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Old 09-25-2009, 04:59 PM   #1
ILikeBrew
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Default Mash Thickness Confusion

First-time poster.

I am confused as to the effect of thinner mashes on wort. My brother and I have brewed 3 AG batches using single infusion mash with a double batch sparge. We have come out to 75% efficiency each time. Call me greedy, but I am shooting to get 80%. I have read several posts on here and other sites about tips for increasing efficiency with AG batch sparge brewing and the only thing I think I might change is my mash thickness. I have read on Kaiser's website that thinner mashes increase efficiency without affecting the fermentability of the wort. I have read other sites that confirm the increase in efficiency, but warn that thinner mashes create more fermentable wort due to increased diastatic activity.

My question is, if I use a thinner mash, should I adjust my mash temperature to compensate for the increased diastatic activity?

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Old 09-25-2009, 05:16 PM   #2
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Personally, I have noticed that with thicker mashes, around 1.25 instead of closer to 1.5, my efficiency has dropped from 75% to 70%. However, i have not noticed any differences in the fermentability of the wort.

The best way to run this experiment is to brew a beer with the exact same mash temperature you used the last time, but increase the water to make it thinner. Then when its done fermenting, compare the OG of that beer to the beer you brewed with the thicker mash. Then you will know for sure if it makes a difference in your system

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Here is some info from www.howtobrew.com/section3/chapter14-6.html

The grist/water ratio is another factor influencing the performance of the mash. A thinner mash of >2 quarts of water per pound of grain dilutes the relative concentration of the enzymes, slowing the conversion, but ultimately leads to a more fermentable mash because the enzymes are not inhibited by a high concentration of sugars. A stiff mash of <1.25 quarts of water per pound is better for protein breakdown, and results in a faster overall starch conversion, but the resultant sugars are less fermentable and will result in a sweeter, maltier beer. A thicker mash is more gentle to the enzymes because of the lower heat capacity of grain compared to water. A thick mash is better for multirest mashes because the enzymes are not denatured as quickly by a rise in temperature.

A compromise of all factors yields the standard mash conditions for most homebrewers: a mash ratio of about 1.5 quarts of water per pound grain, pH of 5.3, temperature of 150-155°F and a time of about one hour. These conditions yield a wort with a nice maltiness and good fermentability.

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Old 09-25-2009, 05:24 PM   #3
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Actually, the best way to figure out if a thinner mash would help is to take a mash efficiency sample and see if you're 100% converted. If you are, thinning out should actually degrade your lauter efficiency. Empirically, I lost a good 10% going from 1.25 to 1.6.

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Old 09-25-2009, 05:32 PM   #4
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My personal recommendation is to be happy with 75% efficiency and spring for the extra 1/2 lb of grain if you want your wort gravity to be a bit higher. Lots of really serious, much more award winner brewers than me have suggested that you run risks of many more bad things than you might get benefits of good things by shooting for efficiency higher than 75% including astringency. Grain is cheap. For most beers the yield difference between 75% & 80% efficiency is only adding 1/2 a pound of base malt to your 75% mash -- that's 60 or so cents. Saving that isn't worth the risk of an astringent batch of beer.

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Old 09-25-2009, 06:12 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bobby_M View Post
Actually, the best way to figure out if a thinner mash would help is to take a mash efficiency sample and see if you're 100% converted. If you are, thinning out should actually degrade your lauter efficiency. Empirically, I lost a good 10% going from 1.25 to 1.6.
Very interesting, Bobby. I've either seen no difference or a slight gain, but I haven't really been tracking it closely. I think maybe I'll start doing that. What size batches do you typically make, and did you see any difference in higher mash ratios based on the OG of the beer?
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Old 09-25-2009, 06:18 PM   #6
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Now that I think of it, my 10% loss can be half correlated to additional deadspace. I should say that I lost 10% going from a cooler with a braid to a keg with a full false bottom. I'm forced to mash thinner to recirculate and I know I leave some wort after a "full" draining due to the nature of the siphon tube. I don't know what portion of that 10% is attributable to which. IOW, my data sucks. I would have to mash thinner in a cooler to test it.

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Old 09-25-2009, 06:19 PM   #7
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Thanks for the explanation!

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Old 09-25-2009, 08:06 PM   #8
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Alright, did more reading. Seems to be a lot of different opinions. I am going to try a thinner mash next time because I just used beersmith's setting in my calculation which is 1.25q/lb. I think I'll start by moving it to 1.5 and see if I see an increase in efficiency.

Questions: Do I just now sparge with less water (double batch sparge equal amounts) or do I sparge with the same amount of water and boil off the extra? Also, if I move up to like 2q/lb., it would really decrease the amount of water to sparge with. Will this create a problem? Currently I use my first batch sparge at boiling to bring the temp up to 168ish. How would I do this with smaller batch sparges?

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Old 09-25-2009, 08:10 PM   #9
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I have been going with 1.25qts for my first 17 beers and have been getting anywhere from 63% to 73%. Today I raised it up to 1.50qts and I got 79%. So, I will try again next time with 1.5qts and see what happens.

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Old 09-25-2009, 09:53 PM   #10
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Question: I know when I mash the grain (nut, whatever) is all mush after sparging.

Does the degree of crush also affect efficiency based upon the smaller grain pieces having more surface to water contact?

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