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Old 04-22-2013, 02:35 AM   #21
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Thanks for the reply Denny. I guess i thought it would be beneficial to stir at least some during the mash as i have seen many a commercial tun being stirred. I am happy to shave 20 minutes off my sparge time.

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Old 04-22-2013, 02:51 AM   #22
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Take a look at www.dennybrew.com.
We need to find a way to have every new all grain brewer read this page, very helpful, all questions answered, thanks again Denny.
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Old 04-22-2013, 04:31 AM   #23
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I double batch sparge, and get between 78% and 85% efficiency depending on OG. On lower OG beers I often single batch sparge to save time, and still get well over 80% efficiency. As mentioned, channeling is a non-issue when batch sparging.

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So if my "sinkhole" is not a problem as you've said, I'm wondering how others claim to be getting much better efficiency using the same or similar techniques. I know that this is a well discussed topic, but when I get 67% using a fine crush, 2.0 qt/lb of grain in the mash, and sparge at 170 degrees, I wonder what the problem is.
Most likely the crush, or inaccurate measurements. Other possible causes are not breaking up the dough balls thoroughly enough at mash in, and not stirring well enough after adding each sparge addition. And 2 qts/lb is a bit thin for most grain bills, leaving you with very little sparge water. For batch sparging lauter efficiency is highest when the run-off volumes are close to equal. For most systems that works out to ~1.5 qts/lb for an average gravity beer, and a little thicker for higher gravity or thinner for lower gravity. And FWIW sparge temp has no effect on lauter efficiency when batch sparging.

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Although, I'm eyeballing the volume, it's pretty close because I boil about 14 gallons in a converted sanke and there's only so much space left. Also, from what I've read on the subject, a thinner mash tends to improve efficiency.
You might be surprised at how much a little volume reading error can screw up your efficiency calculations. If you want an accurate indication of your efficiency, then you might need to develop a more accurate method for measuring the volume. This explains how much small errors can throw the perceived efficiency off-
http://braukaiser.com/wiki/index.php?title=Troubleshooting_Brewhouse_Efficien cy

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Also, from what I've read on the subject, a thinner mash tends to improve efficiency.
Conversion efficiency yes, but that's much different from lauter efficiency. As mentioned, equal volume run offs provide the highest lauter efficiency for batch sparging. The curve is relatively flat topped, so there is some wiggle room, but something at least close to equal should be the goal. This explains it pretty well, and also compares lauter efficiency in single batch sparging to multiple batch sparging-
http://braukaiser.com/wiki/index.php?title=Batch_Sparging_Analysis

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Also from reading what Denny and others are doing, I'm going to calculate the ideal water/grain ratio that leaves me with near-equal runnings into the BK. For my system, that's 1.6 qt./lb which gives me about 7 gallons after running off the mash and 7 gallons from batch-sparging.
That sounds much better, but using 1.6 qts/lb won't always get you equal 7 gal run off volumes. You'll need to mash a little thinner for smaller grain bills, and a little thicker for larger grain bills to maintain those ~7 gal run off volumes. The math is really easy once you know the grain absorption for your system though. If your grain absorption is 0.125 gal/lb (that's what mine is), then you'd multiply the size of the grain bill by 0.125, and then add 7 gal, then add your MLT deadspace, and that's how much water you need to dough in with. If your initial run off ends up being slightly more or less than 7 gal, simply adjust the sparge volume accordingly.

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Man, if you do all that, you're working too hard IMO! I mash in at mash temps, stir thoroughly then to eliminate doughballs and equilibrate the temp, then close the cooler and don't stir again til I add the sparge water. I get about 83-85% efficiency. If you're having efficiency issues, it's related to crush 90% of the time.
This.
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Old 04-22-2013, 03:00 PM   #24
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Thanks for the reply Denny. I guess i thought it would be beneficial to stir at least some during the mash as i have seen many a commercial tun being stirred. I am happy to shave 20 minutes off my sparge time.
Yeah, but AFAIK you're not brewing on a commercial system. Not everything commercial brewers do translates to homebrewing. And AFAIAC, that's one of the great things about homebrewing.
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Old 04-27-2013, 06:16 PM   #25
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Juan, thanks for the detailed reply. I brewed a Robust Smoked Porter yesterday, carefully measured my volume, and finally got my mill working right. As Denny said earlier, it's probably the crush, and I think that was a decent part of it (low efficiency). I cranked my mill as tight as it could possibly go, and "conditioned" my malt with a spray bottle of water. Man, it was such a beautiful crush.... I thought about taking a picture of it but didn't. The husks were mostly totally intact, with nice white flour from the endosperm (or whatever it is). Bottom line, very nice super-fine crush with big fat husks to help in filtering. After running off the mash (at 145 degrees) and doing one nearly-equal volume batch sparge, I hit my preboil volume of 14.5 gallons dead on. Beersmith tells me I got 89% mash efficiency, which I am VERY content with. All said and done I only got 76% brewhouse, which I thought was odd, since I only left about 3/4 gallon behind in the BK, but I'm still happy with that. Finally, for the main reason I started this thread, my "sinkhole" was caused (as someone suggested right away) by my pump-return line. Got that fixed, so I am dialed in now! Thanks for the help everyone.

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Old 04-27-2013, 06:51 PM   #26
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Originally Posted by Bdigs View Post
Juan, thanks for the detailed reply. I brewed a Robust Smoked Porter yesterday, carefully measured my volume, and finally got my mill working right. As Denny said earlier, it's probably the crush, and I think that was a decent part of it (low efficiency). I cranked my mill as tight as it could possibly go, and "conditioned" my malt with a spray bottle of water. Man, it was such a beautiful crush.... I thought about taking a picture of it but didn't. The husks were mostly totally intact, with nice white flour from the endosperm (or whatever it is). Bottom line, very nice super-fine crush with big fat husks to help in filtering. After running off the mash (at 145 degrees) and doing one nearly-equal volume batch sparge, I hit my preboil volume of 14.5 gallons dead on. Beersmith tells me I got 89% mash efficiency, which I am VERY content with. All said and done I only got 76% brewhouse, which I thought was odd, since I only left about 3/4 gallon behind in the BK, but I'm still happy with that. Finally, for the main reason I started this thread, my "sinkhole" was caused (as someone suggested right away) by my pump-return line. Got that fixed, so I am dialed in now! Thanks for the help everyone.
3/4 gallon left behind is a lot. That's fine, of course- but if you add that 3/4 back in and calculate, your brewhouse is probably like 78-80%.

I have my system set up to 75% brewhouse efficiency, and it's perfect for me. No stuck sparges, and a dependable efficiency for each and every batch. It's not the number that is important (unless it's very low), it's the consistency so you can plan your recipe and grain bill and hopping based on a consistent number. It sounds like you got it all fixed up.
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Old 04-27-2013, 06:54 PM   #27
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3/4 is a lot? Did I mention I'm doing 11 gallon batches and this recipe had a lot of hops? Seems like a normal amount to leave in the BK to me. As far as brewhouse efficiency, are you supposed to add the volume you leave behind in the equation? I thought brewhouse efficiency was the volume that actually makes it into the fermenter...

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Old 04-27-2013, 07:36 PM   #28
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3/4 is a lot? Did I mention I'm doing 11 gallon batches and this recipe had a lot of hops? Seems like a normal amount to leave in the BK to me. As far as brewhouse efficiency, are you supposed to add the volume you leave behind in the equation? I thought brewhouse efficiency was the volume that actually makes it into the fermenter...
.75 of a gallon of a 11 gallon batch is nearly 7%. That is, 7% of your wort left in the BK.

That may not be alot to you, and that's fine. But leaving 7% of the wort behind would mean that you're reducing your brewhouse efficiency by 7%. That's of course ok, but that would explain why your brewhouse efficiency takes a large hit.
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Old 04-27-2013, 11:06 PM   #29
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What do you do to get that last 7%? Are you transferring everything from your BK into the fermenter? There's a lot of trub, hops, etc in there that I don't want to go into my fermenter. How are you filtering that out?

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Old 04-28-2013, 12:58 AM   #30
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What do you do to get that last 7%? Are you transferring everything from your BK into the fermenter? There's a lot of trub, hops, etc in there that I don't want to go into my fermenter. How are you filtering that out?
I have a CFC, so the cold break goes into the fermenter. For hops, I either use a bazooka tube (for whole leaf hops) or bag them. For pellet hops, they usually just fall down to the bottom of the boil kettle when I recirculate before I go through to the chiller. I end up with some trub, too, but it's not that much.

And the 7% doesn't matter, if you choose to discard it! I was just mentioning why the brewhouse efficiency is lower than expected.
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