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Home Brew Forums > Home Brewing Beer > All Grain & Partial Mash Brewing > Low Efficiency, Low Moral
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Old 07-23-2013, 06:26 PM   #1
hbear
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Default Low Efficiency, Low Moral

Hello All,

I've done a few all grain batches now using my converted cooler mash tun, but my efficiency just seems to get worse with each passing brew. I can't figure out what's causing such rock-bottom extraction. Yesterday I brewed a sort of wheat-rye-american-roggenbier-hybrid-type-thing and ended up with somewhere around 56% efficiency. What a waste. It should still turn out all right, but I ended up with a smaller batch that was about 7 points lower than expected.

Here are my notes from the day:

6 lb Wheat (49%)
4 lb Marris Otter (32.7%)
2 lb Rye (16.3%)
.25 lb Rice Hulls (2%)

1 oz Fuggles at 60 Min

Added 4.5 gallons of 162 degree water to 12.25 pounds of grain, including rice hulls. Sealed for 60 minutes before draining and re-circulating several quarts and then draining off around 3 gallons of wort. Started the sparge of 5 gallons at 172. Slowly sprinkled sparge water without disturbing the grain bed and let drain for around 45 minutes. I ended up with 6 gallons at 1.044.

I'll also be adding about 6 pounds of blackberries into secondary, though that doesn't really have anything to do with the topic at hand.

How can I improve efficiency? I really thought I did everything right. Any suggestions?

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Old 07-23-2013, 07:44 PM   #2
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OK, let me comment on a couple of things.

1) Your grist ratio (water to grain) is right around 1.5 qts/# of grain.
This falls into the acceptable range, but this is one of the many "tweaks" that in m opinion are specific to the individual equipment profile. (for instance, with my system I use a ratio that is closer to 1.33 to 1.25 Q/# and that works for me)

2) It sounds like you are fly sparging (trickling the water to not disturb the grains) which if done correctly increases the efficiency.
My opinion would be to batch sparge:
Drain your first runnings after the mash, figure out how much you have and then subtract that from the total amount of pre boil that you want.
(ie: If you want to boil 6.5 gallons and you get 2 from the first runnings, then you need an additional 4.5 gallons of sparge water)
I personally divide this amount into 2 equal "batches" of 2.25 gallons each. Add the first batch, stir like crazy and then drain. Repeat with 2nd batch.

3) You really did not mention much about the temperatures DURING the mash.
You added 162 degree water to 12.25# of grain which will drop the temp of the water.
Before sealing it up for 60 min, you have to make sure that the temp of the mash is correct, usually around 152-154. I also check it once or twice in the 60 min period to make sure that it is steady.

Just some ideas to get you headed in the right direction.

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Old 07-23-2013, 08:48 PM   #3
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Also..how is your crush? I had a seemingly low efficiency until i started to crush much finer than i thought was healthy. Worked out perfectly, up to 78% from 66% before.

Just a thought.
-beermethatbeer

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Old 07-23-2013, 09:14 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BeerMeThatBeer View Post
Also..how is your crush? I had a seemingly low efficiency until i started to crush much finer than i thought was healthy. Worked out perfectly, up to 78% from 66% before.

Just a thought.
-beermethatbeer
Yes. This would be my bet too. I'd also bet its the top cause of many efficiency problems. My former Lhbs crush was garbage. Probably over 1/3 of the hulls were intact. Haven't had efficiency issues since I got my own mill. I went from struggling to get 65% to regularly getting 75 to 80%
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Old 07-23-2013, 10:32 PM   #5
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Post a picture of your crush and your cooler.

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Old 07-23-2013, 10:43 PM   #6
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Let's just say for whatever reason the mash cooler is dropping from 162 to some low number like 148, then maybe 60 minutes isn't enough time to convert and you need to add 30-60 minutes for full conversion.

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Old 07-23-2013, 10:57 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by donovanneb View Post
Let's just say for whatever reason the mash cooler is dropping from 162 to some low number like 148, then maybe 60 minutes isn't enough time to convert and you need to add 30-60 minutes for full conversion.
Get some iodine to test. If your grains and process is good, the bulk of the conversion should be done within the first 15 minutes (I believe Jeremy King from Northern Brewer said that in some youtube video)
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Old 07-23-2013, 11:40 PM   #8
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PH.

How is it? What kind of water do you use? Tap? Spring? RO? Distilled?

Crush finer
Dough in more aggressively (stirring thoroughly at mash in is critical)
Mash thinner
Mash longer.
Make sure your PH is between 5.2 and 5.6

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Old 07-24-2013, 12:12 AM   #9
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What was your pre boil gravity and volume?

What was your post boil gravity and volume?

There are two efficiencies, mash and brew house. Each one is different but can help diagnose where the issue lies.

Jay bird hit on the most typical issues but knowing these answers can help figure things out

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Old 07-24-2013, 02:33 AM   #10
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I second the "crush it until it hurts" idea. Might consider conditioning the grain first - sure helped my peace of mind.

Measure your mill gap. I thought mine was really tight until I bought a gapper. Turns out I had one side of "really loose" and one side that was "pretty loose".

Consider adding some acid to your sparge water. Supposedly, 1/4 tsp of lactic (or other food grade) acid will bring "normal" water to around 5 pH. This has helped my confidence in using hot water (close to 170 degrees) to sparge and really get those yummy sugars out.

All of the above should be taken with a hefty dose of salt. I have all of 5 all grain batches under my belt, but I have been around 70-80% efficiency on most.

I hope this helps!

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