Author Topic: Consistent but low-ish efficiency  (Read 12146 times)

therobot

  • Guest
Consistent but low-ish efficiency
« on: September 19, 2009, 05:05:12 PM »
So I'm working on trying to improve my efficiency, which is currently almost always exactly 60%.  I like the consistency, but really would like to try and work up the numbers a bit.  Here's some areas I have questions/comments in.

1) I batch sparge, but feel pretty good the process.  I always make sure I do the 'mash out' style batch sparge where my first sparge addition is to the water already in the mash, bringing the temp up to 168, and then the second half is at approximately the same temp to keep the mash at 168 for sparging.  I try and make sure to use equal volumes on the two, and seem to have pretty good luck with it.  I've know fly sparging can get me a couple points, but I've also heard the results can be the same.  I've heard this conversation go on and on and on, in fact.  Seems like a really volatile debate, and I really like the ease of batch sparging, so I wanna stay there.  Any recommendations inside of this technique to improve?

2) I know that I'm having some problems with my mash temperature.  Mainly, it seems to be uneven throughout the mash tun.  At some places I'm right at the 154 i want to be (in the center of the tun, for example) but at the outside it always seems to be lower, and there's also places that seem to be higher.  And yes, I do stir. ;) Is this common, and should I just take an 'average' of the temps I take, making sure they're in the same range, or is it a symptom of the mash tun, etc?  I use a square cooler style mash tun.

3) I do use 5.4 Buffer to stabilize PH, so I don't think I should have an issue there.  Plus, even without it, using John Palmer's water calculation sheet, I'm right in the range I want to be for the Pale I'm trying to perfect.

4) Crush.  This is where I think I'm having the biggest problem.  My LHBS has a rather antiquated grain mill (one's actually a big, but typical grain mill, the other is actually a coffee grinder.  i don't use the coffee grinder one.) and I'm starting to think that I'm just not getting a good crush.  Really looking at a Barely Crusher, and am just wondering what kind of percentage increase that I could expect from having the right crush every time.  I figure this is a big one, and am just guessing (and hoping) that I could see at least a 10 percent increase.

Phew.  If I think of anything else I'll add it, but any advice would be greatly appreciated.

Offline bonjour

  • Global Moderator
  • BeerSmith Grandmaster Brewer
  • *****
  • Posts: 566
    • Beer du Jour
Re: Consistent but low-ish efficiency
« Reply #1 on: September 20, 2009, 12:04:08 AM »
The most common cause of poor efficiency is a poor crush.  Have your LHBS double crush your malt, that should help.

Mash temp.  Try pre-heating your mash tun, that should help some, cover your mash tun with a blanket to slow heat loss.  but the bottom line is all you are doing is making beer.  Don't worry about too much about temp.  stir it then check in a common place and shut the lid and leave it shut (check the temp again when you are finished mashing.)  Over checking the mash temp specifically opening the lid) does more to increase your temp drop over your (approx) hour of mashing.   

Fred

Offline MaltLicker

  • Global Moderator
  • BeerSmith Grandmaster Brewer
  • *****
  • Posts: 2004
    • Blue Ribbon Brews
Re: Consistent but low-ish efficiency
« Reply #2 on: September 20, 2009, 06:37:35 AM »
I would recommend the Barley Crusher to any AG brewer.  You can adjust your recipe up until crush time, unlike relying on the LHBS, crush right before mashing to avoid grain oxidation/staleness, and you can adjust the crush to maximize EE%.  The BC seems to be priced right and comes with the board and hopper.

Do you add water to grains, or add grains to water?  I find it much easier to put the strike water in the mash tun first, usually a couple degrees higher than called for, to preheat the mash tun.  Once the strike water is at the temp called for, I add in the grain.  I personally think it wets more easily adding grains to water, versus trying to get water to penetrate 8 inches of dry, crushed grains.

Then mix it in, and leave it sealed like Fred recommended. 

Offline bonjour

  • Global Moderator
  • BeerSmith Grandmaster Brewer
  • *****
  • Posts: 566
    • Beer du Jour
Re: Consistent but low-ish efficiency
« Reply #3 on: September 20, 2009, 11:42:12 AM »
I too use the Barley Crusher with great results,  mine is still set at the factory default, though many adjust theirs to a tighter setting.  I use the extended hopper, but many of my brews are close to 30 pounds of grain for 5 gallons of beer.  Like maltlicker I add all my water to the mash tun then stir in my grain.

Fred

Offline Wildrover

  • BeerSmith Grandmaster Brewer
  • *****
  • Posts: 480
Re: Consistent but low-ish efficiency
« Reply #4 on: September 20, 2009, 02:17:24 PM »
I had a similar problem, low efficiency every time.  Well, I got the barley crusher adjusted it in ever so slightly an now my efficiency borders on the unbelievable.  I'm usually in the upper 80's and am at the point where my recipes are calculated for this number. 

around the same time I also started using 5.2 since I was never sure about the Ph of the mash.  I also readjusted my procedure to have three total runnings and three total infusions.  My decoct some of my mash liquor after conversion and use it to mash out (I don't add new water, I keep what I would add for my sparge rounds).  I also think have the extra infusion and running help.  It takes longer to be sure but time on a brew day means more time brewing beer (small price to pay, this is my hobby after all, not my job, why do it if I don't enjoy the process).

I also let my runnings run till they'll basically run no more.  Each runnings can take at least a half hour, again, I'm giving minutes of my life but since the best part of homebrewing is making your own beer its not something that bothers me all that much (Okay drinking your successes is pretty cool too!)

that's my thoughts on it anyway good luck and if you make any of the changes recommended here let us know the outcome

Offline UselessBrewing

  • BeerSmith Grandmaster Brewer
  • *****
  • Posts: 1115
  • Useless Brewing
    • Useless Brewing
Re: Consistent but low-ish efficiency
« Reply #5 on: September 21, 2009, 08:08:54 AM »
+1 to all the above comments!!!

I also own a BC. However, when I make larger beer's (11G or large 5.5G's) I usually let the LBS crush the grains, Just ask them to run it through twice. I'm sure they will understand...

I add water to my grains, and depending on the weather, I may or may not heat up my MT. I do however use the Adjust Mash Temp Tool every time to nail my temps.

I have found that my MT also has a hot spot in the middle. I always go with the temp on the outside of the MT. This assures that I get the intended Mash Profile. I stir every 15-30 min, so I'm sure I loose some heat, But I feel it is necessary for my setup.

Other than that; Thin mash, slow sparge, and a few beers later, your cleaning equipment for storage!  ;D

Cheers
Preston
The woodpecker pecks, Not to annoy, But to survive!

therobot

  • Guest
Re: Consistent but low-ish efficiency
« Reply #6 on: September 22, 2009, 04:25:07 PM »
Thanks ya'll, got some really good advice here.  Did the research, and I'm definitly going with the Barley Crusher, just looks like it's built well.

I'll get back to everyone when I work out the details a bit, and let ya'll know how it went.

Thanks again!

Offline t2000kw

  • Yahoo Groups
  • BeerSmith Brewer
  • ***
  • Posts: 28
Re: Consistent but low-ish efficiency
« Reply #7 on: September 28, 2009, 04:39:54 PM »
When you get a grain mill, make sure you don't crush too far and end up with a lot of flour, which makes for a stuck mash.

I use a Valley Mill (no longer in production) and it does a good job for me. I even got acceptable results with a Corona grain mill, a type of plate mill that is not very expensive at all. Acceptable doesn't mean it's as consistent as with my roller mill, but I made good beers with it and the crush was adjustable from a rough crush down to a flour if you wanted it that finely crushed.

The Barley Crusher should do a fine job for you based on the reports I've read. In fact, any of the commercially made roller mills should do a great job. The Schmidling Maltmill is what I would have bought if I hadn't found a used Valley Mill at a great price. The Schmidling Mill is available with case hardened steel rollers. There is an adjustable model (not needed, really, but it's there if you want to pay for the option), and a plain steel roller model. Lifetime guarantee on it is what I think is the best selling point. It might cost a bit more than the rest but you might want to check it out. http://schmidling.com/maltmill.htm  Cost runs from $85 for the bare bones model to a lot more if you want case hardened rollers, adjustable roller spacing on BOTH ends, large hopper, stainless steel base, and more. George Fix, author and commercial brewing consultant, uses one. Stainless steel rollers are available where there is a salty environment or where required by local codes (in a commercial setting, I would guess), but I don't see the pricing for them on the site.

Read the quoted review on the bottom of the web page and see how it fared against the Glatt mill.

If I have to ever replace my Valley Mill, it will be replaced by a Schmidling Maltmill.

Donald

Offline MaltLicker

  • Global Moderator
  • BeerSmith Grandmaster Brewer
  • *****
  • Posts: 2004
    • Blue Ribbon Brews
Re: Consistent but low-ish efficiency
« Reply #8 on: September 28, 2009, 05:51:43 PM »
Whatever you use, double-check the gap.  My friend was over yesterday (we both have the BC) and we looked at my spent grains, which he said was not crushed well.  I thought I had moved it down to 0.037, but apparently not.  I adjusted it with his help to 0.035, which is what he uses.  We'll see next time. 

Offline SOGOAK

  • BeerSmith Grandmaster Brewer
  • *****
  • Posts: 383
Re: Consistent but low-ish efficiency
« Reply #9 on: September 28, 2009, 06:42:49 PM »
I have the schmidling malt mill, non-adjustable.  It seems to give me good crushes.  My secret is to aim a hair high on grains.
I'm cool with an extra $1-2 in base malt so I get rich brew.  I like me mill a lot. I only wish it were gear driven as hand cranking 25lbs is tough. But a labor of love. I am so happy I got it before batch 2.  I hear nothing but love for barley crusher too.

Truthfully, I am not good at determining my efficiency, but my beers a drinkable and score 30+ be bjcp club members
 
Good Recipe, Good Ingredients, Good Procedure, Good Sanitation = Good Brew.

therobot

  • Guest
Re: Consistent but low-ish efficiency
« Reply #10 on: September 29, 2009, 10:45:54 PM »
When you get a grain mill, make sure you don't crush too far and end up with a lot of flour, which makes for a stuck mash.

I've heard that when you batch sparge, as I do, you don't have to worry as much about getting a stuck mash, because of the speed
you let the fluids out at.  Not really a long process that leads to the slow compaction of the grains. 

Offline stadelman

  • BeerSmith Master Brewer
  • ****
  • Posts: 88
    • Homebrew Finds Blog
Re: Consistent but low-ish efficiency
« Reply #11 on: September 30, 2009, 07:27:44 AM »
+1 on the Barley Crusher

You can still get a stuck sparge when batch sparging.  Maybe it's less likely, I can't speak to that, but I can tell you that it can still be an issue.

When you get a grain mill, make sure you don't crush too far and end up with a lot of flour, which makes for a stuck mash.

I've heard that when you batch sparge, as I do, you don't have to worry as much about getting a stuck mash, because of the speed
you let the fluids out at.  Not really a long process that leads to the slow compaction of the grains. 

therobot

  • Guest
Re: Consistent but low-ish efficiency
« Reply #12 on: September 30, 2009, 10:53:04 PM »
Just tried the double crush at my LHBS.  Oi.  Still almost exactly a 60% efficiency.  Though I did find out that their mill is set at .046".  With what I've read, even with a double crush this seems a bit large.

Offline UselessBrewing

  • BeerSmith Grandmaster Brewer
  • *****
  • Posts: 1115
  • Useless Brewing
    • Useless Brewing
Re: Consistent but low-ish efficiency
« Reply #13 on: October 01, 2009, 06:09:28 AM »
Just tried the double crush at my LHBS.  Oi.  Still almost exactly a 60% efficiency.  Though I did find out that their mill is set at .046".  With what I've read, even with a double crush this seems a bit large.

I would agree, that is larger than most. Did you ask why it was set so wide? I have heard that you want to be around .035-.040. My Barley crusher is set to .039 which works great.

You may want to think about buying a mill.

Cheers
Preston
The woodpecker pecks, Not to annoy, But to survive!

Offline SkyFlyer

  • BeerSmith Grandmaster Brewer
  • *****
  • Posts: 106
Re: Consistent but low-ish efficiency
« Reply #14 on: October 01, 2009, 12:29:38 PM »
Some good discussion !!

+1 on Barley Crusher.  Get the large hopper!
Mine is set at .039.

I make a single pass with the crush of grains.
I always put some rice hulls in the bottom of the tun.
I have a braided hose in a cooler and have never had a stuck mash.
I do a batch sparge.
I really haven't figured out my efficiency yet.  Soon.
I've been focusing on getting the routine down.
And of course drinking my beer!
Thanks, Bob

 

modification