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My brewing procedure - Input appreciated

Instead of asking individual questions a hundred times, I thought I’d write out exactly what I do and how I do it, and have you guys give your opinions as to what I do well, and what I should change.

Here’s an IPA I like brewing. I brew 2.5 gallon batches because it’s just me and I end up with a nice round case of 12oz bottles in the end.

4.25 lbs Two Row
1.5 oz C120
1lb cane sugar
1oz Chinook hops (60 minutes)
1oz Simcoe hops (30 minutes)
1/2oz Cascade (10 minutes)
1/2oz Cascade (at flame out)
1 oz leaf dry hop

I follow a rule of 1 quart of strike water per pound of grain. In this case, I’ve used just under 5 quarts of water. I’ll heat my strike water to ~170F and pour that into my MT and let it cool to roughly 167F, and dump in my grains. Give a good stir, check the temp and with any luck, I’ve hit ~150F. Spin on the lid and let that sit for 60 minutes. (MT is a 3 gallon beverage igloo cooler)

At around 20 minutes remaining, I measure out 3.25 gallons of sparge water and heat that to ~180F, pour that into my bottling bucket with a valve at the bottom. I let that cool to ~ 170 and begin sparging. I let the sparge water trickle into my MT, keeping about an inch of water on top on my grain bed, while I open the valve at the bottom of my MT and let that trickle into my kettle, aiming for ~3.25 gallons.

I set that to boil for 60 minutes and aim for a post boil volume of 2.5 gallons.

Now would be a good time to inform my readers that I still consider myself a novice brewer. I started out brewing just to see if I would maintain any amount of passion to continue. No doubt the passion has remained and now it’s time to step up my game and brew BY THE NUMBERS. The only figures I’ve paid attention to are my FG readings after fermentation for the purpose of knowing when to bottle.

That’s about to change as today, I’m going to my LHBS to buy myself a refractometer. I’ve always known that I needed to take more readings, but being that I my batches are small, by the time I take all of the hydrometer readings I should be taking, I’d end up with a 6 pack at the end of it all. So that’s why I’m opting for the refractometer.

This next batch, (tomorrow) will be the first time I measure brewing efficiency, preboil gravity and post boil gravity. And that brings up a question right off the bat. I know that I want to have a post boil volume of 2.5 gallons, but what if my post boil numbers aren’t there yet? Do I have the logic right that I want to hit my number at the same time as my post boil volume?

For numbers, you have 84 oz of total fermentables. 1.5 oz of C-120 equals 1.8% which is a touch low, but ok. Your 16 oz of sugar is 19% which is high for almost any type of beer. I would expect this beer to have very light body, if not watery.

[quote]

I follow a rule of 1 quart of strike water per pound of grain. [/quote]
If you have the room in your mash-tun I would suggest you increase your strike water up to 1.25-1.5 qt per pound.

[quote]

That’s about to change as today, I’m going to my LHBS to buy myself a refractometer. I’ve always known that I needed to take more readings, but being that I my batches are small, by the time I take all of the hydrometer readings I should be taking, I’d end up with a 6 pack at the end of it all. So that’s why I’m opting for the refractometer.[/quote]
Remember that once alcohol is present you must correct the refractometer reading to have it be accurate.

[quote]
I know that I want to have a post boil volume of 2.5 gallons, but what if my post boil numbers aren’t there yet? Do I have the logic right that I want to hit my number at the same time as my post boil volume?[/quote]

Two options; either keep sparging until you have your desired starting gravity, and extend the boil time in order to reach your desired ending volume, or sparge to your desired starting volume, and accept a lower starting gravity in the final wort. Or a third option would be to use number 2 and add some DME to reach your desired pre-boil gravity.

Also remember to give the wort a good stir to make sure it is mixed in and you do not have any stratification of gravity going on in your kettle.

Does more strike water equal less sparge water?

Yes, normally, more strike water would mean you use less sparge water, to end up with your 3.5g pre boil amount. You could still sparge whit the same amount but then would need to increase the boil time to get your post boil volume. That is, unless that last bit of wort has a sugar content of 1.010 or less.

http://rackers.org/calcs.shtml/

According to the Rackers site, in a 3g cooler you should be able to mash around 7lbs of grain (2.75g of space). With that amount you may be able to remove the sugar component of your recipe. But, in a brew day with Cris Colby (byo) he likes to ad some sugar to an IPA/APA to dry them out a little.

If you use a larger amount of grain in your recipe, when you do end up short on gravity it is not that big of an issue to add a couple of ounces of sugar to bump it up.

My first time brewing by the numbers and my brew house efficiency came in at 60%

Estimated pre boil gravity should have been 1.066, I came in at 1.030. Post boil, I only made it to 1.055 by the time I hit my post boil volume of 2.5 gallons.

This is the same recipe that won me 1st place in IPAs at a home brew comp. But all three judges wanted more malt flavor to balance out the 88 IBUs. My brother who’s a home brew fanatic tasted it said that it was good, but lacking mouth feel. So I suspect that my brew house efficiency has been low since I started brewing.

But that was the point of stepping up my brewing game and start finally brewing by the numbers. I’m going to read and read and read and find out how I can improve my efficiency. I’ve already read some threads here that have pointed me in the right direction. Next batch, I’ll pay more attention to the milling.

More malt less sugar. B-H-E should not have anything to do with the mouth-feel.

Bo is right here.

If you are using NB or MW’s mills, try running the grain through 2 or 3 times to get a better crush. They set the gap a little wider so that you will not get a stuck sparge.

1lb of grain is about the same as .5lb of sugar @ 70% efficiency.

Bump your 2row by a pound and drop the sugar to .5lb. Double crush and see where that takes you.

I’m troubled with my low efficiency and have come up with a way to trouble shoot my process. It just doesn’t make sense to me to mash out, find that I only hit 60% efficiency and continue on with the rest of the brew day. I mean, that’s a five hour day, roughly, ~ $20 in ingredients, primary, secondary, carbonating, and opening that first bottle only to say ugh… If I cant hit pre boil numbers, it just seems insane to me to continue and even more insane to go through the full process time and time again if I keep missing my numbers. Does that make sense to anyone besides myself?

So here’s what my brain thinks I should do. I’m going to mill 1lb of 2 row, mash and sparge in various ways, and keep doing that until figure it out and hit acceptable efficiency numbers.

Using brewer’s friend brewhouse efficiency calculator, 1lb of two row should net me a preboil OG of 1.037. I’m only trouble shooting preboil numbers at this point, so this should function as a good controlled test. Am I thinking along the right lines?

What pre/post boil volume are you starting with on that 1lb of grain? What efficiency are you trying to reach?

Who (where) are you milling your grains? Again, if NB or MW is where you are getting and milling your grains, double or triple mill them to get a better crush. If you have a friend that seems to get good efficiency with his mill, mill 1lb with him also and do a side by side comparison.

Well, using brewer’s friend efficiency calculator, I got 1.037, with factoring in 1 gallon of pre boil wort.

Milling crush is one of the factors in this test I was going to change. One with single mill, one will double mill and one with a triple mill and note changes. I’ve recently started buying my grains at MW supplies because they have a touch computer in the grain room. I simply select the grain and input the exact amount. It’s different from NB because they round up. So if I were to buy .25 lbs, they’ll charge me for a full pound. On the average, I’d spend ~$25 in ingredients at NB, and average ~$13 at MW. (sorry NB folks…still love ya though)

I have found that with a higher volume all the numbers become a little more forgiving…but I understand what you are doing. If you can accurately hit your numbers for a gallon, 5 or 10 should be that much easier.

Also, make sure your thermometer is accurate. Once I figured out that mine wasn’t, my numbers started falling into place.

Just a thought or two.

:cheers:

I think the original process you outlined may be missing some steps that you may actually be performing. Specifically a mash out, post mash stirring and vorlauf. Are you doing any / all of these things? Stirring my grain bed after the mash helped my efficiency by about 10% compared to not doing this.

You mention using the 1 quart per pound “rule” but I haven’t heard of that. I always thought the standard was ~1.25 for fly sparging. It seems like with less than that it might be hard to get all the grain soaked and the water mixed in well which could hurt efficiency. I wouldn’t go to 1.5 as someone else suggested though, as more than what you need is going to hurt efficiency with fly sparging as you mentioned, because you’ll have less sparge water… but too little could also be a problem.

Another process you didn’t list with your first post but mentioned in a follow up post was mash out. Are you actually doing a mash out? (adding enough hot water to raise the entire temp of the grain bed to halt enzyme activity). If so, that will also cause you to not have as much water left to rinse the grains so you might want to try skipping that step to see how it works. When I did it, my efficiency dropped.

As for your small scale experiment to try to solve this, I worry that the experiment won’t be effective because the small scale might throw everything off. You’ll be using the same size mash vessel but with such a small amount of grain it will be really shallow for example, and maybe harder to hold the temp. I would experiment with actual batches and just keep some DME on hand to make up for any problems.

I’ve never heard to disturbing the grain bed before sparging out. I’ve always understood that it’s best to disturb it as little as possible during the sparge. I’m not against doing this, I guess it’s worth a try.

This change I have made. Can’t remember where exactly where I heard the 1qt per lb of grain…that was in my initial learnings of AG brewing.

Not sure I follow you, as all the different sparge term confuse me. I’m not even sure what the name of my particular sparge method is titled. I put 170 degree water in a bucket with a valve at the bottom and let it trickle into my mash tun, and open the valve at the bottom of my MT and let that trickle into my kettle until I end up with 3.25 gallons.

Adding DME…Another topic I need to read up on. Perfectly will to do this…just need to learn about portions.

What you’re doing is called “fly sparging” and so the procedure is different from what many on this board do which is called “batch sparging”. I use the fly sparge method also and it’s what most breweries use. You are correct that you don’t want to disturb the grain bed with this method once you start to sparge but doing so just prior to the sparge is fine and in my case yielded more efficiency when I added that step. You should also be stirring things up REALLY well at the start of the mash, it’s very important that all of the grains get wet and there are no balls of dry grains hiding in your mash.

Once the mash is complete you have the option to do something called a mash out, which you mentioned in another post but maybe didn’t mean it the same way. A mash out is when you add some very hot water and stir it in with the goal of raising the mash temp to around 170 I think. Whether you do this or not is up to you but for now I would skip it in order to keep things simple. Once you get things dialed in you can look it up and weigh the pros and cons to see if adding that step is worth it. It’s not something I bother with. If you don’t perform a mash out, I would still recommend stirring the grains at the end of the mash, before you begin collecting your wort.

Another step you didn’t mention that most people do is that before they begin sparging and collecting wort they will recirculate some of the wort back through the grain bed. Basically drain it like you’re collecting it but pour it back over the top of the grain bed instead. The idea is that the first bit that you collect will have a lot of grain husk material in it so you recirculate until that clears out and then proceed to collect your wort as you’ve been doing after this is complete. The term “vorlauf” is used to describe this procedure.

I stir VERY well after I add my strike water to ensure there are no dry clumps of grain.

Vorlauf is a step that I perform. Don’t know why I didn’t mention that I did that. Very interested in stirring up the grain bed for beginning the sparge. The more I think about it, the more sense it makes.

Thanks for all your input.

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