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Batch vs Fly: Steve Holle article in BYO

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FlyGuy

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So has anyone read Steve Holle's article on batch vs. fly sparging yet? I was hoping for a good read, but ended up confused in the end. Personally, I was disappointed in the article because it wasn't terribly informative, and the comparison of techniques is rather shallow and one-sided. There have been far better discussions here in the past (and there is no point in reliving those same arguments again!).

Anyways, throughout the article Holle seems to argue that while batch sparging is 'reputed' to be an easier method, it is inherently inefficient and necessarily produces lower quality wort. While the extent of these differences in 'efficiencies' or 'qualities' is never actually addressed, it is implied that it is substantive (at least that was my read of the article).

If you have read the article, what are your thoughts? I believe there were a few flaws in reasoning. First, Holle explains that batch sparging is possibly better at avoiding off-flavours from tannins extracted while lautering (but only because batch sparging is such a darn inefficient method). But then he goes on to say that tannin extraction in batch sparging is actually highly problematic (and this is the main thesis of the article) because during the sparging process, the wort is entirely drained from the grainbed exposing it to air. He also claims that this will oxidize tannins in the exposed grains, thereby leading to low quality wort.

He never really explains why fly sparging produces higher quality wort, except to imply that oxidation of the mash is not a problem. However, even though he mentions that the common way for homebrewers to fly sparge is to continuously sprinkle hot water on to the grainbed. This exposes the sparge water to air (and thus, of course, oxygen), but that discussion is omitted. He also fails to remember that he previously stated that tannin extraction wasn't an issue with batch sparging, confusing me as to why it would ever be a concern in the first place (oxidation or no oxidation).

At the end of the article, he goes on to relate a hybrid technique from Germany where batches of sparge water are added to the mash, stirred, then drained, but the wort is never drained enough to expose the grainbed before the next batch of sparge water is added. He seems to be advocating it as an improved method of batch sparging, but for a homebrewer, I am not so sure how useful this technique would be (it sounds like the most difficult parts of the two sparging methods combined).

What I did take from the article was that there is a POSSIBILITY that the batch sparging technique could lead to problems with oxidation of tannins. Unfortunately, the extent to which this does or does not occur was not explored by Holle (he just assumes it is always problematic). The experience of homebrewers that have successfully moved from fly to batch sparging probably suggests that the extent of this problem is negligible.

But, it did get me wondering if batch spargers should be paying extra attention to tannin extraction, particularly when they are shooting for high efficiencies (say in the mid-80's and above) where tannin extraction does become a real possibility. I suspect that it is only at these high efficiencies where tannin extraction occurs and the effects of oxidation begin to rear its ugly head.

Shoot -- that's longer than I intended. I'll shut my trap now. :)
 

Bobby_M

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I didn't read the article but it sounds like BS. All sparge water has oxygen in it unless you boil it for some time first. I'm sure the grain bed in either method is exposed to more O2 from the water than the 3 times the very top of the bed is exposed to air for a short time in my batch sparge method.

Well, is batch more prone to tannin extraction? I don't know, but I don't taste it in my beers.
Is it lower in effeciency? Sometimes, but not most of the time. All the fly spargers in my brew club set their recipes at 70% and take an hour longer to brew.
 

Soulive

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I'll never be convinced to fly sparge. No disrespect intended, I'm just honestly satisfied with my batch sparging results...
 

njnear76

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I didn't read the article, but it sounds like this study is not very scientific. You can't say something is factual without having data to support your arguement.

It sounds like he had a hypothesis, maybe conducted a couple of experiments, but did not record any data or perform any data analysis.
 

Cookiebaggs

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Soulive said:
I'll never be convinced to fly sparge. No disrespect intended, I'm just honestly satisfied with my batch sparging results...

And I'm of the same mindset but on the other side!

And really, who cares? If you make good beer and are satisfied with your system and routine, that's all that matters. :mug:

I'd never turn down a beer that was batch sparged......:p
 

Soulive

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Cookiebaggs said:
And really, who cares? If you make good beer and are satisfied with your system and routine, that's all that matters. :mug:

I'd never turn down a beer that was batch sparged......:p
I agree. With homebrewing there are many means to the same end. Everyone should just do what they're comfortable with...
 

tbulger

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I want to flysparge in the future. Once i am done with my herms im going to have nothing to build/buy. Then i will upgrade to fly just for a longer brew day and more tinkering. i highly doubt theres a diff in the beers.
 

EdWort

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Soulive said:
I'll never be convinced to fly sparge. No disrespect intended, I'm just honestly satisfied with my batch sparging results...
+1 The proof is in the puddin. er, I mean beer! :D
 

Dr_Deathweed

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Soulive said:
I agree. With homebrewing there are many means to the same end. Everyone should just do what they're comfortable with...
Amen!:mug:

Now to revive the Batch vs. Fly controversy...

My one and only attempt at fly sparging resulted in the only beer I think I am going to throw out... Not to say that this was the only problem, being as it was my first attempt at a solo AG, but now that I have my batch sparging routine down, and know how to hit my temps accuratly, I have averaged around 80% on my last few batches.

I will probably try fly again in the future, but I am comfortable for now with batch'in it :)
 

TexLaw

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I glanced at that article, but I have not read it all, yet. I may do that this evening before my club meeting, just to have something else to talk about.

I am also quite, quite happy with batch sparging. I looked into fly sparging, once, and I decided that it was not worth the trouble unless I wanted to go all with way with it and do something like a RIMS or HERMS. The funny thing is that I cannot justify the time, effort, or expense requried for a RIMS or HERMS, so I guess I will just stick with batch sparging. :)

By the way, some of the best brewers I know are batch spargers, and some of the best brewers I know are fly spargers.


TL
 

Boerderij_Kabouter

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Is this article in the new BYO (March)? I haven't gotten mine yet.

I think it is ridiculous to say a batch sparged wort would be necessarily different than a fly sparged one. The only "difference" is possible (debatable) efficiency depending on your procedure and setup. A agree with all the other posters that he majority of oxygenation will come from the sparge water itself not the atmosphere, especially because of all the steam pushing the air away from the grains at mash out.

I would challenge even the great Michael Jackson to blind taste 2 beers and tell which is batch and which is fly. Never gonna happen.

BTW: fly sparging rules:mug:
 

Bobby_M

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I absolutely agree that there's no "right" way to do it. You do what works for you. One of the reasons why (I think) there is so much debate is because people make broad sweeping statements about either method based on a very limited experience. If someone fly sparges for 10 batches, then tries batch sparging once and takes a 30% efficiency dip, their impression of batch sparging is that it's a low efficiency waste of time. It's unlikely that the opinion will be changed. The same can be said in the other direction.

I simply take issue when someone claims "fly sparging is more efficient" when it's more like "fly sparging has the potential to be more efficient under the right conditions".

The only way I'm going to be conviced to switch to fly is to try it a few times and I absolutely plan to do so in the future when I get bored.
 

bradsul

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As someone who fly sparges when it's warm outside and batch sparges in the kitchen the rest of the year; I can say that I don't see any difference in quality between the 2 methods. I get mid 80's efficiency with my batch sparges and a couple points higher on my fly sparges. That's the only difference - at least in my experience. My mash tun is drained dry 2-3 times in the process of batch sparging and these tannins that are so 'problematic' have never been witnessed by me.

I wish I hadn't let my BYO subscription lapse, I would like to have read this article.
 

Kaiser

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Looks like an interesting article to read. To bad I don't get BYO.

I do agree that both procedures can produce different wort qualities which may actually lie above the taste threshold. But I don't think that the difference will be big enough to really matter. The oxidation is an interesting proposition and I want to check the literature on that.

I also don't mind the discussions between fly and batch sparging as long as both sides have a clear understanding of the principles behind them and where the pitfalls/limitations are. This is generally not a given in the debates I have seen.

Kai
 

RichBrewer

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Bobby_M said:
Is it lower in effeciency? Sometimes, but not most of the time. All the fly spargers in my brew club set their recipes at 70% and take an hour longer to brew.
70% efficiency? All of them? They are doing something very wrong if that is their efficiency.

OK! Fight is on! I'm a fly sparger and all you batch spargers are wrong! You don't know what you are talking about! :D
 

Bobby_M

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I know it's hard to believe Rich. We recently did a Flanders Red project and I believe about 7 out of the 11 (5 gallon) shares were fly spargers. We took the recipe (Jamil's) which was based on 70% efficiency and myself and the project organizer asked everyone to let us know if they needed a recipe conversion based on their actual efficiencies. We got back something like 5 responses that their actuals are 70% +/- 3% so no scaling was necessary. I suppose some of them just did the conversions themselves, but no one ever really answers the question "what kind of efficiency are you getting?".

I don't want to jump to conclusions, but I think they don't want to admit that their Phil's sparge arm and false bottom purchase was a waste of money.

There is a very small number of batch spargers in the club and we're always offering up a "learn how to batch sparge" session but I guess 70% is good enough for them.
 
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I haven't gotten my BYO yet (surprise, surprise). I urge people that get BYO to read it first and then respond if you haven't already.

Otherwise we'll just rehash what has been hashed.
 

The Pol

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I always fly sparge, I set my eff. at 77%, sometimes it is higher, sometimes not. My main sticking point has been reaching mash out temps and maintaining temps during the sparge. WHICH I think I have corrected now that I have my sparge arm installed INSIDE my cooler so that I can have the lid on during the sparge.
 

TheCrane

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Honestly, I don't know why fly sparging is viewed as the more difficult, or at least laborious, route. It is all I have ever done and I have never considered it as tedious or difficult. Water in, Wort out. Gravity does all the work. No stirring and only one vorlauf. I am usually busy doing other things (i.e. weighing out hops, getting the burner together etc) while hot water collects the goods. I don't even use a sparge arm or any other nonsensical gadgetry. I just run a hose from the liqour tank directly into the MLT and I have good and very consistent efficiency. There's my 2.
 

missing link

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I just did my first real batch sparge today. My recipe was entered into beersmith at 70% efficeincy but I actually hit 77% into the boiler. This caused my to exceed my pre-boil gravity by 3 points. I'm going to stop my boil short by a bit to see if I can hit my target OG in the fermenter. I may have to dilute some with water.

Batch sparge is definetely easier. No matching of flow rates, but I am still going to try to get my equipment to do a fly sparge just because I like to try new things.

Linc
 

Kaiser

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I see fly sparging as less foolproof than batch sparging. The lauter efficiency in batch sparging, though inherently limited, depends on much less factors than the one in fly sparging. That is something we all should be able to agree on. And that's why I generally recommend this to beginning brewers or fly-spargers with efficiency problems. For the latter case It helps them to determine if the problem lies in sparging or mashing. Once you have your fly-sparging system under control it should be surperior to batch sparging in terms of efficiency. And yes, when it is all set-up you don't have to attend it as much.

Kai
 

TheCrane

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missing link said:
I just did my first real batch sparge today. My recipe was entered into beersmith at 70% efficeincy but I actually hit 77% into the boiler. This caused my to exceed my pre-boil gravity by 3 points. I'm going to stop my boil short by a bit to see if I can hit my target OG in the fermenter. I may have to dilute some with water.

Batch sparge is definetely easier. No matching of flow rates, but I am still going to try to get my equipment to do a fly sparge just because I like to try new things.

Linc
Seriously, matching flow rates is not a big deal. Just make sure you have some standing water on top of the grist (1-2 in.) and some head space above that. Open both valves (liqour tank and Lauter tun) approximately equally. I don't have any experience batch sparging, but it seems like this presents more extraneous variables and would make consistent results less likely. I have never missed my target OG by more than 2 pts, and have never had to adjust by adding more water or boiling longer. Nice, easy, and CONSISTENT.
 

Bobby_M

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TheCrane said:
...I don't have any experience batch sparging, but it seems like this presents more extraneous variables and would make consistent results less likely.
Exactly my point. I've never fly sparged. We're on equal footing as far as our ability to objectively weigh in on each other's methods. The variable in batch sparging that I have to watch is total volume to grist ratio as it affect efficiency more. However, it's relatively predictable if you know what you're doing.

No one is going to be consistent on either sparge method for their first couple runs. Consistency happens after you learn the equipment and the process.
 

maltMonkey

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Fly sparging is superior because it allows me 45 more minutes of downtime with which to drink beer :mug:
 

Cookiebaggs

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maltMonkey said:
Fly sparging is superior because it allows me 45 more minutes of downtime with which to drink beer :mug:
A batch sparger (of which I am not) could counter with "I'm done 45 minutes earlier so I can just concentrate on drinking beer!" :D
 

Boerderij_Kabouter

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Ha! I love how a standard response with our hobby is "_______ is nice because it allows me to drink beer"

Honestly, what the hell was I doing before I started brewing.
 

maltMonkey

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Cookiebaggs said:
A batch sparger (of which I am not) could counter with "I'm done 45 minutes earlier so I can just concentrate on drinking beer!" :D
maybe for single guys.....here's the married version:

scenario 1
-------------
the wife: what are you doing?
me (beer in hand): sparging.
the wife: oh, ok. let me know when you're done.

scenario 2
-------------
the wife: what are you doing?
me (beer in hand): nothing.
the wife: oh, I've got some things I need you to do then.

:D
 

Cookiebaggs

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:D

I'm married and I can relate to that conversation!

Fortunately, I brew at work so the time is my own.
 

The Pol

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HA HA fly sparging is great... it is hands off, takes a long time, which means more time that I am not interrupted! lol
 

TheCrane

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I am curious. How long does a batch sparge take (Assume ~10 lb bill, collecting 6.5 gallons)? I always assumed it would take longer to batch sparge (stirring and vorlaufing). I fly sparge in about 20 min, and get ~77% efficiency, with no mash out.
 

Bobby_M

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I think a 20 minute sparge is about 3x faster than average for most fly guys. I break my batch sparge into three distinct runnings and that includes a 2 quart vorlauf prior to each. It takes about:

01 vorlauf
05 drain
03 batch infuse/stir
01 vorlauf
05 drain
03 batch 2 infuse/stir
01 vorlauf
05 drain

24 minutes? Something like that for 90% usually.
 

Kaiser

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TheCrane said:
I am curious. How long does a batch sparge take (Assume ~10 lb bill, collecting 6.5 gallons)? I always assumed it would take longer to batch sparge (stirring and vorlaufing). I fly sparge in about 20 min, and get ~77% efficiency, with no mash out.

Recently I wrote this article on the Wiki which analyzes batch sparging techniques with respect to their lauter efficiency. One of the graphs shows the efficiency dependence on number of sparges and grist size. For about 10 lb your no-sparge lauter efficiency is about 83% (note that this is lauter efficiency for a given water/grist absorption ratio and your brew-house efficiency should be lower due to the effects of mash efficiency). If you have a brew-house efficiency of 77% for your 20min fly sparge I suspect that you are actually doing more of a no-sparge than a fly-sparge since you are basically only getting the sugars that are already in solution after the mash.


Try this: When you are done with collecting your wort, add a new batch of water to the mash-tun (hot tap water should do) give it a stir and measure its gravity. If it is significantly above 1.010 your fly sparge is not as efficient as it could be since you left sugars in the mash.
Kai

edit: added missing link
 

TheCrane

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24 minutes? Something like that for 90% usually.
Wow! That sounds like its worth trying.

However, is my sparge really that much faster than most? I thought the general rule was something like 1 qt/ min.

6.5 gallons = 26 qts * 1 qt/ min= 26 min.

if you have a brew-house efficiency of 77% for your 20min fly sparge I suspect that you are actually doing more of a no-sparge than a fly-sparge since you are basically only getting the sugars that are already in solution after the mash.
Does this mean that I might as well just drain the mash and dump ~5 gallons of water on top? that seems suspicious. Also, makes me wonder how so many people end up with less than 70 % BHE.

Try this: When you are done with collecting your wort, add a new batch of water to the mash-tun (hot tap water should do) give it a stir and measure its gravity. If it is significantly above 1.010 your fly sparge is not as efficient as it could be since you left sugars in the mash.
Kai
I appreciate the suggestion Kai. However, not sure what this would tell me. I Know how much sugar is left behind (Theoretical yield - observed yield). I also know that my sparge isn't as good as it could. They never are. Comes down to weighing effort and time against grain. However, I am ready to become a full fledged batch sparger if I could hit 90% (per Bobby_M) in approximately the same amount of time, with little additional effort.
 

Brewpastor

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I got my copy today and read the article. I enjoyed it and thought it was well written and draws on hardcore studies for its data. It isn't some guy pulling the stuff from his butt.

Like was said earlier, read the article before you start debating it.

This is much like the ongoing yeast discussion - "Don't confuse me with science."
 

Kaiser

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TheCrane said:
I appreciate the suggestion Kai. However, not sure what this would tell me. I Know how much sugar is left behind (Theoretical yield - observed yield). I also know that my sparge isn't as good as it could. They never are. Comes down to weighing effort and time against grain. However, I am ready to become a full fledged batch sparger if I could hit 90% (per Bobby_M) in approximately the same amount of time, with little additional effort.
your brew-house efficiency is the combination of mash and lauter efficiency. mash efficiency is the amount of extract you actually made solluble duing the mash compared to laboratory tests. Lauter efficiencty tells you how much of the extract is actually making it into the brew-kettle compared to how much extract was in soluble after the mash. There is no easy way measuring them seperately and that's why we always combine them.

When brewers start correcting their pH and they get a 10% brew house efficiency boost, they got that from a boost in mash efficiency.

When brewers switch their sparging practice and get a boost in BHE they get this from a boost in lauter efficiency.

If you have efficiency problems its nice to know if your problem lies in the mash or the lautering step hence the idea of measuring the sugars that were left begind. Especially in fly sparging where you can get channeling that goes unoticed or you may sparge to fast for the water to pick up all the extract that it could pick up.

Since I don't get BYO I'm allowed to continue the discussion w/o reading the article ;).

Kai
 

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We could debate batch sparging vs. fly sparging 'til the cows come home to roost.:D I speed-read the article in BYO. The bottom line is, there has to be a reason why "most modern breweries" do continuous sparging. It has to be for higher efficiency because it's their bottom line. Less grain, more profit. As for the "modern batch sparging" done in commercial breweries the author encountered in Germany... that sounds like it more resembles continuous sparging than batch sparging on the homebrew scale.

I can't imagine that batch sparging homebrewers would experience an oxidation effect or tannin extraction due to exposure to air on such a small scale. There is such a small surface area of mash. As far as efficiency, there are so many other variables affecting efficiency that the only way to tell would be a side-by-side comparison on the set-up. I think the result would be a few more points on the side of fly-sparging... big deal.

Batch spargers: batch it up! I'm sure you'll make great beer.
Fly spargers (like me): fly away!
 
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