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Having trouble getting higher gravity

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LaserJared

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Hello,

My buddies and I are just getting into all-grain brewing and having trouble getting our expected OG. We are trying to keep our recipe for our first IPA very simple, just US 2-row malt and one style of hops. On our last batch, we mashed 15 lbs of 2-row for 1 hour in 4 gallons of water. We vorlaufed the mash , and then emptied it into our boil kettle (first runnings were around 1.08, but went down to 1.052. We then put another 2 gallons back over the grain bed and mixed and kept the temperature at 155 for 15 min, and collected it in the brew kettle.

We ended up with an OG of 1.045, which for 15 lbs of 2 row is around 48% efficiency I believe? Anyways, I wanted to see if anyone had ideas for how we could improve, maybe crush the grains a bit finer or mash for longer? What I find confusing is that of course the first runnings will be a higher gravity, but as you get more and more diluted wort- some instructions say to stop collecting around 1.01, won't that avergae everything out much lower than you want?

Thanks for your help!
 

Kent88

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Did you add any brewing salts to the water, or anything to acidify the mash? did you do a mash out (adding a precise amount of boiling water to bring the mash up to 168F)?

You want to stop collecting when the gravity of the wort gets to about 1.010 because any lower than that and you start extracting tannins and stuff that contributes to off-flavors in the beer. It can dilute your pre-boil volume a bit more than you expect at times, and when that happens you usually just boil it longer (up to about 90 minutes is what I've read; longer boils might result in kettle caramelization which is desired in some styles, frowned upon in others). You can just use some extra grain and stop collecting when you reach your target pre-boil volume (& gravity). Have you looked into parti-gyle?

Keep some malt extract on hand next time and until you get a good feel for what to expect from your system.
 

hanuswalrus

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The crush is one of the most important things to check when you have poor efficiency. Read this thread (or the first post, at least) : https://www.homebrewtalk.com/showthread.php?t=334813

What size batch are you doing? If I'm assuming a 5 gallon batch, I would say your water volumes are a little low. I mash at a ratio of 1.5 qt/lb and it helps me get a slightly better efficiency. I use this calculator to figure out how much water I need for the mash and the sparge : http://www.brew365.com/mash_sparge_water_calculator.php
 

hanuswalrus

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Forgot to add... Most people will tell you not to worry about efficiency, as long as your beer turns out tasty, efficiency isn't that important. I agree for the most part, but 50% efficiency seems too low. I get 65-70% and I'm satisfied with that.
 

GrogNerd

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4 gallons strike for a 15 lb grain bill? that's a little on the thick side, 1.067qts/lb. 2 gallons of your strike would be taken up just from grain absorption. add two gallons sparge and you're barely over 4 gallons going into the boil

what's batch size? 3 gallons?

also, what's your expected vs actual preboil volume/gravity & expected vs actual postboil volume/gravity?
 

RM-MN

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Crush finer, mash thinner and longer. Drain tun, add sparge and stir madly. Make sure you measure the first runnings and add sparge water to make the preboil quantity you want.
 
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LaserJared

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Did you add any brewing salts to the water, or anything to acidify the mash? did you do a mash out (adding a precise amount of boiling water to bring the mash up to 168F)?

You want to stop collecting when the gravity of the wort gets to about 1.010 because any lower than that and you start extracting tannins and stuff that contributes to off-flavors in the beer. It can dilute your pre-boil volume a bit more than you expect at times, and when that happens you usually just boil it longer (up to about 90 minutes is what I've read; longer boils might result in kettle caramelization which is desired in some styles, frowned upon in others). You can just use some extra grain and stop collecting when you reach your target pre-boil volume (& gravity). Have you looked into parti-gyle?

Keep some malt extract on hand next time and until you get a good feel for what to expect from your system.
Malt extract is a good idea, we picked some up this weekend just in case.

We did do a mash out, we had trouble with a stuck mash on our first try, and heard it was a good way to avoid it. I have read about measuring the PH and using salts to help compensate, but it seemed a little advanced for our first couple of times. We are kind of in the boonies in NW oregon using well water. We will definitely have to look into this tonight. Thanks!
 
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LaserJared

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The crush is one of the most important things to check when you have poor efficiency. Read this thread (or the first post, at least) : https://www.homebrewtalk.com/showthread.php?t=334813

What size batch are you doing? If I'm assuming a 5 gallon batch, I would say your water volumes are a little low. I mash at a ratio of 1.5 qt/lb and it helps me get a slightly better efficiency. I use this calculator to figure out how much water I need for the mash and the sparge : http://www.brew365.com/mash_sparge_water_calculator.php
We have been doing 5 gallon batches...thanks for the link to that thread and the calculator- really helpful!
 
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LaserJared

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Forgot to add... Most people will tell you not to worry about efficiency, as long as your beer turns out tasty, efficiency isn't that important. I agree for the most part, but 50% efficiency seems too low. I get 65-70% and I'm satisfied with that.
I totally agree with you, but 50% is just way too low!
 

TxBigHops

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I totally agree with you, but 50% is just way too low!
I had very erratic efficiency my first few all grain batches. But I've done about 7-8 now this year, and I'm starting to get the opposite problem. I'm having to reduce the grain bills for recipes on here because my efficiency is now higher. Last beer I made I hit 87%! So, just keep brewing and watching and improving your procedures, and within a few batches, you will have your brewhouse efficiency dialed in. In the meantime, some batches will be lower ABV than you want, and some will be higher. But they will all taste great because you made them yourself!
 

Kent88

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I'm having to reduce the grain bills for recipes on here because my efficiency is now higher. Last beer I made I hit 87%!
:off: 87%?! I've heard that when one goes over 75% he risks extracting tannin flavor and other things that contribute to off flavors. Have you had a chance to taste that beer? If so how was it?
 

Bellybuster

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"We vorlaufed the mash , and then emptied it into our boil kettle (first runnings were around 1.08, but went down to 1.052. "

I don't understand this. How did the first runnings just magically lose almost 30 gravity points?
This needs reposting as it makes no sense at all. First running a are first runnings all the way. There is no change in Gravity. Sumpin wrong here
 

RM-MN

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:off: 87%?! I've heard that when one goes over 75% he risks extracting tannin flavor and other things that contribute to off flavors. Have you had a chance to taste that beer? If so how was it?
In the course of you life you will hear many things that are not true. Tannin extraction is driven by the pH of the mash. If you keep the pH where it should be and don't exceed 6.0 pH you won't extract tannins.

You may have also heard that masturbation will make you go blind. It won't.:eek:
 

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