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Old 02-08-2012, 02:51 AM   #1
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Default Sparge Speed?

I just finished my second AG batch brew day this past weekend. I am concerned I may be doing my runoff when sparging too fast. The first batch turned out tasting like watered down beer. The latest batch only got an OG of 1.032. I don't know what it was supposed to be (Midwest supplies red lager) but I would have guessed it would have been higher.

I'm starting to think that I may be sparging too fast and getting low efficiency as a result. I'm searching for advice. I have been batch sparging. Please help.

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Old 02-08-2012, 03:06 AM   #2
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I usually do a quart a minute. I have had great results using this method

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Old 02-08-2012, 03:18 AM   #3
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Hi Eric,
The Red Lager all-grain kit has a little over 10lbs. of grain and with 100% efficiency would yield a gravity of about 1.067 in 5.5gals. of wort. If you got a reading of 1.032 then your extraction or efficiency is only 50%. I don't know what Western expects but I would guess around 75% for an o.g. in 5.5gals of 1.050
I fly sparge myself but from what I know based on fellow brewers who batch sparge, they run off as fast as they can. Then, replace the run off with an additional charge of hot liquor, stir, rest and then run that off quickly also. If this is what you're doing, then there may be other factors effecting your low efficiency. Consider the mash temp. thickness and mash time and mash ph. The crush of the grain is another major factor. I crush mine severely and get about a 90% eff. using a 45 min. fly sparge. Hope this is helpful.
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Old 02-08-2012, 03:18 AM   #4
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First off, don't sweat it. Your results sound exactly like mine when I started AG. I was also worried about sparge speed and a lot of other things back then. I have found that sparge speed is a very minor factor in my efficiency if at all. There is a good sticky on this already. The information there is great and I suggest you read it:http://www.homebrewtalk.com/f36/maxi...parging-77125/

A few minor tweaks helped me go from 50% to 72-74% efficiency (where I'm currently at.)

Measure water volumes accurately
When I first started AG I didn't have a way to measure more than 2 quarts at a time. I guessed at water volumes in the tun and kettle. Turns out I was using way too much water, thus diluting my wort. My efficiency was better than I thought, I was just making a bunch of weak beer.

Get a good grind on your grain
Most folks will say this is _the_ most important factor when improving efficiency. I found that accurately measuring my water helped more, but that's probably because the grind from my LHBS wasn't too bad to begin with. I did end up buying my own mill and get a good -- but more important: consistent -- crush now.

Sparge in two batches
I believe Bobby_M has a post on here about batch sparging in 2 batches. Hopefully someone else can help with a link. The basic point is if you have 4 gallons to sparge with, do 2 sparges with 2 gallons each. The idea being that you'll rinse more sugars off the grains that way. I haven't done extensive testing on this, because I implemented a number of changes to my process and my efficiency numbers started getting good so I kept them all.

Practice
When you first start out, there is a lot going on in an AG brew day. After a while, you get comfortable with the process and are able to focus on smaller details and improve your process. I guarantee that if you follow the guidelines in the sticky post and brew 2-3 more batches your efficiency will be up and you'll be happy with your results.

One other note that I want to put in here for completeness is regarding your brewing water. I started looking into the water chemistry side of AG brewing and found that Calcium is a critical mineral needed during the mash. The water reports from my municipal water supply show that my water is very poor in calcium. I have since started supplementing my mash water with CaCl2 to provide the calcium level needed for proper enzyme activity during the mash. Of course, I know I'm probably an outlier here and most people won't need to do this.

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Old 02-08-2012, 05:27 AM   #5
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I do a double batch. After draining my mash tun, I add half the sparge water at about 190 to get up to 168. Stir, rest 15, vorlauf, then drain over 20 min or so. I also mash for 90 minutes because I was having efficiency issues.

Turns out I was calculating efficiency incorrectly. Now I'm up at 85% efficiency, and keep overshooting my OG. Yet more experimenting to do.

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Old 02-08-2012, 05:29 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GoGreenEric View Post
I just finished my second AG batch brew day this past weekend. I am concerned I may be doing my runoff when sparging too fast. The first batch turned out tasting like watered down beer. The latest batch only got an OG of 1.032. I don't know what it was supposed to be (Midwest supplies red lager) but I would have guessed it would have been higher.

I'm starting to think that I may be sparging too fast and getting low efficiency as a result. I'm searching for advice. I have been batch sparging. Please help.
SPeed doesn't matter. I'd recommend that you describe your process in great detail because people will often say "I batch sparged" and it turns out that they are not really performing optimal steps.
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Old 02-09-2012, 01:21 AM   #7
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I know that I am leaving a lot of sweet wort in my tun because of my configuration. The thought hit me today that maybe it isn't just a lot of wort, but maybe the best of the wort. Is that possible? I'm thinking about reconfiguring if the feedback I get supports my theory.

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Old 02-09-2012, 02:40 AM   #8
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Don't forget that leaving wort in the tun lowers efficiency. Even though you converted the starch to sugar, you don't get the points until they make it into the fermenter. I don't think it's realistic that you're leaving the "best" wort in there. That would be the case if you did not sparge at all, but during sparging the gravity should even out throughout the tun. So after 2 batch sparges, you'll have left the lowest gravity wort in the tun. You're still losing efficiency points, but not the big ones like the first runnings. Still, if you can easily mod your tun to get more wort into the kettle, it will help.

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Old 02-09-2012, 11:22 AM   #9
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I run my water (sparge and first runnings) through 3 times, but I find that I have been doing it quicker than I used to. I got my highest efficiency yet last batch. But it was probably because I mashed for an additional 15 minutes.

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Old 02-09-2012, 06:50 PM   #10
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You could try a fly sparge. I got around 75% efficiency the first time I did. Doesn't take any special equipment, but a refrac helps tell you when to stop without wasting any wort. Otherwise, just restrict your drain-cock until you have a steady trickle, then observe how fast it's draining and adjust so that you will have your projected volume in 45 min. or an hour. Pour sparge water at a rate that just keeps your grain bed covered, stirring all but the bottom few inches occasionally to prevent channeling. If you have a refractometer, just collect until the gravity drops under 1.010. I don't do it, but if your set-up allows you can have the pot heating while you sparge to cut boil time down.

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