Author Topic: Efficiency: How Good is Too Good  (Read 3703 times)

Offline cheshirecat

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Re: Efficiency: How Good is Too Good
« Reply #15 on: January 19, 2012, 05:07:54 PM »
I have a related question I thought I could ask here instead of starting a new tread (don't mean to hijack the thread).

I am currently trying to dial in my efficiency. I do partial mashing using quite a bit of grain vs extract (usually around 80/20). I mash in a 5 gallon igloo and batch sparge (using Denny's method). My efficiency has been pretty up and down (swings of 10 to 20%). Some of this I attributed to the mill at my brew shop, which sucks. I bought my own mill which really helped on my first brew (jumped from 55% to 72%) but next brew was about 63%.

I can't do full boils, right now I do 4 gallons (though I just got a bucket heater to get that up). My mill is set at about .035.

I would like to get about 70% and not so worried right now about getting better efficiency just trying to get it consistent.

Stating with my next brew I am going to track my boil off rate. Also I was't accounting for mash tun dead space, which now I have fixed in my software. I use the same process every time and take as many notes as I can.

What are some other things I could be doing to help dial in my efficiency? Oh, I also check to make sure the malt I am using is nice and fresh.

Thanks!!

Offline a10t2

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Re: Efficiency: How Good is Too Good
« Reply #16 on: January 19, 2012, 05:58:46 PM »
My efficiency has been pretty up and down (swings of 10 to 20%).

What kind of OGs are you brewing? That range is about right is there's a large variation in gravity.
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Offline cheshirecat

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Re: Efficiency: How Good is Too Good
« Reply #17 on: January 19, 2012, 10:06:54 PM »
I am all over the board, love all sorts of beers. :)  But most often 1.050 to 1.070 so mid range. Not worried about hitting 1.057 when I shoot for 1.060, I've been missing 10 or so points. For example I my last brew I shot for for 1.054 ended up at 1.045. Just trying to dialing it in. I did how ever found one of my big problems... the stick I use to measure water in my pot was almost 1/2 gallon off. I have been diluting my beer my 1/3 to 1/2 gallon. Fixed that tonight so I will see how it goes tomorrow when I brew. But still would love some more advice! 

Offline nyakavt

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Re: Efficiency: How Good is Too Good
« Reply #18 on: January 20, 2012, 08:20:24 AM »
Batch sparging efficiency can be broken down into mash and lauter efficiency.  Mash efficiency is affected by crush, grist yield, mash pH, time, temp, etc.  Basically how much of the potential starch do you convert to sugar?  Lauter efficiency is a measure of how much of this converted sugar you get out of the mash tun.  This is affected batch-to-batch by how much water you mash/sparge with, and there are fixed losses associated with dead space and apparent grain absorbtion.

You can measure the mash efficiency by taking a gravity reading of the mash.  This can be compared with the theoretical yield of the malt, preferably from a lot analysis of the malt you are using, a general analysis posted on the maltsters website, or a more general assumption (e.g. 2-row yields 36 p*gal/lb).  This can be improved most easily by crushing finer, but ensuring all your mashing parameters are in the correct range (pH, temp, time) is important for consistency and getting max yield.

Lauter efficiency is correlated directly with how much water is used to mash.  If you have 10 lbs of grain and mash/sparge with 10 gallons of water, you'll have a higher efficiency than if you use the same amount of water with 15 lbs of grain.  This is because the wort/sugar that is held back in the mashtun (by grain, dead space) is not as dilute, so you are effectively leaving more sugar behind.  There's not much we can do to improve this, because we typically have a fixed boil volume and don't want to boil 15 gallons down to 5.  So usually this effect is just accounted for, you'll notice a decrease in efficiency with bigger beers.

Kai has several articles on batch sparging efficiency analysis if you want more info, or you can just ask if you have specific questions.

Offline Steverino

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Re: Efficiency: How Good is Too Good
« Reply #19 on: January 23, 2012, 12:33:39 PM »
82 is just dandy. The real trick is whether or not you can repeat it and if you picked up anything "off". Odds are that you're fine. I start looking askance at numbers above 85%

+1.  When efficiency approaches 90%, that's when the beer starts getting thin and watery in my experience.  82% is just fine, and in fact is pretty much my goal -- high enough, but not too high.

Wonder if you'd care to support your theory with a little chemistry...
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Offline Malticulous

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Re: Efficiency: How Good is Too Good
« Reply #20 on: January 23, 2012, 01:34:32 PM »
I don't think efficiency can be too high. I know the bigger breweries are pretty close to laboratory extract. Some of the most modern mash processes can yield a bit more than the congress mash. Low extract efficiency is a sign of the real problems.

Offline dmtaylor

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Re: Efficiency: How Good is Too Good
« Reply #21 on: January 23, 2012, 03:26:43 PM »
82 is just dandy. The real trick is whether or not you can repeat it and if you picked up anything "off". Odds are that you're fine. I start looking askance at numbers above 85%

+1.  When efficiency approaches 90%, that's when the beer starts getting thin and watery in my experience.  82% is just fine, and in fact is pretty much my goal -- high enough, but not too high.

Wonder if you'd care to support your theory with a little chemistry...

You see, that's just it -- chemistry and science don't matter so much, and in this case maybe not at all.  In my opinion, the only thing that matters is TASTE.  And taste, of course, is somewhat subjective, which is another piece of the whole puzzle.

I can get >95% efficiency.  I have done so once or twice, and I've proven to myself that on my system I can hit >90% with ease.  BUT... am I making really good beer that way?  Some people will say, ooh, ah, he can get 95% efficiency, I should try doing that too.  But you probably haven't tasted that 95% eff beer, either.  Well, I have.  And?  My taste buds aren't quite sure yet, but are leaning more towards the opinion that uber-high efficiency is NOT such a good thing.  I think my beer tastes better if I purposely try to get less sugar and more of that non-sugary grainy stuff in my beer than if I'm just extracting maximum sugar.  Because in theory, sugar by itself is flavorless.  What I mean is, the only flavor you really get from any sugars is from the impurities therein.  Same holds true for brown sugar, molasses, honey, etc.  It's the impurities that give these sugars all their flavor.  What impurities?  Well, in malt we have things like husks, tannins, starches, proteins, melanoidins, whatever, in addition to maltose, dextrose, sucrose, fructose, you-name-it-ose.  So, I suppose the theory goes, if you're squeezing every possible molecule of sugar out of a minimum amount of grain and hitting 100% of possible efficiency, while you might not be turning out pure white flavorless sugar from such a process, I think you are indeed actually taking your beer a little closer toward the flavorless range.  You've got more sugar and less impurities because you're doing such a darn "good" job at extracting all the sugars out of your grain.  See what I mean?

I'll say it again -- more experiments are necessary.  But I have a hunch that I'm right.  I'm just too damned lazy, especially to try to prove it to a highly technical and often downright geeky population of millions of homebrewers and beer lovers that absolutely do NOT want to hear that they should NOT be striving for maximum efficiency, and that what they really need to strive for is consistency and thereafter should shut up and sit back and revel in their seemingly crappy 70% or 75% efficiency.  I argue that bigger is NOT better.  But a lot of people can't stand to hear that.  They have to keep tweaking, and tweaking, and wondering what they're doing wrong.  I say that as long as a brewer is consistent, and their beer tastes really good, they aren't doing anything wrong, and have no reason to tweak or try to fix that which is NOT broken.

The best advice I can give anyone on anything related to brewing, especially to all the novices out there, is: Take all those old brewers' tales and rules of thumb, everything you've read about in old books... and throw them all out the window, and figure out the truth on your own.  With just a few batches experience, you'll come to find and agree that SO many old rules of thumb are SO wrong that it ain't funny -- it's downright hysterical!!  In the end, the only way you're going to find out the truth is to seek it out on your own, formed by your own experiments and your own experiences, with the subjective topic of "taste" verified (or not) through objective opinion -- BJCP is a good place to get some assistance, but don't stop there, either.  Read a lot, but take it all in with LOTS of grains of salt.  Because in the end, we need to figure out what works for us, ourselves, and discover our own truths.  Everyone else be damned if they try to tell you you're wrong based on who knows what, when you know the truth based on your own experience.

</pontification>
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Offline tubercle

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Re: Efficiency: How Good is Too Good
« Reply #22 on: January 23, 2012, 03:36:59 PM »
What Dave said.
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Offline Malticulous

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Re: Efficiency: How Good is Too Good
« Reply #23 on: January 23, 2012, 03:38:31 PM »
Last year I made a 2 gallon batch of traditional bock. It was a simple little stove top brew with a double decoction mash. Well with the water ratio for the higher boil off percentage and the high extraction due to the docoction it was a Dopple Bock--and the best one I ever made at that.So IMO and in my experience 95% BHE is not a bad thing.

Offline Steverino

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Re: Efficiency: How Good is Too Good
« Reply #24 on: January 25, 2012, 08:27:53 AM »
82 is just dandy. The real trick is whether or not you can repeat it and if you picked up anything "off". Odds are that you're fine. I start looking askance at numbers above 85%

+1.  When efficiency approaches 90%, that's when the beer starts getting thin and watery in my experience.  82% is just fine, and in fact is pretty much my goal -- high enough, but not too high.

Wonder if you'd care to support your theory with a little chemistry...

You see, that's just it -- chemistry and science don't matter so much, and in this case maybe not at all.  In my opinion, the only thing that matters is TASTE.  And taste, of course, is somewhat subjective, which is another piece of the whole puzzle.

I can get >95% efficiency.  I have done so once or twice, and I've proven to myself that on my system I can hit >90% with ease.  BUT... am I making really good beer that way?  Some people will say, ooh, ah, he can get 95% efficiency, I should try doing that too.  But you probably haven't tasted that 95% eff beer, either.  Well, I have.  And?  My taste buds aren't quite sure yet, but are leaning more towards the opinion that uber-high efficiency is NOT such a good thing.  I think my beer tastes better if I purposely try to get less sugar and more of that non-sugary grainy stuff in my beer than if I'm just extracting maximum sugar.  Because in theory, sugar by itself is flavorless.  What I mean is, the only flavor you really get from any sugars is from the impurities therein.  Same holds true for brown sugar, molasses, honey, etc.  It's the impurities that give these sugars all their flavor.  What impurities?  Well, in malt we have things like husks, tannins, starches, proteins, melanoidins, whatever, in addition to maltose, dextrose, sucrose, fructose, you-name-it-ose.  So, I suppose the theory goes, if you're squeezing every possible molecule of sugar out of a minimum amount of grain and hitting 100% of possible efficiency, while you might not be turning out pure white flavorless sugar from such a process, I think you are indeed actually taking your beer a little closer toward the flavorless range.  You've got more sugar and less impurities because you're doing such a darn "good" job at extracting all the sugars out of your grain.  See what I mean?

I'll say it again -- more experiments are necessary.  But I have a hunch that I'm right.  I'm just too damned lazy, especially to try to prove it to a highly technical and often downright geeky population of millions of homebrewers and beer lovers that absolutely do NOT want to hear that they should NOT be striving for maximum efficiency, and that what they really need to strive for is consistency and thereafter should shut up and sit back and revel in their seemingly crappy 70% or 75% efficiency.  I argue that bigger is NOT better.  But a lot of people can't stand to hear that.  They have to keep tweaking, and tweaking, and wondering what they're doing wrong.  I say that as long as a brewer is consistent, and their beer tastes really good, they aren't doing anything wrong, and have no reason to tweak or try to fix that which is NOT broken.

The best advice I can give anyone on anything related to brewing, especially to all the novices out there, is: Take all those old brewers' tales and rules of thumb, everything you've read about in old books... and throw them all out the window, and figure out the truth on your own.  With just a few batches experience, you'll come to find and agree that SO many old rules of thumb are SO wrong that it ain't funny -- it's downright hysterical!!  In the end, the only way you're going to find out the truth is to seek it out on your own, formed by your own experiments and your own experiences, with the subjective topic of "taste" verified (or not) through objective opinion -- BJCP is a good place to get some assistance, but don't stop there, either.  Read a lot, but take it all in with LOTS of grains of salt.  Because in the end, we need to figure out what works for us, ourselves, and discover our own truths.  Everyone else be damned if they try to tell you you're wrong based on who knows what, when you know the truth based on your own experience.

</pontification>

It's obvious you've put a lot of thought into this. But I gotta say--once or twice? You've hit 95% efficiency 'once or twice' and the resulting beers have been less than stellar--though your taste buds are not 'quite sure yet.' With respect, that's a pretty thin foundation upon which to build such a big theory.
You say you prefer less sugar and more of the non-sugary stuff. That's fine. With your mash temps, your pH levels, your water chemistry--you determine the profile of your mash, your wort. If you want a higher proportion of dextrins, you'll mash at a higher temp. But it seems to me that a higher efficiency is just getting more out of your grist. Same ratio of fermentables to unfermentables, just more of both.
You write:
'The best advice I can give anyone on anything related to brewing, especially to all the novices out there, is: Take all those old brewers' tales and rules of thumb, everything you've read about in old books... and throw them all out the window, and figure out the truth on your own.  With just a few batches experience, you'll come to find and agree that SO many old rules of thumb are SO wrong that it ain't funny -- it's downright hysterical!!'

I think you're on even shakier ground there. There's an old adage about not reinventing the wheel that I think may apply. In the ten thousand years we've been brewing we've learned a thing or two. 'Brewers' tales and rules of thumb' survive because they are valuable; they don't if they're not. Like evolution. Why on earth would you tell new brewers to 'throw them out the window?' What are you, a book burner?

And it's not just the methodology of brewing that's been formed by evolution. Our beer styles have come down to us through the ages. 10,000 years of development and tweaking, 10,000 years of test marketing. 10,000 years of learning what we like and what we don't. The styles aren't rules and regulations, they're valuable data about what works for us. There's have been a lot of changes in home brewing since I started 25 years ago, and most of them have been great. But two I consider unfortunate have been 1) the move toward ever faster brews (shorter mashes, batch sparging, etc.) and 2) the seeming disregard and often downright disdain for brewing lore. It seems somehow a uniquely American arrogance--10,000 years of testing, tweaking, refining? Screw that--I LIKE 100 IBU beer! Style guidelines? Fascism!
Now I'll get off my soapbox.
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Offline denny

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Re: Efficiency: How Good is Too Good
« Reply #25 on: January 25, 2012, 09:37:16 AM »
Although Dave's theory is credible, there's evidence the other way, too.  I'm told that Sierra Nevada achieves close to 100% efficiency, and given the source I have no reason to doubt it.  I certainly couldn't say that their beers lack flavor because of their efficiency.
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Offline repo

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Re: Efficiency: How Good is Too Good
« Reply #26 on: January 25, 2012, 10:31:08 AM »
[  </pontification>
to brewing I think you're on even shakier ground there. There's an old adage about not reinventing the wheel that I think may apply. In the ten thousand years we've been brewing we've learned a thing or two. 'Brewers' tales and rules of thumb' survive because they are valuable; they don't if they're not. Like evolution. Why on earth would you tell new brewers to 'throw them out the window?' What are you, a book burner?

And it's not just the methodology of brewing that's been formed by evolution. Our beer styles have come down to us through the ages. 10,000 years of development and tweaking, 10,000 years of test marketing. 10,000 years of learning what we like and what we don't. The styles aren't rules and regulations, they're valuable data about what works for us. There's have been a lot of changes in home brewing since I started 25 years ago, and most of them have been great. But two I consider unfortunate have been 1) the move toward ever faster brews (shorter mashes, batch sparging, etc.) and 2) the seeming disregard and often downright disdain for brewing lore. It seems somehow a uniquely American arrogance--10,000 years of testing, tweaking, refining? Screw that--I LIKE 100 IBU beer! Style guidelines? Fascism!
Now I'll get off my soapbox.
[/quote]



Wow I don't think I could disagree with you more. 10,000- year old recipes?? Hops have only beeen documented  back to 11th century. The german purity law had no respect for yeast. When I was in school Pluto was a planet, we did the pledge of allegiance and stretching before excercise was the rule of thumb. Science has brought us evolution and science has helped us to understand how to make better beer and proven many old rules of thumb to be ridiculous.

Offline Malticulous

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Re: Efficiency: How Good is Too Good
« Reply #27 on: January 25, 2012, 10:31:37 AM »
It's obvious the pros have much better lauter tuns than we do. One book said the optimum amount of total mash water is about 3.4 qt/lb. It's a balance of extract and energy loss in evaporation.

Offline dmtaylor

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Re: Efficiency: How Good is Too Good
« Reply #28 on: January 25, 2012, 10:38:21 AM »
I wouldn't call this a "big theory".  There's just very little test data out there today that would prove it right or wrong.  So, without a lot of data to support or refute at this point, I wouldn't dare jump to any conclusions and declare the theory "shaky" or of a "thin foundation".  Go ahead, prove me wrong, if you can, but present the results in an objective manner in such a way that they are based on TASTE, not facts, figures, IBUs, etc.  I am confident I'll get there, eventually.  I'm just not there quite yet.

In my experience, you do NOT get more of everything (sugars vs. non-sugars) as efficiency increases.  This has already been proven by thousands of brewers whenever they do a partigyle session.  Invariably, a whole buttload of sugar and flavor comes out in the "bigger" beer, which might often be described as "more malty", while the "small" beer made from the second runnings or even a blend of first and second will always end up tasting more lifeless and downright watery unless it is jacked up with extra steeped malt or extract.  Try a partigyle sometime without any enrichment of the small beer and you'll find out exactly what I mean.  I think even if you boiled the snot out of the small beer to hit the same original gravity as the bigger beer, the maltiness would seem weak and lifeless in comparison.  Again, this is another experiment I haven't actually tried yet, but I am very confident that it would be true because the small beer is often so very wimpy in taste.

There's ALWAYS more to learn.  After 12+ years homebrewing, I'm definitely still learning, all the time.  And in that time, I've also seen many of the old brewers' tales and rules of thumb from the big wigs including Papazian, Noonan, and even our oh-so-revered Palmer and Zainasheff shot full of holes, and the ones who aren't dead will freely admit that the "rules" have changed.  And by whom were they proven wrong?  I was going to say "people like you and me" but it appears I might be more accurate in saying "people like me".  I am not a book burner.  In fact I read a TON, probably a lot more than 95% of homebrewers.  But at the same time, I am a skeptic, and a realist, and I am a man of science (actually an engineer by degree).  So when I obtain objective data that the sages would not be able to explain, then I am not afraid to conclude that the sages might have more to learn.  And who better to teach them, and everyone else, than a simple guy like me.  But like I said, many people don't want to hear it.  All hail, Zainasheff [or insert alternate icon here].  To each his own I guess.

Denny, that's an interesting data point, assuming it's true (coming from you, I don't doubt it quite as much).  But I might also argue that the reason Americans love hops so much is that they cover up shortcomings in the malt profile, especially when compared to the Germans and other continentals who've really got the good ingredients and processes down pat to do it right every time.  Meanwhile it's not too hard to make a hop tea, put a little malt sugar in there for complexity and fermentables, and call it delicious.  And when you think of Sierra Nevada, what's the first thing that comes to mind?  Probably a hoppy beer ala SNPA or Celebration or whatever hoppy flavor of the day.  So if their malt character might be lacking in some respect at 100% efficiency compared to what they might get if they purposely lowered it to 75%, who's going to care!?  Well, I'm a malthead (as opposed to a hophead).  I care about malt character.  Many many many people really seem to not care enough about the malt.  If they've got fermentable sugar and 100 IBUs, they're happy as clams.  Not me.  Which is no doubt why I keep on rambling about the need to experiment with malt flavor vs. efficiency.

Gosh, I've got to get myself a damned blog.  But no one would read it.  If you've made it this far, thanks for listening.  If not, probably so much the better.  I apologize either way.  You know what I'm really doing, don't you?  I'm procrastinating.  Yeah, I'm at work right now.  I'd better get back to it.  Yeah.  Bye now.  Ba-bye.
Dave

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Offline Malticulous

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Re: Efficiency: How Good is Too Good
« Reply #29 on: January 25, 2012, 10:58:34 AM »
I'm reasonably sure  breweries like Ayinger have every bit as good of extraction rates and SN. It's the malt. You cant expect a malty profile form American 2-row and crystal 60L.