Author Topic: mash efficiency question  (Read 1891 times)

Offline mwa500

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mash efficiency question
« on: June 13, 2013, 03:28:29 PM »
Ive been brewing for about a year and a half with good success. This is my first forum post. I did one extract brew and then moved on to all grain. Overall everything is going well but I'm having an ongoing question about my low efficiency (about 65%). I have been trying to eliminate variables one brew at a time but am getting frustrated when I think I have it figured out only to get similar results. I use a 48qt rectangular cooler mashtun and recently built a pipe manifold per John Palmer's instructions which came out great but didn't solve the issue. Ive been making a lot of similar RyePAs to try and figure it out...On average with about 11-12lbs of grain, single infusion 60m around 152df, and a 170df sparge, targeting around 1.055-60 OG. Usually I add some corn sugar or lengthen the boil to get the desired gravity which is fine but I've been asking around and reading the forum, re-reading the mash chapters in Palmer and I still can't figure it out. What do you expert all grainers think the most likely culprit is?

1. technique...mashing out/sparging too fast? should be a just above a trickle? the longer it takes the better?
2. water composition? I live in a rural area and the water is fairly hard, but we have a culligan system for the tap and a better drinking water filter system. I haven't done a fancy analysis yet cause I dont think this is a major factor. I use a combo of tap/filtered for mash and 100% filtered for sparge, and don't do any other treatments.
3. mash Ph? I've tested this a couple times and seems ok...
4. mashtun/equipment?

any advice or suggestions welcome and appreciated, thanks

Offline klickitat jim

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Re: mash efficiency question
« Reply #1 on: June 13, 2013, 04:03:43 PM »
Ime my % went up and stayed fairly predictable when I got my own mill, mash at 1.5:1 or close, stir every 15 min. I start checking with my refractometer after an hour and mash till I hit the target.

Predictable is more important than how high my efficiency is IMO

Offline hokerer

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Re: mash efficiency question
« Reply #2 on: June 13, 2013, 05:14:15 PM »
The single factor that has the most impact on efficiency is your crush.  If you're getting your grains per-crushed by the homebrew shop, odds are that's your issue.  IN order to avoid getting complaints from customer about stuck sparges, they tend to crush with a larger mill gap.

Options would be to have the shop crush twice, find a friend with a mill, or get your own.
Joe

Offline jamminbrew

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Re: mash efficiency question
« Reply #3 on: June 13, 2013, 05:20:27 PM »
The single factor that has the most impact on efficiency is your crush.  If you're getting your grains per-crushed by the homebrew shop, odds are that's your issue.  IN order to avoid getting complaints from customer about stuck sparges, they tend to crush with a larger mill gap.

Options would be to have the shop crush twice, find a friend with a mill, or get your own.
+1
I would also add: Calibrate your thermometer, it may not be reading right. If you're mashing too high, or too low, that could be an issue. When I first started, my thermometer was accurate at room temp, but was 15* off when I got to 150*.
« Last Edit: June 13, 2013, 05:22:14 PM by jamminbrew »
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Offline HoosierBrew

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Re: mash efficiency question
« Reply #4 on: June 13, 2013, 06:08:30 PM »
+1 to all said.  When I started AG brewing a long time ago, I was frustrated with my efficiency which seemed to hover a little over 65%.  I worked on thermometer and hydrometer calibration, hitting volumes precisely, hitting mash temps closely, etc.  Each improvement helped a little, and I got more and more precise with each batch, but efficiency would go up and down inexplicably. I finally started getting my LHBS to double crush all my grain each time, and I consistently hit ~ 80%.  That was the last variable.  Much better now. Honestly, an efficiency number is nothing to get hung up on.  Just isolate each variable, improve it, and get your grain double crushed ( or get a mill) and your efficiency will be what it is. Shoot for consistency - even if you are consistently @ 70%, it's irrelevant on the home level.  You can figure each recipe on the consistent efficiency you arrive at.
Jon H.

Offline mwa500

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Re: mash efficiency question
« Reply #5 on: June 13, 2013, 06:20:18 PM »
yeah I should have said in my original post that I have a MaltMill and feel like I am getting good crush based on everything Ive read (hulls intact but everything inside grain pulverized). now I'm wondering if I need to check the spacing on my rollers, or just send it through 2x?

I'm not hung up on the efficiency number I just want to figure out why I'm not getting closer to what I should. one more step in the overall process...

Offline mwa500

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Re: mash efficiency question
« Reply #6 on: June 13, 2013, 06:23:27 PM »
...and maybe time to invest in a new/better thermometer & hydrometer since I'm still using the ones that came in my starter brewers best kit...thanks for the feedback so far

Offline greatplainsbrewer

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Re: mash efficiency question
« Reply #7 on: June 13, 2013, 06:40:54 PM »
It's probably less of an issue than temp, crush, and water:grain ratio but how's your water?

Offline dvc1492s

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Re: mash efficiency question
« Reply #8 on: June 13, 2013, 07:15:56 PM »
I'd also like to add something pretty simple.  Have you calibrated your pre-boil volume at temperature.  I thought my efficiency was pretty poor also however the volume was not correct.  The easiest way initially for me was to measure out one gallon increments and mark then on a stick that I hung into the kettle.  After getting a sight glass I did the same calibration.  Things seemed to work out much better then.  Remember your volume will be anywhere from a 1/4 gallon to 1/2 more if you are measuring at 150 or 200 F.  Google thermal expansion of water.  Hope this helps and good luck.

Offline repo

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Re: mash efficiency question
« Reply #9 on: June 13, 2013, 07:57:55 PM »
I'd also like to add something pretty simple.  Have you calibrated your pre-boil volume at temperature.  I thought my efficiency was pretty poor also however the volume was not correct.  The easiest way initially for me was to measure out one gallon increments and mark then on a stick that I hung into the kettle.  After getting a sight glass I did the same calibration.  Things seemed to work out much better then.  Remember your volume will be anywhere from a 1/4 gallon to 1/2 more if you are measuring at 150 or 200 F.  Google thermal expansion of water.  Hope this helps and good luck.

Yes water expands with heat, but not accounting for this will lead to over estimating the actual efficiency. 

Offline fmader

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Re: mash efficiency question
« Reply #10 on: June 14, 2013, 05:14:35 AM »
yeah I should have said in my original post that I have a MaltMill and feel like I am getting good crush based on everything Ive read (hulls intact but everything inside grain pulverized). now I'm wondering if I need to check the spacing on my rollers, or just send it through 2x?

I would close your gap a bit. I know that everywhere you read says exactly what you said. Crush the grain up beyond intact hulls. Whether it's right or wrong, my grains are all but pulverized. I also have a pipe manifold and actually find that the grain bed settles and filters much quickly than the hulls intact crushed grain.... And have never had to deal with a stuck sparge.

I also batch sparge and is much faster with just about the same result. I used to also sparge around 170 degrees and per some advice on here, I've upped it to 185. The increased sparge temp has also increased my efficiency.

One more thing.... What color is your cooler? I would guess red...
Frank

Offline denny

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mash efficiency question
« Reply #11 on: June 14, 2013, 08:32:24 AM »
Crush til you're scared.

Also, try batch sparging.  If your efficiency increases, you'll know it's something in your lautering equipment or technique.
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Offline mwa500

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Re: mash efficiency question
« Reply #12 on: June 14, 2013, 08:33:35 AM »
haha I wish it was red but in fact it is rather boring white on the outside (with my AHA sticker in front), green on the inside...I'm good on my water volumes as I always hit the right amount, just much lower gravity than expected, and I do batch sparge already...I think for the next batch I will:

1. get a new/better thermometer/hydrometer,
2. try double crushing and/or tightening roller spacing on my MaltMill, and
3. mash out/sparge slower

and see if that makes any noticeable difference to start...then maybe move into more detailed water composition investigations if necc.

thanks again for all the advice everyone, wish I started this thread sooner!

Offline hokerer

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Re: mash efficiency question
« Reply #13 on: June 14, 2013, 08:43:34 AM »

1. get a new/better thermometer/hydrometer,
2. try double crushing and/or tightening roller spacing on my MaltMill, and
3. mash out/sparge slower

And if you really care to know which one of those things makes a difference, you'd make those changes one at a time.
Joe

Offline HoosierBrew

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Re: mash efficiency question
« Reply #14 on: June 14, 2013, 08:46:35 AM »

1. get a new/better thermometer/hydrometer,
2. try double crushing and/or tightening roller spacing on my MaltMill, and
3. mash out/sparge slower

And if you really care to know which one of those things makes a difference, you'd make those changes one at a time.
+1
Jon H.