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Was it something I did?

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case thrower:
I read the thread on mash efficiency and found it very interesting.  I aim for 70% efficiency but I rarely seem to hit it.  More often than not I'm in the high 60s.  Yesterday, I brewed an amber ale.  My mash water temp was a bit high to start at around 158F, but I left the lid off and did a bit of stirring and after 20 minutes it dropped down to 152F.  When I added the sparge water, the temp was 170F.  When I took a pre-boil reading, my gravity was 1.039, which was only a point off the 1.040 I was aiming for.   I did a slightly longer boil than the usual 60 minutes hoping to gain that point back.  My post-boil gravity was 1.048 instead of the 1.050 I was aiming for.
I'm brewing 2.5 gallon batches and I use a 5 gallon Igloo water cooler for a mash tun.  When I was cleaning up, I filled the cooler with cold water to cool the grains down.  Just on a whim, I got the hydrometer out and took a reading of the cold grain mix.  I got a reading of 1.004.
Here is my question.  I realize I'm not ging to get ALL the sugars out of the grains, but I was kind of surprised there was still that much sugar left.  Or, would that be a 'normal reading' and I'm seeing a problem where none exist?
If anyone has any insights, I would be grateful.  Thanks.

The two major parts of brewhouse efficiency are mash/conversion efficiency and lauter/extraction efficiency. if you carefully measure your grain and your strike water you can use tools on line to calculate a pretty accurate estimation of your mash efficiency. this is where the crush comes in, if that is good you should be pretty close to 100% mash efficiency. The Lauter efficiency will not be close to 100%, well, it might be but not AS close. What you are seeing is the difference between mash efficiency and lauter efficiency. 1.004 is not usual. pretty low actually.

case thrower:
Ah, very interesting.  On the plus side, if I'm understanding you, I'm doing a good job with my mash, getting most of the sugars out.  On the minus side, that's telling me that my crush needs to be better.  It would also explain why every once in a while, I'll have a batch where I get great efficiency.  I don't have access to a mill except at the local supply shop so I'm kind of stuck there.  Thanks.

I would ask your LHBS to double crush your grain for you.  It made my efficiency much better and more consistent.

How much grain did you use, and what were the volumes? If the tail runnings are 1.004 your efficiency should be very high.


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