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Step by step planning

So I plan on going all-grain in the next month or so and started to do a bunch of research. I really like to get an idea of what I’m going to do well before I do it so I can hopefully flush out any questions that might come up during the process beforehand.

I read through How to Brew for a second time and read through Denny’s page a few times as well. Here are the steps with intermittent questions throughout (in blue). Please let me know if I’m skipping anything or am doing anything completely wrong. These steps are modeled after Denny’s batch sparge method.

collecting a total of 6.5 gallons pre-boil
1 )heat 3.25 gallons of water to 160 degrees
2 )add 3.25 gallons of 160 desgree water and add then grains

    [color=#0000FF]-when do I add my water adjustment additives? -I've read that preheating the mash tun if very useful here. What temp should I use for preheating and should I just heat extra strike water for this?[/color]
3 )stir till temp is around 152 (add hot water if it drops below), close the lid and let it sit for 60 minutes. 4 )start heating sparge water (3.25 gal) toward the end of this 60min.
    -what temp am i shooting for here? BrewSmith2 recommends 168 but I have no idea why
5 )add 1g of water per 10lb of grain to compensate for grain absorption [color=#0000FF]
    -whats the temp of this water? -do i take this from my sparge water? -Should this water have additives for flavor or ph?
[/color] 6 )vorlauf till grain bed is set and drain the wort into the brew kettle 7 )add sparge water to the mash tun 8 )vorlauf until grain bed set then drain into BK 9 )measure total volume and pre-boil gravity to calculate efficiency. [color=#0000FF]
    -I assume its probably best to let this cool closer to room temp so I don't have to adjust for temp -What do I do if gravity is too low? Add DME at the end of the boil to compensate?
[/color] 10 )Start the boil.

2a.) I add them after I mash in
2b.) I used to preheat but decided it was an extra step that I could skip. I just heat my strike water a bit hotter. How much hotter will depend on your system. It took me 2-3 experimental brews to get it right on. Even when it was off, it was not a big deal.
4.) Especially if you’re batch sparging, heat your sparge water to 1850190F. That will get your grainbed up to the 160s.
5a,b,c.) Uh, just forget this…it makes no sense. Maybe they’re talking about mashout, but that’s unnecessary.
7.) stir well! (you didn’t ask, but you didn’t mention stirring)
9a.) yes
9b.) yes

[quote=“Denny”]
5a,b,c.) Uh, just forget this…it makes no sense. Maybe they’re talking about mashout, but that’s unnecessary.[/quote]

Thanks for the response Denny.

Regarding the above quote I was referring to this step from your page. This quote is taken from your example

So you are saying this step is unnecessary? If so, how do I compensate for the loss of wort to absorption by the grain?

[quote=“mattnaik”]Regarding the above quote I was referring to this step from your page. This quote is taken from your example

So you are saying this step is unnecessary? If so, how do I compensate for the loss of wort to absorption by the grain?[/quote]

I have GOT to rewrite that!

Yeah, it’s unnecessary. I wrote that back when I thought mashout had a benefit to it and was using a lower mash ratio. These days, I mash with between 1.6-2 qt./lb. which gets me pretty close to 1/2 my total boil volume. Then I soarge with enough water to get to boil volume. It’s WAY easier that way and equally effective.

If you are using Beersmith 2, it would already be compensating for absorbtion.

Use your first few batches to get an idea of your overall efficiency - eveyone’s will be slightly diferent. Once you have a basic idea of this, Beersmith will do a pretty good job of taking everything like this into account for you.

I took Denny’s advice last ime I brewed and split my mash and sparge water volumes evenly. Worked out very well. Had do some temp adjusting on the fly to get my strike on target, but other than that, it makes things pretty simple.

[quote=“Brew Meister Smith”]
I took Denny’s advice last ime I brewed and split my mash and sparge water volumes evenly. Worked out very well. Had do some temp adjusting on the fly to get my strike on target, but other than that, it makes things pretty simple.[/quote]

So did you do something like this?

(final boil volume + grain absorption amount)/2

That makes things pretty simple

[quote=“mattnaik”][quote=“Brew Meister Smith”]
I took Denny’s advice last ime I brewed and split my mash and sparge water volumes evenly. Worked out very well. Had do some temp adjusting on the fly to get my strike on target, but other than that, it makes things pretty simple.[/quote]

So did you do something like this?

(final boil volume + grain absorption amount)/2

That makes things pretty simple[/quote]

I wouldn’t do that. I mash with whatever ratio I like to use…usually around 1.6 qt./lb., often up to 2 qty./lb. Then measure how much wort you get when you run off the mash. Subtract that from the boil volume you want. The answer is how much sparge water to use. Do that a few times to collect figures on mash losses. etc. That will make it easier to calculate water volumes in the future.

Regarding what Brew Meister Smith said, are you saying equal amount of runoff from mash and sparge or equal amounts of strike and sparge water?

[quote=“mattnaik”]So did you do something like this?

(final boil volume + grain absorption amount)/2

That makes things pretty simple[/quote]

What Denny suggests would be the safe bet. But what I did was just add up all the volumes given by Beersmith and split them in two between the mash and sparge. Seemed to work fairly well.

My only mistake there was not accounting for extra cold water I added at mash in to bring down my strike temp. Since I usually also leave a few extra liters of water in my kettle above the amounts given from the program, I ended up with a much higher pre-boil volume than desired.

But that was just an oversight on my part. With my setup, If I add 4-5 liters extra above what Beersmith gives me, I almost always land on target.

Again, that is just what I find works for me.

Equal amounts of runoff, not the initial water you use. And even that’s not a real big deal. As long as your 2 run offs are within a gal. or so of each other, it’s close enough. I do it that way nearly every brew and average 83% effieincy.

Equal amounts of runoff, not the initial water you use. And even that’s not a real big deal. As long as your 2 run offs are within a gal. or so of each other, it’s close enough. I do it that way nearly every brew and average 83% effieincy.[/quote]

In fact what I tend to do simply to add up volumes given in Beersmith for strike / mashout / sparge and split in two. Usually add a few extra liters at the end.

Denny’s meathod seems more correct, but I have tended to have pretty good results in hitting my targets. Not with 83% efficiency though.

So let’s say i calculate incorrectly and have too much runoff. What are my options? Boil it longer to bring my volume down or accept lower gravity beer? On my new system, my boiloff is around 0.75gal/hr. So if I have an extra gallon, that’s gonna be a 140 minute boil!

Yep, you’ve got it. If you do it empirically, by measuring the mash runoff, you’ll end up really close. FWIW, my boiloff is about twice what yours is.

That is pretty much it. Happened to me last time when I did not account for additional mash volume. Had I done it the way Denny suggests, the mistake would have corrected itself.

But I would not worry too much about it. Once you get a few brews under your belt, you will get a pretty good feel for it.

Back in the day I used to use the Take a Wild Guess meathod and still came up pretty close to what I was looking to do.

[quote=“Denny”]
Yep, you’ve got it. If you do it empirically, by measuring the mash runoff, you’ll end up really close. [/quote]

Well, I better check the accuracy of the sight glass on my Boilermaker. I might benefit from using a stick with graduated markers on it cause my understanding is they aren’t the most accurate

Follow up question to this, after you’ve figured out your sparge volume how do you guys adjust the amount? My assumption is that I should already have my sparge water measured and heated at this point. Should I always heat up more than I need then measure it out before adding to the mash tun? I realize this will probably become a lot more “automatic” and I’ll be able to estimate pretty well once I’ve done this a few times, but how to you guys suggest I do this my first few times?

[quote=“mattnaik”][quote=“Denny”]
Yep, you’ve got it. If you do it empirically, by measuring the mash runoff, you’ll end up really close. [/quote]

Well, I better check the accuracy of the sight glass on my Boilermaker. I might benefit from using a stick with graduated markers on it cause my understanding is they aren’t the most accurate

Follow up question to this, after you’ve figured out your sparge volume how do you guys adjust the amount? My assumption is that I should already have my sparge water measured and heated at this point. Should I always heat up more than I need then measure it out before adding to the mash tun? I realize this will probably become a lot more “automatic” and I’ll be able to estimate pretty well once I’ve done this a few times, but how to you guys suggest I do this my first few times?[/quote]

You’re absolutely right…after you do it a few times you’ll have the numbers and experience to be able to accurately calculate things in advance. I simply heat up a bit more (like 1/2-1 gal.) water that I anticipate needing. If I don’t have enough I just let the mash sit longer while I heat more up. It’s not gonna hurt anything to mash a few minutes longer.

I always heat a little extra. Once I figure out the volume of my initial runnings, I measure the sparge water to reach my final pre-boil volume. I generally dump in 2-3 quarts more which I use as the basis for my next round of starters. I save quite a bit of DME that way. I generally only need to add a little.

That’s a great idea. Do you compensate for the lower gravity from this by adding a little extra grain or just deal with a little lower gravity in your finished product?

For the first few AG beers, I would just try to focus on understanding how your system works rather than going to extreme steps to get your OG to target. In fact, the most I would suggest you do is add some DME or water to your kettle before the boil if you need to adjust.

For every beer I measure the gravity and volume of the first runnings, the gravity of the second runnings, and the gravity and volume of the total pre-boil. Once you start collecting that data, it makes future planning very easy and the outcome predictable. It also allows you to design partigyle sessions where you can figure out ahead of time how much of the first and second runnings to put into each beer to allow both to hit target exactly.

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