Increasing mash efficiency

Discussion in 'General Brewing Discussions' started by Hopfunk, Dec 7, 2019.

  1. Hopfunk

    Hopfunk New Member

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    Just wondering how you have increased your mash efficiency with your brewing system? I have been having some efficiency issues with my new system. For 5 gallon batches I am doing a single infusion mash, vorlouf for about 10 minutes after my timer goes off(35 minutes). My whole process takes about 30 to 40 minutes after sparging. I always keep water slightly above the grain bed. Usually about an inch. I’ve had some advice to never stir the grain bed while sparging, but I also have had some tell me to stir but to do so gently.

    One thing that I have also been concerned about is having the home brew shop mill my grain. I noticed my grain seemed to barely be crushed so I will be milling the grain myself. Hopefully these images work. Let me know what you think about the grain.

    I am using pumps to transfer. My efficiencies have never gone above 70%. This last batch was 60% :(
    The photo below is the grain of my last batch. I also included a photo of my mash tun. I do have the capability of 10 gallon batches but have been only doing 5 gallons to learn this system.

    B6F83EDB-1577-4A33-B344-0C63B1CA833F.jpeg
    EEA18247-E347-4A0B-98C9-664C165E6AA8.jpeg
     
  2. Bubba Wade

    Bubba Wade Well-Known Member

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    I brew a bit smaller batch (2.5 gallons), and usually am at 75-80% on mash efficiency. I do a modified BIAB method, using a pretty fine grain crush. I mash in the bag and then do a quick batch sparge with 135 degree water. Not quite textbook, but very effective in rinsing residual sugars.

    With that said, I wouldn't get too hung up on efficiency. Add a little more grain and hit the target OG.
     
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  3. Ward Chillington

    Ward Chillington Well-Known Member

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    Those do look a little too intact and if you NEED to vorlouf for 10 minutes, that seems a long time with such a course grind.

    What does stand out is your mash time...am I understanding that correctly?? Are you only mashing for 35 minutes??
     
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  4. oliver

    oliver Well-Known Member

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    Try a finer crush on your grain, that should immediately help. Also what kind of water and adjustments are you using? Targeting specific minerality and mash ph will facilitate better conversion.
     
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  5. Hopfunk

    Hopfunk New Member

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    Yes my mash rest is 35 minutes, then I do my vorlouf, transfer and then sparge.
     
  6. Hopfunk

    Hopfunk New Member

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    Just using ground water that is ran through a carbon filter. Not playing with ph or minerality yet
     
  7. HighVoltageMan!

    HighVoltageMan! Well-Known Member

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    #7 HighVoltageMan!, Dec 7, 2019
    Last edited: Dec 8, 2019
    Mash efficiency is depended on a lot of different variables.
    • grain crush, too coarse it will drop efficiency, too fine and you'll get a stuck mash, crush as fine as you can, but still avoid a stuck mash. Once the grain bed is set, it doesn't need to be stirred. Stir in the beginning to break up the "balls", but once the bed is set and flowing nicely leave it alone.
    • mash times, 35 minutes is too short, a lot of people claim 20 minutes will convert all starches, this is not so. A longer mash will allow the enzymes time to complete the conversion. The lower the mash temps the longer the rest. I mash at 145F for 90 minutes, this gives me a a very fermentable wort. 152F rest only lasts an hour.
    • pH plays a role as well. I find that pH of 5.4 (measured at room temp) increases efficiency. Above and below 5.4 and the extraction drops.
    • If you can, do a constant vorlouf during the entire mash.
    • Step mashing followed by a mashout will bring up efficiency. If this is used in conjunction with the constant vorlouf, the wort is incredibly clear.
    I have a RIMS system and regularly get above 90% extraction, I have hit 95+%. So these steps do work, but you don't have to do them all. I think your biggest problem is the crush, too short of a rest, followed by pH. The pH will benefit both mash efficiency and overall beer quality.

    Good luck!
     
  8. Trialben

    Trialben Well-Known Member

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    Second the above spot on the money.

    35min mash to short.
    Crush not adequate some of them grains look whole in your photo
    Correct these two things and I'm sure you'll be back here next brew day with 70%+ brewhouse.
     
  9. BOB357

    BOB357 Well-Known Member

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    That's about the worst crush I've ever seen. Either get yourself a mill or find another supplier for grain. You also need to increase your mash time.
     
  10. Craigerrr

    Craigerrr Well-Known Member

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    I agree with all of the above, and might point the finger mostly at crush, some of those grains are nearly intact, barely even cracked.
    The one thing I would add, once you get to a good efficiency, is not to get too hung up on efficiency itself. Whether you are 70% or 85%, work on consistency. Increasing your efficiency will reduce your grain costs, but the savings in real dollars is minuscule from 70% to 85%. Increased efficiency does not equal better beer.
     
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  11. Hopfunk

    Hopfunk New Member

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    Thank you!
     
  12. Hopfunk

    Hopfunk New Member

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    I agree. My main goal is to consistently be at 80% or higher. The only reason that I am so focused on efficiency at the moment is because of how poor it was on my last brew day. I have a RIMS system and I know I was doing something wrong to get a 60% efficiency. I do have a feeling the crush of the grain played a big role. I am going to increase my mash time to 60 minutes as well.
     
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  13. Hopfunk

    Hopfunk New Member

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    Thanks!
     
  14. Nosybear

    Nosybear Well-Known Member

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    How big was the beer? I am in the "who cares" camp when it comes to mash efficiency, what's another 50 cents worth of grain? But if I were to add that up over my entire brewing career, it would approach real money. Sounds like you're close to a root cause, crush and mash time matter but efficiency.... If I hear a homebrewer bragging about anything other than the flavor of their beer, i hesitate to taste it. Good beer is the goal, anything else is a consolation prize.
     
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  15. Hopfunk

    Hopfunk New Member

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    The beer was 4.3% ABV. I’m calling it a session stout . I want to have an efficiency that I can rely on when I create my recipes. The money part isn’t a huge concern at the moment for me. But over time it will be! Cheers
     
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  16. Nosybear

    Nosybear Well-Known Member

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    If you had a lot of roasted grain, that will reduce "efficiency". The sugars and starches in roasted grain has been mostly burnt, there just isn't much to steep out or convert. Add that to your observations about crush and mash time and I think you have your explanation.
     
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  17. HighVoltageMan!

    HighVoltageMan! Well-Known Member

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    If efficiency is the main goal, then I would agree. However, if you do a good job with crush, pH and whatever leads to good beer, then high efficiency can be a by-product of good brewing practices. I will always do what I need to to avoid a bad beer, but good processes produces good beer and high efficiency. Bonus.
     
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  18. Ward Chillington

    Ward Chillington Well-Known Member

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    #18 Ward Chillington, Dec 8, 2019
    Last edited: Dec 8, 2019
    Double ditts on HVM's comments and pointers. All well established truths in Homebrewing.

    And don't sell yourself short...."The beer was 4.3% ABV. I’m calling it a session stout " You are actually not far from the ballpark by the American Stout by the Brewers Association Style Guidelines....
    • Original Gravity (°Plato) 1.050-1.075 (12.4-18.2 °Plato)
    • Apparent Extract/Final Gravity (°Plato) 1.010-1.022 (2.6-5.6 °Plato)
    • Alcohol by Weight (Volume) 4.5%-6.4% (5.7%-8.0%)
    • Bitterness (IBU) 35-60
    • Color SRM (EBC) 40+(80+ EBC)
    I'd say you are close enough to be in the parking lot and with a few simple changes, you'll be in a sweet spot. And coming from a self proclaimed and proud cheap bastard regarding the cost....not to poke the Nosybear but yeah, it will matter one day... I can't recall which podcast about efficiency I heard it on but the guy's opening line was to brewers that were rationalizing their costs in the name of "Art" or "Quality"...stop kidding yourself! Brew on!
     
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  19. Nosybear

    Nosybear Well-Known Member

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    I don't feel poked, you actually said pretty much the same thing I did. Bottom line is if you're getting terrible efficiency you're doing something wrong. If you're off by a couple percent, it could be just variation in the ingredients. So, Brewer's Answer #2, it depends....
     
  20. Hopfunk

    Hopfunk New Member

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    Thank you all for the great advice! I will admit that the brewer who hooked me up with this system had me convinced about shorter mash times. Didn’t really consider that factor, but I’m glad I mentioned it in the first place!
     

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