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Old 11-13-2012, 10:04 PM   #1
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Default Low efficiency in barley wine

Yesterday I made a barley wine with 23.625 lbs of grain. My target OG was 1.125, but I ended up with 1.097, much lower than expected. For some reason the mash in temp was a bit high, 162F. I threw in a few ice cubes, about 8-10, which lowered the temp to 156F. I stirred for several minutes, so I am sure any dough balls were broken up. I used Beersmith to calculate the amount of water and temps. Its been right on for most batches, and when it is off, its not by much. I use Rebel Brewers malt mill which has increased my efficiency to about 72%. Could the high temp of the start of the mash in hurt my efficiency? Or am I missing something else? I had been checking my OG's with my refractometer during the boil, but recently they have been very close so didn't bother. I know the beer will be ok, but trying to figure out what went "wrong" with this one.

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Old 11-13-2012, 10:10 PM   #2
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Usually larger beers will get lower efficiency. My usual efficiency is about 75%. For beers that large, I get about 68%. But for you to drop down to 60, there was probably something going on.

How much water did you mash with? Have you calibrated your thermometer? If it's off by enough, you could have denatured a substantial amount of enzymes.

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Old 11-13-2012, 10:21 PM   #3
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Here is the recipe, its from Clone Brews, a Thomas Hardy's Ale clone.

22 lbs 4 oz Maris Otter Pale Malt
1 lb 4 oz Caramel/Crystal Malt 60L
2 oz Peat Smoked Malt

Mash in with 7.5 gallons of water at 156
Sparge with 4.3 gallons of water


2.25 oz Northern Brewer (90 min)
0.5 tsp Irish Moss
1 oz Challenger (15 min)
1 oz East Kent Goldings (2 min)

White Labs #WLP004 Irish Ale Yeast

1 oz East Kent Goldings Dry Hop 7 days

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Old 11-13-2012, 10:32 PM   #4
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Are you making a 10 gallon batch or a 5? What's your usual efficiency and did the increased grain alter your strike and sparge water ratio's? With bigger beers you can expect your efficiency to go down an upwards of 10%. It's also possible that you denatured some enzymes by going that high on the mash but it's unlikely at that temp.

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Old 11-13-2012, 10:38 PM   #5
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Is this the first time you have made a beer this big on your system? I'd guess that the high temp isn't an issue if you got it down quickly, but I could be wrong. It happens.

My last batch might actually be kind of like your barleywine problem. I usually make 10 gallon IPAs or something similar, but I just made a 5 gallon RIS and got lower efficiency than expected. It's the first time I tried an all grain that big and I guess it'll just be a strong stout instead of an imperial.

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Old 11-13-2012, 10:58 PM   #6
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It was a 5 gallon batch. I did the same recipe several months ago, but had a series of mistakes. The biggest was using White Labs High Gravity Yeast, which ate up much more sugar than I expected. Still waiting for that to mellow out the alcohol taste.

I'm guessing by the previous posts I should just expect a lower efficiency in a big beer and measure the SG during the boil.

In a couple of weeks I'll switch from using a stainless steel braid to Jaybirds false bottom. I'l hoping that will increase my efficiency some.

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