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The Vorlauf, how to

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TheMan

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After having created some ugly beer, and my friend doing the same I had to find out why. We used the same tun, mine, so I figured that was the issue. I thought my SS braid was not filtering properly and was considering a change to a manifold but wanted to give it one more go. Efficiency was great (consistently about 84%) , but clarity sucked. I tried to solve the issue Friday night...

So I did the runnings extermely slow and actually recirculated about 6 times. It never cleared as I was told it should. You should be able to read through it. Finally I gave up and was just going to collect the runnings and begin my boil. It dawned on me suddenly that I was probably not collecting enough of the runnings to allow the grain bed to set.

I ran off 2 gallons and voila, crystal clear runnings!!!

So I wanted to share this information that is probably well known to everyone else. I had read thoroughly how to do all grain and most readings stated to run off a couple gallons to set the grain bed and it would filter properly...however I do not recall anything saying that you must run this 2 gallons off all at once. Here I was, using a 1/2 gallon pitcher to collect runnings (1/2*6 equal 3 gallons run off in my mind!)and it was never letting the bed set.

I probably just misinterpretted things when reading, but in case there are others out there that have cloudy, unclear beer. It makes perfect sense to me at this point why my beer wasn't clear. Perhaps this can be an issue associated with your clarity, and maybe I can save you some frustration.

Cheers! Hope this helps someone!
 
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TheMan

TheMan

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that may be some day in the future...until now i have to make do lol.
 
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TheMan

TheMan

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At first I only ran off 1/2 gallon at a time, 6 times...which is a total runoff of 3 gallons. Essentially the grain was still floating and not "set". When you run off the 2 gallons or more at once, it will actually "set" the grainbed. So yes, I ranoff 2 gallons at once for success.

This can be different depending on your equpment, my friend does 1 gallon vorlauf and his grainbed sets because his tun is larger (i.e. more shallow). Mine is a 7.5 gallon cooler, so I will need to runoff more at once to let the grainbed set.
 

wildwest450

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It's totally dependent on your setup. I had to run a lot through my cooler/manifold, a gallon. With my new setup and a false bottom, crystal clear after a quart and a half!
 

aussy13

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It's totally dependent on your setup. I had to run a lot through my cooler/manifold, a gallon. With my new setup and a false bottom, crystal clear after a quart and a half!
I can't get crystal clear runnings from mine. (10gal water cooler + false bottom). I think that one side of the false bottom lifts up. Any suggestions on keeping it snug to the bottom all the way around?
AM
 
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TheMan

TheMan

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What? Sez who? Free of chunks is fine.
I'm only talking about reading through the 3/8 inch tube or whatever you use to drain your tun while wort is running through it. Not through the whole 5 gallons.

This is what i was told by a friend while I was trying to fix my problem...in the end I was able to read through the tube, which was a HUGE improvement on what I thought was clear runnings and yielding me cloudy beer.
 

malkore

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I never run off more than 3/4 of a gallon before I'm sufficiently 'clear' in my runnings.

SS braid, 5 gallon cooler.

I do not, however, open my ball valve 100%. more like 75-80% gets me a nice fast run off and minimal grain bits.

Try that. You shouldn't have to run off 3 gallons to set the bed when batch sparging.
 

shataway

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Are you closing the valve after each vorlauf? My cooler MLT wall flexes when I adjust the valve which moves my manifold. Therefor, once I start the vorlauf, I never touch the valve. I lift the end of the hose above liquid level between vorlaufs.
 

xxsn0blindxx

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I am using a cooler and CPVC manifold with hack saw cut grooves. I use a 4-cup measuring cup to collect the vorlauf and it's clear after the first 6 cups. I usually let it run out to 12 cups just because I'm kind of OCD like that, but it doesn't get any clearer. It seems odd that with a mesh tube it would take more to get clear runnings. I've never used one but I would think it would be a finer filter than a manifold. My manifold and valve are all half inch diameter and only open it 1/3 to 1/2 way. I also close the valve when I need to empty my measuring cup. Maybe you're opening your valve too much and the particle are washing out instead of seating?
 
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TheMan

TheMan

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My issue is solved...I wasn't really asking for help on it. I just wanted to let others know in case they have a similar issue.

Malkore - I was only vorlaufing 3 gallons because I thought slower and more vorlauf would help. 3 gallons was the total of my 6 vorlaufs (1/2 gal pitcher being filled 6 times = 3 gallons). It did nothing.

I come to find out that when people said to vorlauf X amount that it doesn't mean cumulative, which is how I took it...at least this is the case for me.

I open the valve all the way and vorlauf 1-2 gallons and it sets perfect and my runnings are clear. I thought I had clear runnings before, but turns out it wasn't anywhere near it.

As said before, this will be system specific, but if someone has similar issues this may help point them in the right direction.
 

SamuraiSquirrel

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Are you closing the valve after each vorlauf? My cooler MLT wall flexes when I adjust the valve which moves my manifold. Therefor, once I start the vorlauf, I never touch the valve. I lift the end of the hose above liquid level between vorlaufs.
Wow, i never even considered trying to stop it lol.

I just open her up stick the hose in my one gallons pitcher. Once the first is about full I stick the hose in the second one gallon pitcher (while running). Dump first while second is filling, replace now empty first pitcher with now nearly full second pitcher ............... repeat as needed then throw hose in bucket once she's clear.
 

Sudz

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Vorlauf drain speed can be important. I use a 1/2 gal pitcher and it takes 2 to 3 runs to get things clear "with my setup".

I found two things (may be others) which significantly effected the clarity of my preboil wort.

First... go slow to set the bed. 2 cups per minute is the recommended max. Some folks don't appear to need to follow this rule, but I do. If I run faster it takes longer to clear the runoff and, I've observed channels being created in the grain bed at faster flow rates which isn't a good thing.

Second... make certain when you pour the vorlauf back into the system you do not disturb the grain bed. This is hard to do without something to deliberately disperse the flow of the returning liquid. If you allow the flow to disturb the bed, you're essentially starting over with each pitcher.

Cheers...
 

hezagenius

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So for those using pitchers or something similar, how do you dump the runnings back into the tun without disturbing the bed? I did my first AG yesterday. I used a 1-qt container and filled it 4 times before the runnings got remotely clear. I tried pouring it back in against the side of the tun to hopefully disperse the flow a little but that probably did more harm than good. It never got totally clear although it did improve. There were still small particles floathing in the vorlauf but I decided to just move on with the sparge and the brew.
 

roxtar

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So for those using pitchers or something similar, how do you dump the runnings back into the tun without disturbing the bed? I did my first AG yesterday. I used a 1-qt container and filled it 4 times before the runnings got remotely clear. I tried pouring it back in against the side of the tun to hopefully disperse the flow a little but that probably did more harm than good. It never got totally clear although it did improve. There were still small particles floathing in the vorlauf but I decided to just move on with the sparge and the brew.
I put a sanitized sheet of aluminum foil on top of the grain in my MLT. This allows the liquid to disperse evenly and doesn't disturb the grain bed.
 
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With sanitizer, star-san. I guess it's not necessary but had some mixed up.
Yeah, I guess the "why" was my main question. The "how" if fairly obvious. :D

I'm just not much of a pre-boil sanitizer for anything, so I was just wondering if I was missing something.
 

carp

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At first I only ran off 1/2 gallon at a time, 6 times...which is a total runoff of 3 gallons. Essentially the grain was still floating and not "set". When you run off the 2 gallons or more at once, it will actually "set" the grainbed. So yes, I ranoff 2 gallons at once for success.

This can be different depending on your equpment, my friend does 1 gallon vorlauf and his grainbed sets because his tun is larger (i.e. more shallow). Mine is a 7.5 gallon cooler, so I will need to runoff more at once to let the grainbed set.
I'm glad this thread got bumped up again, because I wanted to think you for inspiring me to pay more attention on this front, with very good results. I had been vorlaufing 2 1/2 gallon 'sessions', interrupted, and have gone to a continuous 1 gallon vorlauf, and am getting much clearer wort going into the BK.
I've noticed an interesting phenomenon - there is a certain characteristic to the flow out of the tube, then a bit of a hiccup, and then the flow changes (I can't recall how, its just different) and after the change its much more clear.
 

hezagenius

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I put a sanitized sheet of aluminum foil on top of the grain in my MLT. This allows the liquid to disperse evenly and doesn't disturb the grain bed.
Do you put any holes in the foil sheet or do you just let the water flow over the edges as you pour it back in?

Do you cover the entire grain bed or just a portion?
 

JakeTheHopDog

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Is there any valid reason not to put a grain bag around the CPVC manifold? Wouldn't this cut down on the pieces getting into the slots or holes in the manifold, helping to clear it up faster? Just wondering.
 

Cambriel

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So quick silly question, because I might have done this wrong last weekend. When someone says the runnings should be "clear", does that mean literally crystal clear like water? I did my first all grain batch last saturday and was only looking for "free of debris". The wort I used ended up being a fairly light golden color. Looking at the beer in the carboy, it's pretty damn cloudy right now.
 

ClaudiusB

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When someone says the runnings should be "clear", does that mean literally crystal clear like water?
We all have different definitions for "Clear", here is mine.;)

Helles during Vorlauf



After Vorlauf, pumping into brew kettle



Wheat beer


Cheers,
ClaudiusB
 

Cambriel

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Hm, yeah next time I'll have to do a better job. I suspect this batch is going to be a fairly opaque blonde ale :/

But hey, it was my first AG. Mistakes are how we learn, right?
 

TVarmy

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Well, I didn't know that it was supposed to be that clear... I just did my vorlauf until it was clear of grain bits durring my first all grain (2 quarts). I had the ball-valve open just a hair, so that it would go slowly (the LHBS guy told me anything faster would risk a stock mash).

I got a nice cold break and all that, though. Will I have an opaque pale ale? What about tannic flavors?
 
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TheMan

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I'm glad this thread got bumped up again, because I wanted to think you for inspiring me to pay more attention on this front, with very good results. I had been vorlaufing 2 1/2 gallon 'sessions', interrupted, and have gone to a continuous 1 gallon vorlauf, and am getting much clearer wort going into the BK.
I've noticed an interesting phenomenon - there is a certain characteristic to the flow out of the tube, then a bit of a hiccup, and then the flow changes (I can't recall how, its just different) and after the change its much more clear.
There is another member here that helped me to improve this even more...only opening the valve halfway helped a bit as well.

As for the "how clear" question. You guys are doing things fine if you are just making sure it is relatively free of debris. I have heard that some debris is ok and even helps the protein bond together and settle out in the fermenter. I do not know how valid the claim is though.

Having said that, my own theory is, the clearer the wort you start with, the clearer it can be in the end. My wort looks like claudius' pics. I like it that way.
 

Denny

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So for those using pitchers or something similar, how do you dump the runnings back into the tun without disturbing the bed? I did my first AG yesterday. I used a 1-qt container and filled it 4 times before the runnings got remotely clear. I tried pouring it back in against the side of the tun to hopefully disperse the flow a little but that probably did more harm than good. It never got totally clear although it did improve. There were still small particles floathing in the vorlauf but I decided to just move on with the sparge and the brew.
I just pour it gently back over the top...never takes more than 1-2 qt.

 

Denny

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So quick silly question, because I might have done this wrong last weekend. When someone says the runnings should be "clear", does that mean literally crystal clear like water? I did my first all grain batch last saturday and was only looking for "free of debris". The wort I used ended up being a fairly light golden color. Looking at the beer in the carboy, it's pretty damn cloudy right now.
Clear means "no chunks". I've found that wort clarity has no bearing on beer clarity.
 

gunner11

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One thing I find I have trouble with is disturbing the grain bed pouring back in. With the round 10G cooler it is hard to get my pitcher back in close enough to the grain and pour slowly from a close height to the bed. I tried to pour on top of a tupperware bowl lid and still seem to disturb the grain bed and get some channelling.
 

Cambriel

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Tinfoil on top with some holes poked in it helps a lot to brunt the impact of the water. Or for the fancier method, sit/hold a strainer over the grain bed and pour the water through that.
 

Tiber_Brew

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I've seen some good suggestions here. This part of the process is very equipment dependent, so no one method or volume of recirculation will work for everyone. Thought I'd put in my $.02...

I use a 10 gal round cooler with a SS false bottom and continuous (fly) sparging technique. When I vorlauf, I open the valve about 70% and pour the recirculated wort over my mash paddle to not disturb the grain bed. Within about 1/2 gallon to a gallon my wort is crystal clear, and I close the valve to about 25% and start my sparge.
 

rico567

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Clear means "no chunks". I've found that wort clarity has no bearing on beer clarity.
I agree with this. I don't get carried away with the vorlauf. Once it's running reasonably clear (maybe 1-2 qt on each vorlauf, I start opening up the valve. I use Whirlfloc or a 5 Star product called "Super Moss" and the finished product is nice and clear.
 

BadgerBrewer

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I used to make a bigger deal out of the vorlauf process when I first started doing all grain. Lately I have done like rico and run a few quarts to get the big chunks out and let 'er roll to the boil keggle at 75% open valve. I just got a pump so I can't wait to simply hit the switch and let it circulate for 5 minutes. I still don't think I will care all that much about clarity because I am of the whirflock fan club. Makes crystal clear beer regardless of the clarity going into the boil kettle.
 
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