Another efficiency rant

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Sea

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I don't know what to try next. I just completed my 8th? all-grain batch and ended up with 60% eff. I've posted about this before, so bear with me, here goes:

I crush my own grain, and have been experimenting with the gap. This time it might have even been too fine (lots of flour)

I do a single infusion batch sparge, and have experimented with mash-out vs no, and single sparge vs splitting in two equal sparges. No, or little effect.

I usually mash with about 1.25 qt/lb, using Beersmith to calculate strike temp, and have been pretty accurate with my mash temp (usually around 154-155).

I generally sparge to match boil volume, which for me is usually about 7.5-7.75 gal ( I know some have suggested more sparge water, and a longer boil, but I'm not looking for 90%, I'd be happy to get 75%).

When I started crushing my own, my eff went from about 55% to about 60%.

I figured that it might be a PH issue, so this time I used 5.2 stabilizer, and still came in at 60%.

I have tested my thermos, and both of my Hodrmoeters multiple times.

I usually brew with grain bills that at 75% eff. should render around 1.060-070 OG, but have yet to break 1.050. These are mostly very hoppy IPAs, so I'm often really missing the malt profile to compliment.

I usually pull a sample for testing somewhere in the middle of my transfer to the fermenter (I sipon from my keggle to carboy after a whirlpool and short rest to let settle).

Please Help! I don't know what else to try!
 
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I can't offer suggestions to improve your efficiency. I can suggest that you should lower the brewhouse efficiency in Beersmith to your 60%. It is way better to be consistent than real good once in a while.
 

Gabe

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Slowwwww down the sparge ! This helped me achieve the 75% mark. Also keep about an inch of water above the grain bed at all times. I havn't replied to or read your ?'s befor so if you have previously stated your sparge method and times then Im unaware of them. Let me know and I will try to help from there.
Cheers, Gabe
 

Brewiz

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Do you have your batch size set to match your wort size, meaning do you build your recipe around your post boil size or your pre-boil size? That ca make a difference..
I do 10 gal batches but I build my recipes to be 12 gal and my pre boil at 14 gal.
 

kenb

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gabe said:
Slowwwww down the sparge ! This helped me achieve the 75% mark. Also keep about an inch of water above the grain bed at all times. I havn't replied to or read your ?'s befor so if you have previously stated your sparge method and times then Im unaware of them. Let me know and I will try to help from there.
Cheers, Gabe
Really..drain slow? I just posted this exact same eff problem in another thread, and everyone asked why I was draining so slow in my mash and sparge runoff..i take about 20 minutes to drain each. Everyone said i should 'let it rip'....
 
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Sea

Sea

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Thanks for the replies.

I'm batch sparging. I seem to remember reading multiple threads on this forum (though I can't quote any) from members claiming an easy 75-80% eff batch sparging quickly, and only resting a couple of minutes after adding sparge water and stirring to saturate.

Is this incorrect?

Thanlks.

Also, I have added more grain to compensate for my eff problems, but I'm interested in raising my eff a little, cause 60% isn't gonna fly forever.
 

Gabe

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No, No, No. If you sparge too fast you will create a stuck sparge by compacting the grain bed( creates a suction forcing water along the outside of the grain in your MT). Open your wort valve slowly and then match your outgoing speed to your sparge in feed. I usually take 40-50 min sparging. I also get my grain not so efficiently cracked at my LHBS. don't go to fast , that's your prob bob, your missing all the extra sugar my friend.
 

Spyk'd

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Sea said:
I usually brew with grain bills that at 75% eff. should render around 1.060-070 OG...
What was your grain bill?


Also, how exactly are you figuring your efficiency?


I suspect it's something fairly obvious and with the computation, not the process...

:drunk:
 

bradsul

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gabe said:
No, No, No. If you sparge too fast you will create a stuck sparge by compacting the grain bed( creates a suction forcing water along the outside of the grain in your MT). Open your wort valve slowly and then match your outgoing speed to your sparge in feed. I usually take 40-50 min sparging. I also get my grain not so efficiently cracked at my LHBS. don't go to fast , that's your prob bob, your missing all the extra sugar my friend.
You're describing fly (or continuous) sparging, he is batch sparging. When you batch sparge you want to drain as quick as the grain bed will allow. There is no benefit at all to taking any time.

OP; you said you have never gotten past 1.050. Was this an exageration or an actual fact? If so I'd honestly wonder if there wasn't something wrong with your hydrometer.

Failing that is there another AG brewer in your area that could sit in on a brew day? It might be something silly you're just not seeing but will stand out to a second set of eyes.
 

Gabe

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Sorry I was assuming you were fly sparging. Have you tryed Fly yet ? Good luck and I hope you figure this out.
 
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Sea

Sea

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Grain bill (this time), predicted at 1.062 with 75% eff:

11 lbs 2-row
.75 lb Dextrine
.75 lb Crystal 60
.5 lb Munich
.25 lb Crystal 120

I've jsut been using Beersmith's brewhouse efficiency number. I have heard that this isn't as accurate as calculating it by hand, is this true?

I thought it might be my Hydro, so I tested it and it was dead on, then, just to be sure, I bought another one, and they match exactly.

And, yes, I am correcting for temp.
 

Bugeaterbrewing

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Hold on folks! The OP is batch sparging and a lot of you are basing your advice on fly sparging. Batch sparging goes fast. Fly sparging goes slow. Sea is not complaining about stuck sparges, so solutions for that are irrelevant to his efficiency problems.

I assume you are doing a full 60 minute mash and not one of those ill conceived 15 or 20 minute mashes. If not, you may be getting incomplete conversion. Ph is another factor in incomplete conversion. 5.2 works great in lowering ph if it is not horrendously high. However, it does a poor job of raising ph. If your recipes have little or no dark malts and you are using RO or distilled water, this could be your problem.

The most common efficiency problem is from the crush. In general the finer the crush the higher the efficiency. Your limiting factors are in pulverizing the husks too fine, which will lead to tannin extraction and may contribute to stuck sparges. The other factor is how fine a crush your manifold/screen system will handle without getting clogged. For a couple of years I was following the Denny Conn advise of "crush 'til you're scared" and was getting right around 75% efficiency and was quite happy. A couple months ago, I replaced a bearing in my mill and when I put it back together I found I had set the gap even finer. I was sure I would get a stuck sparge but didn't. My efficiency took another jump to 85%. This has been consistent for the 6 or 7 batches I have done since. If you get too nervous about all the flour, toss in a couple handfuls of rice hulls.

I also noticed a problem with how you are figuring your efficiency. There are actually two efficiency measurements you need to make. There is your mash efficiency and your total system efficiency. Your mash efficiency is based on the gravity and wort volume pre boil. This is the more important of the two. This will allow you to pinpoint your efficiency problem a little closer. You need to get an accurate measurement of your pre boil problem. Even a quart off will make a difference.

The total system efficiency is figured after the boil. Again accurate measurement is critical. These two efficiencies will never be the same. The difference will reflect the amount of wort left in the boil kettle in the trub and spent hops.

Your measurements have been the total system efficiency, not the mash efficiency. You need to check both. If there is a big difference between the two, you may want to work on ways to extract more of the wort from the kettle. Seeing as you like brewing IPA's, you need to remember that the more hops you use, the more wort you will leave in the pot due to absorption.

Try crushing a little finer next time and check both effiency figures, I think you may see improvement. By the way, efficiency figures in the recipes reflect the mash efficiency not the total efficiency.

Wayne
Bugeater Brewing Company
 

AdIn

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How long is your boil time? My wild guess would be 60 min. I think you need to try to increase your sparge water and consecutively boil longer. Since you batch sparge - it should make big difference.
 

jdoiv

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A couple of Q's for you.

What is your MLT built from (braid, manifold or false bottom)?

Do you check for pH and have you gotten a water report from your water source?

Do you check for conversion (iodine test)?

All three of these will have a significant affect on efficiency.

I would suggest starting with the iodine test, then looking at efficiency and finally rethinking your lautering system. If you are crushing your own and crushing till your scared, your efficiency should be north of 75%.
 

Bobby_M

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I agree with trying to figure out if you're having a sparge issue or if you're losing wort after the sparge (leaving much in the kettle or in hoses/chiller?). One think you can do to squeak out some more eff points is to go slightly stiffer on the mash at around 1.15 to 1.2 qts/lb. It leaves more volume for sparging. Also try closing the gap on your mill a touch.

I'll run down my process at a high level and let me know if you deviate from it.

Fill MLT with 1.2qts per pound, stir in grain until no dough balls. Close cooler for 5 minutes, open it up, stir again for a minute and doublecheck temp.

Sac rest for 60 minutes, recirculate 2 quarts to clear husks, drain full open.

Infuse half sparge volume (180-185ºF sparge water temp), stir well, recirc again, drain full. Repeat.

Measure this volume accurately (using a graduated bucket to collect runnings, sight glass in the kettle, or a measuring stick). The efficiency calculation based on this volume and gravity is the mash/lauter efficiency. If you do the calculation post boil, it's call "brewhouse" and accounts for wort loss.

My process yields 88-92% brewhouse
 
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Sea

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Wow, thanks for all the replies! Let's see:

Bug, I have only been using software to calculate Brewhouse, as I have been draining my tun right into my keggle, and have no sight glass or other method setup for measuring vol....yet. That being said, I leave very little wort in the kettle, and have minimal loss due to hops since I have started boiling with Sparky's (I think) 5 gal suspended hop bag. Maybe I'm being niave here, but isn't the gravity of all-grain after the boil the same for any part of the wort?

AdIn, I have been boiling for 60 min, and would like to increase eff as much as poss without increasing boil vol/time.

jdoiv, I use a 10 gal cooler with an ss braid, mash for 60 min. haven'y checked ph, but am on city water with ph of 6.95 now, 7.2 in summer. I hav not done an iodine test.

Bobby, I follow you procedure exactly, with the exception of the 5 min check, is this step crucial?

I guess I will try a finer crush still.
 

Bobby_M

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I think that step is least crucial. I only do it to even out the temps once the grain has a chance to soak in the water. I doubt it has that much to do with efficiency.
 

Sixbillionethans

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Lots of good info posted...I'll add a couple points.

1. In batch sparging, concerns regarding stuck sparges should be less significant than for fly sparging (less problems with channeling, stuck sparges, etc.). Therefore you don't really have to be concerned about using a finer crush. That's a good thing and should make you feel good.

2. There's 2 big times that you are going to get your "mash" efficiency:

First is conversion, and that has been well-discussed in this thread. Verification will come from the iodine test. Using good malt and a 60 minute mash, it would be tough for you to get less than full conversion.

The second big hurdle for efficiency is actually getting all that converted sugar to dissolve into the water and rinse into your brewpot. Moral of the story? Be sure to stir like crazy after you mash out and after you batch sparge and then let it sit for a good 10 minutes to get all that sugar to dissolve into the water.


Check the gravity of what's left in your mash tun after you're "done". All of the sugar ("gravity") left in your tun is sugar that your yeasties can't turn into booze.
 

Got Trub?

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Sea said:
AdIn, I have been boiling for 60 min, and would like to increase eff as much as poss without increasing boil vol/time.
I think this is were you are running into a problem. When I switched to batch sparging and dialed my system in it was quickly apparent that if you keep a fixed preboil volume and increase your SG the efficiency falls off. Increasing your run-off volume definitely helps - at the expense of increased boil time. With my system that means about 60% eff with a 1.065 beer and a 78% eff with a 1.038 beer. I'm planning on starting to parti-gyle brew to address this - as did our brewing forefathers.

Here is the issue in my mind. With a batch sparge the second sparge is relatively high in gravity compared to what you would finish at with fly sparging. This is good in that the pH remains low and you don't extract tannins etc - and its fast. The price you pay though is that the remaining grain bed still has that level of fermentables in it once drained dry. The higher the gravity of beer you are making (assuming your preboil volume is fixed) the higher amount of fermentables remains in your grain bed. If you sparge a third time you can get those out but what to do with the greatly increased volume?

Your solutions are:

1) RDWHAHB and use more grain
2) Increase your sparge volume on higher gravity beers and boil longer
3) Parti-gyle
4) Do a PM on higher gravity beers - ie do an "AG" with say 1.045 worth of grain and then add the appropriate amount of DME to get your gravity where you want it.

GT
 

Kai

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Has anybody suggested that your thermometer might be lying to you? I understand that many thermometers are surprisingly off, and I bet that could make a difference.
 
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Sea

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Six,

I probably should wait a little longer before draining after adding sparge water, though I remember reading that many only wait a few minutes? Thanks.

Got trub,

While I realize that what you are saying is true, It seems to me that I have read of multiple Batch spargers on this forum getting 75-80% on 065 beers without increasing boil vol/time (Bobby?)? someone please correct me if I'm wrong about this. If there is no other option, I will just increase my grain bill to compensate for my eff, but I would like to exhaust all other possibilities first.

Kai,

I tested all of my thermos a couple of months ago when I first started to have this problem (went AG), but I should probably do it again.

Thanks for all the input guys, I really appreciate it. This site is awesome!
 

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I just want to chime in and say if it is not the crush than my guess is the sparge volume. If you are brewing 1.06 to 1.07 OG than you need to sparge more and do a longer boil. This was my first big problem and the reason I was always stuck at 60 to 65%. If you make a real big beer 1.08 or up you just have to acccept a lower eff. and adjust for it. If you make a 1.04 to 1.05 range than you should be able to do a normal boil and get 70 to 75 with a good mash. Anything above in my experience you need to sparge more and boil longer. or up the grain bill

hope this helps

Jay
 

reshp1

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Just a newb here putting in his 2 cents, but are you correcting for temp with your hydrometer readings? Or is the 1.060 target @ your sparge temp?
 

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