Membership questions? Log in issues? Email info@brewersassociation.org

Author Topic: Variable mash efficiency  (Read 5292 times)

Offline dIPA2

  • 1st Kit
  • *
  • Posts: 20
Variable mash efficiency
« on: November 04, 2019, 03:57:14 pm »
I'm struggling with variable mash efficiency, table below of the last 6 brews. Maybe this is common? Hoping for some brainstorm thoughts or ideas that I can look into, as I'm out of ideas. I just don't understand why it keeps bouncing around.

I use RO and adjust with minerals and for pH. I've adjusted my mill. I've calibrated my thermometer, hydrometer, refractometer, and I measure volumes with a ruler in the kettle (accounting for hot vs cold volume). I'm using ssbrewtech 10 gal cooler style mash tuns, they hold temp fairly well, but depending on time of year can drop a few degrees especially if I open and stir and it's cold outside. I don't mash out and I fly sparge for generally about 30 minutes. I typically try to use about 50/50 water split for mash/sparge which is why the water/grist fluctuates. I'm not seeing any pattern to the wide range in mash efficiency. The only thing I notice is it seems grist with more dark and/or crystal cause a drop in efficiency. But I would have thought that Brewfather would adjust expected OG for the malts and my equipment profile. Or maybe I'm overlooking some necessary adjustment. Help...

Doesn't matter to me what the efficiency is, I just want it to be more consistent, so I can plan recipes appropriately.

Style  Quarts/lb  Mash Efficiency  Mash Temp  (°F)Time  (minutes)OG 
Brown1.7585%153601.055
Marzen1.7593%151901.059
Dry Stout277%150601.04
Black IPA1.583%154901.06
German Pils1.7592%152901.049
Winter Ale1.486%155901.067

Offline Robert

  • Official Poobah of No Life. (I Got Ban Hammered by Drew)
  • *********
  • Posts: 4214
Re: Variable mash efficiency
« Reply #1 on: November 04, 2019, 04:26:49 pm »
I see consistency.  In the batches with 1.75 qt/lb, you see that more mash time gets you more extract.  Which is what you'd expect.  Another thing you can see, as expected, is that, in general, a thicker mash, allowing for more sparging, will allow you to rinse more extract out:  you seem to be doing better with 1.75 than 2.  So why is 1.4 not even better?  Because at some point,  the mash will thicken to the point where it is more difficult to fully hydrate and get the enzymes into the grist to convert it and get the extract diffused out into the wort as quickly.  So there's a Goldilocks set of conditions, the right combination of mash consistency, amount of sparge, and mash time, which for you looks to be something like 1.75 and 90.  Try that across different recipes and see if they come in closer to each other, keeping in mind that the grain bill will also have a noticeable impact:  crystal and roast malts just don't contribute as much extract as base malts, which is why we use base malt accented with specialty malts. 
Rob Stein
Akron, Ohio

I'd rather have questions I can't answer than answers I can't question.

Offline chinaski

  • Brewmaster
  • *****
  • Posts: 594
Re: Variable mash efficiency
« Reply #2 on: November 04, 2019, 05:44:00 pm »
Are you sure this is mash efficiency (how much sugar become available through mashing) and not brewhouse efficiency (how much sugar arrives in your kettle)?  One possibility is that fly sparging is getting you different rinsing efficiency on different brews.  I switched to batch sparging to solve a similar problem because it eliminates any variability in rinsing efficiency because all the brewing liquor is added in batches and mixes throughout the grist no matter how much grain there is.  I recommend trying batch sparging for several brews (keep everything else as is) and see what your brewhouse efficiency is then.

Offline Robert

  • Official Poobah of No Life. (I Got Ban Hammered by Drew)
  • *********
  • Posts: 4214
Re: Variable mash efficiency
« Reply #3 on: November 04, 2019, 05:51:43 pm »
Sorry, I didn't notice that you are using the same proportion of mash/sparge liquor in each case.  So the fact remains that conversion takes longer in a thicker mash.  And that in a thinner mash your first wort density will naturally be lower, which maybe you are not able to concentrate sufficiently in the boil.  But I think chinaski makes a good point too.  You might try batch sparging to remove some variables regarding the mechanics of your sparge.  But ultimately you may find a fly sparge is more efficient, but you will have to determine the correct mash thickness and ratio of mash/sparge as I indicated before.
Rob Stein
Akron, Ohio

I'd rather have questions I can't answer than answers I can't question.

Offline dIPA2

  • 1st Kit
  • *
  • Posts: 20
Re: Variable mash efficiency
« Reply #4 on: November 04, 2019, 08:29:14 pm »
Hmm... thanks much for the thoughts/comments! The two that confused me were the Brown and Dry Stout. The Brown had the same 1.75 but showed a drop in efficiency though it did mash 60 minutes rather than 90. This is the second time I've done the Dry Stout and both times I had a major efficiency drop so not sure what is causing that anomaly.

Yeah, everyone seems to have different terms for the efficiency points. I'm showing efficiency into the kettle, pre-boil, so yeah brewhouse efficiency then. My thought was that maintaining a similar sparge water proportion might provide similar rinsing efficiency. Maybe that is not the case with the variance in mash thickness that Robert discusses so well.

Seems the two options would be. Try to find the Goldilocks as Robert indicated, which I certainly haven't figured out yet. I could maintain mash thickness at 1.75 and ignore the sparge proportion as you can't solve two variables with one equation. Or do some batch sparging experiments, I have batch sparged before but with my setup fly sparging is easier for me as I can dial in a couple valves and walk away for a half hour rather than vorlaufing twice and sparging.

Chinaski since you switched to batch sparging, I assume from fly sparging, do you have a recommendation for a starting point for brewhouse efficiency? Given good mashing and fly sparge rinsing, it appears I can hit 90%, should I aim for 80% batch sparge?

Thanks again!

Offline BrewBama

  • Official Poobah of No Life. (I Got Ban Hammered by Drew)
  • *********
  • Posts: 6168
Variable mash efficiency
« Reply #5 on: November 05, 2019, 07:39:51 am »
I’ll admit I did not read through this entire thread. If you covered the below please disregard.

Were you using the same base malts in each beer? 

If you used Pilsner, Munich, Vienna, ‘regular’ Pale 2-row, Maris Otter, Golden Promise, etc., etc. in various batches I think the efficiency variation can be correlated to the base. I’ve had low performance for Golden Promise as a 100% base malt for example.  I throw some 2-row in for a boost now.

% of base to ‘character’ malt variations should also be examined and an efficiency correlation can probably be expected.


Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk
« Last Edit: November 05, 2019, 08:42:55 am by BrewBama »

Offline jeffy

  • Official Poobah of No Life. (I Got Ban Hammered by Drew)
  • *********
  • Posts: 4239
  • Tampa, Fl
Re: Variable mash efficiency
« Reply #6 on: November 05, 2019, 07:51:03 am »
Hmm... thanks much for the thoughts/comments! The two that confused me were the Brown and Dry Stout. The Brown had the same 1.75 but showed a drop in efficiency though it did mash 60 minutes rather than 90. This is the second time I've done the Dry Stout and both times I had a major efficiency drop so not sure what is causing that anomaly.

Yeah, everyone seems to have different terms for the efficiency points. I'm showing efficiency into the kettle, pre-boil, so yeah brewhouse efficiency then. My thought was that maintaining a similar sparge water proportion might provide similar rinsing efficiency. Maybe that is not the case with the variance in mash thickness that Robert discusses so well.

Seems the two options would be. Try to find the Goldilocks as Robert indicated, which I certainly haven't figured out yet. I could maintain mash thickness at 1.75 and ignore the sparge proportion as you can't solve two variables with one equation. Or do some batch sparging experiments, I have batch sparged before but with my setup fly sparging is easier for me as I can dial in a couple valves and walk away for a half hour rather than vorlaufing twice and sparging.

Chinaski since you switched to batch sparging, I assume from fly sparging, do you have a recommendation for a starting point for brewhouse efficiency? Given good mashing and fly sparge rinsing, it appears I can hit 90%, should I aim for 80% batch sparge?

Thanks again!
Into the kettle is mash efficiency.  Into the keg would be brewhouse efficiency.
I thought you said you were measuring or calculating the pH in your original post, but perhaps the dark beers were missing the pH too low?  Were you adjusting for that?
« Last Edit: November 05, 2019, 08:20:02 am by jeffy »
Jeff Gladish, Tampa (989.3, 175.1 Apparent Rennarian)
Homebrewing since 1990
AHA member since 1991, now a lifetime member
BJCP judge since 1995

Offline ynotbrusum

  • Official Poobah of No Life. (I Got Ban Hammered by Drew)
  • *********
  • Posts: 4903
Re: Variable mash efficiency
« Reply #7 on: November 05, 2019, 08:42:28 am »
Hmm... thanks much for the thoughts/comments! The two that confused me were the Brown and Dry Stout. The Brown had the same 1.75 but showed a drop in efficiency though it did mash 60 minutes rather than 90. This is the second time I've done the Dry Stout and both times I had a major efficiency drop so not sure what is causing that anomaly.

Yeah, everyone seems to have different terms for the efficiency points. I'm showing efficiency into the kettle, pre-boil, so yeah brewhouse efficiency then. My thought was that maintaining a similar sparge water proportion might provide similar rinsing efficiency. Maybe that is not the case with the variance in mash thickness that Robert discusses so well.

Seems the two options would be. Try to find the Goldilocks as Robert indicated, which I certainly haven't figured out yet. I could maintain mash thickness at 1.75 and ignore the sparge proportion as you can't solve two variables with one equation. Or do some batch sparging experiments, I have batch sparged before but with my setup fly sparging is easier for me as I can dial in a couple valves and walk away for a half hour rather than vorlaufing twice and sparging.

Chinaski since you switched to batch sparging, I assume from fly sparging, do you have a recommendation for a starting point for brewhouse efficiency? Given good mashing and fly sparge rinsing, it appears I can hit 90%, should I aim for 80% batch sparge?

Thanks again!
Into the kettle is mash efficiency.  Into the keg would be brewhouse efficiency.
I thought you said you were measuring or calculating the pH in your original post, but perhaps the dark beers were missing the pH too low?  Were you adjusting for that?

I am guessing this ^^^^ plays into it, at least somewhat.  I have made that mistake before; going with late add dark malts and acidifying the pale mash a bit too much.
Hodge Garage Brewing: "Brew with a glad heart!"

Offline dIPA2

  • 1st Kit
  • *
  • Posts: 20
Re: Variable mash efficiency
« Reply #8 on: November 05, 2019, 08:57:41 am »
I’ll admit I did not read through this entire thread. If you covered the below please disregard.

Were you using the same base malts in each beer? 

If you used Pilsner, Munich, Vienna, ‘regular’ Pale 2-row, Maris Otter, Golden Promise, etc., etc. in various batches I think the efficiency variation can be correlated to the base. I’ve had low performance for Golden Promise as a 100% base malt for example.  I throw some 2-row in for a boost now.

% of base to ‘character’ malt variations should also be examined and an efficiency correlation can probably be expected.


Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk

Good points. The brown and dry stout were Maris Otter based with rather different efficiencies though. The Marzen and pilsner were pilsner based with the Marzen having Munich and Vienna malts as well. The others were 2 row. Maybe I should throw some pilsner malt in to boost.

Offline dIPA2

  • 1st Kit
  • *
  • Posts: 20
Re: Variable mash efficiency
« Reply #9 on: November 05, 2019, 09:08:22 am »
Hmm... thanks much for the thoughts/comments! The two that confused me were the Brown and Dry Stout. The Brown had the same 1.75 but showed a drop in efficiency though it did mash 60 minutes rather than 90. This is the second time I've done the Dry Stout and both times I had a major efficiency drop so not sure what is causing that anomaly.

Yeah, everyone seems to have different terms for the efficiency points. I'm showing efficiency into the kettle, pre-boil, so yeah brewhouse efficiency then. My thought was that maintaining a similar sparge water proportion might provide similar rinsing efficiency. Maybe that is not the case with the variance in mash thickness that Robert discusses so well.

Seems the two options would be. Try to find the Goldilocks as Robert indicated, which I certainly haven't figured out yet. I could maintain mash thickness at 1.75 and ignore the sparge proportion as you can't solve two variables with one equation. Or do some batch sparging experiments, I have batch sparged before but with my setup fly sparging is easier for me as I can dial in a couple valves and walk away for a half hour rather than vorlaufing twice and sparging.

Chinaski since you switched to batch sparging, I assume from fly sparging, do you have a recommendation for a starting point for brewhouse efficiency? Given good mashing and fly sparge rinsing, it appears I can hit 90%, should I aim for 80% batch sparge?

Thanks again!
Into the kettle is mash efficiency.  Into the keg would be brewhouse efficiency.
I thought you said you were measuring or calculating the pH in your original post, but perhaps the dark beers were missing the pH too low?  Were you adjusting for that?

Yeah, there are definitely different terms thrown around. I actually think most would term mash efficiency = brewhouse efficiency, http://braukaiser.com/wiki/index.php/Understanding_Efficiency. My numbers were into the kettle, pre-boil, except for OG.

I calculate and measure pH. All batches were in the appropriate pH range.

Offline dIPA2

  • 1st Kit
  • *
  • Posts: 20
Re: Variable mash efficiency
« Reply #10 on: November 05, 2019, 09:11:46 am »
Hmm... thanks much for the thoughts/comments! The two that confused me were the Brown and Dry Stout. The Brown had the same 1.75 but showed a drop in efficiency though it did mash 60 minutes rather than 90. This is the second time I've done the Dry Stout and both times I had a major efficiency drop so not sure what is causing that anomaly.

Yeah, everyone seems to have different terms for the efficiency points. I'm showing efficiency into the kettle, pre-boil, so yeah brewhouse efficiency then. My thought was that maintaining a similar sparge water proportion might provide similar rinsing efficiency. Maybe that is not the case with the variance in mash thickness that Robert discusses so well.

Seems the two options would be. Try to find the Goldilocks as Robert indicated, which I certainly haven't figured out yet. I could maintain mash thickness at 1.75 and ignore the sparge proportion as you can't solve two variables with one equation. Or do some batch sparging experiments, I have batch sparged before but with my setup fly sparging is easier for me as I can dial in a couple valves and walk away for a half hour rather than vorlaufing twice and sparging.

Chinaski since you switched to batch sparging, I assume from fly sparging, do you have a recommendation for a starting point for brewhouse efficiency? Given good mashing and fly sparge rinsing, it appears I can hit 90%, should I aim for 80% batch sparge?

Thanks again!
Into the kettle is mash efficiency.  Into the keg would be brewhouse efficiency.
I thought you said you were measuring or calculating the pH in your original post, but perhaps the dark beers were missing the pH too low?  Were you adjusting for that?

I am guessing this ^^^^ plays into it, at least somewhat.  I have made that mistake before; going with late add dark malts and acidifying the pale mash a bit too much.

All batches were calculated with the total grist and as a single infusion of the total grist. I measured pH at thirty minutes and they were all in an appropriate range.

Offline denny

  • Administrator
  • Retired with too much time on my hands
  • *****
  • Posts: 27316
  • Noti OR [1991.4, 287.6deg] AR
    • Dennybrew
Re: Variable mash efficiency
« Reply #11 on: November 05, 2019, 09:19:22 am »
Unless you have the lot analysis of the malts, it's not too surprising to see extraction vary from batch to batch.
Life begins at 60.....1.060, that is!

www.dennybrew.com

The best, sharpest, funniest, weirdest and most knowledgable minds in home brewing contribute on the AHA forum. - Alewyfe

"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 BrewBama

  • Official Poobah of No Life. (I Got Ban Hammered by Drew)
  • *********
  • Posts: 6168
Re: Variable mash efficiency
« Reply #12 on: November 05, 2019, 09:43:15 am »
Unless you have the lot analysis of the malts, it's not too surprising to see extraction vary from batch to batch.




Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

Offline dIPA2

  • 1st Kit
  • *
  • Posts: 20
Re: Variable mash efficiency
« Reply #13 on: November 05, 2019, 09:55:23 am »
So how do you guys plan out your recipes? The Brown and Dry Stout were brewed less than 30 days apart with Maris Otter from the LHBS. But they have significantly different efficiency. I keep targeting an OG based on mash efficiency but the actual is bouncing all over the place. I do think I'm going to do some batch sparges to see if efficiency mellows out.

Offline BrewBama

  • Official Poobah of No Life. (I Got Ban Hammered by Drew)
  • *********
  • Posts: 6168
Variable mash efficiency
« Reply #14 on: November 05, 2019, 10:03:23 am »
Try brewing the same grain recipe with the same sack for a few batches and see if you can get consistency without the variability of various lots, maltsters, variety, etc.

As far as planning I go about 15 batches out (because that’s all BeerSmith will let me put in the cloud). LOL. Of course plans change but the rough draft is usually 15 batches or so.

Here’s a screenshot of my cloud folder. Notice the light/dark alternating. I have two beers on tap routinely and this provides a choice:




Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
« Last Edit: November 05, 2019, 10:07:13 am by BrewBama »