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First AG Qs: Efficiency, Fermentables, and Maillard Reaction

Howdy all,

So, I attempted my first all grain yesterday, and have some questions.

First, my efficiency was about 68%, which I consider great for my first time, but I’d like to bring that way up. Since I have no mill (used the LHBS mill) let’s skip grain crush and move on to temp and pH:

Strike water temp was 170, dough in temp was about 158, which I got down to 154 in 10 minutes using ice cubes. After 40 minutes, temp had dropped to around 144 (due at least in part to 3 chalk additions). I brought this back up to 149 for the last 15 - 20 minutes of the mash. Then I drained fully and added 168* batch sparge water, which hit 154* on the nose after mixing. I let that sit for a good 20 - 30 minutes before draining, but forgot to add chalk. The questions here are:

  1. Did mash temp drop enough to significantly reduce efficiency?
  2. I have very low alkalinity (19 ppm residual); did the lack of sparge adjustment screw me up?
  3. Is mash efficiency in any way a gauge of fermentables in the wort, or is FG the best indicator?

Finally, the beer came out significantly darker than predicted by the Beer Calculus recipe builder
http://beercalculus.hopville.com/recipe
. Does anyone know if that tool commonly under-shoots SRM predictions? Or, was I wrong to assume that the Maillard reaction is less of a factor with AG vs. extract?

<<< edited heavily to consolidate >>>

1.) No. Mash temp has little to no effect on efficiency as long as you’re between maybe 145-160F.

2.) No

3.) FG is the best indicator

FWIW. letting the mash sit after adding sparge water does nothing but waste your time. And the Maillard reaction seems to have less effect on AG than extract. I don’t really know of any accurate way to predict how much, though.

OK, thanks. My volume efficiency was pretty much spot on, so maybe I should just account for ~68% efficiency unless/until I take the plunge and get a mill someday. Can you (or anyone else?) think of any thing else I should consider? And, any thoughts about whether I can expect a super dry or super sweet/malty beer given my mash temps?

Re: Maillard reaction, there was definitely some film on the bottom of the kettle. I wasn’t nearly as careful about stirring the wort during the boil as I am with extract, but the wort didn’t taste burnt or anything, so not a big deal.

Finally, I owe like 95% of my pre-boil success to your batch sparge and mash tun overview, Denny, and your name sake yeast already has my first AG wort roiling away. Many thanks! :cheers:

With any luck, the recipe I devised is at least 68% likely to produce drinkable beer :wink:

Lower mash temps generally improve efficiencies but the enzymes work slower at lower temps. This is why the 2 step infusion mash is so popular.

Mash PH will definitely affect efficiency . Whether it did this time depends on your water chemisty and ingredients. Treat your water before you mash in.

Efficiencies are a general measure of your equipment and practices. Naturally there are trades offs with time and costs. Some people accept the hit in efficiency for simpler equipment and a shorter brew day. Some people (like me) like to take the time to optimize things and don’t mind a longer brew day (even enjoy it). At the end of the day it’s the FG AND your enjoyment of the process that matters.

Maillard reactions don’t really come into play at this stage. What influences the color of wort in boiling is caramelization. Sugar concentration, boil duration, burner and kettle geometry all affect the degree of caramelization. Color approximations are just that, approximations. Take what you got and what you expected and take that into account next time.

Right, I didn’t mean to imply that the Maillard reaction happened during the mash (or, is your point that it’s not Maillard reactions, but caramelizing sugars? [edit] - ah, read more and it sounds like Maillard reaction is more part of the roasting stage). But, on the SRM front, I just ran home to measure something and I checked on the beer; the color is much lighter than it seemed yesterday. It’s now much closer to the predicted 14 SRM (probably around 17 or 18) than what was probably 35 yesterday.

I’m wondering if it just seemed so dark because there were a lot of particles in suspension (I was stirring the wort a lot to move it around the chiller)? Or, maybe just because I was outside in bright sun all morning?

Re: mash pH, 15 minutes after dough-in I was at ~5.2 (just under 5.0 according to colorpHast), and at ~5.4 after treatment (~5.1 on colorpHast). Not really sure it was worth treating, but my plan was to get within the 5.3 - 5.6 ‘optimal’ range I’ve seen mentioned in a few places, so I just went with it.

As for efficiency vs. simplicity, I don’t mind stretching the brew day out, nor adding a little complexity, and I definitely enjoy the process. And, longer rests would actually make me more available to help around the house. I do like the idea of maintaining a simple rig, though.

Anyway, based on what you’ve both said, I kind of feel like the biggest issues might be grain crush and/or imprecise measuring equipment…I think I’ll get some more AGs under my belt to see if 68% is about the max efficiency of my rig, then decide if I wanna invest more.

You really won’t get any maillard reactions unless you are doing decoctions. So if you are getting darker wort than expected then it is from caramelization in the kettle. It is difficult to gauge the color of a beer unless you put it in a glass and hold it up to a light. It sounds like what is happening it that it looks lighter now because the suspended particles are reflecting the light. It will look alot darker once the yeast settles out.

It doesn’t sound like the difference in PH made any difference in your case. You are in the acceptable range either way. If you don’t mind relaxing with a homebrew for an extra half hour while you mash then let your rest go a little longer. There is nothing to lose and some potential savings in grain bills to gain. For a 5 gal batch the savings aren’t that much but if you brew large batches or brew a lot then the savings add up. Also you will be able to brew bigger beers with your existing equipment.
If you are like a lot of us you will want to tinker with different mash schedules and lust after new equipment but do a few batches like you are and get a good feel the general process. It doesn’t have to be rocket science unless you want it to.

Say what? They can improve your attenuation, but I’ve never seen them improve efficiency. Can you explain?

I could definitely see myself getting into mash schedules, doing one rest in the mid 140s to optimize beta amylase, then another in the upper 150s to optimize alphas. If I do this, Is it best to hold both for an hour, or just 30 - 45 minutes for each?

Also, for multiple infusions, do people tend to reduce initial strike water volume, then hit target mash volume via adding water to raise the temp? Or, is it better to start at volume and go over via second infusion?

[quote=“ickyfoot”]I could definitely see myself getting into mash schedules, doing one rest in the mid 140s to optimize beta amylase, then another in the upper 150s to optimize alphas. If I do this, Is it best to hold both for an hour, or just 30 - 45 minutes for each?

Also, for multiple infusions, do people tend to reduce initial strike water volume, then hit target mash volume via adding water to raise the temp? Or, is it better to start at volume and go over via second infusion?[/quote]

I keep going back and forth between step mashes and single temp mashes to see if I can tell a difference in the finished beer. So far I haven’t convinced myself that I can.

Interesting. I’ll keep that in mind. At any rate, I definitely plan on getting at least a few AGs under my belt before doing anything differently than I did yesterday (with the exception of adding the full amount of chalk (~2 g) to the strike water, as I now know it won’t pull me up too high). I wanna set a baseline and work on consistency first and foremost.

Out of curiosity, does adding alkalinity actively pull up the pH, or does it just increase the buffer, making it harder to move it down?

[quote=“ickyfoot”](with the exception of adding the full amount of chalk (~2 g) to the strike water, as I now know it won’t pull me up too high)[/quote]Chalk won’t dissolve in water, you should add it to the mash instead. Even then, it’s not very soluble and thus not as effective in raising the pH as you might think. Baking soda and pickling lime are much better, but you need to watch the sodium from the first (keep it under 100ppm).

Basically, at lower temperatures (131-149 f) Beta amylase and Beta glucanase enzymes are active and degrade amylose and amylopectins more completely than at higher temperatures where these enzymes are less active and quickly destroyed. While at higher temperatures the starches are more completely gelatinized, Alpha amylase is the primarily active enzyme and leaves longer chain sugars and dextrines which are less soluble. Of course other factors like malt modification, PH and mash thickness affect starch degredation and therefore solubility. You can read about it in Dave Miller’s Homebrewing Guide (pp 95-98) and George Fix’s Principles of Brewing Science (pp 93-100).

Yep, that’s the science. I still question the results.

A common mash schedule is 30 min at 142 and 30 min at 158.
As for water treatment I don’t have much experience. I only acidify my sparge water but low alkaline water doesn’t buffer much so chalk will help to buffer against ph swings.

Yeah, I may try a mash schedule like that at least once to see if I can tell a difference. I’m doubtful. Brewing has significantly increased my perception of the flavors in beer, but I suspect the flavor differences from one mash schedule to the next would have to be pretty significant for me to notice.

But, I’m a curious guy, and the process fascinates me, so why not?

Good to know about chalk vs. other options, Shadetree. [edit]Dag, 100 ppm is .0038 g/gal, and I thought my new jewelry scale was fancy (measures to .1 gram)! Any flavor concerns with the pickling lime above a certain amount?

On the water adjustment front, with 19 ppm residual alkalinity, is it fairly safe to skip acidifying sparge water, at least with mid - high SRM brews?

OK, I just read this batch sparging thread
http://forum.northernbrewer.com/viewtopic.php?f=5&t=105262
where people emphasize that it’s critical to get equal volumes from first and second runnings (I only sparged once).

I got ~2 gallons from initial runnings and 4.5 from the sparge. D’oh! How many points might I have gained if both were ~3.25 gallons?

[quote=“ickyfoot”] Any flavor concerns with the pickling lime above a certain amount?[/quote]Pickling lime is just calcium hydroxide, so no flavor concerns (it doesn’t taste like pickles).[quote=“ickyfoot”]OK, I just read this batch sparging thread
http://forum.northernbrewer.com/viewtopic.php?f=5&t=105262
where people emphasize that it’s critical to get equal volumes from first and second runnings (I only sparged once).[/quote]It’s not “critical” to have equal volumes - it maximizes efficiency, but the difference between two gallons of first runnings and four of second versus both at three gallons is small. The quality of the beer will not suffer.

Sounds good on the pickling lime. Is it typically available at a LHBS?

And, it sounds like equal volumes isn’t the ticket to 75%+ for me. Hopefully is just a matter of grain crush, as I have a birthday coming up :slight_smile: .

Any recommendations for a good, affordable grain mill?

[quote=“ickyfoot”]Sounds good on the pickling lime. Typically available at a LHBS?[/quote]Probably not. Go to a feed store or anywhere that they sell pickling equipment.

Does good and affordable go in the same sentence? You could always make one…

John

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