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Frustrated with all grain...going back to extract

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GLWIII

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My first brew was an extract. All went to plan and I cranked out a terrific beer. Couldn't believe that my first try yielded such a tonic. So, off to try all grain. But, dammit, my last three all grains have driven me to almost drink coors lite. I'm having a real problem hitting my OG. I mean, they came out tasting darn good, but I wonder...."what if".

The latest cluster called for OG of 1.062 and I wind up with a 1.045. What makes this so freaking maddening is that I was rocket scientist meticulous in my planning and I thought I did everything perfectly. Milled the grain nicely - check; measured the water correctly - check; hit my temps dead nuts on - check; 1 hour in the tun - check; nice clean wort - check; sparge - check; boil and hops - check; perfect cool down - check; hydrometer reading - screeeeechackkkk!!

Well, it's time to take a step back and re-trace my steps. First, buy a good six-pack. Then, try another extract brew. Maybe in a year or ten I'll try all grain again....*$%#&@$
 
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but you've come this far! you can do it! :mug: I'm struggling with my efficiency also, but for me there's no turning back...

don't let AG beat you!
 

sigmund

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I'm at a loss to understand. You say they taste "darn good", yet you're not happy with them? Exactly what is it you're trying to do, make a good beer, or beer that meets the specs? You can hit all your numbers and not have a good beer, so what's the problem? Why not keep making good tasting AG beers and just work to refine your process?
 

GreenwoodRover

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I'm also struggling with low og's during my in my foray into the All Grain business. My effeciency is not where it needs to be right now, so I made some adjustments.
Right now i'm currently running at 64%eff so I make sure my beer smith is set appropriately and add extra base malt to get up to my target OG. As I get better and make the tweaks needed to refine my process and system I'm hoping my efficiency eeks up.
Have you calculated your efficiency? Up the grain to hit your OG's. If you just follow a recipe here most are set-up for 75%+ eff, so you'll definately be off.
 

Orfy

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It sounds like you need to take us through your equipment and method step by step so we can see where you are going wrong.

If the worst comes to the worst there is no rule saying you can't use LME to bust the gravity if it's way to low.

You can always dial down your efficiency to up the ingredients.
 

bull8042

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If you are hitting your mash temps and your grains are crushed well, I don't see how you are missing your OG by that much.
Some more information including specifics about your steps, temps, and recipe would help us give more help.
 

Revvy

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A lot of people think AG=Perfect Beer, and jump too soon, without getting their process down. AG is not a magic wand...it actually requires some fundamental understanding of basic brewing principles, to master.

Read this...

http://blogs.homebrewtalk.com/Revvy/Why_cant_we_all_get_along/

Work on your process. Even do some partial mashes for awhile...but realize this is all about learning and experience...

:mug:
 

Kevin Dean

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Perhaps nobody told you - your equipment is like a fine woman.

No two brewers can take the same recipe and crank out the same beer. Different people's equipment acts differently. Mashing 10 pounds of 2-row might produce heavier sugars due to temp loss that is different than the guy who posted the recipe with computer controlled temps.

What's important is that you understand what your equipment does. Perhaps you should adjust your crush to get higher efficiency, or insulate your mash tun to more strictly control your temps.

You MUST get an understanding of what your equipment will do or you'll always mis your target. If you don't keep this in mind, you return to AG later will end with the same results.

In the end, do what you enjoy more. I'd simply stop brewing if I had to go back to extract. :) Everyone is different..
 

Fingers

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I hit 69% this past weekend. My best yet. I'm sure I can get it up with additional equipment and process control, but when I'm brewing 63% beer it's pretty damn good. Beersmith takes care of the scaling for me.

My problem is that I don't mill my own grain. (At least I hope that's the problem). Yours might be something different, but as Orfy says, let the boys take you through it. Maybe if you put your location in your profile there will be someone near you who could help you out. It might be fun to quaff a few and have a more experienced brewer take you through it.
 

s3n8

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I too have contemplated including some extract brewing after 5 AG batches. Mostly because its a lot of work, and sometimes its tough to find 6 contiguous hours to get a batch knocked out.

I share a lot of my beer, (over half anyway) so I am always running low on beer I like. Extract batches will help me keep some good stuff in stock because I can brew more often.

Two things to look into, who is crushing your grain, and do you have an accurate thermometer? I bought the low end crankandstein, and a $15 digital thermometer. I have never gotten below 77% efficiency.
 

TwoHeadsBrewing

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My first brew was an extract. All went to plan and I cranked out a terrific beer. Couldn't believe that my first try yielded such a tonic. So, off to try all grain. But, dammit, my last three all grains have driven me to almost drink coors lite. I'm having a real problem hitting my OG. I mean, they came out tasting darn good, but I wonder...."what if".

The latest cluster called for OG of 1.062 and I wind up with a 1.045. What makes this so freaking maddening is that I was rocket scientist meticulous in my planning and I thought I did everything perfectly. Milled the grain nicely - check; measured the water correctly - check; hit my temps dead nuts on - check; 1 hour in the tun - check; nice clean wort - check; sparge - check; boil and hops - check; perfect cool down - check; hydrometer reading - screeeeechackkkk!!

Well, it's time to take a step back and re-trace my steps. First, buy a good six-pack. Then, try another extract brew. Maybe in a year or ten I'll try all grain again....*$%#&@$
You know what? I typically hit between 65-70% efficiency too, but I don't sweat it. Don't worry about your efficiency, just worry about making good beer. If your efficiency sucks and you don't hit your desired OG, you can do a few things:

1. Keep boiling until you get your OG ( and wind up with less than 5 gallons)
2. Pour another 1-2 gallons through your MLT to collect more runnings, and boil off the water until you hit your OG.
3. Just account for your efficiency, and buy more grains (my personal favorite)

Another 2 pounds of grain is under $3, so who gives a rip whether you use a bit more that people getting 85% efficiency? If you make good beer, that's the whole point...at least for me it is :). Brew on brother! :mug:
 

brewjunky

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your obviously not getting the effcientcy that your recipe is calling for.

either up the grain bill of figure out what the problem with the efficiency is.

What type of sparging do you do?

What temp is the sparge water?

Is your mash PH level to high

how many Quarts per lb are you doughing in with?

and most important how is your crush?
 

Area51BrewCo

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I am a numbers freak myself, my recomendation is to set your recipes for 5.5 - 6 gallons this way if you need to boil down to get your number up you will still have 5 gallons. Unless of course you totaly missed your target. I also have a refractometer that allows me to measure gravity easy during my sparge. I am also interested in what your first runnings are at.
 

the_bird

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The absolute level of your efficiency is a lot less important that whether you can hit is fairly consistently. It's pretty easy to adjust a recipe from 75% to 65%, as long as you know you're not going to hit either 55% or 80%. If you're getting a good crush (that's the biggie), I'd look into getting some of the pH 5.2 Buffer; it works great, does what it's supposed to do, it adds to my effiency, and it's one fewer variable to worry about.
 

Saccharomyces

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My biggest suggestion, see if there is a club in your area and team up with an experienced AG homebrewer in your area. You'll learn a lot that way.

Other than that, if you provide plenty of details we can help you sort out what may have gone wrong.

As others have said there are plenty of folks making great beer at 65% efficiency with AG and even at 60% efficiency you are probably saving money over buying extract!!! Getting consistent is job #1 and dialing it in to improve efficiency is second priority IMO.
 

Saccharomyces

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I too have contemplated including some extract brewing after 5 AG batches. Mostly because its a lot of work, and sometimes its tough to find 6 contiguous hours to get a batch knocked out.
Nothing wrong with that at all. (looks at Revvy :rolleyes:)

There is a homebrewer in the local club who has done 96 extract and partial mash batches, and has no desire to go AG. His beer is GREAT.

Do what you like. Enjoy it. I went AG because I enjoy the process, and like to take my time to make beer.
 

niquejim

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My biggest suggestion, see if there is a club in your area and team up with an experienced AG homebrewer in your area. You'll learn a lot that way.

Other than that, if you provide plenty of details we can help you sort out what may have gone wrong.

As others have said there are plenty of folks making great beer at 65% efficiency with AG and even at 60% efficiency you are probably saving money over buying extract!!! Getting consistent is job #1 and dialing it in to improve efficiency is second priority IMO.

Kind of my thought

Where are you? I'm relatively sure that someone here will be willing to work with you if they are close enough. I know I would.
 

SuperiorBrew

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If you are that far off, I would just up the base malt by 3-4 lbs it will only cost you an extra $5 or so and you will still most likely be saving compared to extract and learning and having more fun at the same time. This will by you some time figure out what is causing your problem(s).
 

BrewDey

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I'm admittedly not a numbers freak-but I haven't had huge issues with efficiency...and I really think AG has a lot more character (and is less pricey) than extract. The one time I really had a problem was when I had an incomplete crush. But I always mash for 90 min. and I always fly sparge...I know times are supposed to vary, but I just go with a lower temp for dryer and higher temp for sweeter beers. As mentioned, a few more lbs. of base malt won't hurt anything...and really, every beer is unique anyway-so RDWHAH!!
 

farmbrewernw

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I'd say if your worried about your OG try adding extra base malt until you figure out what needs to be tweaked. I sucked on my efficiency yesterday on 2 batches but because I boiled off more than I thought I would I still hit my gravities. Normally I hit around 80% eff but yesterday I kept getting 70% or so, that being said I know it will still be good beer assuming fermentation goes right. You jumped into AG quick but I know you can do it these things require time.
 

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I was getting low original gravities until I bought a new hydrometer. Sometimes the paper inside can slide down. This was very frustrating until I figured it out. I would also use the pH 5.2 buffer. I use a Corona mill and always get in 80s. Good luck
 

bottle-o-jeff

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After my first two AG recipes I was pretty pissed with my low efficiencies. Then I stopped caring about them. I upped my grain bills to account for it. At the end of the day, who cares? I still made beer. My friends that taste it all say it's great stuff.

Efficiency is just a number. The beers are delicious.

I'll work on the efficiency one step at a time.
 

Matt Up North

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I just did a brew today and got 10% better efficiency by upping my sparge water temp from 170 to 185. This really made me think that there is a hope in my AG future...

I do a 60 minute mash, 45 minute sparge with 185*F water, and 60 or 90 minute boil. I use a corona mill with some washers in between the wing nuts to help get a coarse enough grind, that is also fine.

Next thing to invest in for me is a chiller.

Good luck!
 
OP
G

GLWIII

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All, thanks for calming me down. At the end of the day it's still fun to brew and the beer tastes good and that's all that really matters. Thanks again.
 

JamesKY

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I thought that my efficiency would soar when I bought my Barley Crusher but I continued to hover around the 65% area. Until I figure out what is wrong with my process, I'm just going to up the grain bill to hit my target OG. My guess is that it's a combination of things that's keeping my efficiency low.

For example, I noticed that I was leaving about a quart of wort in the MLT because the SS braid I use wasn't creating a siphon meaning that it only drained to the level of the valve. So this past weekend I went out and bought the materials to make a new manifold out of CPVC (copper has gotten so expensive). Hopefully it will create a siphon that will allow me to extract more sugar while still hitting my required sparge volume.

In short, don't get frustrated. RDWHAHB because it's all about having fun. Do what you enjoy doing and continuously work on refining your processes. I have faith that high, consistent efficiency comes with experience and experimentation.
 

fratermus

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My effeciency is not where it needs to be right now, so I made some adjustments.
Right now i'm currently running at 64%eff so I make sure my beer smith is set appropriately and add extra base malt to get up to my target OG.
I was listening to The Jamil Show and it sounds like JZ is no great fan of high efficiencies. I think he mentioned he comes in around 65%, believing that aiming too high is begging for extracting assorted nasties (husk tannins, etc).

Perhaps I am mischaracterizing his shows, but it may be another datapoint to consider.
 

Bobby_M

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It could also just be a case of sour grapes. Obviously if you make great beer at 65%, there's nothing to worry about but deep down, he may be wondering why he's not hitting 80%. 65% would piss me off.
 

Tankard

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I completely relate with the OP. My first AG was 64-65%, and I am worried my next brew will yield around the same. I have a list of things that I am going to do different this next time...
1) Finer crush
2) Use 5.2,
3) Pour the grain into my mash tun a little at a time, while stirring to avoid doughballs,
4) Mash for longer than 60 mins (does this risk astringency?)
5) Boil more vigorously.

If I don't get a least 70% with these additions, ..... well, I'll be pissed.
 

Bobby_M

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Bobby, what kinda MLT are you using?
Started with a 48qt rectangular cooler with braid and now use a sanke with a full false bottom. My average efficiency dropped from about 90% to 86% since I have to run a slightly thinner mash to make up for the space below the false bottom. This means less sparge volume. In any case, I can't imagine how many things I'd have to change in my process to get 65%. Maybe coarser crush, cooler sparge, single batch sparge... that sort of thing.
 

mmb

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I completely relate with the OP. My first AG was 64-65%, and I am worried my next brew will yield around the same. I have a list of things that I am going to do different this next time...
1) Finer crush
2) Use 5.2,
3) Pour the grain into my mash tun a little at a time, while stirring to avoid doughballs,
4) Mash for longer than 60 mins (does this risk astringency?)
5) Boil more vigorously.

If I don't get a least 70% with these additions, ..... well, I'll be pissed.
I would start with a finer crush first and keep everything else the same. How will you know what works if you change your whole process in one go?
 

Bobby_M

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I was getting in the low 90's with the braid. Denny Conn, the godfather of braid batch sparging played around with braid length and no, there was difference. There's no risk of sparge channeling with batch sparging so it's just holding back the grain as the wort flows out. It's a completely different concept than fly sparging.
 

Tankard

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I would start with a finer crush first and keep everything else the same. How will you know what works if you change your whole process in one go?
Well, the things I'm planning on doing are things I should have done my first time around anyway. It won't hurt anything if I put a scoop of 5.2 in the mash, I really should have stirred the grains better in the mash tun, etc. I'm just correcting the problems I had my first time around.
 

springer

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my efficiency was crappy the first few batches . If you want to laugh read
https://www.homebrewtalk.com/f13/my-wonderful-sunday-brew-day-71049/

now my last batch a Saison I hit 82% and all I did was raise my batch sparge water to 185*

If the beer taste's good and you like it what is the problem? As you get some more experience I'm sure the #'s will go up. And keep some DME on hand in case you feel the need to bump up the OG
 

Homercidal

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If you are not going to brew AG, then can you please send me your equipment? PM me...








j/k Keep with it. If you are making great beer, then you are doing good. Just tweak the process until you get the efficiency up and then you are saving money too. A bonus.
 

elderbrewer

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I too became frustrated w/ all grain and almost gave up. The first thing I did was analyze why I brew in the first place, besides having good beer on hand and saving some money, I really enjoy the process, I like to make beer, its a hobby. All grain gives me the opportunity to play with the process.
I had dismal efficiency,but found help on the forums. First I crushed the grain till their was a lot of flour, kept strike water to temps according to recipe, added PH 5.2. I then insulated the mash tun with a sleeping bag. I batch sparge so I stir well between runoffs. I now get 70 -72 %. My last beer was a clone of Rogues Brutal Bitter and it was right on. I always keep some dry malt extrac on hand just in case. 1lb will raise the OG 1 point =. If you love brewing don't give up all grain the rewards are worth it. don's be as concerned about numbers (they are guidelines) as you are about the way your beer tastes.
 

Saccharomyces

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I was listening to The Jamil Show and it sounds like JZ is no great fan of high efficiencies. I think he mentioned he comes in around 65%, believing that aiming too high is begging for extracting assorted nasties (husk tannins, etc).
I believe he is quoting 70% brewhouse efficiency. Since he does 6 gallon batches and ends up with 5 gallons, losing a gallon in the process to trub, this would put his mash and lauter efficiency around 85%. 85% is close to the theoretical max efficiency for a double batch sparge running off 1 gallon for boiloff, again what his recipes instruct (7 gal pre-boil, 6 after boil). Over 90% mash/lauter efficiency you have to be careful of the pH of your last runnings, pH over 6 can extract tannins. At 85% or lower your last runnings are over 1.010 unless you have mash problems, in which case you probably have other symptoms like chill haze.
 
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