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Old 11-05-2010, 04:54 PM   #1
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Default Need opinion on grain bill size...

Hey folks! I have been lurking here for about a year now, and I finally have a question that I cannot find answered already. I have a few all-grain batches under my belt, using a 7.5 gallon SS pot and converted 10 gallon igloo cooler MLT. With the two all grain batches I have done, I have gotten very poor efficiency (in the 45-55% range). I think I have nailed down WHY my efficiency was low. During the sparging stage I would just open the ball valve on the tun all the way, and let it run off very quickly. From research I have found out that I should be draining at about 1 qt/minute, and very quick draining will yield a low sugar extraction from the grains.

My question is this - With my next attempt I was planning on taking a very simple IPA recipe and adjusting the grain bill for my low efficiency. Now that I have found a good potential reason for my low efficiency, would you all recommend sticking with a grain bill based on a 75% efficiency? Otherwise, if I do go with the larger grain bill and the slower draining does increase my efficiency dramatically, I will have a much higher OG (and would in turn need to also go with a high attenuating yeast.)

I appreciate the opinions!

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Old 11-05-2010, 04:58 PM   #2
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Are you batch sparging or fly sparging? Cause if you're batch sparging then the flow rate out of the LT doesn't matter. Maybe there's a different cause, perhaps the crush?

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Old 11-05-2010, 05:02 PM   #3
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Oh I didn't realize that. I am batch sparging. I was thinking the crush could also be the culprit. You would think, however, that other people at my LHBS would be having this same issue. Maybe I should order a kit online, just to see if there would be a difference in efficiency from the crush.

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Old 11-05-2010, 05:04 PM   #4
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Also make sure your thermometer is working. Never hurts to check with 2 during the mash, or at least occasionally check your primary one with a different one.

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Old 11-05-2010, 05:15 PM   #5
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1. Definitely check the thermomter calibration and check that the mashtun is maintaining temperature.

2. If you are relying on the crush of the LHBS, bring it up to them and talk to another customer or two if you can. Your idea about ordering online and comparing is also a good one.

3. Ensure that you are properly stirring and mixing the grains so as to minimize balls of grain within the mash. Ensure that the grains are evenly distributed and all getting exposed to your water.

4. Are you adjusting your gravity readings based on the temperature of the wort when you take the reading? If you pull straight from your mash at 150 +/- degrees and take a reading, it will show MUCH lower than the actual measurement.

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Old 11-05-2010, 05:46 PM   #6
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1. I will definitely double check the thermometer. I am betting that it is 'ok', because it is one of the nicer $10 ones from the LHBS, but it is always worth checking. Also, I have been checking to ensure conversion of the starches has taken place with iodophor, and they appear completely converted.

2. I'll definitely ask em next time I'm in.

3. I was stirring like crazy on the last batch to ensure I didn't get any doughballs. I was using 1.25qt/lb

4. I didn't take a pre-boil gravity reading, but the final reading I took just before pitching is what I am calling as OG. This is the value that has been really low.

OH - one more thing that I read I wasn't doing quite right was after draining the initial wort from the MLT, I would add the sparge water and stir/drain immediately. I have read that the sparge water should sit in the MLT for a good 10 minutes or so. I'll give this a shot as well, and see if it help my efficiency.

But now, down to my initial question, do you guys think I should up my grain bill just in case none of these solutions help my efficiency? I guess I could just add some DME/LME instead.

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Old 11-05-2010, 05:58 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kccvxd View Post
OH - one more thing that I read I wasn't doing quite right was after draining the initial wort from the MLT, I would add the sparge water and stir/drain immediately. I have read that the sparge water should sit in the MLT for a good 10 minutes or so. I'll give this a shot as well, and see if it help my efficiency.
This should not make any difference. As long as you stir it all up you can drain it right away. 1 min or 10 min will not make much difference.

Crush is the most likely factor.

Also, make sure your properly calculating the efficiency. Many people have a hard time accurately measuring the volume of wort. Gravity is fairly easy to read, if you know how to use a hydrometer. But some people have major problems guessing at how much wort is in the pot.
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Old 11-05-2010, 06:05 PM   #8
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Ok, so maybe my processes aren't too far off. I appreciate all the help (and quickness of the responses)! I'll try an online kit for my next batch, just to compare the efficiency I get from grains crushed from a different store.

Thanks again!

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Old 11-05-2010, 06:08 PM   #9
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+1 to Maida7...Sparging is just rinsing the grains of remaining sugar, no need to let it sit. I don't let it sit and I get 83% eff every time.

To go off Maida's other point, measure the final wort. Especially if you have extra. Guessing won't tell you accurately enough.

Lastly, I say it's the crush. Nearly every time this question is posed the person is getting their grain crushed by the LHBS. Often times it's an adjustable mill that someone has moved and the settings are off. I'd order a kit or some grain from an online store, they have a pretty good and constant crush...Brewmasters warehouse is where I used to get the best eff before I got my own mill.

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Old 11-05-2010, 06:14 PM   #10
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You can just check the crush yourself... There should be few, if any, uncrushed kernels; but it shouldn't a powder either and the husks shouldn't be shredded too much. If the LHBS hands you the bag after they crush it, grab some with your hand and scrutinize it. Some such as CaraPils are really hard too, and they might need to be run through the mill separately. The LHBS should of course know how to crush grain... but they might not.

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