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Getting a horrible efficiency with my Electric Brewery setup
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Love2brew



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Location: California


PostLink    Posted: Mon Aug 01, 2016 5:17 pm    Post subject: Getting a horrible efficiency with my Electric Brewery setup Reply with quote


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EDIT BY MODERATOR/SUMMARY: After lots of back and forth turns out that when this user's numbers are plugged into Beer Tools Pro software, a mash efficiency is 93.4% is returned which is very high (not a horrible efficiency). When they do the numbers by hand they are getting 82%. So it has nothing to do with their Electric Brewery setup.

Hello Forum!!

First off, I'd like to say hello to all the amazing members and a big shout out and thanks to Kal for designing this system and including step by step instructions on everything from the build to the brew. Kal, you have created another passionate all grain brewing member!

That said, I just finished my 8th brew, and I am going nuts!! Below is the summary of brews I've done and I'm now creating recipes using beer smith. The common denominator for all my brews is not hitting my pre-boil gravity and OG. With the exception of my first Kal Blonde Ale, everything else has been low and unexpectedly "sessionable".

Brews:
1) Electric Brewery Blonde Ale: Hit all numbers
2) Electric Brewery Amber Ale: Low on the pre and original gravitys, .5 gallon shy on pre boil volume
3) Electric Brewery Blonde Ale: Same as Amber for gravity
4) New Zealand IPA: Very low on Gravity, ended up at 4.7% abv
5) Electric Brewery Blonde Ale, lager: Low on all gravities
6) Electric Brewery Blonde with modified hops: Low on gravities, short .5 gallon pre boil volume
7) Beer Smith Created Oatmel Stout: Low on Gravity, short on pre boil volume by .5 gal
8) Beer Smith Created APA: Low on Gravity, short on pre boil volume by .3 gal

Problems I've encountered:
1) Continually running short on my pre-boil volume. I've added to the sparge water collection and added a little to the mash, getting closer but still haven't hit it. My mash tun is always dry by the end of the sparge, which usually takes 60-90min
2) Pre-boil gravity is always low. I just brewed an APA with 17.8lbs 2 row and 2.4lbs Caramel/Crystal 60. The extraction would be 1.036 and 1.034 with overall gravity units of 722.4
3) Stuck mash on the New Zealand and Oatmeal stout, both higher gravity beers. I slowed down the mash pump and that seemed to work for the APA

System:
HLT: 15 Gallon Blichmann, HERMS
MLT: 15 Gallon Blichmann, False bottom
Boil Kettle: 20 Gallon Blichmann, HOP Blocker
Therminator for chilling

Questions:
I have read several forums and done many google searches. The only thing I can figure out is my efficiency is really low, which it should not be with this setup. I can't understand why I am getting such low pre boil gravities and always short on my pre-boil volume, even when following Kal's recipe to the T, only adjusting for the 15 gallon false bottom as opposed to the 20 (.19 vs. .22).
1) Why is my efficiency so bad
2) How can I adjust my volumes and process to fix it

Recipe:
American Pale Ale
17.8lbs 2 row
2.4lbs Caramel/Crystal 60
Mash water=1.25qt/lb (6.5 gal @160 degrees)
90 min mash at 152 (PH at 5.4)
70 min sparge out at 168 (11.5 gal on top of grain)
Collected 14.5 gal at 1.037 (should have been 14.8 at ~1.046)
90 min boil, Finished boil at 12.5 gal
collected 11.2 gallons split in (2) 6 gal better bottle carboys
OG 1.041 (should have been ~1.053)

Process:
I follow the exact same process as Kal describes in his recipes. I mash in about 8 degrees hotter, put more water in the HLT, heat up to the proper mash temp, then recirculate. The build is pretty much the exact same as well. I have tried milling the grain myself, and buying pre milled grain, this has not changed the formulas at all.

To measure the gravity I collect all the wort in the boil kettle, wait for the temp to reach 205, stirring a couple times before hand, then fill my hydrometer tube and put it in the freezer to get it back down to ~70 degrees. I measure with a hydrometer and refractometer and both are within .001 of each other every time. For the OG, I take a sampling between carboys. When 1 carboy is full, and I'm switching to the next, I fill the hydrometer tube again, and measure.

I have attached pictures of my last brew (yesterday). The only thing I can think of is to lower my efficiency to ~70%, but that doesn't make sense with this setup, especially since the first recipe was right on.

Any help would be greatly appreciated. This is a long post but hopefully provides all the background and info needed to help. I'll be posting a separate thread related to the Therminator and ground water temp.

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dp Brewing Company



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PostLink    Posted: Mon Aug 01, 2016 5:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I would be interested in hearing anyone's answers also. The best gravity I've been able to reach is only 72%. Granted I don't have the same mash tun as KAL, but I would assume I would be over 80% and have never reached it. I realize it's more about being constant but damit I want better efficiency.....lol
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kal
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Drinking: German Lager, Electric Creamsicle, London Pride, Kolsch, Belgian IPA, Red IPA, Russian Imperial Stout, Black Butte Porter

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PostLink    Posted: Mon Aug 01, 2016 5:58 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Welcome to the forum and glad to hear you're enjoying the setup!

Some questions for you that were not covered (I believe) in your initial post:

(1) What do you have your mill gap set to? I recommend between 0.045" and 0.050" if building a clone of my setup. Finer is not better with recirculating systems such as this.
(2) What false bottom are you using? I'm assuming it's a Blichmann?
(3) Have your measured your post boil gravity to see if it's also low? It's common for people to not stir the pre-boil wort well enough thus not mixing in the thicker stuff with more sugar in the bottom, and coming up with a pre-boil gravity that's too low.
(4) Are you compensating for temperature when using your hydrometer? Most are only accurate at 60F or 68F. See: http://www.theelectricbrewery.com/parts-list-using?page=7
(5) Has your hydrometer been calibrated? See: http://www.theelectricbrewery.com/parts-list-using?page=7
(6) You say your sparge takes 60-90 mins which is good.
(7) I'm assuming you never touch the grain bed after mashing in all the way through to until you're done sparging (you shouldn't).
(8) What is your sparge water temp?
(9) What's your boil off rate?

I'm sure it's something simple/obvious! I wonder if there's something off with the math somewhere...

Kal

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kal
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PostLink    Posted: Mon Aug 01, 2016 6:07 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Forgot to ask: How's the beer taste? The 6.3% NZ IPA coming in at 4.7% would taste very different so I'm curious if it tastes like a 4.7% 'session' IPA (that is probably overhopped) or does it taste like a 6% + IPA? This'll help us figure out if there's a measuring issue somewhere. Could be that you're higher than you think.

Reading through again this caught my eye:

Quote:
3) Stuck mash on the New Zealand and Oatmeal stout, both higher gravity beers. I slowed down the mash pump and that seemed to work for the APA

The NZ IPA shouldn't have caused any issues given that it's 2 row and only 5% crystal 40. When you say stuck mash do you mean during recirculation? You should be able to run the pumps 100% open with the fantastic Blichmann false bottom you have. I'm thinking you may be milling much too fine? I recommend 0.045" to 0.050" mill gap.

Kal

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kal
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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 Aug 01, 2016 6:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

shadowpaige64507 wrote:
I would be interested in hearing anyone's answers also. The best gravity I've been able to reach is only 72%. Granted I don't have the same mash tun as KAL, but I would assume I would be over 80% and have never reached it. I realize it's more about being constant but damit I want better efficiency.....lol

Hi! I'd recommend starting a separate thread with as much detail as possible on your setup and equipment you're using. People will be able to help.

Kal

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Love2brew



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Location: California


PostLink    Posted: Mon Aug 01, 2016 7:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for the quick feedback! Most of these questions were answered in the original post, but I'll hit em all so it will help with the diagnostic.

kal wrote:
Welcome to the forum and glad to hear you're enjoying the setup!

Some questions for you that were not covered (I believe) in your initial post:

(1) What do you have your mill gap set to? I recommend between 0.045" and 0.050" if building a clone of my setup. Finer is not better with recirculating systems such as this.

I do not have a micrometer but just ordered one. I had to adjust the mill to be less fine. When I compared pre-milled grain, to my mill, my milled grain was too fine. I based it on visual, I'll take a pic tonight and send so you can see what it looks like "post mill". I had to play with the setting to adjust it just large enough so that whole grain didn't fall through but the husks would still be cracked, not shredded

(2) What false bottom are you using? I'm assuming it's a Blichmann?

Yes, Blichmann

(3) Have your measured your post boil gravity to see if it's also low? It's common for people to not stir the pre-boil wort well enough thus not mixing in the thicker stuff with more sugar in the bottom, and coming up with a pre-boil gravity that's too low.

I have measured both, see original post. I stir the wort in the boil kettle a few times, let it reach a temp of 205 so that it's nice and mixed up, take a sample, then chill back down to ~70 where my hydrometer and refractometer are calibrated at.

(4) Are you compensating for temperature when using your hydrometer? Most are only accurate at 60F or 68F. See: http://www.theelectricbrewery.com/parts-list-using?page=7

Yes, see above

(5) Has your hydrometer been calibrated? See: http://www.theelectricbrewery.com/parts-list-using?page=7

Yes, both have been calibrated using distilled water per the manufactures instructions

(6) You say your sparge takes 60-90 mins which is good.

(7) I'm assuming you never touch the grain bed after mashing in all the way through to until you're done sparging (you shouldn't).

Never touch! I have been thinking I need to to help, but have not stirred or touched (unless it got stuck)

(8) What is your sparge water temp?

168

(9) What's your boil off rate?

About 1.48ish. I started this at 14.5 gallons and had 12.5 gallons after 90 minutes of boil

I'm sure it's something simple/obvious! I wonder if there's something off with the math somewhere...

Kal


I'll respond to your other questions in those threads. Especially the one about the New Zealand IPA
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Love2brew



Joined: 01 Aug 2016
Posts: 25
Location: California


PostLink    Posted: Mon Aug 01, 2016 7:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

kal wrote:
Forgot to ask: How's the beer taste? The 6.3% NZ IPA coming in at 4.7% would taste very different so I'm curious if it tastes like a 4.7% 'session' IPA (that is probably overhopped) or does it taste like a 6% + IPA? This'll help us figure out if there's a measuring issue somewhere. Could be that you're higher than you think.

Reading through again this caught my eye:

Quote:
3) Stuck mash on the New Zealand and Oatmeal stout, both higher gravity beers. I slowed down the mash pump and that seemed to work for the APA

The NZ IPA shouldn't have caused any issues given that it's 2 row and only 5% crystal 40. When you say stuck mash do you mean during recirculation? You should be able to run the pumps 100% open with the fantastic Blichmann false bottom you have. I'm thinking you may be milling much too fine? I recommend 0.045" to 0.050" mill gap.

Kal


All of my friends loved the New Zealand IPA, but I did not. I love the nose, and can tell the flavor would have been perfect had the malt character been more prevalent. With such a low gravity, the IBU was too high so the bitterness overwhelmed the palate. That's my opinion... I think if we hit the proper gravity, there would have been more balance. Your assessment of "overhopped" is exactly right.

As for the mill, I'll have to measure. Maybe not being able to run the pump at full speed is affecting the malt extraction. I am having the same issues with pre-milled grain, but not as much. I have the below mill and have it set slightly larger (by about 1/8 of a turn on the dial) than the default. I just ordered a micrometer, so that should help me get the exact gap setting.

https://www.morebeer.com/products/barley-crusher-malt-mill.html?gclid=CPSn2Jv4oM4CFQiQaQodu3oOog
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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: Mon Aug 01, 2016 7:35 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Love2brew wrote:
[b]I do not have a micrometer but just ordered one.

I recommend these as they're cheaper/easier: http://www.theelectricbrewery.com/26-blade-master-feeler-gauge-with-blades-from-0-0015-to-0-025
More info:

Quote:
I had to adjust the mill to be less fine. When I compared pre-milled grain, to my mill, my milled grain was too fine.

Most in-store crushes are already too fine for recirculating systems. They assume you're not using a recirculating systems. Milling too fine can cause stuck sparges/recirc and low efficiency.
More info: http://www.theelectricbrewery.com/grain-mill?page=1

Kal

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kal
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PostLink    Posted: Mon Aug 01, 2016 7:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Love2brew wrote:
All of my friends loved the New Zealand IPA, but I did not. I love the nose, and can tell the flavor would have been perfect had the malt character been more prevalent. With such a low gravity, the IBU was too high so the bitterness overwhelmed the palate. That's my opinion...

Ok - that's why I asked. And what you tasted is exactly what I'd expect too so sounds like it really is around 4.7% or so. Just wanted to check.

Kal

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Love2brew



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PostLink    Posted: Mon Aug 01, 2016 7:58 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Great, thanks Kal! I just ordered the blade gauge as well. I'll have a digital and the blades so that should get me exactly where I need. Based on your feedback, it sounds like my mill is the problem. I'm going to lower my expected efficiency, and adjust the mill more, to see if I can get closer to my gravity, then continue to adjust until I get it locked in.

On a side note, do you think the too fine of a mill is also causing me to continually run short on my pre-boil volume as well? Maybe the finer the crush, the more water absorption? Sounds curious so I'll do some research on that as well.
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kal
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PostLink    Posted: Mon Aug 01, 2016 8:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Love2brew wrote:
On a side note, do you think the too fine of a mill is also causing me to continually run short on my pre-boil volume as well? Maybe the finer the crush, the more water absorption?

I wouldn't think so. For that to happen, with a looser crush you'd have to *not* be soaking the entire kernel which means you would not be getting all of the starches converted to sugar.

Kal

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David_H



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PostLink    Posted: Tue Aug 02, 2016 2:14 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I would like to add some comments on Efficiency.
Be careful, efficiency can be measured at multiple locations / times in the mash process.
I think that Kal's quoted efficiency is considered Mash Efficiency (or maybe Sparge Efficiency). This is the measure of how much actual Sugar is converted relative to the potential Sugar in the grain.
There is also a Sparge Efficiency. How much of the converted Sugar is actual removed from the mashed Grains and make it into the Boil Kettle.
Next would be Efficiency into the Fermenter
And finally Efficiency into the bottle.

At each step in the process there is a potential to leave sugar behind. Every time you leave sugar behind your efficiency will decrease. Make sure your are comparing at the same point.

Check out this article by Kai Troester.
http://www.braukaiser.com/wiki/index.php?title=Understanding_Efficiency

A finer milling should result in a higher Mash Efficiency, but due to the Sparging difficulties it could lead to a much lower Sparge Efficiency. One thing to consider is increasing the moisture content of the grains before milling. Just another process to investigate.

You shouldn't be missing your pre Boil Volume, just sparge until you get the volume you want, or add water directly to the Boil.

I know that getting the most from your mash is a personal goal, but on the other hand it only cost a couple bucks more to increase the grist bill. Or keep some DME on hand and add to the boil to bring your SG up to par.

Also if you know you have missed your SG, reduce the hops accordingly to maintain the correct SG/IBU ratio.

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

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PostLink    Posted: Tue Aug 02, 2016 2:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

David_H wrote:
A finer milling should result in a higher Mash Efficiency, but due to the Sparging difficulties it could lead to a much lower Sparge Efficiency.

Not just sparging but general recirculation during mashing. With a picnic cooler type mash tun where grain is milled, stirred well, left for an hour or two, and then batch sparged, fine milling helps. With our setup here you'll get higher efficiency by milling looser so that water can recirculate.

Quote:
I know that getting the most from your mash is a personal goal, but on the other hand it only cost a couple bucks more to increase the grist bill.

+1. Consistency is (IMHO) more important than getting high mash efficiency. That said, you should be able to do both on this setup.

Give this a read too:

http://www.theelectricbrewery.com/FAQ#What_sort_of_efficiency_do_you_achieve_with_your_setup_

Kal

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Love2brew



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PostLink    Posted: Tue Aug 02, 2016 7:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for the feedback guys! I'm doing another New Zealand IPA on Sunday and will let you know how it goes. I got a micrometer and will adjust the crush gauge to .045 or .050, depending on how it looks. I'm going to lower my software efficiency as well, I can always add water if I get too high of a gravity, much harder when you go lower. I am not concerned about efficiency, I'm more concerned about not hitting the numbers, which a low efficiency really screws up; which is why I want to dial in my setup and efficiency expectations just right.
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mcl



Joined: 11 Oct 2011
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PostLink    Posted: Wed Aug 03, 2016 1:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I want to add to what David said about how efficiancy means different things.

You need to work on this problem systematically. I would really concentrate on your mash/lauter efficiency first. It shouldn't be affected my as many factors (boil off, chiller loss, hose loss, fermenter loss etc.). Once you have that figured out you can go to the next step. I think you are having problems with your sparge (you should never be short pre-boil volume with a fly sparge system). While I don't believe high efficiency should be the only goal if you get this down you will have more repeatable beers. It is also common to figure it wrong with software if you don't know where to put the equipment losses in (this speaks to just concentreating on mash/lauter for the first step).

Please post your grain bill for your New Zealand IPA and we can double check your numbers.
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Love2brew



Joined: 01 Aug 2016
Posts: 25
Location: California


PostLink    Posted: Wed Aug 03, 2016 4:10 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks MCL, I am actually only concerned about the mash efficiency. To me, that is the most important number (for now). If I hit my pre-boil gravity, give or take .002, I can adjust the boil, or add water, to hit my OG. As far as having too much wort, or the later, wort to final volume efficiency, that isn't going to affect how my beer tastes, other than hop absorption by volume, but like all have said, I can dial that in later. Gravity is my concern right now.

As for the grain bill, it was exactly the recipe on Kal's site, I have the same setup. I followed everything to the T, my volume in the boil kettle and pre-boil gravity were way off, which screwed everything else. I can adjust the sparge water by adding an extra gallon to the sparge, but I will need to find out why I'm constantly short. The only other thing I can try at the moment, is the grain crush, that has got to be the culprit. I am making my next batch based on a 75% mash efficiency, which is upping my grain bill a little. I'm also going to move to a more course crush, which should help as well. By changing those 2 factors, I can figure out where to go next.

If I am extremely high on my pre-boil gravity, then I know it was the crush. If I'm right on, then the crush made no difference and my efficiency is less than what Kal is getting, which seems unlikely by 15%. Either way, thanks for the feedback, I've got some things to try on this next brew day.
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mcl



Joined: 11 Oct 2011
Posts: 156



PostLink    Posted: Wed Aug 03, 2016 4:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sounds like you are on the right path. Like I said, you should never be low on prebil volume with a fly sparge setup. You simply run off until you hit the correct volume. If your HLT won't hold enough I would add a couple of gallons slowely at the start of the sparge and keep the element on (you will have to turn it off before you get under the element). I keep the an inch or two of water above the grain during the entire sparge. I would pay close attention to the sparge. The key is a consistent runoff rate that equates to about an hour long sparge. When you check your preboil gravity ensure that your wort is mixed well. I usually wait until it has been boiling for a minute or so.

You already know this but you should get higher than a 75% lauter efficiency. Post your new grainbill and result of all your measurements (volumes and gravitys) so we can double check the math. It has gotten me before.
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kal
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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: Wed Aug 03, 2016 5:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

mcl wrote:
If your HLT won't hold enough I would add a couple of gallons slowely at the start of the sparge and keep the element on (you will have to turn it off before you get under the element).

My 2 cents: If your HLT won't hold enough, simply put the strike water in the MLT separately at the start of the brew day, then fill the HLT with the sparge water. That should be simpler (IMHO).

I've had to do this once or twice with crazy high ABV beers like 12% barley wines and a RIS.

+1 to posting numbers.

Kal

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Love2brew



Joined: 01 Aug 2016
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Location: California


PostLink    Posted: Thu Aug 04, 2016 2:41 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Here is my modified grain bill with a lower efficiency, as well as all the numbers. I up the Mash and Sparge volume by about a 1/2 gallon.


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mcl



Joined: 11 Oct 2011
Posts: 156



PostLink    Posted: Fri Aug 05, 2016 5:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Make sure you have enough sparge water in your HLT so you can always have water on top of the grain for the entire sparge. I have found that gives me the best efficiency.

You have the end boil volume at 13.52 and the bottling volume of 11 gal. Do you really lose 2.5 gallons?
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