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Old 11-17-2012, 10:47 PM   #1
Sep 2012
Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Posts: 36

I am an all grain brewer and have brewed about 10 all grain batches. For about the last 5 batches I have used distilled water and added salts to get my desired water profile. I batch sparge but have recently switched to no-sparge brewing because of off flavors (A harsh aftertaste that only seems to happen when I batch sparge). When I no-sparge brew I get no off flavors of any kind, but my efficiency sucks. Actually my efficiency sucks if I batch sparge or no-sparge. I cannot figure out why my efficiency is so horrible.

I recently switched from a steel braid to a copper manifold, but that did not seem to make it better, according to the batch I brewed today. I brewed Edworts hefe and I increased the wheat malt by 1 lbs and the pilsner by about a half a lbs to compensate for the no-sparge and bad efficiency and I still had to add some DME to get it to 1.050, I would have been about 1.45 without it. I did a 90 minute boil and started off with a little over 6.5 gallons and ended up with only about 4 to 4.5 gallons.

I bought a new thermometer and calibrated it so I believe my temps are ok. I do not weight out the brewing slats, I use teaspoons to measure out the amount I need. I really cannot figure out what I am doing wrong. Can anyone please give me some pointers or ideas as to how to improve my efficiency. Should I fly sparge, or go back to batch sparging? As a side question, does anyone else notice a harsh off flavor, or aftertaste when they batch sparge? I have gotten it everytime, and have narrowed it down to sparging. When I no-sparge I get no off/harsh flavors.

Thanks in advance

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Old 11-17-2012, 11:20 PM   #2
May 2010
Stewartstown, PA
Posts: 871
Liked 49 Times on 38 Posts

Do ypu grind your own grains....or do you buy them ground? I ask because maybe the grind isnt quit right......

How do you NO SPARGE brew? Do you add all the water you plan on at mash in???

My efficiency today on Edworts Hefeweizen....yes I brewed it today as well....was aroud 70%.....with a batch sparge.
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Old 11-18-2012, 01:49 AM   #3
Jul 2010
south of hardwick
Posts: 425
Liked 7 Times on 6 Posts

I don't get bad flavors from batch sparging and neither should you.

The red flag that I see is you building water. Use some well water or spring water or some other natural source as a control. I may be called out as a philistene for saying so, but leave the techy nerd stuff for later in the learning curve. People got by brewing with "raw water (TM)" for the first 99.999% of brewing history.

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Old 11-18-2012, 01:34 PM   #4
Sep 2012
Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Posts: 36

I grind my grains with the mill at my LHBS, I believe it is set at .40. I will be buying a mill sometime soon and plan on grinding myself.

For no-sparging I add all my water to my tun then add my grains and salts and stir. I stir several times throughout the mash. I do a iodine conversion test near the end and it seems to be converted.

I generally end up with about a gallon of extra wort in the tun though, I assume that is a problem? Also would there be any issues with draining the mash too quickly? I might be doing that.

I agree that I should not be getting off flavors, but for some reason I do. I dont know why, but when I batch sparge I get a harsh/astringent bitterness, that lingers after the beer starts to go down.

When I switched to Distilled water and added salts myself and bought a new thermometer I thought that would solve the issue. I made a pale ale and batch sparged and my efficiency was actually pretty good on that one. The beer was good, but still had the astringent off flavor. Granted it was not as bad as my previous beers, but it was still there.

I definitely noticed a difference in the body and mouth feel of my beers when I switched to distilled water. When I tried no-sparge brewing there was no off flavors, or astringency that I could pick up. So, that would lead me to believe that I am getting some tannins or something when I sparge.

Building water does not seem to be that difficult, although I am new at it. I plan on buying a milligram scale so I can get more accurate measurements. The beer just seems to be better when I use the distilled water.

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Old 11-19-2012, 11:22 AM   #5
RoadKing's Avatar
Oct 2005
Bayville, N.J.
Posts: 480
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What salts and how much are you using?

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Old 11-19-2012, 01:34 PM   #6
Nov 2011
golden, CO
Posts: 265
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What exactly is your method when you do sparge? what temp? maybe something is off in your sparging technique

I would guess a lot of people on this forum batch sparge and make good beer, which leads me to believe the problem your're having with off flavors is coming from somewhere else. I would second the comment to use some spring water for a few batches, get your efficiency under control, and then go from there to building water. One variable at a time you know

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Old 11-19-2012, 02:00 PM   #7
jturie's Avatar
Jan 2010
Valley Forge, PA
Posts: 360
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Yeah, I agree with the others...you seem to be messing with several variables. I do no-sparge on my lighter brews (less than 1.050 OG) and have no issues. Getting off-flavors with something as neutral as a hefe could be due to trying to get too much wort out of your grist--a typical source of astringency--which could be linked to the no sparge method. Regarding your OG difference, .05 ain't that big of a deal and could be something as simple as measurement error. Get a refractometer and keep track of your gravity as you collect your wort. Common wisdom says to stop before you get to 1.010--I prefer to stay a fair ways above that.

Personal preference--unless your tap water is absolute ****e (doubtful since you live in Milwaukee, which has brewed a bit of beer over the years), lose the distilled water and the extensive and complex salts additions--it's real easy to screw up. Either get a Ward Labs analysis or just look up a typical profile for your area and go from there with the salts--going real easy on the quantities.
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Old 11-19-2012, 02:14 PM   #8
Sep 2012
Silver Spring, MD
Posts: 636
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To my mind, the things I would do to try to fix this would be:

1) go back to the tap. Try to get your water profile report, and then work initially on brewing a beer that corresponds to that water profile. You can mess with brew salts later, but first you want to get the mash process down pat, which will be easier if you eliminate variables up front.

2) sparge slowly. I'm not sure I understand what you're saying about having 1 gal. of extra wort in the tun--is this due to the location of your drain spigot, or because your sparge is getting stuck? If the latter, slowing your sparge will help, and is better for increasing efficiency at any rate. If you're having issues with the grain bed compacting too much and leaving wort in the tun, toss in a couple of handfuls of rice hulls to increase your drainage--they're cheap and effective.

3) Check your gravity as you sparge--I believe this is more important for fly sparging than for batch sparging, but if your sparge water drops below about 1.007 (temperature corrected), you're at risk of extracting tannins from the malt, which could be contributing to your off-flavors.

Until you get your efficiency up a little bit, compensate by increasing your grainbill by 10-15% across the board. It's cheap to do, and you won't be so worried about getting your volume that you'll risk tannin extraction and ruining your batch. Once you've narrowed your problems, you can dial it back easily. It's a psychological thing, but I always feel better about overshooting my target OG a little bit rather than undershooting!


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Old 11-19-2012, 03:34 PM   #9
Jul 2011
Glenview, IL
Posts: 6,368
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Astringency can be related to a high PH and sparging with water over170

A good mill setting gap is .035 so at .040 your crush is too course so get your mill or grind twice

You are not getting the astringent problem with no sparge because your mash pH is probably correct and the water temp is within proper range, then when you sparge the PH of the sparge water is probably high along with the temp.
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Old 11-19-2012, 05:38 PM   #10
Sep 2012
Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Posts: 36

Wow, a lot of good stuff!

I use the standard salts. Gypsum, Calcium Chlroide, Epsom salt. The amount I use is based on the recipe. For example, I made a Carmel Amber Ale yesterday and I used 2 grams of Gypsum, 5g of CaCl2 and 3g of Epsom. This got me to an estimated mash PH of 5.44. I mashed with 8.5lbs pale malt and 1.8lbs of Carmel 80 I also made Carmel sugar for the biol as well). I was aming for a balanced amber beer. The recipe normally calls for 7lbs of pale malt and 1lbs of carmel 80, so I did compensate for the bad eff. My water profile would have been around
64ppm CA, 10ppm Mg, 85ppm Cl, and 81ppm SO4. I bought a scale so I will be using that in the future to measure the salts, but for this beer I used various teaspoon sizes to get the correct amount. For this recipe I did a no-sparge brew.

When I do sparge I calculate how much water I need and then dump it on top of the grains after the first runnings have been drained. I mix it and let it sit for 10 min and drain again, until I have the volume I need. Temp is around 160.

I have a refractometer, I check the gravity when I first run off an after I have the final volume in the fettle nad after I am done with the boil.

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