What am I doing wrong? / a few questions from a newbie..

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Monkeykler

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Hi All,

I have some newbie questions so apologies in advance.

I've brewed quite a few recipes All grain e.g. 6kg of malted barley, hops, yeast, cleaning tablet etc which come as a package from a supplier.

The first batches went great, I bought a few more of the same ingredients from the same supplier of one of the recipes in particular ones I liked which were a Red Ale and a Belgian style Tripel.

First batches came out as below

Red Ale
SG: 1.050
FG 1.010

Tripel
SG: 1.060
FG: 1.011

Second Batch Tripel

SG:1.050
FG:1.010

Red Ale Batch 2
SG:1.040
FG:1.008

Red Ale Batch 3
SG:1.042
FG:1.012

Is there some kind of mistake I could be making here to cause the gravity to be lowering from initial batches? the

I am using an electronic kettle with a re-circulation pump and mash basket.

Thanks in advance
 

madscientist451

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Perhaps the crush is not consistent? There are lots of variables to consider, and I would pull a sample before you start the boil, chill it down and take a gravity reading. If your pre boil gravity is low, you could extend your mash time. Another method would be to get the mash going at the desired temperature, turn off the circulation and heat and wrap up the kettle in a blanket and let it sit for an hour. Then recirculate at the end.
 

DuncB

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Another variable is what temps you took the gravity readings at or did you correct the values for temp that you supplied.

It's the usual you ask a simple question and get fifty answers that are questions.
 
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Monkeykler

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What volumes of liquid did you use to mash, sparge, have before boil and post boil and into fermenter for each one.
23 Litres + 13 Litres, mash for 60 minutes pull up mash basket pour over water evenly at 75c-78c one litre at a time (13 litres total) pre boil I think around the 30 litre mark 26.5 litres post and 25.5 in the fermenting bucket.
 
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Monkeykler

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Plus what was your mash temperature
First time was my first every brew so I followed the guidance of the manufacturer as it's an "automatic" machine / kettle which is pre programmed.

The supplier explained the kettle gets to around 75c you throw in the grain and temperature goes down to around 60c it heats to 65c and does a 60 minutes mash then 78c for 10 minutes (still not sure why does is? but hey ho... that's another question for another time) but I noticed that the grain was only about 58-64c for the first 30 minutes of the mash so on the next brews I decided to manually get it to 65c and then countdown the mash time. maybe that's where i'm going wrong?
 
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Monkeykler

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What was your grainbill and volume as well? 10 points is a big swing - assessing the efficiency of the mash is always a good sanity check (would tell you if your first beers overachieved on efficiency or if your current batches are underachieving)

useful calculator:

I agree it's a big, it's a good 1%+ ABV less as well....

Grainbill, do you mean weight? 6KG Malted Barley mixture of different EBC levels the outcome of each are supposed to what I reached on batch 1, gravity etc so i'm now underachieving
 
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Monkeykler

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Perhaps the crush is not consistent? There are lots of variables to consider, and I would pull a sample before you start the boil, chill it down and take a gravity reading. If your pre boil gravity is low, you could extend your mash time. Another method would be to get the mash going at the desired temperature, turn off the circulation and heat and wrap up the kettle in a blanket and let it sit for an hour. Then recirculate at the end.
I'm thinking that about the crush, I've learnt my lesson with crushing by trying to manually crush my own on a test brew using a food processor, I ended up with a 1.5% beer, didn't taste bad but the efficiency was about 20% haha!

Thanks for the advice, I didn't know I could do that, so basically I could save me brew before moving to boiling?

So simmer, cover and sit?

Thanks
 
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Monkeykler

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Another variable is what temps you took the gravity readings at or did you correct the values for temp that you supplied.

It's the usual you ask a simple question and get fifty answers that are questions.
Both Gravity reading were taken at around 24c

I agree, all the questions and answers are much appreciated I am eager to learn.
 

jschein

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First time was my first every brew so I followed the guidance of the manufacturer as it's an "automatic" machine / kettle which is pre programmed.

The supplier explained the kettle gets to around 75c you throw in the grain and temperature goes down to around 60c it heats to 65c and does a 60 minutes mash then 78c for 10 minutes (still not sure why does is? but hey ho... that's another question for another time) but I noticed that the grain was only about 58-64c for the first 30 minutes of the mash so on the next brews I decided to manually get it to 65c and then countdown the mash time. maybe that's where i'm going wrong?
Fairly low mash for 30 minutes. Use this calculator Mash Infusion and Rest Schedule Calculator - Brewer's Friend
You should be in the 65c to 68c for the whole 60 minutes , then 10 minutes at 76c for mash out, which your system does. What system is it ?
 
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Monkeykler

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Fairly low mash for 30 minutes. Use this calculator Mash Infusion and Rest Schedule Calculator - Brewer's Friend
You should be in the 65c to 68c for the whole 60 minutes , then 10 minutes at 76c for mash out, which your system does. What system is it ?
Hi,

The first batch i'm guessing was 30 minutes as it took about 30 minutes to get to 65c on the grain bed(using a manual temp check) the machine says the temperature is 65c but manual checks tell me different using a stick thermometer as the machines thermometer is at the bottom of the kettle.

I was trying to explain that since the first batch I've started manually using the machines programming steps as I noticed it was counting down the 60 minutes mash time even though the grain bed wasn't heated to 65c, so I have started to heat the grain bed (while circulating) to 65c then starting the 60 minute countdown on mashing.

Stupid question : - What is mash out? I noticed this step on the machine, the only difference is it's programmed to 78c for 10 minutes, do you keep the grain in the kettle during this 10 minutes and lauter after ?

The system was made custom in a factory in China and doesn't really have a name.... but i'd say it's very similar to a grain father / Robobrew it's a 30L kettle.

Thanks
 

DuncB

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Thanks for the updates.
75celsius for " dough in" seems quite high to me. I tended to dough in a couple of degrees above my planned mash temperature so say 67 degrees for a 65 mash on my 35l robobrew.
Yes I did heat whilst doughing in but set at my mash temperature not the dough in temp. Agreed start the 60 minutes once at temp won't do any harm.
Be careful with your flow on the recirculation have just enough water to keep the grain covered. I found that it had to be quite slow at first until the bed settled and as the mash progressed I had to turn the flow up.
You might be getting a really good mash but leaving sugars in the grain, dig to the bottom of the mash pipe when you finish without burning yourself and taste a few grains. If it's sweet then you are leaving sugars behind. Also make sure you stir well at dough in of the grains and perhaps another good stir after 15 minutes just to be on the safe side.
I think 3 litres per kg of grain should be fine for that malt bill, and then sparge slowly with 18 litres.
Mash out a good idea that stops the enzyme activity and then you sparge with water at 76 degrees. I tend to heat the water a degree or two hotter to sparge as it cools running down the tube or in jug etc. so is at 76 when it hits the grains.

Has anyone mentioned ph?

Brewersfriend water calculator also guides with acid additions so even if you dont have a pH measure there will be an indication of the projected pH and what you would need to add. pH of between 5.2 and 5.6 is good for the mash.

Try a recipe that has about 4.5 kg of grain in it, I found that the bigger grain bills were more tricky for efficiency on the robobrew and the volumes meant that the kettle was very full and risk of boilover was high. If you are desperate to get the alcohol level up use some sugar or malt extract but great beer doesn't have to be a 7.5% hop bomb and it isn't cheating as many recipes use sugar.
Just aim for a couple of litres less in the fermenter is another option.
 
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Monkeykler

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Thanks for the updates.
75celsius for " dough in" seems quite high to me. I tended to dough in a couple of degrees above my planned mash temperature so say 67 degrees for a 65 mash on my 35l robobrew.
Yes I did heat whilst doughing in but set at my mash temperature not the dough in temp. Agreed start the 60 minutes once at temp won't do any harm.
Be careful with your flow on the recirculation have just enough water to keep the grain covered. I found that it had to be quite slow at first until the bed settled and as the mash progressed I had to turn the flow up.
You might be getting a really good mash but leaving sugars in the grain, dig to the bottom of the mash pipe when you finish without burning yourself and taste a few grains. If it's sweet then you are leaving sugars behind. Also make sure you stir well at dough in of the grains and perhaps another good stir after 15 minutes just to be on the safe side.
I think 3 litres per kg of grain should be fine for that malt bill, and then sparge slowly with 18 litres.
Mash out a good idea that stops the enzyme activity and then you sparge with water at 76 degrees. I tend to heat the water a degree or two hotter to sparge as it cools running down the tube or in jug etc. so is at 76 when it hits the grains.

Has anyone mentioned ph?

Brewersfriend water calculator also guides with acid additions so even if you dont have a pH measure there will be an indication of the projected pH and what you would need to add. pH of between 5.2 and 5.6 is good for the mash.

Try a recipe that has about 4.5 kg of grain in it, I found that the bigger grain bills were more tricky for efficiency on the robobrew and the volumes meant that the kettle was very full and risk of boilover was high. If you are desperate to get the alcohol level up use some sugar or malt extract but great beer doesn't have to be a 7.5% hop bomb and it isn't cheating as many recipes use sugar.
Just aim for a couple of litres less in the fermenter is another option.
Hi DuncB,

Ok, I can try the doughin a bit lower, one thing to note actually is that at the beginning when i didn't have much equipment I would heat the water in the kettle but now I preheat the water in a 40 litre water heater and pour it into the kettle, I also use this to prepare my sparge water.

Ok I will continue with my countdown from accurate grain bed temperature, makes more sense to me also.

When disposing of my grains I tend to taste the top part and they're kinda 5% sweet but mostly water if that makes sense? is it a good idea for me to stir every 10-15 minutes during mash and then during mash out or is that a no-no?

recalculation is set to about 30% on mash otherwise it just overflows and I end up with grain in the bottom of the kettle which in turns gets sucked into the hole at the bottom which feeds the magnetic pump which then blocks it causing a real nightmare... learnt that lesson haha

the information I got from the supplier has been very conflicting to be honest and leads me to believe they don't know what they're talking about... hence my questions here haha...

Unfortunately if I put less than 23 litres to start it seems I end up with not enough water and it ends up like a cake especially with the Tripel ingredients, or is that correct? I had the question in the back of my mind, what happens if you put too less or too much strike water?

The 40 litre water heater I am using is perfect, I set it to 90c, the water comes out around 77/78 and keeps the grain bed at around 75c for the whole sparge.

Don't know if it helps but the best water I have available is 7- 7.2 ph which is tested weekly and I check the PH strip is that too high the ph? Tap water here is 9ph + and I just wouldn't touch that haha

I have recently bought from another supplier which is a smaller recipe around 5KG so I will see how that turns out on the smaller scale, yes my machine and kitchen floor are regularly a mess too from a nice hot sticky boil over !

To be honest i'm not really that bothered by the alcohol content, i'm happy with 90% of the beer I've made, 2% alcohol is fine as long as it tastes good but i'm after consistency. I would like each batch I make to taste the same if possible but since the ingredients i'm being supplied state the results should be different to what i'm currently getting and i've already had the expected results on the first tries it leads me to think if I continue the way i'm going i'm going to have completely random figures throughout, so i'm trying to workout what i'm doing wrong or if i'm not doing something wrong could it be an external factor, supplier, preparation of ingredients etc?

Thanks very much for your help.
 

Upstate12866

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I am just an inexperienced brewer, but I was chasing poor efficiency and found the following ideas helpful.

- how i milled the grains was important for maximizing efficiency.

- Time in the mash was less important than mash conditions. I found that 90 minutes in the mash could produce less efficiency than 40 minutes (using the same grain from the same package!)

With that second point in mind, if I were after efficiency I would not manually crank the temp up at the start of the mash and I would be wary of too hot strike water. I would step up slowly to use enzymes that are active at each step. Roughly i think it's 130, 152, and 160 for the ranges (with 152 being a sweet spot where there's a bit of overlap). If you heat to 160 right away, it destroys the enzymes that work at 130, for instance. So I would wait to use up lower temp enzymes before moving up. I believe that's why mash out (160) always occurs at the end of the mash. It would be easier to do it the other way around--hotter at first with temp going down naturally to 152 and 130--but there would be no enzymes left by the time the wort cooled to those levels.

I literally have nothing else to add since i brew out of gym sock. Carry on! :)
 
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Monkeykler

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I am just an inexperienced brewer, but I was chasing poor efficiency and found the following ideas helpful.

- how i milled the grains was important for maximizing efficiency.

- Time in the mash was less important than mash conditions. I found that 90 minutes in the mash could produce less efficiency than 40 minutes (using the same grain from the same package!)

With that second point in mind, if I were after efficiency I would not manually crank the temp up at the start of the mash and I would be wary of too hot strike water. I would step up slowly to use enzymes that are active at each step. Roughly i think it's 130, 152, and 160 for the ranges (with 152 being a sweet spot where there's a bit of overlap). If you heat to 160 right away, it destroys the enzymes that work at 130, for instance. So I would wait to use up lower temp enzymes before moving up. I believe that's why mash out (160) always occurs at the end of the mash. It would be easier to do it the other way around--hotter at first with temp going down naturally to 152 and 130--but there would be no enzymes left by the time the wort cooled to those levels.

I literally have nothing else to add since i brew out of gym sock. Carry on! :)
Ok makes sense. how about just putting 50c strike water in the kettle, putting in the grain, manually checking the grain bed until it get's to desired temperature (65c in this case) then starting my 60 minute countdown? or does that just sound stupid?

I don't mind the time input as long as the output is good.

Thanks for your time to message.
 

Upstate12866

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With that there robobrewer, do you need to worry about scorching things, like we do on a stove top? Probably not. In that case I suppose that your idea fits what I personally have in mind, and you can just tell the machine to do your bidding without any worries about flames burning grains in the pot. But my understanding is that you will maximize efficiency by using that lower temp zone for a bit before moving up to higher temps.

You might google about "step mashes" to see if it's worth resting for a time on your way up. Maybe you can even save a custom setting in your machine for later. Although if you only want uniformity across batches I suppose rests may be less important than just avoiding the extra hot strike water and therefore keeping more heat sensitive enzymes intact for longer.

Of course, I wouldn't be surprised if I don't have the full picture, so don't take my word as expert advice. This is just my understanding after looking into my own efficiency problems. :)
 
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Monkeykler

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With that there robobrewer, do you need to worry about scorching things, like we do on a stove top? Probably not. In that case I suppose that your idea fits what I personally have in mind, and you can just tell the machine to do your bidding without any worries about flames burning grains in the pot. But my understanding is that you will maximize efficiency by using that lower temp zone for a bit before moving up to higher temps.

You might google about "step mashes" to see if it's worth resting for a time on your way up. Maybe you can even save a custom setting in your machine for later. Although if you only want uniformity across batches I suppose rests may be less important than just avoiding the extra hot strike water and therefore keeping more heat sensitive enzymes intact for longer.

Of course, I wouldn't be surprised if I don't have the full picture, so don't take my word as expert advice. This is just my understanding after looking into my own efficiency problems. :)

You're making a lot of sense and yes no scorching or flames thankfully, although I do have stomach scars to prove that it is very very hot after boiling!

I'll give it a go on Brewday which is Sunday hopefully.

Pardon my ignorance, what is this resting part?

That's fine I appreciate your advice and it's making sense.

Cheers
 

Upstate12866

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The rests are just periods where you hold the temp for a bit. It gives the enzymes time to do their thing before killing them off as you move to the next temperature range. They can serve more purposes than that (for instance, I think some grain bills may benefit from rests to unbundle proteins or other stuff like that). It is an interesting rabbit hole, like so many topics in homebrewing.
 
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Monkeykler

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The rests are just periods where you hold the temp for a bit. It gives the enzymes time to do their thing before killing them off as you move to the next temperature range. They can serve more purposes than that (for instance, I think some grain bills may benefit from rests to unbundle proteins or other stuff like that). It is an interesting rabbit hole, like so many topics in homebrewing.
You never stop learning! I guess there is something else I need to look into then! Thanks
 
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