Homebrewers Association  AHA Forum
General Category => All Grain Brewing => Topic started by: Saccharomyces on November 26, 2021, 01:07:48 pm

I know that I am starting to sound like a broken record when it comes to efficiency being a poor brewing metric, but it really is a poor metric after one looks beneath the covers. Efficiency just not that useful in the brew house because it causes a brewer to often work backwards or rely on brewing software to do it for him/her. However, at the heart of this problem are simple arithmetic equations.
When we look at a batch of wort in terms of original gravity (OG) at a specified volume, the problem with which we are dealing is actually one of total gravity points divided by volume, so we need to start by multiplying the whole number to the right of the number 1 for the desired OG by the desired volume to determine how many gravity points we need to extract from our grist. Most allgrain batches are formulated with a specified amount of loss. That is why most of the recipes we see posted are for 5.5 or 6 gallons of wort. That is not the desired final yield volume. It is the wort volume necessary to allow for losses to trub when castingout and trub/yeast when packaging fermented beer. Let's say, we desire to make a 5.5gallon batch of wort with an OG of 1.052.
Let's convert an OG to gravity points:
OG_in_gravity_points = (OG  1) * 1000
For our batch, the value is:
desired_OG_in_gravity_points = (1.052  1) * 1000 = 52
In practice, this calculation does not even need to be performed, because all it does is take the number to the right of the decimal point and make it a whole number. We can just use this shorthand rule to convert any specific gravity (SG) to its equivalent gravity points.
With our OG converted to gravity points, we can now calculate the total number gravity points needed to achieve this OG at our specified gravity.
desired_total_gravity_points = desired_OG_in_gravity_points * desired_volume
We want 52 gravity points for a volume of 5.5 gallons
desired_total_gravity_points = 52 * 5.5 = 286 gravity points
What is good about knowing the amount of gravity points necessary to achieve a desired OG at a desired volume is that we can sample our wort after the hot break has formed and see if our extraction rate was high enough to achieve our desired OG at our castout volume. While there will still be cold break in solution, this value will close enough to work.
Most allgrain brewers who brew 5.5gallon batches of wort usually start with 7 gallons of runoff from their lauter tuns; therefore, all we need to do is accommodate this dilution because there will be the same total number of gravity points in 7 gallons of runoff as there will be in 5.5 gallons of wort at castout.
dilution_factor_at_hotbreak = desired_volume / runoff_volume
dilution_factor_at_hotbreak = 5.5 / 7 = .786
desired_SG_in_gravity_points_at_hotbreak = desired_OG_in_gravity_points *
dilution_factor_at_hotbreak
Simply put, we need to see an SG in gravity points of 52 * .786 ~= 41 (1.041) in the sample that is taken after the hot break has formed. If the reading is higher, we will have to dilute the wort near the end of the boil to ensure we meet our desired gravity and that the water addition has been Pasteurized. If the reading is lower, we will need to concentrate the wort to a smaller volume or make a dry/liquid extract or brewing sugar addition. Here is where working in gravity points is a beautiful thing because the points per pound per gallon (PPG) values for most extracts and sugars are known.
For example, if our SG in gravity points reading at hotbreak is 38 instead of 41, that means we need to perform a gravity correction by adding fermentables.
wort_gravity_correction_in_points_per_gallon = desired_wort_SG_in_gravity_points_at_hotbreak  measured_wort_SG_in_gravity_points_at_hotbreak
wort_gravity_correction_factor_in_points_per_gallon = 41  38 = 3
total_gravity_points_needed_to_correct_wort = wort_gravity_correction_factor_in_points_per_gallon * runoff_volume
total_gravity_points_need_to_correct_wort = 3 * 7 = 21
amount_extract_or_brewing_sugar_needed_in_pounds = total_gravity_points_need_to_correct_wort / extract_or_brewing_sugar_PPG
We know that spray malt (a.k.a. dry malt extract) has a PPG value of 46; therefore, we need to add 21 / 46 = 0.47 pounds of spray malt (in practice, we will more than likely just round up to half of a pound). It is that simple.
Finally, if one starts to brew in gravity points, one will never have to rely on software to formulate or scale a grist because all an efficiency is is the extraction rate in PPG for a grist in one’s brew house divided by the value computed by taking each grist components’ theoretical maximum yield in PPG, weighting it by the amount used, summing the weighted values, and then dividing by the total weight of the grist. In essence, efficiency is an overly complex and error prone way to look at extraction rate because it based on theoretical maximum values, not measured maximum values. That is why we hear brewers state that their efficiency went up when they switched a different base malt when what really happened is that the amount of available substrate went up and the theoretical maximum for the malt in the brewing software or calculator being used is incorrect.
In my brew house, I average around 30 PPG for 90/10 (90% base malt/10% specialty malt) grists and around 29 PPG for 70/30 (70% base malt/30% specialty malt) grists. How did I come about these values? Well, I divided my recipes out into classes of base malt/specialty malt. I pretty much brew mostly 90/10 and 70/30 batches. I then took OGs and volumes measured at castout, calculated total gravity points values, divided each total gravity point value by its corresponding grist weight, summed these values, and divided by the number of values in the sum to yield an average batch PPG value. In practice, all one needs to keep an eye on batchtobatch extraction rate in PPG. After a while, these values will stabilize.
batch_extraction rate_in_ppg = OG_in_gravity_points * batch_volume_at_cast_out / grist_weight
If we used 10lbs of grist to produce 5.5 gallons of 1.052 wort at castout (i.e., the total volume in one’s kettle after the wort has been chilled), then our extraction rate in PPG is:
batch_extraction_rate_in_ppg = 52 * 5.5 / 10 = 28.6 (we can round this value up to 29 for all practical purposes)
If our running PPGs values are all very close to this value, then we can just use 29 PPG when computing grist weight. If similar grist compositions do not produce a tight cluster of PPG values, then we need to work on our crush and/or lautering technique.
After a brewer knows his/her average extraction rate for a given base malt/specialty malt composition, determining how much grist is needed to achieve a desired OG at a designed volume is trivial. One just needs to calculate the desired total gravity points and then divide the result by the one’s extraction rate in PPG.
grist_weight_in_pounds = desired_total_gravity_points / extract_rate_in_PPG
For example, we want to make a 5.5gallon batch of 1.064 ale wort that contains 90% pale malt, 5% 55L caramel malt, and 5% torrified wheat. We know that our 90/10 extraction rate is 30 PPG.
desired_total_gravity_points = 64 * 5.5 = 352
grist_weight_in_pounds = 352 / 30 ~= 11.75lbs
Note: In practice, the above method is akin to taking the derivative of a polynomial using limits. An easier method is to take one’s desired gravity and divide it by one’s extraction rate in PPG. The result will be the amount of grist needed to make one gallon of wort at the desired gravity, a very handy figure. From there, it is just a matter of multiplying the result by the total number of gallons of castout wort desired.
From here, formulating the grist is just mater or multiplying 11.75 by 0.9 to determine the weight of base malt needed and by 0.05 to determine the weight of the crystal malt and torrified wheat additions.
Base malt = 11.75 * 0.9 = 10.575 lbs
Crystal malt = 11.75 * 0.05 = 0.5875lbs
Torrified wheat = 11.75 * 0.05 = 0.5875lbs
Trust me, I have been using this method for close to 30 years, and it has proven to be as accurate as any brewing software package on the market. I am not a luddite. I hold undergraduate and graduate degrees on the computer engineering side of computer science and have worked professionally with computer and communication systems for four decades. For me, it is just that brewing software attempts to achieve a level of precision that is not possible nor is even necessary in a home brewery. We do not have fullservice quality labs to analyze all of our ingredients, perform accurate cell counts, and monitor the reduction of compounds such as vicinal diketones during fermentation. These things are very important to industrial and large craft brewers who are looking for absolute batchtobatch consistency. They do not use alpha acid/essential oil ratings supplied by hop brokers and ASBC theoretical averages for maximum convertible malt substrate. They perform all of these lab tests inhouse on the actual ingredients. Most industrial brewers are blenders. They buy alpha acids and oils and blend for bitterness and flavor based on actual alpha acid content and measured essential oil breakdown.

Did everything by hand for quite some time before discovering BeerSmith. Between the various calculations, brewing notes, keeping track of recipes and everything else, one could get writer's cramp. I will admit though, knowing what to expect is a skill that catches a lot of entry errors, so definitely comes in handy.

I use a set of spreadsheets. Some folks use software. It all depends on how how comfortable you are with math, the tool available to you, and how much you like to spend money on certain aspects of your hobby. For me, my mantras are "consistent efficiency is more important that high efficiency" and "spend money on quality (maybe local) ingredients rather than equipment." I look at fancy equipment but am pretty good at not purchasing it.

I agree that chasing high efficiency is not a good way to improve your beer. On the other hand, efficiency is a good metric to let you know if your brewing is on track, as chinaski said. My first allgrain mash had an efficiency of 40%. That was low enough to tell me something was very wrong, so I went to my LHBS and discussed it with them. The next time I added some acidulated malt and got 70%, so I knew I was on the right track to fixing things. Now I use brewing software to calculate an acid addition and I measure pH with a meter, and I get efficiencies in the 80s.

The problem with efficiency is that it is calculated differently by different software and calculators. Not only is the calculation error prone, it is software and software user dependent. That is why efficiency is a poor metric. Brad Smith takes the case for taking a straight forward calculation and twisting it beyond all recognition with his “brew house” efficiency, which is the least useful metric on the planet when exchanging recipes. It is almost like listening to the clueless being led by the blind when brewers who use BeerSmith converse about efficiency. An extraction rate is not relative. It is absolute measurement. If a brewer states a recipe in terms of a grist composition, O.G, castout kettle volume, and extraction rate, I can duplicate that recipe even if my extraction rate is different. I do not have to worry about how much wort was left out of the equation in the case of a BeerSmith’s made up brew house efficiency calculation or what maximum achievable extraction rates were used in the calculation. Brad Smith posted that there are fermentable extract loses between runoff and the end of the boil on his blog. Here is a guy with a Ph.D. who was basically claimed that the law of conservation does not apply to brewing by asserting that there are fermentable extract losses between runoff and castout Luckily, he got called on it.

Thanks for this post Saccharomyces... I have been struggling with Beersmith and getting the numbers to work out on my new system. I may need to abandon BS for something else to keep track of and build recipes.

I have been struggling with Beersmith and getting the numbers to work out on my new system.
You could also simply calibrate Beersmith's numbers with what your palate is telling you. Should only take a couple of batches to get close.
V_{1}G_{1}=V_{2}G_{2}. Same relationship as in the first half of this post, in an approachable format and with slightly different terminology: V & G = volume & gravity points, respectively, and the subscripts 1 & 2 are preboil & postboil (vs. hotbreak & castout).
If you wish, you can adjust for the refraction of glucose vs. maltose with your refractometer, and even for the volume shrinkage that occurs between boiling temp and knockout temp. But I have found that that level of detail is not needed to make good, consistent beer.

______ takes the case for taking a straight forward calculation and twisting it beyond all recognition with his “brew house” efficiency, which is the least useful metric on the planet when exchanging recipes.
i always saw this efficiency vs brew house efficiency stuff on various homebrew forums, and at first just conflated them, assuming it was some technical description of efficiency. then i realized people were saying these are two different values. it never made sense to me, but i have always used brewtarget.
i use it because it is and was free, and i have since adapted to it so much, i cant imagine another way of brewing. i think the very first brews i did were without software, but cant remember how i did them.

The first few brews I brewed I had instructions in a kit of extract, hops, and yeast. Just add water. No software required.
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I have been struggling with Beersmith and getting the numbers to work out on my new system.
The problem with and the beauty of Beersmith is that it is entirely user defined. If your results are not matching the estimates then your profiles have not been customized fully.

I have been struggling with Beersmith and getting the numbers to work out on my new system.
The problem with and the beauty of Beersmith is that it is entirely user defined. If your results are not matching the estimates then your profiles have not been customized fully.
Exactly my issue... it's finding the correct numbers to input...

does anyone here not use brewsmith? tbh ive never used it

I used to use Brewsmith, but transitioned to Brewer's Friend years ago and still use it. I will often run water aspects through Brunwater for confirmation on my water and grist adjustments (I use acidulated malt, typically, as well as small amounts of salts and from time to time, liquid acid in the mash or boil kettle).

I still use ProMash. If it ain't broke...
I no sparge in an anvil foundry so that keeps it really simple. Brewhouse efficiency = mash efficiency * lauter efficiency, more or less, and there are no losses or sparges to worry about. I find this chart to be a very useful starting point for a theoretical "average" base malt mash.
(https://braukaiser.com/wiki/images/3/3c/First_wort_gravity.gif)
If I can find a spec sheet for the lot of grain I bought, I'll look to see if it's far out of line from 80% FGE, but generally it's not worth it for me. Country malt does provide that info online for their brands (https://countrymaltgroup.com/maltlotanalysis/)

Sorry, but I don’t see anything particularly simple about all that!😆
But that’s fine, when it comes to brewing, I’ve always been a big believer in finding what works for you and sticking to it.
I use the Brewer’s Friend Recipe Calculator to formulate recipes. I used OG/FG results on a few early brews and worked backwards to figure out what kind of “Brewhouse Efficiency” percentage I was getting. I was regularly 7075%. So when I use BF to come up with a recipe, if I use 75% BHE, I’m going to come within a point or two of what I’m shooting for with the recipe. And even when I occasionally miss the mark by a little bit more, the beer that results is still pretty much what I want it to be.
That’s as indepth as I feel the need to get when it comes to efficiency. Works for me!

Sorry, but I don’t see anything particularly simple about all that!😆
But that’s fine, when it comes to brewing, I’ve always been a big believer in finding what works for you and sticking to it.
I use the Brewer’s Friend Recipe Calculator to formulate recipes. I used OG/FG results on a few early brews and worked backwards to figure out what kind of “Brewhouse Efficiency” percentage I was getting. I was regularly 7075%. So when I use BF to come up with a recipe, if I use 75% BHE, I’m going to come within a point or two of what I’m shooting for with the recipe. And even when I occasionally miss the mark by a little bit more, the beer that results is still pretty much what I want it to be.
That’s as indepth as I feel the need to get when it comes to efficiency. Works for me!
Well said

I don't know exactly specifically how Beersmith works, but my understanding is all brewing software uses PPG in some fashion. In Brewfather it calculates yield relating to extract of sugar. If you want PPG, you take that yield and multiply by 46. Whether you look at %sugar or PPG, it's the same.
I've done the whole hand calculation thing and while it's not very hard I don't see how internalizing it is going to make me a better brewer. I understand how the software works, and if I get a new malt and can find a certificate of analysis then know enough to get an idea of how it should perform. My time is valuable, and I'd rather spend it finishing Garshols book.

I have used the math in Palmer’s How to Brew to build a spreadsheet and I have done that same math by hand many times to validate the spreadsheet.
I also own BeerSmith. Getting BeerSmith to make calculations that seem intuitively obvious once you know the math from Palmer is not easy. I recently changed to a new brewhouse. When I did so I updated my spreadsheet, used the Grainfather app, the Brewfather app, and BeerSmith for several batches. Don’t ask me why. I am a nerd and it was fun. Grainfather, Brewfather, and my spreadsheet were all lockstep on volumes of water (mash and sparge) needed based on my observed boil off and absorption rate for my brewhouse. BeerSmith never matched those three and never came close. I finally found an approximation by inputing incorrect absorption numbers. It was very frustrating because I had just paid for a one year license for BeerSmith.
BeerSmith does use PPG for each grain. So do Brewfather and Grainfather. I think that is one of Mark’s complaints. The user gets a false sense of accuracy when using a specific PPG for each grain when the math is really not that accurate.
My issue is volumes. I want a tool that is readable on my phone for 50 year old eyes (Brewfather is not) and predicts the right mash and sparge water values to get exactly 3 gallons wort after boil. I’ve got BeerSmith doing that now but I hold my nose because the absorption number I use seems way to low: 0.416 fl oz/oz. Also, don’t get me started on the unit: fl oz/oz. Why? The customary unit for absorption rate is qts/lb or gallons/lb. I almost have to break out my Chemistry I text book to convert those units!