Splitting up the grain bill?

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GreatWhiteSlark

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In an effort to keep AG start up costs low, I used a 5 gallon picnic cooler that I ready had for my MLT. Turns out it won't take more than 10 lb of grain with 1.25 qt/lb of water without overflowing.

I'm wanting to make some Imperial and dark brown ales that have 14-18 pound grain bills and was wondering if I could do two separate mashes and just combine them in the keggle for the final boil to get a full batch.

The only problem I see is if I get different efficiencies from each batch, but my thermometers are pretty accurate and my MLT only loses half a degree per hour, so I'm not *that* worried by it.


What do you all think?
 

bradsul

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I don't see any reason why not. I think you'd want to do a mash out step on each mash to halt conversion though. Otherwise you'll end up with a really fermentable wort.

It doesn't really matter what efficiency you get from each mash (assuming they aren't ultra-low) as they will get combined together for an overall efficiency. I would definitely have a bunch of DME on hand though. In fact why not just do a partial mash in the first place? Seems like it would be easier.
 
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GreatWhiteSlark

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bradsul said:
It doesn't really matter what efficiency you get from each mash (assuming they aren't ultra-low) as they will get combined together for an overall efficiency. I would definitely have a bunch of DME on hand though. In fact why not just do a partial mash in the first place? Seems like it would be easier.
Is it really that difficult to get good wort when batch sparging big beers? My first foray into AG was with a red ale that has more flocculation and fermentation started earlier than my extract brews.

As for why I'm an AG fan, the truth of the matter is that I'm a poor recent college grad. Every few dollars help (which is why I haven't bought a 10 gallon picnic cooler).

Thanks for the quick reply.
 

bradsul

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GreatWhiteSlark said:
Is it really that difficult to get good wort when batch sparging big beers? My first foray into AG was with a red ale that has more flocculation and fermentation started earlier than my extract brews...
Absolutely not. If your mash tun won't take the whole amount of sparge water you just need to break it up into a couple batches - in fact there seems to be some benefit to doing that anyway. I get a couple points higher efficiency if I do split my sparge water and do two batch sparges.
 

CBBaron

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No its not particularly difficult to do all grain with big beers but unless you sparge a large amount of water you will end up will poorer efficiency than you will with an average sized beer. If you do fully sparge the grain bed you end up with a large wort volume that has to be boiled down, which also costs money and time.
However you can do a 10-12# mash and get your normal pre-boil volume. Then add DME in the last 15min of the boil to make up the difference. This method does not add the extra 1-2 hours to your brew day for a second mash, and doesn't have any complications from large boil volumes or poor efficiency. If you don't have the equipment to do big beers with a single mash then extract is an easy and effective way of making up the difference.

BTW I use a 5gal round cooler and can fit 12# to 13# of grain in a mash with batch sparging. I sparge in 3 drainings/ 2 sparge water additions.

Craig
 

malkore

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rather than take all the time to do 2 mashes, i say do a thicker mash, and two sparges...hell even 3 if necessary.

otherwise you're talking about 3 hours just to mash and sparge...then you have to boil it all.
 
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GreatWhiteSlark

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I've got a keggle and a good burner so boiling isn't the problem.

I'm just nervous about relying on DME to make up the efficiency. Does anyone have a good article to read on it?
 

Chad

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I have a 5 gallon MLT, too. You can do a double mash. In fact, I did it on my last batch -- two full 12lb grain bills back to back. However, for anything up to 1.060 all you need to do is batch sparge. My routine is exactly the same as CBBaron's. You can get up to 12lb of grain with a thicker mash, if necessary. It rarely is.

Prior to the last batch, which was an experiment in parti-gyle brewing, I did three Special Bitters/Northern English Browns. All were in the 1.056 to 1.060 range and had 11-12lb grain bills. I pretty much standardized on 15-16 quarts of mash water and two batch sparges of 2.25 gallons each. On two of them I hit higher efficiency than I'd planned for, which was a nice surprise. CBBaron's advice is spot on. If you need to go bigger than 1.060 you can do a double mash. It will work just fine, but you'll spend your entire day at it. If that's not a problem, go for it. If you can't spend 12 hours (that's how long my double mash/double boil day lasted), DME during the last 15 minutes of the boil will get you where you need to be.

Chad
 

CBBaron

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GreatWhiteSlark said:
I've got a keggle and a good burner so boiling isn't the problem.

I'm just nervous about relying on DME to make up the efficiency. Does anyone have a good article to read on it?
What are you nervous about? It is basically a partial mash only you are getting most of your fermentables from the mash and only supplementing with DME. This is what I have done on a number of big beers. I did a big hoppy amber ale and RIS using this technique and they are my best beers to date. For me the small extra costs of the DME is well worth the simplicity and time savings.
Craig
 
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