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General Category => All Grain Brewing => Topic started by: greatplainsbrewer on February 18, 2012, 04:51:37 PM

Title: water/grist ratio and efficiency
Post by: greatplainsbrewer on February 18, 2012, 04:51:37 PM
Quick question.  I'm a batch sparger and I seem to achieve a better efficiency with a higher water to grist ratio.  Today I mashed with a 1.9 qt/lb ratio and achieved a 78% efficiency.  Generally I'm closer to a 1.5 qt/lb ratio and a 73% efficiency.  Is there anything to this or should I look in another direction to explain the jump. 

I mill my own and haven't changed the settings.  PH was at 5.6 (a little high).
Title: Re: water/grist ratio and efficiency
Post by: denny on February 18, 2012, 05:03:11 PM
I have found the same thing.  It wasn't a huge increase for me, but going from 1.25-1.3 qt./lb. to 1.75 did increase my efficiency a bit.
Title: Re: water/grist ratio and efficiency
Post by: malzig on February 18, 2012, 06:19:50 PM
Higher efficiency is a common effect of mashing thinner.
Title: Re: water/grist ratio and efficiency
Post by: nateo on February 18, 2012, 07:15:38 PM
Awesome article, if you haven't seen it:
http://braukaiser.com/wiki/index.php?title=Effects_of_mash_parameters_on_fermentability_and_efficiency_in_single_infusion_mashing#Mash_thickness
Title: Re: water/grist ratio and efficiency
Post by: ccfoo242 on February 19, 2012, 03:32:35 AM
Awesome article, if you haven't seen it:
http://braukaiser.com/wiki/index.php?title=Effects_of_mash_parameters_on_fermentability_and_efficiency_in_single_infusion_mashing#Mash_thickness

But what's the effect on flavor?  Are there any tests of the same recipe/same equipment using thicker/thinner mash?
Title: Re: water/grist ratio and efficiency
Post by: weithman5 on February 19, 2012, 09:23:48 AM
i don't know that anyone has put together a formal testing scheme but i have heard some claims by some that they think their beer tastes better to them when they don't try to go overboard on just efficiency
Title: Re: water/grist ratio and efficiency
Post by: greatplainsbrewer on February 19, 2012, 01:04:43 PM
I wondered about other effects as well.  The only reason I went that high was to balance (within a gallon) the volume of water in my mash and sparge.

Somewhat related.  I mash in a 48 qt cooler and have to drop my ratio to about 1.25 qt/lb when making a big beer like Denny's BVIP.  When I do that my efficiency will drop to about 70-71%.  Is that just the lower water ratio or is it just more difficult to wash that much sugar out of the tun?

I'm not a pro so efficiency isn't that big of a deal to me except that I would like consistency/predictability so that when I'm brewing for competition I am not adjusting on the fly like yesterday to stay within the style guidelines.  Otherwise not that big of a deal.

Thanks
Title: Re: water/grist ratio and efficiency
Post by: nateo on February 19, 2012, 02:35:35 PM
I wondered about other effects as well.  The only reason I went that high was to balance (within a gallon) the volume of water in my mash and sparge.

I try to get my mash and sparge as balanced I can too. I batch sparge, and I can definitely tell a taste difference between a thin mash and only one round of sparging, or a thick mash and having to sparge twice. I get more grainy off-flavors when I sparge two+ times, and that's with pre-acidified sparge water.

Sometimes the second round of sparging will drop the gravity too low, but at that point it's either take the runnings and hope for the best or take a lot less gravity and volume.
Title: Re: water/grist ratio and efficiency
Post by: malzig on February 19, 2012, 02:46:59 PM
But what's the effect on flavor?  Are there any tests of the same recipe/same equipment using thicker/thinner mash?
It's based on German brewing techniques, where thinner mashes are favored to preserve the flavor of delicate lagers.  One goal of a thinner mash is to reduce the tannin extraction that can increase with larger sparge volumes.
Title: Re: water/grist ratio and efficiency
Post by: hopfenundmalz on February 19, 2012, 03:33:49 PM
But what's the effect on flavor?  Are there any tests of the same recipe/same equipment using thicker/thinner mash?
It's based on German brewing techniques, where thinner mashes are favored to preserve the flavor of delicate lagers.  One goal of a thinner mash is to reduce the tannin extraction that can increase with larger sparge volumes.

The thinner mashes also allowed the mash to be pumped easily, which comes in handy for decoctions, which was traditional in German brewing.
Title: Re: water/grist ratio and efficiency
Post by: denny on February 19, 2012, 04:43:13 PM
Awesome article, if you haven't seen it:
http://braukaiser.com/wiki/index.php?title=Effects_of_mash_parameters_on_fermentability_and_efficiency_in_single_infusion_mashing#Mash_thickness

But what's the effect on flavor?  Are there any tests of the same recipe/same equipment using thicker/thinner mash?

Anecdotally, and based on my own experience of many batches, I can tell you that I have found no effect on flavor.
Title: Re: water/grist ratio and efficiency
Post by: melferburque on February 19, 2012, 05:42:43 PM
after reading this thread and lamenting my own mash inefficiencies, I decided to up my ratio yesterday.  it made no effect.

15.5 pounds of grain, beersmith recommended 19.38 quarts of water.  I always round up to the nearest gallon anyway (five), but I figured I'd bump it up to a full 24 quarts.  still stuck at 60%.  granted, that's still only ~1.5 qt/pound.  maybe today I'll get it closer to 1.75 qt/pound and see if that helps?

edit: my mash temp was a spot on 150 deg and 5.3 pH at the start, I stirred several times throughout, and ended up at 148 by the end of the sixty minute mash. I sparged with 185 degree water and noticed the sparge was only 165, so maybe that was part of my problem?  initial runoff was 1.060m OG after boil was 1.066.
Title: Re: water/grist ratio and efficiency
Post by: denny on February 19, 2012, 05:54:51 PM
I don't think a hotter sparge would help much, if at all.  I'm  betting it's your crush.
Title: Re: water/grist ratio and efficiency
Post by: repo on February 19, 2012, 05:56:09 PM
after reading this thread and lamenting my own mash inefficiencies, I decided to up my ratio yesterday.  it made no effect.

15.5 pounds of grain, beersmith recommended 19.38 quarts of water.  I always round up to the nearest gallon anyway (five), but I figured I'd bump it up to a full 24 quarts.  still stuck at 60%.  granted, that's still only ~1.5 qt/pound.  maybe today I'll get it closer to 1.75 qt/pound and see if that helps?

edit: my mash temp was a spot on 150 deg and 5.3 pH at the start, I stirred several times throughout, and ended up at 148 by the end of the sixty minute mash. I sparged with 185 degree water and noticed the sparge was only 165, so maybe that was part of my problem?  initial runoff was 1.060m OG after boil was 1.066.

Have you tried adding a half hour to your mash time? It will tell you right away if its your crush. And it's the easiest thing to do -which is nothing- for 30 minutes.
Title: Re: water/grist ratio and efficiency
Post by: melferburque on February 19, 2012, 06:05:25 PM

Have you tried adding a half hour to your mash time? It will tell you right away if its your crush. And it's the easiest thing to do -which is nothing- for 30 minutes.

used my barley crusher for the first time yesterday, and the crush looked pretty damn fine.  I'll give the mash today an extra half hour, see if that helps.
Title: Re: water/grist ratio and efficiency
Post by: denny on February 19, 2012, 06:18:55 PM

Have you tried adding a half hour to your mash time? It will tell you right away if its your crush. And it's the easiest thing to do -which is nothing- for 30 minutes.

used my barley crusher for the first time yesterday, and the crush looked pretty damn fine.  I'll give the mash today an extra half hour, see if that helps.

Or tighten the gap on your mill.
Title: Re: water/grist ratio and efficiency
Post by: melferburque on February 19, 2012, 06:33:00 PM

Or tighten the gap on your mill.

the grist looks more pulverized than I've ever had from a HBS mill.  factory default 0.039.  does this picture show anything?

(http://www.flickr.com/photos/melferburque/6904159555/in/photostream)http://www.flickr.com/photos/melferburque/6904159555/in/photostream
Title: Re: water/grist ratio and efficiency
Post by: tygo on February 19, 2012, 06:50:00 PM
How much water are you losing to dead space and grain absorption in the mash tun?
Title: Re: water/grist ratio and efficiency
Post by: melferburque on February 19, 2012, 07:01:28 PM
How much water are you losing to dead space and grain absorption in the mash tun?

how do I calculate that?  I'm using a ten gallon round igloo cooler with a 12" false bottom.
Title: Re: water/grist ratio and efficiency
Post by: weithman5 on February 19, 2012, 07:05:43 PM
total water in - water out is what is left in the grain absorption/dead space
Title: Re: water/grist ratio and efficiency
Post by: Hokerer on February 19, 2012, 07:21:27 PM
the grist looks more pulverized than I've ever had from a HBS mill.  factory default 0.039.  does this picture show anything?

If you want the pic to show here, you need to link to the pic itself and not the flickr page.  Like so...

(http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7206/6904159555_70cbe665e4.jpg)
Title: Re: water/grist ratio and efficiency
Post by: melferburque on February 19, 2012, 07:28:57 PM
total water in - water out is what is left in the grain absorption/dead space

is that mash only or mash+sparge? does it matter?
Title: Re: water/grist ratio and efficiency
Post by: denny on February 19, 2012, 07:30:35 PM

Or tighten the gap on your mill.

the grist looks more pulverized than I've ever had from a HBS mill.  factory default 0.039.  does this picture show anything?

(http://www.flickr.com/photos/melferburque/6904159555/in/photostream)http://www.flickr.com/photos/melferburque/6904159555/in/photostream

My crush is a lot finer than that.
Title: Re: water/grist ratio and efficiency
Post by: melferburque on February 19, 2012, 07:56:53 PM

My crush is a lot finer than that.

what is your gap set at?
Title: Re: water/grist ratio and efficiency
Post by: tygo on February 19, 2012, 08:00:47 PM
total water in - water out is what is left in the grain absorption/dead space

is that mash only or mash+sparge? does it matter?

Give us total water including both mash and sparge.  You're batch sparging correct?
Title: Re: water/grist ratio and efficiency
Post by: tubercle on February 19, 2012, 08:14:42 PM
Have you calibrated the thermometer?
Title: Re: water/grist ratio and efficiency
Post by: melferburque on February 19, 2012, 08:27:53 PM
all of my measurements went out the window.  eight gallons to 16.25 pounds (only 3/4 lbs wheat added last twenty minutes) resulted in a concrete block of a mash.  thinking 0.039" gap is more than sufficient.  I had to dump the whole tun into my kettle and filter it off through the bazooka.  I added the sparge to the kettle too, I have no idea how much I lost.

edit: best i can tell I lost about 2.5 gallons. I had an eight gallon mash (should have been seven, ended up way too hot) and a three gallon sparge. I'm now sitting about 8.5 gallons in my kettle.
Title: Re: water/grist ratio and efficiency
Post by: melferburque on February 19, 2012, 08:54:25 PM
Have you calibrated the thermometer?

32 F in an ice bath. do I need to use the 212 F method instead?
Title: Re: water/grist ratio and efficiency
Post by: melferburque on February 19, 2012, 09:07:46 PM
Have you calibrated the thermometer?

32 F in an ice bath. do I need to use the 212 F method instead?

kettle thermometer was 208 F at rolling boil, which explains why my mash was hot today.  but I always use the thermometer that was calibrated correctly to set my mash before I put the lid on.  I'll have to wait until next time to measure my losses. 
Title: Re: water/grist ratio and efficiency
Post by: tygo on February 19, 2012, 09:45:38 PM
You might want to try conditioning your malt with a little water before grinding.  Check out Kai's article here:  http://braukaiser.com/wiki/index.php?title=Malt_Conditioning.  That may help with your lautering problems.
Title: Re: water/grist ratio and efficiency
Post by: Hokerer on February 19, 2012, 11:28:24 PM
Have you calibrated the thermometer?

32 F in an ice bath. do I need to use the 212 F method instead?

The best way is to calibrate it at the mash temperature range, 150F or so.  Just because it's right at 32F and/or 212F doesn't really tell you that it's accurate at 150F
Title: Re: water/grist ratio and efficiency
Post by: melferburque on February 19, 2012, 11:51:16 PM
Have you calibrated the thermometer?

32 F in an ice bath. do I need to use the 212 F method instead?

The best way is to calibrate it at the mash temperature range, 150F or so.  Just because it's right at 32F and/or 212F doesn't really tell you that it's accurate at 150F

dumb question...  how do I know what 150 F ACTUALLY is if my thermometer isn't calibrated correctly?  I did both the 32F and 212F tests on my portable and 212F on my kettle (didn't have the ice to make five gallons of 32F water), and they're both right there, or as right there as I can see on a small analog dial.
Title: Re: water/grist ratio and efficiency
Post by: tubercle on February 20, 2012, 12:13:45 AM
Have you calibrated the thermometer?

32 F in an ice bath. do I need to use the 212 F method instead?

The best way is to calibrate it at the mash temperature range, 150F or so.  Just because it's right at 32F and/or 212F doesn't really tell you that it's accurate at 150F

dumb question...  how do I know what 150 F ACTUALLY is if my thermometer isn't calibrated correctly?  I did both the 32F and 212F tests on my portable and 212F on my kettle (didn't have the ice to make five gallons of 32F water), and they're both right there, or as right there as I can see on a small analog dial.

 You don't need 5 gallons of 32f ice water, a cup will do. Take a cup and throw in 2 or 3 ice cubes and wait 10 minutes and measure. A cup @ 32f is 32f, 5 gallons @ 32f is 32f, 10,000 gallons of 32f is 32f. Same with boiling; a sauce pan @ boiling is the same temp as 5 gallon boiling is the same as 10,000 gallon boiling.

Put your thinking cap on.
Title: Re: water/grist ratio and efficiency
Post by: melferburque on February 20, 2012, 12:23:05 AM

 You don't need 5 gallons of 32f ice water, a cup will do. Take a cup and throw in 2 or 3 ice cubes and wait 10 minutes and measure. A cup @ 32f is 32f, 5 gallons @ 32f is 32f, 10,000 gallons of 32f is 32f. Same with boiling; a sauce pan @ boiling is the same temp as 5 gallon boiling is the same as 10,000 gallon boiling.

Put your thinking cap on.

my kettle thermometer is welded to the kettle, at the 4.5 gallon line.  I suppose if I got really adventurous, I could tip the kettle at an awkward angle and hold a cup of icewater over the probe, but then I wouldn't have any free hands to make the adjustments.
Title: Re: water/grist ratio and efficiency
Post by: bluesman on February 20, 2012, 02:42:59 AM
My experience has shown a slight increase in efficiency when using a higher water to grist ratio. I find that 1.5:1 vs 1.25:1 has produced a 5-10% increase in efficiency on average. Kai's experiments have shown that this is most likely due to increased conversion efficiency.

However there is no evidence to show that a higher water to grist ratio will increase fermentability.
Title: Re: water/grist ratio and efficiency
Post by: malzig on February 20, 2012, 03:58:08 AM
granted, that's still only ~1.5 qt/pound.
That's still on the thick side of thin.
Title: Re: water/grist ratio and efficiency
Post by: gmwren on February 20, 2012, 02:01:08 PM
How to prepare an proper ice bath from ThermoWorks to calibrate your thermometer.
http://www.thermoworks.com/blog/2010/10/making-a-proper-ice-bath/ (http://www.thermoworks.com/blog/2010/10/making-a-proper-ice-bath/)

Title: Re: water/grist ratio and efficiency
Post by: denny on February 20, 2012, 03:57:14 PM

My crush is a lot finer than that.

what is your gap set at?

I have no idea.  I just adjusted it til I got the crush I wanted.  I use a JSP adjustable.  I closed the gap as far as I could, then backed it off til I could just see the rollers move.  That's where its been for the last 12 years.
Title: Re: water/grist ratio and efficiency
Post by: denny on February 20, 2012, 03:59:54 PM
dumb question...  how do I know what 150 F ACTUALLY is if my thermometer isn't calibrated correctly?  I did both the 32F and 212F tests on my portable and 212F on my kettle (didn't have the ice to make five gallons of 32F water), and they're both right there, or as right there as I can see on a small analog dial.

I use a calibrated, certified lab thermometer.
Title: Re: water/grist ratio and efficiency
Post by: mabrungard on February 20, 2012, 04:28:11 PM

I use a calibrated, certified lab thermometer.

Of course if your certified lab thermometer is glass, I recommend that it not be used for everyday brewery usage.  Keep it safe and use it only to calibrate your 'brewing work' thermometers.  I'm betting that Denny does this too.
Title: Re: water/grist ratio and efficiency
Post by: denny on February 20, 2012, 04:34:13 PM

I use a calibrated, certified lab thermometer.

Of course if your certified lab thermometer is glass, I recommend that it not be used for everyday brewery usage.  Keep it safe and use it only to calibrate your 'brewing work' thermometers.  I'm betting that Denny does this too.

You've got it, Martin!
Title: Re: water/grist ratio and efficiency
Post by: richardt on February 20, 2012, 04:59:36 PM
I'm using a ten gallon round igloo cooler with a 12" false bottom.

This could also be your problem.
As a former user of a 10 gallon round Rubbermaid cooler for mashing, I routinely noticed whenever I did 10 gallon batches with gravities above 1.060 and/or with wheat malt as a significant % of my grist, that grain bed compaction would significantly slow down the lauter, especially if my grains were crushed too finely in pursuit of higher efficiencies.  I also noticed how I didn't have enough room in the MLT to add more water to correct mash temps (with additional infusions) or to increase the water/grist ratio (i.e., thin the mash).

I highly recommend evolving to the rectangular coolers to eliminate the above issues, especially grain bed compaction, as the height of the grainbed never exceeds the width (or length, depending on your point of view).  For 10 gallon batches, I'm happy with my 82 quart rectangular cooler, but would consider moving up to a 100 or even a 120 quart cooler for more flexibility.
Title: Re: water/grist ratio and efficiency
Post by: melferburque on February 20, 2012, 05:47:41 PM
I'm using a ten gallon round igloo cooler with a 12" false bottom.

This could also be your problem.
As a former user of a 10 gallon round Rubbermaid cooler for mashing, I routinely noticed whenever I did 10 gallon batches with gravities above 1.060 and/or with wheat malt as a significant % of my grist, that grain bed compaction would significantly slow down the lauter, especially if my grains were crushed too finely in pursuit of higher efficiencies.  I also noticed how I didn't have enough room in the MLT to add more water to correct mash temps (with additional infusions) or to increase the water/grist ratio (i.e., thin the mash).

I highly recommend evolving to the rectangular coolers to eliminate the above issues, especially grain bed compaction, as the height of the grainbed never exceeds the width (or length, depending on your point of view).  For 10 gallon batches, I'm happy with my 82 quart rectangular cooler, but would consider moving up to a 100 or even a 120 quart cooler for more flexibility.

I started out with a rectangular cooler, but was having trouble getting the last of the lauter out through the braided dishwasher hose (set up with a tee).  I only ever do five gallon batches of beer, so the ten gallon round cooler seems sufficient in that regard. yesterday was the most I've ever filled it (eight gallons) and it was at the tippy-top with the grains.  I've only ever had two stuck mashes, one was half wheat and the other was yesterday.  I only had 3/4 pound of midnight wheat yesterday, but was also experimenting with the grist and may have gone too fine.  I had a LOT of little particulates I had to filter out.

I had a pretty crappy homebrew weekend overall between two batches.  killed a yeast starter, had a stalled fermentation, a boilover and a stuck mash.  still better than being at work, tho.
Title: Re: water/grist ratio and efficiency
Post by: tygo on February 20, 2012, 05:52:41 PM
I started out with a rectangular cooler, but was having trouble getting the last of the lauter out through the braided dishwasher hose (set up with a tee). 

I prop the rear of the cooler up before I start the runoff.  Get's almost everything out.
Title: Re: water/grist ratio and efficiency
Post by: denny on February 20, 2012, 06:10:07 PM
I started out with a rectangular cooler, but was having trouble getting the last of the lauter out through the braided dishwasher hose (set up with a tee). 

I prop the rear of the cooler up before I start the runoff.  Get's almost everything out.

I prop mine up after I've gotten all the runoff I can with it level.
Title: Re: water/grist ratio and efficiency
Post by: jmcamerlengo on February 20, 2012, 06:18:21 PM
I dont know how much this applies to batch sparging as Ive never really used the method.

However on my Brutus system(fly sparge) I tend to mash most beers at 1.25 qts per lb. Do maltier beers closer to 1 qt per lbs and most lagers and decoction mashes around 1.5-2qts per lb.  Ive noticed no noticeable difference in efficiency based on the water to grist ratio.  I do get slightly higher on decoction mashed lagers but I suspect that to be from the decoction and step mashing itself rather than the water to grist ratio.  I generally get 85% efficiency at 1 qt per lb and 1.5 qt per lb and everywhere in between.
Title: Re: water/grist ratio and efficiency
Post by: malzig on February 20, 2012, 06:31:23 PM
I've only ever had two stuck mashes, one was half wheat and the other was yesterday.
As you crush finer, you may need to pay attention to flow rate and husk quality.  That means that you may need to start you flow slowly before increasing the runoff rate to prevent compacting the grain bed and malt conditioning to prevent your husks from shredding.
Ive noticed no noticeable difference in efficiency based on the water to grist ratio...
I generally get 85% efficiency at 1 qt per lb and 1.5 qt per lb and everywhere in between.
If you get 85% efficiency, then you won't see an increase from a thinner mash because there is really no room to increase.  The benefit is limited to brewers who get 75% or less, since those brewers are probably not getting complete starch conversion.