Author Topic: New to all grain, need help hitting gravity!  (Read 1384 times)

Offline TKaiser

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New to all grain, need help hitting gravity!
« on: March 19, 2016, 03:15:02 PM »
Hey everyone!

I've been brewing for a while now and have recently made the leap to all grain from extract/partial mash recipes.
I've done 4 all grain batches and in all 4 of them my SG has come in around 10-20 pts lower than expected. It's confusing and frustrating since I've never really had to worry about this issue with extracts. I'll give you a list of my gear and a brief rundown of my process. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

My mash tun is made from an Igloo Quantum cooler - 55qt capacity with a cpvc manifold.
Heat loss is around 1 degree/hour.
I use the batch sparge method. Drain the mash tun, measure collected volume, figure out grain absorption, add enough sparge water to get to boil volume. I know there's a lot more depth to it than that, but I'm still a rookie and am going with what I've read and seen in some YouTube videos.

Boil kettle is a 10 gallon Amcyl brand.
There's about a gallon of deadspace below the ball valve that I account for in Beersmith for trub/hop loss.


Thanks in advance for your help. Hopefully I gain some knowledge here that I can then pass on to the next guy who needs a hand.

Cheers,
-Tom
« Last Edit: March 19, 2016, 03:35:27 PM by trkasier »
Cheers,
-Tom

Offline denny

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Re: New to all grain, need help hitting gravity!
« Reply #1 on: March 19, 2016, 03:21:09 PM »
I have 2 pieces of advice.....low efficiency is often (I'd go so far as to say almost always) related to crush.  Crush your grain finer.  The other thing is that you need to adjust any recipe to your own system efficiency.  It could be you're not using enough grain.  Figure out what efficiency you've gotten on the batches you've done, then adjust the next recipe based on that.  Between crushing finer and adjusting the recipe, it should get you where you need to be.
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Offline euge

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Re: New to all grain, need help hitting gravity!
« Reply #2 on: March 19, 2016, 03:26:57 PM »
Best to have all your water needs calculated first. And you also need to compensate for grain absorption and add that water to the first sparge. For instance to get 12 pre-boil gallons out of a batch-sparge you'll dough in with the extra water- say 2 gallons. That would make the first sparge 8 gallons and the second 6 for a total of 14 gallons used.

To me it looks like you are adding the extra water in the second sparge. This could cause all sorts of problems and effect your extraction greatly.
The first principle is that you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool. -Richard P. Feynman

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Offline denny

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Re: New to all grain, need help hitting gravity!
« Reply #3 on: March 19, 2016, 03:32:49 PM »
Best to have all your water needs calculated first. And you also need to compensate for grain absorption and add that water to the first sparge. For instance to get 12 pre-boil gallons out of a batch-sparge you'll dough in with the extra water- say 2 gallons. That would make the first sparge 8 gallons and the second 6 for a total of 14 gallons used.

To me it looks like you are adding the extra water in the second sparge. This could cause all sorts of problems and effect your extraction greatly.

Why is that Euge?  I seldom do.  Maybe roughly, but I adjust based on reality.  I also never add the extra "compensation" water....in reality, if you do it, it's not compensating for absorption.  Originally the idea was to not thin the mash too much, so you'd add extra water later.  In the intervening years, I've discovered that you can have a much thinner mash than was originally thought, so the right way to go these days is just to mash thinner and skip that addition.  It made no difference to my efficiency.  In fact, my efficiency went up due to the thinner mash.
Life begins at 60.....1.060, that is!

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Offline TKaiser

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Re: New to all grain, need help hitting gravity!
« Reply #4 on: March 19, 2016, 03:35:04 PM »
Thanks Denny. I've been crushing my grains at Northern Brewer since I haven't purchased my own mill yet. I'll go a bit finer next time and see how it goes. As far as figuring out efficiency, that's new to me also. I'll poke around in Beersmith and see if I can figure out how to do it. I'm sure it will involve me screwing up a few more batches to get it dialed in but I'll do whatever I have to do!

Euge, you're right. I've been adding the additional water on the second sparge since I'm not sure how much I'm gonig to lose to absorption right away. Is there an approximate value for this? X amount of water absorbed per pound?

Thanks you guys, really appreciate the input.
 
Cheers,
-Tom

Offline denny

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Re: New to all grain, need help hitting gravity!
« Reply #5 on: March 19, 2016, 03:38:00 PM »
Thanks Denny. I've been crushing my grains at Northern Brewer since I haven't purchased my own mill yet. I'll go a bit finer next time and see how it goes. As far as figuring out efficiency, that's new to me also. I'll poke around in Beersmith and see if I can figure out how to do it. I'm sure it will involve me screwing up a few more batches to get it dialed in but I'll do whatever I have to do!

Euge, you're right. I've been adding the additional water on the second sparge since I'm not sure how much I'm gonig to lose to absorption right away. Is there an approximate value for this? X amount of water absorbed per pound?

Thanks you guys, really appreciate the input.

Ah, that explains it some.  NB is a great place, but they're notorious for a poor crush.  You will lose no water to absorption on your sparge.  The grain is already saturated.
Life begins at 60.....1.060, that is!

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"The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts." - Bertrand Russell

Offline euge

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Re: New to all grain, need help hitting gravity!
« Reply #6 on: March 19, 2016, 03:39:38 PM »
Multiply your grain weight by 0.125 which will give you a rough amount of extra gallons needed.

For example 10# grain X 0.125= 1.25 extra gallons to the first sparge.
The first principle is that you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool. -Richard P. Feynman

Laws are spider-webs, which catch the little flies, but cannot hold the big ones. -Anacharsis

Offline HoosierBrew

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Re: New to all grain, need help hitting gravity!
« Reply #7 on: March 19, 2016, 03:41:07 PM »
Hey everyone!

I've been brewing for a while now and have recently made the leap to all grain from extract/partial mash recipes.
I've done 4 all grain batches and in all 4 of them my SG has come in around 10-20 pts lower than expected. It's confusing and frustrating since I've never really had to worry about this issue with extracts. I'll give you a list of my gear and a brief rundown of my process. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

My mash tun is made from an Igloo Quantum cooler - 55qt capacity with a cpvc manifold.
Heat loss is around 1 degree/hour.
I use the batch sparge method. Drain the mash tun, measure collected volume, figure out grain absorbtion, add enough sparge water to get to boil volume. I know there's a lot more depth to it than that, but I'm still a rookie and am going with what I've read and seen in some YouTube videos.

Boil kettle is a 10 gallon Amcyl brand.
There's about a gallon of deadspace below the ball valve that I account for in Beersmith for trub/hop loss.


Thanks in advance for your help. Hopefully I gain some knowledge here that I can then pass on to the next guy who needs a hand.

Cheers,
-Tom



1/  Do you crush your own grain? If so, crush finer. Too coarse a crush will cause your efficiency to suffer.

2/ Do you control pH? Well controlled pH will help you get better conversion of starch into fermentable sugar. If you haven't, download Brunwater to help estimate your pH accurately.

3/ Are you confident in your temp and hydrometer measurements? A thermometer that doesn't read accurately can have you mashing at a less than optimum mash temp which could affect your OG. When and how do you take gravity readings?

4/ Are you getting your water volumes correct, ie., preboil volume, post boil volume? You can extract the right amount of sugar from the grain but be off on your water volumes which could dilute your OG reading.
Jon H.

Offline euge

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Re: New to all grain, need help hitting gravity!
« Reply #8 on: March 19, 2016, 03:48:50 PM »
Denny I don't calculate my water grain ratio to include absorption except when doughing in to calculate temp.

I figure that each lauter's resulting volume should be as equal as possible. According to Ken Schwartz' equation. So I calculate each plus whatever I'll lose to the grain.
The first principle is that you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool. -Richard P. Feynman

Laws are spider-webs, which catch the little flies, but cannot hold the big ones. -Anacharsis

Offline denny

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Re: New to all grain, need help hitting gravity!
« Reply #9 on: March 19, 2016, 03:59:37 PM »
Denny I don't calculate my water grain ratio to include absorption except when doughing in to calculate temp.

I figure that each lauter's resulting volume should be as equal as possible. According to Ken Schwartz' equation. So I calculate each plus whatever I'll lose to the grain.

I helped Ken come up with those figures and in the time since have discovered that equal runnings makes so little difference that it's not worth the effort to chase it.  If your runnings are within a gal. or so it's close enough.  And after the mash, you shouldn't be losing anything to the grain.
Life begins at 60.....1.060, that is!

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Offline euge

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Re: New to all grain, need help hitting gravity!
« Reply #10 on: March 19, 2016, 04:03:26 PM »
Right. I don't add extra to the second sparge.

The first principle is that you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool. -Richard P. Feynman

Laws are spider-webs, which catch the little flies, but cannot hold the big ones. -Anacharsis

Offline fmader

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Re: New to all grain, need help hitting gravity!
« Reply #11 on: March 19, 2016, 04:12:11 PM »
Like said above... Crush your grain about as fine as you can get it. As far as efficiency goes, I would start toying around wit 70-75% as you make your recipes.
Frank

Offline Pricelessbrewing

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Re: New to all grain, need help hitting gravity!
« Reply #12 on: March 19, 2016, 04:39:32 PM »
Completely agree with Denny.

First tighten your crush, and if you know your grain bill and strike volume you can determine the conversion efficiency which is closely related to how well the crush and dough in went.

Secondly, make sure you're stirring your heart out during dough in and the batch sparge.

For water volumes, you can use any software that's set up correctly. I completely unbiasedly recommend taking a look at my mash calculator, http://pricelessbrewing.github.io/BiabCalc as it's very easy to use and will calculate the conversion, lauter, mash, and preboil efficiencies based off of just a few measurements. From there you can usually tell what the issue is (crush vs sparge).

As far as run off ratio goes, as long as they're somewhat close it's fine. If you use my calculator, and watch the lauter efficiency, there's little difference in a ratio of 0.4 and a ratio of 1.0 (equal runnings). For most brews, the difference is +- 1 %...

Offline denny

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Re: New to all grain, need help hitting gravity!
« Reply #13 on: March 19, 2016, 04:48:00 PM »
Like said above... Crush your grain about as fine as you can get it. As far as efficiency goes, I would start toying around wit 70-75% as you make your recipes.

Crush til yer scared!
Life begins at 60.....1.060, that is!

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"The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts." - Bertrand Russell

Offline HoosierBrew

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Re: New to all grain, need help hitting gravity!
« Reply #14 on: March 19, 2016, 04:53:19 PM »
I've discovered that you can have a much thinner mash than was originally thought, so the right way to go these days is just to mash thinner and skip that addition.  It made no difference to my efficiency.  In fact, my efficiency went up due to the thinner mash.



Same here. For a while I've been keeping mash runoff around a gallon more than the sparge runoff. For most beers that ends up ~ 1.75 qts/lb. I like the efficiency bump.
Jon H.