All-grain brewers can be extremely focused on the efficiency of their brewing system. Today, we will discuss five methods that can be used to improve overall brewhouse efficiency.
Every grain in a beer recipe has a potential ideal yield, usually expressed as the fine grain dry yield or potential. The fine grain dry yield is typically measured in laboratory conditions by grinding the grain into powder and measuring the maximum possible extract. However, in reality, only a fraction of the ideal yield is achieved due to mash inefficiencies, sparging limitations, deadspace, and trub losses.
The brewhouse efficiency refers to the overall percentage of potential grain sugars absorbed into the finished wort. Achieving higher efficiency consistently allows for the use of fewer grains to achieve a target original gravity.
All-grain brewers, especially inexperienced ones, often have low efficiency numbers. Let’s explore five ways to increase your efficiency:
1. Improve Grain Milling
The crush of your grains plays a significant role in mash and sparge efficiency. Grains should be finely crushed, but the milling process should leave the hulls intact to act as a filter bed. A dual roller mill, such as the Barley Crusher, is ideal for achieving this. Be cautious not to crush the grains too finely, as it can lead to a “stuck mash” where the filter bed becomes clogged, preventing the flow of wort.
2. Mash Out or Sparge with Hot Water
Using hot water during the mash out and sparge process helps to improve the flow of sticky wort. Ideally, you should raise the mash temperature to around 168°F (75°C) and then use 168°F (75°C) water for sparging. Adding a mash out infusion can also help to raise the mash temperature during sparging.
3. Sparge Slowly
Many beginners tend to sparge their mash too quickly. Sparging too fast doesn’t allow enough time for the hot water to extract sugars from the grain bed. Limit the flow rate from your mash tun to just above a trickle. It should take 30-50 minutes to fully sparge a 5-gallon (19-liter) all-grain batch (approximately 6 gallons or 23 liters of wort).
4. Minimize System Losses
Any losses within your brewing system, such as deadspace in the mash tun, transfer lines, pumps, and trub at the end of the mash, will result in lost wort. This means that sugars are also lost, reducing overall brewhouse efficiency. Ensure that your mash tun is properly sized and work towards eliminating deadspace in the system.
5. Choose a Well-Designed Mash Tun
The design of your mash tun, including the false bottom or screen, can have a significant impact on mash efficiency. A round, cylindrical mash tun is generally considered to be the best option, as it provides a grain bed depth that is roughly equal to its width. This is one reason why cylindrical water coolers are popular among brewers.
The false bottom should ideally cover the entire bottom of the mash tun with minimal deadspace underneath it. This allows for an even flow across the entire grain bed, resulting in improved efficiency.
Have a wonderful holiday and happy brewing!