efficiency, efficiency, efficiency!

Brewing processes and methods. How to brew using extract, partial or all-grain. Tips and tricks.

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efficiency, efficiency, efficiency!

Post by Matt23 » Wed Feb 18, 2009 12:32 am

'sung' to the tune of Steve Ballmer's "developers, developers, developers!"

Hi all--

I'm getting some wacked out efficiency numbers. Two brews ago it came out around 63%...and then this weekend I did a Munich Dunkel...came out around 88%! wtf?

My equipment: rather simple... Polarware kettle with the standard perf false bottom. Actually works very nicely, never had a stuck sparge with it. Sparge method: I'm just pouring ~170F sparge water by the quart through a nice large colander to distribute the flow better through the grains, and to prevent putting a 'divet' in the top of the grainbed.

ratios: the last brew was 1.4 qt/lb and two brews ago my usual 1.5 qt/lb.

I had been worried that I was lautering too quickly with too much sparge water added too fast without waiting for a nice slow drain from the mash tun. So this time around, going more the way John Palmer does in HTB...drain mash tun at a very moderate rate until the easily available wort is out. Then close up valve, and start adding sparge water. Get it nicely wetted, stir a bit, wait a few minutes in case of some latent enzyme activity, then again do a moderate runoff from the mash tun. I did that this time around and my efficiency numbers were crazy high.

I was doing the JZ Munich Dunkel which is supposed to come out at 1.054 with 12.2# of Munich Malt. JZ is all about his rocksteady 70% and since I've had some low yields in the past, I really took my time on this lauter. Apparently too much time :)

My grain crush should just be .039" as per the notched settings on my Barley Crusher brand mill. Perhaps I should get out the feeler gauges to make sure. But the crush seems balanced..it's not dust.

So any suggestions on getting more stable/repeatable numbers? I'm open to any advice on getting some precision in my process...I'll worry about accuracy later :D thanks!

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Post by slothrob » Wed Feb 18, 2009 6:32 am

There's nothing wrong with 88% efficiency. That's about what I get.

There's nothing obvious that would be causing your variability. The ratio has little effect. Crush, OGl, volume left in the tun between runnings, stirring, and sparge temperature have a bigger effect.

I wouldn't mess with your gap, unless you wanted to close it some more, since you're not getting stuck sparges. There's some other step that isn't the same between batches. Nail that down and you should get predictable efficiencies.
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I'd love to get 88% ...

Post by billvelek » Wed Feb 18, 2009 8:37 pm

I'd love to get 88%. I average around 81 or 82%, give or take a point. But I batch sparge because it's easier, and I am probably losing a couple of points from that. I don't hear of many brewers reaching 88% ... consistently ... so you have things adjusted about as much as possible. I do get higher percents -- approaching 88% (I think they were something like 86 or 87% -- when I do wheat beers and use regular flour, so the crush might have something to do with it, too.


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Post by Matt23 » Thu Feb 19, 2009 1:20 pm

thanks for the notes, guys, much appreciated! Yeah I'm thinking my crush might have got a little too fine this time around, some of it had piled up in the bucket and was getting pulled into the bottom of the rollers. But I was hand cranking and I knew the sound was off so I corrected that rather quickly.

I keep brewing all over the map, too, so I guess it's hard for me to nail down the common things and different things between all these mashes. 3 most recent brews have been: dunkel, weizenbock, robust porter

I think I need to brew the same beer like 5 times in a row :D

re: the 88% number and its validity...the way I figured it was to just play with the numbers in BTP with the final volume locked on what I had collected, until the calculated gravity matched the SG measurement. And yes I did temp correct! :) A bit of a backwards way to approach it but it should be close to accurate, no?

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