First solo all grain batch... problems

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cimirie

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So, I finished my first solo all grain batch today (I've done it a few times with a buddy). I encountered some difficulties (spilling some wort in transfer and burning myself, but all fairly minor I suppose).

Unfortunately, I'm really really frustrated at the result. I was brewing Lil Sparky's Nut Brown ale and missed my OG by a mile. In fact, my brewhouse efficiency was down at about 61%. On the same setup, we've been achieving around 82% or so consistently.

I hit my strike and mash temps spot on. The only number I missed was my sparge temp (I was sparging at 175 instead of 170). I performed the iodine test and no change in color so I passed that.

I was just shy on wort collected (6.25 instead of target 6.5 gal) but the required hour boil dropped it down to 5 gal instead of the desired 5.5 gal.

So I missed the sparge temp and missed total volume. I can't imagine a temp difference of 5 degrees would cause a drop in BHE of more than 20%. Especially considering the lower volume would seemingly concentrate the wort.

I'm so confused and could use some enlightened perspectives. Any ideas?

PS The only other variable I can think of is that I didn't take a temp reading towards the end of my sparging. I was keeping my liquor in a separate cooler and measured temp at the beginning and ladeled it in to the MLT gradually.

As always, thanks for the help!!! :D

Relevant info...

Potential points: 1.086
Actual points: 1.043
Target volume: 5.5gal
Actual volume: 5 gal

Strike temp: 165 (target and actual)
Mash temp: 154 target 153 actual
Mash time: 60 min target 80 min actual
Sparge temp: 170 target 175 actual
Sparge duration 60 min (target and actual)
 

scinerd3000

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how was the crush on your grains? Predone or did you do them? If you bought then crushed...where was it from?
 
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cimirie

cimirie

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The crush was done at my LHBS. They do a pretty good job. Our ingredients usually come from them and the last time we did an AG batch from them we got 80%. I guess they may have adjusted the crush to less fine. But I didn't notice a big difference just by looking.

Could that have that big of an impact? If so, what should I ask them next time about the level of my crush?
 
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so you were doing a hybrid fly sparge it sounds like?

maybe your grainbed got channelized and your lauter efficiency screwed you up
 
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cimirie

cimirie

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I forget the exact name of the type of sparge. You constantly keep 1-2 inches of sparge water on top of the grain bed and add at the same rate it runs off at for the entire length of the sparge. I haven't had a problem with channelizing the grainbed using this technique before. Could it have channellized with 2 inches of water constantly on top?
 
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cimirie

cimirie

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Let me add something into the mix. I know nobody hits or actually shoots for potential points in a recipe. The target gravity was 1.050. So, I was still off by 25%, but not as bad as it may have seemed from earlier posts. Just clarifying.
 
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Let me add something into the mix. I know nobody hits or actually shoots for potential points in a recipe. The target gravity was 1.050. So, I was still off by 25%, but not as bad as it may have seemed from earlier posts. Just clarifying.
wait, your target was 1.050, you hit 1.049, and you're worried about your process? sounds like you nailed it if you missed your OG by .001
 
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cimirie

cimirie

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Sorry for the confusion (it's been a long day.) I've edited my original post to reflect my mistake. My OG is 1.043 - not 1.049. I don't know where I came up with that.
 
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ok, so you missed you expected OG by 7 points - still not bad, could've made it up with a pound of DME.

What kind of manifold/braid are you using? Since you're fly sparging, Im still thinking that channelization may be a problem.

But, you also mention that you overshot your sparge water (which wouldn't be a big deal at 175), but that you also didn't measure what your ACTUAL sparge water temp was. Was it possible that you heated your sparge to 175, but that it got down to ~150 by the time you were done?

Gosh, I'm at a loss -- maybe your buddy could help (since he was brewing with you when you were hitting ~80%).

good luck and keep us posted.

My gut feeling on efficiency (not in your case, just in general) is that the main issues with efficiency are not ACTUAL efficiency, but the brewer's ability to accurately measure volumes, gravities, temperatures, etc. I mean, your calculation output is only as good as the numbers you put into it.
 
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cimirie

cimirie

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Was it possible that you heated your sparge to 175, but that it got down to ~150 by the time you were done?
Totally possible. In fact, the more I think about it, that sounds like the most logical possibility.


EVERYBODY.... Thanks for the input. If there are any other brainstorms, let me know, but for now, I'll assume sparge temp got me.
 
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Totally possible. In fact, the more I think about it, that sounds like the most logical possibility.


EVERYBODY.... Thanks for the input. If there are any other brainstorms, let me know, but for now, I'll assume sparge temp got me.
I don't think that's the only thing -- Kaiser (on this board) has cold sparged with little change in efficiency.

I'm thinking a combo of factors:

- lauter inefficiencey for whatever reason
- you mention that you spilled some wort - how much?
- your volumes were off compared to what you were expecting

etc, etc. A lot of things are going on. I love these threads - hell, I've started them myself!

Good luck!
 

JesseRC

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Yeah your process looks fine, however next time I would collect more. I know you have numbers when you are brewing and probably using software. I have brewed 8 AG's and have yet to use software. I really think of brewing as cooking a recipe. Sometimes you just have to make adjustments on the fly.

When you realized you didnt collect enough wort, why didnt you just sparge another gallon. I always collect enough for 90 min boil. And even then I dont pay much attention to the time after its been 60 min, I just boil down to 5.5gal. Also make sure to stir real good when sparge water is added. After all your doing a sparge to rinse the sugars off the grain.

Overshooting your sparge temp shouldnt be a problem. I sparge at 180, I've never measured what it cools down to. Now if you think the water cooled below 170 before you added , well maybe that could be it. I think Bobby M had a thread on sparge temps and such.
 

KRanch

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I was there (for some of it) and my guess is that it had to do with volume loss and the crush. It is possible that there were some dough balls but it is strange using the same exact set up and technique that the first batch came out to 86% efficiency. My grains were from AHS and yours from lhbs? that is a variable?
 
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cimirie

cimirie

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I know you have numbers when you are brewing and probably using software.
No software. Just lots of math before I start! (and i thought I'd never use algebra again after high school)

When you realized you didnt collect enough wort, why didnt you just sparge another gallon?
I've always been told one of the big "don'ts" in brewing is do not oversparge. It'll grab extra tannins which are totally unwanted. Now if I'm misunderstanding something, I'd love to simply sparge an extra .5 gallon next time.
 
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