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Old 08-20-2008, 05:34 PM   #1
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Default Maximizing Efficiency when Batch Sparging

The question of how to improve efficiency often comes up, and I sometimes get PMs asking advice. Rather than repeat the same information, I thought I would write my thoughts down in this thread so that it could be referenced in the future.

Efficiency issues are often difficult to diagnose -- it is just something you have to figure out through trial and error (for this reason, always take detailed notes of your recipe and process each and every brew!). Here are some ideas to think about, in approximate order of importance:

• Your crush will have a big impact on your mash efficiency (although some debate this point). Regardless, the biggest gains in efficiency that users tend to report are when they improve their crush (e.g., buy their own mill). If your LHBS is crushing your grain for you, consider that most shops will set their crush so that their customers get between 60 and 70% efficiency. They may claim it is to help brewers avoid stuck mashes, but conveniently, it also helps them to sell more grain!

• The ratio of sparge water to mash water is a critical factor determining efficiency when batch sparging. Some brewers forget that high gravity recipes will have proportionally less sparge water (because so much water was needed to mash the large volume of grain), and therefore, they will also have less water to dissolve extracted sugars resulting in lower extract efficiency. This seems to be particularly true for those who batch sparge. The two common solutions are either to add extra sparge water and lengthen the boil to compensate, or to simply plan for the reduction in efficiency in the recipe.

• It is very important to hit your mash temperature and hold it for the length of the mash to get full conversion. A common problem is that people miss their temp (e.g., didn’t pre-heat their mash tun or their thermometer is out of calibration), and their extract efficiency suffers because the enzymes in the mash were operating in less-than-optimal conditions.

• Wort losses in the system (e.g., incomplete draining of mash tun or other dead spaces in gear like counter-flow chillers, etc.) can take a big toll on your brewhouse efficiency. These are sometimes overlooked because people are too focused on their extract efficiency rather than their overall (brewhouse) efficiency.

• It is hard to accurately compute efficiency if you don't have precise measurements of your water/wort. Sometimes people think they are getting poor efficiency in their system, but it just turns out they are over-estimating the amount of water used in a brew or under-estimating the amount of wort collected.

• When mixing your grain with water at the beginning of the mash, it is CRITICAL that everything is mixed completely to avoid doughballs or dry lumps of grain. If the grain is not sufficiently wetted, it won't convert, robbing you of efficiency points.

• When batch sparging, the temperature of the mash-out and/or sparge water influence your extract efficiency. You want to make sure that either your mash-out infusion or your first batch sparge addition are hot enough to raise the grist to as close to 170 F as possible. This allows more sugar to be dissolved and reduces viscosity to facilitate easier lautering, both of which will improve your efficiency.

• Also when batch sparging, it is critical that you stir the mash fully after adding mash-out water and/or the first sparge water addition. It may help to stir before each subsequent sparge water addition, but that depends on your system.

• pH of the mash is usually not a problem for most brewers, but some water sources can be problematic. If so, the use of a pH stabilizer, like Five Star 5.2 buffer can help achieve an optimal mash pH, and may result in a 5 - 10% increase in efficiency.

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Old 08-20-2008, 08:21 PM   #2
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Thanks FlyGuy, and I'll quit PM'ing you

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Old 08-20-2008, 08:25 PM   #3
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Thanks FlyGuy, and I'll quit PM'ing you
Not at all, man! I am happy to help if I can!

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Old 08-20-2008, 08:43 PM   #4
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nice read. now to put some of it to use for the next batch.

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Old 08-20-2008, 09:19 PM   #5
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Nice write-up. I'm currently trying to validate some more of the points about extraction efficiency. In particular mash thickness, crush, mash-out and time. But that actually applies to fly and batch sparging.

Here is some info on what factors affect the lauter efficiency part of the brewhouse efficiency when batch sparging.

Kai

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Old 10-30-2008, 05:35 AM   #6
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I would be curious to know from those of you who track their grind setting on their mills...what is your prefered setting. I don't own a mill, but my brew supply store has an industrial grade mill with a caliper on it. I noticed the other day when I was grinding out a grain bill that the setting was on.032" I asked one of the emplyees who has worked there a long time and he said that was their "standard setting". Not for nutin', but I have been getting low efficiencies (60%) for over a year now (I have my brew system calibrated down to the last ounce of fluid) and have been scratching my head ever since. When I changed the settings to grind at .020", the guy freaked out and pushed me to pick up some rice hulls to prevent a stuck sparge, which I did just in case. I am starting to wonder if the .032" setting was a bit too course and may be the part of the problem.

Thoughts?

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Old 10-30-2008, 04:38 PM   #7
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32 mil (0.8 mm) is a fairly decent setting and you should not be getting only 60% efficiency with that. 20 mil (0.5 mm) is to fine in my opinion. I crush mine between 0.6 and 0.7 mm (24-26 mil) which gives me the 100% conversion and subsequently 85+% brewhouse efficiency that I’m looking for.

Inthekeg, if you are interested in going a systematic route of troubleshooting and fixing your brewhouse efficiency, give these articles some reading:

* Troubleshooting Efficiency
* Understanding Efficiency

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Old 10-31-2008, 12:57 AM   #8
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Thaks for your input Kaiser. I am doing an all grain Hefe tomorrow morning early. I record everything, everytime I brew. Maybe I'll posy here and get some comments that help narrow it down. The trouble has been the cause is somewhat elusive. My PH is always right on, I don't rush my mash-out, I iodine test for conversion, etc, etc.

Part of the problem may be that I may be short changing myself on the sparge side. I am going to explore the possibility that I might still have plenty of residual sugar left in the Mash Tun left AFTER the point I have hit my volume. This is the only aspect of my brewing that is, as of yet, unexplored as a potential source of the problem. Still, I just can't believe that I have more that 1.015 when I shut it down.

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Old 11-29-2008, 07:22 PM   #9
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I don't worry about what my mill is st to....I worry about how the crush looks.

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Old 11-29-2008, 07:24 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Denny View Post
I don't worry about what my mill is st to....I worry about how the crush looks.
Welcome Denny. I was wondering why you weren't on this forum. I'm sure you'll be a welcome addition here as you have been on all the others you frequent.

Cheers.
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