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Thread: Low Efficiency Issues

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jul 2017
    Location
    Monroe, NC, US
    Posts
    8

    Low Efficiency Issues

    We would love to get some help with the efficiency of our brew house. We've tried everything from grinding up our grain very fine, to having the malt house mill the grain, to doing as wet of a mash as our mash tun will hold. We've tried to slow our sparging down, not use a pump for the first part of the transfer and let gravity even the tanks out. Still, we stay in the 60% to even 55% efficiency range. It not only makes producing this brew more expensive, we struggle with getting anything above 6.5%. We have been up and brewing for about 6 months now and cannot figure this out. The brewhouse is a psycho brew 7 bbl (2x 3.5 bbls). I met with a brewer from not too far away that has a 5 bbl similar system and he gets close to 80% efficiency. We couldn't figure out what the issue was so I assumed it was in the milling. Well our last batch was milled at the malt house and we only hit 60% efficiency.

    Any suggestions would be highly appreciated. The only thing we have not tried is to get a cement like this one https://www.amazon.com/Goplus-Electr...NsaWNrPXRydWU=which was suggested to do when we are mashing in. Right now we are manually mixing the grain in. Although I think we are doing a good job at mixing, I'm sure something motor powered will help. Anybody brewing on a similar system that can give some pointers?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jun 2010
    Posts
    335
    I think you need to pay attention to milling of the grain. Try this method
    http://www.craftbrewersconference.co...ency-Havig.pdf

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Sep 2013
    Location
    Massachusetts
    Posts
    248
    I would agree with ThirstyMonk and look at your milling but in addition my first guess is that you are over mixing. A good mash bed has entrained air and floats. When you over mix then you beat all the entrained air out of the bed and your lauter and sparge will suffer greatly. Also pay attention to your liquor to grist ratio. Too little or too much liquor and you will have issues with both conversion and efficiency. There is always a sweet spot for every system. Getting the most efficiency out of our system requires a deliberate approach. Work with all of these variables one at a time.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Apr 2017
    Location
    San Antonio
    Posts
    15
    What is the water profile and pH of the mash-in and sparge water?

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Oct 2002
    Location
    Chesterfield, UK
    Posts
    1,914
    I think beating the living daylights out of the mash with one of those mixers would be a disaster, as already noted. Try a grist to liquor ratio of about 2.25 to 2.5 to 1. Stir just enough to wet everything. Your grind should be coarse enough that you see large husk particles - lots of say 1/2 complete husk. These trap air and the mash should float - typically rising a few inches once mashed in and allowed to settle - definitely no liquid on top of the grain after a few minutes. Don't run off too much before you start sparging or you tighten the bed too much and lose extract.

    Given the right grind and mashing and sparging, I would expect you to get closer to 90% efficiency. Oh yes, if you struggle to get 6.5%, then you are probably mashing too weak, and running off too fast. You should have a first worts gravity of circa 1.095 (24 P)

    But don't forget the comments about mashing mineral salts and mash pH
    dick

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Feb 2016
    Location
    San Francisco, CA
    Posts
    99
    How fast are you running off? It should be taking somewhere around a couple of hours from the end of vorlauf to kettle-full, and it really does make a big difference. On the system I work with, we shoot for about 2.7 gallons/minute, and just speeding up to about 3.0 gal/min makes the difference between almost certainly hitting and probably beating our gravity numbers to being several gravity points low. This is, in technical terms, really freakin' slow, slower than gravity even (we run into our gravity-fed wort grant with the butterfly valve only about half open). To be clear, I doubt 2.7 gal/min is necessarily the "sweet spot" for your system, just pointing out that even a small increase in runoff speed makes or breaks our efficiency, might be worth experimenting with.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jul 2017
    Location
    Monroe, NC, US
    Posts
    8
    Thank you so much for the help. We brewed yesterday and still hit the 65% efficiency. Our grain was milled by the malt house and it appeared to be milled correctly. As much as I want to point to the mill b/c we don't use rice hulls and we have not had our stuck sparge, we have brewed on malt milled by 3 different sources (ourselves and 2 malt houses) and are still getting low efficiency. I have not been adjusting the pH in the mash tun yet because I always felt that we have bigger problems to dial in. I'm going to adjust the pH for the next brew. Our sparge time might be to fast. It typically only takes 1 hour to sparge but I was told that 1 hour should be enough. We dialed it back once and it took over 90 minutes to sparge, still hit 65% efficiency. Up until yesterday we were using a stainless steel hand paddle to mix. It was working fine but it is a bit manual. Yesterday was the first time we used a cement mixer. Even after using the mixer, there was no change in efficiency. Yesterday we brewed as wet of a mash as the tun could hold. I wonder if part of my issue is in the recirculating of the mash?

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Oct 2015
    Location
    USA
    Posts
    22
    We do 50min to 1 hour lauters and get efficiencies over 80%. I dont think that is your problem. I would check to make sure you have enough calcium in your water. And be sure that your actually reaching your target mash temp.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Apr 2017
    Location
    San Antonio
    Posts
    15
    While you said you do not adjust mash pH, what water are you using? Well, city, RO? Willing to bet your water is the issue.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jun 2014
    Location
    United States
    Posts
    16
    Are you accurately measuring your water usage? pH and grist should give you that 20% if they are way off, but if they aren't wayyyy off, tweaking them won't improve your efficiency by how far it is off. My guess is that your using too much liquor in the brew and running over too quickly. Are you compensating for spent grain water?

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