Why would rice hulls need to be "rinsed off?" My understanding of rice hulls is that they are flavorless and inert.
Good points by everyone. Put me down as someone who thinks the use of rice hulls is a sound practice with practically nothing to lose and everything to gain. If it doesn't make a difference, my brew day continues uninterrupted and my beer still ends up good. If it does make a difference (improves efficiency by making the mash less doughy, shortens lauter time, prevents a stuck sparge), then I consider it a buck very well spent. My free time is in short supply, and while I love this hobby, I want to brew efficiently and effortlessly. In other words, brew smarter, not harder.
Wheat grain does not have husk material (just a thin pericarp). In grain bills where wheat comprises a significant percentage of the grist, one should keep in mind that in reducing the percentage of barley in the grist, you are also reducing the amount of husk material which is essential for mashing and lautering. If you don't have the husk material, then what are you using to create the porosity throughout the mash and to set the filter bed during lautering and sparging? I grant that malt conditioning (use no more than 100 ml H20 per 11 lbs grist) and/or careful attention to milling (to preserve the husks) may offset this loss somewhat, but how low can you go before you essentially just have a bunch of flour and not enough husks?
My only slow lauter last year was on a wheat beer... Though it is quite possible that my mill gap was too narrow and I over-crushed the grains, I nonetheless think that the addition of rice hulls would have made my day go more smoothly.
This is a timely discussion. I'm about to do a Weizenbock with around 55% malted wheat. I will be careful with my crush and will be using rice hulls. I am also considering switching to a rectangular cooler instead of my 10 gallon round Rubbermaid cooler in order to further decrease the grain bed height and minimize compaction. I'd rather make it in 5 hours than 8.