One more poor efficiency thread.......

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sparkyaber

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Ok, here is my setup:
10 gallon square water cooler mlt with a cpvc manifold with a boiler valve outlet.
6 gallon hlt with a boiler valve outlet.
5' of hose to a spinning sparge arm.
60 quart ss boil pot.
Turkey fryer burner.

I have struggled to get over 70 percent with the efficiency. Well 65%, 71%, 66% on my first 3 ag batches.
First one I sparged in like 10 minutes, way to fast. I also used to cold of sparge water, about 170. I also never stirred the mash except for at the very beginning when I mixed the water and the grain. This was a 90 min mash.

Second one I slowed down to about 35 minutes. I stirred the mash every 20 min. Temp was higher this time, about 175-180 in the hlt. I also stirred during the sparge. (yeah, I know now that is a no no.)

The last batch we slowed down even more, taking about an hour to sparge. I stirred the mash every 20 minutes. I also stirred the top of the grain bed twice during the sparge. the temp in the hlt was about 175. This time I checked the water above the grain bead and it was only in the 150's ( I suspect this is my biggest problem)
Could a guy lose over 20 degrees from the hlt down to the mlt? It was cold out, that is a lot of hose to run through, and also it barely trickled out of the sparge arm.

All three crushes were done at the lhbs, the first two were done at one shop, and the last one done at a different company. All three looked about the same.

No mashout on any batch. (maybe I should?)

Anything we are missing?
Does one need to know about the brew salts that I added?

Any suggestions on where to start?
I would at least like to get to 75% consistently.
 

SpanishCastleAle

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Do you think you're doing a pretty good job of mashing/sparging? Because now you've done 3 batches and tweeked it and improved it...but your crush was basically the same. I would make sure it's not the crush because it looks to me like you're dialing in your process but not getting the results. That leads me to believe the crush is the main limiting factor. But I'm just guessing.

IMO...a few degrees difference in sparge water temp might make a few points difference but I don't think it's really that big of a deal.
 
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sparkyaber

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So go finer on the crush eh? I thought about it, but didn't know if the lhbs would adjust the crush for me. Great, one more thing to buy!
 

HenryHill

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So go finer on the crush eh? I thought about it, but didn't know if the lhbs would adjust the crush for me. Great, one more thing to buy!

Nothing says you can't gauge it to see what the rollers are spaced at.

Eliminate variables...maybe it is to coarse, maybe not.
 

SpanishCastleAle

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For reference; the Barley Crusher factory setting is .039". Many people go even tighter than this but that seems like a good starting point.
 
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sparkyaber

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Just got off the phone with one of the lhbss and they said they used the shmidling malt mill which has a preset gap of .045".
 

HenryHill

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Just got off the phone with one of the lhbss and they said they used the shmidling malt mill which has a preset gap of .045".

BINGO!

Wear in the bearings and abuse to the rollers will make this even wider.
 
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sparkyaber

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One other thing that may be causing this low efficiency is that when I fly sparge I leave the mlt full when I am done collecting wort. Should I be draining it down when I get up to about 3-4 gallons (for a 5 gallon batch) in my kettle? I mean stop adding sparge water? I know you are supposed to leave 1-2 inches of water above the grain bed while sparging, but does that mean until the end?
 
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sparkyaber

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Just got off the phone with the other lbhs and they stated their crusher is set at .035". Problem solved?? or am I still in trouble?
 

SpanishCastleAle

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I don't think you can draw conclusions yet. Strange that two crushes that are approx. .010" different gaps 'appeared the same' as you said. The difference between a .045" crush and a .035" crush is apparent...but maybe not unless you had them side-by-side.

What's this about the sparge you're talking about? You should keep the water level above the grains until you run out of sparge water...then just let everything drain out. Your lauter tun should have nothing but spent grains in it when you're done...plus a small amount of wort left in the space below the valve. You need to calculate how much water you lose to grain absorption, lauter tun dead space, boil evaporation, etc. and then add that to your target final volume. That's how much TOTAL water you'll need...then you have to divide up that volume between your mash and sparge.
 
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sparkyaber

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oh, poo,(my SWMBO says I need to work on my cursing with the little one around) that is the problem then, I always left at least a few gallons in the mlt, never draining it. I was under the assumption that the sparge water pushed the sweet wort out the bottom. Not really mixing up. Also keeping the water 1-2 inches above the grain bed.

I are not smart.
 

SpanishCastleAle

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No big deal...it's all part of the process. One thing you can do is have some DME on hand and measure your gravity into the boil kettle. Then if your efficiency is low you can add some DME and hit your target OG. Just in case.

Ha...I bet you're looking forward to your next brewday!
 

ajf

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I don't want to disappoint you, but my schmiddling mill is set to .045" and I usually stop sparging when the gravity drops below about 1.010 or when I have collected enough (whichever happens first). At this point, there is still water above the grain bed, so I still have a lot of extra water in the MLT. I get 85% brewhouse efficiency like this.

-a.
 

RayInUT

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Try batch sparging. I always get over 80%. If you think your grind at the LBS isn't fine enough, run it through twice. That's what I do. They'd rather have me do that than screw around with the roller settings. If they bitch about it, ask them what you are hurting by grinding it twice.
 
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sparkyaber

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I don't want to disappoint you, but my schmiddling mill is set to .045" and I usually stop sparging when the gravity drops below about 1.010 or when I have collected enough (whichever happens first). At this point, there is still water above the grain bed, so I still have a lot of extra water in the MLT. I get 85% brewhouse efficiency like this.

-a.

Any ideas of why I would be getting low efficiencies?? Must be a temp thing?
 

ajf

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Any ideas of why I would be getting low efficiencies?? Must be a temp thing?
There's a few things that could explain it.
You are obviously fly sparging, and so do I, but I use a false bottom, and you use a manifold. Does your manifold just run around the edge of the cooler, or does it have cross bars to allow collection from the middle of the cooler?
How to Brew - By John Palmer - Building the Manifold give some great information on manifold design as applies to fly sparging. If your manifold just runs around the edge, you will probably get channeling, and you may want to either redesign your manifold, or try batch sparging. I very occasionally batch sparge on lighter brews, and lose about 5% efficiency, but I have many years of fly sparging experience, and have only done about 10 - 15 batch sparges. That probably explains most of the efficiency difference.
The next thing is the 5 foot feed to the sparge arm. That will act as a radiator (especially if brewing outdoors). I have a 2 foot feed, and heat the sparge water to 180F before dumping it in the HLT (5g cooler which is unheated).
The other difference, is that I do a mash out with near boiling water to bring the mash temp up to the mid 160's before I start the sparge. When I started doing this, I increased my efficiency from 75% to 85%.
I would suggest that you do in iodine test to check for full conversion during the mash, and measure the gravity of your initial runnings to identify potential mash problems, and do a channeliong check See https://www.homebrewtalk.com/f36/channeling-check-fly-sparging-53713/ to check for sparging problems

Hope this helps,

-a.
 
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sparkyaber

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ajf, thanks for the great info, I do have cross bars in the manifold, in fact, it is the exact same as Palmer's, with the only difference being that my drain line goes all the way to other side of the cooler as the valve. Also, my outside rails might be closer to the sides of the cooler.
I will either shorten the hose, or heat the sparge water more.
As for the mash out, how much, and how hot of water are we talking here?
What percentage of og are we talking about on the first runnings gravity?
I will have to get some stuff for the iodine test.
 
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sparkyaber

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one other question, is everyone taking the gravity reading warm/hot and using a formula to adjust to 60? or is everyone cooling the sample in the freezer and checking it then? or are the readings everyone gives at the higher temps?
 

ericm

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one other question, is everyone taking the gravity reading warm/hot and using a formula to adjust to 60? or is everyone cooling the sample in the freezer and checking it then? or are the readings everyone gives at the higher temps?
I ice-bath my samples down to as close to 60 as I have patience for (generally somewhere around 80, heh) and correcting for the temp with the info that came with my hydrometer
 

ajf

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For the mash out, I use approximately 1g of very nearly boiling water for most brews, however, I use a thick mash of 1 qt per lb. The best way to calculate the volume and temperature is to use brewing software like Beersmith or Promash, or an on line calculator See Infusion calculator for one example. It seems to match Promash pretty accurately.
To see what sort of gravity you should be getting at the start of the sparge see https://www.homebrewtalk.com/f36/first-wort-gravity-mash-efficiency-68555/
I have measured mine just for fun, but I never recorded it.
I use a refractometer to calculate the wort gravity while it is hot. If you use an hydrometer, you should cool it first. Temperature corrections are very unreliable at temps over 100F.

-a.
 
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sparkyaber

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Well, two more batches under my belt, got 70% on Sunday, but still had a bunch of sugar left in the wort, (getting 1.020 at the very end of the run off.) I tried to do a mash out to 168 degrees, but did not use hot enough water. Sparge was still about 1.5 hours.

On Wednesday I tried again, but this time I ran the grains through the crusher twice, and used boiling water to mash out (got it to 164 degrees) and also to sparge (still only was at 150 degrees after the long slow fall from the hlt to the sparge arm).
I hit 80 percent. Good enough for me, now I just need it consistently, and I will be elated.
Sooooo, the big question is: was it the double crush, or the mash out that did the trick?
 

devils4ever

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I rarely get above 65% and I've done about a dozen AG batches. I've tried tightening the gap, but it didn't help. I'm not sure what the issue is with me, but the "gap" wasn't it.
 

ajf

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If you got 70% efficiency with a single crush and your final runnings were still 1.020, then it would indicate that your mash was pretty good, but the sparge could have been better. A finer crush would help improve your mash efficiency (if it was low), but shouldn't have much effect on the sparge other than slowing it down (and possibly stopping it completely if it's overdone).
My guess is that the mash out accounted for most of the efficiency difference, although the double crush would have made a small difference.
If your Sunday brew sparge had ended at 1.010, it would indicate that your sparge was efficient but the mash was not. If that were the case, I think the finer crush would have made more difference.

-a.
 
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sparkyaber

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That makes sense ajf, I never really thought it through. I still have a ton to learn. Thanks again for all your help.
 
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