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Griff097

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I have serched and read loads about efficiency and come across another term brewhouse efficiency and in an effort to improve mine, instead of enlightening myself I am getting more confused.

In essence I have brewed all grain kits on an all in one machine, Klarstein, which developed some faults so I got a Brewzilla, thinking newer would be better, the software is better but I am getting much lower efficiency and constantly stuck sparging with pre crushed grain, not the extra fine crush either and finding the long thin malt pipe harder to stir the mash and unstick sparges, is it worth adding rice husks to the mash.

The first three brews I did with the Klarstein abart from stupid mistakes like allowing too much for boil off and endind with oer diluted wort and not a big enough FV to put it in, Doh, went well and everyone who has had some says it's good beer and way better than they make with kits and the FG was a little under what was expected but close enough I was not too bothered.

Now with the Brewzilla which from reading other posts I left the fine mesh out of the malt pipe to avoid problems mashing in and sparging, but had a nightmare with the last two brews, ruined my Impy stout, probably going to come in at 6.5% instead of 12% and an Ace of Spades Porter low 3% instead of 4.8%, brewed a Mild that was bang on expected readings so I am really wondering what I am missing or doing wrong to improve?

I am using the same process, timings have been as per the data sheets with the kits, mainly from Geterbrewed and a couple from MaltMiller, but as I have been so far off I aimed for a 2 hr mash on the London Porter I did yesterday, 6.5kg grain bill, 20L strike water at 63 degrees, which with stuck sparges ended up closer to three hours, sparged up to boil volume plus boil off and losses which is above the 30L markings to get 25L in the FV, boied for 1.5 hrs and still ended up 5 points off the reading for OG, I am at a loss to know how to improve what I am doing!
 

foxy

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You have got to know how your equipment works, as well as your method.
Know what your evaporation loss is, make a measuring stick from a length of dowel, mark it off at 2 litre increments. Test your boil off with water to give you a rough idea. Fill with 12 litres of water boil for 1/2 hour let it cool back down to ambient, take a reading, then multiply the loss by 2 to give you your loss in a one hour boil. Know what you are going to lose to grain assume the first time (1kg/litre) but use your dip stick to measure more accurately. Strike water in litres. The level of wort right before the boil less 4% expansion subtracted from the strike water volume will give you your loss to grain. Use that same measurement before the boil and measure again directly after the boil that will give you your accurate boil off.
Loss to trub/ deadspace you will have to know that also. The pH can make a slight difference to conversion but not enough to give you the figures you have been experiencing.
Just for your own piece of mind also check the temperature readout on the Brewzilla with a reliable thermometer.
Then you can start to work out what your efficiency is, sparging correctly will make a huge difference, most home brewers don't have the patience for a sparge in excess of 1 hour.
 

Griff097

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You have got to know how your equipment works, as well as your method.
Know what your evaporation loss is, make a measuring stick from a length of dowel, mark it off at 2 litre increments. Test your boil off with water to give you a rough idea. Fill with 12 litres of water boil for 1/2 hour let it cool back down to ambient, take a reading, then multiply the loss by 2 to give you your loss in a one hour boil. Know what you are going to lose to grain assume the first time (1kg/litre) but use your dip stick to measure more accurately. Strike water in litres. The level of wort right before the boil less 4% expansion subtracted from the strike water volume will give you your loss to grain. Use that same measurement before the boil and measure again directly after the boil that will give you your accurate boil off.
Loss to trub/ deadspace you will have to know that also. The pH can make a slight difference to conversion but not enough to give you the figures you have been experiencing.
Just for your own piece of mind also check the temperature readout on the Brewzilla with a reliable thermometer.
Then you can start to work out what your efficiency is, sparging correctly will make a huge difference, most home brewers don't have the patience for a sparge in excess of 1 hour.

Thanks for that there are some things I can look at, I have worked out the boil off and dead space measurements and calibrated the temp with another thermometer, it's a degree higher than it reads, so if your sparging say 10 litres it should be added very slowly then, do you squeeze the grain at al as I have read very conflicting advice about that too?
 

darrellm

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An alternative view - just work out what actual efficiency you are getting, and add a bit more grain to compensate. It costs pence.

That's the problem with AG kits, they're made up to a recipe with as assumed efficiency, most brewers I know all get different efficiencies due to equipment, method etc. so they'll never all get the same OG advertised by the kit. You can spend a lot of time and effort chasing efficiency, like I did, when all you're saving is a few pence in grain costs. Just buy separate grains rather than kits and size accordingly.
 

foxy

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Squeezing is debatable, whether or not tannins go through, I think the general concensus is it is fine.
The slower the sparge the better the efficiency, you have to prevent the sparge water from channeling through the grain bed, get it right and you are capable of mid 90% efficiency. But don't let that be your goal use a method which suits you and gives you consistent results. You can always adjust your grain bill when you are happy with what you are doing.
 

DocAnna

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Just a thought but you might want to check your source water pH as that could be affecting your efficiency if it's a consistent issue. I also reckon high ABV brews in the brewzilla are challenging for a 23 litre batch, a 12% imperial stout would be nigh impossible without reducing the batch volume. I've just had a look at an example 12% stout and I'd need to take the final batch volume down to 16 litres to work within the mash thickness efficiencies possible on the brewzilla.

Anna
 

Griff097

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Squeezing is debatable, whether or not tannins go through, I think the general concensus is it is fine.
The slower the sparge the better the efficiency, you have to prevent the sparge water from channeling through the grain bed, get it right and you are capable of mid 90% efficiency. But don't let that be your goal use a method which suits you and gives you consistent results. You can always adjust your grain bill when you are happy with what you are doing.
Good article, coves the basics which I had grasped to more in depth, mentioned rice hulls too, do most people use them?

Do you stir the grain bed whilst sparging?

Have a sight problem in tht the Brewzilla is so tall when the malt pipe is lifted that there is not much room to the ceiling, I have to stand on a chair and I am 6'5"Lol

Going to sit it on a Hopup or similar to get it lower but then the screen is too low.
 

Griff097

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Just a thought but you might want to check your source water pH as that could be affecting your efficiency if it's a consistent issue. I also reckon high ABV brews in the brewzilla are challenging for a 23 litre batch, a 12% imperial stout would be nigh impossible without reducing the batch volume. I've just had a look at an example 12% stout and I'd need to take the final batch volume down to 16 litres to work within the mash thickness efficiencies possible on the brewzilla.

Anna
I had to split the batch into two halves and I think thats where I lost a chunk of efficiency on that one, with two dead spaces in two vessels didnt help.
No idea on water PH at the moment, but we do have pretty soft water round here.
 

Griff097

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An alternative view - just work out what actual efficiency you are getting, and add a bit more grain to compensate. It costs pence.

That's the problem with AG kits, they're made up to a recipe with as assumed efficiency, most brewers I know all get different efficiencies due to equipment, method etc. so they'll never all get the same OG advertised by the kit. You can spend a lot of time and effort chasing efficiency, like I did, when all you're saving is a few pence in grain costs. Just buy separate grains rather than kits and size accordingly.
I know my mate has high efficiencies so no kits would suit his three vessel system, I just dont fancy storing loads of different grains and hops when I am brewing various styles all the time.
 

foxy

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Good article, coves the basics which I had grasped to more in depth, mentioned rice hulls too, do most people use them?

Do you stir the grain bed whilst sparging?

Have a sight problem in tht the Brewzilla is so tall when the malt pipe is lifted that there is not much room to the ceiling, I have to stand on a chair and I am 6'5"Lol

Going to sit it on a Hopup or similar to get it lower but then the screen is too low.
I use rice hulls as a medium in hydroponics, I don't use them in my brewing as I do full volume no sparge mash. A word of warning, the rice hulls being sold have never been washed, they get sprayed with fungicides and insecticides and finally a spray with weed killer to kill the rice before harvesting. If you are going to use them wash them first.
No, don't stir the mash before sparging, the return pipe has been removing all the little pieces from the wort and dumping them on top of the grain bed, you don't want them washing back through. Some folk just slice through the top layer with a knife whether this does anything I don't know.
 

Griff097

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An alternative view - just work out what actual efficiency you are getting, and add a bit more grain to compensate. It costs pence.

That's the problem with AG kits, they're made up to a recipe with as assumed efficiency, most brewers I know all get different efficiencies due to equipment, method etc. so they'll never all get the same OG advertised by the kit. You can spend a lot of time and effort chasing efficiency, like I did, when all you're saving is a few pence in grain costs. Just buy separate grains rather than kits and size accordingly.
I have been thinkng about this and how to buy some precrushed and add a bit to each brew, how do you store yours to keep it fresh and do you mill it yourself?
Would something like Marris Otter do for most brews?
 

Griff097

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Just a thought but you might want to check your source water pH as that could be affecting your efficiency if it's a consistent issue. I also reckon high ABV brews in the brewzilla are challenging for a 23 litre batch, a 12% imperial stout would be nigh impossible without reducing the batch volume. I've just had a look at an example 12% stout and I'd need to take the final batch volume down to 16 litres to work within the mash thickness efficiencies possible on the brewzilla.

Anna
I am planning to get a water report done to see if I need more additions than Campden to treat the water, which I guess is likely.

Where did you find the mash thickness information, is it more efficient to have the mash as thick as possible and sparge more or a fuller volume mash and sparge less?

Yesterdays brewday a Speckled Hen clone with only 4kg grain bill and a 520g dme addition at the end of the boil, I mashed in at 1.5L per kg, there is 2l of deadspace and it's 5L per hour boiloff, this was a 90min mash, 90 mins sparging, using the grain bed top plate as a diffuser to sprinkle the water more evenly right up until I was at 32L, after cooling I got 23L in the FV with an OG 1046 instead of the predicted 1052, so that's a lot closer and more in keeping with previous brews if not a slight improvement.

It's strange the Saison and Imperial were so far under expected gravity with the same process, albeit taking twice as much time with the sparge.

The Saison and Impy are very slow fermenting as well at two and three weeks respectively, they seemed to stall but a good shake and raising the temperature has seen them both dropping 2 points in the last week, but both still at 1020, are these styles usually slow fermenters?
 

DocAnna

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Where did you find the mash thickness information, is it more efficient to have the mash as thick as possible and sparge more or a fuller volume mash and sparge less?
I'm no expert but at a theoretical level mash thickness will affect efficiency due to differing activities of the different amylases. At a practical level though, a thicker mash is more difficult to recirculate through and risks there being pockets of dry or drier mash. There are lots of calculators available and lots written about it:
.
However, personally I use brewfather's calculations for mash and sparge volumes with the brewzilla equipment profile. I do keep an eye on the red text next to calculation that describes how much the mash water has had to be reduced by to account for the maximum volume on the brewzilla, and will adjust the batch volume till either there isn't a reduction or it's below a litre which in my view is ok to go up to. As an example, on the thread about the Salt Tram NEIPA I'm planning, the OG I'm aiming for is a whopping 1.075, so I've reduced the batch size to 20 litres, and even at that my water volumes have had to be reduced by 0.86 litres.

Anna
 

darrellm

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I have been thinkng about this and how to buy some precrushed and add a bit to each brew, how do you store yours to keep it fresh and do you mill it yourself?
Would something like Marris Otter do for most brews?
I buy crushed grain about 3 times year, it's bagged and sealed with clips then stored in plastic crates in the spare room wardrobe. It seems to keep fresh.

A stock of Maris Otter is good for topping up kits, and is the base malt I use most of the time. I've never bothered with AG kits, I just keep a stock of the most commonly-used grains: at a minimum Maris Otter, wheat malt, some mid-range Crystal malt and black malt.
 

Griff097

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I'm no expert but at a theoretical level mash thickness will affect efficiency due to differing activities of the different amylases. At a practical level though, a thicker mash is more difficult to recirculate through and risks there being pockets of dry or drier mash. There are lots of calculators available and lots written about it:
.
However, personally I use brewfather's calculations for mash and sparge volumes with the brewzilla equipment profile. I do keep an eye on the red text next to calculation that describes how much the mash water has had to be reduced by to account for the maximum volume on the brewzilla, and will adjust the batch volume till either there isn't a reduction or it's below a litre which in my view is ok to go up to. As an example, on the thread about the Salt Tram NEIPA I'm planning, the OG I'm aiming for is a whopping 1.075, so I've reduced the batch size to 20 litres, and even at that my water volumes have had to be reduced by 0.86 litres.

Anna
I'm not following on altering the water volumes, thanks for the links and advice I will read up later and see if I can get my head around it.
 

Griff097

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I'm no expert but at a theoretical level mash thickness will affect efficiency due to differing activities of the different amylases. At a practical level though, a thicker mash is more difficult to recirculate through and risks there being pockets of dry or drier mash. There are lots of calculators available and lots written about it:
.
However, personally I use brewfather's calculations for mash and sparge volumes with the brewzilla equipment profile. I do keep an eye on the red text next to calculation that describes how much the mash water has had to be reduced by to account for the maximum volume on the brewzilla, and will adjust the batch volume till either there isn't a reduction or it's below a litre which in my view is ok to go up to. As an example, on the thread about the Salt Tram NEIPA I'm planning, the OG I'm aiming for is a whopping 1.075, so I've reduced the batch size to 20 litres, and even at that my water volumes have had to be reduced by 0.86 litres.

Anna
Excellent article I am sure and I did read it, but being dyslexic I cant take it in, stiill don't know wether thick or thin is prefferable, but know where I lie in the mix Lol
 

DocAnna

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Excellent article I am sure and I did read it, but being dyslexic I cant take it in, stiill don't know wether thick or thin is prefferable, but know where I lie in the mix Lol
It is a quite complex article so I wouldn't worry about not taking a good/bad about thick or thin mashes. The short version is that thick mashes tend to be less efficient. Due to the maximum volume that an all in one system can manage to brew, if you have lots of grain then the amount of water for the mash may be reduced to fit the equipment which makes the mash thicker and less efficient. A way around this is to reduce the final volume that is being aimed for in the fermenter which reduces the amount of grain needed and allows more space in the brew system for the water.

For example for my imperial pilsner:

  • If I am trying for 23 litres as a final volume, I require 7.74kg total of malt, and 24.8 litres mash water as any more and the it would be over the overflow pipe of the brewzilla I use. But this is more than 5 litres less than recommended for the mash thickness to be efficient, so I'm unlikely to hit my efficiency targets.
  • If I scale down to aim for 19 litres as a final volume, I use only 6.4kg of malts, but can now fit in 25.7 litres of water which makes the mash thinner and more efficient.

I hope that makes a bit of sense. If you are using a more traditional three vessel set up for mashing and boiling then ignore me as you have different constraints.

Anna
 

Griff097

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It is a quite complex article so I wouldn't worry about not taking a good/bad about thick or thin mashes. The short version is that thick mashes tend to be less efficient. Due to the maximum volume that an all in one system can manage to brew, if you have lots of grain then the amount of water for the mash may be reduced to fit the equipment which makes the mash thicker and less efficient. A way around this is to reduce the final volume that is being aimed for in the fermenter which reduces the amount of grain needed and allows more space in the brew system for the water.

For example for my imperial pilsner:

  • If I am trying for 23 litres as a final volume, I require 7.74kg total of malt, and 24.8 litres mash water as any more and the it would be over the overflow pipe of the brewzilla I use. But this is more than 5 litres less than recommended for the mash thickness to be efficient, so I'm unlikely to hit my efficiency targets.
  • If I scale down to aim for 19 litres as a final volume, I use only 6.4kg of malts, but can now fit in 25.7 litres of water which makes the mash thinner and more efficient.

I hope that makes a bit of sense. If you are using a more traditional three vessel set up for mashing and boiling then ignore me as you have different constraints.

Anna
Thanks for taking the time to break that down for me and it does make more sence, as you mentioned I am using a Brewzilla too.
I have read lots of articles on many aspects of brewing, but as soon as they get technical it goes over my head, I read for three years before I started my first brew after buying eqipment, wanting to be well informed and researched as I can.
But maybe I need to go away and make my own mistakes, surprised how few responses with advice there were on this forum, thank youfor your help.
 

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Another thing you can do to brew higher gravity beers where a system is constrained for space is to divide the grain and mash twice to get the higher efficiency of a thinner mash. I think it's called re-iterative mashing or something similar.

I couldn't believe how easier the process was with 3 kg of grain rather than 6.
 

Griff097

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Another thing you can do to brew higher gravity beers where a system is constrained for space is to divide the grain and mash twice to get the higher efficiency of a thinner mash. I think it's called re-iterative mashing or something similar.

I couldn't believe how easier the process was with 3 kg of grain rather than 6.
That's what I did with the Imperial Stout, I ended up with double the losses which is part of why my efficiency was off.

I agree with you that 6kg is hard work in the Brewzilla, it's easier in the Ace with a bigger diameter tun, 3 would be easier again though 😁
 
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