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perfecting my technique and increasing efficiency

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z987k

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Ok so I've been all grain brewing for a while now but I've been reading some posts on temperatures and mash/sparge volume amounts and figured I should adjust the way I do things to see if I can get my efficiency up. I usually get in the 70-75% ranges which works, but why not go for 80's?

My equipment consists of a corona mill (i know), a 48qt square cooler with SS braid. A 65k turkey fryer a 5 gallon pot and a 7.5 gallon pot.

Technique is heat the mash water (1.25qt/lb)to ~165 while crushing grain. Add water to grain, stir it up real good and let it sit for an hour. This usually gets me in the 155ish range, but can vary a few degrees every time. While its sitting there I start heating the sparge water to ~175 (1.33qt/lb). Now I start sparging the mash water followed by sparging with half of my 175* sparge water and then the other half. Boil for 60mins and the rest doesn't really matter for efficiency.

Things I want to learn and/or change are mash and sparge water volume. Thicker and thinner mashes lead to drier and maltier beers, so I figured that would be beer specific. However if I mashed and/or sparged with more water would the efficiency go up much. I would think yes, but then I have to boil more to get back to the target OG. Not that I can get the water much higher in volume yet because of my 7.5gal pot, but I do have a keg that will be turned into a keggle soon.
Also temperature, 165 seems to work ok, but is there an equation that would let me hit the mash temp to a degree every time? Like X lbs of grain at x*F + mash water at x*F = mash temp? Then the sparge water temp, I think I read a thread that a hotter sparge helps get more sugars, but how hot is too hot?

Anything else you see?
Thanks for reading my novel.
 
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z987k

z987k

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yeah that was the thread that inspired this post. I didn't really see a diffinative to a couple of my question in that though.
 

Bobby_M

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I do agree that the linked thread is mostly relevent but I'll address your exact situation here. The thing I'm not clear on is whether or not you drain the runnings from your mash after the hour prior to adding any more water. You said "I start sparging my mash water" but I think you might mean "draining" or "lautering". I just want to make sure you have the terminology correct. Sparging implies adding new water to "rinse" the grain.

Other than that, it's got to be temperature. Sparging with 175 is pretty close but it really depends on how much grain you started with and what your mash temp finished at. Software will usually help there. In general, when I'm going to for a 1.050 or so OG beer, I'll have say 18-20lbs of grain (11 gallon batch). My equal sparge infusions will be about 4-4.5 gallons each, and I'll go 180-185ºF. After the first infusion, the mash settles in the low 160's and after the second one, it makes it to the high 160's.

I'm a big fan of taking good notes and testing temperatures after each infusion (after stirring of course).

Oh yeah, you DO STIR after adding sparge water right?
 

Funkenjaeger

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When sparging, the hotter the better, as long as you stay under the maximum 'safe' temp, I believe most people quote 168-169F as the target. If you do a mashout, you can get the mash up to this temp right before runoff, and then you can have your entire sparge at this temp also without needing to heat your water much higher than that, since the grain will already be at that temp.

When you don't do a mashout, you should probably be heating your sparge water higher so that the actual sparge temp is closer to 168F... 175F sparge water may not be enough, have you ever measured your sparge temp to be sure?

Take my advice with a grain of salt, I'm in basically the same boat as you, hitting mid-to-low 70's for efficiency and looking to improve, so I haven't figured out all the secrets yet ;)
 

TexLaw

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Sparge volume also is an issue. With that 7.5 gallon kettle, you are quite restricted when it comes to wort volume, so you aren't sparging with as much as you safely can. A larger sparge can significantly increase efficiency. Just watch the pH to avoid extracting tannins. The tradeoff, of course, is that you have to boil longer or hotter to reach your target volume.


TL
 
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z987k

z987k

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ok thanks, I'll go with a 185F sparge water today and take a sparge temperature.

I do stir at every phase, and I had the terminology wrong, I meant laughter or drain the mash water, then add sparge water, stir wait about 5 mins and go again.

The volume, I figured, but I can't do anything about that until I cut a hole in the keg sitting in the hallway. When I do get that done however, what would you recommend as an amount of water to sparge with? I'd rather not heat 10 gallons of water if I don't need it all...
 

Bobby_M

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I made the decision to not sparge to the very end just to get a couple more points out of it. Boiling an extra 60 minutes costs the same in fuel as it would to add another pound of grain.

The gravity of my 3rd running, or second batch sparge is 1.020 (usually) and I know there's a little sugar left, but not really that much. In other words, I'd rather get 85% extract with a 60 minute boil than 88% with a 90m boil.

I've done mashouts with boiling water to get the grain bed up to temp prior to sparging, but it really does just mean less overall "fresh" sparge water. In other words, mash out water is going into already saturated wort. It's a near wash, but I've gotten better efficiency with hotter sparges and no mash out. YMMV.
 

Craig5_12

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Palmer ( www.howtobrew.com ) reccomends sparging with 1.5 times as much mash water, but this can be quite a challenge sometimes, especially when you are building big beers or don't have lots of room to boil.

Other recomendations are to stop sparging when the gravity is at 1.010.
I just bought a refractometer so I can do this, but in the past I never measured.
 

Bobby_M

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I just really decide how much to collect based on a max of 70 minute boils. I know I'll lose about 1.75 gallons to evaporation and tubing/trub loss so if I want 11 in the fermenters, I collect 12.75. If I'm doing a 6 gallon batch, I collect 7.75 gallons. At 80% + brewhouse, It's a decent compromise. (except for that last batch where my sparge water was cold).
 
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z987k

z987k

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ok so I just brewed up my chocolate stout recipe. And from what I think are the right calculations I got 71% today. Despite the fact that a lot of **** went wrong. (stuck sparge, spilled some sparge water and spilled some wort(on myself).)

So I'm going to save the conclusions about if anything helped that I did different until next week. But basically I mashed for 90mins instead of 60 and my sparge water was 185 which brought the grain to 168 while sparging.
 

FlyGuy

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What was the gravity of your choco stout? If it was a higher gravity brew, then 71% is probably pretty good efficiency. As stated before, your efficiency will be dependent on the ratio of sparge volume to amount of grain, which tends to decrease as the gravity of your brews increase.
 
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z987k

z987k

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Gravity was 1.062
Sparge volume was a little low because I spilled a bit on the ground(was icy).
Here's the grain recipe, tell me if I was right on the 71%
10lbs 2row
2lbs chocolate
.5 carapils
.25 carafe III
5.5 gallons in then end of the boil.
 
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