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General Category => Equipment and Software => Topic started by: rjharper on September 05, 2011, 04:22:49 AM

Title: Help me improve my efficiency
Post by: rjharper on September 05, 2011, 04:22:49 AM
I have a HERMS rig.  I mash at 1.2-1.5 qt/lb depending on style, then add mash out water to batch sparge with equal volumes between and mash and sparge.  My mash out is a 5 min recycle at 170.  After draining, sparge is a 10 min recycle at 170.  My grain is crushed by the store.  I've calibrated an equipment profile on Beersmith for my system w/ dead volumes etc yet I cant seem to get past 65% efficiency.  I know that grain crush can make a big difference, and that brew store crushes are notoriously inefficient, but what else can i try.  I went straight from extract to AG so I dont have a previous number to compare.  Help?!
Title: Re: Help me improve my efficiency
Post by: dannyjed on September 05, 2011, 12:53:37 PM
You're on the right track when considering the crush of your grains.  You could have the LHBS run the grain through twice, but I suggest getting your own adjustable mill.  After I got my mill,  I went from low 60's to 75-80% efficiency.
Title: Re: Help me improve my efficiency
Post by: hopfenundmalz on September 05, 2011, 01:24:09 PM
You're on the right track when considering the crush of your grains.  You could have the LHBS run the grain through twice, but I suggest getting your own adjustable mill.  After I got my mill,  I went from low 60's to 75-80% efficiency.
This is true.  Crush is numer one.  They have a setting that will not stick on most systems, but is coarse.

Check your temp calibration, temps are #2.

pH is #3.
Title: Re: Help me improve my efficiency
Post by: ukolowiczd on September 05, 2011, 01:27:56 PM
I'm not too familiar with the HERMES system, but can you fly sparge with it? I've never had good results with batch sparging. I always end up under 70%. With fly sparging I'm always at least at 70% if not at 85%. I know many swear by batch sparging but I'm either doing it wrong or don't understand it.
Title: Re: Help me improve my efficiency
Post by: rjharper on September 06, 2011, 03:27:35 PM
You can fly sparge on HERMS (I think) if you have 2 pumps.  I only have the one pump for now, so I'm sticking with batch sparging.  I've read that fly and batch should have similar efficiencies, but I'm wondering if , like you, I'm doing something wrong.
Title: Re: Help me improve my efficiency
Post by: denny on September 06, 2011, 04:04:43 PM
If you have a 15+ point efficiency difference with batch sparging, it certainly sounds like you must be doing something wrong.
Title: Re: Help me improve my efficiency
Post by: JKL on September 06, 2011, 04:07:20 PM
You're on the right track when considering the crush of your grains.  You could have the LHBS run the grain through twice, but I suggest getting your own adjustable mill.  After I got my mill,  I went from low 60's to 75-80% efficiency.

+1

I was stuck at 65% also before I bought my BarleyCrusher.  I'm now at around 77% for 1.050(ish) beers. 

Something else to maybe consider is mash length.  After a failed attempt a few months ago to brew a IIPA when the gravity came up short.  I took some advice I read here on the forum about mash length and mash out temp.  I'm a batch sparger as well.  I brewed a Black RyePA(?) yesterday and I'm proud to report I made the biggest beer to date w/o the use of brewing sugars.  1.077 OG at 68% eff.  I'm not sure if it had anything to do with it but I did a 90min mash and attempted to mash out but only got my grainbed up to 163F.
-J.K.L.
Title: Re: Help me improve my efficiency
Post by: mabrungard on September 06, 2011, 04:40:18 PM
I'm not sure I would rank crush as the #1 influence for efficiency.  I'd rank duration of mash and duration of runoff as high influences for mashing efficiency.  If I want poor efficiency, all I have to do is runoff quickly.  Extending  runoff duration to 30+ minutes is a great efficiency booster in my experience.
Title: Re: Help me improve my efficiency
Post by: denny on September 06, 2011, 05:01:01 PM
I'm not sure I would rank crush as the #1 influence for efficiency.  I'd rank duration of mash and duration of runoff as high influences for mashing efficiency.  If I want poor efficiency, all I have to do is runoff quickly.  Extending  runoff duration to 30+ minutes is a great efficiency booster in my experience.


In fly sparging, maybe so.  But the OP is batch sparging, where the runoff speed makes no difference at all.  In that case, crush is the #1 factor.  Even if he was fly sparging, a poor crush could yield results as poor (or even moreso) as a fast runoff.
Title: Re: Help me improve my efficiency
Post by: jeffy on September 06, 2011, 05:16:47 PM
Denny and most batch spargers use picnic coolers where there is no dead space at the bottom.  In a system set to run with HERMS, I'd assume you have a vessel with significant dead space under the grain bed.  I mash in a converted keg with a sabco false bottom, which leaves 4 quarts of liquid under it.  Could batch sparging with a system like this possibly leave more wort in the tun?
Title: Re: Help me improve my efficiency
Post by: hopfenundmalz on September 06, 2011, 06:06:15 PM
I'm not sure I would rank crush as the #1 influence for efficiency.  I'd rank duration of mash and duration of runoff as high influences for mashing efficiency.  If I want poor efficiency, all I have to do is runoff quickly.  Extending  runoff duration to 30+ minutes is a great efficiency booster in my experience.

This can be true.  My post assumed that the process was under control.  I learned a long time ago that 60 minute mashes and 45 minute fly sparges work great on my system.

Other factors to consider are the accuracy of the grain weights, and accuracy of the volumes. 
Title: Re: Help me improve my efficiency
Post by: rstansbu on September 06, 2011, 07:54:51 PM
I have never batch sparged, but I have seen significant differences in efficiency in fly sparging driven by a final mash out prior to sparging.  I would probably expect about a 5% bump in efficiency if I bring the mash temperature to around 160F before I sparge.
Title: Re: Help me improve my efficiency
Post by: mabrungard on September 06, 2011, 08:03:02 PM
Denny, wouldn't batch sparging also be subject to poor efficiency if you ran off the first runnings and then refilled and ran off the second runnings with little time in the mash?  That is sort of like fly sparging too rapidly, isn't it?
Title: Re: Help me improve my efficiency
Post by: James Lorden on September 06, 2011, 08:04:05 PM
I'm at work and don't have details but I can tell you that when I first started using beersmith I disagreed with the efficiency calcs I was getting.  I built a quick spreadsheet and started calculating it manually and sure enough I was right.  Turns out that the way I was entering some other variables was effecting the number the program was spitting out (perhaps the equipment or batch size, can't remember which)... also, beer smith calculates efficiency 3 different ways, right?  are all three of them the same for you?

Title: Re: Help me improve my efficiency
Post by: denny on September 06, 2011, 09:10:35 PM
Denny, wouldn't batch sparging also be subject to poor efficiency if you ran off the first runnings and then refilled and ran off the second runnings with little time in the mash?  That is sort of like fly sparging too rapidly, isn't it?

Nope, not at all, Martin.  The difference is that with fly sparging you're rinsing sugars and with batch sparging you're draining sugars.  For my average 7.5 gal. boil volume, I vorlauf, run off the mash, stir in the sparge water, vorlauf again, and run off the sparge all in less than 15 min.  Of course, you don't have to go that quickly.  The speed is an advantage, not a requirement.  I've experimented with lots of different runoff speeds and wait time after adding sparge water, and longer times provide no increase in efficiency.
Title: Re: Help me improve my efficiency
Post by: rjharper on September 06, 2011, 11:07:49 PM
Denny and most batch spargers use picnic coolers where there is no dead space at the bottom.  In a system set to run with HERMS, I'd assume you have a vessel with significant dead space under the grain bed.  I mash in a converted keg with a sabco false bottom, which leaves 4 quarts of liquid under it.  Could batch sparging with a system like this possibly leave more wort in the tun?

Jeff,
You raise a very valid point, which I did consider in my design.  I have a false bottom, but the pickup arm collects from under it, and in my systems tests I was leaving at most a quart behind with the siphon.  I really wanted to avoid substantial losses there.
Thanks,
Title: Re: Help me improve my efficiency
Post by: rjharper on September 06, 2011, 11:13:07 PM
I'm at work and don't have details but I can tell you that when I first started using beersmith I disagreed with the efficiency calcs I was getting.  I built a quick spreadsheet and started calculating it manually and sure enough I was right.  Turns out that the way I was entering some other variables was effecting the number the program was spitting out (perhaps the equipment or batch size, can't remember which)... also, beer smith calculates efficiency 3 different ways, right?  are all three of them the same for you?



James,
Glad to see I'm not the only one who visits from work!  When you do have a moment, I'd love to hear more about how you corrected everything.  I've found that with the equipment profile I generated, I need to set the efficiency at 65% to make the predicted OG match the measured OG.  I'm referring to the Brewhouse Efficiency number from Beersmith.  The Mash Efficiency is greyed out, but seems to be autocalculated.  Maybe I need a Beersmith tutorial too!

Thanks everyone for the responses, this is a really helpful thread
Title: Re: Help me improve my efficiency
Post by: oscarvan on September 07, 2011, 12:37:42 AM
Batch sparging, and dialed in at 74% right now.

Denny, interesting that the time doesn't matter. Will try that, and shave a few more minutes off the process.

I have found that when using software, small water quantity changes, as in kettle volumes, makes a huge difference in efficiency estimates. I think that's where the biggest errors creep into what we do.
Title: Re: Help me improve my efficiency
Post by: James Lorden on September 07, 2011, 01:23:16 AM


James,
Glad to see I'm not the only one who visits from work!  When you do have a moment, I'd love to hear more about how you corrected everything.  I've found that with the equipment profile I generated, I need to set the efficiency at 65% to make the predicted OG match the measured OG.  I'm referring to the Brewhouse Efficiency number from Beersmith.  The Mash Efficiency is greyed out, but seems to be autocalculated.  Maybe I need a Beersmith tutorial too!

Thanks everyone for the responses, this is a really helpful thread

Here is a post I wrote about it a while back

..."careful with the "lost to trub" number. It will throw off your efficiency calc. I set it to zero then set my batch size and final volume to the amount I want in the kettle after the boil before chilling and run off. (note that beersmith wants your batch size and final volume at the same number)

Assume 75% efficiency, 13.85G of 1.040 preboil w/ 10% boil off, leaving 1 gallon in the kettle/chiller, and I want 11Gallons in my fermenters.

Based on these numbers my final gravity should be 1.046 post-boil

However if I add the 1Gallon Trub Loss that makes my batch 11Gallons (keeping the pre-boil constant at 13.85 gallons and 1.040)
my 1.046 OG now is only 68% efficency.

That nmber is wrong. Beersmith seems to act as if the kettle loss is the same as boil off and concentrates my wort.. it want my OG to now be 1.051 - that's wrong.

I say it's easier to just leave the kettle/trub loss at 0 and formulate w/ batch size based on whats in the kettle post boil."

Note that calculating your efficiency manually as a double check isn't that hard.  It's not that hard to set up a spreadsheet that will do it for you.  Check out this section of How To Brew.  If you can't get it you can PM me and I can send you the one that I put together (I warn you that it's for personal use and not labeled well)

http://www.howtobrew.com/section2/chapter12-5.html

Title: Re: Help me improve my efficiency
Post by: rjharper on September 19, 2011, 12:21:00 AM
Wanted to follow this up for everyone who helped, especially James.  With 6 batches through the system in the last month, by tweaking the Beersmith profile to suit the rig better, and by improving my technique, I'm getting 73% on LHBS crush.  I'm happy with that until I decide to upgrade to my own mill.

Thanks again everyone,
Ross