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Old 07-16-2012, 01:22 PM   #1
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Default Ridiculously Stuck Sparge

I had a hell of a brew day yesterday. It was my first attempt to do 2 batches in one day, essentially simultaneously. I figured I could handle it after 2 years.

I made an AB clone and an Oatmeal Stout. I had everything in place. All the grain crushed, the hops pre-measured and ready to go, and I'd worked out a pretty good plan for timing everything.

The problem started with a stuck sparge on my AB clone. I batch sparge. I've experienced a few stuck sparges, but a quick swirl with my mash paddle generally clears them up. This was the mother of stuck sparges. I couldn't get a drop out of the mash tun no matter what I did. I ended up pouring the contents of the mash tun through a paint bag into a 5 gallon pail and doing an impromptu hybrid BIAB. It was the only way to get the liquid out of the mash tun. Even when I tried to hose out the mash tun later, the remaining grain was jamming it up. My garage floor is a sticky mess.

Somehow I hit my numbers though - go figure.

First - what would cause a mash tun to jam up like this? At first I thought maybe it was the grain crush, but I didn't have any problems with the stout; even with roasted barley. I used Special B and Aromatic malt in the AB clone. Could it be the type of grains?

Second - I'm guessing all my pouring between buckets did a number on the wort. How bad of a problem will oxidation be? I've never had to do this before so I'm not sure what to expect.

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Old 07-16-2012, 01:31 PM   #2
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Second question first, Oxidation is only a concern once the beer has fermented out so no problems there.

First question, stuck sparges are usually related to too fine a crush and the grain bill, typically a lot of wheat. If this continues to be a problem I recommend you add rice hulls to the grain bill. They are course and act as a filter for the grain bed.

What type of manifold do you have or screen? False bottom? If these items are not fitting properly or the holes are too small they can plug up pretty good as well!

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Old 07-16-2012, 01:53 PM   #3
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I was worried more about hot-side aeration. There was a lot of splashing going on when I was pouring hot wort between buckets.

I'm assuming the crush was fine based on the fact that I only had problems with the one beer. I've read in a few places that some of the roasted grains can cause problems because the don't really crush as much as fracture. Just wanted to see if special B or aromatic malt had a tendency to do this.

I have a copper manifold. It is soldered. I've had minor stuck sparges once or twice, but none like this one.

I'll try the rice hulls. I've never used them, but if they keep this from happening again they are worth it.

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Old 07-16-2012, 02:00 PM   #4
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+ 1 on rice hulls, and I'm not sure if you do this already but if not, I recommend running out the wort very slow when you first vourloff. I just barely open the valve. It seems to help.

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Old 07-16-2012, 02:07 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Stauffbier
+ 1 on rice hulls, and I'm not sure if you do this already but if not, I recommend running out the wort very slow when you first vourloff. I just barely open the valve. It seems to help.
+1 I used to have issues with my sparges as well, but once I started using hulls those problems went away. Definitely vourloff with the valve barley cracked open as well.
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Old 07-16-2012, 02:40 PM   #6
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Do you mix the rice hulls in with the grain, or put them at the bottom of the mash tun?

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Old 07-16-2012, 02:46 PM   #7
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Soak the hulls in water then put them in the mashtun as a bed then add grain so rice is a filter of sorts

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Old 07-16-2012, 02:48 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by b-boy View Post
Do you mix the rice hulls in with the grain, or put them at the bottom of the mash tun?
I typically add the rice hulls after dumping half the crushed grain into the mash tun. I then pour the rest of the crushed grain in and mix as usual. I've found that this method gives a good distribution of the hulls into the grain and prevents stuck sparges. I do use a false bottom (NorCal) in my keg mash tun.
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Old 07-16-2012, 03:05 PM   #9
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generally wheat is the major culprit causing stuck sparges. I never had a issue with any other grains. If it was my system I would try using a braid or bazooka and see if that works better for you. I have never had a stuck sprarge using a braid. and I do 10 and 15 gal batches so I'm using large volume of grain.

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Old 07-16-2012, 03:22 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Stauffbier View Post
+ 1 on rice hulls, and I'm not sure if you do this already but if not, I recommend running out the wort very slow when you first vourloff. I just barely open the valve. It seems to help.
Never used rice hulls but +1 on the slow vourloff... I think this is mainly to avoid channeling that could produce compacted grains around your manifold.
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