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General Category => All Grain Brewing => Topic started by: srnoel on March 12, 2011, 12:05:16 AM

Title: Improving Efficiency
Post by: srnoel on March 12, 2011, 12:05:16 AM
Alright just finished my first all-grain brew about an hour ago.  I undershot my gravity by about 10 points.  I was doing a 3 gallon batch of pale with a target gravity of 1.053, but I got 1.042.

Recipe was:

5.75 lbs of 2-row pale malt
0.5 lbs or crystal 60L

Batch sparged target at 153 for an hour, actual of 152.
Sparged with 180 degree water to get a grain bed temp of 168ish.

I did 1.5 qts per pound of grain.
Used an absorption rate of 0.12 gallons per pound.
Cooler dead space of 1 qt.
Used 3.5 gallons to do the initial hour mash (was supposed to 3.35 I think but I rounded up).
Then I sparged with 2 gallons, left about 2 qts or so in the mash tun.

I collected about 4 gallons in my kettle and did a 60min boil.
Hops:
.25 oz Magnum - 60min
.25 oz Perle      - 30min
1 oz Cascade   - 10min
.5 oz Cascade  - 0min

Chilled to 75 degrees in about 12min.
Lost about 1 qt to hops and crap in the bottom of the kettle.
Ended with about 3 gallons of wort, I didn't really measure it though.

My efficiency was 56% if I calculated correctly, which is terrible even thought it was my first AG.  What can I do to fix this for next time?
Title: Re: Improving Efficiency
Post by: gmac on March 12, 2011, 12:16:15 AM
Well, I can send you some of my 1.072.  You got too little, I got way too much. 
Title: Re: Improving Efficiency
Post by: srnoel on March 12, 2011, 12:21:57 AM
Haha, yeah I read that right before I posted mine.  Oh well, things seems to happen that way.
Title: Re: Improving Efficiency
Post by: tschmidlin on March 12, 2011, 12:22:39 AM
Where did you get your grain crushed?  That's a possible source of efficiency loss.
Title: Re: Improving Efficiency
Post by: chezteth on March 12, 2011, 12:25:49 AM
How fine the grain is crushed can have an effect on the efficiency.  If you mill your grain at your LHBS you may have to run it through a second time to be sure it is milled fine enough to get a better efficiency  The pH of the mash as well as the mashing time can also have an effect.  Increasing the mashing time to 90 minutes could help a bit although I'm not sure that it would increase your efficiency more than a few points.  Hope this helps.

Happy Brewing,
Brandon
Title: Re: Improving Efficiency
Post by: srnoel on March 12, 2011, 12:26:38 AM
I got it crushed at the LHBS yesterday.  The crush looked great like a lot of pictures I see and the owner helped me since it was my first time.  He seemed confident that it was a good.
Title: Re: Improving Efficiency
Post by: bluesman on March 12, 2011, 12:28:59 AM
I presume you used a hydrometer to measure the gravity. If so, have you recently calibrated the hydrometer for accuracy?
Title: Re: Improving Efficiency
Post by: tschmidlin on March 12, 2011, 12:30:05 AM
I think Denny recommends getting equal amounts of water from each batch sparge, was that what you did?  I can't tell how much you collected from each.
Title: Re: Improving Efficiency
Post by: srnoel on March 12, 2011, 12:32:05 AM
Yes, the hydrometer was calibrated and I corrected for the temp during the readings.

I got about 2.5 gallons from the first sparge, and about 1.5 gallons from the second.  Neither are both super accurate measurements but are fairly close.

Title: Re: Improving Efficiency
Post by: tschmidlin on March 12, 2011, 12:33:32 AM
Why did you leave 2 qts in the mash tun?  Is that dead space, or lack of room in the kettle?
Title: Re: Improving Efficiency
Post by: srnoel on March 12, 2011, 12:35:03 AM
Lack of room in the kettle, was worried if I collected to much more I was just setting myself up for a boil over.  I was doing this in a 5 gallon kettle.
Title: Re: Improving Efficiency
Post by: bluesman on March 12, 2011, 12:45:55 AM
Did you measure your mash pH or do an iodine test?
Title: Re: Improving Efficiency
Post by: srnoel on March 12, 2011, 12:48:27 AM
I kind of ignored my ph and water chemistry this first round.  The water I use is a bit hard but I made some solid extract and mini-mash batches with it, so I just went with it.
Title: Re: Improving Efficiency
Post by: tubercle on March 12, 2011, 12:48:46 AM
There are several way to improve your efficiency.

Starting with the most obvious, how long did you boil?




 :D :D :D :D :D
Title: Re: Improving Efficiency
Post by: srnoel on March 12, 2011, 12:51:33 AM
Just the plain 60min boil.  I thought about going longer but then I'd have less beer!  :D

Can you boil longer say 90min, and then top up in the end to raise the gravity, that doesn't make any sense in my head at all.  But I already am relaxing with a homebrew so I could be compromised.
Title: Re: Improving Efficiency
Post by: tschmidlin on March 12, 2011, 12:53:50 AM
Leaving behind wort in the mash tun is one way to negatively impact your gravity. ;)
Title: Re: Improving Efficiency
Post by: bluesman on March 12, 2011, 12:58:22 AM
Sounds like some of your loss was during the lautering but I'm wondering how well you converted. One way to determine that is by measuring the gravity of your first runnings. Knowing that number and the volume collected will give your answer next time.
Title: Re: Improving Efficiency
Post by: tubercle on March 12, 2011, 01:03:11 AM
There are several way to improve your efficiency.

Starting with the most obvious, how long did you boil?

 :D :D :D :D :D

Just the plain 60min boil.  I thought about going longer but then I'd have less beer!  :D

Can you boil longer say 90min, and then top up in the end to raise the gravity, that doesn't make any sense in my head at all.  But I already am relaxing with a homebrew so I could be compromised.

 You're kind of new here. I shouldn't have said anything. It's an old inside joke. ;D

 You CANNOT increase efficiency by lengthening the boil. :o
Title: Re: Improving Efficiency
Post by: bluesman on March 12, 2011, 01:09:30 AM
You CANNOT increase efficiency by lengthening the boil. :o

...and all this time I've been boiling the hell out of my beer. Awww shucks!  ;D
Title: Re: Improving Efficiency
Post by: srnoel on March 12, 2011, 02:03:42 AM
Ah yeah, that joke flew right over my head.

On a similar note I did mash in a BLUE coleman xtreme cooler.  Maybe my cooler was too dark a blue?  I should probably leave it out in the sun for a few days so it fades to a lighter more brew friendly blue.
Title: Re: Improving Efficiency
Post by: Hokerer on March 12, 2011, 02:59:32 AM
Just the plain 60min boil.  I thought about going longer but then I'd have less beer!  :D

Can you boil longer say 90min, and then top up in the end to raise the gravity, that doesn't make any sense in my head at all.  But I already am relaxing with a homebrew so I could be compromised.

The "boil longer to get more efficiency" thing is sort of a standing joke around here.  Don't waste any time trying to make sense of it because it doesn't make sense.
Title: Re: Improving Efficiency
Post by: gmac on March 12, 2011, 03:47:34 AM
Ah yeah, that joke flew right over my head.

On a similar note I did mash in a BLUE coleman xtreme cooler.  Maybe my cooler was too dark a blue?  I should probably leave it out in the sun for a few days so it fades to a lighter more brew friendly blue.

Mine's blue too.  Is that a problem?  It's white on the inside but I can paint it if that'll help.
Title: Re: Improving Efficiency
Post by: srnoel on March 13, 2011, 05:33:21 AM
So, I was skimming back through How to Brew about this.  I read that you should stir the mash and check the temp every 15-20min during the hour long rest.  I did not do this, I got the mash to the temp I wanted it to be and closed the cooler and forgot about it for an hour basically.  Is this just a recommended thing to do and not necessary, or can this improve efficiency?
Title: Re: Improving Efficiency
Post by: maxieboy on March 13, 2011, 05:46:07 AM
I never check and stir, just lets heat out of the cooler. I might lose 1* in hour. I get 80% consistently.
Title: Re: Improving Efficiency
Post by: malzig on March 13, 2011, 12:13:37 PM
So, I was skimming back through How to Brew about this.  I read that you should stir the mash and check the temp every 15-20min during the hour long rest.  I did not do this, I got the mash to the temp I wanted it to be and closed the cooler and forgot about it for an hour basically.  Is this just a recommended thing to do and not necessary, or can this improve efficiency?
Stirring might help speed up conversion a little, which could help your efficiency if you are simply stopping the mash too soon, but it is completely unnecessary.  Your biggest gain would most likely come from crushing finer (or double-crushing, if you can't adjust the mill).  If you're stuck with a coarse crush, mashing longer might help.  Probably better still, stepping the mash temperature up to 158-162°F for about 20 minutes after the main mash will improve gelatinization and speed up conversion to get more of those remaining points out.  

It appears that you only got about 75% conversion efficiency.  If you want to maximize your efficiency, you need to mash until you get 100% conversion.  Kai has gone to the trouble to make this table for us, which gives you the gravity that your first runnings should be for a given mash thickness, when you've hit 100% conversion:
(http://www.braukaiser.com/wiki/images/3/3c/First_wort_gravity.gif)
However, tschmidlin pointed out a big problem with your process, you left a lot of wort behind and have a big dead space.  Particularly in light of your small batch size.  With a dip tube, you can reduce your dead space, I have about 1 cup dead space, for example.  In addition, you should add only enough sparge water to hit your kettle volume, so that you drain the tun completely.   

Reducing your dead space alone could have raised your efficiency by about 5%.  Collecting all the second runnings combined with reduced dead space could have raised your efficiency nearly 10%.
Title: Re: Improving Efficiency
Post by: dmtaylor on March 13, 2011, 02:56:14 PM
Ended with about 3 gallons of wort, I didn't really measure it though.

This ^^^^^^^^^^ might be a BIG part of your problem.  You can't measure brewhouse efficiency accurately without measuring volumes exactly accurately.

The crush is the other most important thing to look at it.  Make sure it's crushed very fine.  If done at your LHBS, mill it twice.  LHBS's are notoriously bad at milling grains.  I mean, what's in it for them if they mill it too fine?  More complaints of stuck mashes and less grain sold --neither is good for them.

My bet is that your problem is a little of both.  Fix both, and your efficiency will skyrocket.  Every other possible concern is peanuts compared to these two huge elephants.
Title: Re: Improving Efficiency
Post by: denny on March 13, 2011, 03:57:45 PM
So, I was skimming back through How to Brew about this.  I read that you should stir the mash and check the temp every 15-20min during the hour long rest.  I did not do this, I got the mash to the temp I wanted it to be and closed the cooler and forgot about it for an hour basically.  Is this just a recommended thing to do and not necessary, or can this improve efficiency?

AFAIAC, the only thing that happens when you open the cooler is that you lose heat.  I've tried it both ways and found that I didn't gain anything by stirring. 
Title: Re: Improving Efficiency
Post by: bluesman on March 13, 2011, 04:11:23 PM
Ended with about 3 gallons of wort, I didn't really measure it though.

This ^^^^^^^^^^ might be a BIG part of your problem.  You can't measure brewhouse efficiency accurately without measuring volumes exactly accurately.

The crush is the other most important thing to look at it.  Make sure it's crushed very fine.  If done at your LHBS, mill it twice.  LHBS's are notoriously bad at milling grains.  I mean, what's in it for them if they mill it too fine?  More complaints of stuck mashes and less grain sold --neither is good for them.

My bet is that your problem is a little of both.  Fix both, and your efficiency will skyrocket.  Every other possible concern is peanuts compared to these two huge elephants.


+1

So to summarize...

- take accurate volume and grain measurements
- review milling process (crush)
- minimize dead space losses
- assure temperature readings with calibrated thermometer
- follow sound mashing schedule
- assess mash pH
- then relax, don't worry...and you know the rest.  :)
Title: Re: Improving Efficiency
Post by: hopfenundmalz on March 13, 2011, 04:17:00 PM
Back when I was using the highly alkaline tap water that I have, it helped to get the pH in the right range.  Efficiency drops fast oncy you get above 5.7-5.8 in the mash.   It really helped for the lighter beers.

Title: Re: Improving Efficiency
Post by: malzig on March 13, 2011, 04:25:32 PM
You can't measure brewhouse efficiency accurately without measuring volumes exactly accurately...

The crush is the other most important thing to look at it.  Make sure it's crushed very fine.  If done at your LHBS, mill it twice...

My bet is that your problem is a little of both.  Fix both, and your efficiency will skyrocket.  Every other possible concern is peanuts compared to these two huge elephants.
I mostly agree with this.  Crushing finer has the potential to gain the OP 25% efficiency, but if he actually has 1 qt dead space and continues to leave 1-3 qts in the tun, assuming those volumes are reasonably accurate, he'll be tossing 5-10% of that gain onto the compost pile.
Title: Re: Improving Efficiency
Post by: srnoel on March 13, 2011, 04:50:12 PM
Thank you for all the responses and information everyone.  I will be much more prepared for the next brew day, maybe next weekend  ;) .  Now that I got the process down from the first attempt I can fix all the silly things I was doing.  For measuring I had marks on my mash paddle, slight cuts into the handle, but they were hard to read (to many other scratches).  I was thinking about marking over them with a sharpie.  Would this cause problems of the ink getting into my beer?
Title: Re: Improving Efficiency
Post by: Tristan on March 13, 2011, 05:14:35 PM
Congrats on your first all-grain brewing effort!  I'm sure your beer will turn out wonderful and probably a really nice session beer.

Awesome advice in this thread.  Water, being the ingredient that makes up the highest percentage of beer, needs the most attention.  Listening to lots of pod casts I heard over and over that it was the last thing that should be tweaked once your process is dialed in.  JMHO, it's worth starting early because it's a subject that takes more time to grasp.  The other juicy tidbits are a bit easier to implement.  Ward Labs offers water tests for under $17 that will give you all the details required.  John Palmer's spreadsheet is excellent.  Once implemented, this tool helped increase my efficiency from the mid 60's to the 78-82% range.  

On the subject of accurate volumes, one of the best tools is a long spoon or mash paddle with markings for every .5 gallons calibrated for your kettle and then calibrated for your carboy on the opposite side.  This will give you some confidence when you calculate your efficiency into the kettle, the fermentor and overall brewhouse efficiency.  You can mark the outside of your carboy with a magic marker for every half gallon.  However, I find the markings wear off rapidly, especially if ferment your beer in water baths.
Title: Re: Improving Efficiency
Post by: dmtaylor on March 13, 2011, 05:34:15 PM
if he actually has 1 qt dead space and continues to leave 1-3 qts in the tun, assuming those volumes are reasonably accurate, he'll be tossing 5-10% of that gain onto the compost pile.

You are right, malzig.  Dead space is also a killer.  I use a big rectangular cooler and when running off, I always lift up the one end of the cooler to get every last drop out.  If you don't, you could lose a lot of sugar that way.  Right on.
Title: Re: Improving Efficiency
Post by: denny on March 13, 2011, 05:53:04 PM
Thank you for all the responses and information everyone.  I will be much more prepared for the next brew day, maybe next weekend  ;) .  Now that I got the process down from the first attempt I can fix all the silly things I was doing.  For measuring I had marks on my mash paddle, slight cuts into the handle, but they were hard to read (to many other scratches).  I was thinking about marking over them with a sharpie.  Would this cause problems of the ink getting into my beer?

I use a Sharpie on a wooden paddle also.  No problem, other than every couple years you have to do the marking over.
Title: Re: Improving Efficiency
Post by: mabrungard on March 13, 2011, 07:05:35 PM
I have a long-handled nylon spoon that I use as my measuring stick.  I scratched in volume markings on the spoon for my kettle.  Sharpie was really short lived on that nylon but I would imagine it will last a while on wood. 

Water adjustments can improve efficiency if your mash pH is way out of whack, but I would be surprised if it was more than a few points.  There are plenty of water programs out there.  Until Palmer's and Kaminski's Water book come out, I suggest that brewers download Bru'n Water for the Water Knowledge section alone.  You may prefer other programs for calculating your water adjustments, but you're not going to get the volume of knowledge that Bru'n Water provides.
Title: Re: Improving Efficiency
Post by: tubercle on March 13, 2011, 07:17:11 PM
Touch a sharpie to your tongue.

 If you are still alive tomorrow then continue on.

 If not, leave me all you brewing stuff to me in your will. ;)
Title: Re: Improving Efficiency
Post by: gmac on March 13, 2011, 08:22:59 PM
I was reading that a 20 minute rest at 114F before bringing the mash to temp will also increase efficiency.  Is this true? 

Also, does water volume in the mash matter?  Some people seem to be using a quart, some 1.25 or so.  Is more better or less or it doesn't really matter when it comes to efficiency?
Title: Re: Improving Efficiency
Post by: malzig on March 13, 2011, 09:24:38 PM
I was reading that a 20 minute rest at 114F before bringing the mash to temp will also increase efficiency.  Is this true? 

Also, does water volume in the mash matter?  Some people seem to be using a quart, some 1.25 or so.  Is more better or less or it doesn't really matter when it comes to efficiency?
A 114°F mash doesn't usually do very much for modern malted grain because they've essentially already gone through that step during malting.  That's what you'll often see described as "fully modified".

Thinner mashes, about 1.5-2 qt/# aid gelatinization and conversion.  This can help efficiency quite a bit, for some people.  1-1.25 qt/# is thick enough to slow down conversion and potential reduce efficiency.  Not that you can't get good efficiency with a thick mash, but it's suboptimal.
Title: Re: Improving Efficiency
Post by: mthhurley on March 13, 2011, 10:01:47 PM
Sorry for the hijack but hopefully it's not completely useless. 

When we talk about "first wort runnings" and their gravity (i.e. Kai's chart), is this the gravity of the first few drips of runnings of the drain valve?  Or upon draining of all the mashed wort? 
Title: Re: Improving Efficiency
Post by: dbeechum on March 13, 2011, 10:15:47 PM
It' the first part of the runnings out of the tun. How much comprises the first runnings is something of a semantics debate.
Title: Re: Improving Efficiency
Post by: tubercle on March 13, 2011, 10:19:37 PM
Sorry for the hijack but hopefully it's not completely useless. 

When we talk about "first wort runnings" and their gravity (i.e. Kai's chart), is this the gravity of the first few drips of runnings of the drain valve?  Or upon draining of all the mashed wort? 

It' the first part of the runnings out of the tun. How much comprises the first runnings is something of a semantics debate.

 Would not all the liquid in the tun be uniform after mashing as far as sugar content? If not, would a quick stir make it so? The "first drip" should be he same as the last.
Title: Re: Improving Efficiency
Post by: a10t2 on March 14, 2011, 12:31:47 AM
Would not all the liquid in the tun be uniform after mashing as far as sugar content? If not, would a quick stir make it so? The "first drip" should be he same as the last.

You do get stratification in the mash, IME. I've seen wort at the bottom that's more than twice the gravity of a sample taken from the top. I recirculate for the last 10 minutes of the mash for just that reason.

Also, the full runoff volume is only one constant gravity in batch sparging. In fly sparging, ideally you'd monitor the gravity of the runnings throughout the sparge, and stop sparging when they drop below about 3°P.
Title: Re: Improving Efficiency
Post by: denny on March 14, 2011, 03:52:38 PM
It' the first part of the runnings out of the tun. How much comprises the first runnings is something of a semantics debate.

In a batch sparge, it's the runnings you get from the mash.  The runnings from the sparge are the 2nd runnings.
Title: Re: Improving Efficiency
Post by: malzig on March 15, 2011, 03:25:33 AM
When we talk about "first wort runnings" and their gravity (i.e. Kai's chart), is this the gravity of the first few drips of runnings of the drain valve?  Or upon draining of all the mashed wort? 
It' the first part of the runnings out of the tun. How much comprises the first runnings is something of a semantics debate.
In a batch sparge, it's the runnings you get from the mash.  The runnings from the sparge are the 2nd runnings.
Particularly in this case.  For the purpose of determining Conversion Efficiency, we mean something very specific by First Runnings.  What we are interested in is the gravity of all the wort in the tun, not the potentially higher gravity of the first couple drops of wort.  You don't need to completely drain the tun, but you need to stir it very well before pulling a sample and testing it's gravity.