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Overcrushed grain?

Hi,everybody.I’m new here and I have a question to ask.I’ve bought crushed grain from NB twice in the last few weeks,and both times I used said grain,I got a stuck mash.I also just bought some brand new stainless steel equipment not long ago,too,so I know my system is definitely not in any defective.Additionally,I went back to my old homebrew shop for grain for one of my last recent batches (which I mashed with the same equipment),and I had no problems whatsoever.Upon looking at the grain from NB I used on this last batch before I mashed it,I noticed that the grain was quite a bit more finely crushed than I would have liked,and I was concerned that would be a problem with mashing.Sure enough,I got a mash that took a good 2 hours and a whole lot of monkeying around to filter through,and after cleaning the mash tun,I found that there was what I could only call barley porridge (very thick and grainy) under the false bottom(?!).I have never in all my brewing days experienced anything like that,and so my question for everyone else here is this: has anyone else here experienced a problematic mash from NB grains?Additionally,does anyone know if it’s possible to specify a crush that’s not so fine when ordering grain from NB,or is that out of the question?I’d really like to continue using this source for my grains,but unless there’s some way to get grains from them that are not so highly crushed,I’ll be going back to my old homebrew shop or finding some other online source from now on.Any responses on this would be kindly appreciated.

Not sure if you can specify the crush at NB, but my first vote is for your local shop. Other than that you could try adding rice hulls to filter the grain before it makes it to the false bottom. And best of all would be to get your own mill, then you are totally in control.

Hah! That’s funny - plenty of people used to complain that the NB crush was too coarse, resulting in low efficiency.

Have you given any thought to switching from your false-bottom system to Denny’s “cheap and easy batch sparge” system? I retired my stainless steel false bottom and stainless sparge arm a few years ago, and have never looked back.

I take that back - I did go back to fly sparging for one batch, but only to prove to myself that it’s not the way to go. Long live the braid!

Buy a grain mill and adjust it to the crush you desire. IMHO it’s the best way to go if you do all grain.

[quote=“El Capitan”]Hah! That’s funny - plenty of people used to complain that the NB crush was too coarse, resulting in low efficiency.

Have you given any thought to switching from your false-bottom system to Denny’s “cheap and easy batch sparge” system? I retired my stainless steel false bottom and stainless sparge arm a few years ago, and have never looked back.

I take that back - I did go back to fly sparging for one batch, but only to prove to myself that it’s not the way to go. Long live the braid![/quote]

Thanks for the response.I’ll look into the false bottom system you’re referring to,but I just spent a good deal of money on the equipment I just got,and I’m having no problem with it at all when I use grain from my old homebrew shop.In fact,the last time I used their grain with my new equipment,I had the most unbelievably smooth sparge and lauter process I’ve ever experienced in 16 years of homebrewing.That’s why I really want to know if there’s something up with NB’s grains.As far as the efficiency is concerned,I was shooting for an OG of only 1.040 on this last batch (the one where I had the stuck mash),and I ended up with 1.050-which,by my calculations,amounts to a mash efficiency of about 88%!That’s far and away the highest I’ve ever gotten,but high efficiency in and of itself is not always even desirable,at least not when it gets that high.Any higher than that,and you start leaching some very undesirable stuff out of your grains.The wort I got from this last batch was quite cloudy,and I had to settle for a rather low amount of usable wort in my fermenter,after siphoning it away from the cloudiest stuff on the bottom,and losing a considerable amount of wort to the high amount of whole leaf hops I used.Anyway,thanks for the tip.

I have used rice hulls quite often in the past,and it does make a difference.I guess I just wanted to give my new equipment a few tries without the rice hulls to see what kind of clarity I can get with it on it’s own.I would like to have my own mill,though.That’s a good suggestion.I just have to wait until I can afford to make another investment in more upgraded homebrew equipment.Aside from a refrigerator to do lagers in,a grain mill would definitely be high on my list of desired equipment.

I think your best bet is to invest in a grain mill. Then you can fine-tune it to whatever crush works best for you. You’ll also be able to buy ingredients in bulk and save money there. See, it pays for itself!

Most times they will crush on the coarser side to prevent stuck mashing problems.
I crush at the Grand ave storefront and have even sparges and low load of fines and around 80% effic on average. If by some chance they are rolling tighter than normal you will notice a ton/ like a porridge layer of “fines” or excess flour/ proteins that build a thick layer on the top of the mash which look like gray porridge. You can cut the mash or try stirring and re-vourlaufing during a sparge to improve drainage if you notice this condition which can cause stuck sparges or channeling during fly sparges.

[quote=“ITsPossible”]Most times they will crush on the coarser side to prevent stuck mashing problems.
I crush at the Grand ave storefront and have even sparges and low load of fines and around 80% effic on average. If by some chance they are rolling tighter than normal you will notice a ton/ like a porridge layer of “fines” or excess flour/ proteins that build a thick layer on the top of the mash which look like gray porridge. You can cut the mash or try stirring and re-vourlaufing during a sparge to improve drainage if you notice this condition which can cause stuck sparges or channeling during fly sparges.[/quote]

Thanks for the response,but I’m confused as to how crushing grain more finely is supposed to help prevent stuck mashes.Wouldn’t that make them more likely?I mean,in my experience(and I mean very recent experience),grain that’s crushed finely is far more likely to gum up and cause a stuck mash,where grain that’s not so finely crushed makes for a far smoother lauter and sparge process,even if it doesn’t produce quite as high a mash efficiency.Is there some explanation I’m missing here as to why finely crushed grain should help prevent a stuck mash?

You have completely misread my post.

Northern brewer and many other LHBS will purposely crush towards the coarser side, not finer again as too fine a crush can create stuck sparges or other channeling issues which newer brewers will have trouble with until they understand things like explained on line B below. I am also stating it is possible that yours was too finely crushed and in that event you can physically see it as explained on line B also.

As explained in my first post you will know without a doubt which way they are crushing via two visible symptoms.
A. WAY too coarse a grind will leave far too many kernels whole and unbroken causing lowered efficiency.
B. WAY too fine a grind will leave the mash with tons of flour and you can tell as the mash will be loaded with “fines” or the gray porridge looking layer which can be cut or stirred into the mash again and vourlaufed to either “unstick” a mash or let the mash runoff better or move away from channeling sparge water if fly sparging.

Here is a good image of a common/ efficent grind done by Briess and “panned” to show the fractions of crush you should see if your rollers are set right etc…
Thought the visual would aid maybe better than text sometimes.
[attachment=0]Nomral_Grind_Sieve_Ratios.jpg[/attachment]

That’s very useful information ITsPossible. Thanks for posting.

There is quite an interesting story behind that photo. I was looking at crush discussions on probrewer and the findings were substantial that the “common” crush you see above is quite a coarse crush by most craft breweries standards in the past and most would typically shoot for a #14 pan showing around 40-45%. But the test showed that a coarser crush as seen in the photo was easier to lauter and provided efficiency pretty much apples to apples whereas the finer crush caused too much raking and lifting and most importantly time to lauter from the higher fine load.
Here are a few good snapshots from that discussion.
[attachment=2]untitled.JPG[/attachment]
[attachment=1]2.JPG[/attachment]
[attachment=0]3.JPG[/attachment]

What was really interesting was that with 100% in pan #14 meaning unmilled completely they still mustered up 24% efficiency.

[quote=“ITsPossible”]You have completely misread my post.

Northern brewer and many other LHBS will purposely crush towards the coarser side, not finer again as too fine a crush can create stuck sparges or other channeling issues which newer brewers will have trouble with until they understand things like explained on line B below. I am also stating it is possible that yours was too finely crushed and in that event you can physically see it as explained on line B also.

As explained in my first post you will know without a doubt which way they are crushing via two visible symptoms.
A. WAY too coarse a grind will leave far too many kernels whole and unbroken causing lowered efficiency.
B. WAY too fine a grind will leave the mash with tons of flour and you can tell as the mash will be loaded with “fines” or the gray porridge looking layer which can be cut or stirred into the mash again and vourlaufed to either “unstick” a mash or let the mash runoff better or move away from channeling sparge water if fly sparging.[/quote]

Gotcha.I should’ve gotten that obvious statement of yours right the first time.Sorry.

[quote=“ITsPossible”]There is quite an interesting story behind that photo. I was looking at crush discussions on probrewer and the findings were substantial that the “common” crush you see above is quite a coarse crush by most craft breweries standards in the past and most would typically shoot for a #14 pan showing around 40-45%. But the test showed that a coarser crush as seen in the photo was easier to lauter and provided efficiency pretty much apples to apples whereas the finer crush caused too much raking and lifting and most importantly time to lauter from the higher fine load.
Here are a few good snapshots from that discussion.
[attachment=2]untitled.JPG[/attachment]
[attachment=1]2.JPG[/attachment]
[attachment=0]3.JPG[/attachment][/quote]

Thanks for that informative post.I think the real key fact in this discussion is that craft breweries (or whatever you want to call them,depending on their size) have the professional equipment and experienced personnel they need to process grain that’s been crushed to a point where a stuck mash is a distinct possibility in less ideal situations.We homebrewers get whatever equipment we can afford,and our experience comes more often than not from making mistakes and learning from them.

Right, right. look I think you are missing many points.
I did not speak to probrewers equip or process perse I could have left my post at just the photo emphasizing one of the optimal crush examples.
But I included this final information as a general heads up that 2-5 points of roller adjustment one way or another is not a be all end all. Because as shown in the charts you as a homebrewer can also find instead of 94% for both really coarse and towards finer grinds you can very well average for sure 70 if not 80+% with either grind and should never have mash set or lauter problems was the point to take away.

The only reason if strictly crush related issue you pose your grind would need to contain 15-20% flour which would be awful unusual for the average two roller grain mill like they use unless they are to set to the “teeth” or you had some adjunct/s in said grist you haven’t mentioned. Usually they are running so much grain through the shipping mills that if anything the gap would tend to open after time. They have stated to me a few times that “someone” was checking the gap in the warehouse occasionally but that was back in 2008 too…

Additionally the final info on the page shows it could be quite possible your problem is only process related. I am sure you have considered that already but one thing that makes me wonder is you had “fines” or porridge under the manifold or at the bottom of the tun/ etc… Did you stir and vourlauf each time you made a sparge addition if batch sparging? Or stir/vourlauf/ and or cut the grainbed if fly sparging?
Or did you simply start runoff? If you did either of the first two then the “Fines” would be re suspended on the top or homogenized more throughout the grain bed not laying on the bottom of the tun or if you started the runoff to fast if fly sparging that could have caused the surge of any flour in a grist to muck up the works right away… Many times depending on your actual grist makeup you may have needed ricehulls anyway to create a more open grainbed. I can sympathize if it was too fine. But in all the years I have done business with NB the worst case scenario has always been a less than optimal crush where I could see tons of uncrushed fractions of grain and low flour, So for about 6 months in 2011 I double crushed and saw no lauter issues and then they put new rollers in and finally locked the adjustment so now I only need one crush again.

As stated diagnose the next crush if you reorder and if too far one way or another, you can still utilize the grain via extra crushing or rice hulls and /or other methods and speak to NB afterwards and they usually are pretty friendly regarding the issue. If unsure drop a shot of the crush on here and any of us would be happy to give you feedback.

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