Should I care about efficiency?

Discussion in 'Beginners Brewing Forum' started by Craigerrr, Nov 8, 2018.

  1. Craigerrr

    Craigerrr Well-Known Member

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    I understand to a degree how efficiency is calculated. Today's brew had the following stats. Method is BIAB, I have my equipment profile dialed in fairly decently, and have my default efficiency set at 70%. Preboil gravity was 2 points low at 1050, I extended the boil by 5-7 minutes, but my volume fell slightly below target of 6 gallons to approximately 5.9. Original gravity was low by 1 point 1060, was supposed to be 1061. The brew session stats say that conversion was 73.9%, all other efficiencies came out to 67%. Should I care about this? The beer is really good, but I feel like my I should be trying to improve on this.
     
  2. philjohnwilliams

    philjohnwilliams Well-Known Member

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    My opinion on the matter ( and I stress opinion) is that you are far better off trying to maintain a consistent efficiency rather than worrying about getting the highest number possible. If you are always changing your process to get better numbers you will have a harder time making a consistently good, or at least predictable product. When I gave up trying to get the best efficiency possible I could focus more on other aspects of my brew day.
     
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  3. Mark Farrall

    Mark Farrall Well-Known Member

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    It's fundamental to getting a predictable result each batch. So if you set that batch to 67% you would theoretically be able to get the same result without that extra boil each time. Realistically, though, you'll get some variation from batch to batch. This will be from things you just can't control like evaporation rate, but also you'll just get better at your process or change your equipment.

    So efficiency will wander a bit and you can either adjust it every batch. Which will mean it will constantly change, but will slowly become more reliable. Or you can wait a few batches and then adjust it once you've got a trend. Whatever makes more sense to you.

    Beyond that, some people like to challenge themselves to increase their efficiency. Good luck to them and I'll read their posts/articles with interest, but it's not a pursuit I'm interested in focusing on myself. I'll just continue to steal interesting tips as I stumble across them.
     
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  4. Craigerrr

    Craigerrr Well-Known Member

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    Thanks guys, makes sense to me, I do feel like I am dialing things in pretty good.
    I went back to the final gravity sample and it read 1062, must have been a bit warm when I checked it. I updated the number in my brew session and it bumped efficiency to 69%, which might as well be the 70% that I have as my default, I will keep doing what I'm doing.
     
  5. jmcnamara

    jmcnamara Well-Known Member

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    Fwiw, I don't measure anything during brew day, other than water volume, temperature, and hop/salt additions. Beer seems to come out reasonably close to the recipe prediction, so I don't stress about it. Easily worth the buck or two more for grain to compensate
     
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  6. J A

    J A Well-Known Member

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    I don't even enter conversion efficiency. It just doesn't make any sense to me the way it comes out. I estimate pre-boil gravity from the recipe and enter that. I do take refractometer readings during mash, first runnings and near the end of sparge to see if I'm in the range I should be. Post boil gravity is the only thing I measure for sure and that along with post boil volume gives me the efficiency number I need. I've done enough batches that I'm seldom off my more than a couple of points from my accustomed target which I set at 77. If I'm doing a beer with little or no crystal or roast, I bump it higher to start and if I'm doing something with a lot of roast or specialty malt, I'll knock it down a few points.
    When you want to improve efficiency, look at crush size and sparging method. Conversion is somewhat constant if the mash thickness is in a good range and enzymes can get to the starch. Knocking out extra sugar molecules with a slow sparge lets you get to the sugars you created and rinse it free from the grain bed. If you did something as simple as letting your dunk sparge sit an extra 20 minutes, you'd probably see a bump in efficiency.
    Anyway, just take the consistency and don't sweat a few points of efficiency. Make good beer even if it takes an extra half pound of malt. :)
     
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  7. Craigerrr

    Craigerrr Well-Known Member

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    Thanks guys, appreciate all of the input.

    My sparge method is to suspend the grain bag over the kettle with a strainer and slowly pour the water over the grain bag. If I were to do a dunk sparge, what temperature should the water be?
     
  8. Hawkbox

    Hawkbox Well-Known Member

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    Not a clue, I mash. I did a milkshake IPA on Monday but had to run out so it mashed for 2+ hours and I got about 6% extra efficiency out of it. If I didn't have to duck out I wouldn't have bothered.
     
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  9. J A

    J A Well-Known Member

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    Mash out and sparge temp is 168. The thinking is that the temp is high enough to denature the enzymes but low enough to avoid leaching tannins. That pour-over method probably won't yield as well as a decent dunk sparge but if you were holding the bag in a bucket with holes in the bottom and sprinkling evenly over the top you might set up a decent grain bed and approximate a fly sparge. I did something like that with a bottling bucket when I first started doing BIAB and had pretty decent efficiency with it. I get good efficiency now by doing recirculation during mash and doing a very slow fly sparge.
    Most BIAB-ers do a very fine crush to get best efficiency, That's something that you can explore but most beginners are limited to whatever the LHBS can provide in terms of milled malt.
     
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  10. Craigerrr

    Craigerrr Well-Known Member

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    Kind of like back checking in pick up hockey, you could... but you don't:D
     
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  11. Craigerrr

    Craigerrr Well-Known Member

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    Thanks JA
    My pour over sparge is actually a pain. I think I will try the dunk sparge next brew day, but I will change only that and see what the result is. Not necessarily to improve efficiency, but to make my process easier. If I pick up a few points of efficiency, that will just be a bonus.
     
  12. J A

    J A Well-Known Member

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    There are plenty of die-hard BIAB-ers in the ranks. They can share their experiences and methodology and guide you toward the best process.
    BTW, if you're not squeezing your grain bag, you could probably see a gain of several points right there without changing anything else.
     
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  13. Nosybear

    Nosybear Well-Known Member

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    The pour over will get you close enough. And as many have said, efficiency isn't that critical of a measurement for us. When you're doing a thousand barrels at a time, a point of efficiency is a lot of money. For us, it's a quarter-pound of grain. I track my brews here, when I enter my data I think, hmmm. If it's too far a departure from 80% I might look at what could have gone wrong but most often, as long as I'm near my gravity numbers, I really don't care about efficiency.
     
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  14. Hawkbox

    Hawkbox Well-Known Member

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    That's pretty much it for me, if the number comes in way off on a batch I try to figure out what I did differently. It's usually boil rate as I don't get it the same every time with propane.
     
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  15. Nosybear

    Nosybear Well-Known Member

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    Yep. I made process changes to get a more consistent boil and voile! Hitting my numbers with a lot greater frequency (once I got the new boil-off rate dialed in).
     
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  16. Hawkbox

    Hawkbox Well-Known Member

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    I'm still at the eyeballing my boil level and adjusting stage but I'm working on narrowing it down. Seasons don't help here either, humidity levels change drastically from summer to winter in Edmonton.
     
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  17. Nosybear

    Nosybear Well-Known Member

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    I was brewing outdoors in Colorado: Wind was my big issue (humidity is generally very low). I'd go from a boil-over to a light simmer in the space of a few minutes. I went to an induction heating system indoors to eliminate the problems. Took a few brews to dial in, though, due to raising the humidity in the basement!
     
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  18. Mark Farrall

    Mark Farrall Well-Known Member

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    Or damn the efficiency even more and don't sparge. Just put the full volume in the kettle and either buy more grain or mash longer.
     
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  19. Trialben

    Trialben Well-Known Member

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    I did the same thing as you Craig I used a colander over kettle with grain bag slapped in and slowly sprinkled sparge water through grain bag. It's a bit of a PITA sometimes but yields good results I recon. Recently I adapted this to a large pot that I insert into my kettle with holes drilled in bottom I still drizzle over the sparge water I get 83-87% efficiency like this i got a 90 the other day but using gladfield malt I just think that stuff is the beez neez.
    Yep but consistency is what you want to nock out tasty wort with the same gravity every time;).
     
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  20. J A

    J A Well-Known Member

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    Only works if you have a kettle big enough for your full boil volume plus loss plus the grain bill - probably in the range of 9 gallon capacity for a 5 gallon post-boil. Won't argue the appeal of simplicity, though. :)
     
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