this method since we know the sugar concentration from the large grainbill is going to be high (i.e. a slow continuous sparge isn’t really necessary in this particular situation since there is so much to easily rinse out of solution). So speeding up the process probably won’t result in a big hit on efficiency, as it might with a lower gravity brew. So this method won't be as efficient as fly sparging, but it should take considerably less time and still have very good efficiency.

Anyways, I haven’t entirely thought this idea through yet. But I will try it on my next brew (I hope to do an I2PA or a RIS or something). Any comments or criticisms to help me work through this idea would be appreciated!

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Old 08-15-2008, 08:34 PM   #2
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P.S. Sorry about the length of the post!

Like Mark Twain said, if I only had more time I would have written you a shorter letter!

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Old 08-16-2008, 11:03 AM   #3
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That is an interesting idea FG, I was looking for a solution to this problem also, I want to do a RIS, but I only have a 10 gallon tun, (that I built using your tun thread, thanks btw) I will be checking back to this thread to see your results, I just cant seem to go back to doing 5 gallon batches since I started doing the 10 gallons, (you get twice the amount of beer for the same amount of brew time) anyway good luck and keep us posted

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Old 08-16-2008, 12:58 PM   #4
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Hi FlyGuy

The 10 Gallon round mash tun DIY rocks.
I am curious to hear your batch sparging technique.
The 1 gallon hash marks on the interior of these tuns are a nice feature.
It would be cool to utilize these hash marks to determine infusion and sparge volumes on brew day.

I have wondered if monitoring the grain bed volume after subsequent drains might be a indicator of efficiencies?

Cheers
BeerCanuck

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Old 08-18-2008, 12:06 AM   #5
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Beat Flyguy to it I tried this with my Christmas beer and hit 83% efficiency for a OG of 1.092.

Three cheers for the hybrid sparge technique...


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Old 08-18-2008, 03:48 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Saccharomyces View Post
Beat Flyguy to it I tried this with my Christmas beer and hit 83% efficiency for a OG of 1.092.

Three cheers for the hybrid sparge technique...
Awesome man! I am definitely going to try this technique on my next, batch too!
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Old 08-18-2008, 03:57 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BeerCanuck View Post
Hi FlyGuy
I am curious to hear your batch sparging technique.
It varies depending on whether I bother with the steam infusion system. But for a single infusion mash, I typically shoot for a single batch sparge. To equalize my first and second runnings, I do a modified mash-out after the sacch rest to lower wort viscosity and raise the grainbed temperature to sparge temps (170F). If my MLT is really full, I will sometimes use two or even three batch sparges (no mash out).

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Originally Posted by BeerCanuck View Post
I have wondered if monitoring the grain bed volume after subsequent drains might be a indicator of efficiencies?
Yes, definitely. I play close attention to the gravity of all my runnings, especially the first and last. You can learn a lot about your extract efficiency that way. But unlike many fly spargers, I don't sparge to a particular gravity -- I sparge to a particular volume instead. If I am above or below my target gravity, I simply adjust with DME or water. Time is always at a premium for me, so I like to optimize my time investment.

Cheers!
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Old 08-25-2008, 04:58 PM   #8
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I see where you're coming from on this post... I have a background in the biotech field and think of fly sparging in terms of chromatography. What you may want to try when you do this is to make your "batch" portion of the second sparge as thick as possible to reserve as much water for the "fly" portion that immediately follows.

Let me know how this works for you, I've been kicking around making a big beer for the winter season but don't really want to waste grain on lost efficiency. My brewhouse efficiency is 82 -86% over the last 3 batches, getting small improvements along the way. If I'm to expect a drop to ~60ish% for a big beer, my current thinking is to add a few more pounds and recover the efficiency in a partigyle small beer. If this method of yours works, though, then I can use the settings in Beersmith relatively untouched and save a few hours in the brew day.

Let us know how it works out.

Cheers

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Old 05-04-2011, 03:08 PM   #9
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Reurrecting this post since Homebrewer TV episode 36 just mentioned this method. Might have to try it out. Anyone else do this?

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