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Equal running or specific mash thickness

So I am seeing two different schools of thought here on these boards and I wanted to make a separate thread about so not to jack other peoples threads.

I’m hearing two different methods for determining strike/sparge water volumes and I wanted to mention them both and see what everyone thinks about each method and which they prefer.

First method is I hear some people attempt to get equal running from both. So the initial strike amount would be half your total boil volume plus grain absorption and your sparge amount will just be half your total boil volume.

Second method is I hear people picking a specific water/grain ratio (e.g. 1.5 qt/lb), using that amount to mash with and then after they determine how much that yields, adding whatever volume of sparge water you need to get to your target boil volume.

The first method seems a little more premeditated but also assumes that your absorption rate is predictable. The second seems a little more “reactive” and really doesn’t require knowing your grain absorption rate at all.

Are there any benefits to either method or is it just a “whatever you prefer” type of deal. Planning to do my first all grain brew here soon and wanted to get all my ducks in a row.

I would say it’s a “whatever you prefer” type of deal. So many different methods, systems, setups, etc. I BIAB and have tried several different setups. I have now settled in with this system.

  • Mash with somewhere around 60-70% total water needed
  • Batch (dunk) sparge with 30-40% total water needed
  • Full volume boil

Of course with BIAB, there are other ways. Use less water and top-up, no sparge, full volume mash. I tried them all and choose to do how I do it now, because I get good efficiency (75-85%) and I like the beer I’m making.

I’d say the same would go for what you’re asking. You’ll find positives and negatives with different methods. Try a few and see what works for you.

I decide on a mash ratio based on both the thickness I want and trying to get in the ballpark of equal runnings. I try to keep my mash thickness around 1.6 qt./lb. but I will adjust that up or down a bit to get close to equal runnings. But it’s not a big deal. If your runnings are within a gal. or so of each other it’s plenty close enough. It’s really a combo of the 2 methods you describe. Don’t get too hung up on it…it won’t make a world of difference. Just start brewing and experimenting, keep good notes, and you’ll eventually settle into what works for you.

Basically the same thing here. I typically aim for >1.5 qt/lb and close to equal runnings; however, if I have to go with a thicker mash sometimes for a bigger beer, I don’t lose sleep over it.

Basically the same thing here. I typically aim for >1.5 qt/lb and close to equal runnings; however, if I have to go with a thicker mash sometimes for a bigger beer, I don’t lose sleep over it.[/quote]
If you brew bigger beers, it can basically just fall out this way. A mash thickness of 1.5-2.0 qt/lb will naturally yield half the desired runnings. For smaller beers or beers where you plan to have a large boil-off volume, it won’t be close at all. In those cases, you can still get a reasonable mash thickness and equal runnings if you just make one additional water infusion at the end of the mash. I’ve been brewing some low-to-moderate strength lagers recently (long boils), and I’ll add a gallon to a gallon and a half at the end of the mash in order to ensure I get half the starting volume from the first runnings.

[quote=“rebuiltcellars”][quote=“kcbeersnob”]
Basically the same thing here. I typically aim for >1.5 qt/lb and close to equal runnings; however, if I have to go with a thicker mash sometimes for a bigger beer, I don’t lose sleep over it.[/quote]
If you brew bigger beers, it can basically just fall out this way.[/quote]
Not sure how that can be. As an example, I’m planning a Barleywine that requires a 1.35 qt/lb ratio to get equal runnings–and this is with an extra long boil to increase kettle caramelization. If I were to use a ratio of 1.5, the yield would be 4.77 gal from the mash and 3.34 gal from the sparge–nearly a gallon and a half difference.

Maybe the difference is in one’s definition of a “bigger beer?”

[quote=“rebuiltcellars”]If you brew bigger beers, it can basically just fall out this way. A mash thickness of 1.5-2.0 qt/lb will naturally yield half the desired runnings. For smaller beers or beers where you plan to have a large boil-off volume, it won’t be close at all. In those cases, you can still get a reasonable mash thickness and equal runnings if you just make one additional water infusion at the end of the mash. I’ve been brewing some low-to-moderate strength lagers recently (long boils), and I’ll add a gallon to a gallon and a half at the end of the mash in order to ensure I get half the starting volume from the first runnings.[/quote

I used to do that, but finally decided it was too much hassle fro no appreciable benefit. Now, I just increase the mash and sparge volumes.

I can say from experience that a thin mash works just fine. I have used 3.5qt/lb with no sparge and get nearly the same efficiency that I do with the conventional method. So I’d say that while you might like a certain mash ratio for whatever reason, it makes little difference as far as conversion. It might take the really thin mash an extra 15min to fully convert is all. I agree with the philosophy that this is a very forgiving part of the process.

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