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Getting a horrible efficiency with my Electric Brewery setup
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Love2brew



Joined: 01 Aug 2016
Posts: 25
Location: California


PostLink    Posted: Fri Aug 05, 2016 5:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote


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Yeah, I think I'm just going to drain the HLT this time. Usually there is about 2.5 - 3 gallons left in it, I fill it back up to 14 gallons after transferring the strike water. I don't lose 2.5 gallons from end boil to the carboys, I'll normally get about 5.5 gallons in each carboy and the Boil Kettle will have about a 1/2 gallon in it. There is also about 1/2 -3/4 gallon left in the hoses and plate chiller as well. I'm not the biggest fan of the hop stopper, it works fairly well, but when the kettle is almost empty, it starts to suck up the fine hop particles off the bottom, I prefer to leave that in there.

Thanks for looking this over. I'll post my results and measurements on Monday.
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Funkalizer



Joined: 12 Aug 2014
Posts: 11



PostLink    Posted: Sat Aug 06, 2016 2:42 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

One more thing!
Using the same hydrometer as you use for the OG reading, what is your FG?
I had a hydrometer once that was a bit off on every reading.
Maybe not on as big a scale as it appears to be for you but still off.
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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: Sat Aug 06, 2016 2:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Funkalizer wrote:
I had a hydrometer once that was a bit off on every reading.

How did you know it was off?

Remember that a hydrometer reading is only for the temperature it's calibrated at (usually 60F or 68F). At any other temperature you have to compensate. More info: http://www.theelectricbrewery.com/parts-list-using?page=7

Kal

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Funkalizer



Joined: 12 Aug 2014
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PostLink    Posted: Sun Aug 07, 2016 3:47 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

kal wrote:

How did you know it was off?

Remember that a hydrometer reading is only for the temperature it's calibrated at (usually 60F or 68F). At any other temperature you have to compensate. More info: http://www.theelectricbrewery.com/parts-list-using?page=7

Kal


I know it was off (and still is) because it constantly reports a few points lower, both on OG and FG, on every tried and tested recipe I make.
This is, of course, in relation to a different hydrometer that I used which was more or less on par with expected OG and FG based on my efficiency.
Unfortunately that one broke.

And yes, hydrometers need to be used at their calibration temperature.
If you're unable to you can head here for adjustments:
http://www.brewunited.com/gravity_adjustment_tool.php

Beersmith, my weapon of choice, also has one built in.

That is besides the point, though

I hope I didn't miss if the OP stated his FG readings.
If those are on expected FG level the OP's problem is still unsolved and needs to be looked into.
But if OG is below expectations AND FG is below expectations then the skew might not be as bad as initially thought.
Correct?
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kal
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PostLink    Posted: Sun Aug 07, 2016 1:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Funkalizer wrote:
That is besides the point, though
I hope I didn't miss if the OP stated his FG readings.

No worries - just wanted to make sure. Everything sounds good.

Quote:
If those are on expected FG level the OP's problem is still unsolved and needs to be looked into.
But if OG is below expectations AND FG is below expectations then the skew might not be as bad as initially thought.
Correct?

If both OG and FG are off by the same amount then your final ABV will be the same as what the original recipe calls for, but the beer will not taste the same - it will be dryer.

Kal

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Funkalizer



Joined: 12 Aug 2014
Posts: 11



PostLink    Posted: Sun Aug 07, 2016 6:18 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

kal wrote:
If both OG and FG are off by the same amount then your final ABV will be the same as what the original recipe calls for, but the beer will not taste the same - it will be dryer.
Kal


It might and then again it might not.
Your beer will only be dryer if it finishes below the calculated/theoretical/expected FG.
If, however, your meter is broken and always shows 6 points below what is really the case, your beer isn't better attenuated or dryer - the meter is just wrong.

But all this talk about hydrometer calibration, attenuation and ABV calculations is a derailment of the original post for which I offer my apologies.

My original question to the OP was if the hydrometer was consistently reporting lower gravity on all fronts which might be an indicator of a "bad" hydrometer.

I read the original post again and it seems the first beer hit all the numbers which means it hit SG, OG, and FG?
Beer #2 didn't so unless the OP switched meters between beers then the meter is not a problem in this case.

Unless hydrometers can slowly go bad over time which I've never heard of Smile
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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: Sun Aug 07, 2016 6:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Funkalizer wrote:
If, however, your meter is broken and always shows 6 points below what is really the case, your beer isn't better attenuated or dryer - the meter is just wrong.

True.

Quote:
Unless hydrometers can slowly go bad over time which I've never heard of Smile

They can - if the paper inside slips. I've seen it happen when a hydrometer is dropped and the impact doesn't break the hydrometer but the paper inside slips because the glue or whatever it used to secure it has dried.

Mine's been off by 4 points for what seems like forever (at least 20+ years). I don't remember ever dropping it however. I've tried tapping it to try and get it to shift but it seems really stuck which is fine - I just remember to always take off 4 pts.

Kal

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Funkalizer



Joined: 12 Aug 2014
Posts: 11



PostLink    Posted: Mon Aug 08, 2016 12:02 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

kal wrote:

They can - if the paper inside slips. I've seen it happen when a hydrometer is dropped and the impact doesn't break the hydrometer but the paper inside slips because the glue or whatever it used to secure it has dried.

Mine's been off by 4 points for what seems like forever (at least 20+ years). I don't remember ever dropping it however. I've tried tapping it to try and get it to shift but it seems really stuck which is fine - I just remember to always take off 4 pts.

Kal


Hah!

This I didn't know. You're basically describing my "bad" hydrometer.
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Love2brew



Joined: 01 Aug 2016
Posts: 25
Location: California


PostLink    Posted: Mon Aug 08, 2016 3:24 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Just finished up with my 2nd attempt at this batch, courser crush and lower efficiency for the calcs. Hit my numbers right on but the recirculating mash was only at half pump speed. I wanted to mimic the last brew, in that affect, to see what they results would be. My next batch, I'll run the mash at full speed and see if I can get a better mash efficiency.

As a side note, I used 75% efficiency in Beersmith to get to these numbers. My New Zealand IPA recipe was attached in an earlier post in this thread.

Below are the numbers from this last batch.

Preboil Volume: 14.75 (expected 14.87)
Preboil Gravity: 1.050 (right at expected)
Post Boil Volume: 13.3 (expected 13.52)
OG: 1.059 (expected 1.058)

I added 1/2 gallon to the Beer Smith sparge volume, it seems to be consistently .75 gallons short, so I can just adjust for that each time now.

Kal,

Based on these numbers, I think you were right. I adjusted the crush to .045 and the grain husked looked much better. I think the next batch, at full recirculating mash speed, will allow me to drop my grain bill again and use ~85% expected efficiency in Beer smith.

Thanks all for your help!
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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 08, 2016 4:01 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Glad to hear it's working out!

This part still confuses me though:

Love2brew wrote:
Preboil Volume: 14.75 (expected 14.87)

Even though the numbers are almost the same (for all intents and purposes), I don't understand how you get a preboil volume different from what you expect. You should sparge until you hit your pre-boil volume and stop. So there should be no way to not ever get your preboil volume. It's not a calculated amount. It's the amount you collect and then stop sparging.

Cheers!

Kal

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Last edited by kal on Thu Aug 25, 2016 9:17 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Love2brew



Joined: 01 Aug 2016
Posts: 25
Location: California


PostLink    Posted: Mon Aug 08, 2016 5:09 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I know the pre-boil volume should never be shy. It's me being anal and trying to get everything exactly measured. I measure off the sparge water volume (in this case about 10.7 gallons), mark the HLT with a binder clip, then drain slowly until it hits the clip. Usually there is about 5 gallons of water (shown on the site glass) left in the mash tun, that slowly drains for the next 15 min or so, then it runs dry. That is how I run short on the pre-boil. I could just add an extra gallon to my sparge calcs so I know I will always hit it, or just add water in the end, but I prefer to get my calcs pretty close so I don't have a bunch of water left in the mash tun making it harder to empty.

Hope that explains why my pre-boil has been short.
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kal
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PostLink    Posted: Mon Aug 08, 2016 5:14 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I wouldn't let your mash run dry and not try and get the exact amount.

Shouldn't be hard to empty, unless you don't have a sink/drain. But then everything about brewing would be very difficult. Wink I sparge into the boil kettle until I hit the pre-boil volume, then I move the hose to the sink and the rest goes down the drain (I turn the pump valve open more so it takes only a few seconds). For complete details see my sparge step here: http://www.theelectricbrewery.com/brew-day-step-by-step?page=8

I do measure the sparge amount required, but only so that I know how much boil salts to use. Otherwise I always fill the HLT to ~20 gallons and sparge until it's all in the mash. This way it's impossible to be short, and I don't have to fill the HLT exactly either. Sometimes there's more water left over that goes down the drain, sometimes less.

Kal

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mcl



Joined: 11 Oct 2011
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PostLink    Posted: Mon Aug 08, 2016 6:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think it has been mentioned a number of times. Don't let you mash run dry, keep the grain submerged. You might as well do it this way if you are going to fly sparge as it is one of the best things about fly sparging. You don't have to measure your sparge volume.

It sounds like you are getting this figured out. However, I don't know how you can get a reading on your BH efficiency either way as your equipment losses aren't put in correct. (I think that is what I got out of your previous response).

Either way it sounds like your Mash/Lauter efficiency is spot on.
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Love2brew



Joined: 01 Aug 2016
Posts: 25
Location: California


PostLink    Posted: Thu Aug 18, 2016 8:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi Guys,

Another quick update as I dial in the system. I did another brew on Tuesday, a modified electric blonde ale, grain bill below. I adjusted the grain crush to .050. I got a mash efficiency of ~82%, which just seems really low for this setup. I adjusted the brewing software for 80% overall efficiency and almost hit all the numbers. I hit my pre-boil volume, right on, by just emptying the HLT into the mash tun (slowly). Sparge took 85 minutes. Below are the numbers and some pics of the crush.

Modified Blonde Ale:
19.4lbs Pilsner
.8lbs Crystal 40
90 Minute Mash
90 Minute Boil
Pre Boil Volume 15.4 gallons
Pre Boil Gravity 1.040
Post Boil Volume 13.3 gallons
Original Gravity 1.048

My goal was 1.041 pre boil and 1.050 OG. I was close but still wondering why my mash efficiecncy is so low. I filled with 157 degree strike water, put the lid on with the grain at 149, filled the HLT, heated up to 149 (~20min), then ran the mash at full pump speed.

I have the same setup as Kal so not sure why I can't get a better efficiency from rinsing the grain. I'm glad I'm close to having the numbers dialed in for Beersmith, but expect a better efficiency from this. I also expected to be a little closer on the OG based on the boil off being exactly what I calculated. Any Thoughts?



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Love2brew



Joined: 01 Aug 2016
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Location: California


PostLink    Posted: Thu Aug 18, 2016 9:57 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

PS: During the entire sparge process, I kept about 1" - 2" of water on top of the grain bed, until the HLT was empty and the mash tun drained.

When crushing the grain, I use an 18V Dewalt drill on the low setting and half cock the trigger to keep the RPM's low.
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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: Fri Aug 19, 2016 1:58 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Love2brew wrote:
I have the same setup as Kal so not sure why I can't get a better efficiency from rinsing the grain.

I'm not sure either. I wonder if the math is off somewhere when you're calculating?

EDIT: I punched the numbers that matter into Beer Tools Pro (the software I use):

19.4lbs Pilsner
.8lbs Crystal 40
Post Boil Volume 13.3 gallons
Original Gravity 1.048

This gives me 93.4% mash efficiency, which is very good and close to what I get. I don't know how you're getting 82%. I don't use the same software as you so I don't know what your software is doing. Given that there are many using Beersmith, my guess is that you may be using the software incorrectly or something you're not understanding correctly about how the software is providing information? Not sure! It's likely a simple explanation. Are you sure your software is giving you the mash efficiency and not some other efficiency? That would be one thing to look at.

Kal

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dp Brewing Company



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PostLink    Posted: Fri Aug 19, 2016 12:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I just plugged your numbers into the one I use(The Beer Recipator) and got 88%. Amazing how much each of these calculators % is different.
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kal
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PostLink    Posted: Fri Aug 19, 2016 12:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yup. Though 82% seems like a pretty big drop. Earlier I linked to this article in my FAQ too which is important to read:

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

Most notably:

Quote:
*It's important to note that the efficiency reported by different software packages can vary as much as 10% depending on how well their assumed grain maximum yield values match the actual values of the grain you are using. Every grain type is different, and grain can vary from year to year or even sack to sack. Not all software allows these maximum yield values to be modified and not all grain has this information readily available to the brewer. Estimates or averages are sometimes used that may result in different efficiency values based solely on the software package that is used, making efficiency comparisons difficult. We suggest you stick to one software package and find the efficiency value that works for you.


Now I quote 10% which is probably a bit high on purpose to avoid people getting all upset when their efficiencies are low. Wink I tried a few different Pils malt types in my Beer Tools Pro software as it includes average max yield values of various grain types and was able to get between 91.04% and 93.68% mash efficiency depending on what I used.

YMMV

Kal

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jimmiec



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PostLink    Posted: Fri Aug 19, 2016 2:02 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

What is wrong with 82%? It sounds great to me. I think it is more important to reproduce the same efficiency so that you can reproduce the exact same beer and design your own recipes that come out as planned.

Even the water (pH) is going to affect the mash efficiency. Water minerals will affect yeast health and attenuation.
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mcl



Joined: 11 Oct 2011
Posts: 156



PostLink    Posted: Fri Aug 19, 2016 9:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I am curious how you guys ran your calcs and what the software uses for potential yield. Kal you used his numbers after the boil rather than the preboil numbers. I am curious as to why. They really should have the same amount of sugars but there is some sort of measurement error as he has more sugars after the boil than before.





OP, what type of Pilsner malt and what is the potential yield?

Here is the manual calc using BS default for Pilsner and C40

19.4 * 37(1.037 PY) = 717.8
.8 * 34(1.034 PY) = 27.2
745 total

Preboil 15.4 * 40 (1.040) = 616

616/745 = .826
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