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Home Brew Forums > Home Brewing Beer > All Grain & Partial Mash Brewing > Officially frustrated...really need help
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Old 12-11-2010, 07:48 PM   #1
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Default Officially frustrated...really need help

I've posted a few things now about efficiency and have gotten some good advice...but my efficiency is literally worse on every batch I brew. This last time I only got 56%...56! My recipe called for 8lbs American Two Row Pale, to make up for the bad efficiency I got last time, I bought 10lbs instead.
What I don't understand is that I've gotten 75% before, granted it was on lower abv session ales. On this last one I did all the things I was supposed to do. Here's the run down
-13.5 lbs of grain for an IPA. The projected OG range was 1.065-1.076, with 1.072 being 75% efficiency (I built a recipe on Hopville).
-Used 4.55 gallons strike water, mashed at 155 in Cooler MLT, didn't lose temp.
-Mashed for 90 min because I'd heard this would help efficiency.
-Yielded about 3.5 gallons.
-Used the .5lbs of water per pound rule for my sparge. As it turns out my pot wasn't quite big enough, so could only sparge with 5 gallons.
-My sparge when added to the grains was exactly 170. I let it sit for about 5-10 min. (Single Batch Sparge)
-Drained into kettle, took pre-boil OG, which was 1.0443.
-Used the a/b x (c-1) + 1 formula which for my purposes was 8.5/5.5 x (1.0443-1) + 1 = 1.068. I thought well hey, that's about 70%, not so bad.
Well then I ended up with 1.055 which is not so great. It will still taste pretty good, IBUs are at 53, and i'm on track to end up with a 6.5%-6.9% or so so it's not going to be a hopeless mess or anything, but what the hell is going on?
What I should've done was just gone with what I was doing before, and done a 7 gallon boil since I had bought the extra grain to make up for my less that desired efficiency last time. This time though, I did a little trial and error with boiling down 8.5 gallons to 5.5 in hopes of better efficiency,and using all the rules with the 1.4 quart per lb of grain for the mash, and .5 gallon per lb for the sparge. When all was said and done, I was left with nearly 6.5 gallons because I underestimated how much would burn off in the boil. I boiled for an hour before my first hop additions, so it was two hours total on the propane burner, but I guess that wasn't enough. Is it a safe bet that the main reason it was so low here is because I was left with a gallon extra of wort that didn't boil off that I had counted on boiling off?
My actual original recipe called for an OG range of 1.055-1.064, and as I said, I bought two extra pounds of grain in hopes of hitting that range. When I entered that into hopville though, it upped the OG range, so I missed the mark. If I'm adding grains to try and make up for efficiency loss (I am only about a month and a half into All Grain, by the way) should I not count that extra grain in my calculations? THis is the longest post ever, so I'm stopping now. Any words of wisdom would really be appreciated.

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Old 12-11-2010, 07:50 PM   #2
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Are you getting the grain crushed at the store? How does it look?

A lot of homebrew stores have a pretty coarse crush, which has a negative impact on efficiency.

If you are crushing it at home, what is your gap setting?

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Old 12-11-2010, 08:04 PM   #3
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Here's what you do:

Get a pre-milled batch from brewmasterswarehouse.com I know their crush is good, I always get over 80% from him usually in the mid 80's. I'd recommend a nice basic brew like Ed's Haus Pale ale. Mash 1.25 quarts per lb of grain for at least 60 minutes. Double batch sparge @185*F to get your volume needed for the boil.

Also test your thermometer, if its off then you're screwed.

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Old 12-11-2010, 08:09 PM   #4
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Oh yeah good point about the thermometer. I had a couple of batches with horrible efficiency when my thermometer broke and was reading 10-20 degrees off.

I recommend a Thermapen. It's expensive but it is quick and accurate and I've been using the same one for 3 years now and it's still perfect.

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Old 12-11-2010, 08:19 PM   #5
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I starting to wonder about the mill at the store. The gap in the mill does seem a bit far apart, to be honest. Can I throw them in a blender or something at home? haha.
My thermometer is digital and is the type that has a metal spike on a wire that can go in the oven while the part that tells the temp is outside.
As for the sparge, I thought it had to be 170. No? I bring the water to about 193 so when it's added to the grains it becomes 170.
I know in this case I goofed because I ended up with a whole superfluos gallon of wort that I'd counted on to be boiled off, so I know that's part of it, but still.

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Old 12-11-2010, 08:21 PM   #6
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Someone may have suggested this already, but try draining your MLT or LT slowly... Last brew i drained my MLT too quickly and lost about 25% efficiency... was around 55%-ish.

Have you checked the hardness of your brewing water?

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Old 12-11-2010, 08:21 PM   #7
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Quote:
My thermometer is digital and is the type that has a metal spike on a wire that can go in the oven while the part that tells the temp is outside.
This is exactly the type I had that started reading bad.
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Old 12-11-2010, 08:23 PM   #8
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Are you temperature correcting your gravity samples?

Have you read Kai's stuff at braukaiser.com?

You need to determine where you are "losing" efficiency. If you are getting poor conversion efficiency, then it doesn't matter how your sparge/lauter. If you are getting good (~90+%) conversion efficiency, you can trouble shoot your sparge/lauter process.

Taking a gravity of your initial runnings (and temp correct it) can get you started...

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Old 12-11-2010, 08:28 PM   #9
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Crush?? Are you stirring the mash thoroughly prior to each drain to help release the sugar from the grain?

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Old 12-11-2010, 08:38 PM   #10
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185*F is the temperature of the sparge water I use, 170* is the grain bed temp you want during the second sparge. Test your thermometer in both an ice water test and a boiling water test.

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