Questions about all-grain using Mash and Boil

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Razorback_Jack

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Hello again,
I'm about to acquire a Mash and Boil, and I'm pretty excited. I've never done an all-grain, only extract, and the M&B seems pretty user-friendly. After extensive reading (staying up till 3am several nights in a row), I've got some questions about achieving desired efficiency. Please feel free to offer any additional advice beyond these specific questions. Also, if you have any advice on using the Mash and Boil (no pump, and I do already have a copper immersion cooler), that would be great. Many thanks in advance!

1. With the M&B I will of course be batch sparging. Some brewers choose to sparge with room temperature water. I don't necessarily need to, as I can heat the sparge water no problem. But is it necessary? Will it affect efficiency if I use room-temp sparge water? Can I do a "hybrid" and use sparge water at around 100-125 degrees? Is efficiency lost because of the extra time it takes to boil the cooler water?

2. Ferm cap. Doing high-volume boils in the M&B, I've heard that boiling over can be a risk, so I want to use ferm cap. I've read where some just add 4-5 drops to the boil, and then they don't add any to the fermenter. Does that sound accurate?

3. Ferm cap (cont...) If I add the ferm cap to my boil, will it later make my fermentation weaker? If the ferm cap results in less krausen, in other words, will that result in weaker fermentation? Higher FG? Lower ABV?

4. This one is long and and detailed. I've read that efficiency can be negatively affected by the ratio of mash water to sparge water, if for instance you need more mash water because of higher grain poundage. I think the M&B says it handles up to 15 or 16 lbs of mash, and some of the brews I want to try have that much grain. I read in a post from FlyGuy that this problem can be overcome by adding extra sparge water and lengthening the boil. That might be a concern because of the total volume of the M&B. My biggest question is this, though... If I add extra sparge water and lengthen my boil, does that affect my sugars in a way that could alter the taste of my brew? It just seems risky, to my semi-noob brain, to add a great deal more water. Or does it condense as you boil it down, to where there are no issues?

5. Do any of these questions make any sense or am I just that unenlightened? ha!

Thanks for your answers, and please feel free to be as detailed (or as vague) as you wish. Even if you have some good answers for one or two of those, but not for the rest. I welcome any help with open eyes, ears, and a pint glass ready to be filled. I'm sure there might be differing opinions which is excellent, as long as they're peaceful and not overly argumentative.

Happy Brew Year to everyone!
Jackson
 

brewdude88

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I use a robobrew without the malt pipe as a hybrid biab mash tun (I boil in a separate kettle with my lpg burner). I have had around 83% efficiency doing a 60 minute mash, mashing out and doing 1 batch sparge with 170F water. I've never used cool water for sparging, so can't comment on the effects of it.

The only thing you really need to worry about with the M&B is maintaining the mash temp without re-circulation. If possible, insulate your M&B and be ready to stir a few times during the mash.

fermcaps are the best invention since the wheel imo. I add 5-8 drops as the wort is heating to a boil, and skim hot break as needed. boil-overs are still possible, but the chance goes from 99% to about 15% depending on boil vigor and size of hops additions. The effects don't appear to carry over to the fermentation at all as I get regular krausen unless I add additional fermcaps after cooling. I also use fermcaps in yeast starters.

As far as sparge water goes, it is generally true that you will experience lower efficiency with higher OG due to less sparge water. a higher boil volume with increased boil time will work (if you can fit all that wort!) with very little effect on the final product. The little effect you may see is a slight darkening of the beer from kettle caramelization and perhaps a small decrease in head retention.

One way I have done this with limited boil space was to fit as much as I could in the kettle, and run the rest of the wort to another pot that I used to top off the kettle as boil-off allowed until it was all gone, then I started the timer and began adding hops when I was at the estimated pre-boil volume for the original recipe. I hit my usual 83% this way, it just took a while! (I sparged with RO water for any additional water beyond the recipe amount to avoid changes to the final flavor ion ratios)

Hopefully this helps a little, happy brewing!
 

doug293cz

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Hello again,
I'm about to acquire a Mash and Boil, and I'm pretty excited. I've never done an all-grain, only extract, and the M&B seems pretty user-friendly. After extensive reading (staying up till 3am several nights in a row), I've got some questions about achieving desired efficiency. Please feel free to offer any additional advice beyond these specific questions. Also, if you have any advice on using the Mash and Boil (no pump, and I do already have a copper immersion cooler), that would be great. Many thanks in advance!

1. With the M&B I will of course be batch sparging. Some brewers choose to sparge with room temperature water. I don't necessarily need to, as I can heat the sparge water no problem. But is it necessary? Will it affect efficiency if I use room-temp sparge water? Can I do a "hybrid" and use sparge water at around 100-125 degrees? Is efficiency lost because of the extra time it takes to boil the cooler water?

Mash efficiency is equal to conversion efficiency times lauter efficiency. Sparging affects lauter efficiency, and sparge water temp will not affect lauter efficiency. All of the sugar created in the mash is in solution as it is formed; there is no solid sugar that needs to be dissolved, which is why water temp doesn't matter. Neither time to boil, nor amount of boil off affect efficiency.

There is a possible complication, and that occurs when your conversion is not complete (less than 100% conversion efficiency) prior to initial run off. In this case, using hot sparge water can allow additional conversion to occur during the sparge step, and this will increase your overall conversion efficiency, and thus also mash efficiency. It's best to insure complete (100%) conversion during the mash. The finer your grain is crushed, the faster conversion will occur (I can explain if you want to know why.) So, crush as fine as you can, without adversely affecting recirculation (doesn't apply to you - yet) or cause difficulties during run off. You can measure your conversion efficiency using the method here. If your conversion is not 95% or better at the end of your allotted mash time, you can extend your mash to get more conversion.

2. Ferm cap. Doing high-volume boils in the M&B, I've heard that boiling over can be a risk, so I want to use ferm cap. I've read where some just add 4-5 drops to the boil, and then they don't add any to the fermenter. Does that sound accurate?

3. Ferm cap (cont...) If I add the ferm cap to my boil, will it later make my fermentation weaker? If the ferm cap results in less krausen, in other words, will that result in weaker fermentation? Higher FG? Lower ABV?

4. This one is long and and detailed. I've read that efficiency can be negatively affected by the ratio of mash water to sparge water, if for instance you need more mash water because of higher grain poundage. I think the M&B says it handles up to 15 or 16 lbs of mash, and some of the brews I want to try have that much grain. I read in a post from FlyGuy that this problem can be overcome by adding extra sparge water and lengthening the boil. That might be a concern because of the total volume of the M&B. My biggest question is this, though... If I add extra sparge water and lengthen my boil, does that affect my sugars in a way that could alter the taste of my brew? It just seems risky, to my semi-noob brain, to add a great deal more water. Or does it condense as you boil it down, to where there are no issues?

Optimal lauter efficiency for batch sparging is achieved when the initial run off and sparge run off have equal volumes. However, for ratios of 60:40 to 40:60 (Initial run off:sparge run off) the lauter efficiency varies by less than 1%, and you can't measure efficiency to closer than +/- 3% - 4% anyway, so you'll never know the difference.

To figure out water volumes, start with your target post-boil volume. Add your expected boil off volume to the post-boil volume to get your target pre-boil volume. Divide your pre-boil volume by 2 and add your expected grain absorption (about 0.12 gal/lb) to get your strike (mash water) volume. Your sparge volume will be pre-boil volume divided by 2 (since no additional water is absorbed after initial run off.)

High gravity beers will have lower lauter efficiency than lower gravity beers, not much you can do about this. Increased pre-boil volume (for same post-boil volume) will improve lauter efficiency, but requires longer boils (sometimes unrealistically longer), and pre-boil volume is limited by your kettle volume.

A complication with very large grain bills can be that if you try to maintain a 50:50 run off ratio, the strike water volume may not be enough to give you a stirrable mash. In this case you will need to increase the ration of strike water to sparge, and that will decrease your lauter efficiency somewhat.


5. Do any of these questions make any sense or am I just that unenlightened? ha!

Thanks for your answers, and please feel free to be as detailed (or as vague) as you wish. Even if you have some good answers for one or two of those, but not for the rest. I welcome any help with open eyes, ears, and a pint glass ready to be filled. I'm sure there might be differing opinions which is excellent, as long as they're peaceful and not overly argumentative.

Happy Brew Year to everyone!
Jackson
You say that the M & B uses a batch sparge. Are you sure? I've not used, or seen anyone use, an M & B to brew, but looking at the design, it appears that it would do a modified fly sparge (of the pour over type) - you lift the basket out of the kettle and then pour sparge water over the top of the grain bed either while, or after, the initial wort drains. In a true batch sparge, you completely drain the mash tun, and then add sparge water, stir, and then run off again. If indeed you will be doing the modified fly sparge, then run off volume ratios don't matter. In this case you want to mash with just enough water to give you an easily stirrable mash (about 1.25 qt/lb) and save a much water for sparging as you can. The lauter efficiency will be affected by how well you disperse the sparge water across the top of the grain bed, and how slow you add the sparge water.

Brew on :mug:
 
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Razorback_Jack

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I use a robobrew without the malt pipe as a hybrid biab mash tun (I boil in a separate kettle with my lpg burner). I have had around 83% efficiency doing a 60 minute mash, mashing out and doing 1 batch sparge with 170F water. I've never used cool water for sparging, so can't comment on the effects of it.

The only thing you really need to worry about with the M&B is maintaining the mash temp without re-circulation. If possible, insulate your M&B and be ready to stir a few times during the mash.

fermcaps are the best invention since the wheel imo. I add 5-8 drops as the wort is heating to a boil, and skim hot break as needed. boil-overs are still possible, but the chance goes from 99% to about 15% depending on boil vigor and size of hops additions. The effects don't appear to carry over to the fermentation at all as I get regular krausen unless I add additional fermcaps after cooling. I also use fermcaps in yeast starters.

As far as sparge water goes, it is generally true that you will experience lower efficiency with higher OG due to less sparge water. a higher boil volume with increased boil time will work (if you can fit all that wort!) with very little effect on the final product. The little effect you may see is a slight darkening of the beer from kettle caramelization and perhaps a small decrease in head retention.

One way I have done this with limited boil space was to fit as much as I could in the kettle, and run the rest of the wort to another pot that I used to top off the kettle as boil-off allowed until it was all gone, then I started the timer and began adding hops when I was at the estimated pre-boil volume for the original recipe. I hit my usual 83% this way, it just took a while! (I sparged with RO water for any additional water beyond the recipe amount to avoid changes to the final flavor ion ratios)

Hopefully this helps a little, happy brewing!
Thanks BrewDude for the great info.
 
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Razorback_Jack

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You say that the M & B uses a batch sparge. Are you sure? I've not used, or seen anyone use, an M & B to brew, but looking at the design, it appears that it would do a modified fly sparge (of the pour over type) - you lift the basket out of the kettle and then pour sparge water over the top of the grain bed either while, or after, the initial wort drains. In a true batch sparge, you completely drain the mash tun, and then add sparge water, stir, and then run off again. If indeed you will be doing the modified fly sparge, then run off volume ratios don't matter. In this case you want to mash with just enough water to give you an easily stirrable mash (about 1.25 qt/lb) and save a much water for sparging as you can. The lauter efficiency will be affected by how well you disperse the sparge water across the top of the grain bed, and how slow you add the sparge water.

Brew on :mug:
You say that the M & B uses a batch sparge. Are you sure? I've not used, or seen anyone use, an M & B to brew, but looking at the design, it appears that it would do a modified fly sparge (of the pour over type) - you lift the basket out of the kettle and then pour sparge water over the top of the grain bed either while, or after, the initial wort drains. In a true batch sparge, you completely drain the mash tun, and then add sparge water, stir, and then run off again. If indeed you will be doing the modified fly sparge, then run off volume ratios don't matter. In this case you want to mash with just enough water to give you an easily stirrable mash (about 1.25 qt/lb) and save a much water for sparging as you can. The lauter efficiency will be affected by how well you disperse the sparge water across the top of the grain bed, and how slow you add the sparge water.

Brew on :mug:
Doug, I could very well have my terminology wrong. In videos I have seen, they set the grains basket up top, let drain, and then add probably half the sparge water then stir it a bit. After that drains, they added the remaining sparge water, stirred again, and let drain down. I looked up the terms and thought that was correct wording but might’ve been wrong. Thanks for the info man!
 

Coastalbrew

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During the mash, I like to recirculate 1-1.5 gallons of wort about every 15 minutes. I don not have a pump and will just drain a bit of wort through the ball valve into a Pyrex measuring cup and then pour that over the grain bed. I will stir vigorously during this process and check the temp of the mash. I brew indoors so don't have to worry about extreme temps. Over the course of an hour mash, I will only drop 1* in the grain bed. IT IS IMPORTANT, IF YOU ARE WATCHING THE MASH TEMP, TO IGNORE THE READOUT ON THE CONTROL PANEL. THE READOUT WILL FLUCTUATE WILDLY. HOWEVER IF YOU HAVE A SEPARATE THERMOMETER IN THE GRAIN BED, YOU WILL SEE THAT THE GRAIN BED STAYS ROCK SOLID FOR THE ENTIRE MASH. I keep the heating element on low, running throughout the mash.

The general spaarge technique I use with the M&B is a modified fly sparge. After the mash, I place the mash pipe on the top of the unit and let it drain, then add a gallon or so of sparge water at a time and let that drain, then repeat until I have added all my sparge water or reached my boil volume. I have found it is important to pour the water over the top of the grain bed evenly rather than just pouring in one place to avoid channeling and get the most sugar out of the mash. Using this technique I am in the low to mid 70% BH efficiency generally. I do not generally stir the grains during the sparge, only the mash. I use hot 170*-180* sparge water for the reason that the unit takes time to reach a boil and adding cool water lowers the temp inside the unit, extending this time even more. By adding hotter water it takes less time to come to a boil and the element doesn't have to work as hard. I've never tried using cool water so can't speak to any effects on efficiency. The other thing I would suggest regarding mashing and sparging is to use a brew bag inside the mash pipe. It prevents a stuck sparge and makes clean up much easier.

I don't use ferm cap in by brews, so can't speak to your questions about that. My normal pre-boil volume is 6.5 gallons. I live in a town that is just a few feet above sea level. With that volume in the kettle I have never even come close to a boil over. I keep a spray bottle with distilled water at hand just in case, but have never used it. I'd say if you are making 5 gallon batches you should be fine without the ferm cap. Now if you are pushing the volume capacity and trying to do greater pre-boill volumes, it may be useful.

I brew "normal " strength brews generally under 7% ABV, but have read on the M&B facebook group about people doing "big" beers in their M&B systems. They generally go one of two ways: 1) they will do a double mash, where they mash part of the grain in 2 separate pots and then bring the wort together and boil in the M&B, or 2) they will mash the full grain bill in a cooler mash tun and then transfer to the M&B for the boil. Another possibility would be to reduce your batch size so that all the volumes work with the capacity of the system.

The M&B is a great system. Like any new piece of gear there will be an adjustment period while you learn how it works and find the best practices for your brewery. Give it some time and patience, keep asking questions, and if you haven't already join the facebook user group, its a great resource.

Cheers!
 

doug293cz

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Doug, I could very well have my terminology wrong. In videos I have seen, they set the grains basket up top, let drain, and then add probably half the sparge water then stir it a bit. After that drains, they added the remaining sparge water, stirred again, and let drain down. I looked up the terms and thought that was correct wording but might’ve been wrong. Thanks for the info man!
That's interesting. I thought the mash pipe would drain too fast to allow stirring in the sparge water. With the stirring, you are more like a batch sparge than a fly sparge.

Brew on :mug:
 
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Razorback_Jack

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During the mash, I like to recirculate 1-1.5 gallons of wort about every 15 minutes. I don not have a pump and will just drain a bit of wort through the ball valve into a Pyrex measuring cup and then pour that over the grain bed. I will stir vigorously during this process and check the temp of the mash. I brew indoors so don't have to worry about extreme temps. Over the course of an hour mash, I will only drop 1* in the grain bed. IT IS IMPORTANT, IF YOU ARE WATCHING THE MASH TEMP, TO IGNORE THE READOUT ON THE CONTROL PANEL. THE READOUT WILL FLUCTUATE WILDLY. HOWEVER IF YOU HAVE A SEPARATE THERMOMETER IN THE GRAIN BED, YOU WILL SEE THAT THE GRAIN BED STAYS ROCK SOLID FOR THE ENTIRE MASH. I keep the heating element on low, running throughout the mash.

The general spaarge technique I use with the M&B is a modified fly sparge. After the mash, I place the mash pipe on the top of the unit and let it drain, then add a gallon or so of sparge water at a time and let that drain, then repeat until I have added all my sparge water or reached my boil volume. I have found it is important to pour the water over the top of the grain bed evenly rather than just pouring in one place to avoid channeling and get the most sugar out of the mash. Using this technique I am in the low to mid 70% BH efficiency generally. I do not generally stir the grains during the sparge, only the mash. I use hot 170*-180* sparge water for the reason that the unit takes time to reach a boil and adding cool water lowers the temp inside the unit, extending this time even more. By adding hotter water it takes less time to come to a boil and the element doesn't have to work as hard. I've never tried using cool water so can't speak to any effects on efficiency. The other thing I would suggest regarding mashing and sparging is to use a brew bag inside the mash pipe. It prevents a stuck sparge and makes clean up much easier.

I don't use ferm cap in by brews, so can't speak to your questions about that. My normal pre-boil volume is 6.5 gallons. I live in a town that is just a few feet above sea level. With that volume in the kettle I have never even come close to a boil over. I keep a spray bottle with distilled water at hand just in case, but have never used it. I'd say if you are making 5 gallon batches you should be fine without the ferm cap. Now if you are pushing the volume capacity and trying to do greater pre-boill volumes, it may be useful.

I brew "normal " strength brews generally under 7% ABV, but have read on the M&B facebook group about people doing "big" beers in their M&B systems. They generally go one of two ways: 1) they will do a double mash, where they mash part of the grain in 2 separate pots and then bring the wort together and boil in the M&B, or 2) they will mash the full grain bill in a cooler mash tun and then transfer to the M&B for the boil. Another possibility would be to reduce your batch size so that all the volumes work with the capacity of the system.

The M&B is a great system. Like any new piece of gear there will be an adjustment period while you learn how it works and find the best practices for your brewery. Give it some time and patience, keep asking questions, and if you haven't already join the facebook user group, its a great resource.

Cheers!
So much great insight, thanks!
 
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Razorback_Jack

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That's interesting. I thought the mash pipe would drain too fast to allow stirring in the sparge water. With the stirring, you are more like a batch sparge than a fly sparge.

Brew on :mug:
It seemed to drain pretty slowly. When they added sparge water it also took quite awhile for the water to work its way through. I don’t remember the poundage of grains, but it was close to the max that the system would take. About 15 or 16 pounds I think.
 

Ralphie0523

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My two cents with a Robobrew:

1. Sparge water temperature has definitely increased my efficiency by about 5 points. I use 170 degree water heater in a separate stock pot.

2. Totally a suggestion but I have found this to work best for me. Start your mashes at a fixed volume. I heat 5 gallons to strike temp, add grains, and maintain at mash temp. I then sparge with 170F water to get to boil volume and go from there. This has VASTLY simplified my brew day and keeps me less stressed.

3. My personal experience had been the dynamics of mash thickness and ratio of sparge water to be “voodoo economics” if you will with the Robobrew. Basically, a thin mash with a small sparge has yielded the same numbers in OG and FG as a thick mash with more sparge water. Thus my determination to simplify my life in a small way in item 2.

4. Agree with suggestion above to avoid channeling by spreading out the sparge water as much as possible. Robobrew came with a cap piece for the malt pipe, not sure on M&B.

I have never used Fermcap but it seems to be from the stories I have heard to be neutral to flavor.

Keep testing and playing with your gear to figure out what works best for you. The way I brew won’t be the same as you for sure.
 

ESBrewer

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1. It is not absolutely necessary to heat up the water. If you sparge with cold water the wort is going to be cooler pre-boil and it will take longer to reach boil so you won't necessarily save time by doing this. You may also lose a few points in original gravity but in my system (not exactly M&B) the effect is not that big. Also, cold water drops the wort temperature below the effective alpha-amylase range. Depending on the length of the sparge and final mash bed & wort temperature, the amylase reaction can proceed slightly during the sparge phase, increasing the fermentablity of the wort. It is not a major effect but may affect your final (post-fermentation) gravity slightly. Cold water holds more oxygen, too. On the other hand, some reactions take place faster at higher temps. Some people are more concerned about this on the hot side than the others. An important thing during sparge will be the pH of the water that shouldn't exceed pH6.

2 & 3. I've never used FermCap or equivalent products, but those are definitely an option. But you can do without these additives.

4. Slightly longer boil is fine. The most traditional boil length in UK seemed to be at least 90 mins, although you don't necessarily need to boil that long with modern malts, kettle finings etc. You may see some darkening (Maillard reactions) if you boil excessively, but that should be no problem if you can get the sugar out from the grains with larger sparge volume. I wouldn't go beyond 2 hours , though. That would be a very long day of brewing. Adjust your hop schedule accordingly.
 
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Coastalbrew

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In
It seemed to drain pretty slowly. When they added sparge water it also took quite awhile for the water to work its way through. I don’t remember the poundage of grains, but it was close to the max that the system would take. About 15 or 16 pounds I think.
In my experience the sparge is very show when using the mash pipe by itself because grain husks and particles clog the holes in the bottom of the tube. I did not find stirring to be beneficial, because it did not unplug the drain holes. I use a paint strainer bag to line the mash pipe and now the mash drains quickly and easily and I experienced about a10% increase in BH efficiency. Get a bag, you won't regret it.

The M&B does not come with the recirculation filter cap that is mentioned above with the robo brew. You can get a similar as on for the M&B. Personally I like the simplicity of the manual recirculation mash, but to each his own.

Cheers!
 

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I basically moved my stovetop biab process over to a M&B unit. I mash with a bag inside of the mash pipe. I realize our processes are different, but I nearly always did a small dunk sparge at 170 on my stovetop method. It basically just gave me a warm fuzzy feeling to heat it up. It felt like doing a half-assed mash out I guess. I never tried with cool water.
I'm only a few brews deep on the M&B, but I have done full volume/no sparge each time ( 2.75G, 4G, 4.5G ) and have actually been exceeding my old stovetop mash efficiency without the sparge.

I'd second the bag if you find the unit to be a struggle otherwise. So far I'm in love with the M&B, but I think the bag makes things run so much more smoothly.

Looking back, I guess I didn't really answer much in the way of your questions. Just offering my limited experience! Good luck!
 

Coastalbrew

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@Immocles , what calculator are you using to get your water volumes on your full volume brews? I'm planning to try that method in my next brew and have been looking at calculators. Also on your smaller batches, how much higher is your strike temp above Target mash temp? With my 5 gallon batches, my strike temp is 15* above Target mash temp with a10-13# grain bill. I assume with a smaller grain bill, the temp drop would be less and you would need a lower strike temp. Thoughts?
Cheers!
 

Immocles

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@Immocles , what calculator are you using to get your water volumes on your full volume brews? I'm planning to try that method in my next brew and have been looking at calculators. Also on your smaller batches, how much higher is your strike temp above Target mash temp? With my 5 gallon batches, my strike temp is 15* above Target mash temp with a10-13# grain bill. I assume with a smaller grain bill, the temp drop would be less and you would need a lower strike temp. Thoughts?
Cheers!
I ran a water only boil before my first brew. I punched everything into beersmith and round up to the nearest quart. Thus far, it has been a static 1.5G over my 'Into Fermenter" volume. I'm a bag squeezer, then let the remainder drain into a tray to be added later to the boil. I also use a hop basket, so not as much trub to avoid. Im pretty fast and loose with some things, and it hasn't done me wrong yet. Did the same with my stovetop brews. One interesting note with that is that I had filled my NB bucket fermenter with water to the 5 Gallon line. When I poured that into the M&B, it came up to 4.5G. Not sure which is off by half a gallon, or if the M&B takes the half gallon under the spigot into consideration. I've come to assume the latter.

I need to get a few smaller batches under my belt before I can zero in on my strike temps. Definitely still getting the hang of the new unit. I overshot my target by about 3-4F on my smaller batch, but it came around after some good stirring. I was targeting 148-150, mashed in at 160 (down a few degrees from usual), thermometer read 154-155. Which worked well with my first two brews. Admittedly, I also forgot when I set my temp that I was going to be mashing lower and longer than my initials runs. Had I remembered, I would have knocked it down a few degrees more. Next time.

My grain bills tend to be pretty smalll. I hang out in that 3.8-5.5% abv range. 10-13lb is nearly double where I'm usually at.
 

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I ran a water only boil before my first brew. I punched everything into beersmith and round up to the nearest quart. Thus far, it has been a static 1.5G over my 'Into Fermenter" volume. I'm a bag squeezer, then let the remainder drain into a tray to be added later to the boil. I also use a hop basket, so not as much trub to avoid. Im pretty fast and loose with some things, and it hasn't done me wrong yet. Did the same with my stovetop brews. One interesting note with that is that I had filled my NB bucket fermenter with water to the 5 Gallon line. When I poured that into the M&B, it came up to 4.5G. Not sure which is off by half a gallon, or if the M&B takes the half gallon under the spigot into consideration. I've come to assume the latter.

I need to get a few smaller batches under my belt before I can zero in on my strike temps. Definitely still getting the hang of the new unit. I overshot my target by about 3-4F on my smaller batch, but it came around after some good stirring. I was targeting 148-150, mashed in at 160 (down a few degrees from usual), thermometer read 154-155. Which worked well with my first two brews. Admittedly, I also forgot when I set my temp that I was going to be mashing lower and longer than my initials runs. Had I remembered, I would have knocked it down a few degrees more. Next time.

My grain bills tend to be pretty smalll. I hang out in that 3.8-5.5% abv range. 10-13lb is nearly double where I'm usually at.
Thanks for the info. I've been using distilled water recently and when I pour 4 gallon jugs into my M&B it is spot on at the 4 gallon mark in the kettle. I've been on the fence about pulling the trigger on beer Smith, might be time, so I can setup a solid profile.
I am making the move to smaller batches and lower abv beers so am working on tweaking my process to fit the new beers I want to Brew.

Cheers!
 

mkopec1

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I always used 170F-180F for sparge water. Ive always thought that hotter water would rinse the grans better than cold/room temp water. Never really did tests or anything but it makes sense as hot water always does better with sugars than cold, right?
 

doug293cz

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@Immocles , what calculator are you using to get your water volumes on your full volume brews? I'm planning to try that method in my next brew and have been looking at calculators. Also on your smaller batches, how much higher is your strike temp above Target mash temp? With my 5 gallon batches, my strike temp is 15* above Target mash temp with a10-13# grain bill. I assume with a smaller grain bill, the temp drop would be less and you would need a lower strike temp. Thoughts?
Cheers!
This is a good calculator for volumes and strike temps. Also deals better with efficiency than does BeerSmith.

Brew on :mug:
 

Snuffy

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I've had a Mash and Brew for a year now and I've made some good beer with it. It's just the base unit w/o a pump that I caught on a Black Friday deal for $249 on Amazon.

I watched a load of videos on YouTube about it and I saw a great step by step review of the unit by some folks at Brew and Grow, I think. Anyway, that guy did a room temp sparge and said he had never seen more than a 2% difference in mash efficiency between that and a hot sparge and that the difference was negligible. I have done both - but I'd have to do the same recipe twice to see if it makes any noticeable difference in the beer - and I have never brewed the same recipe twice yet. Any time it saves heating sparge water is probably lost in the added time it takes to heat the wort back to boiling, but if you were worried about saving time you'd brew extract.

Never used ferm cap. The only time I ever had a boil over was when I did an extract Caribou Slobber. And that was directly attributable to brewing with a buddy and drinkin' when I shoulda been watching the unit. And I had the top on for some stupid reason. If you stay engaged and watch what you are doing, a good stir will stop any boil overs.

I hate a dry mash. I start with the recommended 1.25 qt/lb of grain and if it's too thick I add microwaved water til it stirs right. I look at the volume marks inside the tank after the basket has drained and I sparge enough to get my volume where I need it to boil. I usually Vorlauf some during the mash as well.

The unit is rated for 16lbs of grain but I would not want to try and mash anything that deep. You'd have to have the thing nearly full. I'd split it into 2 batches. Most I've mashed is about 12 lbs. That's plenty. I know my garbage man is cussing me after brew day.

I like the Mash and Brew. It's no Grainfather, but it's close enough for my money. It takes about 45 mins to come up to a boil on the 1600W setting. Not sure why you'd ever use the 1000W setting, but it's there. You gotta be careful with extract, dme and sugar adds. Stir well or you'll get a scorch and possibly trip the overheat sensor. Nothing like a nice shutdown mid-boil and the reset is on the bottom of a tall, heavy drum of boiling hot wort. That'll make you put together words you never associated before. The temp can swing about 5 to 7 degrees above and below your target temp during the mash and that's a bit disconcerting at times - but I quit worrying about compensating for that and just set it at the recipe temp and don't sweat it. After all, It's a recipe not a science project. The proof is in the result.

-Snuffy
 

Alex4mula

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I got the M&B for $239 on Black Friday sale on 2018. They put the same sale on 2019. I have done 31 brews up to last weekend. Out of those 12 has been all grain and most of them the last batches (9). Initially I had low conversion efficiency in the high 60%. I started reading a lot of tips on it and implementing them and my last batches I am averaging 92% conversion efficiency. These are they key changes I made, and I guess recommend on this unit. The biggest gain was crushing my grains. I got a Cereal Killer and crush at 0.48. Not finer because I don’t want to risk stuck mash and it has given me great efficiency. I mash usually 70min. I recirculate manually about 1.5 gal every 15mins. I used the mini Amazon pump that other use on two brews and worked the same. I move/mix the mash only twice during mash. I guess I fly sparge pouring slowly 180°-190°F water over a spoon so it spreads across the surface. I move the grains twice during this process. At the end I use a wood press to press the water out of the grains (no tannings bs or that felt). I use this water calculator (https://www.mibrewsupply.com/recipe/mash) and it is spot on or very close all the time (I have my losses section well measured). Sometimes I just have some sparge water left. The M&B temps usually measure 3-4°F higher so be careful with that. The display may say 146° but actual mash will be 149-151° so don’t increase temp or it will overshoot to 158-160°. With this process I have been hitting my pre boil OG, OG and water volumes easily. But most important I have been making amazing beer. On last brews I also started to make my own water (adding salts, measuring PH, etc.) so that may also help. Bottom line for the price this unit I think is incredible. Once you know and understand how to use it you can’t beat the price for what you can do. Others may have some more fancy things but I’m 100% sure anyone can make the same great beer with this one as with any other. Also, you can see that many others are like variations of this one (Anvil, etc.) with probably same controller. Bottom line, any of these similar systems will work great and are great space savers and perfect for indoors or basements. Take your time to learn it and you will brew awesome beer ;-)
 

Snuffy

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Mash and BOIL, dammit. Mash and BOIL... <sigh>

...Also, I have fooled around with the 1000w setting on the Mash and BOIL and I think if you use it when mashing, the temp swings are not as drastic as they are on 1600w. No real noticeable difference in time to come up to mash temp either.
I figured there has got to be a reason for the 1000w setting. Maybe that's it. I still use 1600w for boiling but I think I will use 1000w for mashing from now on.
 
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CodeSection

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A couple of members mentioned using Fermcap to control the boil. For readers that may not be aware, the FDA has said Fermcap needs to be removed and filtered out, since it contains silicone, in the final product. https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/cdrh/cfdocs/cfcfr/CFRSearch.cfm?fr=173.340

Once I read that, I switched to Patco 376 which is 100% vegetable oil-based defoamer and is made by Birko Corporation. I have no worries about silicone and it works great in starters, boils and even in the fermenter. There is no downside with Patco 376....

https://www.birkocorp.com/brewing-distilling/products/
 

Alex4mula

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Mash and BOIL, dammit. Mash and BOIL... <sigh>

...Also, I have fooled around with the 1000w setting on the Mash and BOIL and I think if you use it when mashing, the temp swings are not as drastic as they are on 1600w. No real noticeable difference in time to come up to mash temp either.
I figured there has got to be a reason for the 1000w setting. Maybe that's it. I still use 1600w for boiling but I think I will use 1000w for mashing from now on.
After you get your strike water temp and pour the grains the you set it to 1000w. At end of mash the set back to 1600w to boil. Works great. For whatever reason since I started using a hop spider basket I never needed fermcap again.
 

speir.photo

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Mash and BOIL, dammit. Mash and BOIL... <sigh>

...Also, I have fooled around with the 1000w setting on the Mash and BOIL and I think if you use it when mashing, the temp swings are not as drastic as they are on 1600w. No real noticeable difference in time to come up to mash temp either.
I figured there has got to be a reason for the 1000w setting. Maybe that's it. I still use 1600w for boiling but I think I will use 1000w for mashing from now on.
Yes, that's the intent. Use 1600w to heat to strike temp, then click it down to 1000w after you mash in. Then back up to 1600w when you are ready to boil. The 1000w reduces temp fluctuations.
 

micraftbeer

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If you've got a full volume in the M&B, you aren't going to have vigorous enough of a boil to actually get a boil over- it just doesn't have the power. You get a rolling boil. So it seems the need for fermcap to avoid a boilover would not be needed.

I did a review of this product a couple years ago, and took data on the temperature. I let the temperature stabilize at the set point, then used a digital thermometer to read the temperature in the middle of the volume. After that, I stirred it up until the temperature stabilized on my measuring thermometer and recorded that temperature as well. I found a notable difference, depending on what temperature you were at. Even after stirring, while at a lower temperature. I obviously can't say if every unit has this type of temperature difference, so you might want to do a similar experiment with your unit so you can adjust mash temperature accordingly.

After seeing the temperature effect, I decided when using it, I would hook up an external pump with a length of hose to constantly recirc. No fancy fitting or anything, just made the hose long enough to lay in the mash basket with its own weight.

Attached are the temperature trend plots I generated, and below is a link to my full review.

https://www.homebrewfinds.com/2017/09/hands-on-review-brewers-edge-mash-boil-electric-brewery.html

6 Gallon Strike Water Trial.jpg
3.8 Gallon Strike Water Trial.jpg
3.85 Gallon Strike Water Trial.jpg
 
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