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Messages - benamcg

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All Grain Brewing / Re: Need help with efficiency with Batch Sparging
« on: October 06, 2013, 07:53:35 AM »
I pretty much eliminated the deadspace, but still hit the same range of efficiency.  Probably even worse since I did not calculate in the contributions from the veggies (pumpkin).  All in all, not a good session to be trying to dial in the efficiency.

Other factors (too many variables are changing at once):
In this batch, my mash temp got too low due to adding the pumpkin mix (145).  I added a little more water (1 gal or 20% more than the target of 5 gals) to raise the temp bed (got it to 149). Also new, was a 90 min mash, but I doubt that it would affect the efficiency. 

Other than that, I took the advice of (nearly) splitting the run-off volumes evenly and only added sparge volumes that I was to collect for the second run-off.  I felt good about these improvements.  But alas, same end result.  I will keep fiddling to improve the efficiency, but, again, the simplicity and time savings of batch sparging make me not overly concerned- eventually I will figure out the system.

All Grain Brewing / Re: Need help with efficiency with Batch Sparging
« on: October 05, 2013, 02:16:51 PM »
Thanks for the input.  I used the tilt method and got the deadspace from 1 gal down to 24 fl. oz. I will report back after tomorrow's brew day if this cured the problem.  Thanks all!

All Grain Brewing / Need help with efficiency with Batch Sparging
« on: October 05, 2013, 10:06:57 AM »
My first three attempts at Batch Sparging have resulted in poor extract efficiency: 64, 67, and 56% in 12 gal, 6 gal, and 12 gal batches, respectively. The first and third attempts were with a different mash tun (72 qt Coleman Extreme cooler) than the 6 gal batch (Gatorade 10 gal circular).

I have not done anything differently with my crush size (Barley Crusher) since my fly sparging days.  Mash temperatures have been hit perfectly (152 F), each with volumes of ~ 1.3 qts/lb, and mashes are all held for 1 hr. 

At the end of the mash, I slowly open the valve to set the bed, I recirculate until clear, and then crank wide open to drain.  I have calculated that based on where my Bazooka T is connected, I have about 1 gal of deadspace (with grain/solids in there, obviously that volume is lessened, but I would still think that 1/2 gal of wort is trapped in the cooler after each run-off).  After Run-off 1, I add essentially 1 gal more water than what I need to collect (to account for the deadspace) of near boiling water (200- 205 F) to raise the bed to 165-8, stir and wait for 30 mins, then repeat the slow drain, recirc and collect.

For example:
My first run-off on the last batch collected 7 gals (on 28 pounds) for the first run-off.  I added 6.5 gals of water, stirred, waited, etc.  Collected another 5.5 gals for my target of 12.5 gals in the kettle, and only got 56%.

I feel like the process is sound, but if I could guess what is wrong, I think it has to do with something in the second run-off, either the deadspace under the Bazooka T, or how much water is being added to collect the second run-off.  The second run with a 6 gal batch anf a different mash tun was higher (67%) but still not great.  The amount of deadspace in that cooler is much less.

I like the concept of batch sparging and want to get it right.  There has not been any issues with the taste of the beer (as one could expect), and in the grand scheme of things, I could just add another pound of malt to hit higher gravities.  However, I would like to maximize the efficiency of my system to at least 75% and be consistent with it.  Any thoughts would be appreciated.

Beer Recipes / Re: Oatmeal Raisin Stout
« on: June 30, 2013, 04:44:15 PM »
Special B gives a nice raisin effect

Equipment and Software / Stainless and aluminum mash tuns
« on: June 22, 2013, 09:10:24 AM »
As a Gatorade cooler masher, I am limited to 28 pounds of malt at a very thin (1 qt) mash (= less than desirable efficiency) in the 10 gal cooler.  In an effort to go larger (more importantly thinner mashes) I was looking at the various larger volume stainless and aluminum pots available (e.g. Blichmann, Megapots) but wonder about their insulating capabilities.  Are they are capable of maintaining consistent mash bed temps for 1 hr? 

Question for the batch spargers in the group.  How do you determine the sparge water temperature to maintain a grain bed temperature in a certain range (I imagine the 168-170 degree range)?  Is there an equation?  I imagine it would have depend on mash temp (assume 152) and pounds of malt. 


Equipment and Software / Re: New MT ordered
« on: May 04, 2013, 03:31:41 PM »
I agree with the plate chiller.  The Terminator is the best piece of equipment I own.

Equipment and Software / Cleaning Mills- Barley Crusher
« on: May 04, 2013, 03:30:18 PM »
I just used my Barley Crusher for the first time.  What an amazing tool!  I want to make sure that it works for as long as possible.  How should I go about cleaning it?  I just took the Shop Vac to it.  Anything further required.  My old Corona mill seemed to rust over a decade of use- rinsing with water it and drying after each use (probably not wise) .  This new mill is the bees knees.  I cant believe I ever used anything else. 

Ingredients / Re: Amarillo
« on: April 25, 2013, 04:04:06 AM »
Can you even find Amarillo?  I havent been able to find any online or in stores until I wandered into a LHBS in a neighboring state that somehow had 36 oz of pellets.  I bought them all!

Ingredients / Re: Coconut Porter
« on: April 08, 2013, 06:03:39 AM »
I usually add toasted coconut to the keg in a cheese-cloth sack.  Purge air from the airlock and leave in for 48 hours -max.  After 48 hrs it is overwhelming (to me) for the first couple of weeks, but definitely fades over time.

Ingredients / Re: Chocolate in a porter?
« on: March 19, 2013, 04:14:39 PM »
Chocolate would not be an appropriate substitute for corn sugar in this recipe. However, if you want to add chocolate flavor to it I have had excellent results using this coca powder ( at the end of the boil followed by using cocoa nibs from the same company in the secondary.

+1 on cocoa powder at the end of the boil

General Homebrew Discussion / Re: Brewing over Two days
« on: March 19, 2013, 06:23:59 AM »
I probably brewed 20+ batches with the day 1 pre-boil, day 2 boil to ferment method- out of necessity (small kids and long brew days).  I did get my one and only infection this way.  The wort was bubbling away in the kettle when I went to boil the next morning.  This was also in the summer and ambient temps were conducive for lacto to get going.  I had invested the time, so I actually went ahead, boiled and fermented......tasted awful and had to pitch.  So, 95% time (or more), this methodology worked great.

Yeast and Fermentation / Re: What to do with a slow fermenting beer
« on: February 17, 2013, 09:49:40 AM »
Just to check, are you correcting for alcohol content in your refractometer reading? An uncorrected FG reading of 1.044 corrects down to about 1.024ish, methinks.

You are correct- and eerily close. I get (1.075 = 19 Brix to 1.044 = 11.5 Brix) = 1.026 using Sean Terrill's refractometer calculator (  I used it when it was at 1.055, but not at this new reading (1.044)- makes it not seem as dire now.

Thanks for the replies so far - I will continue to wait. 

Yeast and Fermentation / What to do with a slow fermenting beer
« on: February 17, 2013, 08:41:25 AM »
I made a larger beer a couple of weeks ago (1.075) and in haste (and in hindsight) did not pitch enough yeast (1 vial Yorkshire Square) nor did I make a starter.  The beer never really took off in fermentation.  Fermentation was visible within 24 hours, but never really develop the thick krausen I am used to.  The fermentation has been temperature controlled and monitored (69 degrees F) throughout. 

2 days post brewing, I left for a week, and when I returned home, saw about the same, thin layer of activity on the surface. At this time, I checked the gravity with the refractometer (did the conversions for gravity on fermented beer) and found it around 1.055.  At this time, I decided to add the only yeast I had on hand - 1 vial of White Labs Cal Ale yeast.  After aeration and another week (2 weeks from brew day), the gravity (refractometer reading) is now around 1.044, still have some activity in the airlock of about a bubble per 10 secs, uniform but very thin "head" or bubbles on the surface of the beer, but again, no healthy krausen.

Another variable that may help troubleshoot this issue are:
The recipe had 1 lb of brown sugar added to the kettle, which should have been pretty easy for the yeast to chew through.

My question is: Should I:
1. Dump it: 2+ weeks in primary scares me.  I should have been transferring to secondary by now.  I can tie up a fermenter for another couple of weeks, but I dont know what this monster is going to do, or taste like. 
2.transfer it to secondary and keg it later (is it worth kegging at 1.044)
3.or just keep taking gravities, praying that it will come down into at least the 20s.  I am doubting that it will at this point.

Any help is greatly appreciated.

Us women generally have more sensitive palates than our male counterparts. I read it in a book, so it must be true! ;D

Otherwise, drinking beer and writing down what you think is a great way to get the thought process going. The BJCP has tons of great resources on their website - use them!  :)

As a biologist, I can say that there is a lot of evolutionary evidence for females (of many species) having better senses for smell and taste than males.  My wife's palate is one of my most important brewery guages!

From the number of responses  here and from past posts, it seems that smells affects beer perception greatly, maybe even more so than taste.

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