Author Topic: Increasing efficiency  (Read 3632 times)

Offline tmaurer

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Increasing efficiency
« on: July 24, 2010, 05:23:53 PM »
I know the subject of efficiency comes up a lot, but I have a few questions.  I enjoy 70% efficiency on most brews.  I would like to increase that some.  During the next few months, I plan on brewing 3 beers around the same gravity to work on my efficiency.

I here there are three things I can easily do to increase efficiency: crush my grains a little smaller, eliminate dead space in the mashtun, and mash out and/or sparge (I batch sparge) with hotter water.  Getting a finer crush is easy.  But what do they mean when they say eliminate dead space?  Are they referring to the space between the grain bed and the cooler lid?  Or are they talking more about reducing wort losses in your system (I loose about a quart to a quart1/2)?

Lastly, I've always been confused about sparge water temps.  Some people just say they sparge with a certain temperature of water.  So is it OK to use one single temperature sparge water for all brews?  Shouldn't I be worried about raising the grain bed to a certain temperature?  And using one standard sparge water temp may not work every time?

Offline tom-r2

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Re: Increasing efficiency
« Reply #1 on: July 25, 2010, 08:32:08 AM »
The dead space is the areas where the grain bed doesn't get rinsed well. If your sparge water flows down a track , say along the side of the cooler and misses flowing past all of the grain, the sugary wart from those areas will be missed and you will be throwing it out with the grains. You may have to experiment with your setup to get it right. You have to make sure that all of the grains get properly rinsed. That way you maximize the efficiency and get all of that sweet goodness into the brewkettle.
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Offline denny

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Re: Increasing efficiency
« Reply #2 on: July 25, 2010, 08:33:56 AM »
Lastly, I've always been confused about sparge water temps.  Some people just say they sparge with a certain temperature of water.  So is it OK to use one single temperature sparge water for all brews?  Shouldn't I be worried about raising the grain bed to a certain temperature?  And using one standard sparge water temp may not work every time?

IME, it's just not that big a deal to hit an exact temp.  I almost never hit what would be called a "mashout" temp.  I simply use sparge water in the 185-190 range (every time, no changes) to increase the temp of my grain to whatever before I run off the sparge.  This encourages conversion to complete.
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Offline denny

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Re: Increasing efficiency
« Reply #3 on: July 25, 2010, 08:34:37 AM »
The dead space is the areas where the grain bed doesn't get rinsed well. If your sparge water flows down a track , say along the side of the cooler and misses flowing past all of the grain, the sugary wart from those areas will be missed and you will be throwing it out with the grains. You may have to experiment with your setup to get it right. You have to make sure that all of the grains get properly rinsed. That way you maximize the efficiency and get all of that sweet goodness into the brewkettle.

Since he's batch sparging, channeling won't be an issue.
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Offline mrcceo

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Re: Increasing efficiency
« Reply #4 on: July 25, 2010, 08:45:46 AM »
You can also try:
Longer mash times. (90 Minutes)
Higher water to grain ratio ( Up to 2:1)
pH testing and adjustments.

Offline hopfenundmalz

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Re: Increasing efficiency
« Reply #5 on: July 25, 2010, 08:55:55 AM »
Good advice all around.

Want to say that pH is one thing to look into.  I have seen graphs that show the efficiency dropping off very quickly if the pH is above 5.7.  The optimum was at 5.2.  The graph did not extend below 5.2, so I don't have a clue what happens if you go below 5.2.

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Offline jaicmac

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Re: Increasing efficiency
« Reply #6 on: July 25, 2010, 12:36:36 PM »
I'd add: look to water chemistry (John Palmer's  howtobrew.com website, chaper 15)
You want 100 ppm of calcium in the mash water for many brews.

Offline lazydog79

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Re: Increasing efficiency
« Reply #7 on: July 25, 2010, 03:27:53 PM »
My two cents: If you are getting a consistent efficiency and a good product, consider leaving your system alone.  My opinion is that is more important.  For awhile, I got obsessed with my efficiency and started crushing pretty fine. Sure I got close to 80%, but I also created some PIA lauters!  I've got my system dialed in to a consistent 76% every time and no lautering troubles unless I have a lot of adjuncts or something (oh that CAP suuuccckedd!  >:( )  So, I have decided to leave well enough alone.  My plant isn't doing too bad.  I do need to work on water chemistry a little, though.  Like I said, just my two cents, if it's worth that!  8)

Offline Malticulous

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Re: Increasing efficiency
« Reply #8 on: July 25, 2010, 04:26:02 PM »

Offline tmaurer

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Re: Increasing efficiency
« Reply #9 on: July 25, 2010, 07:37:54 PM »
Thanks everyone for the suggestions.  I also noticed with my last batch that with anything less than a 1.3 quart/pound ratio with my cooler that it is nearly impossible to get consistent temps in the grain bed.

I think I'll up my water to grist ratio a little and sparge with a little hotter water.

Another question would be batch sparging.  How fast should I be draining the mashtun?  I've heard everything from really slow to wide open.  Also, when I add sparge water, how long to I let it sit in there.  Some suggest 15 minutes, but other say simply stir... let settle for 5 minutes... and drain?

Offline a10t2

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Re: Increasing efficiency
« Reply #10 on: July 25, 2010, 08:23:37 PM »
Another question would be batch sparging.  How fast should I be draining the mashtun?

As fast as you can; it won't make any difference.

Also, when I add sparge water, how long to I let it sit in there.  Some suggest 15 minutes, but other say simply stir... let settle for 5 minutes... and drain?

Only as long as you need to get the remaining sugars uniformly into solution. I stir nonstop for 2-3 minutes, then immediately start the runoff.
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Offline MDixon

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Re: Increasing efficiency
« Reply #11 on: July 26, 2010, 04:09:54 AM »
Since you are batch sparging, tilt that tun to drain ALL the liquid. Leaving it behind in batch sparging is like having $8-9 and putting a buck or two in the paper shredder.
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Offline hopaddicted

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Re: Increasing efficiency
« Reply #12 on: July 26, 2010, 05:00:51 AM »
How fast should I be draining the mashtun? 

I go as fast as it will go, I use a manifold so no fears, obviously a little more caution is warranted for a false bottom.

Also, when I add sparge water, how long to I let it sit in there.

I go with 15 minutes to ensure maximum gain of malty goodness. Less is probably fine, but a couple more minutes doesn't hurt anything. I throw my first mash water right on the burner while I'm sparging and it typically isn't boiling by the time I am ready to add my sparge water.
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Offline denny

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Re: Increasing efficiency
« Reply #13 on: July 26, 2010, 08:32:21 AM »
I go with 15 minutes to ensure maximum gain of malty goodness. Less is probably fine, but a couple more minutes doesn't hurt anything. I throw my first mash water right on the burner while I'm sparging and it typically isn't boiling by the time I am ready to add my sparge water.

There's really nothing to gain by letting it sit.  At least for me.  I've tried from 30 min. to no time and it's all the same.
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Offline dhacker

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Re: Increasing efficiency
« Reply #14 on: July 26, 2010, 09:33:32 AM »
I simply use sparge water in the 185-190 range (every time, no changes) to increase the temp of my grain to whatever before I run off the sparge. This encourages conversion to complete. 

Something similar that popped into my head last week when brewing the Old Jubilation which had a grain bill that required every drop I could eek out of the HLT, and I was real close to undershooting my mash temp. How far into a mash can you go and still be able to raise the temp enough not to have a wort too high in fermentables?

Example: Target mash temp is 152 . . you mash in and find out you're @ 148 but have no hot water left in the HLT. How long do you have to get some more water ready to raise the temp before you've passed the window of opportunity to raise  the mash temp for the desire conversion?   
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