AIO Sparge vs. No Sparge...is there a qualitative difference?

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stealthfixr

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Question: Is there a real, Quality difference between sparging and no sparging? Are plenty of no-sparge examples winning at competitions? Or, is this purely an efficiency and/or brewing tradition issue?

Been brewing eBIAB and now AIO for about three years, after decades of three vessel cooler mashing. Love the time savings, less equipment, and less setup and cleaning with my AIO, a Brewzilla 65L. But, my efficiency was low 70-ish in the beginning. So, after addressing the grain milling and mash salts & pH, I tried a kind of fly sparging by pouring 170F water from a 1.5L tea maker over the pulled grains. Efficiency went up, usually now to 77-82%.

I was thinking about getting the Grainfather sparge water heater and doing more of a dedicated sparge over the pulled malt pipe, mainly to get mash water thickness a little more 'right' to help make 10 gallon batches on my Brewzilla 65L a little easier on the mash volume side. Of course, the downside is more equipment, more setup and slightly more work. I don't mind doing something simple for positive efficiency gains, but I don't want to go back to a new kind of three-vessel mashing. I also noticed the MeanBrews guy does a more traditional, three-vessel mash with a full-sparge.

Quality being more important to me than efficiency led me down the path of questioning the qualitative difference of sparge or no sparge. Brulosophy did an experiment on this in 2016 and the tasters *did* tell the two apart. But, that was only one experiment, not sure if any more were done. I think commercial brewers mainly do more traditional sparging for the cost savings--efficiency equals profit.

Any more data points or research done on this topic?
 

odie

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no difference in "quality". Difference in "quantity".

If the same grain bill and same SG/OG then no difference in the beer from that.

What sparging will do is let you hit the same SG/OG with less grain used or get more identical wort with the same amount of grain.
 

Bobby_M

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Full volume mashing yields a lower extraction efficiency than a sparge process and that's the only downside if it matters to you. There are a few benefits to no sparge including better pH stability, no chance of oversparging, and easier calculations of water modifications. Sparging can't possibly make the wort better but it can make it worse in some cases. Empirical? In the realm of the 10 best homebrewers I know, at least 7 of them are single vessel no sparge brewers and that includes the two-time NJ homebrewer of the year. He also took a silver at the NHC this year for a German Pilsner out of 146 entries.
 
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stealthfixr

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Full volume mashing yields a lower extraction efficiency than a sparge process and that's the only downside if it matters to you. There are a few benefits to no sparge including better pH stability, no chance of oversparging, and easier calculations of water modifications. Sparging can't possibly make the wort better but it can make it worse in some cases. Empirical? In the realm of the 10 best homebrewers I know, at least 7 of them are single vessel no sparge brewers and that includes the two-time NJ homebrewer of the year. He also took a silver at the NHC this year for a German Pilsner out of 146 entries.
This is exactly the kind of discussion I was hoping to have. Thank you for posting this, excellent information.
 

z-bob

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Full volume mashing yields a lower extraction efficiency than a sparge process and that's the only downside if it matters to you. There are a few benefits to no sparge including better pH stability, no chance of oversparging, and easier calculations of water modifications. Sparging can't possibly make the wort better but it can make it worse in some cases. Empirical? In the realm of the 10 best homebrewers I know, at least 7 of them are single vessel no sparge brewers and that includes the two-time NJ homebrewer of the year. He also took a silver at the NHC this year for a German Pilsner out of 146 entries.
It logically should give lower efficiency, but that doesn't seem to be the case for me; I get the same efficiency. (perhaps that means my sparging technique sucks) No-sparge is simpler and faster, the downside is I have to add more acid to adjust the mash pH because the water I'm starting with has a lot of carbonate/bicarbonate. Also I might not be able to do a 5 gallon no-sparge batch in my 8 gallon kettle, but I do 4 gallon batches anyway because that suits me.
 

wilserbrewer

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I may be wrong, but I think the only significant difference between a hot and cold sparge is the resulting kettle temp is lower with a cold sparge, taking longer to reach boil.
Try a cold sparge if you want to play around…
 

odie

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I cold sparge and my BH efficiency is 90+ if those online calculators are to be believed.
 

scrap iron

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The main concern when using no sparge brewing is the capacity of your mash tun. Will it hold all the grain and extra water required? It is fairly easy to figure out how much water is needed.
Just determine the amount of wort going to the kettle pre-boil, say 6.5 gallons, then add the water that's lost to grain absorption, say 1.5 gallons for a 12 lbs. batch I did recently. So, 6.5 + 1.5 equals 8 gals of water total. There are calculators online that will show how much room in the mash tun this will take up. I have a keggle mash tun that had plenty of room left over even after making a Baltic Porter with over 16 lbs. of grain. I have about 14+ gals capacity in my keggle total. I like having just two vessels to set up on brewday and I pour a gallon of RO water over a small plate on top of the mash when done with collecting wort. I use the runoff for pressure canned starters to make up for the loss of efficiency.
 
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