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Vorlauf with chugger

Just looking back at my last brew, trying to figure out where I can improve or where I lost efficiency. I always despised vorlaufing, but would do it because it’s very necessary. I now have a chugger pump that can recirc the sweet wort for me. That being said, I have been reading that I may need to slow down the flow?

I normally open up the necessary valves, turn on the pump, and the hose leading to the top of the MT had one of those jet-sparge connections at the end. This prevents tunneling because it spreads out the returning sweet wort rather than just sending it straight down in a stream.

I used to have a ball valve on the pump outlet, but I took it off and just replaced it with a throughput connector. If I am spreading out the returning wort, and I don’t have issues with any solids in the pump, is it ok to run the return at full speed? I don’t see why not, but just curious. If this is OK, I may have just not vorlaufed for long enough. The wort was clear-ish… Not my best but not muddy looking either. At this point I’m looking at any possibility, besides the obvious human errors, to find places to improve.

You’ll risk compacting the grain bed and end up with a stuck mash if you run at full speed. It some cases, you could potentially collapse your false bottom.

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Ok that’s something I will make sure doesn’t happen.

But obviously I got all my liquid out from the mash, and didn’t collapse the bottom… But what you’re saying is, full speed wouldn’t cause lower efficiency? What about if I don’t vorlauf long enough… Could that impact the efficiency? It was always my understanding that vorlaufing was just to reduce grain solids in the boil, so I can’t see how it could have an impact on gravity, but I’ve been known to be wrong many times before.

Vorlauf could help with efficiency, assuming you’re not getting channeling. It does help clear the wort runoff into the kettle. I vorlauf for most of my mash, or until I think I’m fully converted. I usually let it rest for the first 15 minutes, give it a good stir to ensure even temperature throughout the mash, then I start the vorlauf.

Ok. I normally let the mash run a full hour, stirring at least 3 times if not 4 times throughout. Then I normally vorlauf for 10-15 minutes or so, until it looks good. Then move first runnings to kettle.

Then I batch sparge, let it sit for about 30 minutes, stirring once or twice. Then vorlauf again, 10-15 minutes again, then move to kettle to boil.

I will install a HERMS setup eventually, rendering lots of this moot. But for now, like I said, I’m trying to see what things I should do differently next time to increase my yield. I really went under the mark on this last brew, I compensated with some boiled/cooled DME, but I worry the flavors will be muted and all you’ll taste is alcohol heat

Now this has been a long time ago for me…
Yes to mashing and stirring… Setting the bed took about 4-8 cycles(vorlaufing) using a half gallon grant… Rinsing the grain was like 45 minutes… I would throttle the output down… And the hot liquor coming in was kept just so I could see it “trying” to cover the grain bed…
Now there should be many variations to this… A paradigm to secondary…
Sneezles61

First, Are you talking about brewhouse efficiency or mash efficiency? What was it before vs. now?

Secondly, usually crush is where you lose efficiency. This is where I would start.

Thirdly, these are the challenges of a new system.

Vorlauf only needs to be done until the wort is clear. Too fast and as @voltron said you’ll compact the bed and get channeling. In your case I don’t think it would have an effect on efficiency as you then batch sparged. If you were fly sparging I would encourage you to look here.

If you vorlauf throughout the mash your crush may actually be too fine. For a static mash (which I believe you do) and a batch sparge you can get away with a little finer crush.

Regardless, I would still put a ball valve on your pump output and not vorlauf at full speed.

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Me take about 34 min to collect my wort. Turn my pump as slow as possible. Me got ball valve on my mash tun. So i can sort of control the flow. Me dont have false botom but bazooka. Me happy. Seems to work

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I would say I’m worried about brewhouse efficiency. Getting much lower OG than expected, I always worry about the resulting taste.

I admit, I don’t mill my grain. I buy it already crushed for me (from NB or LHBS). Granted it can be different every time, I wouldn’t necessarily point to this as my problem.

I don’t vorlauf throughout the mash. I only vorlauf at the end of the mash or after the batch sparge is done.

I will definitely put the ball valve back on. I know I made some human errors, mostly being in a rush rather than taking my time… But unless my water wasn’t hot enough… I can’t figure it out. If vorlaufing shorter doesn’t have too much impact, and batch sparging 15 minutes instead of 30 wouldn’t have impacted it much either… Then all I can think of is I collected too much preboil, which diluted it with more water/less sugars post sparge (I accounted for the boiloff I used to get, but the new system boils less off). Which again would be human error and easily fixed next time. I just want to see where else I could have an error so I don’t repeat

Somewhere in all these books/texts… there is also a determined point at which you should stop rinsing/collecting wort…I thought it to be 1.007… Is it a contributer? Well, it could be…
If you have a grain bill set for 1.060 and it’s designed for 5 gallons… So you need to collect 7 gallons for volume… Yes… It’s a big game changer…
Here’s my way of thinking…
11 lbs gist… Into a 5 gallon batch… 1.061
Same grist into a 7 gallon batch… 1.044…
Then… How much are you boiling off? Only you can find that answer…
So this is why you take notes… Once you can correlate the amount of grist to amount of water to how much boiled off to what is going to be left behind through the brewing/fermenting process… You’ll know how to plan for each brew day… I hope this helps you find your answer…
Sneezles61

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Low OG is mash efficiency. Crush as @loopie_beer pointed out is the first place to look. Only reason I didn’t mention that in my post on the other thread where this was discussed is that you never had an issue prior to your new setup.

Vorlauf won’t improve your efficiency with a batch sparge. I’d venture to say even recirculating won’t improve it. Your issue is IMHO process related, in that you need to design your recipes specifically for your new system based upon the results of your prior brew sessions by adjusting the efficiency level used when creating your recipes.

There’s no quick fix for this. You need time, brews and experience on your new equipment. Put in the work with a few brew sessions and you’ll figure it out.

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I agree with @dannyboy58 in terms of it taking time.
Describe your batch sparge process. Batch sparging shouldn’t take 30 mins.

Edit: I would certainly look at crush as the culprit. This can vary widely from each store. Plus crush is VERY system specific.

Really? I read it once to let it sit for 30 minutes, that’s the only reason I do it. I’ve also read to do a little water, vorlauf after 10 minutes, then empty to kettle. Repeat as necessary until you have the correct amount of pre boil. I was once told a rule of thumb was the quantity of sparge water should be close to the full amount of pre boil you want. So to collect a total of 6 gallons, add 6 gallons of sparge water. That felt like overkill, since I usually only need to collect 2.5-3 gallons after sparge, so I definitely don’t use 6. I do the 1 gallon of strike water for every 3 pounds of grain rule on average

All I do is empty my HLT onto the top of the grain inside the MT. Stir up generously with my mash paddle and then start a 30 minute timer. Along the line, stir at least once more. Then I vorlauf, and empty the liquid out of the MT through the false bottom. I need to batch sparge because I can’t open my HLT or MT valves partially to match flow rates, I can only open them fully or not at all.

With batch sparging there is no need to wait. Add your first sparge water addition, stir like mad, vorlauf, and run off. Repeat.
Can’t help you with the formula/math as I don’t batch sparge. @denny has a Complete site dedicated time batch sparging.

Also since you can’t control your valves you’ll need to control the pump with a Manual ball valve on your output. Unless you can figure out how to add a VDF to the pump… :wink:

I do technically own a vfd that I could possibly use, but I would be afraid of hurting the pump to be honest. I highly doubt chuggers are inverter duty motors.

But thank you for the information. I will go back to being more meticulous with my note taking, and I will put the manual ball valve back on the pump outlet.

No offense, but that’s terrible advice. To collect 7 gal. of runoff takes me 15 min. from the time I start the mash runoff til the time I finish the sparge runoff. My efficiency is in the mid 80s.

haha no offense taken. I will gladly stop this method, it will save me a lot of time on brew day. I know it varies from recipe to recipe, but how much sparge water do you use on average to collect 7 gallons of pre-boil?

Hey @denny good to hear from you, hope you’re doing well in all this mess…

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Thanks, much. Being retired and living in the country, not a whole lot has changed for me

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