Originally Posted by nostalgia
Thanks! It's not the grain that's the issue. My understanding from my reading/chatting, the highish percentage of flaked oats/rye/wheat in these recipes causes the problems with stuck runoffs and low efficiency. The protein rest gelatinizes the grain and prevents those problems.
I think you're mixing several different ideas into one, so lemme share some some things I've learned about protein rests. I used to do a protein rest for every brew, and the only reason is because Papazian says he does the same thing for his brews. Now I NEVER do one.
What does a protein rest accomplish? It does not gelatinize the grain, as you claim above. "Gelatinization," put simply, is when starch molecules break down and burst due to heat. Every type of starch has an approximate gelatinization temp, and while I'm not sure what they are, I'm positive that protein-rest-temps are too low for gelatinization to occur.
Just like a saccharification rest takes advantage of starch-degrading enzymes (amylase), a protein rest uses protein-degrading enzymes (protease). And just like you can denature starch-converting enzymes (around 168*), you can denature protein-degrading enzymes (around 140 I believe?). So that's why the protein rest comes first - if you immediately bring your grain to saccharification temps, you start denaturing protease enzymes off the bat.
In a grain, there are all sorts of sizes of protein molecules. When you do a protein rest, the protease breaks down larger proteins into smaller. Ideally, you want a mix of sizes for good head retention. So that's why people have done protein rests in the past.
There may be a reason not to do protein rests nowadays. Today's malts are very well "modified," meaning they have been allowed to germinate (grow roots) for quite awhile, especially compared with ancient malting techniques. When a grain malts/germinates, it begins producing and activating the very same enzymes that we use during mashing. These enzymes slowly begin to do their performed functions, though because they're not at their optimal temperatures, their work proceeds very slowly. The point is with modern malts, you've already accomplished some breakdown of the proteins.
If you do a protein rest, you may be further breaking down the proteins until you're left with nothing but tiny protein molecules. This is just as bad as having too many large proteins - your head retention (and body/mouthfeel) will suck.
So like I mentioned, I used to do protein rests with every beer, but I noticed that my head-retention sucked. So I stopped, and it improved.
But now onto your actual problem - low mash efficiency. I noticed you did a 30 min protein rest and a 30 min saccharification rest. That second rest is very short. I always do a minimum of 60 minutes, and then let it go longer if an iodine test indicates that starch conversion is not complete. I think you need to lengthen your sacch rests and you'll find your efficiency increases.
Also, make sure you're using a minimum of 1.25qts/# of mash water, but I definitely get better efficiency the more I use. I never use less than 1.4qts/# these days, and usually 1.5-2. I think one benefit you're getting from the protein rest is hydration, not gelatinization. The more hydrated your grains are, the easier it is to convert sugars. Again, a reason to use more mash water.
Finally, regarding problems hitting your temps - I don't think this is something that anybody will be able to give you perfect advice on. Just take lots of notes between each batch and you'll figure out the heat loss of your system. Couldn't hurt to have a small pot of extra boiling water on the side in case you have to correct. Oh, and cover your pots when you're boiling strike water - one problem I had early on was heating my strike water too early and then losing a bunch to evaporation.