i posted a while back that my first attempt at AG was mostly a disaster, although the beer actually tastes pretty decent. however, the one success i did have was keeping good notes of the process so i could make adjustments. so i did my second AG 2 days ago (belgian pale ale) and hit all my numbers and volumes perfect! i mashed in with 175F water and hit 156F. i stirred for 3-4 minutes and hit my target of 154F. for the sparge, i went against beersmith's recommendation and threw in 190F water and got 164F. i was aiming for 168 but i think that's close enough. all my volumes and gravity samples were dead on what beersmith calculated. i was extremely satisfied. it was also my first time using a refractometer, since several of you suggested i buy one. WOW, i'm glad i spent that $30. my new (unfinished) brewstand and March pump ( http://i463.photobucket.com/albums/qq352/lpdb185/brewstandbreakin.jpg ) worked flawlessly and seemed to be well worth the investment as well. so thanks for al the help and suggestions.
but, i still have two questions:
1) on the final sparge with 164F water, i noticed what i can only describe as large plumes or clouds of some milky looking substance rising to the top of the mash. i didn't really notice it with the mash and first sparge, but it was very noticeable with the second sparge. was that simply fermentables seperating from the grain, or is that something bad?
2) i use a paint strainer bag contraption to contain the hop pellets during the boil. i also attempted to use a stainless scrubber thingy at the end of the pickup tube to catch the runaway hop debris and trub, but it seemed to slow down the draining of the kettle too much. i was afraid to use the march pump with it because i felt it might create too much of a load for the pump. so my question is, would it hurt the pump to try to pull the wort through the scrubby thing or would it work just fine? when the wort comes out of the CFC and into the fermenter, it just looks kinda nasty with all the hop debris and junk mixed in with it. but if it won't hurt anything, i won't concern myself too much about it.