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Brewing Topics => All Grain/Advanced => Topic started by: Wildrover on August 25, 2008, 10:48:35 PM

Title: Another Efficiency Thread
Post by: Wildrover on August 25, 2008, 10:48:35 PM
Well, I haven't started one in a while so I think I'm long over due.

Through my efficiency odyssey I have started taking measures to be sure my ph is good, tweaked my sparging techniques seven ways to Sunday, learned about the value of mashing out and mash temp and its relationship to sugar solvency.  I learned that stirring the mash both when you first put in a volume of water (mash out or sparge water) as well as right before you re-circulate can help.  I learned about different rests and how an acid rest is better than a protein rest because although a protein rest might yield a few extra points it can damage the final product if you use well modified grains like 95% of us do.  I also learned that the size of your grain bill will have an impact as the bigger the grain bill the less efficient you are when staying with the same volumes of water as it takes more water to more fully rinse the grain.  I even found a site that scientifically explains (sort of) why rinsing the grains with two rounds of sparge water (3 runnings) is better and should be more efficient than only using two runnings.  Of course having said all that, I bought the barely crusher and have made two beers with it and my efficiency has been 84 and 88% respectively. 

So, now my question is this.  As someone who batch sparges, can I be getting too much of a good thing?  I've read that people who batch sparge very rarely, if ever, need to worry about the drop in ph and the accompanying astringency issues that often accompany a brew that has been sparged past the point of 1.010.  But I tasted some of the final runnings and there was almost no sweetness at all, same thing with the grains after I tasted them.  Could I be rinsing too much? 
Title: Re: Another Efficiency Thread
Post by: UselessBrewing on August 26, 2008, 08:48:52 AM
I don't think so, 1.007 to 1.010 is the range. And if you think about it, when a beer finishes up around those numbers you can't taste any sweetness. Personally I have been able to taste a slight sweetness at 1.015, but nothing below that.

You should take a gravity reading and see where you are ending up at. If you are not getting any off flavors and your boil volume is fine, I would not worry about it.

Your getting some good numbers now, Sounds like you are "Dialed In"!


Title: Re: Another Efficiency Thread
Post by: Maine Homebrewer on August 26, 2008, 07:05:43 PM
You're pushing 90% efficiency. 
I'd give yourself a pat on the back.
Title: Re: Another Efficiency Thread
Post by: Wildrover on August 27, 2008, 07:53:38 AM
Thanks guys, yeah you can't imagine how excited I was.  I've never had numbers that high before.  I checked and re-checked just to be sure.  The irony is that everyone says the number one problem with efficiency is the grind but I just couldn't accept that for some reason.  I think I figured that since the mill I was using was at the LHBS that it must be set correctly.  So I went and read everything I could find about efficiency which I believe has made me a better brewer overall but the problem I was having was the one that is most highly cited (and probably the most obvious). 
Title: Re: Another Efficiency Thread
Post by: Maine Homebrewer on August 27, 2008, 05:35:50 PM
In my experience the #1 factor in efficiency is the temperature of the mash and sparge.
Think about it, sugars are sticky and the warmer the water the easier they unstick.
I would say that mashing out is the #1 factor in efficiency, because it raises the mash temp and makes the sugars that much more easy to wash off the grain.
Title: Re: Another Efficiency Thread
Post by: bonjour on September 11, 2008, 09:48:05 AM

open up the gap on your crusher and then make the statement you made above, if you can.
Crush is the first thing to check, but it certainly is not the only factor.

Title: Re: Another Efficiency Thread
Post by: Maine Homebrewer on September 17, 2008, 06:24:02 PM
My grain is crushed when I buy it, so it is a constant rather than a variable in my efficiency equation.
I'm not discounting what you are saying, rather it does not apply to my experience.
In my experience the same grind will give a higher yield when the mash is the same temperature as the sparge water.
That was my point.
No offense meant or taken.

Title: Re: Another Efficiency Thread
Post by: jwehr on March 01, 2010, 02:32:25 PM
My experience leads be to believe that mash pH is the most important factor to good efficiency. I challenge anyone to mash around 7 pH, and get a decent result.
I do a batch sparge, keep my temps constant with a burner, recirc the entire time, and mashout at 168. My efficiency is around 85%. I roll my own grain so that I can ensure the roller mill is calibrated, and buy grain in bulk. If you buy pre-rolled grain, you have to make sure the store is regularly checking their mill.
Title: Re: Another Efficiency Thread
Post by: Pirate Point Brewer on March 01, 2010, 03:41:56 PM

We brew a very similar 10 pound batch often. We do a single infusion mash. Usually either at 148*F or 154*F. Our mash is .31 to .33 gal/#. We stir when we strike. We wait 5 min and stir again. We do a decocted Mash out cause we have a small tun.We stir the decoct in, hold the step for 20 min. We do not stir again until we are ready to recirculate. We shoot for 170*F and usually get 165*F. We measure ph of the first running. It has always been 5.0. We do 3 runings. Batch sparging in 2 equal batches. Like the mash, we stir when we add the sparge water. We wait 5 min and stir again. Then we wait 20 min. stir and recirculate. The S.G. of our third running is between 1.015 - 1.010. Never tasted it!!  Our grind has been done by the LHBS since we started. We could not get much past 65%.  At the beginning of this brew season, I asked them to crush it twice.  Changing nothing else we went to 75%.  The LHBS uses an old Valley Mill.  They recently  replaced the knurled rollers but we still could only get 65% to 68%. I asked the owner to either Grind twice or "Fine" grind it. They have 3 helpers so I'm not clear what gap "Fine" is. I can tell you that when the youngest grinds ...... we get 65%, if the owner grinds, we get 75% to 79%. So I'm convinced that for next year, we are buying a grain mill.  That begs many questions .........  Which one works the best??  Two rollers or three? What is the actual gap that allows numbers in the 80"s??  How fast are you turning the grinder?

So many questions!!  Help!  We want 88%!!!!
Title: Re: Another Efficiency Thread
Post by: 88Q on March 01, 2010, 05:06:18 PM
I too noticed that a double grind.....really a crush (second one tighter) yields a better efficiency. I use a homemade setup made out of a pasta roller for a kitchenmaid stand mixer. I took it apart and knurled the rollers to a nice deep knurl, and I can adjust it down to near nothing. I went from low 70's to 85ish just by double crushing. I have never even come close to a stuck mash, no matter how fine I crush.

Question: based on the previous post regarding PH. While I wholeheartedly agree on the theory,

I wondered if doing a 30-40 min protein rest due to specialty grains would effectively change the PH for the following  mash temp in the next step? I have never checked mine, but my water source is Artesian, and it has always produced good beers for me, albeit mainly IPAs.
Title: Re: Another Efficiency Thread
Post by: sickbrew on March 01, 2010, 08:14:17 PM
A year ago I was in the 60's efficiency wise and my last beer, brewed 2 weeks ago was at 88.2.  It has been a fun learning curve and I would put several metrics at the top of my "most influential list".

1) Bought a Barley Crusher.
2) Decoction Mash to achieve mash out temp.  (2X-power because in one step, save water for sparging and achieve mash out temp....just use the manual calculator in BS.)
3) Batch sparge for one hour. (OK this may be a tweener, in that I constantly maintain 1-2 inches of H20 over the grain, and adjust the drain out valve so that it takes about one hour to sparge.)

Besides having a good quality crush, to me having ample time with water moving slowly, and the right temperature makes a lot of sense in extracting sugars.


Title: Re: Another Efficiency Thread
Post by: jwehr on March 02, 2010, 07:14:58 AM
I consider myself still a noob, as I've only been brewing for 5 months, though I brew once or more per week, so I have quite a few brews under my belt.
Here is how I get 85ish%

I have a Barley Crusher set at the factory settings.. I'd have to look that up, but I do a single crush. 600-800 rpm with a drill.
Blichmann Mash Tun & False bottom with a dedicated burner.
My water ratio is 1.5 Qt/lb so I end up with a nice bit of water over the top of the mash.
Dough in at 104, and start recirculation with my March pump for a nice whirlpool.
Using a Milwuakee pH meter, I lower the pH to 5.4ish. I use lactic acid. You need to stir, even though the recirc is going on.
Heat to my mash temp, which is in the 150's depending on my sweet or dry desire.
Recirc mash for 60 min, then heat to 168.
Meanwhile, heat Sparge water in HLT to 170.
First runnings into the boil kettle, then batch sparge enough water for a second running, and drain that into boil. I only do a third if I need more wort.
Thats it. Single step, batch sparge.

I learned the pH lesson the hard way, my efficiency was all over before I got a meter, as my water is normally around 7.6 pH. I'm still kicking myself for that.
If I brewed with crystal malts or a stout, I was usually ok, since they lower pH, but anything with a lot of base malt was abysmal.

I'm actually very surprised at my 85ish% efficiency.. seems really high for my simple mash. I really do think water is a huge part of it though.

Title: Re: Another Efficiency Thread
Post by: jwehr on March 02, 2010, 10:17:00 AM
I'm going to take back my claim of 85%.  After some more research, I am not convinced that the numbers in BeerSmith are a perfect representation of the ingredients that I am using. For example, if I put a Northern Brewer recipe in BeerSmith, I get a very different OG than they do. That must mean that BeerSmiths ingredients have a different potential, since NortherBrewer always estimates 70% efficiency. 

I am attempting to track down actual numbers from the Malting Co's to confirm.

I use almost exclusively, Rahr, Breiss, and L.D. Carlson.
Title: Re: Another Efficiency Thread
Post by: MaltLicker on March 02, 2010, 12:21:26 PM
............That must mean that BeerSmiths ingredients have a different potential, since NortherBrewer always estimates 70% efficiency. 
I use almost exclusively, Rahr, Breiss, and L.D. Carlson.

On this page, bottom right, you can download Briess and many other maltsters' product lines. 

None of us really use "generic" malts.  It's just a question of knowing which maltster made what we're buying at the time.  Each chocolate malt has different stats. 

And NB may also assume some quirky batch size (e.g., 5.25 gals) which would also affect the OG, IBU calculations.  Or they may use 5.0 and we brew up 5.5, and come up short.  (It took me too long to understand the whole 'concentration' aspect of brewing). 

And I agree on water chemistry playing a big role in conversion, and not just pH.  I'm researching a presentation on water now, and it's interesting how vital calcium is through the whole brewing process, and our local water is woefully low in calcium.  Our water is very similar to Plzen, CR, so it stands to reason that I should have to adjust my water to make a dry stout just like Bohemian brewers would have back in 1842, had they known that they could.  Every batch of grains changes the mash pH and chemistry of one's local water differently.   And each degree of crush would change the 'amount' of grain character released to change that water, so it's very complicated and extremely variable. 
Title: Re: Another Efficiency Thread
Post by: jwehr on March 02, 2010, 01:57:51 PM
I've been downloading all the ingredient info for BeerSmith.. I contacted NB about the Rye IPA recipe, and they are going to get back to me on it. Honestly, I think they screwed something up.  If you punch in some of the other recipes, BeerSmith agrees with them, or with ProMash, which I think is what they use.  17.75 lbs of grain in a 5gal batch is going to be a really big beer.. bigger than 1.078 for any decent efficiency.  I'm pretty sure NB uses a consistent efficiency and batch size, but I'll pass on whatever they find out.

I'm going to order a water test for my local water. I just moved, and the house has a large whole house filter, so I'm not sure what that is pulling out.

Brewing already takes long enough, so, I'm not going to start any tedious fly sparging techniques, but I do want a consistent efficiency. I figure I have close to 8 hours into any given batch of beer, and I keg everything.. that's a lot of time for 5 gallons. I haven't even gotten crazy with yeast yet...more time.
Title: Re: Another Efficiency Thread
Post by: BobBrews on March 03, 2010, 06:16:11 AM
Efficiency can be bumped up by trying BIAB. You can count on at least 5% increase with Brew In A Bag. I use it exclusively and get high efficiency. I grind my grain with the store bought settings. I sometimes regrind to open it up more. I have thought of narrowing the gap because you can BIAB with near barley flour but I am hesitant. If you futz with something you will surly hose it up.

With BIAB You don't sparge and stuck mashes are not an issue.
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