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Old 08-19-2012, 09:23 PM   #1
jeremyjudd
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Default Low Efficiency - Troubleshooting w/ No Luck

Hi all,

I know there are multiple posts about this, and I've browsed FlyGuys recent post about this as well, but I'm still apparently missing something. I routinely am missing OG by 10-16 points.

Efficiency is in the low 60's%.

Was hoping I could list out my process and get some feedback about what I'm screwing up.

I'll use today's recipe as an example as it was par for the course...

Brewing a Dunkel, 10 lbs German Pils, 3/4 munich, 1/8 chocolate, 1/8 roast barley 350 and 2 oz of Perle Hops. According to calculator on tastybrew.com I should hit about 1.060.


I heated about 3.5 gallons of water to 168 degrees, to dough in, dropped all 11 lbs of grain in my cooler, gave everything a good stir, put a blanket on the cooler and waited 60 minutes. Temps were between 154 and 152 the whole hour.

After hour was up, I vorlauf (spelling? yeah, I have no idea...) the first few quarts back through and then run my grain bed down near empty, then add about 3.5 gallons of 170 degree water. I ran my mash out back through my grain bed a couple of times, based on some reading that this might help boost efficiency.

I collected just about 5 gallons even (grain absorbed a little more than I thought). So at this point, I cool off a sample of sweet wort and see that my gravity is at 1.044. (anyone have a faster way of cooling off a sample, hate this part).

So what's the deal here? Any suggestions?

Also, I see a lot of people pulling off a sample @ end of boil. Two questions about this: 1.) Does it matter? 2.) How do you correct for low efficiency post boil? I always do it pre-boil because that gives me the opportunity to throw in some dry malt to correct gravity.

Any tips or advice? It's not a big deal to correct for it with malt extract, I just would like to know what I'm doing wrong. Keep reading about efficiency in the 80's and would love to get there. I used to order everything from NorthernBrewer and recently switched to an LHBS locally, but my efficiency is still awful so assuming it's the "nut behind the wheel" so to speak as opposed to crush...

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Old 08-19-2012, 10:36 PM   #2
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Post boil reading will be higher because of boil off. It will concentrate your wort. Try taking a reading then and see if that matches your predicted OG.

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Old 08-19-2012, 11:15 PM   #3
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There's no deal at all. BeerSmith 2 gives me 1.045 pre-boil gravity assuming 75% efficiency which is what I get 95% of the time. This will come out to a 1.056 SG with a 1 gallon boil-off. Seems you're doing everything just right (except your beer color won't be to style with that recipe and it should really have a lot more Munich malt to follow style but that's nit-picking).

Investing $30 in BeerSmith will shed A LOT of light onto the brewing process. You'll never know the ABV and other key beer characteristics w/o SG and FG.

Spending another $30 on a refractometer will take the time to cool a sample down to about 5 min since it is such a small volume; keep the hydrometer for measuring FG though.

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Old 08-20-2012, 02:44 AM   #4
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Thanks for the feedback. Still a little confused. I ran off just about 5 gallons exactly - because my efficiency (at least appeared to me to be low) I added about 1.36 lbs of light malt to boost. Once I finished the boil and cooled, I checked gravity and came out at about 1059. It seems like if I'd actually done everything correctly the malt addition would have messed me up and put me at about 1.075?

I do need a refractometer and beer smith, I'm sure that would help.

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Old 08-20-2012, 02:36 PM   #5
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My example above is for collecting 6 gallons of runnings and boiling down to 5 gallons; I glanced over the fact that you collected 5 gallons and then boiled... I'm a BIAB guy myself and have never mashed in the traditional sense. The closest that I have come is doing the stovetop mashing method posted by DeathBrewer which was stickied. I now do full volume BIAB mashing and haven't looked back.

Based on what I have read about batch sparging, you should split your sparge water into two and stir up each one to get the sugars into solution. But, I even got better efficiency with a single dunk sparge (but did stir the grains during the dunk). How does the crush look? Just throwing things out there.

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Brewing: BM's Centennial Blonde
Drinking: Brown Ale, Cherry Smoked Robust Porter (way too much smoke!)
On Deck: Dunkel, CAP, Berliner Weiss, Bock, Sour Raspberry Brown, APA...
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Gallons Brewed '11-'13: 250


http://www.homebrewtalk.com/f170/pvt...inally-298407/
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Old 08-20-2012, 02:48 PM   #6
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There are a few areas where everyone is usually able to improve efficiency. The first is grain crush. You should make sure there are no whole, unbroken husks or even just cracked. They need to be broken up. I've actually found that if you condition your grain (gently wet it with a spray bottle at least a few hours before milling), you can get a finer crush but leave whole empty husks.

Another thing I do is when I mash out, I add about a gallon of 200 F water first and stir to raise the grain bed temperature and start making the wort less viscous (as well as stop conversion). Let it sit for 5-10 minutes, then vorlauf and drain. Then add the rest of your sparge water, stir like crazy for a minute or 2, then vorlauf and drain. You want to take the gravity reading preboil to be able to calculate your mash efficiency. Take a sample and cover it and cool it down in the freezer. I always have a preboil volume of 7 gallons, so I mash/mash out with the appropriate amount to end up there. My efficiency is always 80-85%, though my first few batches were around 70% until I got my system down.

There are other considerations too, like water pH that are typically not an issue for most people. If you use tap water though, you may want to test for pH if the water report is too vague.

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Old 08-20-2012, 03:02 PM   #7
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Try using more sparge water. I usually dump in about 1.5 gallons of hot (nearly boiling) water and stir before I crack the valve to drain the first runnings. Then pour in about another 3.5 gallons, stir like crazy, let it sit 10 to 15 minutes, then drain again until you hit your pre-boil volume.

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Old 08-21-2012, 02:38 AM   #8
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Adding all the grain at once could be a problem because you might have a dough ball. Try adding a bit at a time and stirring.

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Old 08-21-2012, 03:23 PM   #9
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Don't bother cooling your sample - just take the temp of it when you measure the gravity and then use one of the online temp / gravity calculators to get the real value (or beer smith).

Also, stir more. Check crush, double check your thermometers. Drain all the way when doing batch sparging.

Finally, I would suggest targeting 7 gallons of runoff into your boil kettle. Ignoring the benefits of the full volume boil, the more water you put through your grain, the more sugar you'll get. For those of us with efficiency problems (I've fought this gremlin before), don't worry about tannin extraction from over-sparging.

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Old 08-22-2012, 02:52 AM   #10
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This has all been very helpful. Sounds like there are two pretty big changes here - the first being that I'm probably not running enough water through my grain (gonna need a bigger brew pot), so I'll try upping that to 7 gallons. Also like the notion of raising the temp of the grain bed, vorlaufing and then mashing. Makes sense this would get things moving. So let me also ask - there was no mention about time in the above. Usually I stir up my grain bed after adding water, then let it sit for an hour. But I've also read that some people don't worry much about time. They just stir it up, start performing vorlauf with the first few quarts and then start collecting sweet wort. Curious about thoughts one way or the other on this? I thought that conversion took more time than this, but I've seen that notion challenged. Thanks for the input so far, this has been enormously helpful.

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