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Post-Brew Day Efficiency Questions

Hello Everyone,

This past weekend I brewed a Kolsch (batch sparging per Denny’s method) and incorporated a couple of changes to my process in hopes of increasing my efficiency. The first change was to narrow the gap setting on my Barley Crusher from the factory setting (.039”) to .035”. Secondly, I changed my water to grain ratio from 1.25 to 1.5. At the end of the day, I saw that my efficiency stayed the same as before, coming in at 77%.

This left me wondering:

I mashed in at 151* and found that I lost 5 degrees (down to 146*) over the course of the 60 minute rest:

  1. Is this end-of-mash reading too low and might it have cost me in terms of conversion?
  2. How low is too low for an end of mash temp reading?
  3. Would mashing thicker (1.25 or so) have helped me to retain more heat?
  4. If I increased the ratio to ~1.75, could I expect to see an increase in efficiency, or would this ratio adversely affect the beer (making it too thin, perhaps)?

Concerning the reduction in my grain mill gap:

  1. Should I consider crushing even finer to achieve better efficiency, maybe down to .030”?
  2. How would I know if I’ve set the gap too small?

Lastly, is there anything else I could consider doing to bump up my efficiency?

Thanks in advance for your consideration!

IMO, 77 is pretty damn good. Not seeing the grain after your crush, it’s hard to say if you need to go finer, but finer usually always helps. I usually get high 70s to low 80s efficiency and do a double crush at my LHBS, so mine is very fine. Never had an issue with stuck sparge either.

I say, give it a shot at a finer crush, holding all other things equal so you know whether or not it’s the finer crush that changes the efficiency.

cheers.

Mash ratio doesn’t change a beer’s body, thats strictly a function of mash temp and time, with the caveat that decoctions can change things compared to single infusion or step. Mashing thinner may increase efficiency a bit though. 77% is pretty normal, not sure I’d spend a lot of time trying to squeeze more sugar out of that malt.

Thanks, guys. I think I may leave things as-is and try milling twice, just to see what happens…

I understand that many on these threads are proponents of the finer grind but I tend not to agree with that. I’ve found, and I believe that data confirms, that the key to achieving higher efficiency WITHOUT sacrificing the wort quality is by reducing the rate of flow during extraction. I personally gained 12% points simply by doubling my run-off time. Pulverizing the grist will definitely help your extraction efficiency…it will increase the extraction of EVERYTHING…including the unwanted compounds. Sure there’s the argument about mash filters and 100% efficiency by the bigger brewhouses. However, these guys/gals also pitch the perfect qty of yeast into a well oxygenated wort, have vigorous fermentation, condition, chill-proof and then filter or centrifuge the product. It’s amazing how much bad stuff comes out of the product when you chill it to 31F and then DE filter it. I believe in the home brew philosophy of making great beer with minimal equipment…It’s just that, as a former brewer, i don’t agree that it should take eons to make great beer. There numerous posts speaking of how the beer was great at 4 months. In the industry, unless it is something of high gravity, 4 month is OLD. As home brewers we are waiting around for all the bad stuff to coalesce and drop to the bottom of the package, then it is great. I believe we can be making better beer that can be consumed earlier by refining our processes with the same rudimentary equipment.

Slow down your run-off…Treat your sparge water for lighter beers (all beers in my mind). Don’t put all the junk in the fermenter, vorlauf for glossy wort, boil strongly, oxygenate, pitch enough healthy yeast, rack off the yeast, condition cool for several days and chill-proof before packaging. There is a reason the big brewers all of this do this…adding steps doesn’t save them any money.

I agree that none of these steps are really necessary for great beer (except the yeast ones), this just makes the beer great sooner, before it starts to go stale. I’m sorry but I’ve drank way too many ‘aged’ homebrews (and commercial brews for that matter) that reek and taste of trans-2-nonenal, or stronger examples that have the sherry like melanoidin oxidation.

Anyway there is my rant…we love beer and we all make good beer…so let’s just make better beer…Slow Down The Run-Off

When you say slow the run off how long are you talking about in minutes per gallon collected? Just reviewing my session notes from my last brew it too me about 13 minutes to collect 5.25 gallons from the mash and about 18 minutes to collect 7.75 gallons from the sparge. Do you consider 2.5 minutes per gallon fast, medium, or slow?

While we are on the subject I typically chill ~50F or so straight from the boil pot to the primary with my Turbo CFC Chiller. I have a ton of cold break that settles down as it ferments, any thoughts on that process?

Thanks
John

Double the amount of time…you are running off at about the same rate I used to. I takes me about 40-45 min to run-off 7.75 gals. I make up that time in the conversion…I only rest for 30min and always have full conversion. I use a fairly coarse grist and achieve 85-90% efficiency on average. You will get at least a 7-10% gain. Run your next batch with the same calculations as always. If you were shooting for a kettle-full SG of say 1.040, you’ll achieve more like 1.044. If this case is true, then reformulate your grist bills for future brews to accommodate the new figures.

Your knock-out procedure as described is sound. We want lots of cold break…that means you took care of a bunch of polyphenol - protein complexes that now will not make it to the package. However, if you are chilling down to 50F for ale fermentation, you’re psyche’n out your yeast. 2-3F below target fermentation temp is ideal.

Sorry,not trying to through a turd in your punch bowl, but these don’t mean anything to me.

[quote=“troutguy”] I personally gained 12% points simply by doubling my run-off time. …Slow Down The Run-Off. Pulverizing the grist will definitely help your extraction efficiency…it will increase the extraction of EVERYTHING…including the unwanted compounds.

[/quote]

12% of what? What was your beginning point? If you were in the 70s, you’d now be 78 to 87% efficient? If so, that’s great but is also consistant with those that run-off normally.

[quote=“troutguy”] … Pulverizing the grist will definitely help your extraction efficiency…it will increase the extraction of EVERYTHING…including the unwanted compounds.

[/quote]

how do/did you measure this, “increase the extraction of everything…”?

cheers.

[quote=“troutguy”]I’ve found, and I believe that data confirms, that the key to achieving higher efficiency WITHOUT sacrificing the wort quality is by reducing the rate of flow during extraction.[/quote]The OP is batch-sparging, so flowrate out of the MT is a non-factor - all the wort is the same gravity throughout.

How does a fine grind negatively affect wort quality? I don’t buy that without an explanation.

So are you saying I would get 92% if I mash for 30 minutes and take 30 minutes to drain? My normal brewhouse efficiency without trying any tricks is 80%. I’m still not seeing how that works…

John

The finer the grind the greater the surface area of husk material in contact with the liquor/wort…gook is extracted from the material via 3 main catalysts…temperature, pH and surface area. The crud is ALWAYS extracted…if you raise temp above the high 170s, let pH rise above 6 or increase the surface area of husk material you catalyze the reaction and extract a lot more. Additionally, increasing flow increases the pressure differential between wort pressure above the plates and that below. This causes a siphon on the bed and this siphon increases extraction from the medium…try sucking on a tea bag. Analogy: put whole tea leaves in hot water or shred the tea leaves and suck hot water through them…

12% of what? What was your beginning point? If you were in the 70s, you’d now be 78 to 87% efficient? If so, that’s great but is also consistant with those that run-off normally.
[/quote]
This was a long time ago…I went from around 75% to 87%…after I started working in the industry and got educated I adjusted my process at home to mimic that at the brewery…My point is that high efficiency is attainable without tightening the grind.

how do/did you measure this, “increase the extraction of everything…”?
[/quote]
I did not measure this…I learned it from Siebel. Our QC/QA was adamant about sparge pH, run-off rate and last runnings gravity. See above for other data.

The whole point was to exhibit that you don’t have to crush finer to increase efficiency…whenever I read (in the forums) about someone struggling with poor yield, the majority of the replies say crush it up tighter…that works but it does sacrifice wort quality. The batch sparge point I’m not sure of, but a faster flow fractures surface tension for sure…

Just trying to add some stuff that nobody really talks about…Hoping to help everyone make better beer.

Have you calculated your lauter efficiency? If you were getting full conversion to begin with then the only thing you could do to increase efficiency is to increase the pre-boil volume. http://braukaiser.com/wiki/index.php?ti … Efficiency

Have you calculated your lauter efficiency? If you were getting full conversion to begin with then the only thing you could do to increase efficiency is to increase the pre-boil volume. http://braukaiser.com/wiki/index.php?ti … Efficiency[/quote]
Measuring for full conversion is still a question mark for me – how do I test for this? When I posted, I wondered if the drop in mash temp (151 down to 146) had possibly inhibited conversion.

To check conversion, measure the gravity of the wort during the mash. There’s a chart on that page that gives the potential gravity as a function of liquor:grist ratio.

That isn’t an option after the fact, but Kai also has a spreadsheet that will let you calculate your lauter efficiency. If it’s close to your overall brewhouse efficiency then you had nearly complete conversion.

It’s possible that the low temperature kept you from getting complete conversion, but I wouldn’t assume you have a problem without evidence. 77% is reasonable efficiency for an average-gravity beer when batch sparging.

I’m gonna play devil’s advocate and ask- Why do want higher efficiency? A consistent efficiency is a great thing, whether its 68% or 80%; with consistency you can design/adjust recipes and hit the OG you seek.

A fair question! I’m not necessarily on a quest to reach the 90’s, but posted when I tried crushing a little finer and mashing a little thinner, but saw no change in efficiency. My understanding was that doing so should have added a few percentage points. At this point I can see myself being perfectly happy in the upper 70’s in a consistent way, but am interested in better wrapping my brain around how process affects my brew.

Have you tried mashing for a little longer? I know everyone says much of the conversion happens early but maybe it will help.

Ok, you fly sparge and I can understand the flow rate it very important and linked to tun design as well as the other things you mention when you fly sparge.

As for grinding very fine with the ripping tearing hobby mills with all those nasty teeth on them I have to agree that that will result in smaller bits of hulls with more surface area to extract all the nasties out unless you resort to tricks like pre-conditioning I think they call it.

As for brew house efficiency with 5 gallon batches the ratio of sugar left behind in some designs can be huge and thus give poor efficiency. Understanding your system that you use is the key to knowing what you can get for brew house efficiency. When one brewer says I got 70% and the next one says I got 80% there is no way to compare the grind unless you know how much each brewer leaves in their system.

Thanks
John

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