Spike Solo Owner's Thread

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Matt Orabella

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I have switched from the solo basket to using a brewhardware false bottom and BIAB. I have tried both wilser and theBrewbag. Overall I like the bag system better, no worries about recirculation, I am back to milling at .028 and the bag is easier to rinse than the 20G solo basket.

Only hiccup was I didn't tie a proper knot prior to cranking the bag up last brew and splashed some wort. Since then I have brushed up on my bowline knot

Question for those who use counterflow chillers with whirlpool hop additions:

Do you typically do a traditional 30-minute whirlpool or just chuck the hops in and start chilling/transferring?
 

RogerGrahl

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Matt, I drop my temperature and hold at 180 F. The PID controller makes that easy. Once I’m at 180 F. I add hops directly to the kettle and whirlpool for about 20 minutes. The counter flow chiller is hooked up with the cooling water turned off. The hops are circulating through the chiller but so far this hasn’t caused any problems. The trub and hop cone forms nicely during the whirlpool.
 

KVbeer

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Matt, I drop my temperature and hold at 180 F. The PID controller makes that easy. Once I’m at 180 F. I add hops directly to the kettle and whirlpool for about 20 minutes. The counter flow chiller is hooked up with the cooling water turned off. The hops are circulating through the chiller but so far this hasn’t caused any problems. The trub and hop cone forms nicely during the whirlpool.
I bag my whirlpool hops and tie them off to the handle, but otherwise I'm doing the same setup and temp. If I'm trying to get some noticeable hop isomerization for an APA/IPA I may whirlpool for 30 minutes.
 

Fidelity101

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25 lb (89.3%) — Canada Malting Co 2-Row Malt — Grain — 1.9 °L

1 lb (3.6%) — Briess Carapils — Grain — 1.5 °L

1 lb (3.6%) — Wheat Flaked — Grain — 1.7 °L

8 oz (1.8%) — Briess Caramel Malt 20L — Grain — 20 °L

8 oz (1.8%) — Briess Caramel Munich 60L Malt — Grain — 60 °L



I mashed 28 pounds of grain in 15 gallons of water. Gravity after mash (before I lifted the mash tun) was 1.060 and I was happy. I lifted the mash tun, raised to a boil and after a 60 minute boil, my Final Gravity was 1.052. Crazy right! 1.060 was a very good efficiency for my setup and everything was on track...so where/how did I loose gravity after a boil? I forgot to take a measurement after lifting the mash tun (pre boil gravity) but that would probably have been a helpful measurement to have.



The runnings from the mash after I moved the mash tun into the sink to let it finish draining that last little bit was 1.072 so the efficiency of the mash was very good. It would seem to me that I lost at least 8-10 points after lifting the mash which made me think the dead space in the mash could be a cultrate. I did a calculation to see how much water would need to be added into solution to drop 10 points and it was 3.5 gallons...the exact amount of dead space in the Spike CF10 system. So....I'm doing something wrong!!! But what???



The wort is flowing from the bottom right side TC port where it's picking up wort from the bottom...the pick up tube is pointed straight down. The wort is flowing into the top of the mash tun where it is circulating well. That got me thinking HOW could the water on the outside of the mash tun possibly be mixing with the rest of the water unless there was some sort of whirlpool effect going on....outside of the mash tun.



Question: Am I the first person to have this problem or am I doing something wrong?



Question: Wouldn't this system benefit from a whirlpool circulation DURING the mash in order to force the wort around the mash tun (outside) to mix with the wort going through the inside of the mash tun?


Question: Assuming I'm correct in that the dead space isn't mixing properly...what is the fix?
 

KVbeer

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Question: Am I the first person to have this problem or am I doing something wrong?



Question: Wouldn't this system benefit from a whirlpool circulation DURING the mash in order to force the wort around the mash tun (outside) to mix with the wort going through the inside of the mash tun?


Question: Assuming I'm correct in that the dead space isn't mixing properly...what is the fix?
You're operating the system exactly as Spike designed it, so I wouldn't say you're doing anything wrong. It's just a limitation of the Spike Solo design with the tapered basket, side pickup and large amount of deadspace.

Earlier in this thread (page 2 or 3) there is some discussion about splitting the recirculation return flow between the basket and whirlpool port to try and get some better mixing in the deadspace. I haven't gone to that length yet, but I am considering temporarily moving the recirculation return from the basket to the whirlpool and doing a 30 second mix 2-3 times during the mash to try to better mix the deadspace wort. Probably won't have much effect, but it can't hurt and it's easy to try.

I've read some other all-in-one system threads and I've heard of people completely removing the basket at 20 minutes, letting it drain almost completely and then replacing the basket and continuing the mash. Supposedly they're getting 8-10% increase in efficiency. Sounds like a huge PITA, when I could just add a little extra 2-row for the same gravity reading. But hey, to each their own and as long we're all having fun brewing I'm not going to knock anyone for optimizing their system/process.
 

mp.shannon

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Probably a good idea not to try the CFC! I was foolish enough to try the exchilerator and now my Hydra will never get used again. Chilling beer in one pass from ~200F to ~64F as it flows from boiler to fermenter is a game changer.
Ive seen many people state this. I do lots of whirlpool hop additions at 175 or lower. How do you cool from 212 to 175 or lower? Do you pass it through the CFC back to the whirlpool port? If so, how is your whirlpool speed?
 

KVbeer

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Ive seen many people state this. I do lots of whirlpool hop additions at 175 or lower. How do you cool from 212 to 175 or lower? Do you pass it through the CFC back to the whirlpool port? If so, how is your whirlpool speed?
I use the CFC to drop the wort temperature from boiling to 175-180, which also sanitizes the chiller. Once at whirlpool temp I stop the chiller water, turn the element back on and set the PID to auto mode and the desired temp. Then I'll add hops and set my timer.

I keep my pump and CFC all at the same elevation as the kettle ports. The whirlpool speed definitely takes a hit going through the CFC first, but it still adequately spins the wort and creates a decent cone of material at the bottom. I should note I have a 10 gallon Solo+ system so I'm moving less fluid than those with a 15 or 20 gallon system.
 

Fidelity101

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I whirlpool using the CFC for the last 15 minutes to clean it, which makes dropping temps very easy. I never thought about keeping the heater on at a certain temp but it’s a good idea and I’ll be adding that into my brew day going forward.

Can anyone who’s actually split the pump output between the whirlpool and lautering profess comment on efficiency improvements? Also, what angle do you guys use for the whirlpool arm? Mine is parallel with the base of the mash tun and I’m wondering if that’s why it’s not mixing as well as it could be. I’m also thinking about adding a piece of silicone tubing to the whirlpool arm inside so the wort can flow up closer to the sides of the mash tun and create a better flow from top to bottom.
 

SonomaBrewer

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Stuck mash issues as well, even with rice hulls.Finally found a robust solution to attach my Blichmann Autosparge to my Spike+ Solo. Works like a charm. FNPT coupler with 1.5" TC pipe connector from Norcal Brewing solutions:


Thanks you Norcal Brewing Solutions!!

Connector.jpg
External.jpg

Internal.jpg
 

Fidelity101

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This would be better then..
View attachment 721652
I've had a good experience using this for the sparge arm! Easy to remove during mash in and easy to reinstall.

Also, the attached photos show my update to the system. After having a HORRIBLY low efficiency on the last batch, I added a T connector to the output pump and dropped another line between the whirlpool port and the lautering port on the mash tun. This has been a good improvement so far in that the whirlpool at the bottom of the mash tun is strong and forces the water outside the mash tun to circulate and mix together, then the pump is able to transfer a percentage of that mixed water into the top of the mash tun in order to evenly distribute the water across the grains. The end result was a more accurate gravity reading when taking a sample of wort from the top during lautering. I was at 1.042 20 minutes into the mash and 1.052 towards the end. My final gravity was 1.056 and I transferred 11 gallons of wort into the fermenter. I started with 15 gallons of water and 27 pounds of grain.

On the previous batch, without the T fitting, I was 1.060 towards the end of the mash and my final gravity after boil was 1.052...clearly the water around the mash tun wasn't mixing during the mash. I had used 15.25 gallons of water and 28 pounds of grain.

The only thing I'm going to change about my system is putting the on/off valve at the pump for the lautering instead of by the mash tun. It's easier to control flow when it's high but once you remove the mash tun, you need to be able to stop the water flow somehow....leaving it at the bottom allows you to just close the valve.
 

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Switchback

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We did all that and got the correct readings for each part. That means it has to be in the control panel I guess? Hopefully Spike has an answer tomorrow.
Did Spike ever resolve this and swap the controller for you? I ask because I think I have amthe same problem. When everything is setup and plugged in, when I turn on the controller the breaker immediately trips.
 

Oceangrace24

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They referred me over to Ebrewsupply, who builds the controllers. Didn't have to replace it. I sent them some pictures and we found where two wires were switched. I switched them back myself and fixed the problem.
If your breaking is tripping, this sounds like something else.
 

Fidelity101

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If you have a GFCI inline with the power outlet and that's what's tripping, you probably have a hot lead going into ground. If not, you may have a short somewhere which could be caused by a bare lead coming into contact with neutral or ground. The design of this power box is incredible simple so i'm sure Ebrewsupply would be able to point it out with just a few pictures. If you do decide to take the cover off, please just make sure to unplug it first because 220v hurts! :)
 

SonomaBrewer

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Struggling with efficiency on my Solo, not sure why.

Have been hitting my mash temps and pH, crush is adequate, stirring periodically and don't seem to be channeling too much. But able to extract only 48% of potential SG....

I don't really care about maximizing efficiency, I'm not a numbers guy. But with this efficiency I almost have to double the grain bill to hit my gravities for my recipes.

What are other Solo users seeing for efficiency? Is it reasonable to expect 60% ?
 

RogerGrahl

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Struggling with efficiency on my Solo, not sure why.

Have been hitting my mash temps and pH, crush is adequate, stirring periodically and don't seem to be channeling too much. But able to extract only 48% of potential SG....

I don't really care about maximizing efficiency, I'm not a numbers guy. But with this efficiency I almost have to double the grain bill to hit my gravities for my recipes.

What are other Solo users seeing for efficiency? Is it reasonable to expect 60% ?
SanomaBrewer, I am getting about 75% mash efficiency (BeerSmith) with my 15 gallon Solo. This is about where my old picnic cooler / batch sparge setup ran.Your process sounds about like mine. I stir the top 1/3 of the mash every 10 minutes. Deeper if the wort level starts to rise. I keep the cover on when I’m not stirring. I’m not lautering after I raise the basket. I am doing a 10 minute mashout at 168 F before I raise the basket.
 

KVbeer

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I've been averaging about 70% mash efficiency on my 10 gallon Solo on my last 4 brews. I use a 0.035" crush, stir every 15 minutes, use 4-6 oz of rice hulls as security and vorlauf for 15 minutes at 168.

@SonomaBrewer I know you said you're not a numbers guy chasing efficiency, but do you know your grain crush? When I was buying milled grain from MoreBeer I was getting low-mid 50s on mash efficiency no matter what I did. Their crush (or lack thereof) really hurts the system. I now buy all my base malts from Farmhouse Brewing single crushed (as they use a triple roller mill set at 0.035" which happens to be Spike's recommended gap setting).
 

SonomaBrewer

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Thanks @RogerGrahl and @KVbeer sounds like 70-75% should be achievable with minimal change in process. I do use the standard crush from my LHBS, sounds like the next step is to crush my own grain (they are only willing to do "standard crush"). Guess I'm on the market for a mill now!
 

SonomaBrewer

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Follow-up on Solo+ efficiency --

The culprit was definitely the crush. First batch after milling my own at 0.035" put me in the neighborhood of 72% efficiency. Redoing my recipes at this efficiency is going to save me some cash (and thin my mashes quite a bit).

Not sure why my LHBSs don't crush finer... I guess they win when you have to buy more grain...
 

RogerGrahl

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Follow-up on Solo+ efficiency --

The culprit was definitely the crush. First batch after milling my own at 0.035" put me in the neighborhood of 72% efficiency. Redoing my recipes at this efficiency is going to save me some cash (and thin my mashes quite a bit).

Not sure why my LHBSs don't crush finer... I guess they win when you have to buy more grain...
Glad to hear it’s working out.
 

Biggz1313

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Not sure why my LHBSs don't crush finer... I guess they win when you have to buy more grain...
Usually it's because a finer crush wears the rollers out faster and the shop would have to replace them more often. Most would hope some shops won't do it because they want to sell more grain, but you never know. That being said, I've ran into similar issues, and even though I'm now using a Brew Bag instead of the basket, getting my own mill is at the top of my list so I can make sure things like this are under my control, and not someone else. Glad you got it figured out that, it's always frustrating trying to find the culprit of lower than expected efficiency.
 

KBW PilotHouse

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There’s some interesting discussion on this thread. My usual BIAB setup has been an SS Brewtech kettle w/ 5500K element, Blichmann BrewCommander, Riptide pump, Clawhammer 1/2” NPT spray nozzle in lid and Brew Hardware Whirlpool arm. All valves are Blichmann linear flow.

In current space I don’t have a floor drain, slop sink, or fresh water supply inside, so reducing required cleanup time is key. Switched from BIAB Brewing brew bag (highly recommended if you want a bag) but got tired of extra work cleaning it. Went with Arbor Fab 400 micron SS basket.

I write the above to say I’ve never had a stuck mash or scorched burner, and hit gravity target fairly close each time using the basket. My space is cramped so wheeling kettle and have to use step ladder to lift basket with pulley is a hassle.

Would like your input on this: I just got a Solo basket (makes basket cleaning easy - quick spray with hose) and can hang basket on side of kettle to drain wort. Also ordered custom Spike kettle and will use instead of SS BT. Is this crazy to be switching to Spike kettle and basket? I like some of kettle features but after reading some comments about people putting bags in their Solo basket it seems to defeat purpose.

Anyone have great experience with their mash in Solo basket without bag? The slots look wide so I’m thinking 0.035” crush might not settle well in mash bed??

Sorry so long but it’s my first time on a blog.
 

SonomaBrewer

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I use my Solo basket "commando" without any issues.

Have been milling at 0.032" and using 1/2 pound of rice hulls. At this crush I consistently get ~70-75% mash efficiency -- suspect I could get more if I crushed even finer but hard to make up for the deadspace under the basket and I don't want to risk "oatmealing" the grain bed.

Vorlauf during 168 degree mashout nicely removes any grains that sneak into the wort.
 

KBW PilotHouse

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Thank you SonomaBrewer. I know you wouldn’t want be “oatmealimg” - lol...I had that happen years ago when doing a 10 gal mash w/ 3 keggle system. Started in evening and was up all night after mash stuck...

I‘ll watch my crush closely, voraluf with tubing & Bruha float ball, then sparge through the Clawhammer spray nozzle. Good to know your system is running well. Thanks again! Cheers...
 

KVbeer

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KBW, I also forgo any brew bags and have only had one issue with a stuck mash when my father was helping during a brew and at 45 minutes into the mash was scrapping the bottom of the basket while stirring. Everything compacted and stopped flowing, good times.

Similar to SonomaBrewer my grain crush is 0.035" and I use 4-8oz of rice hulls depending on what adjuncts I have in my recipe. I've been hitting 68-72% mash efficiency.
 
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KBW PilotHouse

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KBW, I also forgo any brew bags and have only had one issue with a stuck mash when my father was helping during a brew and at 45 minutes into the mash was scrapping the bottom of the basket while stirring. Everything compacted and stopped flowing, good times.

Similar to SonomaBrewer my grain crush is 0.035" and I use 4-8oz of rice hulls depending on what adjuncts I have in my recipe. I've been hitting 68-72% mash efficiency.

Thanks KV Beer, that’s great to hear. I’ve never had to use rice hulls, even with Hefe Weisen w/ 50% wheat, but that was using my favorite false bottom. Yesterday I ordered 5 pounds of rice hulls based on your feedback 👍 If I have and issue with Solo basket I’ll post something, but I suspect it’ll work alright with rice hulls.

Thanks again! Cheers mate🍻
 

Sigma Six

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Hey all, thanks for all the great info in here--I've been following along since I began using my 15 gallon Solo+ in February. As you can imagine I ran into many of the same issues you all did. Making my way through them and what I see here helps a lot.:)

One thing that persists is a good deal of grain still in the kettle as I start the boil, and end up with still more at the bottom after transfer. I don't have a mill of my own quite yet but the Lhbs I use is more coarse than .035, if anything. I'll start stirring just the top 1/3 of the mash as I saw above and see if that helps, but meanwhile I've been doing 10-15 swipes of the wort with a fine strainer which I'd rather not have to do.

20210807_130400.jpg

Cheers all
 

Biggz1313

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Hey all, thanks for all the great info in here--I've been following along since I began using my 15 gallon Solo+ in February. As you can imagine I ran into many of the same issues you all did. Making my way through them and what I see here helps a lot.:)

One thing that persists is a good deal of grain still in the kettle as I start the boil, and end up with still more at the bottom after transfer. I don't have a mill of my own quite yet but the Lhbs I use is more coarse than .035, if anything. I'll start stirring just the top 1/3 of the mash as I saw above and see if that helps, but meanwhile I've been doing 10-15 swipes of the wort with a fine strainer which I'd rather not have to do.

View attachment 738693

Cheers all
I felt that grain in wort pain so much I switched to not using the basket and using The Brew Bag. I'll be honest, it's a kick in the nuts to just see my basket sitting on a shelf unused, but my brewdays are so much more enjoyable now not having to babysit that thing and my efficiencies are pushing 83-85%. When I get my own mill I'll consider trying the basket again, but that thing so far has made me hate it so much I'm in no hurry for it. Not trying to get you to switch, just giving you food for thought.
 

RogerGrahl

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Hey all, thanks for all the great info in here--I've been following along since I began using my 15 gallon Solo+ in February. As you can imagine I ran into many of the same issues you all did. Making my way through them and what I see here helps a lot.:)

One thing that persists is a good deal of grain still in the kettle as I start the boil, and end up with still more at the bottom after transfer. I don't have a mill of my own quite yet but the Lhbs I use is more coarse than .035, if anything. I'll start stirring just the top 1/3 of the mash as I saw above and see if that helps, but meanwhile I've been doing 10-15 swipes of the wort with a fine strainer which I'd rather not have to do.

View attachment 738693

Cheers all
 

RogerGrahl

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Don’t give up. I had grain in the boil for my first few brews. Here’s how I solved it. First, when I mash in I only stir the surface and go slowly to prevent lumps. Getting someone to do the stirring while I slowly pour the grain makes it easier, but I often do it myself. I never get the mash paddle so deep that it hits the bottom of the basket. Second, I let the grain mash for about ten minutes before turning on the pump. I suspect (no proof) that the grain swells during this time and helps prevent it from falling through the slots. Third, when I turn on the pump, I initially turn it to a fairly high flow rate and “refluidize” the grain bed by stirring the upper 3/4 of the grain. This prevents the stuck mash problem some people experience. Then I turn the pump down to a low flow and check the liquid level every 10 minutes. If the wort starts to rise, I’ll stir the top 1/4-1/2 of the grain bed and decrease the pump’s flow rate. When the mash is complete, I give the grain bed one last stir, increase the temperature to 168 for 15 minutes, raise the basket, and vorlauf for 15 minutes. My efficiencies and gravities hit the BeerSmith calculations. Hope this helps.
 

PINbeer

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Second, I let the grain mash for about ten minutes before turning on the pump. I suspect (no proof) that the grain swells during this time and helps prevent it from falling through the slots.
+1. I had a lot of grain at first (and a stuck mash) until I read Spike's instructions where they say this:
  • When mashing in, turn the pump off before pouring in your grain. After stirring in the grain, let the grain bed rest 5-10mins before turning on the pump. This allows the grain to fully absorb the liquid and expand which prevents grain from going through the baskets bottom filter.
 

KVbeer

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+1. I had a lot of grain at first (and a stuck mash) until I read Spike's instructions where they say this:
  • When mashing in, turn the pump off before pouring in your grain. After stirring in the grain, let the grain bed rest 5-10mins before turning on the pump. This allows the grain to fully absorb the liquid and expand which prevents grain from going through the baskets bottom filter.
Same here. I wait 5-10 minutes for the grain to absorb water, then start the pump nearly closed and slowly bring it up to 1/4 flow. Very little grain in my kettle these days.
 

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Same, I also let the mash settle for 10 mins before starting slower recirculation. What little grain does slip into the kettle falls out in the whirlpool. NBD.

A bag is probably a little better for mash efficiency. The deadspace with Solo basket and limited recirc through the bottom has put me at a ceiling of 70-75%. But this just means a few more bucks worth of grain, and no messy bag to clean-- good tradeoff for me.
 

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Yesterday, I ran my first mash in my 20g spike solo.

5.5 gal batch, with 13 pounds barley malt, and 14oz rice hulls. let the grains sit for 20 minutes (I was cleaning something else), stirred without scrapping the bottom, and started re-circulation at the lowest speed I could get from my motor. About 20-30 minutes it, the mash clogged. I was sitting there watching it, so I caught it really fast. Still disappointing that the mash stuck. I shut the element off, and manually refilled the basket about every 20 minutes. After it was all said and done got about 67% efficiency.

I'm thinking I may need a better way to control the water flow than a tri-clamp valve.

I also have some Novozyme Ultraflo on order to try....just because.
 

RogerGrahl

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Yesterday, I ran my first mash in my 20g spike solo.

5.5 gal batch, with 13 pounds barley malt, and 14oz rice hulls. let the grains sit for 20 minutes (I was cleaning something else), stirred without scrapping the bottom, and started re-circulation at the lowest speed I could get from my motor. About 20-30 minutes it, the mash clogged. I was sitting there watching it, so I caught it really fast. Still disappointing that the mash stuck. I shut the element off, and manually refilled the basket about every 20 minutes. After it was all said and done got about 67% efficiency.

I'm thinking I may need a better way to control the water flow than a tri-clamp valve.

I also have some Novozyme Ultraflo on order to try....just because.
I think you are on the right track looking at ways to control the water flow. I use the valve on my Blichmann RipTide to control the flow and keep the triclamp valve on the kettle fully open. With your grain bill a stuck sparge should not be an issue. Here’s the session data from my last brew. No issues with a stuck sparge.
 

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I used The system again today. I didn’t bother to run the pump during mash. I got 74% efficiency, but also the element looks like scorched itself during the boil. It was totally submerged the whole time, and I only did a 45 minute boil. I was not expecting that.
 

RogerGrahl

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I used The system again today. I didn’t bother to run the pump during mash. I got 74% efficiency, but also the element looks like scorched itself during the boil. It was totally submerged the whole time, and I only did a 45 minute boil. I was not expecting that.
Beerstein, my heating element gets discolored (maybe scorched?) if I don’t clean it well between brews. Also, I reduce the PID to 60% once the boil gets going. After the break, I reduce to 35% when I put the steam condenser lid on. I’m using a 15 gallon Solo so your numbers will likely be a little different.
 

Bobby_M

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I used The system again today. I didn’t bother to run the pump during mash. I got 74% efficiency, but also the element looks like scorched itself during the boil. It was totally submerged the whole time, and I only did a 45 minute boil. I was not expecting that.
That happened because proteins from the mash settled on top of the element since everything was so static. I always recommend running the whirlpool to briskly mix all the wort under and around the sides of the basket. By splitting your pump output, you can stir (whirlpool) and recirculate but with the recirculation flow VERY dialed back.
 

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That happened because proteins from the mash settled on top of the element since everything was so static. I always recommend running the whirlpool to briskly mix all the wort under and around the sides of the basket. By splitting your pump output, you can stir (whirlpool) and recirculate but with the recirculation flow VERY dialed back.
Bobby_M, that makes a lot of sense. I think this is great advice.
 
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