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Old 11-29-2007, 02:07 AM   #1
Monk
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Default Question for Batch Spargers

I'm not really new to all grain, but I'm still in the stage of learning quite a bit. I have a question regarding sparge volume:

I just made a 5 gallon batch and got pretty good efficiency, for me. The grain bill had

9 lbs Maris Otter Pale malt
1 lb. Specialty

I mashed in with about 3.25 gallons for a mash temp of 152-154F and allowed it to mash for about 75 minutes. I then topped up the mash tun with about 1 gallon of water at 185F. I mixed, vorlaufed and drained. Then I dumped in another 4 gallons of water, mixed, let it sit, vorlaufed and drained. At this point I had about 6 gallons of wort. I tossed in a last 1.5 gallons of sparge water to end up with about 7.5 gallons of wort.

My question is this: does that seem like a reasonable pre-boil volume? I had previously always done the 1 qt/lb for mash water and .5gal/lb for sparging. But that always seemed to leave me with an efficiency around 65%. This time I got around 78%. What have you guys found to be good amounts of mash and sparge water for a basic ale with approximately the same grist as this one?
Thanks in advance. I'm always appreciative of the wealth of knowledge handed out so freely around here. Cheers.

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Old 11-29-2007, 02:46 AM   #2
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It sounds like you did quite well with your batch sparge. The exact efficiency you can get varies with how your system is built, how you actually do it, the crush of the grain, and the recipe. You seem to have done well on all counts.

I have been batch sparging for about 4 years and get 80-85% efficiency on recipes like yours.

I normally go with 7 gallons preboil to end up with just over 5 gallons in the fermenter. Using 10 pounds of grain like you did, I would mash in with 15 quarts of water (1.5 qt/lb). I figure on the grain soaking up 1 pint per pound of grain (0.125 gallons per pound vs. the standard figure of 0.1 gallons per pound). I use a pint per pound as it is easier to figure in my head. Anyway this means that the grain in this recipe will soak up 10 pints or 5 quarts, leaving 10 quarts available to flow out in first runnings if I don't top off the mash tun.

Since I want roughly half my volume to come from my first runnings, I will need to be able to drain out 3.5 gallons. The 10 quarts I figured is only 2.5 gallons so I will add 1 gallon to the mash tun and give it a quick stir to mix it in and relieve any compaction on top of my braid to help avoid stuck mash as I mill my grains quite fine.

After stirring in the water, I let it sit for 3-4 minutes and then only partially open the drain valve and then carefully vorlauf 3 or 4 quarts of wort until there are no more particles of grain coming through the grain. It doesn't need to be absolutely clear, cloudy is fine. Once I begin draining I gradually open the valve all the way. Suddenly opening it all the way may collapse your grain bed with the sudden rush of water leaving. In batch sparging, channeling is fine.

I do something at this point that most folks don't. I drain those first runnings into a bucket that I have carefully marked the volume every half gallon. Once I have finished draining the mash tun, I then know exactly how much more sparge water I need to add. I always heat a couple gallons more than what I know I will need so I don't have to worry about having enough water. I use a measuring pitcher to dip the sparge water into the mash tun so I can control the exact volume. That done, I know I can just drain it dry and get my volume. If for some reason I run short on volume I add additional water to the tun to rinse a bit more of the remaining sugars out rather than adding water directly to the wort.

After I add the sparge water to the tun and give a stir, I begin the boil on the first runnings. This lets the bed begin to set up. I vorlauf as before and drain into a calibrated bucket again to check my volume. This volume then gets ladled into the boil pot with the rest of the wort. Any remaining sparge water in the HLT then gets used washing out the mash tun while waiting for the wort to come to a boil.

Using the pitcher to measure my water as I am doughing in does drop the temperature a little. For my system, Promash says I should need 165° strike water to get a 150° mash temp. Using the pitcher, I have to do 170° to hit that. No big deal there. Just took a little trial and error.

I got a little long winded here, but I hope it helped a little. The big thing you need to be concerned about is getting a consistent efficiency, not trying to get the highest efficiency. Keeping to a consistent routine will keep the efficieny consistent which in turn will help you better plan your recipes and be able to repeat successful recipes.


Wayne
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Old 11-29-2007, 02:49 AM   #3
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that's pretty close to my process. i mash with 1 qt/lb, mash out with the same volume, and then i divide my sparge water in two. i have my volumes dialed in pretty well so before i start for the day i know what i'll need in the kettle pre-boil, how much my grain will absorb, etc. my efficiency regularly exceeds 80%. i have my recipes set at 85% in beersmith and i hit my gravities within a point or 2. 7.5g for a 5g batch sounds about right for me, but i always do 90min boils. if you were to change anything, i'd cut your sparge water into two equal sparges, so in the case above, 2.75g twice. one sort of crazy thing i did when i decided to really get my AG process dialed in was to actually boil off x amount of water just to measure boil off. i have about 3 different batch sizes i do in 2 different kettles and i know exactly how much wort i need in the kettle pre-boil. once you know that you could measure your first runnings, subtract that from the total needed and then you know how much sparge water you'll need.

one thing i'm thinking about changing with my process is instead of mashing out with an equal volume of water i'll use the minimum amount of boiling water to bring the mash to 168, that way i'll have more water volume available for sparging. i think this might give me a few extra point in the efficiency dept.

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Old 11-29-2007, 02:49 AM   #4
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I use ProMash to determine the amount of sparge water for my brews, then I divide it in half and do two batch sparges. Usually I have a mash thickness of 1.25qt per pound of grain and the rest is sparge water. Most batches I do end up using 8-10gal water for a total of 5.5gal wort.

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Old 11-29-2007, 02:55 AM   #5
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With about 10 pounds I use about 3.5gal mash in and 5gal sparge. I like to have about 7gal pre boil

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Old 11-29-2007, 03:37 AM   #6
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Thanks for all the great responses, guys. Especially yours, Bugeater. Thanks for putting the time into that post, I appreciate it.

It seems like everyone's on the same page for the most part: mash with 1-1.5 qts/lb, then top up to obtain about 3.5 gallons of first runnings, then sparge with another 3.5 gallons.

I guess what I've been confused about is whether you should be sparging with more water when you have more grain in the grist. For instance, if I had a grain bill of 14 lbs, would I still sparge till I get 7 or 7.5 gallons? Isn't the preboil volume determined by the size of the grist? If it isn't, doesn't one's efficiency go down steadily the larger the grain bill? It seems like the larger the grain bill the more water you need to wash out all that sugar.

I'm sort of thinking out loud (or typing out loud?), so if you see some misunderstanding in my blathering, please point it out. I guess I'm just trying to understand the concept of mashing and sparging better.

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Old 11-29-2007, 12:19 PM   #7
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Preboil volume is determined by how long you're willing to boil and what you want your post boil volume to be because boil-off is relatively constant for your location/burner size. For me, I go for 12.5 on an 11 gallon batch. or 7.25 on a 6g batch.

I like to stick with slightly stiffer mashes to make more room for sparging. I typically vary between 1.1 and 1.25qt/lb and really only move up or down to round off the infusion to easily measurable increments. 10lbs? I'd go 3 gallons or 1.2qts/lb.

I've played around with doing small, hot mash-out infusions prior to first runnings and it helps but not as much as two HOT batch sparges.

Drain the first running right after the mash is done. Take you desired preboil volume and subtract watever you get on the first runnings to get your total sparge amount. If you got 2 gal from 1st runnings and want 7 preboil, you'll sparge with a total of 5 in two 2.5 gallon batches.

If you use 180-185F sparge water, each of those batch infusions will begin raising the grain bed and flushing more sugar than 170F infusions would. Stir quickly as not to pull tannins. I'm yet to hear anyone call my beers tannic so I doubt it's a problem.

This methods consistently gets me 88-92%.

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Old 11-29-2007, 12:43 PM   #8
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Lots of good info in this thread. I can't wait to go AG.

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Old 11-29-2007, 12:47 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bobby_M
This methods consistently gets me 88-92%.
Your crush definitely plays into that success
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Old 11-29-2007, 12:48 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Soulive21
Your crush definitely plays into that success
Heh. I wonder how bad my efficency will be with the Brewer Apprentice crush. I'll have them crush it again if it isn't fine enough.
Mike
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