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Old 02-13-2011, 09:48 PM   #1
veritas524
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Default My efficiency is terrible.

Or my hydrometer sucks... getting some distilled water today to calibrate it, hopefully it's way off. I would greatly appreciate some constructive criticism/troubleshooting.


Here is the recipe

9# 2-row
1# crystal 80
.75# munich

Equipment:

15 gallon brew kettle
10 gallon rubbermaid round cooler w/ SS braided hose
Beersmith


Anyways, I did my first AG recipe about three weeks ago. A few friends (all extract brewers) came over and helped. As it turns out, we ended up getting 60% efficiency. Some temps were missed, some other things didn't go exactly as planned and I attributed the poor efficiency to three All grain virgins being intoxicated.

Fast forward to yesterday. I decided to give it another shot, this time by myself so I didn't have the well intentioned collaboration that I had the previous time. I was brewing an amber, mashed at 1.25 qt/lb and was aiming for 154. Doughed in at 165, waited five minutes and my temp was 152... not a problem as I had two quarts of preheated water on the stove to adjust with. Checked the temp 5 minutes after adjusting and I hit 154 dead on the nuts. After the hour was up, I drained the MLT into a bucket and collected 3 gallons and added it to my kettle. I did two batch sparges of a hair over two gallons each to bring my pre-boil volume to just a little over 7 gallons. I took a sample of the wort and tossed it in the freezer to chill it down to 60. When the test jar was at 60 degrees, I took the SG and got 1.033 (right where I wanted to be pre-boil assuming I was going to get 60%). Disappointed I figured it wasn't the end of the world and resumed my boil. All said and done, I finished my boil with an OG of 1.040 which is WAY under where it should have been even for 60%.

I'm sitting here scratching my head as to what is going wrong. I have done my homework and read every all grain thread I can get my hands on. I have read Bobby M's all grain primers, howtobrew, etc... I tasted the grains after the last sparge and there was no residual sweetness left in them whatsoever. The only thing I can possibly think of is that I'm draining my MLT too fast or my hydrometer is fubar'd. As far as draining fast... I was under the impression that sparging slow was only for fly sparging. Should I open my ball valve while draining just to a little over a trickle? Another thing. I do get my grains crushed at my LHBS, but it appears to me as if it is crushed fine enough. There are no intact hulls and a good amount of flour. I asked the owner of the shop if he felt the crush was fine enough for All Grain and he said that 95% of his all grain brewers have absolutely no issue's with their crush.

Any feedback will be greatly appreciated, 52% efficiency is really starting to frustrate me.

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Old 02-13-2011, 10:02 PM   #2
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Did you base you final efficiency off the volume that went into the fermenter? Seems obvious, but if you collected more than intended it would account for the drop in "into the fermenter" efficiency.

I batch sparge and noticed a decent (~5%) jump in efficiency when i slowed down my sparging. It's not trickling out, but the ball valve is usually about 1/2 open.

Do you mash out? I think there's some debate on whether or not this helps with batch sparging, but it makes sense to me that it would help and i always do it.

Finally, my biggest (by far) increase in efficiency was buying a barley crusher. Unless you can verify that another customer at your LHBS with a similar setup is getting considerably better efficiency than you, my best guess would be the crush. I went from about the efficiency your reporting (50-60%) to an average around 80% once i got my barley crusher and dialed it in--no other changes. You could ask your LHBS to run your grains through their mill twice and see if that shows any improvement.

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Old 02-13-2011, 10:02 PM   #3
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Are you sure your thermometers are accurate?

How are you measuing volume? Are you sure what you think is "1 gallon" is actually "1 gallon"

What was the gravity of your 1st runnings? This can help identify if your efficiency problems are during the mash or during the lauter....

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Old 02-13-2011, 10:05 PM   #4
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The wort tends to stratify in the kettle. Meaning your first runnings don't mix that well with the sparge runnings. That can really throw your readings off.

I usually don't bother checking gravity until the wort has had a good rolling boil going and is well mixed.

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Old 02-13-2011, 10:12 PM   #5
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I don't mash out, maybe I should start?

I use two thermometers... my main digital reads 32 in ice and 211.5 at boiling.

Unfortunately I don't check the SG of the individual runnings, just everything combined before the boil commences.

I measure volume using my bottling bucket. HOWEVER. I have measured out my own lines on the bucket because those things are notoriously inaccurate. I used a pyrex measuring cup to mark the bucket.

I do base off of what I put in the fermenter, usually its right at 5gallons

As far as the crush goes, it is difficult to tell if that's what causing it (and I really hope it is). I know my LHBS owner would be more than happy to adjust one of his mills to get a finer crush. Seeing that we crush our own grains at the store, running it through mill wouldn't be an issue at all... maybe I'll try that the next go around.

And finally, I stir the living crap out of everything... Including infusion water, sparge water, first runnings w/ 2nd and 3rd runnings in the kettle...

Thanks for the inputs so far guys.

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Old 02-13-2011, 10:14 PM   #6
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How well do you stir the mash? Are you sure there are not dough balls?

Do you stir before you drain the first runnings?

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Old 02-13-2011, 10:15 PM   #7
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I stir very very very thoroughly to the point that I'm suprised I haven't ripped that SS braid off of the barb yet. I'm positive there are no dough balls. I have my wife add the grain very slowly while doughing in while I sitr. However, I do not stir prior to draining the first runnings... Maybe I should start doing that.

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Old 02-13-2011, 10:16 PM   #8
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What was the final volume post boil? I'm thinking you might not have boiled off two gallons.

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Old 02-13-2011, 10:20 PM   #9
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I read through this a couple times and the first questions that came to mind were 1) good grain crush ? 2) calibrated hydrometer ? 3) calibrated thermometers?

Probably not any one of these things could get you that far off, but a "perfect storm" of everything being a bit off could get you off significantly.

I batch sparge and have been under the impression that flow rate is not that critical, AS LONG as you have everything stirred up really well. I use a mud-stirrer on a drill for everything in my 10 gal round cooler with false bottom. Stir the crap out of it a time or two during mashing and lautering, and I usually stick my numbers right on.

Make sure you mash out, not necessarily to hit the temps, but rather to get everything hot and juicy and the sugars rinse out better.

I'm thinking you have a problem with crush, and/or your measuring equipment.

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Old 02-14-2011, 12:55 AM   #10
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Finished volume was 5 gallons...

Well I know it is not the hydrometer. 60 degrees in distilled water reads 1.000

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