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Looking for criticism on my third all grain brew

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robbeh

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Hi there,

I finally made the jump to all grain brewing. I’ve done one with my cousin who brews quite a bit and now 2 on my own.

I made the zombie dust clone: https://www.brewersfriend.com/homebrew/recipe/view/5916/zombie-dust-clone-all-grain

I felt like it was almost the perfect brew, but I just took a gravity reading after pitching the yeast at 21C and it came in at 1049...recipe is calling for 1061. Where might I have gone wrong?

I weighed out all milled grain to the lb. My strike water was around 167. Once I mixed in my grain I was right around 157. Mashed for 60 min, didn’t mash out. Had about 5Gal of sparge water at 170. It might of slightly cooled of while sparging. Collected 7gal as recipe said, boiled for 60 minutes, 30 minutes cooled to 21, just under 6 gal in my primary, shook the thing like heck for 2 minutes. Pitched my yeast and took a reading.

Could it be how I’m sparging? I am using a tinfoil sheet to help spread out the water. I keep about 1 inch of water above the grain bed. Sparge until I have enough for boil.

I am just looking for places to improve. I have enough ingredients for another batch which I will do next weekend, hoping to hone in my skills but I really felt I nailed this one until I took a reading.

Thanks for all your help!
Robb
 

day_trippr

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Your process seems pretty sound, perhaps the grain crush wasn't optimal for your system, or perhaps there was channeling through the grain bed.
If you can describe your mash/lautering tun design that might yield a clue on the latter point...

Cheers!
 
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robbeh

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My mash tun is a Coleman 48L rectangle cooler. I drilled a hole on the right side of the cooler (the short side). The only thing I want to change is the screen I bought is a short 6inch thinking I was going igloo water cooler. I will upgrade to a 12in next trip to the LHBS but I don’t think that would be an issue.

I didn’t stir at all during the mash. If that’s something I should be doin I could see how that might be it.

One last thing, I read on a sticky that I should be using .5 gal per pound of grain. That batch had 14.5lbs of grain meaning I should of used a lot more sparge water and boiled it down. Would that have made a difference? The recipe doesn’t really add up as it says to only boil 7gal. If I added more sparge water I would up around 9 gal at boil.

I’m thinking I might try mixing the mash every 20 min, I think that could help.
 

day_trippr

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My mash tun is a Coleman 48L rectangle cooler. I drilled a hole on the right side of the cooler (the short side). The only thing I want to change is the screen I bought is a short 6inch thinking I was going igloo water cooler. I will upgrade to a 12in next trip to the LHBS but I don’t think that would be an issue.
By "6inch screen" I'm guessing a mesh tube of some sort, and if so, that's way too small a lautering device for such a large volume mash tun - unless you were "batch sparging" which it doesn't sound like you were from the foil comment.

That'd be the place to start wrt improving mash efficiency, I believe, and unless you're confident about the grain crush I'd take a close look at that as well...

Cheers!
 
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robbeh

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By "6inch screen" I'm guessing a mesh tube of some sort, and if so, that's way too small a lautering device for such a large volume mash tun - unless you were "batch sparging" which it doesn't sound like you were from the foil comment.

That'd be the place to start wrt improving mash efficiency, I believe, and unless you're confident about the grain crush I'd take a close look at that as well...

Cheers!
I don’t know much about grain crush but I also have my LHBS crush my grains. In my case would it make more sense to crush them a little more fine?

I think that also may be the issue. It’s a bazooka screen. So would a 12” help a lot? I don’t think I would fit much bigger.
 

day_trippr

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- Give the grain crush a critical eyeballing. Are there excessive grains that appear uncrushed? You could post a pic here and folks can take a look. Retailers are likely to set their mills on the coarse side so as to not get a return customer whining about a stuck mash ;) Or, a mill setting can slip (had my mill slip once and the extract efficiency on that batch got toasted).

- Fly sparging in a 12 gallon cooler with a 6" bazooka has to be challenging, it's bound to localize the flow of wort in a fairly large grain bed. I advise doing a two step batch sparge in that case as it pretty much nulls out the effects of flow as you're simply diluting and draining.

The process would be to drain the first runnings, thoroughly stir in half of your sparge liquor and then drain it, stir in the other half and drain that. Done well you can hit extract efficiencies within a handful of gravity points of a well-executed fly sparge (which can be much more difficult and requires more sophisticated hardware to achieve)...

Cheers!
 
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robbeh

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- Give the grain crush a critical eyeballing. Are there excessive grains that appear uncrushed? You could post a pic here and folks can take a look. Retailers are likely to set their mills on the coarse side so as to not get a return customer whining about a stuck mash ;) Or, a mill setting can slip (had my mill slip once and the extract efficiency on that batch got toasted).

- Fly sparging in a 12 gallon cooler with a 6" bazooka has to be challenging, it's bound to localize the flow of wort in a fairly large grain bed. I advise doing a two step batch sparge in that case as it pretty much nulls out the effects of flow as you're simply diluting and draining.

The process would be to drain the first runnings, thoroughly stir in half of your sparge liquor and then drain it, stir in the other half and drain that. Done well you can hit extract efficiencies within a handful of gravity points of a well-executed fly sparge (which can be much more difficult and requires more sophisticated hardware to achieve)...

Cheers!
Now we are talking! Ok thanks a lot for all the great input in this thread.

My cousin’s batch I did with him nailed the gravity (of a high gravity beer) smack on. The difference? He used his own Mill (so crush could be a factor) and we used his mashtun which is a 10Gal igloo water cooler with a false bottom.

I am going to swap out the 6inch for a 12inch bazooka and try your recommended batch sparge.

Last question, do I follow the .5 gal per lbs grain ration for sparge water? Or do I only need to be roughly right, let’s say I made 7gal of sparge water, after the 1st two drains I got to 90% of my target volume in the kettle, do I still dump the other 50% of the sparge water but only take a small amount to hit my target (leaving a good chunk of liquid in my mashtun) or do I have to get more exact?

I wish I could tip you guys in beer! (Once I get good that is)
 

kh54s10

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My guess it is a combination between an average LHBS crush (they crush to the average so they don't get a stuck sparge) and the bazooka screen. You should either do a batch sparge or change out the bazooka screen to a manifold. When fly sparging with a bazooka screen the water will choose the path of least resistance. So it starts across the top and heads straight for the outlet. A longer screen will not help.

tun 1.jpg tun 2.jpg

These tube thingys will have slots or holes drilled on the underside. The water can enter along the entire thing so the water goes down through all the grain instead of heading to the outlet.
 

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It's almost impossible to decently continuously sparge a rectangular cooler. You would probably do much better with batch sparging, so you would stir in the sparge water all at once, and then drain it. With a rectangular cooler and a bazooka screen, you've got a system for batch sparging and not continuous (fly) sparging.
 

AkTom

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I’d go with making a manifold. I have about the same size rectangular cooler and it works great. That and have your cousin mill your grain for you.
Cheers
 

Blazinlow86

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could just be your setups not very efficient. not really a problem just something you account for the next time. cheers
 
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robbeh

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Thank you for all the reply’s, all sound advice. The community is strong here and I really appreciate the help.

I’ll eventually upgrade and build one of those manifolds to fly sparge. Today I brewed the exact same beer. I scaled all the grains ever so slightly, extra pound of 2 row, extra .1 pound of all the half pound specialties. I also batch sparged as suggested. That was the only other difference as I didn’t want to do too much. And bam, right on 1.061.

When I sparged I just drained the mashtun and only got maybe 1 or 2 Gal, I then added all my sparge water and ended up with the 7 gal target, literally to the drop. I noticed others usually got half thei pre boil on the first drain. Not sure what happened but it ended up working!

Thanks again and hopefully this helps someone else down the road.

Robb
 

Blazinlow86

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Thank you for all the reply’s, all sound advice. The community is strong here and I really appreciate the help.

I’ll eventually upgrade and build one of those manifolds to fly sparge. Today I brewed the exact same beer. I scaled all the grains ever so slightly, extra pound of 2 row, extra .1 pound of all the half pound specialties. I also batch sparged as suggested. That was the only other difference as I didn’t want to do too much. And bam, right on 1.061.

When I sparged I just drained the mashtun and only got maybe 1 or 2 Gal, I then added all my sparge water and ended up with the 7 gal target, literally to the drop. I noticed others usually got half thei pre boil on the first drain. Not sure what happened but it ended up working!

Thanks again and hopefully this helps someone else down the road.

Robb
There you go just remember that for next time and you should be good. Cheers
 

kh54s10

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When I sparged I just drained the mashtun and only got maybe 1 or 2 Gal, I then added all my sparge water and ended up with the 7 gal target, literally to the drop. I noticed others usually got half thei pre boil on the first drain. Not sure what happened but it ended up working!

Robb
This depends on your procedure. Some will do BIAB where they account for all the water during the mash - no sparge at all. You can mash with 1.25 to 1.5 quarts per pound then sparge. So every batch of different amounts of grain will be different, not only by the amount of grain but also how thick you make the mash.

To get an accurate preboil volume, I do a 2 step sparge. After draining the mash, I measure what I have collected. I then mash with about half of what is needed for preboil. I measure again and sparge with the amount needed to get to preboil volume. This leaves very little sparge water in the grain. If for nothing else, it makes the spent grain lighter to deal with.
 

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You collected 6 gallons into the fermentor... are you using a 6 gallon recipe?
For batch sparge, drain your MT fully, calculate how much is missing to hit your pre-boil volume. That is the amount of sparge you will need. You can split it and do two sparges, but I sacrifice a small amount of efficiency and add it all at once and sparge once, collecting my full pre-boil in one shot. Saves time. Then I calculate efficiency so I can dial in my recipe.
Of course grain crush will alter your efficiency too, so getting that consistent is really desirable. That's why it's good to have your own grain mill. If you are relaying on your LHBS for a repeatable crush, you will be disappointed/surprised at every brew.
 
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robbeh

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You collected 6 gallons into the fermentor... are you using a 6 gallon recipe?
For batch sparge, drain your MT fully, calculate how much is missing to hit your pre-boil volume. That is the amount of sparge you will need. You can split it and do two sparges, but I sacrifice a small amount of efficiency and add it all at once and sparge once, collecting my full pre-boil in one shot. Saves time. Then I calculate efficiency so I can dial in my recipe.
Of course grain crush will alter your efficiency too, so getting that consistent is really desirable. That's why it's good to have your own grain mill. If you are relaying on your LHBS for a repeatable crush, you will be disappointed/surprised at every brew.
The recipe called for 6Gal in the primary. (7Gal pre boil) I’m thinking partly because there are a ton of hops. I just bottled the low efficiency brew last night and I ended up with exactly 5Gal bottled.

Thanks for the advice. That makes a lot more sense. The recipe must somewhat account for all that since I followed their ratios. I’m happy to know there are a few ways to batch sparge.
 

acidrain

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Recipes are based on post-boil volume, not how much you get at the end of the bottling.
I'm going to guess that your recipe is based off of a 5 gallon batch, and you are adding water, thinning the mash by quite a bit.
If you have access to a recipe builder like Beersmith, it can change the batch size for you.
 
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robbeh

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Recipes are based on post-boil volume, not how much you get at the end of the bottling.
I'm going to guess that your recipe is based off of a 5 gallon batch, and you are adding water, thinning the mash by quite a bit.
If you have access to a recipe builder like Beersmith, it can change the batch size for you.
I’m not sure I fully understand? The recipe read 6Gal post boil. I just figured that was the case to try and get 5Gal bottled.

I’m adding water to the mash when batch sparging but not more than the recipe calls for. But I also don’t want to water down the recipe so I am curious to understand what I could further be doin wrong.
 
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Lots of good suggestions on how to work with your system. I do want to add a procedural suggestion:
Take a SG after your full wort collection, as you're starting your boil. Do the calculations and you'll find out if your afterboil OG will be low. Keep some DME on hand just in case.
 
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robbeh

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Lots of good suggestions on how to work with your system. I do want to add a procedural suggestion:
Take a SG after your full wort collection, as you're starting your boil. Do the calculations and you'll find out if your afterboil OG will be low. Keep some DME on hand just in case.
Is this what people mean when they say they calculate efficiency after mashing?
 
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I know you didn't ask how, but....
Say your preboil SG is 1.040 and volume is 7.0G, and you figure your final volume after boil will be 5.5G
40x7=280 gravity points. Divided by 5.5= 50.9, so your predicted OG will be 1.051.
Add up all the potential gravity points from your grist. Let's say that number is 373. 280 divided by 373= 75% mash efficiency.
Mash efficiency is really not that important, unless something happens and it changes- then you look at your process to see if something went wrong. Oh yeah, and for bragging rights ;) . However, I've found that figuring out my preboil gravity points is very helpful.
 
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kh54s10

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I don't care what my mash efficiency number is. But Beersmith tells me what my preboil gravity should be. If it is off I can make a correction by adding DME if low or diluting it high. Or let it ride if I don't care about the final ABV.
 
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robbeh

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I know you didn't ask how, but....
Say your preboil SG is 1.040 and volume is 7.0G, and you figure your final volume after boil will be 5.5G
40x7=280 gravity points. Divided by 5.5= 50.9, so your predicted OG will be 1.051.
Add up all the potential gravity points from your grist. Let's say that number is 373. 280 divided by 373= 75% mash efficiency.
Mash efficiency is really not that important, unless something happens and it changes- then you look at your process to see if something went wrong. Oh yeah, and for bragging rights ;) . However, I've found that figuring out my preboil gravity points is very helpful.
I didn’t but I’m glad you posted! Kind of cool to know this.

For me ABV is not super important...as long as I am not making 3% beers I’m good for now. I’m sure that will change as I brew more and more.
 

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I don't see that anyone else asked, but how did you take your gravity reading? Hydrometer or refractometer? If hydrometer, did you adjust for temperature?
 
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robbeh

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I don't see that anyone else asked, but how did you take your gravity reading? Hydrometer or refractometer? If hydrometer, did you adjust for temperature?
Hydrometer and no I did not. I’m intrigued, I was unaware you had to. How do I go about that? Is it based on the wort temp I assume?
 

seatazzz

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Ah ha! Yes it is! Hydrometers are calibrated to give accurate gravity readings at about 60 degrees. If your wort was hot, that will throw it off. Google "hydrometer temperature correction" and you should find a chart that will tell you what your actual gravity was at that temperature.
 
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