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Going all grain frustration, help!

I did my third all grain this morning. I’m getting hung up on the numbers and feel overwhelmed. I ran my numbers and my efficiency on this batch was 61.3. I was told that I could expect at least 70 to 75, but I’m concerned that this batch will really s**k.
NB all grain Black IPA
11.5lbs. Rahr2-row Pale
.5 lbs.Briess caramel 80L
.375 lbs. Weyermann Carafa III
.375 Simpsons Chocolate Malt
1 lbs. corn Sugar
1 lbs. buckwheat honey
Sach. rest started at 154 ended at 150 60 minutes
mashout 165 10 minutes.
Batch sparge using Denny C’s system.
first run 2.5 gallons
second run 3.65 gallons
OG 1.066 using refractometer.
Color is great,aroma and taste seems OK.

So your only issue is efficiency on your third batch? Things could be worse, especially if you like your wort. You are right, you are hung up on the numbers.

How did you crush your grain?

just out of curiosity, what was your water/grain ratio? You only got 6.15 pre-boil total with only 2.5 in your first running. you may have left a lot behind.

did you take a pre-boil SG reading?

Check your thermometers against a calibrated thermometer…and not just with freezing water or boiling water. I discovered that both thermometers that I was using at one point in my brewing were both off by as much as 7 to 10 degrees at normal mashing temp ranges.

I think you’re gonna like that BIPA

yeah - overall, looks pretty good to me - if your biggest problem 3 batches in to all grain is a pound or two of grain/efficiency - you are doing well.

I agree on the above - check your thermometer to confirm. Check your crush to confirm. If your entire sparge/wort collection took you 10 minutes - that could cost you some points. Perhaps take a little more time on the batch sparge - adding water, stirring, letting it sit, drain, repeat… I think I sparge pretty fast, and I know it costs me some points, but it is not 10 minutes - longer than that. overall, sounds like you are in the ball park and in good shape.

I use the calculators in “brewheads”. It’s free and easy to input. I’ve calibrated my refractometer and my thermometers. The first all-grain was 59%, second was 59.3%, second was just over 61%. I use the crusher at NB and tried a double crush on the second batch with no appreciable difference. It took me 4 hours from start to cleanup completion could I be draining the wort off the grain too quickly? I vorlauf 4 qts. very slowly and then open it up after the grain bed is set.
In order to get 6.5 gallons I’m thinking of going up to 1.4 water to grist ration just to get a higher volume of wort. Last option is to scrap coleman cooler with the braid and pay for a 10 gallon igloo that I can fit with a false bottom. Thanks for your feedback.

[quote=“flytyer”]could I be draining the wort off the grain too quickly?.. Last option is to scrap coleman cooler with the braid and pay for a 10 gallon igloo that I can fit with a false bottom…[/quote]Batch-sparging, you can run off as fast as you like, makes no difference (since the wort is all one gravity). And there is no reason that a new MT would change your efficiency when batch-sparging.

Since you’ve checked your instruments and crush, your next most likely source of efficiency problems is your mash pH - are you checking it, with what, and how are you adjusting?

I thought one of the benefits of batch sparging was not having to worry about PH. I did add a table spoon of NB’s ph buffer as a precaution.

I would save that for last, lots of people use that same setup for batch sparging (including me) and get your desired efficiency. Might take some time to figure out what is losing you some points but I’d guess the crush too. I condition my grain and crush pretty fine (hard to control without your own mill though) which helped a lot. I have yet to come close to having a stuck sparge.

You do still have to pay attention to mash pH when batch sparging though you remove the pH concern during lautering.

[quote=“Shadetree”][quote=“flytyer”]could I be draining the wort off the grain too quickly?.. Last option is to scrap coleman cooler with the braid and pay for a 10 gallon igloo that I can fit with a false bottom…[/quote]Batch-sparging, you can run off as fast as you like, makes no difference (since the wort is all one gravity). And there is no reason that a new MT would change your efficiency when batch-sparging.

Since you’ve checked your instruments and crush, your next most likely source of efficiency problems is your mash pH - are you checking it, with what, and how are you adjusting?[/quote]

This is probably right. I was getting low efficiency untill I looked into my water. Its really not that hard either.

[quote=“flytyer”]I thought one of the benefits of batch sparging was not having to worry about PH. I did add a table spoon of NB’s ph buffer as a precaution.[/quote]Mash pH is critical, regardless of the sparge method. And the “pH buffer” is totally useless. There are three good spreadsheets on the web that will help you with estimating/predicting your mash pH - EZWater, Palmer’s RA, and Bru’nwater. I’ve tried all three and prefer the latter.

Had similar issues with efficieny when changing over to AG a few years ago. Would alwasy crush my grains at the LHBS and was getting efficiencies in the high 50’s/low 60’s. Bought my own grain mill and adjusted the roller spacing to the thickness of a credit card. Now get at least 75-80%.

You can compensate for a coarse crush to some degree by mashing for a longer time, and occasionally stirring. A slightly thinner mash also improves efficiency.

I’d be looking at that water pH though. Either build your water from scratch with RO or get a water analysis and go from there. It can make a 5-10% efficiency difference, and the beer will taste better too if you’ve adjusted with the right flavor ions.

I think its WAY early to worry about any potential problems with crush, water chemistry, and the like. You’ve got 3 brews under your belt and I’m willing to bet that the beers will come out great. Relax and enjoy the process. Calibrate your thermometers and keep brewing at least 3 more batches WITHOUT changing things yet. Track efficiency from batch to batch and try to keep constant what you can- crush, water chemistry, sparging rate, etc. You may find that there really isn’t a problem if you consistently get the same efficiency. Consistent efficiency is extremely valuable regardless of how low or high it is. Low efficiency alone doesn’t affect the flavor of wort. Remember- its the commercial brewers who have to worry about efficiency to maximize profit; we don’t.

Brew on!

I’m a few AG batches ahead of you and I know how you feel. I was having hard time with the numbers, too. The important thing first off is make sure you are getting accurate temp/refract/hydro readings, and volume measurements. I was estimating things way too much, which is OK in extract brewing, but not good for AG brewing. At least if you know you are getting accurate info, you can then try and get better efficiency. If you’re getting consistent efficiency, that a good thing! One problem I found in my system was I was taking a hydro sample of my cooled wort after I passed it through a double mesh strainer. All the aeration was giving me off readings with the hydro. I’m getting around 71% batch sparging. Not great, but I’m consistent.

I’m going to stress crush. I’ve exhaustively researched my system & its efficiency, and it appears to be largely driven by crush.

Condition your grain, set your mill gap to 0.028" or less, and run it through once. That has worked for me. If you have rice hulls and don’t have a mill of your own, run it through the brew store’s mill twice.

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