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Old 07-29-2012, 11:27 PM   #1
Ztp
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I started brewing a little over a year ago, made the switch to all grain last winter and have slowed down considerably on my brewing because ever since I made the switch to all grain, my efficiency has been horrible. I mean 45-55%! I figured my thermometer was off so I bought a new one, calibrated it and it is still doing absolutely horrible. I know its not so much the crush because I have tried from two different LHBS and ordered one online. I don't know what the heck is wrong. Like today for instance, I brewed a beer that beersmith estimated to be 1.072 and it wound up being 1.054. I know a lot of this is trial and error but I have changed everything up each time I have brewed and nothing has helped my efficiency.

I do a batch sparge, my cooler loses maybe 1-2 degrees over an hour so that should not be the problem.

The beer I have made is good, but everything I brew is all specialty or big brews, and none of them is turning out to be as big as I want them to be.

If anyone has any advice, please give it to me, before I turn this keezer I built last weekend into an Budlight distribution center!!!!! (JK about that last part but I need some help please.)

 
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Old 07-29-2012, 11:39 PM   #2
sketerbuck
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Batch sparging is never going to get you great efficiency. Have you tried fly sparging?
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Old 07-29-2012, 11:57 PM   #3
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I usually hit around 80%+ on efficiency. How long are you sparging? Temperature is CRITICAL so make sure your thermometer is working right in the 150F range. I fly sparge for around 1 hour. My friends do it faster and they report as good or better efficiency, but I feel like a slow sparge gets more sugar so I take my time here. I had problems starting out until I bought a CDN thermometer which was more accurate than what I got at the LHBS in the full range of brewing temps...recommend you look at this again. My other thermometer was off by as much as 20F in some ranges...

 
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Old 07-29-2012, 11:57 PM   #4
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No I have not yet. I just moved down to this area for my first job out of college therefore my resources are are a little sparse. I know batch sparing is not the best way to go, but I know there are some guys that do it and get way better results than me.

 
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Old 07-30-2012, 12:02 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sketerbuck View Post
Batch sparging is never going to get you great efficiency. Have you tried fly sparging?
Sure, it will. Many people routinely get 80-85% with batch sparging. Continuous sparging maybe be marginally more efficient, but normally only 1-2% and not worth changing equipment for. Two of my homebrewing idols, Kai Troester (braukaiser.com) and Denny Conn (dennybrew.com) batch sparge with awesome results.

I'd still look at the crush- I've had some poor crushes from more than one online homebrew store.

One thing that may be a factor is your water chemistry. Do you know your water chemistry, or have you ever taken any pH readings of the mash? What about conversion- have you ever done an iodine test for conversion?
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Old 07-30-2012, 12:06 AM   #6
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I batch sparge and get about 73% pretty consistently.

How long does your runoff and Sparging take? Running it too quickly will cause you to get really poor efficiencies I found. You need to throttle the outlet of the mash tun. First couple batches were in the 50% range until I dialed in the right discharge rate on the runoff
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Old 07-30-2012, 12:10 AM   #7
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i was in your boat (until just recently) for a while, too. i was getting efficiencies in the 60s and occasionally the low 70s. here are some improvements that i credit my new found efficiency (90% ) to.

1. BierMuncher's Hybrid Sparge technique

-http://www.homebrewtalk.com/f36/hybrid-fly-sparge-technique-75454/
-extremely easy to follow through with and works like a charm. i use a simple soup ladle

2. Stirring

-i recently started stirring my mash a lot more. i'll heat my strike water usually 1-2 degrees hotter than it should be in order that i'll be able to stir for 5 or so minutes without going below my desired mash temperature.
-i'll also stir again 30 minutes into the mash. usually at this point, starch conversion is mostly over, so temperature isn't as important.
-i'll mash out at the end of my 60 minute mash and stir vigorously before sparging.

3. Grain Crushing

-i know there's a lot of opinions on the effects that grain crushing has on efficiency, but i am fully convinced that a finer crush significantly increases one's efficiency. my last batch i tightened my rollers up to achieve a finer crush. this allowed me to get my efficiency at 90%. i'm not sure if you own your own grain mill or not, but if you don't, request that your LHBS crushes your grain finer. this helped me a lot! also, make sure to put some rice hulls (these will add 0 sugars/flavors/aromas) to your mash in order to prevent a stuck sparge.

again, these were the three biggest advances in my mashing/sparging process that raised me up to a 90% efficiency.

good luck
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Old 07-30-2012, 12:15 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fpweeks View Post
How long does your runoff and Sparging take? Running it too quickly will cause you to get really poor efficiencies I found.
ummmm . . . wrong!

They call it batch sparging because all the sugars should be converted and in suspension before you run it all off as a batch. Fast or slow shouldn't matter. You can go as fast as you can without getting stuck. Perhaps your lautering before conversion is complete (but my bet would be crush.)

 
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Old 07-30-2012, 12:17 AM   #9
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Well as far as the thermometer goes it is as accurate as any other, an it should be for the price I paid for it. And as far as water goes I have tried I gallon ozarka bottled, and tap with fairly the same results. I know the temp was correct because I checked with three different thermometers and all showed within a 1 degree differential. Mashed for an hour @ 155, sparged at 168. I even split my sparges water into two seperate rubbings just to see if I could wash a little more sugar off today

 
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Old 07-30-2012, 12:18 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AnOldUR View Post
ummmm . . . wrong!

They call it batch sparging because all the sugars should be converted and in suspension before you run it all off as a batch. Perhaps your lautering before conversion is complete (but my bet would be crush.)
Right. When you batch sparge, you dump in the sparge water (after draining out the first runnings), stir well. Then stir some more. And then maybe a little more. Open the ball valve, vorlauf, and then let 'er rip. There is no reason at all for a slow draining, and channeling is not an issue.

I'm thinking that the major two factors here are more than likely a poor crush, and conversion/mash pH issues.
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