For Steve, hopefully you can answer a few questions I have:
The first on the orifices. did you stick with the 1.5 size throughout the process. I have read an exhausting thread on HBT regarding various sizes and switching to the smallest one for draining the MT into the BK which seems to me to be a painfully slow option, is it really necessary? Which orifice have you found to be the best at maintaining proper balance between the two kettle volumes.
I used the 1.25 orifice for the first batch, then stepped up to the 1.5 orifice. I plan to try the 1.75 at some point but just haven't done it yet. Also, I don't see any reason to change out the orifice when draining the mash. The manual suggests that you might get slightly better efficiency if you slow down the flow when the wort volume is about at the level of the valve, by just cutting back the valve on the output of the mash. Another thing I do, assuming there is some head space in the mash tun to do it, is to raise the level of the AutoSparge float valve during mash-out and basically top-up the mash tun prior to draining. I figure that because this puts more volume of hotter wort above the grain bed prior to draining, this hotter (and thinner) wort would drain more thoroughly through the grain bed. I don't know if it really matters.
Second, at what level do you set your sparge arm? I have read for it to be a bit above the grain bed, like an inch or two? Seems right but not sure.
That's about right.
Curious to know what you are experiencing in boil off rate, my old set up with a wide low pot was 2 hours over 60 minutes and I thought (Incorrectly) that the taller narrow kettle would be less and boy was I wrong! I know there are various factors that play into this and plan on running a batch of water prior to my next go around but thought I would ask.
I have the boil-off set in BeerSmith set to 1.5 gal/hr.
I am starting all my recipes at 65% assumed efficiency and was curious if you have found any ways to improve on this. Ideally I would like to get closer to 70% since my last set up was 80% consistently, dropping 15% is a lot to swallow......I am already aware of water chemistry and use Bru'n water with great success. I am thinking orifice selection can help from what I've read and proper mash out. All the other typical items like crush and pH I already have accounted for.
It seem to me that you have it all pretty much covered. I have not tried slowing down the flow while draining except for the last couple of gallons. Without sparging, all I think we can do is gain slight improvements doing all the things you have touched on. I knew going in, that I was sacrificing efficiency for simplicity, which is a trade-off I'm happy to live with.
Good luck with your new system!