Author Topic: What do different volumes do for mashing/sparging?  (Read 1216 times)

Offline syncopadence

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What do different volumes do for mashing/sparging?
« on: March 20, 2015, 07:32:39 PM »
I know the water volumes aren't supposed to be equal, but why not?  What does more/less mash/sparge water volume do?  I realize this is probably a loaded question, so even a link that would explain these chemistries would be great.
Thank you in advance for any and all help.
« Last Edit: March 20, 2015, 07:47:17 PM by syncopadence »

Offline klickitat jim

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Re: What do different volumes do for mashing/sparging?
« Reply #1 on: March 20, 2015, 07:50:29 PM »
They dont have to be not equal.

Heres my basic answer. Conversion needs enzymes and the proper temp to activate them. Too much mash water dilutes them. I tend to go with 1.5 quarts per pound. So how much mash water is determined by how much grain, and how much sparge water is determined by how much total wort.

Offline syncopadence

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Re: What do different volumes do for mashing/sparging?
« Reply #2 on: March 20, 2015, 07:54:52 PM »
They dont have to be not equal.

Heres my basic answer. Conversion needs enzymes and the proper temp to activate them. Too much mash water dilutes them. I tend to go with 1.5 quarts per pound. So how much mash water is determined by how much grain, and how much sparge water is determined by how much total wort.

I've heard 1qt/lb is a good rule of thumb, so would 1.5 mean it would be more diluted? Does the ratio do anything as far as flavor?  Or is just all about conversion?

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Re: What do different volumes/temps do for mashing/sparging?
« Reply #3 on: March 20, 2015, 07:58:31 PM »
Well, temperatures have a major impact on the mash depending on the duration of time they stay at a certain temp and the effect that temperature has from a chemical standpoint.

Palmer's "How to Brew" has a nice section that explains rests and how they affect the mash.

I know that as far as batch sparging is concerned volumes of water are an important part of maximizing efficiency but otherwise infusion volumes seem to be a function of reaching target volumes and temperatures.

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Re: What do different volumes do for mashing/sparging?
« Reply #4 on: March 20, 2015, 08:15:28 PM »
I know the water volumes aren't supposed to be equal, but why not?  What does more/less mash/sparge water volume do?  I realize this is probably a loaded question, so even a link that would explain these chemistries would be great.
Thank you in advance for any and all help.


The ratio affects beer quality only indirectly in that affects your mash pH.  If you deal with that, then the ratio itself will make no difference.  The reason you usually use more water for mashing than sparging is becasue when the grain is dry (at the beginning of the mash) it absorbs water.  By the time you get to the sparge, the grain is saturated so there will be no more absorption.
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Re: What do different volumes/temps do for mashing/sparging?
« Reply #5 on: March 20, 2015, 08:17:53 PM »
Well, temperatures have a major impact on the mash depending on the duration of time they stay at a certain temp and the effect that temperature has from a chemical standpoint.

Palmer's "How to Brew" has a nice section that explains rests and how they affect the mash.

I know that as far as batch sparging is concerned volumes of water are an important part of maximizing efficiency but otherwise infusion volumes seem to be a function of reaching target volumes and temperatures.

I think "important" is overstating it.  For absolute best, drain every microgram of sugar efficiency, you do want equal volumes from the mash and sparge runoffs....note that I said runoff, not the amount you put in.  But the reality of it is that if your mash and sparge runoffs are within a gal. or so of each other, it makes so little difference that it just doesn't matter.

In regard to rests, it mainly depends on the malt you use.  If you use domestic pale malt, various rest temps will matter a lot less than if you use undermodified continental malts.
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Re: What do different volumes do for mashing/sparging?
« Reply #6 on: March 20, 2015, 08:48:20 PM »
I know the water volumes aren't supposed to be equal, but why not?  What does more/less mash/sparge water volume do?  I realize this is probably a loaded question, so even a link that would explain these chemistries would be great.
Thank you in advance for any and all help.

In a nutshell, grain absorbs roughly it's own weight in water (about 8 pounds per gallon).  Your whole goal in mashing is to extract a certain amount of liquid with malt sugars contained within it to achieve a target amount of wort at the end.  The mash water is to convert the starches to sugars and when you sparge, you 'lose' the absorbed water.  So, just to use simple numbers, say you have 10# of grain.  At a 1.25qt/lb ratio, you're going to need 12.5qt (or 3.125 gallons) to mash.  When you drain the first runnings, you should collect about 1.875 gallons (your 3.125 gallons minus the roughly 1.25 gallons absorbed by the 10# of grain). Your sparge serves to 'rinse' any additional sugars into the boil kettle but basically exchanging with the previously absorbed water.  You sparge until you reach your target volume in the boil kettle (or until the gravity coming out of your MLT gets to around 1.010 and then you can top up with water in the BK if necessary.  That's oversimplifying a bit, but hopefully it makes sense.

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Re: What do different volumes do for mashing/sparging?
« Reply #7 on: March 20, 2015, 08:59:53 PM »
The relative volumes of mashing or sparging water don't have a lot to do with anything, in my opinion. Just have enough water for the enzymes to do their job.

On a side note, I mash at a slightly thin ratio of around 1.5 qts/lb and that does tend to leave me with more sparging water volume than mashing water volume. I've recently stopped putting all that sparging water through the grain bed and it has improved my beers. Now I reserve a gallon or so from the sparge and just add it directly to the kettle to meet the preboil volume requirement. The beers had been having a slight tannic astringency and with that revised approach, it has gone away. 
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Re: What do different volumes do for mashing/sparging?
« Reply #8 on: March 20, 2015, 09:06:41 PM »
I actually mash much thinner than most apparently. I aim for around 2 qt/lb most of the time. it seems to minimze dough balls and makes stirring much easier. I might have issues if I was gong for the 20 minute mash but I usually go at least an hour and get in the high 60's low 70's for efficiency which works for me.
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Re: What do different volumes do for mashing/sparging?
« Reply #9 on: March 20, 2015, 09:13:24 PM »
The relative volumes of mashing or sparging water don't have a lot to do with anything, in my opinion. Just have enough water for the enzymes to do their job.
That's pretty much it.
Quote
On a side note, I mash at a slightly thin ratio of around 1.5 qts/lb and that does tend to leave me with more sparging water volume than mashing water volume. I've recently stopped putting all that sparging water through the grain bed and it has improved my beers. Now I reserve a gallon or so from the sparge and just add it directly to the kettle to meet the preboil volume requirement. The beers had been having a slight tannic astringency and with that revised approach, it has gone away.
Sounds like you were oversparging just slightly.  Reasonable workaround instead of dealing with refractometers, I suppose.

Offline Stevie

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Re: What do different volumes do for mashing/sparging?
« Reply #10 on: March 20, 2015, 09:14:08 PM »
I mash around 1.5, but almost always adjust from recipe to recipe to get closer to easy volumes. 4.25 v 4.17, etc. If I am brewing a big beer, I will often no-sparge or mash with as much water as my tun will handle for that grain bill. With my 70 qt, I think I can no-sparge up to 33lbs of grain and 9 gallons of run-off for a 2 hour boil.

Offline mabrungard

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Re: What do different volumes do for mashing/sparging?
« Reply #11 on: March 21, 2015, 01:38:14 AM »
Sounds like you were oversparging just slightly.  Reasonable workaround instead of dealing with refractometers, I suppose.

Not really, I always use a refractometer. Even stopping sparging at 3 brix was insufficient for eliminating the tannins.
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Re: What do different volumes do for mashing/sparging?
« Reply #12 on: March 21, 2015, 01:49:25 AM »
I actually mash much thinner than most apparently. I aim for around 2 qt/lb most of the time. it seems to minimze dough balls and makes stirring much easier. I might have issues if I was gong for the 20 minute mash but I usually go at least an hour and get in the high 60's low 70's for efficiency which works for me.
I do a full volume mash with no sparge and have no issues until I get thinner than about 3.5 qt/lb. At that point my efficiencies start to drop unless I mash longer. My efficiencies are between 80-82% up until that point.

You can go much thinner on the mash than most brewers typically do with no issues.
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Re: What do different volumes do for mashing/sparging?
« Reply #13 on: March 21, 2015, 03:28:55 AM »
Not really, I always use a refractometer. Even stopping sparging at 3 brix was insufficient for eliminating the tannins.
Interesting.  I would assume you of all people were paying attention to sparge water pH, so that wouldn't be it.