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Author Replies
ryan
04/12/07 08:14 PM  
all grain gravity problems
On my first all grain this week my efficiency was around 35%.

At first, I attributed the low yield to a coarse grind.

I repeated the exact same batch today with a finer grind and indeed my efficiency jumped to about 48% but this is still terribly low. So what gives?

I just calibrated my thermometer which, come to find out, is off by 12 friggin degrees!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

So if I thought I was mashing at 153 and I now figure i was at 141, would that completely account for the low mash efficiency in a 60 minute mash?

SteveG
04/12/07 10:27 PM  
Re: all grain gravity problems
Did you do an iodine test? Your question may be tough to answer unless one has experience with such cool main mashes, but certainly it would offer some explaination. The temperature of your sparge water could also be a factor here.
MarkM
04/12/07 11:07 PM  
Re: all grain gravity problems
Like Steve said, the iodine test would have told you if your conversion was complete.

The low temp during the sparge would also tend to decrease the efficiency (by making the mash more viscous).

Brian H
04/13/07 12:38 AM  
Re: all grain gravity problems
Even 141 should normally work OK. Given at least 1.5 hours in mash. Mill grind should be just right. Big pieces don't break down well, especially at the low end of 141. There should be none or only a couple whole grains floating on your mash bed. If you have more, then the mill is still too loose. Usually this rule works OK.
SteveG
04/13/07 05:59 AM  
Re: all grain gravity problems
You'll miss out on half your enzyme activation at 141. This is somethng I've never done, its possible that the problem would be more with a decent fermentation than with a good gravity. My first attempt at an all grain turned out to be a 1035 beer. I never did enough research to discover the sparge water needs to be hot!!
ryan
04/13/07 07:11 AM  
Re: all grain gravity problems
So If I was off by 12 degrees, then my sparge water would have been in the 160 range. Also way too cool. I hit 1.042 as a SG but was targeting 1.071. The fermentation took off like a rocket (45 min. lag time after pitching onto a WL10565 yeast cake) and I had to put on a blow off even on my 6 g. carboy. This, I'm assuming, is the result of higher fermentability at lower mash temps but I suppose will also result in very low body. Has anyone seen a graph of predicted efficiency as a function of mashing/sparging temperatures? If not, could someone either predict my future efficiency with better temperature control or else suggest another way to improve things if temperature isn't the culprit?

Finally, SteveG...sorry about posting in the wrong spot initially.

thanks guys

-r

MarkM
04/13/07 12:09 PM  
Re: all grain gravity problems
The fast start is a sign of a heathly yeast population, the increased fermentabiliy of the wort from low temp mash would tend to lead to a low finishing gravity.

You won't find a correlation between just temp & efficiency because so many other factors come into the mix -- thickness of the mash, depth of grain bed, ph of mash & sparge water, .....

ryan
04/13/07 01:31 PM  
Re: all grain gravity problems
Thanks Mark

Is everyone's conclusion though that the likely problem stems from temperature? I know pH and viscocity may play a role, but could they acct. for 30-40% efficiency?

I'm hoping to do a Strong Golden this weekend and I'm wondering whether I can reasonably plan on 70-70% efficiency now that I have a good thermometer.

Baums
04/16/07 10:10 AM  
Re: all grain gravity problems
ryan,

The enzymes in the mash can't cut up the malt starches until they are gelatinized (changed from rocks into goo). According to Dave Miller (New Complete Guide to Homebrewing) gelatinization of the malt does not happen until you hit 149F. I don't really believe there is a hard or fast number for this--it depends on lots of factors (such as the fineness of your grind, like Brian H mentioned). But 141F is low and I think this explanation makes sense.

ryan
04/16/07 07:38 PM  
Re: all grain gravity problems
I continue to appreciate the help

I tried again this weekend thinking that this time surely I would hit the mark.

I just bought a grain-mill attachment for my wife's kitchenaid mixer that was supposedly for barley as well as other grains. Come to find out, it aint.

Anyway, another fairly coarse grind meant more problems. Add to that the fact that I dropped my new thermometer into the mash and ruined it in the first 3 seconds and I was back to square one!

Anyone wanna buy some gently used AG equipment? :)

I'm gonna give it one more go before I leave town.

ryan

Baums
04/17/07 11:00 AM  
Re: all grain gravity problems
Ryan, don't worry too much about the efficiency itself right now. Low efficiency is not inherently bad for beer. It can result from things that may be bad for beer (wrong temps, incomplete conversion/gelatinization) or it can result from things that may be good for beer (less sparging).

What you SHOULD concentrate on straightening out is the temp control problem. A decent thermometer is important--once you have that, you're good. I use a waterproof digital stem thermometer ($15) in case I drop it into liquid... but since I just use it to quickly check the temps of things, and then put it back on the counter, there's really no need for it to be waterproof.

As for the coarse crush, yeah it may easily be hurting your efficiency (and making your mash take longer than necessary to get full conversion). If you are having it milled at a homebrew shop, have it milled finer. If you are milling it at home... then of course there are very nice home mills out there for brewing for $100, and on the cheaper side there is the Corona.

ryan
04/17/07 05:32 PM  
Re: all grain gravity problems
Baums

I just bought a maltmill online and am replacing my thermo this week so I should be armed and ready for this weekend. I realize that consistency is the key. I'm simply hung up on efficiency as the indicator that things aren't going well here. Hopefully I'll get it together.

thanks for the helpful advice. All is appreciated.

My next Q is whether I'll need to dump the Strong Golden I made this weekend as it had a SG of 1.044 and I added 1.7 lbs of sugar (in other words, the percentages ended up way off and I'm thinking its going to be very low body and probably pretty hot).

ryan

ryan
04/17/07 05:33 PM  
Re: all grain gravity problems
Oh one other thing: When you do the iodine test for conversion, do you take out liquid form the grain bed, or the grains themselves or both?

r

SteveG
04/17/07 07:01 PM  
Re: all grain gravity problems
My understanding is you need to leave the actual grains/remaining husk behind.

About the not-so-Strong Golden not being so hot ... one way to find out. If you ferment it and it doesn't work out so well at least you will be left with a larger yeast slurry for your next brew. Pitch something a bit heavier right on top of it...

ryan
04/17/07 09:48 PM  
Re: all grain gravity problems
Way ahead of you Steve

I'm going to redo the recipe with a better grain mill and a working thermometer and pitch that sucker onto the cake.

I pitched the first round onto a 3/4 gallon starter that had a 1 hour lag time, so I already know that things are healthy in there (if not so delicious).

Cheers

r

SteveG
04/18/07 07:46 AM  
Re: all grain gravity problems
Excellent Ryan, totally the right thing to do. And don't be surprised if the small beer turns out not to be a dumper. Strong Golden ale can be a heck of a lot like a triple. And a "triple" that starts its life at 1.044 is actually a "single" - which can be a delightful style! Imagine a beer that has a lot of flavor similarity to a triple but you can have 3 or 4 without yer butt getting kicked, and we're headed into the warm weather months!
ryan
04/18/07 10:49 AM  
Re: all grain gravity problems
I'll keep my fingers crossed. BUt won't the relatively huge percentage of sugar in the current batch make it sweet/cidery/alcohol-hot?

-r

SteveG
04/18/07 11:24 AM  
Re: all grain gravity problems
Hot would surprize me, that generally refers to a beer that is strong and tastes it. Yours won't be that strong so I doubt the alcohol will lunge to the fore front. As far as the other things, one way to find out. This is actually a bit of a new area for me, I'm familiar with what high ratios of sugar does in beer - but that is always in the context of strong beer. I've never put a high percentage of sugar in a session-strength brew. This may prove to be an interesting experiment, I think you should let it run its course and get back to us about how it turned out!
MarkM
04/18/07 11:26 AM  
Re: all grain gravity problems
High percentage of sugar won't make it alcohol hot. Actually, I'd expect just the opposite. Hot alcohol is usually the higher weight alcohol and comes from stressed yeast, sounds like you took it relatively easy on the yeast.

Similarly, sweet comes from either unfermented sugars or dextrines that are percieved as sweet. Since the sugar you gave it is highly fermentable, I'd expect the finish to be on the dry side (especially since the yeast should not have been stressed).

On the cidery thing it's a crap shoot. I've seen some writing that claims this was often the case with early hb kits because they had extract and lots of sugar, thus leaving the yeast short on nutrients. There's a claim the cidery was more due to the lack of nutrients than to the sugar percentage. Since you were all grain otherwise, I'd think you have some protection from a lack of nutrients.

My guess would be that you have a light bodied, dry finishing beer with a chance that it would be a little cidery (but maybe not).

ryan
04/18/07 11:32 AM  
Re: all grain gravity problems
All great information guys. Thanks.

I think I'll let it runs its course and bottle it. Will a "single" like this need extended time in secondary? When I rebrew the recipe, assuming I hit the 1.07 range, I'll likely stash that one away for awhile to bulk-condition. But this seems like it could go straight into bottles after maybe a week for clarifying.

ryan
04/21/07 07:07 AM  
Re: all grain gravity problems
got my new maltmill in the mail yesterday. I milled 13 lbs of maris otter for my re-brew this morning. I can't believe how much finer the mill is. I think this should solve the problem together with the new thermo.

here we go.

R

SteveG
04/21/07 07:45 AM  
Re: all grain gravity problems
Sorry to be a nay-sayer dude, but I disagree the finer mill is a good thing. Ideally you want to crush your grain enough to expose the inside without pulverizing the husk. Unless your last mill let kernals through that were still intact I don't think you are addressing your gravity problem here. Though its worth asking, what mill did you have and what did you replace it with?
ryan
04/21/07 08:34 AM  
Re: all grain gravity problems
NO worries

The previous point being that it is now obvious to me that I wasn't crushing fine enough. See above, I had used a kitchenaid attachment for their mixer that is supposedly for grain milling....not quite accurate in my opinion,.

anyway, the new grind (which is with Schmidling's maltmill schmidling.com/maltmill.htm) is much more fine, but there are still lots of husks for the grain bed. I'll let you know if I'm right in a few hours.

just mashed in.

r

ryan
04/21/07 12:33 PM  
Re: all grain gravity problems
If anyone out there is still interested in me and my humble problem...

74.5% efficiency

SG 1.067

:)

Cisco
04/21/07 02:54 PM  
Re: all grain gravity problems
Ryan,

You bought the finest maltmill out there. I've had mine since he started making them and eventually bought another one with the adjustment at both ends. It will make a huge difference in your extraction rate. Congratulations!

You can probably increase your extraction by doing a very slow sparge. My 10 gallon sparges usually are 90 minutes and my extraction is 80% to 85%.

ryan
04/21/07 02:58 PM  
Re: all grain gravity problems
Hey Cisco

I've been batch sparging. Briefly: after the mass (75min), I recirculate about a half gallon onto a tupperware lid to not disturb the grain bed. I then run it off fast (lets say 2 minutes per gallon). I then infuse with a new batch of water at ~170 degrees, let this sit for ten minutes, repeat the above and then do the 170 degree rinse one more time till I've collected about 6 gallons.

Would you still run -off slowly using this method?

RE: The mill. Holy crap. I hooked up my 14V Makita drill to it and it took me all of about 90sec. to grind 13lbs. What a great addition to the brewing toolkit.

Cisco
04/21/07 03:05 PM  
Re: all grain gravity problems
I've tried batch sparging and my efficiency went way down. I'm not in a hurry when I brew so I'd rather sparge using the traditional method.

I also hook up a variable speed drill to my maltmill and it can move a lot of grain through it rather quickly. (Don't use a constant speed drill because the varying torque will burn out the motor.) However, I prefer to use the drill at a moderate speed to get a more uniform crush. The speed will make a difference in the crush.

SteveG
04/21/07 04:43 PM  
Re: all grain gravity problems
Ho! From a kitchenaide to a Schmidling?! You mean like a food processor? OK, got me there, that would make a big difference. I too have had a Schmidling for longer than I can remember, I think I got mine sometime in the mid 90s. Great mill, upgrading from my Cornona made the brewers life a lot more fun.
ryan
04/21/07 06:06 PM  
Re: all grain gravity problems
Nope not a food processor.

Kitchenaid actually markets this thing for milling grain (read: barley) and others. However, while I found the finest setting to be suitable for brewing, the thing would clog in a new york minute. One click towards the coarse side and it would pass straight through un-milled. SO you see the nature of my previous dilema.

I recalculated my efficiency and I think I was actually nearer 69 or 70% but with an OG of 1.067 think Im' in the clear.

May try fly sparging next time.

SteveG
04/22/07 08:59 AM  
Re: all grain gravity problems
Wow, out of curiousity I have to see this thing. Can you give me a model # or something, I gotta look it up!
ryan
04/22/07 12:48 PM  
Re: all grain gravity problems
if you search kitchenaid and grain mill on google you'll get it.

Here is an example.

www.bedbathandbeyond.com/product.asp?order_num=-1&SKU=10793939

I don't recommend it. Its junk.

Hey so while we're still on the subject, can someone give me a rundown on how I might flysparge in a rectangular cooler that has a stainless braid filter? Is it fine to just slowly add water to the top of the grain bed over a tupperware lid or do I need to spray small droplets over the entire surface area of the top?

THe more detail I can get the better. I've read descriptions of fly sparging but never explicitly with regards to a rectangular set up like the one I'm using to batch sparge in.

cheers

r

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