I built a HERMS and it’s not efficient

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BlackDog-Brewery

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There are hours of postings on BrewTalk about how to build a HERMS / RIMS, but very little about how to tweak it when efficiency is not correct.

I am not hitting the OG numbers that I expected by switching to a HERMS on the last 3 batches, which was the whole idea of the making the investment.

Here is my procedure. Please let me know what I am doing wrong . . . .

- First I fill the MLT with all of the pre-heated strike water amount according to the mash-to-grain ratio calculator recommendations.

- Then before I add in the grains, I recirc through the HERMS until the recommended mash in temp is achieved in the MLT. This allows all of the equipment to heat up to the strike water temperature before adding the grist.

- Then I shut off the pump, and dough in.

- If the grain bed is not covered by enough strike water, then I manually add more heated strike water from the HLT.

- Once I am all doughed in and the mash is covered by 1” of strike water, I vorloft 2 quarts.

- Then I turn the pump back on to begin recircing through the HERMS for 60 minutes.

- During the recirculating mash in, I am also poking my manual thermometer throughout the grain bed to ensure that I am close to the desired mash in temperature of let’s say 151’ as a double check.

- After 60 minutes of HERMS recirculation, I shut off the pump.

- Then I drain the wort from the MLT to the BK until the MLT grain bed is dry.

- After there is no more wort to drain, I close the drain valve on the MTL, and then start to fill the MLT with 180’ of sparge water until the water level covers the grain bed. I’ve found that I need 180’ sparge water not 170’ because the grain and the equipment cools off real fast while I am draining the wort to the BK.

- I then slowly open the drain valve on the MLT to the BK until I achieve the desired 6.5 gallons of pre-boil volume.

Any suggestions about what I am doing wrong?
 

acidrain

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Herms does not add efficiency... if anything it takes away since there is always the chance you are leaving some wort in the coils.
Efficiency is about extracting sugar from grains. The one biggest variable for that is grain crush.
I noticed you said you added enough water to cover the grains and just drain what you need. You are leaving sugar water behind.
Instead of adding enough water to cover everything, actually calculate how much sparge water is needed, split that in 1/2 for two sparges and completely drain each one.
In other words, if your pre-boil volume is 6.5 gallons, and you get 3 gallons of wort from the mash, you know you need 3.5 more gallons for your volume. Split that in 1/2, and double sparge with 1.75 gallons each completely draining each sparge.
 

Beernik

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I don't have a HERMS, but it is on my build list.

I can't pick anything out of your process. I'm not sure why you need to vorlof at the beginning of the mash.

I'm wondering if you have short circuiting through the mash to the drain and recirc. pump.
 

brew2enjoy

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Have you ever tried adding your sparge water as you drain your first runnings? That's how I do it, and I was under the impression that's how you fly sparge. If you are completely draining your first runnings before adding any water why not just batch sparge? I could be wrong but that might be what's hurting your efficiency.

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milldoggy

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1: I heat my strike and sparge all the same. I fill my strike in my mlt, sparge in hlt and turn on controller
2: dough in one I reach temp( actuallyb6 degrees above mash temp)
3: I do not vorlauf, just turn on the pumps
4: when sparging, fly sparge, run sparge water through herms coils to clean them and get out wort
5. Rarely I mash out
6: fly sparge till you get boil volume, just keeps the flow rates steady, should be about an hour
 

Bobby_M

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There are hours of postings on BrewTalk about how to build a HERMS / RIMS, but very little about how to tweak it when efficiency is not correct.

I am not hitting the OG numbers that I expected by switching to a HERMS on the last 3 batches, which was the whole idea of the making the investment.

Here is my procedure. Please let me know what I am doing wrong . . . .

- First I fill the MLT with all of the pre-heated strike water amount according to the mash-to-grain ratio calculator recommendations.

- Then before I add in the grains, I recirc through the HERMS until the recommended mash in temp is achieved in the MLT. This allows all of the equipment to heat up to the strike water temperature before adding the grist.

- Then I shut off the pump, and dough in.

- If the grain bed is not covered by enough strike water, then I manually add more heated strike water from the HLT.

- Once I am all doughed in and the mash is covered by 1” of strike water, I vorloft 2 quarts.

- Then I turn the pump back on to begin recircing through the HERMS for 60 minutes.

- During the recirculating mash in, I am also poking my manual thermometer throughout the grain bed to ensure that I am close to the desired mash in temperature of let’s say 151’ as a double check.

- After 60 minutes of HERMS recirculation, I shut off the pump.

- Then I drain the wort from the MLT to the BK until the MLT grain bed is dry.

- After there is no more wort to drain, I close the drain valve on the MTL, and then start to fill the MLT with 180’ of sparge water until the water level covers the grain bed. I’ve found that I need 180’ sparge water not 170’ because the grain and the equipment cools off real fast while I am draining the wort to the BK.

- I then slowly open the drain valve on the MLT to the BK until I achieve the desired 6.5 gallons of pre-boil volume.

Any suggestions about what I am doing wrong?


Do you have a false bottom in your mash tun? If not, what is it?

First, when you say you try to achieve 1" of water over the grain bed, how much more water did that take over your initial strike water (and by the way what was the water/grain ratio initially?).

You are performing an inefficient batch sparge process. For one thing, I suspect you are mashing too thin to begin with. Second, when you added the sparge water, did you stir the heck out if it? If not, big problem. Second, and a really big issue is that you way over filled the sparge. In a batch sparge, you only add enough sparge water to reach your needed preboil volume. If your first wort runoff was 4 gallons and you want to start with 6.5 gallons, you only add 2.5 gallons of sparge and stir the crap out of it.

Now, with that said, it's way more customary to fly sparge with a HERMS system. When you're done with your mash rest, you start flowing sparge water into the mash tun THROUGH your HERMS coil to clean it out. At the same time, start running off the wort from your mash tun. Stop both flows when you reach your preboil volume.

Note... your process wouldn't have been efficient with or without HERMS or RIMS or single infusion walk away brewing. It's the sparge process that has you mixed up.
 
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There are hours of postings on BrewTalk about how to build a HERMS / RIMS, but very little about how to tweak it when efficiency is not correct.

I am not hitting the OG numbers that I expected by switching to a HERMS on the last 3 batches, which was the whole idea of the making the investment.

Here is my procedure. Please let me know what I am doing wrong . . . .

- First I fill the MLT with all of the pre-heated strike water amount according to the mash-to-grain ratio calculator recommendations.

- Then before I add in the grains, I recirc through the HERMS until the recommended mash in temp is achieved in the MLT. This allows all of the equipment to heat up to the strike water temperature before adding the grist.

- Then I shut off the pump, and dough in.

- If the grain bed is not covered by enough strike water, then I manually add more heated strike water from the HLT.

- Once I am all doughed in and the mash is covered by 1” of strike water, I vorloft 2 quarts.

- Then I turn the pump back on to begin recircing through the HERMS for 60 minutes.

- During the recirculating mash in, I am also poking my manual thermometer throughout the grain bed to ensure that I am close to the desired mash in temperature of let’s say 151’ as a double check.

- After 60 minutes of HERMS recirculation, I shut off the pump.

- Then I drain the wort from the MLT to the BK until the MLT grain bed is dry.

- After there is no more wort to drain, I close the drain valve on the MTL, and then start to fill the MLT with 180’ of sparge water until the water level covers the grain bed. I’ve found that I need 180’ sparge water not 170’ because the grain and the equipment cools off real fast while I am draining the wort to the BK.

- I then slowly open the drain valve on the MLT to the BK until I achieve the desired 6.5 gallons of pre-boil volume.

Any suggestions about what I am doing wrong?

I am not so sure your doing anything wrong... Maybe just not understanding the entire process of HERMS and Sparge and how they are different parts of the process

It sounds like you may have a sparge efficiency problem not a HERMS efficiency problem. I would check a few things right off hand. What was the target OG and what was the result OG of the brew day? How far off are you?
1 how are you getting your Efficiency calcs?
2 how are you setting your target? What method are you using?
If everything is cool with recipe formulation then.....
3 grain crush.
4 use of False Bottom? are you using one?
5 some will say batch sparging like your doing is OK as I will too. Single batch sparge works albeit slightly less efficient than fly sparging but you can work around that if that's what makes your brew session work, just work with the numbers you have and go from there.

Let us know what you come up with...

Cheers
Jay
 

Bobby_M

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There's nothing wrong with batch sparging, even on a HERMS system, but you can't just add a huge volume of unmeasured sparge water and expect it to be efficient. You don't want to ever leave wort in the mash tun with a batch sparge. It sounds to me like Blackdog-Brewery read up a lot on all grain from a mixed group of batch and fly spargers and put some of the mutually exclusive techniques together.
 
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BlackDog-Brewery

BlackDog-Brewery

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Thank you all for the replies.

I think Bobby_M nailed it . . . . I must have read up and watched too many videos on batch sparging and fly sparging with HERMS or RIMS and somehow combined some of the mutually exclusive techniques together.

Answers to your questions:

- After doughing in, the reason I was doing a quick vorloft was to keep any rogue grains that slipped under the false bottom from getting into the chugger impeller. But apparently that is not required.

- How are you getting your Efficiency calcs? The calculator at Brewer’s Friend

- How are you setting your target? What method are you using? The way I set my target is right off the recipe sheet. If the pre-crushed grain kit called for an OG of 1.053 I got a 1.025. The 2nd kit called for an OG of 1.077 I got a 1.052. All measured using a calibrated refractometer.

- Which false bottom? The one that came with my Bayou Classic kettle sits way too high. On my 1st batch I realized that using a grain ratio of 1.25 that when I started to pump strike water up into the MLT that the grains where no where near being covered to dough in. I have to add 2 additional gallons to dough in. But since I am now using a HERMS I didn’t think this was going to be an issue because the extra water is still circulating for 60 minutes through the entire grain bed. Plus during the last 2 batches I left the cover off the MLT to steam off some of that extra water.

- There was a question which asked “have you ever tried adding your sparge water as you drain your first runnings?”. No I haven’t tried draining to the BK at the same rate the sparge water is added. My first 3 batches on the HERMS all had the wort drained to the BK before sparging.

So the bottom line is I have my sparge all screwed up and formed some sort of hybrid between a batch sparge and a fly sparge using this new HERMS system. The suggestions that I got which should improve my efficiency after mashing out include:

- After draining the wort to the BK, instead of adding enough water to re-cover the grains, actually calculate how much sparge water is needed, split that in 1/2 for two sparges and completely drain each one.

- Try fly sparging rather than a batch sparge.

- To stir or not to stir on a HERMS / RIMS ? This has been an argument on many of the postings throughout the forums. Stirring at some point would also stop the “short circuiting” through the grain bed that Beernik is suspecting.

- I may toss out the false bottom that came with the Bayou Classis because of the 2 extra gallons of water I need to add just to dough in.

So now I have 3 questions using the great advice that I just got:

1) At what point should I stir the grain bed, and should the pump be on or off during the stirring?

2) When running a HERMS or RIMS, at the completion of the 60 minute mash rest, should I shut the pump off and wait until the HLT reaches 170’, or should I keep recirculating the wort until I finally reach 170’ and then start the sparging process?

3) I have my MLT setup like the BrewMagic where there is a silicone hose that lays around the edge of the grain bed slowly recirculating the wort. I’ve seen videos of BrewMagic owners using that same hose for sparging. Should I lose the hose for sparging and invest in a whirly gig style, drilled PVC manifold style, or even one of those fancy stainless steel Brew Dog styles? Or does the hose do the same job as all of the trickle types?
 

acidrain

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1) I usually turn off the pump and stir 3 or 4 times during the mash, and at beginning of each one of the sparge steps.

2) There is no need to mash out using batch sparging, so don't worry about raising the temp. At the end of mash, vorlauf and drain immediately.

3) Gently introducing the return onto the top of the grainbed is all you have to do. Your method sounds fine.

For what it's worth, I would concentrate of refining one method of mashing. In this case, batch sparging. Once you get this figured out, and your efficiencies come up, you can try other stuff.
 

Bobby_M

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I don't mean to be a voice of dissent, but I think fly sparging is a natural and logical choice for a HERMS system. If your pot doesn't have any kind of diptube under the false bottom, make one. Fly sparging in this case is going to be more efficient than batch (almost guaranteed).

When you are done with your recirculation/mash rest, start delivering your sparge water on top of the grain (Take the hose off your MLT drain and hook it to your hot liquor tank and now you're pumping through your HERMS) and drain off the wort. Do nothing else until you hit your preboil volume.. Easy
 

Yooper

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I don't mean to be a voice of dissent, but I think fly sparging is a natural and logical choice for a HERMS system. If your pot doesn't have any kind of diptube under the false bottom, make one. Fly sparging in this case is going to be more efficient than batch (almost guaranteed).

When you are done with your recirculation/mash rest, start delivering your sparge water on top of the grain (Take the hose off your MLT drain and hook it to your hot liquor tank and now you're pumping through your HERMS) and drain off the wort. Do nothing else until you hit your preboil volume.. Easy

I agree- but I think batch sparging is fine as well. I have a HERMS and I go back and forth with batch sparging and continous sparging, with no loss of efficiency. It really doesn't matter.

One thing that struck me is that the OP is batch sparging, without stirring, if I read that right.

Batch sparging is fine- but if you're going to do that, stir the water in (measured for the correct volume!!!!) and stir it like it owes you money. Vorlauf, and drain. That's it.

Volume is crucial. If you need 4 gallons of sparge water to reach your boil volume, use exactly 4 quarts of sparge water and add it to the MLT. No more, no less. And again- stir it well. That's the whole point of batch sparging- to stir the sugars into the liquid you just added. Then, a quick vorlauf of a quart or two, and drain.

There is no need to do this in two additions, and if the additions are small they wouldn't even cover the grainbed anyway. One addition is fine!
 
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BlackDog-Brewery

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Thank you Acidrain for “another” confirmation about stirring. I got too hung up on the BrewMagic videos (that I have partially based by system on as far as the silicone hose that lays across the grain bed) about not to stir. There was even a trade show quote or video where the BrewMagic designer insisted NOT TO STIR. Well due to this overwhelming response about stirring, I’m going to stir!

And I am also going to take into consideration your suggestion of initially trying to stick to just one method of sparging. Although I have only done 3 batches on the new HERMS setup and the OG and ABV did not hit their targets, I realize now that I screwed up the sparge by combining the best of both different sparge methods as Bobby pointed out. What I plan to do next is to follow the advice I just received to brew another batch of American Pale Ale 2 from NB and see how the SAME pre-crushed ingredients, rest times, addition times, etc, turn out by simply following my new advice from everyone.

Bobby, thanks again for your tips. 1 question . . . If the 2nd batch of the brew above achieves better results using the same batch sparge method and I make the move to fly sparging on the new system, are you saying that I should shut off the pump and drain to the BK, then wait until the HLT reaches sparge temp before hitting the mash with sparge water via the HERMS? The reason I ask is because there are videos that show people saying “OK I’ve finished the mash rest, now I’m going to start raising the recirculation temp up to 170 degrees to get ready for sparging”. Once they hit 170’ , then they stop recirculation, drain all of the first runnings to the BK, and then sparge with the HERMS.

It gives viewers the impression that after the mast rest that slowly heating the mash from 150 to 170 with a HERMS or RIMS has some advantage before draining the wort to the BK prior to sparging.

Very confusing! Stock pots and a cooler were so much simpler.
 

Bobby_M

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..There was even a trade show quote or video where the BrewMagic designer insisted NOT TO STIR. Well due to this overwhelming response about stirring, I’m going to stir!

Yup, they designed brewmagic as a fly sparge rig and you don't stir in that case.


Bobby, thanks again for your tips. 1 question . . . If the 2nd batch of the brew above achieves better results using the same batch sparge method and I make the move to fly sparging on the new system, are you saying that I should shut off the pump and drain to the BK, then wait until the HLT reaches sparge temp before hitting the mash with sparge water via the HERMS? The reason I ask is because there are videos that show people saying “OK I’ve finished the mash rest, now I’m going to start raising the recirculation temp up to 170 degrees to get ready for sparging”. Once they hit 170’ , then they stop recirculation, drain all of the first runnings to the BK, and then sparge with the HERMS.

It gives viewers the impression that after the mast rest that slowly heating the mash from 150 to 170 with a HERMS or RIMS has some advantage before draining the wort to the BK prior to spage.

Very confusing! Stock pots and a cooler were so much simpler.

The process of raising the mash temp to 170F is "mashing out" which locks in your sugar profile in light of the fact that a fly sparge will take 30-40 minutes.
Realistically, you can start ramping the HLT to 170F starting at about the 45 minute mark in your mash. After about 15 minutes, call it ready to sparge whether the mash it up to 170F or not. You'll typically start moving sparge water into the mash tun (slowly) and immediately start running the mash off to your boil kettle. These are simultaneous flows, at the same rate. The liquid level in the mash should not rise or fall.

If any process is described as draining the mash tun dry and THEN adding sparge water, it's a batch sparge process. In fly or continuous sparging, the mash tun is never full of damp/dry grain. It is always full of liquid mash until you dump it to clean up for the day.
 

mrwizard0

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I know you already hit on it, but if you are going to continue to batch sparge I would definately get a new false bottom. 2 gallons of dead space would really make it difficult to keep all your grain wet and keep your target sparge water amount.
 

OneImpBrewery

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Your process looks good. Only things I would change is to mash out at 168 before you start to sparge. Then pump or gravity fly sparge until you get your preboil volume keeping about an inch or so of water on top of your MT. This brought my eff from 67 to 82% and there were techniques I needed to improve on.
Good luck and have fun
- Imp

I'm assuming you are running your sparge water through your Hermes coil right?

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acidrain

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Your process looks good. Only things I would change is to mash out at 168 before you start to sparge. Then pump or gravity fly sparge until you get your preboil volume keeping about an inch or so of water on top of your MT. This brought my eff from 67 to 82% and there were techniques I needed to improve on.
Good luck and have fun
- Imp

I'm assuming you are running your sparge water through your Hermes coil right?

Sent from my D2-721 using Home Brew mobile app

BlackDog-Brewery, I can certainly see how confusion this is for you when you're getting both Batch sparge, and fly sparge suggestions.
All I can suggest is pick one and go with it.
It sounds like you've settled in on batch sparging. If so, please disregard comments like OneImpBrewery.
If or when you go with fly sparging, Bobby_M has an excellent method, and you can trust his methods too.
 

OneImpBrewery

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Yeah Bobby's method sounds good too. Replied to this before my app updated and showed the other posts.

Send while squinting at a tiny ass screen.
 
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BlackDog-Brewery

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Thanks Bobby for making the clear distinction with a HERMS or RIMS that it is OK to begin changing the setpoint on the PID controller to 170’ while still recirculating (or even 15 minutes before the end of the mash rest).

Thanks MrWizard for the suggestion to toss the false bottom that came with the Bayou Classic. Having to add 2 gallons of strike water beyond the 1.25 grain ratio just to wet the grains to dough in is not acceptable. Before I tried the 3rd batch on the new system I wafer wheeled off a portion of the stainless legs to bring down the perforated screen to the same level as the bulkhead fitting for the drain, but the kettle also has a rim that assists with holding up the weight of the grains, and I couldn’t force the false bottom beyond the rim regardless of how tall the legs are.

And also thanks to Acidrain again and Oneimpbrewery. I might just do 1 more batch sparge (this time using the correct methodology that I got confused about by adding the HERMS pump) just to see if one of the same recipes improves the efficiency. But then I’m probably going back to fly sparging. I usually have the extra time when I’m not working, and the whole brew day is almost like a Zen thing, like mowing the lawn on a tractor with ear buds plugged in.

I've got another pre-crushed order coming from NB, and will hopefully be able to close out this thread with some good news.

Jimmy
 

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I think others have probably given you more detail than needed, but I just wanted to reinforce what others have stated. IT seems you are doing some sort of Hybrid between batch and fly sparging and the two really don't interchange. If you are batch sparging, you really need to stir before vorlauf and draining the sparge and make sure your water volumes are correct.
 

Vintage63

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Yup, they designed brewmagic as a fly sparge rig and you don't stir in that case.




The process of raising the mash temp to 170F is "mashing out" which locks in your sugar profile in light of the fact that a fly sparge will take 30-40 minutes.
Realistically, you can start ramping the HLT to 170F starting at about the 45 minute mark in your mash. After about 15 minutes, call it ready to sparge whether the mash it up to 170F or not. You'll typically start moving sparge water into the mash tun (slowly) and immediately start running the mash off to your boil kettle. These are simultaneous flows, at the same rate. The liquid level in the mash should not rise or fall.

If any process is described as draining the mash tun dry and THEN adding sparge water, it's a batch sparge process. In fly or continuous sparging, the mash tun is never full of damp/dry grain. It is always full of liquid mash until you dump it to clean up for the day.

Bobby-
Rad cam locks! Thank you. I use a HERMS systems with 2 gallons under the false bottom. I fly sparge continuous adding 170F water to the top of the mash as I drain into the boil kettle. I use a float switch to keep about 1" of water on top of the grain. I run this until I reach pre-boil volume and then "kill it." Question, if I am not running the mash tun completely dry, do I need to be accounting for any mash tun losses in the BeerSmith brewing software? Your thoughts? Thank you.
 

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Bobby-
Rad cam locks! Thank you. I use a HERMS systems with 2 gallons under the false bottom. I fly sparge continuous adding 170F water to the top of the mash as I drain into the boil kettle. I use a float switch to keep about 1" of water on top of the grain. I run this until I reach pre-boil volume and then "kill it." Question, if I am not running the mash tun completely dry, do I need to be accounting for any mash tun losses in the BeerSmith brewing software? Your thoughts? Thank you.
no the FB losses are for unrecoverable liquids that are trapped at the end.. since you are fly sparging (hopefully very slowly) you are in fact rotating the liquid under the FB aand replacing it with weaker and weaker sparge wort as the sparge goes on.

if you batch sparged and couldnt drain everything from under the FB then it would be a different story.

BTW I use a bayou classic kettle and false bottom with my rims and average 91% efficiency all day long.. I do fly sparge and I do it very slowly (under 1gpm). batch sparging may be a different story.
 

Vintage63

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no the FB losses are for unrecoverable liquids that are trapped at the end.. since you are fly sparging (hopefully very slowly) you are in fact rotating the liquid under the FB aand replacing it with weaker and weaker sparge wort as the sparge goes on.

if you batch sparged and couldnt drain everything from under the FB then it would be a different story.

BTW I use a bayou classic kettle and false bottom with my rims and average 91% efficiency all day long.. I do fly sparge and I do it very slowly (under 1gpm). batch sparging may be a different story.

Thanks augie. That makes sense about how you are just rotating the liquid under the FB and replacing it. I entered 0.00 gal. in the mash losses field and 2 gallons for the mash tun addition field (under the FB and does not contact the grain) on BeerSmith2 and the water to grist ratio is true to my set-up. Damn, it took me a while to figure this out. Thank you!
 
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