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Fixed the stuck sparges...now my efficiency sucks

Well i opened my mill gap up just a little bit more and that seemed to prevent the stuck sparge issues I was having previously. The problem I have now (as I had anticipated) is that my effciency has suffered. I’ve measured a conversion efficiency of 63% on my tripel I brewed yesterday according to Beersmith.

14lbs of Pilsner and 0.25lbs of Belgian Aromatic yielded 7.25 gallons of 1.047 wort. 90 minute mash at 148 degrees. No dough balls and drained all but a few cups of liquid from the tun. I am using Brunwater to calculate my pH

Just sucks that my tradeoff for decent efficiency is partially stuck sparges. Below is a picture of the crush from yesterday:

Does anyone see any way to improve this easily without overhauling my entire mashtun?

That looks like a great crush.

What was your intended OG? More than 1.070? Efficiency always suffers with high OG. Next time you want to make a “normal” beer of 1.055-1.060 or something like that, I bet your efficiency will be just fine.

High efficiency is overrated. Theoretically, you get better flavor out of the lowest efficiency. For example, a no-sparge beer will generally taste more malty than a high 80% efficiency beer with the same recipe same malts. I could expand upon this later if you ask nicely, but you’ve probably heard it before…

Yeah this is my first really big beer so that might have something to do with it. I was hoping for a post boil gravity of around 1.068 and bump it up to around 1.080 with sugar. Hoping it will be somewhat predictable going forward. I don’t mind throwing in an extra lb or two of grain but I don’t want to do that and find I all of a sudden get 80% efficiency for some reason.

Edit: techincally the weizenbock was my first really big beer but i had a random efficiency issue with that one as well. Frustrating is all.

Agree with Dave. The higher OG, the lower efficiency my system. Did a 1.100 RIS couple months back and got around 85%… 1.060 IPA over the weekend snagged 93%.

What efficiency was the above beer designed with?

If you’re getting through your brew sessions in a predictable timely manner that’s improvement right? :cheers:

I agree with Dave too. Brew a 1.050-60 range beer you’ve done before. Scale it to 70% efficiency and see what you get. Find your efficiency basis for this crush and brew from there.

While the guys are right about efficiency in brewhouse terms, 63% conversion efficiency is a different matter. That’s really bad. You should be at least into the 90s and these days I’m at 100% pretty consistently. What were your mash and brewhouse efficiencies?

This is what I was thinking. If I’m losing efficiency due to hop matter and whats left in the kettle that’s fine. But conversion is conversion. There isn’t a whole lot i can do to fix it other than crush, possibly if my temp is way off (which its not) or my pH is nowhere near where it should be (which according Brunwater it was 5.3).

Conversion efficiency according to this calculator:

Is 63%. (14 lbs pilsner, 0.25lbs Aromatic yielded 7.25 gallons of 1.047 wort)

Brewhouse was 61% (ended up with 5.5gals of 1.081 with 2.5lbs of sugar added post boil)

This is what I was thinking. If I’m losing efficiency due to hop matter and whats left in the kettle that’s fine. But conversion is conversion. There isn’t a whole lot i can do to fix it other than crush, possibly if my temp is way off (which its not) or my pH is nowhere near where it should be (which according Brunwater it was 5.3).

Conversion efficiency according to this calculator:

Is 63%. (14 lbs pilsner, 0.25lbs Aromatic yielded 7.25 gallons of 1.047 wort)

Brewhouse was 61% (ended up with 5.5gals of 1.081 with 2.5lbs of sugar added post boil)[/quote]

That looks like a brewhouse efficiency calculator…did I miss something? I just use Kai’s chart…below. Compare your mash ratio to the max points you can get. But you’re right…if your conversion efficiency is low, you’re behind the game from the beginning.

Mash efficiency is affected by pH. Invest in a decent pH meter. I picked up a Milwaukee MW101 for $75.00 on Amazon. It features a detachable probe, so when it fails (and they always do eventually) I can replace the probe for around $35.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0009YH06Y/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

I also picked up the buffers and storage solution kit for $20.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00BUV7L96/ref=od_aui_detailpages00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

What’s calculated with the various water spreadsheets and what you actually end up can vary quite a bit; there are too many variables for the spreadsheets to account for, such as variations in the malt, your feed water, the quality of your additives and the accuracy of your measurement equipment (weight and volume.) The spreadsheets can get you within range, but the only way to know for sure is to actually measure it.

This is what I was thinking. If I’m losing efficiency due to hop matter and whats left in the kettle that’s fine. But conversion is conversion. There isn’t a whole lot i can do to fix it other than crush, possibly if my temp is way off (which its not) or my pH is nowhere near where it should be (which according Brunwater it was 5.3).

Conversion efficiency according to this calculator:

Is 63%. (14 lbs pilsner, 0.25lbs Aromatic yielded 7.25 gallons of 1.047 wort)

Brewhouse was 61% (ended up with 5.5gals of 1.081 with 2.5lbs of sugar added post boil)[/quote]

That looks like a brewhouse efficiency calculator…did I miss something? I just use Kai’s chart…below. Compare your mash ratio to the max points you can get. But you’re right…if your conversion efficiency is low, you’re behind the game from the beginning.

[/quote]

It’s both a brewhouse and a conversion calc. If you put in pre-boil volume and gravity it will give you conversion efficiency. If put in volume and gravity into the fermenter it will give you brewhouse efficiency.

I didn’t check my first wort gravity, only my pre-boil gravity.

EDIT: I realize now that conversion and pre-boil are not the same thing when doing a sparge. I really should start getting a reading of my first runnings.

Only in a minor way, though. Unlikely to affect it enough to be off as far as Matt was.

I’ve been doing that on every batch for years, even before Kai broached the subject of conversion efficiency. Just one of those geeky brewing things I like to do.

I’ve been doing that on every batch for years, even before Kai broached the subject of conversion efficiency. Just one of those geeky brewing things I like to do.[/quote]

And unless I’m leaving a whole bunch of sugars behind after sparging, the efficiency shouldn’t be that much of a difference I would assume.

So that still kinda leaves me at a really crappy conversion efficiency. It’s not so much that im worried about the cost of materials going up, but I really just want to know why.

Hrmm… if I read the thread correctly you have three options left:

Diastatic Power - probably not a factor given all of the pilsner malt
Mash Thickness - too thick might prohibit enzyme activity
Mash-Out - increases efficiency by super-charging the enzymes, though I don’t know if it would give you 40% more…

Must be something else, what were the actual measurements of the pH and the temperature? Did you measure your salts correctly? (Not dis’in you, just askin’).

There is a clear inverse relationship between OG and mash efficiency. I’ve never plotted the curve, but I’ll typically get 70-75% with a really big beer (1.080+), around 78-82% with a normal beer of about 1.050, and at least 85% with very low gravity beers (<1.040). As far as I can tell, the only “fix” for that problem would be to sparge with more water and then boil longer, which is one traditional method of getting to higher gravities if you don’t mind the extra time.

As far as other factors that affect the mash, pH plays a minor role, mash thickness is a bit more important and decoction can give a significant boost, but crush has by far the biggest impact. You could try tightening up your mill again and condition your grain before milling it. If done properly (warning - there is a learning curve involved), that allows you to set the rollers very close, resulting in a very fine crush but still leaves intact, fluffy husks that will allow the mash to drain fully.

[quote=“Bitter”]Hrmm… if I read the thread correctly you have three options left:

Diastatic Power - probably not a factor given all of the pilsner malt
Mash Thickness - too thick might prohibit enzyme activity
Mash-Out - increases efficiency by super-charging the enzymes, though I don’t know if it would give you 40% more…

Must be something else, what were the actual measurements of the pH and the temperature? Did you measure your salts correctly? (Not dis’in you, just askin’).[/quote]

Mash thickness was about 1.7qt/lb so pretty thin.

pH was not a measurement but calculated from Brunwater. I don’t own a pH meter and not sure i can justify the cost (of course if this keeps up i may). salts were weighed using a small scale that i weigh my hops and is quite accurate. Added 3.6mL of lactic to 6gal of strike water at room temp. temp was taken with a thermocouple that i tested against boiling water a few months ago.

This is driving me nuts!

[quote=“rebuiltcellars”]There is a clear inverse relationship between OG and mash efficiency. I’ve never plotted the curve, but I’ll typically get 70-75% with a really big beer (1.080+), around 78-82% with a normal beer of about 1.050, and at least 85% with very low gravity beers (<1.040). As far as I can tell, the only “fix” for that problem would be to sparge with more water and then boil longer, which is one traditional method of getting to higher gravities if you don’t mind the extra time.

As far as other factors that affect the mash, pH plays a minor role, mash thickness is a bit more important and decoction can give a significant boost, but crush has by far the biggest impact. You could try tightening up your mill again and condition your grain before milling it. If done properly (warning - there is a learning curve involved), that allows you to set the rollers very close, resulting in a very fine crush but still leaves intact, fluffy husks that will allow the mash to drain fully.[/quote]

How much of a boost could a decoction give?

More than you might think. Maybe 10% higher efficiency. My decoctions end up in the 90s for efficiency.

Before you try decoctions, try step infusion mashes. Mash at 145 for 30 minutes, then infuse with a gallon or so of boiling water to get to the upper 150’s and rest there for 40 or so minutes. That produces a nice fermentable wort and boosts efficiency.

Otherwise, get a bag, keep milling at the fine grind you were milling at… or do both!

[quote=“Beersk”]Before you try decoctions, try step infusion mashes. Mash at 145 for 30 minutes, then infuse with a gallon or so of boiling water to get to the upper 150’s and rest there for 40 or so minutes. That produces a nice fermentable wort and boosts efficiency.

Otherwise, get a bag, keep milling at the fine grind you were milling at… or do both![/quote]
I haven’t seen any increased efficiency from step mashing unless there is a decoction involved. I suspect the boiling of the grain helps to both mechanically break apart the grain particles and the heat helps the water to penetrate everything better. But the lower the efficiency you start with, the bigger a boost decoction will give. The only times I’ve gotten over 90% mash efficiency, decoctions have always been involved. +5-10% should be expected.

I personally would focus on getting your process consistent (at whatever efficiency) so you can plan and have your recipes under control. But if you want to consistently get better efficiency, the crush is the place to start.

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