Finally did it! First all grain batch yesterday. All in all, it went pretty well I would say. I would like to describe the set-up and see if I could get some advise. As a junior member can I put pics in my posts? If so, I am sure some pics would help everyone understand my description.
Used EdWorts Haus Pale Ale recipe (thanks Ed!) with a few changes: Used Maris Otter and liquid English Ale yeast (with 18-20 hr starter)
Doubled the recipe for an 11 gallon batch. Keggle for the brewpot. 48 quart blue ice cube cooler MLT, with a braid. Batch sparge.
Ed's recipe says that the OG should be 1.051. Mine was about about 1.042 before I pitched the yeast....so....it was low. I think there are three main reasons for my efficiency being low. 1) MLT braid design (which is the main problem), 2) Mash Temps, 3) Grain Crush
First is my stainless braid. Because of the cube shape of the cooler, I wanted to make sure I had enough braid. The next size up from the 20" length at Lowes was 3-4 feet and bigger in diameter (3/4" vs. 1/2"). I used the bigger one and snaked it around the bottom. I had a heavy brass plug on the end of the braid, which I assumed would keep it on the bottom. I assumed wrong.... after doughing in, I was feeling parts of the braid floating up high in the mash - to the very top of the grain bed. Obviously any water that entered the braid high in the grain bed would not be running though the grain bed and extracting what I needed from the grain....lower efficiency. My idea for a fix is to weight that braid down, so it stays on the bottom. Does the length of the braid matter? I have seen all different styles on here, from long to short. I could just cut 'er shorter if you think that would work?
Next is the temps. Ed's recipe calls for a mash temp of 152. I used the green bay rackers program (http://www.rackers.org/calcs.shtml
) and calculated that my strike water should be around 168. I preheated the cooler with 160 +/- water, just to warm it up, then dumped it before dough in. My brewing buddy suggested I use warmer water as it was my first time with the cooler MLT set up, and it would be easier to cool (open the lid) then to warm it during the mash. So, I went with 174 +/- strike water. When I opened the mashtun at 30 min to do a stir, I noticed the mash temp around 160-162. Definitely too high. Could this have lowered my efficiency?
Lastly, the grain crush. I think it was too fine. No amount of vorlaufing would completely clear it up. The stainless braid I used, though bigger than the 1/2", seems like it is about the same "tightness" of braid as the small one. I thought at first that maybe it was letting bigger stuff in cause it was a bigger braid, but when I compared it to my buddy's it was very similar.
I thought about using some dry LME to bring up the OG, but decided to go with it as it was.
Ok. I think that's it! Sorry about this being so long, but I am really excited about finally going all grain, and I just wanna make the best beer I can! We had a great day brewing and drinking home brew yesterday. Looking forward to the next batch! Thanks for your help, everybody!