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RichBrewer

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I've seen a lot of threads started concerning problems with peoples first all grain brews.
I would like to give a couple suggestions that might help improve the process for new AG brewers. Here are a couple common problems I've seen:

1. Low efficiency.
I have found that the most common thread here is not using enough water during mashing and sparging. All you need to do is figure 1 to 1 1/4 quarts of water per pound of grain for the mash and about 1/2 gallon of water per pound of grain for sparging.
I think some folks are concerned about too much wort volume when they are figuring how much water to use but if you want decent efficiency you have to use the correct amount of water.
If your brew pot isn't big enough for the volume required you will need to compensate by using more grain and know that your efficiency will be lower. (You will want to use the 1 to 1 1/4 quart per pound of grain for the mash and adjust your sparge water for the volume required)
If you have a large enough brew pot you will need to calculate the boil time so you will have the correct volume when completed. Some high gravity brews can take 2 hours or more to boil down to the correct volume.
2. Missing the mash temperature. (Usually low when using cooler type mash tuns)
To avoid this common problem there are two things I suggest:
1. Pre-heat your mash tun with hot or boiling water. This water is drained from the tun right before the strike water is added. Using this method will pre-heat the tun so not as much heat will be pulled from the strike water when added .
2. Heat your strike water about 2 or 3 degrees above your target temp, pour the water into the tun, and let the temp drop to your target. By the time you reach your strike temp, the tun should be conditioned and when the grains are mixed in you will hit your desired mash temp and it will hold longer.

I hope this helps for you first timers or even folks who are struggling with AG brewing. :mug:
 

jlinner

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Thanks RichBrewer, this will help out the first time AG'ers. I wish I would have found a site like this with such helpful cool people before I started AG brewing, it would have saved some hair and lots of money. :mug:
 
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If I may I would like to add. I would suggest have a game plan on paper the day before you mash in, with all your math calculated. and all your targets calculated also a game plan for "what to do if you dont hit those targets" this has helped me more than anything with a smooth running brewday. always have on hand DME, Corn sugar, and a good way to cool your test samples FAST, Lay everything (I.E PH 5.2, hops, irish moss, iodine ETC.) on a work table in order and number it with your timing sheet

GREAT Thread Rich!!
Cheers


JJ
 
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RichBrewer

RichBrewer

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Cookiebaggs said:
You forgot 1 thing Rich

RDWHAHB
jaybird said:
If I may I would like to add. I would suggest have a game plan on paper the day before you mash in, with all your math calculated. and all your targets calculated also a game plan for "what to do if you dont hit those targets" this has helped me more than anything with a smooth running brewday. always have on hand DME, Corn sugar, and a good way to cool your test samples FAST, Lay everything (I.E PH 5.2, hops, irish moss, iodine ETC.) on a work table in order and number it with your timing sheet

JJ
Great points! :mug:
Lets keep the suggestions coming.
 

Big Al

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Great post. I've stumbled my way through 3 AG sessions until last night when things finally went smoothly.

Another point would be to ensure that your pH is good. Fivestar pH 5.2 stabalizer worked like a champ for me. Using spring water my pH was pretty high I discovered.
 

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Thanks, Rich et al,

I am doing the AG boogie for the first time as soon as my grain mill arrives. I have a pretty good handle on the numbers I am shooting for based on reading this site for the last few months, as well as howtobrew.com, but it's nice to have a simple, concise plan. :mug:
 
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RichBrewer

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mcaustin said:
What about for sparging? Your post currently says 1/2 gallon per pound of grain, should that be in quarts too?

Austin
No. What I stated is correct. You want to use about 1/2 gallon per pound of grain for sparging. If you have a big brew, say 16 pounds of grain, you will be looking at 8 gallons of sparge water. With a brew that big you will be looking at roughly 10 gallons of wort in the brew kettle which equates to LOTS of boiling to get it down to a 5 1/2 gallon batch.
 

mcaustin

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RichBrewer said:
No. What I stated is correct. You want to use about 1/2 gallon per pound of grain for sparging. If you have a big brew, say 16 pounds of grain, you will be looking at 8 gallons of sparge water.

Ok, thanks for the quick answer!

I'm a bit confused now though, because I entered the recipe for Vanilla Bourbon Porter into Beersmith the other night (to brew this weekend) and it has a 17 lb grain bill. The water calculations that it shows include the proper 1.25 qt/lb for mashing, but then says that my sparge is like 4 gal... I have it entered as a single infusion, batch sparge, with equal batch sparge sizes option box checked.

Any idea?

Thanks!

Austin
 

Drunkensatyr

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What helped me back when I started All Grain was to pre measure out all the hops, and moss and seal them in numbered zip bags and wrote the minutes to set my timer to for the next add. I remember the 1st few batches were a mental drain and it was nice to be able to sit back and enjoy the boil without having to think about what I was doing.
 

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mcaustin said:
I'm a bit confused now though, because I entered the recipe for Vanilla Bourbon Porter into Beersmith the other night (to brew this weekend) and it has a 17 lb grain bill. The water calculations that it shows include the proper 1.25 qt/lb for mashing, but then says that my sparge is like 4 gal... I have it entered as a single infusion, batch sparge, with equal batch sparge sizes option box checked.

I suspect (don't know) that BeerSmith sets the sparge volume by how much you say you want to boil, not by how much you need to max efficiency. I do the same thing (and I think many others on this board do as well) because I don't want to try to boil 10 gallons down to 5.5. I just figure I'm going to get lower efficiency on big grain bills, boost the grain accordingly, and shoot for my desired kettle volume of 6.5-7.0 gallons.

Shoot for desired kettle volume and spend a couple dollars worth of grain, or shoot to maximize efficiency and spend a couple extra hours of boil time (and propane). It's up to you; there's not really a right answer.
 

mcaustin

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Bike N Brew said:
Shoot for desired kettle volume and spend a couple dollars worth of grain, or shoot to maximize efficiency and spend a couple extra hours of boil time (and propane). It's up to you; there's not really a right answer.

Gotcha. Thanks for the insight!

Austin
 
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RichBrewer

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Bike N Brew said:
I suspect (don't know) that BeerSmith sets the sparge volume by how much you say you want to boil, not by how much you need to max efficiency. I do the same thing (and I think many others on this board do as well) because I don't want to try to boil 10 gallons down to 5.5. I just figure I'm going to get lower efficiency on big grain bills, boost the grain accordingly, and shoot for my desired kettle volume of 6.5-7.0 gallons.

Shoot for desired kettle volume and spend a couple dollars worth of grain, or shoot to maximize efficiency and spend a couple extra hours of boil time (and propane). It's up to you; there's not really a right answer.
I agree. I will probably do just that and use extra grain next time I brew a big beer but I wanted to explain it so someone who is just getting started will understand mash efficiency better.
I''m not familiar with BrewSmith so I don't know how the program calculates sparge volume. I use ProMash and it pretty much lets me tell it how much water to use.
 

Beerrific

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This is a great thread. I am going to be doing my first all grain soon, I am trying to read as much as possible to make it go smoothly and successfully. Thanks to everyone that has offered help.

I do have one point that I would like to offer (or ask for) clarification on concerning batch sparging.

In John Palmer's book he says that for batch sparging to be successful the first and second runnings should be equal. This has been modeled and shown mathematically somewhere (can't find link; it involved derivatives:drunk: ). I know RichBrewer is a big advocate of sparging with more water (see #1 in the first post). This leaves the two runnings not equal. I think the way that I understand this contradiction is that in Palmer's book this is done with the end result a factor to increase the amount of grain you use where as RichBrewer is saying use the same amount of grain increase the sparge.

So (correct me if I am wrong) the way I see it is that the whole thing comes down to whether you have a max capacity you can boil (my boat). In that case you should set the runnings equal and increase the amount of grain (per Plamer). If you can boil however much you want, increase the sparge volume (per RichBrewer).

Does this sound reasonable? Is this very obvious and only confusing to me?:cross:
 

ajf

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I think the difference is what is meant by the first and second runnings.
You are assuming that the first runnings are the draining of the mash (before any sparge water is added) is the first runnings. and that the second runnings is the draining after the addition of a single batch of sparge water,
Rich is assuming that the mash is drained before any sparge water is added, and that the first runnings relate to the draining after the first batch of sparge water, and the second runnings relate to the drainings after a second batch of sparge water.
Rich's suggestion will always result in higher efficiency, but does run a very small risk of over sparging, but this will not be an issue unless you are brewing a very light gravity beer..

-a,
 

BierMuncher

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I discovered that when I moved to 10-gallon batches, my temperature loss at strike was worse than with 5-gallons. I like to mash at around 156 degrees and with 5 gallon batches, that meant I had to strike with 168-170 degree water.

No with a 10-gallon batch, (using a 10 gallon rubbemaid cooler) I have to strike with 180 degree water (against a 20-21 lb grain bill) to get my 156 range.

Anyone else discover this change when they moved up to 10-gallons?
 
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RichBrewer

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BierMuncher said:
I discovered that when I moved to 10-gallon batches, my temperature loss at strike was worse than with 5-gallons. I like to mash at around 156 degrees and with 5 gallon batches, that meant I had to strike with 168-170 degree water.

No with a 10-gallon batch, (using a 10 gallon rubbemaid cooler) I have to strike with 180 degree water (against a 20-21 lb grain bill) to get my 156 range.

Anyone else discover this change when they moved up to 10-gallons?
That is good information. I never thought of that. I wonder why that happens?
 

orion2598

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So (correct me if I am wrong) the way I see it is that the whole thing comes down to whether you have a max capacity you can boil (my boat). In that case you should set the runnings equal and increase the amount of grain (per Plamer). If you can boil however much you want, increase the sparge volume (per RichBrewer).

Does this sound reasonable? Is this very obvious and only confusing to me?:cross:


I tried to get fancy with the batch sparging, but trying to figure out volumes of first runnings, second, etc. was just too confusing. It seemed like I had to add more water no matter what they said.

So , here's what I do that has worked for me very well with my 5 gallon round cooler.

1) Mash in for 60 minutes at your desired temp and water/grain ratio.
2) If you have some space left in the cooler, add boiling water to mash out (don't go above 170, although this has never been a problem with my 5 gallon cooler, there's never enough volume).
3) Collect your first runnings.
4) Have 4 gallons of water at about 170-180 degrees ready.
5) when you are done with #3, add the water to fill the cooler. Stir in and let set a few minutes.
6) Collect runnings again until you have 7 gallons in your pot. If I have to repeat #4 and #5 to get there, I just add more hot water to the cooler.

It's really pretty easy becuase I just keep adding water to the cooler until I have 7 gallons in my pot. I guess it's kind of a mix of batch and fly sparging, only I add a bunch of water at a time and dont' worry about sprinkling it over the grain. I've seen several other people mention doing this way, and it seems to work. I have been getting about 80% eff. since I started doing this and using 5.2.
 

BierMuncher

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RichBrewer said:
That is good information. I never thought of that. I wonder why that happens?
The only thing I can think is that the solid mass (the grains) have an exponentially higher temperature impact than liquid.

In other words, it's a lot more difficult to bring 20lbs of 70 degree grains up to temp with 6 gallons of 165 dgree water, than bringing 10 lbs of 70 degree grains up to temp with 3 gallons of 165 degree water.

Does that sound like I hoped it would sound???
 

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BierMuncher said:
The only thing I can think is that the solid mass (the grains) have an exponentially higher temperature impact than liquid.

In other words, it's a lot more difficult to bring 20lbs of 70 degree grains up to temp with 6 gallons of 165 dgree water, than bringing 10 lbs of 70 degree grains up to temp with 3 gallons of 165 degree water.

Does that sound like I hoped it would sound???

There is something nagging at me that the physics of this don't work out. Assuming you are using the same tun for the mash, the actual ratio of grain to water has not changed in your example. Shouldn't the rise in temperature using an equally proportional infusion of hot water be similar?

Of course, if you are using a different mash tun for the 10 g batches, then that could be your difference. But I assume that isn't the case.
 

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I'm no scientist but I can see that- say your grains are 60 degrees. For a 10 gallon batch, you may have 23 pounds of grains to bring up to 156. Therefore, you need a higher strike temp than if you had 12 pounds of grain. Even if your grain to water ration hasn't changed, the thermal mass is different. More hot water doesn't equal higher grain temp, necessarily.

(This makes sense to me, but I'm going to have to add this disclaimer- I've been drinking this evening.)
 

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BierMuncher said:
The only thing I can think is that the solid mass (the grains) have an exponentially higher temperature impact than liquid.

In other words, it's a lot more difficult to bring 20lbs of 70 degree grains up to temp with 6 gallons of 165 dgree water, than bringing 10 lbs of 70 degree grains up to temp with 3 gallons of 165 degree water.

Does that sound like I hoped it would sound???

I just did my first 10 gal on sat and I noticed the same thing and was way low on my mash temp 150 vs 156 which is what I wanted. Didn't really know why because with the same set up ,but doing a 5.5 gal batch my strike temps at 165 worked great. But the day was kind of a cluster so I just glazed over it. I think the mass definitely affects strike temp even though the grain to water ratio doesn't change. These are the sort of questions that I love about brewing.
 
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RichBrewer

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BierMuncher said:
The only thing I can think is that the solid mass (the grains) have an exponentially higher temperature impact than liquid.

In other words, it's a lot more difficult to bring 20lbs of 70 degree grains up to temp with 6 gallons of 165 dgree water, than bringing 10 lbs of 70 degree grains up to temp with 3 gallons of 165 degree water.

Does that sound like I hoped it would sound???
Yooper Chick said:
I'm no scientist but I can see that- say your grains are 60 degrees. For a 10 gallon batch, you may have 23 pounds of grains to bring up to 156. Therefore, you need a higher strike temp than if you had 12 pounds of grain. Even if your grain to water ration hasn't changed, the thermal mass is different. More hot water doesn't equal higher grain temp, necessarily.

(This makes sense to me, but I'm going to have to add this disclaimer- I've been drinking this evening.)
You guys have got to be on the right track.
I doubled a recipe in ProMash and when it calculates the dough-in temperature it doesn't compensate for a larger batch.
BP or any other 10 plus gallon brewer- what is your experience with hitting your mash temps with larger batches???
 
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RichBrewer said:
I've seen a lot of threads started concerning problems with peoples first all grain brews.

1. Low efficiency.
Something you missed that I don't think has been mentioned yet - proper grain crush. A few folks have mentioned that their HBS-crushed grains aren't crushed quite well enough or that they saw a big jump in efficiency with a finer crush from their own mill at home. Do yourself a big favor and spend the time to make a quality, adjustable two-roller mill (or spend the cash required if you can't make one). A three roller mill is probably overkill for the average homebrewer, and a corona mill, while cheaper, is not going to give you an ideal crush.

What, then is the ideal crush? Don't be afraid of a little flour, but don't pulverize everything into powder, either. You want zero intact kernels, plenty of empty but intact husks, lots of white starchy matter, and a little powdery flour.

Simply refining my grain crush and taking a little extra time with the sparge increased my efficiency by over 10%. My last two brews were easily over 80% efficiency.
 

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Good point yuri, I went down 20% in efficiency when I brewed with my LHBS grains instead of AHB. Which sucks cause I hate having to order grains, when I want to brew I want to be able to drive 10 miles and get the stuff. Im going to have to talk to my old roommate and see if he can machine me one of those mills, like you did. Yours looks very nice. Im too cheap to spend close to 200 on a mill.
 

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No. What I stated is correct. You want to use about 1/2 gallon per pound of grain for sparging. If you have a big brew, say 16 pounds of grain, you will be looking at 8 gallons of sparge water. With a brew that big you will be looking at roughly 10 gallons of wort in the brew kettle which equates to LOTS of boiling to get it down to a 5 1/2 gallon batch.

I don't recommend over sparging just to increase your efficiency, sure it works but you will also pick up a lot of husky grainy flavors and run the risk of tannin extraction. I think most people sparge to achieve a pre determined amount of wort in the kettle and then boil for a set time of 60, 90, 120 minutes depending on style.
For example, I do 90 minute boils, I am locked in at 80% efficiency, I do 6.5 gallon batches. I know that I need 8.75 gallons of wort in the brew kettle to end up with 6.5 gallons post boil, I use however much grain I need to achieve the desired OG based on these known numbers.
 

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Waldo said:
For example, I do 90 minute boils, I am locked in at 80% efficiency, I do 6.5 gallon batches. I know that I need 8.75 gallons of wort in the brew kettle to end up with 6.5 gallons post boil, I use however much grain I need to achieve the desired OG based on these known numbers.
Except that your efficiency is based on the amount of sparge water relative to the grainbill. Larger grainbills = higher sugar concentrations = greater sparging requirements.

So, if you fix your water at 8.75 gallons for all brews, then how can you 'lock in' at 80% efficiency, particularly for a high gravity brew? Does that make sense? The only way I can see this work is if you modify your grainbill to compensate. Otherwise, when you make big modifications to your grainbill, the efficiency should vary somewhat (e.g., it will be lower for a 15 lb grainbill than it would for a 10 lb grainbill).

Anyways, don't mean to hijack this thread. This topic is already being discussed here: https://www.homebrewtalk.com/showthread.php?t=30724
 

Waldo

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My efficiency doesn't start to suffer until the grain bill gets above 17 pounds, at 16 pounds I may lose a point or two but I usually just adjust by shooting for 2 points higher on the OG.

You did see where I said for example? That was just an example of an average sized beer, I guess you also missed the part where I said "60, 90 or 120 minute boils depending on style" big beers generally get longer boils but a 16 pound grain bill shouldn't need to be boiled for 2 hours just to get a higher efficiency.
 

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Ryanh1801 said:
Good point yuri, I went down 20% in efficiency when I brewed with my LHBS grains instead of AHB. Which sucks cause I hate having to order grains, when I want to brew I want to be able to drive 10 miles and get the stuff. Im going to have to talk to my old roommate and see if he can machine me one of those mills, like you did. Yours looks very nice. Im too cheap to spend close to 200 on a mill.

I went to walmart, but was unsuccessful locating these. A bicycle shop may be a better bet.

When I was a wee lad, kids put "pegs" on the rear axle of the bike so you could stand on the back and do tricks or take an extra passenger.

Well... I was thinking the knurling on those pegs would be just about perfect for a grain mill/crusher.

Eventually, I got lazy and just bought one, but with the pegs, a drill and some angle iron, you might be able to rig something up with a minimum of tools.
 

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So if you're shooting for a high efficiency and you end up sparging with say 7-8 gallons of water, is it necessary that you add it to the boil immediately, or can you add it as your pot starts to boil off? I basically would just have something like 8 gallons boiling with a 2 gallon reserve I'd add over time just to make sure there was room in the kettle.

I have a 42 quart pot and I really doubt that I am going to want to sit around while boiling 10.5 gallons down to 5.5 so I'll probably just take the efficiency hit when I take the step to all grain and want to make a bigger beer, but I'm wondering if that's acceptable.

Thanks.
 

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Waldo said:
My efficiency doesn't start to suffer until the grain bill gets above 17 pounds, at 16 pounds I may lose a point or two but I usually just adjust by shooting for 2 points higher on the OG.

You did see where I said for example? That was just an example of an average sized beer, I guess you also missed the part where I said "60, 90 or 120 minute boils depending on style" big beers generally get longer boils but a 16 pound grain bill shouldn't need to be boiled for 2 hours just to get a higher efficiency.
Yep, gotcha! I was just seeking clarification -- thanks. So you are in fact modifying the amount you sparge/run-off, and compensate by modifying the length of the boil to get back to a fixed final volume, right? :)
 

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FlyGuy said:
Yep, gotcha! I was just seeking clarification -- thanks. So you are in fact modifying the amount you sparge/run-off, and compensate by modifying the length of the boil to get back to a fixed final volume, right? :)

Yes indeed, I have profiles for 90 minute and 120 minute boils I use 90 minute boils for almost everything, really big beers and Scottish Ales get the 120 minute boil. I guess what got me with the orininal post was when he recommended collecting 10 gallons of wort for a 16 pound grain bill, just seemed like overkill on the sparging.:)
 

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I'm brewing two batches this weekend for the specific purpose of sorting out my efficiency issues. Reading through this really helped by I have one question still.

If I'm using the correct volume of water how much does it matter if it's in the strike or sparge? I'm brewing two batches of beer this weekend to work out some efficiency issues. In one batch I'm going for a 1.5:1 quart/pound ratio for the mash and according to Beersmith I'd use the same ratio for my sparge to reach my desired boil volume. In the other batch I'm going for a 2:1 ratio and once again it works out that my strike and sparge volumes are almost identical. The two batches have different amounts of grain so that I could keep the volumes of water the same and get the biggest boil I can manage.

So, would it be better to keep things as they are or to drop the mash ratio in each batch by a bit and increase the sparge by the same amount? From reading this thread it sounds like most people are doing a smaller mash ratio and a larger sparge ratio but is that really necessary as long as the same amount of water is used in total?
 
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