One Thing After Another (First Time AG Woes)

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kirblator

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I have been brewing for about a year. Previously, I have produced decent extract brews, but could never escape the "twang" from the extract. Seeking a cleaner beer with less limitations on specialty grains I purchased a mash tun and a bigger boiling kettle along with BeerSmith2 in May. I jumped right into AG cranking out 3 batches in a week, 1.5g batches. With all of these batches I missed my OG, but overshot my batch size. I think this problem was due to a less than vigorous boil from my stove top, and the failure to adjust the boil off settings on BeerSmith.

I didn't give up on any of these brews they are all bottled, but now I am realizing my worst fears, 2 of the 3 brews are terrible. The Centennial Blonde I attempted came in at 3.6% abv but with an FG of 1.000:confused:. Needless to say it has no mouthfeel and very little flavor. The other brew was a session ale with oats, it has no flavor or mouthfeel issues, though it did come in below expected abv. However, the beer refuses to carbonate. It pours with no head and there is only faint tingling on the tongue. This brew was fermented with WLP005, a first for me. The third brew as yet to have been tried due to the poor performance of its counterparts.

BeerSmith calculates my efficiency at 64%, and it is pretty consistent at the number for all of my brews. What in my process is causing for this poor performance and what should I do going forward to avoid these issues? I have looked at the sticky on this forum, but would like further input. Lastly, all these brews were mashed at 150 for 60 minutes in a mash tun with a braided hose if that has anything to do with my problems. Thanks
 
First thing that jumps out is the 64% efficiency...your crush on the grain could be the culprit...are you doing it yourself or having the HBS do it?

How are you carbing? Corn sugar and bottling or tabs?
 
It does sound like you are experiencing "learning your equipment" woes. My first 3 brews were all over the place due to the fact that I had not learned the water volume needs of my system. You have many to learn. 1st is grain absorption, 2nd is mash tun loss, third is kettle evaporation loss and 4th is kettle trub loss. Theres more to calculate for final packaged amount, but focus on these to hit your OG. I didnt use software or the like, I pretty much did it the hard way, I just kept brewin and taking good notes. It was centennial blonde where I started too, and it was the second time I did it (my 5th batch overall) that it all came together. So RDWHAHB, keep brewin and when it all comes together it will be so sweet.
What kind of sparging are you doing? Most of my efficiency issues I found were related my sparging.
 
Thanks for the rapid replies.

First thing that jumps out is the 64% efficiency...your crush on the grain could be the culprit...are you doing it yourself or having the HBS do it?

How are you carbing? Corn sugar and bottling or tabs?

Yes my LHBS crushes my grain for me. I can't gauge if it is properly crushed or not, but I have never had a stuck sparge, so I would think it isn't milled very finely. I am carbing with sucrose, as I have done in the past with no issues. The bottles will be at 3 weeks old this weekend and I expected them to be carbed and conditioned by this time.

What kind of sparging are you doing? Most of my efficiency issues I found were related my sparging.

I am doing a single batch sparge, and when I sparge I open the spigot wide open to drain the tun as quick as possible. To address your comment about water losses I do have a question about kettle trub. I appear to be losing a LOT of wort to trub. This past weekend on what was supposed to be a 5.5 gallon batch I lost 1 gallon to kettle trub, which seems high, even for an IPA.
 
Overshooting your water volume is obviously going to drop your efficiency..Suck up every bit of trub into the fermenter..It does no harm and will settle to the bottom of fermenter.your only beer loss from start to finish should be a pint or so in fermenter after you rack to bottle or keg
 
I agree with Mr. Rotten, dont worry about hop material or cold break material in your fermenter. I believe it actually helps the yeast. But it sounds to me like you got alot of material because you didnt vorlauf you second runnings. I have sparge water ready around 175 deg and vorlauf and drain first runnings. I check to be sure my sparge water has cooled below 170 and dump it in, stir, vorlauf and drain. Be sure your sparge water volume doesnt exceed your mash water volume. You dont have to calculate grain absorption for your sparge water, just mash tun loss.
 
Thanks for the rapid replies.

Yes my LHBS crushes my grain for me. I can't gauge if it is properly crushed or not, but I have never had a stuck sparge, so I would think it isn't milled very finely. I am carbing with sucrose, as I have done in the past with no issues. The bottles will be at 3 weeks old this weekend and I expected them to be carbed and conditioned by this time.

I am doing a single batch sparge, and when I sparge I open the spigot wide open to drain the tun as quick as possible. To address your comment about water losses I do have a question about kettle trub. I appear to be losing a LOT of wort to trub. This past weekend on what was supposed to be a 5.5 gallon batch I lost 1 gallon to kettle trub, which seems high, even for an IPA.
If your post boil volume was ~ 5.5 gal and your fermenter volume was ~ 4.5 gal, then your transfer efficiency would be 4.5 / 5.5 = 82%. Since brewhouse efficiency is equal to mash efficiency times transfer efficiency, with 64% brewhouse efficiency your mash efficiency would have been 0.64 / 0.82 = ~ 78%, which isn't bad. Losing a gallon in transfer was a big hit. If your post-boil and fermenter volumes were higher than I assumed above, then your transfer efficiency was higher, and your mash efficiency lower.

Overshooting your water volume is obviously going to drop your efficiency..Suck up every bit of trub into the fermenter..It does no harm and will settle to the bottom of fermenter.your only beer loss from start to finish should be a pint or so in fermenter after you rack to bottle or keg
Actually using excess water will raise the efficiency somewhat (I can show you the math if you doubt it), unless you end up discarding more wort because of the excess water. The extra water will reduce your SG's due to dilution.

Dumping everything from the kettle into your fermenter will make your transfer efficiency 100%.

I agree with Mr. Rotten, dont worry about hop material or cold break material in your fermenter. I believe it actually helps the yeast. But it sounds to me like you got alot of material because you didnt vorlauf you second runnings. I have sparge water ready around 175 deg and vorlauf and drain first runnings. I check to be sure my sparge water has cooled below 170 and dump it in, stir, vorlauf and drain. Be sure your sparge water volume doesnt exceed your mash water volume. You dont have to calculate grain absorption for your sparge water, just mash tun loss.

Brewers who follow the fly sparge derived advice to mash at 1.25 to 1.5 qt/lb, will usually have their sparge volume exceed the strike volume, which will reduce their lauter efficiency. Lauter efficiency is maximized when the sparge running(s) have the same volume as the initial run off. To achieve this the strike volume needs to be higher (by the total grain absorption volume + undrainable volume) than the sparge volume(s). Run off volumes don't have to exactly match to get near optimal lauter efficiency, they just need to be no worse than about a 60:40 split.

You don't need to include MLT losses (undrainable volume) in your sparge water, as just like grain absorption, that volume is still in the MLT after initial run off.

@kirblator :

To fully diagnose efficiency issues, the following measurements are needed:
  • Grain bill weight
  • Strike water volume (everything prior to initial run off)
  • SG of wort at end of mash, or first runnings SG
  • Sparge process (fly, batch, none)
  • Sparge water volume (for each batch sparge if more than one)
  • Pre-boil volume
  • Pre-boil SG
  • Weight & type of any sugar added to the boil
  • Post-boil volume
  • Post-boil SG (OG)
  • Volume into fermenter
Accurate measurements are critical, since the efficiency calculations cannot be better than the measurement accuracy. All volumes should be corrected for thermal expansion to 68˚F, or the volume measurement temperature reported, so that corrections can be made. Hydrometer measurements should be taken with the wort temp within 20˚F of the hydrometer's calibration temperature, and then corrected for the temperature at which the measurement was made.

Mash Efficiency = Conversion Efficiency * Lauter Efficiency
Brewhouse Efficiency = Mash Efficiency * Transfer Efficiency
Transfer Efficiency = Fermenter Volume / Post-boil Volume

With the measurements listed above, all of the factors in the above equations can be calculated. Conversion efficiency should be greater than 95%. Lauter efficiency is a function of sparge process and grain weight to pre-boil volume ratio, and maximum achievable can be predicted (but not as accurately for fly sparge.) Once you know which efficiency factor is lower than what should be achievable, then you know what part of your process needs to be addressed.

Brew on :mug:
 
I didn't give up on any of these brews they are all bottled, but now I am realizing my worst fears, 2 of the 3 brews are terrible. The Centennial Blonde I attempted came in at 3.6% abv but with an FG of 1.000:confused:. Needless to say it has no mouthfeel and very little flavor. The other brew was a session ale with oats, it has no flavor or mouthfeel issues, though it did come in below expected abv. However, the beer refuses to carbonate. It pours with no head and there is only faint tingling on the tongue. This brew was fermented with WLP005, a first for me. The third brew as yet to have been tried due to the poor performance of its counterparts.

Are you sure about that 1.000 measurement? You hydrometer is calibrated, etc? I'd be a little worried about infection if that's the real FG. At any rate, it looks ilke you were around 1.028 OG so I wouldn't be surprised it has little flavor or mouthfeel. If you either get your efficiency up or adjust the recipes to account for it that should help.

With the second brew how long has it been carbing and at what temp? How does it taste otherwise?
 
Assuming the Centennial Blond recipe is the common one.. the FG should have been 1.008 and should only be 4% ABV anyway. At 3.6%ABV and 1.000 FG your OG should have been 1.0275, 0.0115 off. I agree, check to verify 1.000 is correct and calibrated.

While you are dialing in your equipment you can make some adjustments "on the fly" by measuring your preboil volume and gravity and adjusting to:

Post boil volume corrected = (Preboil gravity * Preboil Volume) / Target post boil gravity

If you know your boil off rate you can calculate the boiling time and then delay your hop additions. A refractometer is great for dialing in equipment and recipies
 
Also how did you end up with too large of a volume? How are you sparging? The last wort that you added to the boil kettle had the lowest gravity, you should stop when your preboil volume is hit.

Generally a sparge should also stop when the gravity hits 1.010 as you will start extracting tannins. At 1.0275 OG you probably had the end of the sparge below 1.010 and could get some astringency from this.
 
I agree with Mr. Rotten, dont worry about hop material or cold break material in your fermenter. I believe it actually helps the yeast. But it sounds to me like you got alot of material because you didnt vorlauf you second runnings. I have sparge water ready around 175 deg and vorlauf and drain first runnings. I check to be sure my sparge water has cooled below 170 and dump it in, stir, vorlauf and drain. Be sure your sparge water volume doesnt exceed your mash water volume. You dont have to calculate grain absorption for your sparge water, just mash tun loss.

My sparge water volume is always larger than my mash water volume. Should I break my sparge into two smaller sparges instead of one large one to remedy this? Also what will fixing this problem do for me in terms of beer quality?

Accurate measurements are critical, since the efficiency calculations cannot be better than the measurement accuracy.

I believe this to be my largest issue. I have been over collecting from the mash tun and not boiling off as much water as beersmith assumes I am. However, I haven't marked my kettle yet. Based on the responses from this thread it seems I will have to etch accurate gallon markers into my kettles to succeed in AG. I have been measuring batch size from the markings on my fermentor up to this point.

Are you sure about that 1.000 measurement? You hydrometer is calibrated, etc? I'd be a little worried about infection if that's the real FG. At any rate, it looks ilke you were around 1.028 OG so I wouldn't be surprised it has little flavor or mouthfeel. If you either get your efficiency up or adjust the recipes to account for it that should help.

With the second brew how long has it been carbing and at what temp? How does it taste otherwise?

I have checked my hydrometer in the past it is accurate, though perhaps I should check it again. The beer reading 1.000 FG exhibits no off flavors nor did it have any signs of infection, just taste watery.

The second brew with carb issues has been carbing for 3 weeks now at 72 degrees. It actually turned out pretty good taste wise, which make the carb issue that much more disappointing. The only thing i could figure with it is maybe the priming sugar wasn't stirred adequately and that I will run into bottles that are over carbed. I will try some more this weekend to see if that is the case.

Oh, I also forgot to mention the brew with carb issues was made with water that was treated at over twice the recommended amount of salts. For the 5 gallons of water used for the batch I added 16.1g of gypsum :eek: as well as an atrocious amount of NaCl, epsom salt, and CaCl2 due to a calculation error. This may or may not be of help in diagnosing my problem.

Generally a sparge should also stop when the gravity hits 1.010 as you will start extracting tannins. At 1.0275 OG you probably had the end of the sparge below 1.010 and could get some astringency from this

Good to know I was unaware of this. During my batches I haven't been checking the SG of the runnings because I didn't want to get discouraged mid brew with my efficiency, but producing astringent beer is not on my to do list, so I will add that to the list of changes to make
 
My sparge water volume is always larger than my mash water volume. Should I break my sparge into two smaller sparges instead of one large one to remedy this? Also what will fixing this problem do for me in terms of beer quality?

Good to know I was unaware of this. During my batches I haven't been checking the SG of the runnings because I didn't want to get discouraged mid brew with my efficiency, but producing astringent beer is not on my to do list, so I will add that to the list of changes to make

You don't have to go to a double sparge process. Just increase your strike water volume. There is no issue with mashing with 2 to 3 qt/lb. In fact thinner mashes can convert faster than thicker mashes and improve your conversion efficiency.

You don't need to worry about over sparging with a no-sparge or single batch sparge process. It is possible to over sparge with a double batch sparge process on lower gravity beers. Over sparging is more of a concern for fly spargers.

Brew on :mug:
 
Normally the sparge shouldn't be below 1.010 anyway unless you are making something on the very light side! You probably wouldn't have gotten there without going over your target volume.
 
I like the idea of a single water addition to the mash tun, and since I mostly do 1.5-2g batches with a 10g mash tun there will be plenty of room for this. Now to figure out how to set that up on BeerSmith so I can attempt to hit my mash temps. Thanks for the advice.:mug:
 
I usually do 3 additions, 1.25 qt per pound sac rest a boiling addition to reach mash out, drain, sparge, drain. This way my sparge volume is never more than the mash/mash out volume.
 
Doug293cz is right about your hydrometer, I was always 2-4 points off because I never went to correct the temperature. The calculator is here: http://www.brewersfriend.com/hydrometer-temp/

As for splitting up the batch sparge, I generally found only a slight increase by doing 2 batches, like 1-3.

I also found that getting a small sous vide pump ($25-30 on amazon) and recirculating for half an hour jumped my efficiency from mid 60's to low 70's.

In the short term, why not use more base malt to shore up the bad extractions?

Good luck
 
You're learning, that's the important part. Going all grain is like dating a new woman, takes a while to figure out what makes her tick. It would be nice to be making better beer to be sure but, you'll get there.

Might search the member database to see if anyone on the forum is close enough to help you out.

All the Best,
D. White
 
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