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I've got some irregular sugar extraction efficiency problems. My efficiency is regularly low. I need your help. :) I get anywhere from 60% - 85%.

I've fine tuned my mill to the best of my ability, so I don't think that's much of a problem. I use a batch sparge method during the lautering process and I know fly sparging is probably a better way if I'm really concerned with efficiency. But I'm not really interested in doing that. Could grain bed channels be a problem even with batch sparging?

Do you have any other methods that you'd recommend to increase consistency and efficiency?

I use:

  • 10 gallon Igloo cooler MLT
  • Digital cable thermometer for monitoring mash temps
  • Single infusion batch sparge
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Are you looking for consistency, or higher efficiency? I wouldn't worry about a 65-85% efficiency; when I've pushed efficiency higher than that I've found I extract husk tannins. –  sgwill Nov 14 '10 at 18:35
    
there are many variables that can affect this. can you edit your post and describe your setup? stainless mash tun vs. cooler? How are you monitoring mash temperature? 60-65% efficiency on a batch sparge is pretty normal. Fly sparging usually ups it to between 70-80%. The biggest thing is achieving consistency so your brews are more predictable. –  Morgan Nov 14 '10 at 19:54
    
If I had to choose I'd be looking for better consistency. But I feel wasteful adding extra pounds of grain when I'm only utilizing 70% of the sugar. –  chrislarson Nov 18 '10 at 14:44
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4 Answers 4

up vote 2 down vote accepted

Fly sparging is not necessarily more efficient than batch sparging. Grain bed channeling is not an issue in batch sparging. Crush is always the first place to look in efficiency issues. My mantra is "Crush til you're scared!". I average 85% efficiency. I never do a protein rest. I never do more than a single batch sparge. 99.9% of the time I do a single step infusion mash. I almost never do a mashout, and when I do I haven't found it to increase my efficiency. If a finer crush doesn't do it for you, look at your water chemistry.

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I get pretty good and consistent efficiency (82% - 85%) following these rules. Oh, and I also batch sparge.

Always do a protein rest. Always do a mahout. 90 minute mash - always Slightly thinner mash than normal. 1.5qt./lb. 10 minute sparge, double sparge

You will end up with more wort to boil down, but it makes a big difference.

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hey Matt, what temperatures do you use for your protein rest and for your mashout? –  Nathan Koop Nov 15 '10 at 15:11
    
I protein rest at 120. Now keep in mind that a protein rest is necessary under either of these two conditions. 1. using moderately modified malt 2. using unmalted adjuncts. I often will brew with one or the other, so I always do a protein rest. Mash out temp is 170. This stops all enzymatic activity and preserves the profile of your beer. Mash out for me is typically 10 minutes. Mash outs also improve sparging. –  Matt Utley Nov 16 '10 at 2:26
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Another tip for achieving consistency when batch sparging is to set yourself a "water budget".

Do this by calculating your system losses (HLT deadspace, MT deadspace, loss to hoses, loss to trub etc.) and adding them to your desired pre-boil wort volume. Add this amount of water to your HLT at the start of your brew day and don't add another drop throughout the brew.

Providing your other variables (grain crush, batch sparging method, etc.) are consistent between brews you should achieve the same results every time using this technique.

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I find I can up my efficiency if I only use one gallon batches, and let each one sit for about 10 minutes. Mashing takes forever though.

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If you have to do that, you have other problems that need to be addressed. It's easy to get efficiency in the 80s without all that effort. –  Denny Conn Nov 18 '10 at 16:19
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