I'm fairly new to all grain having only completed 10 batches using prepared kits and recipe's. In the beginning my volume and s.g. reading were all over the board when compared to the recipe guidelines. After the first two batches, I started using my refractometer to guide my brewing and recorded everything. Thankfully, I'm starting to zero in on water additions, loss to grain and boil, yields...etc.
Today I started wondering why I can't just use the refractometer and ignore some of the other calculations. For instance, I flysparge and collect until my Brix gets down to about 2 which is about 1.01 s.g. I figure if my volume is less than what I expected my yield is not good. If it is better, then I did well. Since I started this, my yields have improved above 85%. Am I collecting more fermentable sugars because my sparge is not preplanned, but based on real sugar extraction?
When I boil I not only shoot for the boil time and volume, but for the beginning gravity defined in the recipe. Today, my starting gravity should have been 1.04 on a 5 gallon batch of Irish Red Ale. I ended up with close to 6 gallons at the same s.g. but I had to add water.
With the data I have gained through my prior batches, I feel comfortable I have a pretty good handle on the assumptions needed for Promash and some of the simple calculators on the web. My question is should I keep the training wheels on or stop shooting for numbers? Would someone please comment on this process. Am I moving the wrong direction? If so, how.