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We did our first all-grain last night. Despite the amount of research I did ahead of time, I missed one tip that probably would have helped --preheating the mash tun.

The recipe called for a mash temperature of 154 degrees. We had 12.875 pounds of grain and used the recommended water/grain ratio of 1.25 qt per pound. We came up with an infuse temp of about 167 degrees and about 4 gallons of water. After infusion and stirring the grains, the temperature was a little high at 156 degrees.

About ten minutes into it, I noticed the lid on the Igloo cooler had lifted slightly (probably enough to allow heat to escape), so I put a stack of books and a 6 1/2 gallon glass carboy on the top of the lid to help hold it down, but I think it was too late.

I should note, the recipe also called for some chocolate grains to be added for the last 10 minutes of the mash, so we lost an additional amount of heat when we removed the lid for this step.

At the end of the hour, we were down to about 140 degrees --14 degrees shy of the target mash temperature. Fast forward to the end of the brew (just prior to pitching the yeast) and the OG was only 1.030 --nowhere close to the 1.057 we were expecting.

This is a winter ale with cinnamon, ginger, orange peel, etc. Is there any hope for this beer? It's currently sitting in a carboy and it's too early to tell if fermentation will occur, but I'm suspecting the worst.

UPDATE: I forgot to mention, I believe we screwed up on the sparge process because I didn't know how much water to use or what the temperature of the water should be. I'm estimating we used about 2 gallons of water at 170 degrees and for some reason, I didn't even think about stirring the grains during this process. I'm sure this didn't help with efficiency, either.

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With such a low starting gravity, the malt/hops balance is going to be way off, and you're not going to get the body that a winter ale should have. I'd suggest trying to save this beer by adding malt extract now to bring the gravity up to your target. Assuming you've got 5 gallons of wort, LME will add 36/5 = 7.2 points of gravity per pound. You're 27 points short of your target, so adding 27/7.2 = 3.75 pounds of LME. –  Tobias Patton Nov 10 '12 at 17:50

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You'll probably be OK, even with the temp drop, if you maintained a temp above 145 for most of the mash. I doubt that the temp had anything to do with your low OG. Do you fly sparge or batch sparge? If you fly sparge, you don't want to stir the grain during the sparge. If you batch sparge you want to stir it thoroughly before you start the runoff, but not during. Most of the time the crush is the biggest factor in efficiency, so you should look into that. You should also check out Kai Troester's work on conversion efficiency at http://braukaiser.com/wiki/index.php?title=Troubleshooting_Brewhouse_Efficiency#Determining_Conversion_Efficiency

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Fly sparge, but after reading this thread, it sounds like we might be sparging too quickly: homebrew.stackexchange.com/questions/6125/… –  senfo Nov 10 '12 at 18:45
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A fly sparge for a 5 gal. batch "should" take about an hour. In addition, lauter design is critical to good efficiency. Take a look at the article I linked to. It will help you figure out if your efficiency problem is with the mash or the sparge. –  Denny Conn Nov 10 '12 at 20:56
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You'll get there, just takes some practice. Great advice from Denny. –  Grico Nov 12 '12 at 18:21

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