Monthly Archives: April 2010

Improving Efficiency


My last post alluded to some efficiency problems I’ve been experiencing recently — while I had originally been hitting efficiencies around 75%, the last several batches were down closer to 60%, which resulted in disappointing¬†starting gravities. I got some good feedback, and reverted to some of my old ways, including a pseudo fly-sparge method where I keep the mash covered in water during the sparge by adding water intermittently.

The biggest change that I made was to lauter very very slowly. Painfully slowly. It took close to an hour to lauter runnings for a 9.5lb batch of grains, which is more than double the time I had taken before. While it was somewhat boring, it gave me time to putter around and do some other prep and cleanup.

The result? 93% efficiency from the mash. I was very pleased. Knowing that a slow, really slow lauter and sparge is key to good efficiency should help some of my bigger beers coming up. I’m looking forward to a repeat performance.

Big beer in a small space


My last brew was a bit of an experiment. I had just finished reading Brewing with Wheat, and was gung-ho to do something using a significant amount of wheat. Summer is also nearly here, and the desire to drink big beers will be fading with the arrival of warmer temperatures.

One of the beer styles described in Brewing with Wheat is called a wheat wine, something I had never heard of before, but the gist is that like a barleywine, a wheat wine is a wheat beer (using at least 50% wheat), with high ABV and equally high bittering. Styles vary from there.

I decided to fashion a beer that is strong, uses a large portion of wheat (but not 50%), and with moderate bittering. My hope was to bring in something close to an English style barleywine, but with added character from the wheat.

I also did something new this batch. My friend offered to let me use his 10 gallon cooler mash/lauter tun for this batch,and I filled it to capacity. My grain to water ratio was about 1.2, and it was so full that I was unable to stir during the first mash, however I did stir as I was adding the water for the second sparge.

I ended up with a rather low efficiency, around 63%. Not ideal at all, which brought my OG in at around 1.080, rather than 1.1+ which I was shooting for. Oh well. Brew and learn.
boiling-wortI also used whole leaf Challenger hops in this batch, and I have to say that I really do love using whole leaf hops. They are very visually appealing, and make for a much cleaner transfer into the fermenter.

I used S-04 in this batch, and pitched the two packets of yeast that I prepped, having planned on needing them both for the expected huge OG. Fermentation took off within hours, and I had to hook up a blowoff tube before i hit 24 hours.

I’m planning to age this beer over the summer, and to use oak chips in the secondary. I’m looking forward to this in the fall, when cooler weather comes again.

Several questions arose from this session:
Does the grain to water ratio effect efficiency in such a way that you can reach a point where more grain actually delivers a lower OG? If so, where is that ratio? I know that I’ve seen ratios as low as .75:1, and as high as 2:1. For a mash tun that requires that you open it very little to prevent heat loss, and a lower ratio requires more stirring, is a higher ratio recommended? And with low mash ratios, is a longer mash needed to gain efficiency?