Sounds like real progress! Good luck and be sure to report results on the next batch.
The new false bottom works considerably better. I get only about 1/2 gallon dead space, and it allows me to add about ~ 1.5 gallons less water to the mash, keeping the water level at the top of the grain. Winning.
I did a batch sparge this time, instead of the fly sparge, and still got ~ 80% mash efficiency. Winning.
Lactic Acid additions from Bru'n water matched very well with my measured mash/sparge pH. Measured ~ 5.5/5.6 at room temp. I had a cup of ice water on hand, which works well to quickly cool the sample.
For today's brew, I pulsed my boil heater 20 secs on / 40 secs off, circulated the wort, and had the lid on about 3/4 of the way. I'm happy to report that I only had about 11% evaporation loss, which is a far cry from 25%. I have a pulse circuit designed, but I'm wondering if it makes more sense to buy another thermocouple and use the PID instead?
I increased my hop additions to compensate for the more concentrated wort, and am getting about 50 IBU's with beersmith. Additionally, I added another 1.5 oz to the late hop and flameout/whirlpool additions. Hoping this gives me more hop flavor.
The OG ended up being about 1.054 at 5.4 gallons into the fermentor.
I went back to my harvested WLP001 yeast from the previous batch.
We'll find out in a few weeks.