First AG, LOTS of questions...Help!!

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HoyaSaxa

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Ok, so I've been extract brewing for about a year... maybe 20 batches under my belt...some good, some not, but I've gotten okay results so far.

I used my Christmas allocation to build an AG set up (minimal requirements), and just brewed my first batch, a noble trappist ale. Here's the set up and my questions. Thank you in advance...I've searched most of these items but could not find answers:

Set up: 48 quart cooler conversion MLT, with stainless mesh 12" screen. 7.5 gallon BK w/brass valve fittings, 25' immersion chiller, 70,000 BTU propane burner. Beersmith.

Ok, so my questions are as follow:

Question 1: I decided to batch sparge and used Beersmith to calculate the strike water temp and sparge temps. The water temps got me to my mash temp 152F and sparge temp of 170F perfectly. However, the water volumes suggested by beersmith didn't get me anywhere near the boil volume I needed. Using the appropriate equipment settings, Beersmith suggested 12.5 quarts of strike water for 10lbs of grain, and 7 quarts of sparge water. After my initial lauter and then collecting the second runnings, I had MAYBE 3.5 gallons in my brew kettle. Obviously there was water absorbed by the grain, but how do I get beersmith to account for that?

Question 2: I didn't have any more hot water in my HLT, so I ended up using 12 additional quarts of hot tap water at 130F. Will this third collection at 130 affect my flavor? The initial mash hit 152 perfectly and only lost about a degree over an hour. The sparge hit 170F perfectly as well.

Question 3: After the second sparge, I ended up with just less than 6.5 gallons. After a 60 minute boil, I finished with just less than 5 gallons. Does that seem high for evaporation losses?

Question 4: My immersion chiller worked well, but I found that I had to stir the wort to get accelerate cooling. This unsettled the hop and cold break. The pellet hop residue and cold break all ended up in my fermenter. What is this going to do to my beer, and how can I avoid this in the future? Add a fine mesh screen to the BK? Seems like it would plug up with break material.

Question 5: Starting Gravity in the fermenter was 1.063. How do I calculate my mash efficiency given the volume issues I discussed above? The grain bill was 9 lbs domestic 2 row, .5 lb of carapils, .5 of crystal 40, and 1.5 lbs of Belgian candi sugar. Any suggestions on my efficiency?


I know that is a lot, and I really appreciate the help. I loved the process of AG compared to extract, and I'm seeing a very healthy active fermentation 24 hours after pitching, so I'm really excited to see if the taste improves over my extract batches.:)
 

HexKrak

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5) What did beer smith calculate your OG with whatever you set for beer house efficiency?
-or-
set the efficiency to 100% in brewsmith and do the math

achieved efficiency (1.063) / 100% efficiency (whatever brewsmith says when set to 100%) = your actual %
 

SamuraiSquirrel

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Ok, so my questions are as follow:

Question 1: I decided to batch sparge and used Beersmith to calculate the strike water temp and sparge temps. The water temps got me to my mash temp 152F and sparge temp of 170F perfectly. However, the water volumes suggested by beersmith didn't get me anywhere near the boil volume I needed. Using the appropriate equipment settings, Beersmith suggested 12.5 quarts of strike water for 10lbs of grain, and 7 quarts of sparge water. After my initial lauter and then collecting the second runnings, I had MAYBE 3.5 gallons in my brew kettle. Obviously there was water absorbed by the grain, but how do I get beersmith to account for that?

A) Honestly, it's easier just not to worry about this. My recommendation (take it for what it's worth) is to use beer smith to calculate your strike temp and strike volume. As for the sparge, just heat the sparge water (what beer smith tells you and then some extra) to 170. Do your first runoff and measure how much you collected. Take your desired preboil volume and subtract amount collected from first runoff. This is the amount you need to sparge. The grain is fully saturated at this point so what you put in should be what you get out

Sparge volume = desired preboil volume - volume of first runnings.

Whether you decide to split that sparge volume in half (double batch sparge) or just add all as one sparge is personal preference.


Question 2: I didn't have any more hot water in my HLT, so I ended up using 12 additional quarts of hot tap water at 130F. Will this third collection at 130 affect my flavor? The initial mash hit 152 perfectly and only lost about a degree over an hour. The sparge hit 170F perfectly as well.

A) No, if you are batch sparging then sparge temp isn't too critical. Hitting 170 will denature the enzymes but you'll be fine if this dropped low. You might just end up with a slightly drier beer and lower final gravity. Without getting into the science of it, technically you can cold sparge with no detrimental flavors. Look up the Kaiser article/experiment on cold sparge if you need more evidence.

Question 3: After the second sparge, I ended up with just less than 6.5 gallons. After a 60 minute boil, I finished with just less than 5 gallons. Does that seem high for evaporation losses?

A) No, i use a 10 gallon megapot and turkey fryer burner. I boil off a gallon per thirty minutes (2 gallons per hour). Just learn what your burner boils off and plan accordingly. No reason to look into getting a different burner or "trying to boil off less". Consistency is all that is key here. Measure and learn YOUR boil off and plan accordingly for future batches.

Question 4: My immersion chiller worked well, but I found that I had to stir the wort to get accelerate cooling. This unsettled the hop and cold break. The pellet hop residue and cold break all ended up in my fermenter. What is this going to do to my beer, and how can I avoid this in the future? Add a fine mesh screen to the BK? Seems like it would plug up with break material.

A) This will have no detrimental effect on your finished beer. It will settle out in the fermenter and ultimately will just be a layer of trub below your yeast cake. As for not getting so much into your fermenter for future batches. Filtering is an option but then you potentially have clogged screens etc to deal with. I stir while chilling (as you did). Once I hit 70 I pull the chiller. Stick my pot where I plan on siphoning from and let it sit for about 15 to 20 minutes while I clean some stuff. Then when you go to siphon most of your hop material and cold break will be settled on the bottom of the kettle.

Question 5: Starting Gravity in the fermenter was 1.063. How do I calculate my mash efficiency given the volume issues I discussed above? The grain bill was 9 lbs domestic 2 row, .5 lb of carapils, .5 of crystal 40, and 1.5 lbs of Belgian candi sugar. Any suggestions on my efficiency?

A) Beer smith does this for you. It gives you a few figures if you click the "brewhouse efficiency" button. If you enter preboil volume and preboil gravity it will give you "efficiency into the boiler". Long story short, this is how well you did with your mash and sparge process.

It also gives you efficiency into the fermenter after entering O.G. and final volume - this is sort of the same as the one above but it incorporates trub loss and wort left in the kettle. In theory (and in practice unless you measured something wrong) this number can only stay equal to (assuming no loss) or decrease from the "efficiency into the boiler"

Then it gives you "brewhouse efficiency" - this one is kind of meaningless. This is your efficiency based on your O.G. and your PLANNED batch size.

Hope that helps!
 

TANSTAAFB

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+1 to EVERYTHING Yeast Infection said!!!! You beat me to it brother, and probably said it better to boot :rockin:

Bottom line, it will take a few brews to dial in your system. Search Lil Sparky hop bag...that will help keep the trub down but it is really only necessary if you plan to harvest and wash your yeast. I also pour my wort through a 5 gal nylon paint strainer to remove hot break and trub.

Play around with BeerSmith...there are things you will find that make calculations more accurate. Brad also wrote a book about brewing with BeerSmith. Don't have it yet but its on my list.
 

markg388

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I'm excited for you, I want to go back in time and brew my first AG now. Enjoy the beer, it should come out just fine.
 

TANSTAAFB

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I'm excited for you, I want to go back in time and brew my first AG now. Enjoy the beer, it should come out just fine.
Mmmmmm...timetravelale...paradox porter...assassinate Hitler schwarzbier...wait, sorry, we were on the benefits time travel could contribute to BREWING...got a little carried away there :D

OK, I'd travel back in time to brew my first AG, then study ancient brewing techniques, and kill Hitler on the way...deal?
 

Sensei_Oberon

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I was just about to post this thread! So I'll add on as a rook (not an expert).

Being a small-timer (one or two 5-gallon batches a month) would it be cost-effective for me to start building up a grain library? I'd grind them all at the store. The problems I see are (1) I'd need a scale at home to weigh for each recipe (trying to keep the equipment purchases to only what I need right now), and (2) the shelf life of grains (and hops and yeast).

I guess I'm wondering if it's worth the trouble to start building a home ingredient supply, including hops, or is it just plain easier to go the LHBS each time I am going to brew.

thanks
 

TANSTAAFB

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I was just about to post this thread! So I'll add on as a rook (not an expert).

Being a small-timer (one or two 5-gallon batches a month) would it be cost-effective for me to start building up a grain library? I'd grind them all at the store. The problems I see are (1) I'd need a scale at home to weigh for each recipe (trying to keep the equipment purchases to only what I need right now), and (2) the shelf life of grains (and hops and yeast).

I guess I'm wondering if it's worth the trouble to start building a home ingredient supply, including hops, or is it just plain easier to go the LHBS each time I am going to brew.

thanks
You don't really want to store crushed grain for too long. I just got a Corona for Christmas which I am in the process of uglifying (search My Ugly Junk) so I will start buying more bulk grain, but without a mill I only stored crushed grains sealed in bags from LHBS for about a month. You can keep small amounts around to supplement/ adjust recipes and just crack them with a rolling pin or food processor, but I would not want to keep much more than that around pre-crushed for extended periods of time.

On the other hand, if you took the mill plunge it would totally be worth it. I can't wait til I can brew what I want when the fancy strikes me w/o traveling 2.5 round trip to the LHBS!!!

Good Luck :mug:
 

rosier9

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For question 1: Beersmith can sometime be confusing (for me) depending on how you setup the mashout. Part of the sparge water can be under sparge water with another part of it hidden in your step up process to heat up the grainbed during the sparge... Also without some sort of magic the 19.5 qts of water you used in total could never possibly get the desired 6+ gal boil volume. (I know from experience)

For question 2: I doubt it will affect the flavor, pry a great beer that won't be replicated...

For question 3: Evaporation rates vary with how hard you boil and also with the humidity. Before I learned to dial-back the boil my evap rates were equally high if not higher...

For question 4: Yep stirring is required for best cooling... I give it a little bit of settle time before going to the fermenter and don't try to get every last drop outta the kettle. The beer still tastes great...

Welcome to AG, have fun... this is addicting
 

TANSTAAFB

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I have a vacuum food sealer. What are your thoughts on using that to store crushed grains? I also have a deep freeze I could utilize, what would freezing them air-tight do as far as lifespan?

thanks
Thank you rosier9 for getting back to the OP's questions...

Sensei_Oberon, I don't want to hijack this thread. Use the search function...it is your friend!!! Chances are when you have a problem, you aren't the first. The OP had specific questions regarding his process.

I did a quick search of storing crushed grain and the consensus is that fresher is better, crushing as close to brew time as possible is best, and if you HAVE TO store some crushed vacuum sealed, cold, and dark is best but not an alternative to milling your own for large quantities.
 

Golddiggie

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I'd double check what you gave Beer Smith for your batch size and such... I'm doing 5 gallon batches, I tell Beer Smith to use 1.25qt/# of grain (giving me my mash water volume). It then tells me how much water to sparge with...

For instance, the brew on deck for the coming weekend has 17 pounds of grain. My mash water volume is 21.25 quarts, with just over 3 gallons for sparge. I'm going to be picking up a 32 quart pot today, so that I can do full boils, which I'll mark to make sure I have what I'll need to hit my target volume. That's about 8-1/2 gallons of water total used (accounting for what the grain will retain). I expect to get my 6.35-6.5 gallon pre-boil volume from that (120 minute total boil time). If not, then I'll run some more through the grain (sparging) to get enough to hit the mark.

Did you use a thermometer to tell you when your wort hit boil temp? You just need to get it to 212F (at sea level) and keep it there. If you went over that by too much, then your boil-off loss will be higher.

The biggest mistake I made with my partial mash batch (the brew I did last) was not having a way to tell where I was at with the volume and letting the pots boil too long. I plan to mark either the spoon(s) or pots at each gallon, then at 1/2 gallon increments after 4 gallons.
 
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HoyaSaxa

HoyaSaxa

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Wow! Thanks for all the great feedback. It is greatly appreciated.

One last thing. On BeerSmith, it calculated my pre-boil efficiency at 84%, but my actual efficiency given my post-boil volume and SG readings at 71%. Which of these should I be paying attention to. I know that efficiency isn't all THAT important, but I'm just curious and want to be able to track how different sparge methods affect this efficiency.

I'm assuming 71% is probably the correct value given what I've read about others using a similar equipment set up?

Thanks...more questions coming soon!!!
 

Golddiggie

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Wow! Thanks for all the great feedback. It is greatly appreciated.

One last thing. On BeerSmith, it calculated my pre-boil efficiency at 84%, but my actual efficiency given my post-boil volume and SG readings at 71%. Which of these should I be paying attention to. I know that efficiency isn't all THAT important, but I'm just curious and want to be able to track how different sparge methods affect this efficiency.

I'm assuming 71% is probably the correct value given what I've read about others using a similar equipment set up?

Thanks...more questions coming soon!!!
Beer Smith defaults to a 75% efficiency level when going AG (or partial)... Did you remember to set the type correctly (to All Grain)??

Post up your recipe as well as the OG...

Did you select equipment that would allow you to boil enough to have a full batch boil (boil volume to hit batch size)?

My first PM numbers indicated around 74% efficiency... I've changed hardware since then, so we'll have to see what my numbers are like at this weekend's brew day. I hope to hit at least 70%.
 

SamuraiSquirrel

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Wow! Thanks for all the great feedback. It is greatly appreciated.

One last thing. On BeerSmith, it calculated my pre-boil efficiency at 84%, but my actual efficiency given my post-boil volume and SG readings at 71%. Which of these should I be paying attention to. I know that efficiency isn't all THAT important, but I'm just curious and want to be able to track how different sparge methods affect this efficiency.

I'm assuming 71% is probably the correct value given what I've read about others using a similar equipment set up?

Thanks...more questions coming soon!!!
I use preboil for recipe planning. I would also use preboil if you are looking to compare one sparge process to the other and I will exlpain why........


This preboil efficiency is going to be consistent regardless of what happens after that point. For example, this batch you dumped everything into the fermenter, next batch if you siphon and leave a gallon in the pot this is going to throw your "efficiency into the fermenter" all over the place.

Also, if you make a belgian where you have an oz of hops, you may only leave half a gallon in the pot. If you make an IPA with 6 oz of hops then you may leave 1.5 gallons behing. All this will be reflected in your "efficiency into the fermenter" number

If you are stricly looking at your mash/sparge process ...... for example, is it really worth it to double batch sparge vs single batch sparge? then compare "efficiency into the boiler" numbers as this is only a function of sugar collected and volume. No other variables such as trub loss or other system losses are reflected in this efficiency number.
 

IamNash

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I know that efficiency isn't all THAT important, but I'm just curious and want to be able to track how different sparge methods affect this efficiency.
I would focus on getting that number to be consistent across batches before worrying about how high you can get it. An extra pound of 2 row costs around a dollar, and that will make up for a lower efficiency, but you need to know going in what your efficiency is so you can plan the correct amounts of grain. Once you are consistently hitting your target gravity and volume numbers, think about what you can vary to increase this number. Also, I am sure you have read it, but remember to take detailed notes on every batch, especially if you plan on tweaking your process to see what changes.
 

MikeRoBrew1

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Thanks for starting this thread, I just made the switch too. Even did the Noble Trappist first lol! I too had issues with boiloff evap volume. It's a learning experience. For me I dont really boil off enough.

But I can help a little. I pour my kettle right into the fermenter with a large mesh bag lining the bucket. I lift out the mesh to filter out hops.

Also most people on HBT seem to use .5g per lb of sparge water. Thanks to reply poster#1 for reassurances
 

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