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Sparge Runoff Gravity

 
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Roadglide



Joined: 27 Sep 2014
Posts: 19
Location: Conifer, CO


PostLink    Posted: Sun Mar 15, 2015 2:19 pm    Post subject: Sparge Runoff Gravity Reply with quote


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Am still fairly new to using Kal's Electric Brewery (5 brews to date using Kal's recipes as I familiarize myself with the system). So far I have brewed the following:

Blonde Ale - turned out a bit astringent - attribute that to not paying close enough attention to mash and sparge pH. Have since become fanatic about ensuring the appropriate pH and temperature levels throughout the entire brew process.
Have also brewed the Electric APA and the Amber (both turned out much better than the Blonde Ale but still slightly astringent) and the Electric IPA (that one is conditioning as I write this).

My question is about sparge runoff gravity - I typically am only able to get approximately 13.5 gallons into the BK before the gravity readings fall below 1.008 or 2.05 Brix (I use both a hydrometer and a refractometer when measuring).
As I said I am fanatic about water chemistry (I live in the front range of Colorado and am on a well with a less than optimum water profile so I use EZ Water to calculate appropriate salts to add - I also dilute with 25% RO water and use lactic acid as required.

My typical process is to fill the HLT with 20 gallons of water and heat to 140. I then transfer the appropriate amount into the MT and maintain the HLT temp of 140 for 10 minutes or so as I adjust the remaining HLT water (ultimately used for sparging) to 5.6~6.0 pH. Once the HLT/Sparge pH level has stabilized I raise the water temps to the appropriate levels and continue with my brew day. Note - I also ensure my mash pH levels are appropriate after I add the necessary grain (which I mill at .45").

Also - I use Beersmith to scale Kal's recipes to 85%, and I get very close to the required gravities (+/-) 1 point both pre and post boil.

I have tried both 60 and 90 minute sparges, but with either method my gravity readings fall off a cliff after I have collected roughly 13.5 gallons in the BK.

Apologize for the long winded post, but does anyone have any insight into how I can correct the BK volume problem I am having. Right now I am only able to get a little over 9 gallons into my corny's after boil off / fermenter loss etc.

Thanks in advance
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kal
Forum Administrator


Joined: 12 Dec 2010
Posts: 10738
Location: Ottawa, Canada

Drinking: German Lager, Electric Creamsicle, London Pride, Kolsch, Belgian IPA, Red IPA, Russian Imperial Stout, Black Butte Porter

Working on: Weizen, Belgian Quad, Wit, English Pub Ale, Electric Creamsicle


PostLink    Posted: Sun Mar 15, 2015 2:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The lower the OG of the beer, the easier it is to have your sparge drop below 1.008 because there's less sugars to begin with. (As an aside, this is why mash efficiency drops with really high gravity beers: You sparge more sugars with less water so you end up leaving behind sugars).

But if you follow my BREW DAY STEP BY STEP process you turn off the HLT element at the start of the sparge. The sparge water starts at 168F and slowly cools throughout the 60-90 minute sparging process since we turned off the Hot Liquor Tank element. By the end of the sparge the mash will be about 20 degrees cooler. This is intentional. A lower temperature near the end of the sparge helps minimize tannin extraction from the grain husks when it is most likely to occur (the mash has less sugar and higher pH). By the end of sparging the mash has very little sugar left so the drop in heat does not affect the flow so it's not an issue.

For what it's worth, I no longer measure my sparge pH towards the end of the sparge. I've done it for years and know my setup so I know exactly what you expect. I do often taste it near the end if it's a very low OG beer (like a 4% American Light Lager). For beers like this it will drop below 1.008 but I don't care as the temp has dropped considerably and the result isn't astringent.

Quote:
My typical process is to fill the HLT with 20 gallons of water and heat to 140. I then transfer the appropriate amount into the MT and maintain the HLT temp of 140 for 10 minutes or so as I adjust the remaining HLT water (ultimately used for sparging) to 5.6~6.0 pH. Once the HLT/Sparge pH level has stabilized I raise the water temps to the appropriate levels and continue with my brew day. Note - I also ensure my mash pH levels are appropriate after I add the necessary grain (which I mill at .45").

All sounds normal. I do it bit differently however but gives the same result: I heat all of the 20 gal in the HLT to 168F, transfer over strike to MLT, then put some 88% lactic into the HLT to reduce the sparge water pH to 5.6-6.0 or so. Same result really.

So to answer your question: Normally if the sparge gravity drops below 1.008, simply top up the boil kettle with straight sparge water. This sounds easier than it really is however, as by the time the sparge gravity drops that low, you've probably already emptied your HLT on to the grain bed. This is why I never do this - I just sparge away because I pay careful attention to sparge water pH and temperature.

Maybe the astringency is normal. Depends on what you're comparing it to... different grain can taste different. If you're comparing to something like Corona or Bud Light then it's going to be very difficult to get something that light tasting. Could also be your well water somehow? It may have much greater buffering capability. What's the pH of the wort at the end of the sparge when you're at 1.008?

Kal

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Roadglide



Joined: 27 Sep 2014
Posts: 19
Location: Conifer, CO


PostLink    Posted: Sun Mar 15, 2015 3:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for the reply Kal,

My water profile (after 25% dilution and appropriate salts) is as follows:
CA Mg Na Cl S04
93 15 130 199 200

Am fairly certain I've got the astringency problem taken care (have sampled the Electric IPA that I have been conditioning and there is no hint of astringency).

My main concern at this stage of my learning process is that I am only able to get 13.5 gallons into the BK after sparging with the appropriate volume of water (per calculations). Note - I usually still have 2.0 to 2.5 gallons left in the HLT before runoff gravity falls to 1.008 so I could continue sparging but I have heard that over sparging can contribute to astringency (think that's one of the things that contributed to the astringency with the Blonde Ale I first brewed).

I brewed yesterday and the runoff pH was still right around 6.0 when the gravity fell to 1.008.

It's not really a big deal as I think I could always increase my grain bill a bit or perhaps the water/grist ratio to 1.35 as opposed to 1.25 - do you think that may work?

Thanks again.
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kal
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Joined: 12 Dec 2010
Posts: 10738
Location: Ottawa, Canada

Drinking: German Lager, Electric Creamsicle, London Pride, Kolsch, Belgian IPA, Red IPA, Russian Imperial Stout, Black Butte Porter

Working on: Weizen, Belgian Quad, Wit, English Pub Ale, Electric Creamsicle


PostLink    Posted: Sun Mar 15, 2015 10:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Roadglide wrote:
Thanks for the reply Kal,

My water profile (after 25% dilution and appropriate salts) is as follows:
CA Mg Na Cl S04
93 15 130 199 200

FYI - that's a lot of Sodium (Na). I'd prefer it to be about 1/10th that. Your Cl and S04 are also very high, 1/3 of that would be better (I think) for a lighter tasting blonde ale.

Quote:
My main concern at this stage of my learning process is that I am only able to get 13.5 gallons into the BK after sparging with the appropriate volume of water (per calculations). Note - I usually still have 2.0 to 2.5 gallons left in the HLT before runoff gravity falls to 1.008 so I could continue sparging but I have heard that over sparging can contribute to astringency (think that's one of the things that contributed to the astringency with the Blonde Ale I first brewed).

I brewed yesterday and the runoff pH was still right around 6.0 when the gravity fell to 1.008.

See my comments above. The combination of lower temp and pH below 6 means you shouldn't have to worry about tannin extraction. As I mentioned above, I sparge until I hit my preboil volume no matter what my gravity is. ie: If you follow my process I'd say don't worry about this 1.008 "rule".

Quote:
It's not really a big deal as I think I could always increase my grain bill a bit or perhaps the water/grist ratio to 1.35 as opposed to 1.25 - do you think that may work?

No need to. Follow my process: get your sparge water under 6 and turn off the HLT when you start to sparge so that by the end of the sparge (60-90 mins) later the temp is down to 140-150F or so.

Kal

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Roadglide



Joined: 27 Sep 2014
Posts: 19
Location: Conifer, CO


PostLink    Posted: Mon Mar 16, 2015 2:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi Kal,

Yes, my water profile is not optimal. Fortunately my tastes mostly run to darker beers (IPA's, APA's, Ambers, etc) and those number still fall within Palmers recommended ranges. Next time I brew a lighter beer I'll just dilute with more distilled water.
As far as your sparge process is concerned I do follow it to the letter with one exception - I remove the HLT and MT lids after I turn off the heater element. Perhaps my Sparge water is cooling off to much by the end of the sparge. Next time I'll leave them on and see what happens.

Quote:
The combination of lower temp and pH below 6 means you shouldn't have to worry about tannin extraction. As I mentioned above, I sparge until I hit my preboil volume no matter what my gravity is. ie: If you follow my process I'd say don't worry about this 1.008 "rule".


That makes sense as the beer I brewed on Saturday ended with an OG of 1.054 when the target was actually 1.051 so I could have continued sparging to get another gallon or so into the BK. On my next brew day I'll concentrate more on sparge runoff pH as opposed to gravity and see what happens.

One last thing - I couldn't be happier with my brewery. I followed your build almost to the letter with two exceptions. I have (3) 3-way ball valves on the front of my brew stand to manage flow direction and I use cam lock QD's as they have a larger ID to accommodate slightly larger hoses.

Thanks again for all your help.
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foomench



Joined: 21 Feb 2012
Posts: 710
Location: Longmont, CO

Drinking: Pinot barrel aged quad

Working on: Flanders oude bruin in barrel, Flanders red fermenting to refill the barrel


PostLink    Posted: Mon Mar 16, 2015 3:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

1.008? If you are really concerned about astringency, you could be more conservative with that and just use a little more grain and cut off the sparge earlier. I usually stop at 3-4 on the refractometer, which is 1.011 or higher. I know Kal says you should just be able to sparge to your heart's content with his process. I'm merely offering a very simple alternative.
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kal
Forum Administrator


Joined: 12 Dec 2010
Posts: 10738
Location: Ottawa, Canada

Drinking: German Lager, Electric Creamsicle, London Pride, Kolsch, Belgian IPA, Red IPA, Russian Imperial Stout, Black Butte Porter

Working on: Weizen, Belgian Quad, Wit, English Pub Ale, Electric Creamsicle


PostLink    Posted: Mon Mar 16, 2015 4:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Foomench makes a good point: If you think you're having astringency issues, but all means try a batch where you stop the sparge early and top up with water and see if that helps. There are many variables involved and what works for one person may not work for others if some other things (that aren't obvious) are also different.

I know some brewers prefer no-sparge (basically just mash with your total amount of water and dump it) as they find it gives them the flavours they want. Basically BIAB. Efficiency is really low of course but it's not the most important factor for many (most?) people.

Kal

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Roadglide



Joined: 27 Sep 2014
Posts: 19
Location: Conifer, CO


PostLink    Posted: Mon Mar 16, 2015 5:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

foomensh / Kal,

Appreciate your replies - to be sure I think I've got the astringency problem taken care of. The Electric IPA I brewed a month ago and that has been conditioning for the last 2 weeks shows no sign of astringency.

My biggest concern at this point is that I have been unable to get the appropriate volumes into the BK before the runoff gravity falls below 1.008.

With my next brew I think I'll just sparge until I get my targeted volume or to when I hit the targeted gravity of the pre boil wort. I'll also make sure the pH of the runoff stays at 6 or less.

Thanks to both of you for your replies.
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kal
Forum Administrator


Joined: 12 Dec 2010
Posts: 10738
Location: Ottawa, Canada

Drinking: German Lager, Electric Creamsicle, London Pride, Kolsch, Belgian IPA, Red IPA, Russian Imperial Stout, Black Butte Porter

Working on: Weizen, Belgian Quad, Wit, English Pub Ale, Electric Creamsicle


PostLink    Posted: Mon Mar 16, 2015 7:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Taste your wort as you sparge too. That's the best way to check for astringency.

Kal

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