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Old 02-05-2010, 06:31 PM   #1
mullet
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Default Poor Efficiency

A friend and me brewed a double batch of Orfy's Old Speckled Hen Clone recently. We did the two batches one after the other on the same equipment following the same recipe. Hit mash temps spot on. I forgot to read the recipe and we ended up only mashing for 60 minutes instead of 90. English sparged (I think that's the right term? Drained all the mash water, then added the sparge water and waited for it to settle again..) with equal amounts of water at temps probably closer to 140 over about a half hour per batch. Probably collected and boiled about 20L per batch. Topped up to the full 23 before pitching. Both batches had an OG of 1.040 just before pitching.

This is only my second AG batch, but it still seems a little low to me. I was wondering what might be possible to improve that a bit. Should I have sparged hotter? Or longer? Would the extra 30 minutes on the mash have helped that at all? Should I have tried to collect more for the boil?

Just looking for any tips to improve efficiency a little bit. Thanks!

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Old 02-05-2010, 08:26 PM   #2
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2 Things that helped my efficiency a lot:
1) milling my own grain.. I was getting ~60% with the crush from my local shop. That went into the mid 80's when i started milling my own grain.
2) I picked up a few more points when my sparge water got the grain bed up to ~170*F to fully rinse the sugars from the grain.

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Old 02-05-2010, 08:54 PM   #3
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Yes, get the grainbed up to 168ish F during the sparge. What I do is a batch sparge so I take my sparge water up to about 185*F, pour 1/2 of it onto the grain bed. stir like hell, give it a couple of minutes (maybe 5 minutes), vorleuf(sp?), drain, then I pour in my second 1/2 of the sparge water which has cooled down a bit to maybe 175*F over the last few minutes. Stir, wait, vorleuf, drain.

It is best to send all of the water that you will be using through the mash / sparge as opposed to topping up later.

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Old 02-06-2010, 02:38 AM   #4
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I doubt that mashing for 90 vs 60 minutes would make any difference in efficiency, but it could improve attenuation, and make for a drier beer.
I've never noticed any difference in efficiency from milling my own grain, but lots of people do, and I may have been lucky with the crush from the LHBS.
I did notice a big increase in efficiency (10%) when I adjusted my sparge temperatures from the low 150's to the high 160's.

-a.

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Old 02-06-2010, 04:19 AM   #5
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How much wort did you leave behind in your mash tun? What was your intended starting gravity and final gravity? How much did you boil off? How many lbs of grain did you use? What was your mash temp at mash in and what was your temp before sparging? Once you know your constants, then you can figure out where you are losing efficiency points.

Based on my experience a low gravity usually means you used too much water, thus diluting your wort too much. A good crush is important, as is getting the mash up to 170 during the sparge.

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Old 02-06-2010, 08:18 AM   #6
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I'm pretty new to this board so I hope this isn't out of place.

Firstly what efficiency would you expect going on your other brew? Does it fit with the suggested efficiency from the recipe or should you have adjusted to hit the target gravity?

Efficiency can relate to various things: equipment, sparge temp, grain crush and stirring during the sparge to name a few.

Did you take a pre-boil reading? Efficiency is set at this point - following that it simply relates to the proportion of sugar to liquid so if you boil longer you get less liquid with a higher density.

Also I'm assuming your pitching temperature was somewhere around the 20 deg C mark but if it was hotter that may give you an extra point or so.

For this brew you can accept a slightly lower ABV or you could bump it up with a touch of extract. For the next, check the crush, adjust the recipe to the approximate efficiency you're getting, increase sparge temps a touch and experiment with gently stirring the mash. I actually found stirring dropped my efficiency a small amount but many people swear it helps.

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Old 02-06-2010, 10:38 AM   #7
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Hey, thanks for all the replies! Apparently, I've got some changes to make in my procedure.

First, answer some questions.

Quote:
How much wort did you leave behind in your mash tun?
Hardly any? Whatever was left on the bottom of the manifold, or soaked into the grain.

Quote:
What was your intended starting gravity and final gravity?
The recipe says we were aiming for SG=1.050 and FG=1.013, which I didn't adjust at all, but probably should have.

Quote:
How much did you boil off?
I'm not 100% sure on this, we boiled with covers on the pots, but I'm sure we still lost a fair amount, probably a couple litres. Is there any good way to measure this? Does anyone have some sort of volume markings in or on their boil pots?

Quote:
How many lbs of grain did you use?
4.5kg, so about 10lbs?

Quote:
What was your mash temp at mash in and what was your temp before sparging?
At mash in, we started with about 13L = 14qts of water at 77C = 170F, after the thermometer had a minute to adjust we got a reading of 68C = 154.4F, and by the end of the mash, we were at 66C = 150.8F.

Quote:
Based on my experience a low gravity usually means you used too much water, thus diluting your wort too much.
Well, 9.9lbs of grain with 13.7qts of water is about 1.4 quarts/lb. That's less stiff than I thought, actually. But, we only sparged with an equal amount of water, so I'm not sure that would be the issue.

Quote:
Did you take a pre-boil reading?
No, I did not. This is probably one place where I went wrong. The SG readings that we took were after the boil and the cooling, immediately before pitching the yeast.

Quote:
Firstly what efficiency would you expect going on your other brew? Does it fit with the suggested efficiency from the recipe or should you have adjusted to hit the target gravity?
I can't find my brew notes on my last beer, I've moved twice since then, and they've just gotten lost in a sea of crap, which sucks. But I'm pretty sure that my efficiency on that one was somewhere around the 60% mark. But based on the last question there, I may have gotten the measurements at the wrong times, so that could be skewed as well. And yeah, 60% isn't what the recipe was made for, and I didn't adjust for that, my bad. This brew was a bit of a last minute thing, so I just picked a recipe for a beer that I knew I liked and hoped for the best.

Quote:
Also I'm assuming your pitching temperature was somewhere around the 20 deg C mark but if it was hotter that may give you an extra point or so.
We probably pitched a little higher than that, actually. We only chilled the wort to about 40C, as I don't have a chiller. I've got about 2 feet of snow on my back deck, so the pots just went out in the snowbank for a while until they chilled a bit. But then they sat in the carboys inside while we cleaned up, so I'm sure we probably pitched around 30C or so. And yeah, I probably should have adjusted the reading for that. I kind of forgot to do that too.

Quote:
For this brew you can accept a slightly lower ABV or you could bump it up with a touch of extract.
Yeah, this brew should be fine if it runs a little low. The LHBS didn't have Northern Brewer, and I didn't know offhand what a good substitute was, and they recommended more Kent Goldings, so the bittering hops we used didn't have a very high AA%, so in the end it may turn out to be more of a mild than a bitter, which is fine.

From most of the comments that are here, I'm thinking that a big part of my problem is sparging too cool. I don't have any kind of propane burner or anything, so I'm using two 20qt stock pots to boil. In this particular brew, I lautered into those two pots, so I had to heat up the sparge water in dutch ovens and regular cooking pots, so I couldn't get a lot done at once. We ended up not heating the water for very long because we needed to heat more than one batch, and we figured it would be better to go a little lower, but have all the water added close to the same time, than to try to go higher, but in a couple of smaller doses spaced further apart.

I think next time I'll run the sparge into a spare brewing bucket and heat up the sparge water in the brew pots, and then once the wort is collected, pour from the bucket into the pots. And definitely bump up the temperatures a little bit.

When should I be taking readings? I've been doing some reading on the site here, and it seems like I should be checking gravity of first runnings, final runnings, and pre-boil? (From an efficiency point of view, at least.) Do most people check gravity that often during a brew day? I've only been checking right before I pitch the yeast so far.

We're going to try to be brewing either 10 gallons once a month, or 5 gallons every 2 weeks, so we should have plenty of opportunity to fix the methods a little bit.

Thanks for all the help so far, all!
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Old 02-06-2010, 11:29 AM   #8
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Unless you're making a partigyle or sparging until the gravity reaches a certain point rather than the wort reaches a certain volume, I'd just take 1 gravity reading before you start the boil. Obviously you'll need to adjust for temperature. Then take one more just prior to pitching (or just after - I can't see the harm as the yeast probably won't digest a hell of a lot in those minutes).

There are reasons why you might take gravity readings as you drain each running but at this point I'd concentrate more on getting the volume you want and calculating what efficiency that gives you. Then you can adjust future recipes to that efficiency. If you think the efficiency can be improved you can then work on how to do so.

You say your first efficiency was probably around 60%. The recipe was for 70% efficiency. I'm not sure exactly how many more gravity points that would give you but it looks like that's at least part of your answer. Anyone else's recipe always needs to be adjusted for your system and getting to know how your system works is probably the most important thing before worrying about all the other bits. Work out your grist to liquor amounts, your mash out temp and amounts (if you M.O), your sparge temps and amounts and what that gives you. Go from there.

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Old 02-06-2010, 12:04 PM   #9
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I struggled with low efficiency on my first few batches as well. What has really helped me nail down the problem was the Batch-Sparging-Efficiency-Spreadsheet from the Troubleshooting Brewhouse Efficiency page on braukaiser.com. I've been able to increase my efficiency into Boiler from 60% to almost 85% using the same equipment.

I take 3 readings on brew day:

1) First Wort Gravity - The first runnings from the mash tun. This will tell you how good your conversion efficiency was.

2) Pre Boil Gravity - Stir all the collected wort really well before you take the sample. This reading will tell you your overall conversion and lauter efficiency.

3) Original Gravity - The gravity of the wort before you pitch the yeast. This will tell you your overall brewhouse efficiency.

Plugging in those numbers along with the grain/water used in the spreadsheet will tell you where you're taking the biggest hit. At first my conversion efficiency was a little low but my lauter efficiency was even worse. I switched to mashing a little thicker and split my sparge into two rounds making sure to stir very well each time. My lauter efficiency improved significantly and the thicker mash also improved my conversion efficiency.

For some people a thinner mash seems to improve their efficiency. I suspect it has to do with water profile but I haven't gotten to the point where I want to get into water analysis or pH testing of the mash. My efficiency is dialed in and my beers are turning out better each time.

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Old 02-06-2010, 01:47 PM   #10
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what mash thickness are you working with? I just did that spead sheet and I'm getting 75% to the kettle but only 65% out of the kettle? Any comment on that.

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