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Old 04-11-2011, 03:10 PM   #1
headfullahops
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Default LHBS Grain Crush & Efficiency

I just finished up my second all-grain batch after brewing extract for a couple of years, moving to full-wort boils in there somewhere, and then mini-mashing for a year or so. The mini-mash procedures were great for getting my thought process and procedures ready for the move up to all-grain. I have used Beer Tools Pro software (thanks Bobby M. for the YouTube video tutorials!) since before I started mini-mashing and have all my equipment calibrated so I have been accurately hitting volumes and mash temps for a while now. I got myself a 10 gallon beverage cooler and fittings from Lowe's that I converted with a bazooka screen, an 11 gallon SS boil kettle to which I installed a weldless spigot, and a refractometer. I already had a 9 gallon SS kettle with weldless spigot that I now use as a strike water HLT, a 4 gallon kettle that I use as an HLT on my stovetop for sparge water, an SP-50 tall LP burner stand, a CF chiller, and the other usual accessories.

I have been disappointed by my mash efficiency since the move to all-grain, though and I'm wondering if the grain crush from my LHBS is the culprit. Like I said, I have done two all-grain batches; both single infusion (154˚ for approx 60 mins), double batch sparge with temps and volumes calculated by BTP, and iodine conversion tests. On the first batch, I didn't have my act together as well as I thought. I nailed my mash temp but, I ended up sparging with too much water and leaving the extra gallon or so of runoff out of the kettle. That batch ended up with 60% brewhouse efficiency (I didn't take a pre-boil gravity reading). The batch I did yesterday, I nailed my temps and volumes; mashed at 154˚, collected 7.25 gallons in the kettle, boiled for an hour, chilled, collected 5.5 gallons in the fermentor, pitched, yada yada. This batch ended up with a 65.25% brewhouse efficiency. Here's the stats:

Amber Ale
Target OG: 1.054 (13.3˚p) calculated at 70% mash efficiency
Actual OG: 1.050 (12.4˚p) post-chill/pre-pitch

Target Pre-Boil SG: 1.044 (11˚p) calculated at 7.25 gallons in kettle
Actual Pre-Boil SG: 1.039 (9.7˚p) collected 7.25 gallons in kettle

Sorry to go all War & Peace on this post but, I figured folks would be asking a bunch of questions about equipment and procedure. Let me know what you think or if there are any other questions about my calculations and procedures. Thanks in advance!


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Old 04-11-2011, 03:28 PM   #2
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You have a decent amount of equipment,so my suggestion would be to add one more item, a grain mill, I know alot of people talk smack about the barley crusher grain mill, but since getting one, I have consistently had BHE of 79-80%, and it iis one of the least expensive mills that comes complete with a hopper and base.

It will be one of thebest $150 you will spend.

My LHBS crush is pretty crappy, so I wouln't be surprised if your LHBS is similar to mine.


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Old 04-11-2011, 03:28 PM   #3
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Just for the sake of full disclosure, here's the amber ale recipe I brewed yesterday:

Volumes:
Pre-Boil - 7.25 Gal
Post-Boil - 6 Gal
Fermentor - 5.25 Gal

Grain Bill (calculated at 70% efficiency for target volumes)
11 lb 2-Row Brewer's Malt
0.75 lb Belgian Aromatic Malt
0.5 lb Caramel 20L Malt
0.5 lb Caramel 40L Malt
0.5 lb Caramel 60L Malt

Single infusion @ 154˚F and double batch sparge

60 mins - 14g Columbus @ 14.2% AA
10 mins - 1 Whirlfloc tab
Flameout - 28g Ahtanum @ 5.2% AA

Yeast - WYeast 1272 American Ale II (I guess they call it "All-American Ale" now)
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Old 04-11-2011, 03:30 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Schnitzengiggle View Post
You have a decent amount of equipment,so my suggestion would be to add one more item, a grain mill, I know alot of people talk smack about the barley crusher grain mill, but since getting one, I have consistently had BHE of 79-80%.

It will be one of thebest $150 you will spend.
I know I should get one. Even if just for the fact that I could buy and store grain in 50/55 lb quantity for cheaper. I would like to have control of my crush, though. The bummer is, I just bought the cooler and kettle. It might be a minute before I can justify another purchase to SWMBO. Thanks!
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Old 04-11-2011, 03:32 PM   #5
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Not if, but when I get a mill, what is a good starting point as far as roller gap?
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Old 04-11-2011, 03:44 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by headfullahops View Post
Not if, but when I get a mill, what is a good starting point as far as roller gap?
If you get a Barley Crusher, the default .39 is actually decent, nice amount of flour, but keeps the husks intact. Otherwise, .39 would be a good starting point, I know some people prefer their crush even finer, but I would be worried about stuck sparges when going too fine.
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Old 04-11-2011, 03:46 PM   #7
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How do you measure the gap? Is there an indicator on the mill?
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Old 04-11-2011, 03:51 PM   #8
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When I first got my Barley Crusher, my friend encouraged me to tighten it down a bit from the factory setting (lets call it moving the notch from 12 o'clock to 11 o'clock. I averaged 85% efficiency using a fly sparge. However, I did see about 4 stuck sparges over 20 batches. As far as I am concerned, 1 stuck sparge is too many, because it can really ruin brewday.

I have come to understand it that you can get away with a bit tighter of a crush when batch sparging; although I do not really understand this logic. I strongly suggest leaving the Barley Crusher at factory setting (the notch at 12 o'clock). I think it is a much nicer crush, I have not had a problem during the sparge, and it only costed me about 5 points of efficiency (85%->80%). It is a small price to pay for a grain bed that is suited much better for lautering, and it puts my mind at ease on brewday.

Joe
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Old 04-11-2011, 03:55 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jfowler1 View Post
I have come to understand it that you can get away with a bit tighter of a crush when batch sparging; although I do not really understand this logic. I strongly suggest leaving the Barley Crusher at factory setting (the notch at 12 o'clock). I think it is a much nicer crush, I have not had a problem during the sparge, and it only costed me about 5 points of efficiency (85%->80%). It is a small price to pay for a grain bed that is suited much better for lautering, and it puts my mind at ease on brewday.

Joe
Well, I wouldn't haggle over 5% efficiency discrepancy either if I was up in the 80's. The more I read here in HBT, the more I feel the need to get a mill and crush my own.
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Old 04-11-2011, 04:18 PM   #10
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Crankandstein model 2S with base and hopper was $126 delivered to my door. The default gap is .45, and I got 77-81% on my last few brews. I decided to get the Crankandstein because the base is plywood, not MDF. Money well spent.....just need to get in on a group buy now.

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