Author Topic: Brewhouse efficiency 'stuck' near 60%  (Read 3265 times)

Offline nofunsally

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Brewhouse efficiency 'stuck' near 60%
« on: April 09, 2010, 09:50:49 PM »
Hello,
I have recently made the transition to all-grain brewing. However my brewhouse efficiency still makes me sad.   I am using the default setting on my barley crusher. I am using a 48 qt cooler as a mash tun.   I batch sparge until I collect 5.1 gallons in my kettle.  I haven't stirred the mash.  I experience 2 - 3 degrees F loss per hour.  I pre-conditioned my grain for the last two brews. Suggestions on how to achieve a more respectable level of efficiency are appreciated.

Cheers,
MJ

my last five brews (brewhouse efficiency %):

Cream Ale: 38%
Vienna Lager: 65%
Kentucky Common: 64%
Flanders Red A: 57%
Flanders Red B: 59%

Code: [Select]
BeerSmith Recipe Printout - http://www.beersmith.com
Recipe: cream ale
Brewer: mj
Asst Brewer:
Style: Cream Ale
TYPE: All Grain
Taste: (35.0) A bit out of balance, poor extraction led to higher hop utilzation.

Recipe Specifications
--------------------------
Batch Size: 5.25 gal      
Boil Size: 5.10 gal
Estimated OG: 1.046 SG
Estimated Color: 3.0 SRM
Estimated IBU: 18.3 IBU
Brewhouse Efficiency: 70.00 %
Boil Time: 60 Minutes

Ingredients:
------------
Amount        Item                                      Type         % or IBU      
3 lbs         Pale Malt (2 Row) US (2.0 SRM)            Grain        33.33 %      
2 lbs         Pilsner (2 Row) UK (1.0 SRM)              Grain        22.22 %      
1 lbs         Barley, Flaked (1.7 SRM)                  Grain        11.11 %      
1 lbs         Corn, Flaked (1.3 SRM)                    Grain        11.11 %      
1 lbs         Pale Malt (6 Row) US (2.0 SRM)            Grain        11.11 %      
4.0 oz        Vienna Malt (3.5 SRM)                     Grain        2.78 %        
0.85 oz       Sterling [6.00 %]  (60 min)               Hops         17.2 IBU      
0.60 oz       Hallertauer [1.50 %]  (10 min)            Hops         1.1 IBU      
12.0 oz       Sugar, Table (Sucrose) (1.0 SRM)          Sugar        8.33 %        


Mash Schedule: My Mash
Total Grain Weight: 8.25 lb
----------------------------
My Mash
Step Time     Name               Description                         Step Temp    
90 min        Step               Add 12.38 qt of water at 158.3 F    149.0 F      


Notes:
------
 Gravity reading was 1.028 ... I then maybe boiled a pound of DME and 12 more ounce of sugar and added it to the bucket after it cooled, maybe. OG ~ 1.028 + .015 (in after-brew additions) = 1.043.  I bottled with 4.25 oz of cane sugar on 02/15/10.  The FG = 1.002 for an estimated ABV 5.37%

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
BeerSmith Recipe Printout - http://www.beersmith.com
Recipe: fred a
Brewer: mj
Asst Brewer:
Style: Flanders Red Ale
TYPE: All Grain
Taste: (35.0)

Recipe Specifications
--------------------------
Batch Size: 5.50 gal      
Boil Size: 5.10 gal
Estimated OG: 1.070 SG
Estimated Color: 16.6 SRM
Estimated IBU: 10.7 IBU
Brewhouse Efficiency: 71.00 %
Boil Time: 60 Minutes

Ingredients:
------------
Amount        Item                                      Type         % or IBU      
5 lbs 2.1 oz  Vienna Malt (3.5 SRM)                     Grain        33.93 %      
4 lbs         Pilsner (2 Row) UK (1.0 SRM)              Grain        26.46 %      
2 lbs 14.1 oz Munich Malt (9.0 SRM)                     Grain        19.05 %      
14.1 oz       Corn, Flaked (1.3 SRM)                    Grain        5.82 %        
9.6 oz        Aromatic Malt (26.0 SRM)                  Grain        3.97 %        
8.0 oz        Caramunich Malt (56.0 SRM)                Grain        3.31 %        
8.0 oz        Special B Malt (180.0 SRM)                Grain        3.31 %        
8.0 oz        White Wheat Malt (2.4 SRM)                Grain        3.31 %        
1.00 oz       Strisslespalt [2.60 %]  (60 min)          Hops         6.5 IBU      
0.25 oz       Saaz [6.80 %]  (60 min)                   Hops         4.2 IBU      
1 Pkgs        Roselare Belgian Blend (Wyeast Labs #3763)Yeast-Ale                  


Mash Schedule: My Mash
Total Grain Weight: 15.12 lb
----------------------------
My Mash
Step Time     Name               Description                         Step Temp    
120 min       Step               Add 16.00 qt of water at 168.1 F    154.0 F      


Notes:
------
1.056 OG in the fermenter, preconditioned the grain with 4 oz of water

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
BeerSmith Recipe Printout - http://www.beersmith.com
Recipe: fred b
Brewer: mj
Asst Brewer:
Style: Flanders Red Ale
TYPE: All Grain
Taste: (35.0)

Recipe Specifications
--------------------------
Batch Size: 6.10 gal      
Boil Size: 5.10 gal
Estimated OG: 1.063 SG
Estimated Color: 17.1 SRM
Estimated IBU: 14.1 IBU
Brewhouse Efficiency: 71.00 %
Boil Time: 60 Minutes

Ingredients:
------------
Amount        Item                                      Type         % or IBU      
5 lbs         Pilsner (2 Row) UK (1.0 SRM)              Grain        33.05 %      
3 lbs         Munich Malt (9.0 SRM)                     Grain        19.83 %      
2 lbs         Vienna Malt (3.5 SRM)                     Grain        13.22 %      
1 lbs 4.0 oz  White Wheat Malt (2.4 SRM)                Grain        8.26 %        
1 lbs         Caramel/Crystal Malt - 40L (40.0 SRM)     Grain        6.61 %        
1 lbs         Corn, Flaked (1.3 SRM)                    Grain        6.61 %        
1 lbs         Honey Malt (25.0 SRM)                     Grain        6.61 %        
9.0 oz        Special B Malt (180.0 SRM)                Grain        3.70 %        
3.0 oz        Acid Malt (3.0 SRM)                       Grain        1.26 %        
0.25 oz       Hallertauer [3.80 %]  (60 min)            Hops         1.9 IBU      
0.80 oz       Saaz [6.80 %]  (60 min)                   Hops         12.2 IBU      


Mash Schedule: My Mash
Total Grain Weight: 15.13 lb
----------------------------
My Mash
Step Time     Name               Description                         Step Temp    
90 min        Step               Add 16.00 qt of water at 167.0 F    153.0 F      


Notes:
------
1.053 in the fermenter,  preconditioned the grain with 4 oz of water

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
BeerSmith Recipe Printout - http://www.beersmith.com
Recipe: ky common
Brewer: mj
Asst Brewer:
Style: Specialty Beer
TYPE: All Grain
Taste: (35.0)

Recipe Specifications
--------------------------
Batch Size: 5.25 gal      
Boil Size: 5.10 gal
Estimated OG: 1.051 SG
Estimated Color: 19.1 SRM
Estimated IBU: 17.8 IBU
Brewhouse Efficiency: 70.00 %
Boil Time: 60 Minutes

Ingredients:
------------
Amount        Item                                      Type         % or IBU      
2 lbs 4.0 oz  Pale Malt (6 Row) US (2.0 SRM)            Grain        21.78 %      
2 lbs         Corn, Flaked (1.3 SRM)                    Grain        19.36 %      
1 lbs 14.1 oz Pale Malt (2 Row) US (2.0 SRM)            Grain        18.20 %      
1 lbs 6.1 oz  Pale Malt (2 Row) US (2.0 SRM)            Grain        13.36 %      
8.0 oz        Aromatic Malt (26.0 SRM)                  Grain        4.84 %        
8.0 oz        Caramel/Crystal Malt - 10L (10.0 SRM)     Grain        4.84 %        
8.0 oz        Caramel/Crystal Malt - 120L (80.0 SRM)     Grain        4.84 %        
6.1 oz        Caramunich Malt (56.0 SRM)                Grain        3.68 %        
4.0 oz        Aromatic Malt                                     Grain        2.42 %        
3.0 oz        Carafa II (412.0 SRM)                     Grain        1.84 %        
0.75 oz       Glacier [7.40 %]  (60 min)                Hops         17.8 IBU      
8.0 oz        Sugar, Table (Sucrose) (1.0 SRM)          Sugar        4.84 %        
1 Pkgs        American Ale (Wyeast Labs #1056)          Yeast-Ale                  


Mash Schedule: My Mash
Total Grain Weight: 9.83 lb
----------------------------
My Mash
Step Time     Name               Description                         Step Temp    
75 min        Step               Add 12.00 qt of water at 167.4 F    155.0 F      


Notes:
------
soured 20% mash for 4 days at 100F, 1.047 OG in the fermenter

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
BeerSmith Recipe Printout - http://www.beersmith.com
Recipe: vienna lager
Brewer: mj
Asst Brewer:
Style: Vienna Lager
TYPE: All Grain
Taste: (35.0)

Recipe Specifications
--------------------------
Batch Size: 5.25 gal      
Boil Size: 5.10 gal
Estimated OG: 1.054 SG
Estimated Color: 11.4 SRM
Estimated IBU: 18.2 IBU
Brewhouse Efficiency: 70.00 %
Boil Time: 60 Minutes

Ingredients:
------------
Amount        Item                                      Type         % or IBU      
5 lbs         Vienna Malt (3.5 SRM)                     Grain        44.52 %      
3 lbs       Pilsner (2 Row) UK (1.0 SRM)              Grain        27.60 %      
3 lbs         Munich Malt (9.0 SRM)                     Grain        26.71 %      
2.1 oz        Carafa II (412.0 SRM)                     Grain        1.16 %        
1.00 oz       Liberty [4.30 %]  (60 min)                Hops         13.4 IBU      
0.30 oz       Sterling [6.00 %]  (30 min)               Hops         4.3 IBU      
0.50 oz       Hallertauer [1.50 %]  (5 min)             Hops         0.5 IBU      
1 Pkgs        North American Lager (Wyeast Labs #2272)  Yeast-Lager                


Mash Schedule: My Mash
Total Grain Weight: 11.23 lb
----------------------------
My Mash
Step Time     Name               Description                         Step Temp    
60 min        Step               Add 12.00 qt of water at 165.6 F    152.0 F      


Notes:
------
octoberfest lager wyeast, 1.050 in the fermenter

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Offline hokerer

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Re: Brewhouse efficiency 'stuck' near 60%
« Reply #1 on: April 10, 2010, 05:35:43 AM »
You may be better off than you think.  The most important thing in determining your efficiency is accuracy of measurement.  How accurately are you measuring your volume?  Are you correcting your hydrometer reading for temperature?  Also, I'm a bit confused by your Boil Volume being less than your Batch Size - are you topping off or what?

Once you've got measurement accuracy straight, how 'bout some more info on how you're lautering - braid/manifold/etc. - sparge volume - that kind of stuff.
Joe

Offline makemehoppy

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Re: Brewhouse efficiency 'stuck' near 60%
« Reply #2 on: April 10, 2010, 05:38:53 AM »
I doubt the problem is your barley crusher I know a number of people use it at the default setting with no problem. Pre-conditioning the malt will help with stuck sparges by keeping the husk more complete, but I doubt that effect efficiency much. You have a relatively large cooler for some small grain bills and you are mashing on the low side as well. I would suggest taking a temperature reading 15 minutes in to verify the temp. Finally, stir the mash.

Offline gail

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Re: Brewhouse efficiency 'stuck' near 60%
« Reply #3 on: April 10, 2010, 05:45:24 AM »
In addition to Hokerer's questions, I'm wondering about the mineral composition of your water.  Your lightest beer reflected your worst efficiency and that might be a clue to a pH problem in your mash--if all your volume and hydrometer measurements are correct.
Gail

Offline nofunsally

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Re: Brewhouse efficiency 'stuck' near 60%
« Reply #4 on: April 10, 2010, 07:53:26 AM »
Hello,

I am toppping off at the end. I have 21 quart brew pot. I keep the lid 80% on to maintain the boil on my stove top.  I usually lose about 2 quarts during the boil.  I top off to 5.25 gallons (usually) in the fermenter.  I pre-heat the mash tun before use. I am using a SS braid for my manifold.

My cream ale also had a stuck sparge, I have since switched to the SS braid.  I was also trying to hit 149 for the mash, but it was probably low. It was my first all grain.  I think its particularly low efficiency was first time all-grain issues and I consider its results to be somewhat anomalous now.

I feel confident in my hydrometer readings. I take them after aeration right before I pitch the yeast. Admittedly I don't know my water profile. I am using carbon filtered Chicago (via Lake Michigan) water.

I will begin to check the temp into the mash, as well as additional stirring.  Should I just go for 155F for a 'standard' mash temp?

Thanks,
MJ


Offline tom

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Re: Brewhouse efficiency 'stuck' near 60%
« Reply #5 on: April 10, 2010, 10:14:35 AM »
How do you decide how much water to use in the mash? Your mash water/grain ratio seems to be variable. The typical ratio is usually about 1.2 to 1.5 qt/lb, but it can vary from 1 to 2.
Definitely check the mash temperature after you "mash-in" (add the mash water and stir it up) to verify that you are getting the temperature that you want.
Get some pH strips to check the mash pH. You want it around 5.2-5.5 . Are there any other homebrewers, homebrew shop or a homebrew club around you can check with about the local water? John Palmer's book How To Brew covers mash pH very well. You can check it out at www.howtobrew.com .
Do you recirculate the wort back into the mash tun to clear it before running off the wort?
How long do you let the sparge rest before running off?
What temperature sparge water are you using? And what is the temperature of the mash then?
How much are you sparging with? One batch sparge to reach a total pre-boil volume of 5.1 gallons?
Your efficiency will increase a little just by balancing the volume of first runnings with the volume of 2nd runnings. Or even doing 2 batch sparges. And I would sparge enough to use extra wort for topping off (boiled separately) instead of water.
I would try the different sparging before worrying about the pH.
Whew, RDWHAHB.
Brew on

Offline nofunsally

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Re: Brewhouse efficiency 'stuck' near 60%
« Reply #6 on: April 10, 2010, 11:02:53 AM »
Hello ,
Thanks for bringing up these questions.

I usually 3 gallons of water because the size of my non-kettle pots.  Though recently I have been using more - 4 gallons - through the use of two pots.

I do check the temperature after I mash-in and if I see variability within the tun I stir it until I am satisfied that the temperature is reasonably homogeneous.

I'll find some info about the local water and check out the section in "How to Brew" about mash pH.

I usually let the sparge rest for about 10 minutes before running off.

I am using 175 - 180 F sparge water.

Here may lay one of my problems, I usually sparge with 2.5 gallons of water and if the kettle doesn't fill up I'll sparge again.  I guess I don't 'know' how much sparge water I am 'supposed' to use. If I have extra I usually save it for a starter, or in my last 2 cases I boiled the 'extra' separately and used it to top off the two FReds.

Thanks again,
Cheers,
MJ

Offline gail

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Re: Brewhouse efficiency 'stuck' near 60%
« Reply #7 on: April 10, 2010, 06:54:01 PM »
Based on the amount of grain in your recipes listed, I'm thinking one issue is the sparging like what Tom suggested.  You're using a pretty small amount of water for all that grain, something like around .75 qt/lb for two of your beers for your mash, 1 qt/lb for another and about 1.25 for the others (very rough figures).  Your sparge amounts are even less.  Plus, I don't remember reading that you compensate for the water absorbed by the grains (figure on .1 gallon per pound of grain, or 1 gallon for 10 lbs of grain in your mash).  That's often added before the 1st runoff.  Here are some sites that will help with your volume calculations: http://www.bayareamashers.org/content/maindocs/BatchSparging.htm
http://onebeer.net/batchspargecalc.shtml
http://hbd.org/cascade/dennybrew/

That said, and in addition to checking your water composition and pH, I'm wondering if your thermometer has been calibrated...do you know it's correct when it reads 149?  Mash efficiency can be hurt significantly by mashing at too low temp or not long enough to get full conversion.
I think I remember Randy Mosher posting or listing somewhere about the mineral composition of Chicago water (maybe in Radical Brewing?)

Good luck,
Gail

Offline piszkiewiczp

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Re: Brewhouse efficiency 'stuck' near 60%
« Reply #8 on: April 10, 2010, 09:09:30 PM »
Chcago (Lake Michigan) water report for 2009:
http://www.cityofchicago.org/content/dam/city/depts/water/WaterQltyResultsNRpts/ccReports/cca09.pdf
It's a big city and there is some variation in the analyses between areas. I use Jardine - North:
Calcium 32.7 ppm
Magnesium 12.4 ppm
Sodium 8.8 ppm
Sulfate 28.5 ppm
Chloride 16.0 ppm
Bicarbonate 104 ppm
pH effectively 8

Offline neilrobinson

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Re: Brewhouse efficiency 'stuck' near 60%
« Reply #9 on: April 11, 2010, 07:23:35 AM »
I would definitely try preconditioning the grain before crushing it. I have recently made my first batch of all grain. Upon research and readings, I decided to precondition my grains. My first batch came out with a 82% brewhouse efficiency. I think my brother was a little mad at me since I got a higher efficiency then he did and he has been brewing years longer than me. It might me a fluke, but it is worth a shot. Check your issues of Zymurgy, there is an article in it. I can't find the article now but I know it is in there. 

Offline hokerer

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Re: Brewhouse efficiency 'stuck' near 60%
« Reply #10 on: April 11, 2010, 08:14:17 AM »
To the previous poster - read the original post, he's already pre-conditioning his grain

To the original poster - I think folks here are on to something in that you're probably not using enough water to rinse your grain.  It sounds like your boil volume is limited by your equipment but maybe you could consider doing two boils - either at the same time in two pots or one after the other using one pot.  To figure out your water needs...

1. Start with your batch volume (let's assume 5 gallons to keep the math simple)

2. Add your boil-off volume (you say you lose 1/2 gallon so let's use 1 gallon (two boils)) so your pre-boil volume is 5 + 1  = 6 gallons.

3. Ideally, your runoffs are equal volumes.  Since you want to end up with 6 gallons pre-boil volume, your sparge should use 3 gallons

4. To also get 3 gallons from your initial runoff, you need to account for grain absorption and deadspace.  (let's use .1 gallons per pound for grain absorption and 1 quart for deadspace).  If you're using 10 pounds of grain, it's going to absorb 1 gallon.  Add that to the quart that's lost to deadspace and your total water needed for the intial runoff is 3 gallons (runoff) + 1 gallon (absorption) + 1 quart (deadspace) = 4.25 gallons.  You can use the total amount as your strike volume as it's within the acceptable range for water to grain ratio (4.25 gallons = 17 quarts and that, divided by 10 pounds of grain, gives you 1.7qts/lb).

So, you can heat 17 quarts, dump it in your cooler, and mash in the grain.  Mash for an hour, and then runoff the first runnings.  Split the runnings between the two pots (or one pot and one storage vessel).  Then heat 3 gallons of sparge water, add it to the cooler, stir, vorlauf, and runoff.  Again, split the runoff between your two vessels and, once you're done, you should have two containers each holding about 3 gallons of roughly equal gravity wort.  Proceed as usual.
Joe

Offline tom

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Re: Brewhouse efficiency 'stuck' near 60%
« Reply #11 on: April 11, 2010, 08:47:03 AM »
I forgot to ask how long you mash?

As above, since you are limited by the kettle size, you might consider brewing a smaller batch that fits your equipment better. Maybe 2.5 or 3 gallons. This will let you get the procedures down until you can get bigger kettles. (Except your mash tun is a little big for this.)

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Offline nofunsally

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Re: Brewhouse efficiency 'stuck' near 60%
« Reply #12 on: April 11, 2010, 08:54:10 PM »
Hello,
Thanks for all the great information / advice.  I see now that I am probably not rinsing my grains enough. I will take volumes and math into account when I do my next mash.

Cheers,
MJ

A water report not from my house but from my town:
Date Recd    11/19/2009
PH    7.9
TDS Est    196
EC    0.33
Cations    3
Anions    2.9
Sodium    9
Calcium    30
Magnesium    13
Potassium    2
Total Hardness    129
Nitrate    0.3 (SAFE)
Sulfate    9
CO3    < 1
HCO3    118
Chloride    14
Total Alkalinity    97

Offline MDixon

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Re: Brewhouse efficiency 'stuck' near 60%
« Reply #13 on: April 12, 2010, 04:22:46 AM »
As was mentioned you definitely are not sparging the grains enough to obtain a great efficiency. One other thing to check is your hydrometer in plain old 65F tap water. If it ain't reading 1.000 the calibration is off...
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Offline skyler

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Re: Brewhouse efficiency 'stuck' near 60%
« Reply #14 on: April 14, 2010, 08:39:55 AM »
Yeah, you really ought to do a full boil - it effects more than just your efficiency. I would get a 10 gal pot (my 8 gal is just barely big enough), but you could also just do smaller batches.