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All grain problems

PostPosted: Sat Aug 28, 2010 6:55 pm
by EnglishBrew
I seem to be getting low gravities for my all grain beers. I only got a 1.071 with the following recipe for belgian triple:

12lbs belgian pils, 2 lbs crystal 20, 1/2lb flaked barley mashed for 75min 158-152F

Mash water 1.3 quarts per lb (4.7 gal)

Sparged with 6.3 gal of 167F water

Added 2lbs muntons wheat extract, 1lb of table sugar (good thing or it wouldnt be triple OG range).

Near the end of my sparge it seemed like I had pretty pure water coming out of the mash tun. It seems like Im sparging with too much water, but if I use any less I wont make boil volume (6.5 gal).

PostPosted: Sat Aug 28, 2010 8:21 pm
by yeastmeister
What kind of water? Tap? Spring? Any water treatment?

How's your crush? Any flour?

PostPosted: Sat Aug 28, 2010 9:59 pm
by EnglishBrew
I use primo water, never tested anything about it. My mash temp came in way too high (165F) and I cooled it by dumping about 10 tap-derived ice cubes in it and stirring, in something under 10 minutes. Crush looks like other's, has a little bit of flour.

PostPosted: Sun Aug 29, 2010 5:49 am
by Mob_Barley
First, how much is the recipe for, 5 gallons or 6 gallons? How long did you hold your mash, 60 min? Did you do an iodine test to see if you had complete conversion before you started sparging? How did you sparge, fly or batch?

How long is your boil? 60 or 90 minutes... Did you do a full wort boil? How big is your boil kettle and where did you boil, on the stove or on a propane burner? Was the extract LME or DME? When did you add the extract and sugar, pre-boil or at the end of the boil? What about the crush, did you have it crushed from the retailer, or did you do it yourself? If you did it yourself, what did you use to crush it?

There are a lot of things that affect mash efficiency. Fill in all these blanks and it will give us a clearer picture of what happened.

PostPosted: Sun Aug 29, 2010 6:02 am
by yeastmeister
Is that 1.071 before or after the addition of the malt extract and sugar? If its before, then your efficiency is coming in at 68%, if its after then your right, your efficiency is coming in at 42%.

If its 68%, then you probably just need to adjust your water a little to get it higher. If its 42%, then the only thing that makes sense to me is that your temperature is way off. Either it stayed at 165 too long (which is possible, enzymes are not like a light switch, but thats just about enough time to turn them off), or your thermometer isn't calibrated correctly.

It takes about 5 minutes for the grain to pull the heat from the water in normal water/grain ratios. If you measured 165 right after pouring it in, it would read much lower 5 minutes in. If you measured it a couple of minutes in, and it came out at 165, then you were much higher than that at initial infusion.

My best guess at this point is a little of both, but probably the high mash temp is what did it.

No worries, it will still make a drinkable beer. Every all grain setup is a little different. Your just in the calibration phase of yours.

FYI - the style guidelines say up to 20% white sugar are used in the authentic versions, so you probably would have been a little better leaving out the wheat extract, and just adding 3 lbs (17% of the bill) of sugar.

PostPosted: Sun Aug 29, 2010 7:30 am
by EnglishBrew
It was after the extract and sugar unfortunately. I've had low gravity problems with the last couple beers. The best I ever did was 1.050 with 12lbs of grain, the one you stopped by for. The only difference, assuming that mash temp was ok, was I sparged with less water (consequently only had 4 gal of beer in the end). By the end of the Belgian sparge I was running pretty pure water into the boil kettle, I cut it shorter than it could have gone. I actually used an HLT this time and sparged in at about the same rate it was draining, I doubt there could have been channeling problems.

I always felt you can add wheat to any Belgian and make a good beer.

PostPosted: Tue Aug 31, 2010 11:17 am
by aleguy
Three things come to mind. First, you said you had "a little bit of flour" in your crush. My crush is almost always at least half flour. I routinely get close to 80% efficiency with a cooler mash tun.
Second, you very well may have killed most of your enzymes with too high a strike temperature. A bottle of amylase enzyme from Marcellos is cheap insurance to have on hand if this sort of thing happens again. (It has also been known to happen on a RIMS with love controllers when the cord gets bumped and backs out of the thermowell.)
Third, try batch sparging and stirring and vorlaufing between sparges. If you sparge in four extra batches your efficiency should come up a lot more than doing it in just 2 batches. At the home brew scale it is very difficult to match professional efficiencies with fly sparging. (Not impossible, though.)
remember that at this time of year your strike water should be a bit cooler than in the winter. Everything is probably already at least 40 degrees warmer right now than in January.
Also, we have found that at the usual mash temperatures, full conversion takes about 90 minutes. I would go as long as 120 minutes at mash temps below 148 degrees Maybe even 3 hours at 144. The worst that can happen is that your beer picks up more flavor.
If all else fails, just resign yourself to using more grain, though you should be able to get at least 70% efficiency with your setup.

PostPosted: Tue Aug 31, 2010 12:05 pm
by GuitarLord5000
EnglishBrew wrote:By the end of the Belgian sparge I was running pretty pure water into the boil kettle, I cut it shorter than it could have gone.

How do you know you were running pretty pure water into the kettle? Did you eyeball the color, or check the gravity with a hydrometer? If you were just eyeballing it, then you may have cut your sparge off too soon, because the wort would already be pretty light colored and the resulting sparge water would be pretty clear.

How long did it take you to sparge? My efficiency increased several points when I went from a fast 15 minute sparge to one that takes 45 minutes to an hour.

PostPosted: Tue Aug 31, 2010 3:21 pm
by aleguy
+1 you could always just stick your finger in and taste it, too. If it's even a little sweet, you still have some sugars in your wort. However, given the extreme low gravity you ended up with, it's probably just as well you left out whatever was left, if anything. Final runnings are always the least desirable and in fly sparging can be full of tannins that can create an unwanted astringency in the finished beer.
At least we can (almost) always drink our mistakes.

PostPosted: Wed Sep 01, 2010 3:31 pm
by Mob_Barley
It sounds a little fishy that you are getting such low efficiencies. Why don't you post your entire recipe here and let us put it into one of the brewing software to see what's going on.

When are you checking your final gravity? If the wort is hotter than 60°F, you either need to make a temp correction or wait until it cools before you check it.

PostPosted: Fri Sep 03, 2010 9:59 am
by aleguy
I have found it easier to make temperature corrections from room temp than to get the wort exactly 60 degrees. Also check your Hydrometer to see what temp it's calibrated to. Some of them are calibrated to other temps. anyway, I still think your problem is in your process, not in your math. I have always found the temperature corrections don't really change too much from my room-temperature readings. Usually the difference is less than possible error in taking the reading. If you're like me, you don't really care if your SG reading is off by a point or two, you're just looking for ballpark figures to help you troubleshoot and to know how much beer you can drink before you have to sit down.

PostPosted: Fri Sep 03, 2010 3:51 pm
by Mob_Barley
I would take a hydrometer reading out of the kettle after stirring to homogenize the mixture. It was usually in the 120-130°F range. If you look at your reading then, it will be around 12-15 points low. Of course you can wait and cool it down and it will gradually come up on its own. Or you can use a refractometer. I usually find it's pretty accurate to take a reading out of the kettle, then correct for temperature in BeerSmith to get a pre-boil gravity. This is the time to make adjustments if necessary as this is one of the numbers that are given in BeerSmith. Add water if you are too heavy, and DME if you need more gravity.

PostPosted: Fri Sep 03, 2010 4:24 pm
by aleguy
Too heavy is not a problem for me. DME is problematic with higher gravity beers because the manufacturer seems to assume you will be brewing a small beer at around 1.050. Beers in the neighborhood of 1.125 or so tend to be way too sweet if you use extract. One of the primary reasons I went to all-grain in the first place is because I generally only brew from 1.070 and up. One of these days I will brew something in the 1.400 range just for kicks.