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Home Brew Forums > Home Brewing Beer > All Grain & Partial Mash Brewing > Poor Efficiency - Poor Crush?
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Old 03-22-2009, 07:46 AM   #1
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Default Poor Efficiency - Poor Crush?

Hello everyone. I recently started into all grain brewing and have enjoyed the fact that I can control much more of the brewing process in comparison to extract brewing. However, I cannot seem to increase my efficiency. My setup is fairly decent and I have been able to hold my mash temp and the local water report I have found shows to be decent for brewing. I am currently batch sparging with a single sparge. Both of my all grain brews have ended with brewhouse efficiencies of 50.5% and 48% which is very poor.
I attribute this to a poor crush of the grain as the 2 brew shops I have been at seem to only produce a very very coarse grind. In fact the first shop I was at the employee told me the I should only crush it enough to "crack the shell open" and that crushing the endosperm is not necessary.

For my last batch I had to purchase almost 16 pounds of grain to simply hit a OG of 1.048 which makes me feel that I am getting gouched by my brew shop and not happy. I realize that brew shops usually provide a rather coarse grind but feel this is a little extreme. I have asked if I can tighten the crush but they look at me like I'm crazy and the first person to ever suggest such a strange idea.

So as of now my two possible solutions are to ....
- Buy my own mill and crush myself. (anyone selling a corona mill?)
- Perform a mash out to see if it helps at all (I can't believe this would cause such a poor efficiency though.)

I would appreciate any insight and if anyone has pictures of a decent grain crush I would appreciate them. Thanks!

- Mike

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Old 03-22-2009, 08:16 AM   #2
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try a double batch sparge with your sparge water at 185*F. Check out Bobby_M's threads on the subject.

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Old 03-22-2009, 08:19 AM   #3
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how about your PH ? are you cheacking it and ajusting it acorgingly
oh and what teh temp of the wort when you checked it
the hot it is the lower it will read some people make that mistake and check the wort too hot

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Old 03-22-2009, 08:31 AM   #4
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this may help its very intresting
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Batch Sparging Analysis - German Brewing Techniques

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Old 03-22-2009, 11:25 AM   #5
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Bite the bullet and buy a Barley Crusher or some other high quality mill. Buy your base grains in bulk. The money you save in grain will pay for the mill in almost no time. Your beers will improve and you will be a happy camper.

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Old 03-22-2009, 01:09 PM   #6
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Have you tried brewing a lower gravity, smaller grainbill batch? I find that for big beers it is hard to get good efficiency because of your limitations in final volume.

For instance, my last doppelbock had a grainbill of 17 lbs and after boiling for 90 minutes the first 7 gallons of runnings, I had an efficiency of ~60%. However, I continued to sparge the grainbed and got 2+ gallons more of decent gravity wort that I used to make a small beer. With all the sugars extracted, my final efficiency was just a shade over 75%. However, if you brew a beer with an 8 or 9 lb grainbill, it's easy to sparge enough to get all the sugars in a 5 gallon batch.

So my worry isn't the crush, though it sounds like it could be better. I'd make sure you're sparging enough to extract all the yummy goodness from your grain.

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Old 03-22-2009, 01:45 PM   #7
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First of all, buy your own mill. Boosted my efficiency by almost 10 points. Also, try doing 2 Batch Sparges. And doing a Mash out would help you out also.

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Old 03-22-2009, 03:12 PM   #8
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I increased my efficiency by 10% by doing a mash out with a fly sparge, but haven't noticed any difference when batch sparging.
I haven't noticed any increase in efficiency between using store crushed grain, crushing with a Corona, or crushing with a roller mill, but I did find that buying grain in bulk and crushing myself saved me a whole bunch of money. I also find that the roller mill is much quicker and more consistent.
Are you sure that your mash temperature is correct? Thermometers can be inaccurate. You may also be able to increase efficiency due to a poor crush or low mash temperatures by mashing longer.

-a.

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Old 03-22-2009, 04:34 PM   #9
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To answer a few of your questions.

- I do not check the pH and do not have the means to do so. I assume that it is relatively decent based on my local water report. How do you measure pH without a pH meter.... litmus paper?

- I would try a lower gravity beer but as of now I'm only getting a 1.048 which is relatively normal with 16 pounds of grain. I realize that the more grain I use the less efficient it will be but I feel that if I drop to 10 pounds of grain I'll get an OG of 1.030.

- I am mashing at 153F and this should be accurate as I have compared my thermometers to each other. I think I sparged at 168 but could try to do it at a higher temp like you suggested.

Thanks everyone for the advice... I appreciate it.

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Old 05-21-2009, 07:44 PM   #10
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I just wanted to let everyone know that might read this thread that I have drastically improved my effeciency over the past two batches. I started with effeciencies of 50.5% then 45.1% then 71.1% and my last batch at 90.9%. All of these are brewhouse effeciences. I included/changed multiple things to get the increase in effiency starting after my second batch and therefore I can't pinpoint 1 item but I believe the two biggest factors were using hotter sparge water and crushing the grain much finer. Listed below are the modifications I made.

1. I obtained a much finer crush by adjusting the LHBS mill to the point were I would describe it as looking like raw grits with intact husks and a good deal of powder. (I made sure to reset the mill back to what it was) Prior to this all of my batches were with grain that was barely cracked open and on gross inspection didn't look much different than uncrushed grain. When I would go to mash it alot of the grain would fall out of the husk but I feel grinding it finer provides more surface area for the mash to allow the enzymes to release the sugar from the endosperm.

2. I checked for dough balls after combining the grain and water and found none. I have tried both adding water to the grain and adding grain to the water and I find it much easier to add the water to the grain. Doing it this way has allowed me to hit my mash target temperature much easier and seems less cumbersome. I know some people debate which is the right way to do it.

3. I mashed longer increasing from 60 to 90 minutes. I also allowed the sparge water to sit for 10-15 minutes each time doing a 2 part batch sparge. In addition the sparge water was aimed at hitting a temp of 168F when added to the grist while before I was simply adding sparge water at 168F. Throughout the process I was performing an iodine test which showed to me that the 90 minute mash did not seem to help at all and that after about 40 minutes no detectable starch was present. Therefore, I would assume the 10-15 minutes I allowed the sparge water to sit was also unproductive but I didn't care.

4. I checked the mash pH with litmus strips and found it to be 5.0 at the very start of the mash and I added 1 tablespoon of the product pH 5.2 within the first 5 minutes to bring the pH to 5.2.

5. I checked the Mash tun for cold spots around the periphery of the cooler as I thought this maybe affecting my effeciency and found no relative cold spots.

I included all of these changes into my third AG batch which as you can see increased my effeciency from ~50% to 70%. In my fourth batch I got a great efficiency by including the same points I just discussed but I also crushed the grain slightly finer and I had a smaller grain bill. I realize that by including all of these changes I can't pinpoint what made the difference but I might someday start to exclude some of these changes one by one to try to figure what does make the difference. I do think the finer grain crush, addition of a second batch sparge and increased sparge temperature helped immensly because all of my other changes (pH, increased mash time, increased lauter time, relative cold spots in MLT) did not seem to be far off based on my iodine testing and pH testing.

Unfortunately the bad part about having the increase in efficiency is that I did not believe I was going to get such a change between my second and third batch and so I accounted for it by having a large grain bill which essentially gave me a OG of 1.071. This gravity was too high for the beer I was making and this beer seems to have a hot alcohol taste which is not great. By no means do I think that my next batch is going to have a great efficiency and I may very well hit 50% again but I'll let you guys know what I find. Sorry for my long winded babbling but I find that most of the users that post asking how to increase their efficiency never leave good feedback on what changes they made and if it worked. So if you are struggling with this try these ideas out and let me know how it works for you.

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