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Home Brew Forums > Home Brewing Beer > Beginners Beer Brewing Forum > Calculating boil off / trub loss
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Old 07-09-2012, 10:33 PM   #1
BarberSurgeon
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Default Calculating boil off / trub loss

I started the brew day feeling great and enthusiastic, but now I feel like screaming.

I've been brewing for about a year now, and throughout all of my progress, one aspect of brewing has continued to haunt me from day one. I cannot for the life of me finish the boil with a dependable volume. It's like a plague on my brewing and it's driving me crazy.

Evaporation never seems to be consistent. I don't know whether the elevation is combining with the dramatic seasonal changes and wildly varying humidity, but I can't duplicate results. I thought I had it dialed in for a while, then suddenly I'm losing another quarter gallon (I do very small 2-gallon batches, so that amount is significant).

I also can't seem to manage to keep track of trub losses. I was very excited to try whirlpooling today. It seemed like a fantastic technique and just what I needed to get this half of it down. I tried it a few times for kicks during the cooldown, and it only worked on the hot wort. All I got for the "real" attempt at ~90F was the same flat, settled trub that I had to sacrifice a 10th of my wort to as usual.

I'm sorry for ranting. I'm just so disappointed. I don't have the money for the equipment needed to make this easier. I can keep making watered down 1.040 beers, but I don't see the point. I'd love to RDWHAHB, but even if all these beers I make are fine in themselves, they aren't what I want to drink. We're not talking 1.100 monsters; I just want to make a decent 1.060 beer without getting lucky.

That was probably a lot of unneeded information. What can I do to fix this?

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Old 07-10-2012, 01:01 AM   #2
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In only brewing 2 gallon batches I agree you are not leaving much room to play with.

Evaporation will always fluctuate due to changes in environmental conditions but to some degree you can modify the vigor of the boil to reduce the rate or increase dependent upon the day at hand.

Trub loss in the kettle can also fluctuate dependent upon the hop additions, whole or leaf, etc. how are you going from kettle to primary and chilling. If using an IC you can chill the wort and then just dump the whole thing into the bucket/Carboy, it will settle out with the yeast anyway. You can also run it through a strainer to remove some of the break material as well.

If you are doing AG, you can increase your train bill and batch volume, account for all your losses and then get the volume you desire at bottling. In other words if you want to bottle a full 2 gallons, adjust your recipe to shoot for 2.5 or 3 gallons and then when you factor your losses you get the final 2 gallons on bottling day.

Hope this all helps

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Old 07-10-2012, 01:30 AM   #3
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leaf hops are going to suck up a lot of wort. WAY more wort then pellet hops.

Start by knowing your boil off rates at a given "level" of boil. Be it a rolling boil, or a simmerring boil, but I'd aim for something in between. You may have to do this boiloff experiment 4 times a year in typical brewing conditions to dial it in unfortunately, I'm in a fairly mild climate, and the temps change, but the humidity not so much.

Once you've got that, plug it into your software to plan on the right starting boil volume, then increase by 12oz per oz of leaf hops.

Alternatively, put your leaf hops in a strainer bag, and then wring it out to recover the wort.

I don't adjust for absorbtion of pellet hops, though obviously if you're doing a giant IIPA with 6oz of hops for your 2 gallon batch, then you'll probably lose more wort then a blonde ale or something.

Hope this helps. I found the 12oz per oz of leaf hop by reading various threads (one on another forum) looking to deal with a similar issue...although I'm 5G batches so I have more room for error. I've also started factoring in 5.5 gallon batches to net out 5 in the fementer, and I've done 6G batches to net out 5 in the bottle/keg in the case of big IPAs.

It's an inexact science, but I bet if you get your seasonal boil off rates dialed, you can get damn close when you go to bottle.

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Old 07-10-2012, 01:53 AM   #4
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I don't know if this means anything, but in your shoes I would note the water level with a metal ruler, then check it every 15 minutes or so during the boil--add water to the proper level. I saw this suggested in a BYO recipe recently.

As for the whirlpool, I just tried it with some success on Sunday morning. I whirpooled the wort, then let it settle. I kept adding ice to the bath while it cooled, never troubling the pot. When the thermometer showed the wort was about 65 F, I siphoned. But I had to hold the siphon above the floor (as opposed to settling it on the floor close to the side); apparently I didn't whirlpool correctly. Nevertheless I held the siphon for 10 minutes. It still sucked up a little trub here and there.

If your gravity is low, that can be fixed one step at a time. Buying new equipment might make you feel better, but it won't solve why you are getting low gravity. Technically whether you have a cup of grain or 10 pounds, the same processes will get you good efficiency.

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Old 07-10-2012, 01:59 AM   #5
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Beersmith helped me to dial in my volumes better. I also struggle with volume control, but it's getting better.

I typically account for .5 gal trub loss, .25 gal expansion, 1.15 gal per hour boil off, and. 25 gal to fermentation loss. Also about 12 oz bottling loss. So I'm looking at 6.5 gal post boil. Can you accurately measure volumes?

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Old 07-10-2012, 05:16 PM   #6
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These are all good tips. Thanks, guys. I'm feeling better and a lot less discouraged after the initial disappointment. I'll probably go with duboman's advice and just up the recipe to account for the extra loss. It's already pushing it on my 4-gallon kettle, but I think I can squeeze another half gallon in.

I'm using pellets and not usually very many, as I don't normally like to make super-hoppy beers. The break material always accounts for the vast majority of my trub. I'm also cooling via water bath or just plain waiting. I've got no means of accurately measuring volume. I did think that a sanitized mesh, such as a paint strainer bag, might be useful for filtering trub, but I'm not sure how quickly it would clog, and while I don't normally worry much about infection, having a thin, cool wort sitting out waiting to drain to the fermenter sounds a bit precarious. Anybody else try this?

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Old 07-10-2012, 05:33 PM   #7
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Your paint strainer bag won't clog, and it'll do a good job of filtering the hops. The break material though is really small particles, and generally, strainer bags don't help too much with that. It does settle out in the fermenter though, so you could filter your hops through a strainer bag and let the break material flocculate out of during fermentation. Then you only have fermenter loss and no trub loss (since you're using pellets).

Regarding your concerns about sanitation, I'm not 100% clear on what you're asking? If your wort is cool why would it be waiting to drain to the fermenter?

I wouldn't bother whirlpooling a batch that size. When you're doing 10G batches, a whirlpool makes more sense, but you're maxing out your pot on a very small batch. I'd probably use hopsocks if I were you for my pellet hops. Then pull them out after your "whirlpool" period. Cool to pitch temp, dump EVERYTHING ELSE into your fermenter. Yeast cling to the break material and it all settles out eventually, and then you have no trub loss to factor into your calculations.

Whirlpooling is cool, but for a batch that size, I wouldn't leave trub behind. I'd just put the hops in hop socks and pull them out, and let all the rest of it hit the fermenter. Alternatively, you could strain the hops out through a paint strainer (it won't clog, but If you have it inside a carboy neck, it can fill up and overflow FYI), and then ferment.

I've even done Kettle to bucket with strainer bag in it, remove bag, bucket to fermentor. It helps aerate too. Just make sure you bucket and strainer bag are sanitized and you'll have no problems.

Maybe that was overkill, but if any of it helps then..great! GL!

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Old 07-10-2012, 05:44 PM   #8
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Sorry, I should have been more clear. I was thinking it might take a while to filter the trub because I'm picturing a funnel with a strainer over it with the wort slowly percolating through. I only say this because I did just that yesterday with the remainder to freeze and save for starters. No worry of infection there because it will be boiled again, but if I repeated that process for the fermenter, I'd be concerned with the added surface area exposure. I probably won't worry about this method, though, because of your next point, so...

Does having a smaller batch make me less at risk from the off-flavors produced by too much hot and cold break if everything is still proportional? If I've got 4 pounds of grain in a 2 gal batch, how would the effects of total trub inclusion be different from 10 pounds of grain in a 5 gallon batch? Is hot break just another homebrewing bogeyman?

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Old 07-10-2012, 06:38 PM   #9
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Hot break/Cold Break doesn't impart off flavors as far as I know. I'm sure somebody who knows the science better then me can make an argument either for or against this statement. The yeast by-products are generally what create off flavors. So healthy yeast and proper ferm temps are my focus for preventing them.

I forget who it is, but there's a pretty regular poster around here with the sig line: (paraphrased from memory) "Dump it all in the fermenter and let the yeast sort them out".

They're not a "boogeyman" so much as an aesthetic issue. You MAY have a bit more trouble clearing your beer with a ton of break material in the fermenter, but I generally use whirfloc and cold crash when I want clear beer, and the break material is a non-issue.

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Old 07-10-2012, 08:31 PM   #10
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I recently asked a similar question, and the consensus on the trub/hot break was to either just dump it into the fermenter and it will settle out by bottling time, or filter it through a grain bag when pouring from the kettle to bucket. There are other ways around this, but those were the easiest.

My first all grain, I did pour the through a grain bag into the bucket. No problems.

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