I'll preface this by saying that I am very happy with my beer and am not necessarily looking to change anything ... I think the beer tastes great and so do others
I switched to all grain about 8 batches ago after I bought a Keggle Brewer
... three keggles, three burners, March pump, plate chiller ... my efficiencies have been in the range of 72% - 81%, with the last 4 batches really zeroing in around 77%
I have yet to brew with anyone more experienced than me, so I haven't really had a chance to have my process reviewed ... either for minor efficiency tips or glaring issues ... I'll give a quick-ish rundown of a 5g brew day and if any feedback is generated, I'd appreciate that
For any 5g brew I've done on the new system, my process is pretty much the same. That is to say, I don't get real science-y about it in regards to qts / lb or strict mash temp holding ... if I was unhappy with my beers, I would look to tweak these dials, but as I alluded to before, if it ain't broke ...
For a 5g brew I add 8g of water to my HLT ant heat to about 170ish. I then transfer exactly 4g over to my MLT and let the MLT water rest for about 5 minutes with the lid on.
I then add all my grains to the MLT and stir until all grains are soaked and in contact with the water. I put a lid on the keggle and start my timer for 60m. I haven't done any step mashes yet, so really I'm just looking to keep my temp around 154ish.
I don't have any insulation for my Keggle, and I brew outside in the Northeast, so the temp has always dropped through the course of the 60m. That's why my strike water is a little on the hot side at 170. If over the course of the 60m the temp drops from 170 to >= 152, that's fine by me.
If, after 15m, the temp has dropped already to 156ish, I'll start a low flame under the MLT. People who have done this know that if you turn your back for 5m you can sometimes see your temps shoot back to >170. This has happened once or twice, but I feel I have a good handle on it now. After I see the temp rise a couple degrees, I'll kill the heat and give the grains a good stir. After stirring the mash the temp is usually back up around 162ish.
Usually I don't have to do more than one heating session in my sacc rest, and sometimes I don't have to do one at all. I'm sure adding some insulation would help with this step, I just haven't gotten around to it yet.
Midway through the 60m mash I'll heat the water in the HLT to about 180ish.
I'll stir the MLT a couple more times over the course of an hour. After 60m I drain off two quarts and pour it back over the grains. Then I hook up the hoses and transfer all wort from the MLT to the boil kettle.
At this point I blast a flame under the BK to start raising the temp towards 212. I've never reached boiling before the rest of the sparge comes over, so this seems ok to me.
After transferring, I pull the remaining 4g of 180ish water in the HLT to the MLT. Stir it up and let sit for 10 minutes. I then drain off two quarts, pour over the top, and then transfer the wort to the BK until I have 6g.
Before reaching a boil, I take a refractometer reading. I don't wait for the wort to cool, I don't calibrate to anything. My readings are always within a couple points, high or low, of the target.
I reach boiling in under 10 minutes. Start my timer for 60m and add any 60m hops if needed. I don't do anything about hot breaks. I've never sprayed anything into my boil. In a 15.5g Keggle I obviously don't have to worry about boil overs for a 5g batch.
Any hop additions are done according to schedule. In 8 all grain batches I've only remembered to add Irish Moss twice. With a few minutes left in the boil I take a sample with a sanitized pipette and take another refractometer reading.
After flameout, I don't whirlpool or anything. I've never added any other gelatins or mosses or anything.
I hookup my plate chiller and start circulating the wort out and back over the BK. My water goes into the plate chiller at about 58 degrees in the summer. A 5g batch is cooled to under 80 in about 10 minutes.
I pump the cooled wort to my sanitized carboy through a sanitized funnel. I then add my yeast from whatever means I've worked out, either a yeast cake ( which would've already been in the carboy ), or slurry, or starter or plain old smack pack.
Cover with a sanitized cap + blow off tube, put it in the 66 degree basement and put the blow off tube in a quart of water. Turn off the lights and go clean up.
That's pretty much it. As you can see I don't freak out about holding at 154 or 158. I don't try to calculate qt / lb ( I also haven't done any huge beers ... I think my highest OG was 1.075 ). I don't put much thought into calculating yeast cells.
One note about the 4g at a time in the MLT. I feel my false bottom may be too high. ie. if I did 1.25 qt / lb on a 10lb grain bill, there would be no way all the grains would be soaked. 4g of water gives me good coverage with good viscosity for stirring.
I kinda just do my thing and make beer that I enjoy. Thoughts?