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How can I increase efficiency?

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EMH5

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I am having problems with my efficiency and I just don’t understand why. I have ready about mashing and efficiency but I guess I’m just not understanding what I am doing wrong. Don’t get me wrong, my beer is tasting great but I’m adjusting my grain bill for an expected 63-68% efficiency. I would love to get up at 70-75% if at all possible. Any suggestions are welcome.

I use http://www.brew365.com/mash_sparge_water_calculator.php to calculate my water numbers. I use a 10 gallon Igloo mash tun and a 10 gallon kettle. I hit my mash temps usually 150-151 and they stay at that my mash temp consistently.

Basically here is my process for 15 # grain (crushed at LHBS 1 week before, 5.25 gal batch, 6.75 boil, 151 mash temp, I calculated that I would need ~ 9.75 gallons of water, 5 strike, 4.75 sparge. I adjust for my equipment and use 5.25 to strike and 4.5 sparge (I measure using my kettle markings so they are approximate measurements):

1. I boil 2 gallons of water to heat up the mash tun walls. Then empty.
2. I heat 5.25 gal of water to a strike temp of 162. Add to the mash tun. Add grain – hit 151.
3. I had a bunch of things to do so my mash time ended up being 2 hours on the nose (I usually do 1 hour).
4. I heated 4.5 gal of sparge water to 180 for fly sparging and I add a layer of tin foil with holes over the grain bed. I then slowly release 2 quarts of the first runnings and add back to the mash tun.
5. Then I fly sparge about a quart- 2quarts at a time, 180 water. The grain bed temp doesn’t really raise.

I hope I made my process clear. My above beer, at a 70% eff would’ve had an OG of 1.075 but I ended up at 1.066. Again, my beer tastes perfectly good but I would like to work on getting my efficiency up. So what can I do better?
 

mlafnitzegger

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To improve efficiency;
- Grain crush
- Water ph
- Mash in; take enough time to mix thoroughly making sure temp is in right range, I mash in for at least 10 minutes
- Mash out; Make sure to get temp up to 168, I mix very well
- Sparge; I batch sparge with 2 steps again mixing very well and keeping temp around 168
- Boil; make sure your volumes are correct.

My biggest improvement was with mixing very well and mash out temp.
 

microbusbrewery

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First off, are you sure you're calculating your mash efficiency correctly? Assuming you are, here are a few things to look at:
  1. How fast are you running off from your mash tun? Fly sparging should be done slow. I don't know that I've timed it recently, but I'd guess it takes me at least an hour to pull enough for a five gallon batch.
  2. What kind of false bottom are you using? BYO had an article a while back that illustrated the difference in flow through the mash bed with different types of false bottoms. It shouldn't have a huge impact, but it could be a contributor.
  3. Quality of crush from the mill. Before I got my own mill, I'd crush it at one of my local brew shops, or occasionally I'd order pre-crushed grain online and my efficiency varied by as much as 10%. It's now settled in between 83 and 85%.
  4. Any chance of dough balls? Kind of an obvious one here, but you're not going to be able to extract sugar from the center of a dry dough ball. I've switched out my stainless mash paddle for a huge stainless whisk as I've found it does a better job of mixing the mash.
  5. OG - Mash efficiency tends to drop with high gravity beers.
 

IslandLizard

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First of all, the crush is your largest factor!
Most LHBSs mill too coarsely. Milling twice or trice is never a replacement for milling once, right, but if you don't have your own mill, it will help. Any small kernel grain (wheat, rye, etc.) should ideally be milled with a narrower gap or much will drop through uncrushed.

Why dump the preheating water? That's a waste.
Just heat your strike water a few degrees above strike temp, pour into your mash tun, and let it sit for a minute or 2 to heat up the system. Measure the temp and add some cold water if needed to bring it to the desired strike temp. You'll get to know how many extra degrees you'll need to hit it right on.

Then mix in your grain and stir really well for at least 3 minutes, longer if needed. Although a good stir halfway through maybe beneficial, you will easily lose 4 degrees in your mash (while the lid is off), so I'd rather let it be. But stir well before lautering, then let it sit for a few minutes to settle out. I get better efficiency with a thinner mash, like 1.5qts/pound. Now you may be limited by the volume of the tun. Also, a thicker mash needs a much more thorough sparge to rinse out the high gravity wort soaked up in the grist. Hence, check into batch sparging.

Batch sparging is much easier than fly sparging. If you have any channeling, your fly sparge doesn't rinse the grains enough. Instead, batch sparge 2x, each using half the total amount of sparge water needed. So much easier and faster too.
 

chickypad

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As other stated, grain crush is the first thing that stands out since you are not crushing your own. Kai has a good article here about troubleshooting, and sorting out your conversion efficiency from lauter efficiency to help diagnose the problem.
 
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EMH5

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I use a stainless steel braid and a stainless false bottom as well.

I stir my mash pretty well to make sure I don't get any dough balls. I've been having trouble with efficiency for a while so I make sure I don't have any... it's just not helping. Then when I fly sparge, it takes a while, I'd say close to an hour to get close to 7 gallons. Well over 30 min.

Could it be fly sparge temp? Is 180 not hot enough? It doesn't seem to raise the grain bed temp.

Maybe it is the crush. I could double crush it at my LHBS. I don't have a pH meter to measue.
 

Morrey

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I mill my own grains and called my LHBS to put together a grain bill (recipe)of unmilled grains. When I picked up he apologized saying he forgot and milled my grains by mistake.

I looked at them at home and they were basically tons of uncracked husks. Whoa. SO I ran thru my mill and got the typical grind I'd expect to get good 80% numbers. Had I blindly accepted his grind, I'd be in the 60% range too, so it is critical to ensure the grind is adequate.
 

mongoose33

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As soon as I read that you have your grain crushed at the LHBS, that was the red flag for me.

As a general rule (based on what I have read), you tend to get a coarser crush at the LHBS. While some say it's so you're less likely to get a stuck sparge, it also helps the LHBS sell more grain.

I have a barley crusher and I run my own grain through it twice to ensure that I get every kernel crushed. It's also a bit tighter than what I'd get at my LHBS. Double-crushing at the LHBS may help a bit, but you need to be able to adjust the coarseness of the crush.

I'll bet you 50 cents (or one of our best homebrews!) that's it.
 

Morrey

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I'd consider my grain mill one of my most critical pieces of equipment. Don't know if you have considered one, but it certainly puts the control of the grind in your hands.
 
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EMH5

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I'd consider my grain mill one of my most critical pieces of equipment. Don't know if you have considered one, but it certainly puts the control of the grind in your hands.
What type of grain mill do you recommend?
 

Morrey

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What type of grain mill do you recommend?
There are a variety of great mills out there. They can generally be driven with a hand drill or hand cranked, although the hand drill is in my opinion the way to go. The supplied hand crank slides off and the drill chuck goes on the roller shaft.

There are two roller mills in which a gap between the two rollers is set for the desired crush. Tighter the gap, finer the crush. In most cases the 2 roller mills may be less expensive but function flawlessly.

3 roller mills employ a third roller situated under the top two opposing rollers. This 3rd roller acts almost like a finishing crush while the top two rollers act as a pre-crush. Some brewers run grains twice thru a 2 roller mill, while most only pass once with a 3 roller mill.

I have a Kegco 3 roller mill which I am very fond of. I paid $140 inc shipping and am so glad I bought this mill but would have been perfectly happy with the Cereal Killer had I not found this Kegco on sale. Grind is everything, and on my last brew, I was at 82.6%.
 

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I bought a cheap Corona style mill to try all grain to see if I liked it well enough to keep on with all grain but instead of the conventional mash tun and fly sparge I went with just a boil kettle and a paint strainer bag. First try with that mill set really tight I got 80% efficiency with no sparge. it's been a while since my efficiency was that low since I now sparge to gain that extra efficiency. http://www.discounttommy.com/p-189-...er-for-wheat-grains-or-use-as-a-nut-mill.aspx

I also can reduce the mash time since the finely milled grain converts very fast. Half an hour to mash, pull the bag of grains to sparge in another pot, and start heating the wort to boil. Sparging takes a few minutes, not an hour, and is done while the rest of the wort is heating. Dump the wort collected and continue heating to boil.
 

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I did four things to boost to my efficiency: 1) I got a mill and adjusted it to the width of a COSTCO card and barely backed off, 2) abandoned the spoon for a whisk to break up dough balls when I stir the mash, 3) use a filter bag that I lift to drain nearly all the wort from the tun. I batch sparge to get near equal runnings and drain by lifting again and 4) I started using 1.65 qts water per lb grain.
 

JLeuck64

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I will second, third and quadruple the previous comments about grain crush as a first step to eliminate efficiency issues. I've recently experienced a slight loss in efficiency over the past half a year or more and was wondering what was going on... then the last time I bought grains to brew a batch the grain mill was down at my supply store and we had to crush my recipe with a different mill. Low and behold my efficiency shot way up on that batch for some reason?! Only thing that changed was the one thing I had no control over ( ;
 

RM-MN

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I will second, third and quadruple the previous comments about grain crush as a first step to eliminate efficiency issues. I've recently experienced a slight loss in efficiency over the past half a year or more and was wondering what was going on... then the last time I bought grains to brew a batch the grain mill was down at my supply store and we had to crush my recipe with a different mill. Low and behold my efficiency shot way up on that batch for some reason?! Only thing that changed was the one thing I had no control over ( ;
Now that you know the cause you can have control over it. http://www.discounttommy.com/p-189-...er-for-wheat-grains-or-use-as-a-nut-mill.aspx

While I adjust the mill to the tightest I can get for BIAB, others have had pretty good success with a conventional mash tun by adjusting it a little looser. For that price it doesn't take long to pay for itself in the reduced grain bill needed with the better efficiency.:mug:
 

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One other thing to consider is the amount of dead space in your system. Every time you leave wort behind you are lowering your brewhouse efficiency.

My last brew I set 77% efficiency which is what I expected for a slightly larger grain bill. I hit my expected OG spot on but i also managed to get an extra 1.5L of wort out of my kettle. When I went back and updated the recipe to account for the extra volume the efficiency shot up from 77% to 83%. No change in technique, just retaining more of the wort.

Saying that, I also really recommend a grain mill.
 

tracyk

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I started out with one of the Corona mills and it made the biggest improvement in my efficiency. As I was starting to brew more often and making more higher gravity beers I eventually bought a Cereal Killer From Austin Homebrew and could not be happier. My efficiency ranges from upper 70's to mid 80's depending on the type of beer that I am brewing.

So from most homebrewers here the easiest way to improve efficiency is to crush the grain yourself.
 

davisc1513

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Not sure if anyone else has suggested this, but I used that sparge water calculator on my last brew and got 65% efficiency, but it told me to use 1.5 gallons more for my sparge then needed for my boil volume so after I sparged, I had 1.5 gallons left in my mash tun. It made me upset because I knew I could have had far better efficiency, but I still got exactly 65% which I was hoping for. Not sure if this is the problem your facing but it was mine.
 

IslandLizard

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Not sure if anyone else has suggested this, but I used that sparge water calculator on my last brew and got 65% efficiency, but it told me to use 1.5 gallons more for my sparge then needed for my boil volume so after I sparged, I had 1.5 gallons left in my mash tun. It made me upset because I knew I could have had far better efficiency, but I still got exactly 65% which I was hoping for. Not sure if this is the problem your facing but it was mine.
I'm always using that same Brew365 calculator on brew day, and I've never had a volume overshoot. All numbers are spot on.* One of your entries must be wrong.

* Now I do need to add 4-6 degrees to the actual strike water temp since that's the amount of heat I lose during the 3-5 minutes when the lid is off while stirring in the grains. I do preheat with the full volume of strike water too, so I correct a few degrees for that also. There is NO calculator that corrects for that initial temp loss during dough-in, AFAIK.
 

davisc1513

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Well dang, I need to figure that out. If I had time I would have boiled more.
 

Yooper

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I use a stainless steel braid and a stainless false bottom as well.

I stir my mash pretty well to make sure I don't get any dough balls. I've been having trouble with efficiency for a while so I make sure I don't have any... it's just not helping. Then when I fly sparge, it takes a while, I'd say close to an hour to get close to 7 gallons. Well over 30 min.

Could it be fly sparge temp? Is 180 not hot enough? It doesn't seem to raise the grain bed temp.

Maybe it is the crush. I could double crush it at my LHBS. I don't have a pH meter to measue.
You use a braid? And a false bottom? Can you describe this set up? Generally, without a really good set up for fly sparging, you can get channeling and that really impacts the efficiency. I've used a false bottom in a round cooler with great results, but I'm not sure how I'd have incorporated a braid in there as well so I want to make sure that is not what is creating some issues.
 

Dog House Brew

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I just ran off a 22 gallon batch of my Saison. It took me about an hour and 10 minutes @ 84%. My sparge water was at about 190. Mash temp was at 149. Crush and mash ph play a roll. I also sparge with RO water
 

Dog House Brew

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When I read MO temp it was 171 w Thermopen. The wort temp coming from my MT was @ 162 at beginning of sparge. Goes to show the difference and how hot the sparge water needs to be. For me my efficiency improved by 1) crush. 2) flysparging slower
Crush is where I would always look first.
 
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EMH5

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You use a braid? And a false bottom? Can you describe this set up? Generally, without a really good set up for fly sparging, you can get channeling and that really impacts the efficiency. I've used a false bottom in a round cooler with great results, but I'm not sure how I'd have incorporated a braid in there as well so I want to make sure that is not what is creating some issues.
Here's the set up

false bottom & braid.jpg
 

Bassman2003

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How is your thermometer? That is always an important area to know you are right. If it is off you could be mashing at a high temp than expected.
 
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EMH5

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Hmmmm. I like the false bottom, but I'm not sure if the braid/false bottom combo are a good idea to maximize efficiency with fly sparging. It looks ideally set up for batch sparging, though.
How does having a braid and a false bottom cause inefficiency? My thought was that the braid would filter any particles that went through the false bottom making a clearer wort. I didn't think it would prevent sugars from getting rinsed. But I've been brewing for about 2 years so I don't know
 

Dog House Brew

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If your crush is filtering correctly, doubt it does anything extra. Can't hurt anything I wouldn't think. I use a copper manifold, so what do I know.
 

Bassman2003

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How does having a braid and a false bottom cause inefficiency? My thought was that the braid would filter any particles that went through the false bottom making a clearer wort. I didn't think it would prevent sugars from getting rinsed. But I've been brewing for about 2 years so I don't know
The grain does all of the filtering. False bottoms, manifolds & SS braids just keep the grain in one place to let it do its thing. The particles that need to strained out for clear wort are very small.
 
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