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Question about big beers and efficiency

grains mashing

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#1 thool

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Posted 19 March 2012 - 04:07 AM

I made a batch that called for 21 lbs of grain. When I collected 7.5 gallons (normal volume for a 5 gal batch for me), the runnings from the mash tun were still 1.043. For maximum extraction, I collected another 2.5 gallons and had to boil much longer.Is there another way to get the sugars out of this much grain, and keep the boil volume low enough to not warrant a long boil?

#2 No Party JKor

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Posted 19 March 2012 - 06:36 AM

Not really, you just don't have as much sparge water to work with when making big beers. If you're fly sparging, sparge really, really slow. You could do a really thick mash, but obviously that creates a host of other problems.What kind of efficiency are you getting? My efficiencies usually go from low/mid-80s to mid-70s when going from an average gravity up to near 1.090. I think that's acceptable. If it was dropping to 60% I would be trying to find ways to improve the efficiency.

#3 MtnBrewer

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Posted 19 March 2012 - 07:40 AM

Can't you do a no sparge for the big beer and then sparge for a session style? Like, no sparge for a RIS, then sparge for an Irish dry stout.

Yes, that's called a parti-gyle. Instead of trying to increase your efficiency for the big beer, you just make another smaller beer with the sugar you've got left over.

#4 SchwanzBrewer

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Posted 19 March 2012 - 07:40 AM

I don't know what my first runnings are at for my 10 gallon batches but it is thick. Usually I have about 20 pounds in the mash tun and I batch sparge it. I add 9 gallons of water and end up with about 6 to 6.5 gallons of wort. (Batch Sparging). Then I add enough to get 13 gallons after the sparge.I was generally getting around 72 - 75% efficiency (measured as preboil OG/calc OG based on max yield. Then I decided to start doing something I did back when I was extract brewing, using 2 gallons of purified deionized water along with my treated filtered tap water (4 gal total out of 13-14 for a 10 gal batch) My mash efficiency went up to 90% after that. I don't have any PH testers, but my guess is that the PH was wrong. The last 4 brews have all been in the 90% range for efficiency based on preboil OG. I had to run the numbers about 10 times on different days to make sure I didn't make a mistake. So my guess is either your PH is off, or you aren't rinsing the grains right if you are fly sparging. Maybe your refractometer or hydrometer is off?Cheers,Rich

#5 No Party JKor

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Posted 19 March 2012 - 08:37 AM

pH will affect efficiency quite a lot. You must have screwed up water, Rich. You should get it analyzed (and buy some ColorpHast strips ferchissakes!).

#6 SchwanzBrewer

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Posted 19 March 2012 - 08:41 AM

pH will affect efficiency quite a lot. You must have screwed up water, Rich. You should get it analyzed (and buy some ColorpHast strips ferchissakes!).

I keep meaning to, but it falls by the wayside. Either way I think my results say that I'm doing it right now. I doubt I'll get any better than the 92% I got on Friday.

#7 davelew

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Posted 19 March 2012 - 12:38 PM

So my guess is either your PH is off, or you aren't rinsing the grains right if you are fly sparging. Maybe your refractometer or hydrometer is off?

The most common cause of low efficiency is the crushing of the grains, in my experience.

#8 thool

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Posted 19 March 2012 - 05:44 PM

I can use up to 10 lbs of grain and still get mid 80s for efficiency. Once I start exceeding 10 lbs or so, my efficiency drops....there is still sugar in them thar grains. The only way to get more sugar into my boil pot would be to continue to sparge and exceed my normal pre-boil volume.Maybe next time I'll cheat and use parti-gyle for the number #2 beer, and supplement both that and my primary beer with DME to reach the proper OG.

#9 MtnBrewer

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Posted 20 March 2012 - 07:32 AM

I can use up to 10 lbs of grain and still get mid 80s for efficiency. Once I start exceeding 10 lbs or so, my efficiency drops....there is still sugar in them thar grains. The only way to get more sugar into my boil pot would be to continue to sparge and exceed my normal pre-boil volume.

As an engineer, sometimes I see it as an affront to my professional sensibilities to leave sugar behind. You've hit the nail on the head here; unless you resort to a parti-gyle brew, the only way to improve efficiency is to sparge more and boil longer. [Provided you've already optimized the rest of your process like crush, water, etc.] However, if you really think about it, leaving those sugars behind isn't that big of a deal. So another option is to simply eat the loss and add more grain to compensate. To me it's worse to miss my gravity than to have a low efficiency. On a big beer, I will usually plan on an efficiency hit and adjust my grain bill accordingly.

#10 thool

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Posted 20 March 2012 - 09:55 AM

However, if you really think about it, leaving those sugars behind isn't that big of a deal. So another option is to simply eat the loss and add more grain to compensate. To me it's worse to miss my gravity than to have a low efficiency. On a big beer, I will usually plan on an efficiency hit and adjust my grain bill accordingly.

So there is a practical limit as to how much sugar I can get out of the grain, if I collect a fixed amount. I'm pretty sure that I will never see an 8 gallon pre-boil OG of any more than 1.085, no matter how much grain I put in my mash tun. There is no physical way to get any more sugar out (I measure pH, slow, fly sparge, good crush, etc) while collecting only 8 gallons.In this case, I "cheated" by adding DME to the boil and collecting more runnings to boil. Another cheat may be to collect just the first 4 gallons from the mash tun (parti-gyle the remainder), and then repeat this. So it would be 2 4-gal sparge sessions, where I'm taking and combining only the heads for this beer. The parti-gyle runnings can be combined for a session beer. That would be a lot of grain and time!

#11 No Party JKor

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Posted 20 March 2012 - 10:24 AM

If everything else is optimized...more grain, thicker mash.

#12 porter

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Posted 22 March 2012 - 09:05 PM

To me, I've decided it isn't a big deal at all, because the more grain I use, the more spent grain my livestock has to eat. It isn't going to waste at my place.

Yeah, I just roll with it. My spent grain gets composted. On barleywines and such, I get in the 65-70% range. The extra cost from "lost" efficiency is minimal. I've never tried partigyle, but keep meaning to. Maybe when I make barleywine again this fall.

#13 Buzz Buzzard

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Posted 23 March 2012 - 04:08 AM

ive been thinking on how to get over this hump it seems for me two mash sessions may be in order. perhaps even a second cooler could be needed in my case for my barley wine attempt? i use a 48qt ice cube with a ss braid.

#14 No Party JKor

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Posted 23 March 2012 - 06:14 AM

ive been thinking on how to get over this hump it seems for me two mash sessions may be in order. perhaps even a second cooler could be needed in my case for my barley wine attempt? i use a 48qt ice cube with a ss braid.

5 or 10 gal batches? I can get 1.075-1.080 out of my 50 qt cooler for a 12 gallons of finished wort. You should be able to get 5 gallons of barleywine from a 48 qt. cooler unless your are going for insane gravity. I actually just made a wee heavy a few months ago and I got 8-9 gallons of finished wort at 1.096.

#15 davelew

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Posted 23 March 2012 - 10:24 AM

So there is a practical limit as to how much sugar I can get out of the grain

Yes. If you mash at 1 quart per pound, the theoretical limit is that the first runnings will be at 1.152. That assumes 38 ppppg and 100% mash conversion efficiency. If you sparge with another quart per pound, the theoretical limit is 1.076.



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