A question on sparging and temperatures.

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JoePro

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So, I've been routinely getting pretty crummy efficiency, and I'm looking to boost it up a bit. Whenever I miss my target OG, I get really anal and obsess over it. Last Tuesday, this worrying actually got me physically ill.

However, I don't care about being ill. Making beer, to me, is worth bleeding for (metaphorically). I'm eager to try again.

So I went back and I re-read over some material, and when one sparges, I have these questions:

1.) I was told that an ideal lautering rate when sparging was 1 gallon every 12 minutes. I have been told by all my beer cognoscenti that this is painfully slow. They say that the real rate is 1 quart per 90 seconds, so that means 1 gallon every 6 minutes. Is this true?

2.) When sparging, what is the ideal grain bed temperature? I have heard it's 165 to help dilute sugars and make for a thinner lauter. How does one get a 150* grain bed to 165 without extracting tannins?


I am fly sparging, by the way. Thanks in advance!
 

KevinW

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I fly sparged for a while and had a few (5 gallon) sparges take over 45 minutes to complete and never had efficiency issues. Keeping in mind that a homebrewer does not have the automated facilites that commercial brewers have so I do not stress too much over efficiency too much.

To get your mash up to temp when fly sparging you may need to do a "mash out", add a specific amount of water at a specific temp to bring the mash up to the upper 160's. Variables are volume of mash, temp of mash, and of course the desired temp of your mash at mashout!

The sparge is very critical to efficiency but you have to have a good mash in order to get the sugars out of the grain. Are you mashing at the correct temp for a long enough time to convert?

Most mashes convert after an hour, some are done in less time, some are done converting after more than an hour!

Have you or do you check for starch conversion?
 
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JoePro

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I fly sparged for a while and had a few (5 gallon) sparges take over 45 minutes to complete and never had efficiency issues. Keeping in mind that a homebrewer does not have the automated facilites that commercial brewers have so I do not stress too much over efficiency too much.

To get your mash up to temp when fly sparging you may need to do a "mash out", add a specific amount of water at a specific temp to bring the mash up to the upper 160's. Variables are volume of mash, temp of mash, and of course the desired temp of your mash at mashout!

The sparge is very critical to efficiency but you have to have a good mash in order to get the sugars out of the grain. Are you mashing at the correct temp for a long enough time to convert?

Most mashes convert after an hour, some are done in less time, some are done converting after more than an hour!

Have you or do you check for starch conversion?

I did a 90 minute conversion at 149 last tuesday and had 65% efficiency. I think the issue comes from either rinsing the grainbed too slowly, therefore compacting it, or that my grain bed temperature was the same as my mash temp.

I have no idea how to check for starch conversion (besides calculating gravity?)
 

broadbill

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Since you have been getting consistently low efficiencies I would check your grain crush...that seems to be the culprit in 95% of efficiency problems it seems like on this board.

As you are fly sparger, I would also recommend checking your fly sparging setup....are you getting channeling that would lead to poor efficiency? I'm no expert in fly-sparging (I batch sparge) but what little fly sparging I've done and what I've read about it, this could be a big issue as well.

Do you know other brewers who get their grain crushed where you do and don't have efficiency problems? If everyone is low...I'd blame the crush. If people have no efficiency problems with the same crush, I'd look at your setup. You can also change the crush to also rule out this as a factor.
 

KevinW

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You can use some Iodine or Iodophor. Put a drop of Iodine/Iodophor on a white plate/surface and add a few drops of the mash liquid. If the color changes (usually purplish) then there is still starch in the mash. If the color does not change then conversion has occurred and you are ready to start sparging!

Besides starch conversion you may also want to think about water chemistry. I am not good at numbers but if your PH is way off you could have lower efficiencies. PH strips from the LHBS are an easy way to check and if your PH is way off you could try some 5.2 stabilizer.

These are just ideas of mine, I am in no way any kind of "expert" so keep on reading and hopefully you will find an easy solution to your problem.
 
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JoePro

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Oh, great idea!

And checking my water chemistry was one of the first things I did when I started brewing. I bought a charcoal filter to get the taste and odor components out of the water, and surprisingly enough that brought my pH down to an ideal 5.4. I add a pinch of Epsom salts and calcium carbonate, as well as a pinch of gypsum to each brew.




You can use some Iodine or Iodophor. Put a drop of Iodine/Iodophor on a white plate/surface and add a few drops of the mash liquid. If the color changes (usually purplish) then there is still starch in the mash. If the color does not change then conversion has occurred and you are ready to start sparging!

Besides starch conversion you may also want to think about water chemistry. I am not good at numbers but if your PH is way off you could have lower efficiencies. PH strips from the LHBS are an easy way to check and if your PH is way off you could try some 5.2 stabilizer.

These are just ideas of mine, I am in no way any kind of "expert" so keep on reading and hopefully you will find an easy solution to your problem.
 

JJL

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Just out of curiosity, what efficiency are you shooting for. If you are ok with 70%-75% efficiency, you might give batch sparging a try for a batch or two, just for comparison.

I would start with examining the grain crush like someone else mentioned. If you search on here, you will see that a lot of people see vast improvements with a finer crush. The other thing is if you mashed for 90 minutes and your water chem and you crush were good, the sparge temp really shouldn't be that big of an issue. Don't get me wrong, it does matter some. But, even if you were just running 170F sparge water onto your 149F grain bed, you should still be getting an acceptable level of extraction. Guys who batch sparge often times just drain the mash and dump 170F water on their grainbed and figure its good enough.
 
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A lot of people under-estimate (and some over-estimate, really) the time it really takes to sparge the mash. I've had very consistent results with both fly-sparging and with batch sparging.

As a point of reference, for a 10-12 gallon batch:

Fly sparging: I add 1 full gallon every time I see the water level get just below the grain bed. The flow rate is approximately 14 gallons an hour overall (I run-off + sparge for a total of apx 1 hour). Recently a batch of foreign extra stout came at at 1.070 and 81% efficiency. This is in line with my regular batches at 1.050-ish and 80-82% efficiency. Mashed in with 32qt water with 29.5 lbs of grain (apx 1.1 qt per pound), sparged with 40 qts of water at 165-175F).

Batch sparging: I recirculate until clear, drain completely, add hot water to about 1" above the grain bed, recirculate until clear, and repeat. This ALSO takes me about 1 hour for the 14-gallons pre-boil, and results in about 4 batch sparge (4 fills, 5 drains - excludes the original fill for the mash). This also gives me 78-82% efficiency.

In both cases I will do my best to evenly distribute the sparge water over the grain bed using a 4-qt pitcher. Nothing scientific, nothing wild. Just a gentle pouring of the water.

I'm sure others do it similar, and others do it different.

M_C
 
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JoePro

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A lot of people under-estimate (and some over-estimate, really) the time it really takes to sparge the mash. I've had very consistent results with both fly-sparging and with batch sparging.

As a point of reference, for a 10-12 gallon batch:

Fly sparging: I add 1 full gallon every time I see the water level get just below the grain bed. The flow rate is approximately 14 gallons an hour overall (I run-off + sparge for a total of apx 1 hour). Recently a batch of foreign extra stout came at at 1.070 and 81% efficiency. This is in line with my regular batches at 1.050-ish and 80-82% efficiency. Mashed in with 32qt water with 29.5 lbs of grain (apx 1.1 qt per pound), sparged with 40 qts of water at 165-175F).

Batch sparging: I recirculate until clear, drain completely, add hot water to about 1" above the grain bed, recirculate until clear, and repeat. This ALSO takes me about 1 hour for the 14-gallons pre-boil, and results in about 4 batch sparge (4 fills, 5 drains - excludes the original fill for the mash). This also gives me 78-82% efficiency.

In both cases I will do my best to evenly distribute the sparge water over the grain bed using a 4-qt pitcher. Nothing scientific, nothing wild. Just a gentle pouring of the water.

I'm sure others do it similar, and others do it different.

M_C
At what rate is your run-off?
 
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At what rate is your run-off?
Wel, my rate of flow would be around 14-gallons per hour, but of course I don't use a flow-meter. So a little under 1 gallon per 4 minutes. (4min x 14-gal = 56 min).

I shoot for a run-off + sparge of about 60 minutes total. I'd rather go longer than shorter. So 75 minutes is better than 45 minutes.

The idea is that the physics of washing the grain from its sugar takes a certain amount of time, and a certain amount of water.

I was actually quite pleased to see that my efficiency stayed the same in a 1.070+ beer, when compared to more normal/common 1.050 beer.

M_C
 

rlhvegas

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One of the best investments I have made as a home brewer is a grain mill. In my opinion this purchased is over looked by many, a good grain mill can dramatically help your efficiency.
 
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