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Brews & Views Bulletin Board Service * Brews and Views Archive 2008 * Archive through May 30, 2008 * Super long mashes and terrible efficiency < Previous Next >

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mac
New Member
Username: Homeycat

Post Number: 1
Registered: 05-2008
Posted From: 128.2.231.50
Posted on Monday, May 05, 2008 - 06:51 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

Hey - I just moved to Pittsburgh and for the few batches I've done here I've had terrible efficencies (~50-60%), very long mashes >1.5hrs and incomplete conversion (by the iodine test).

The mashes have been 2 pale ales (about 10lbs pale malt/1lb crystal 50-60L) and a belgian (13 lbs pilsner and 1lb caramunich). These are beers I've made before and have never experienced any problems with conversion (complete in under an hour) or efficiency 70-80%.

My hunch is the Pittsburgh water (tap - boiled to remove chlorine). Never saw any precipitate after the pre-boil as before (in salt lake city). The pittsburgh water numbers I've found are:
Ca: 29ppm
CaCO3: 66ppm
Mg: 6ppm
HCO3: 45ppm


so - what do i do? from what i've read adding gypsum to the mash will increase Ca, but how much to add and to what volume of mash water/sparge water? i should probably measure pH, as it is probably high in my mash and sparge. i keep reading the trick to light pilsenrs is the soft water, so how do the czechs do it?

thanks
mm
 

Bill Pierce
Moderator
Username: Billpierce

Post Number: 8840
Registered: 01-2002
Posted From: 24.57.225.170
Posted on Monday, May 05, 2008 - 07:17 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

I don't think the water is your problem. Pittsburgh water is a lot easier to brew with than Salt Lake City's (I once brewed professionally in SLC).

Yes, measuring the mash pH is the way to go. The high quality ColorpHast strips in the 4.0 - 7.0 range work well. I know there are those who disagree, but I stand by my general contention that without being able to measure the pH you are largely whistling in the dark.

I will say that except for very light colored beers you are unlikely to have to make any pH adjustments. The mash pH should fall naturally into the optimal 5.2 - 5.6 range.

Of course all of this begs the question about your poor conversion. Is there something unusual about the malt you're using?

(Message edited by BillPierce on May 05, 2008)
 

Dan Listermann
Senior Member
Username: Listermann

Post Number: 5558
Registered: 03-2004
Posted From: 216.23.55.202
Posted on Monday, May 05, 2008 - 07:22 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

How has and was your grain ground? LHBS?
 

Little Dipper
Intermediate Member
Username: Littledipper

Post Number: 403
Registered: 02-2004
Posted From: 206.114.61.199
Posted on Monday, May 05, 2008 - 07:35 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

Maybe your thermometer's way off as well. Not likely, but a possibility.
 

Tom E
Junior Member
Username: Tennessee_tom

Post Number: 83
Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 63.166.216.16
Posted on Monday, May 05, 2008 - 07:38 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

FWIW, your pale ale comes to about 6.4 SRM. If you put those water numbers into Palmer's nomograph, it shows that you are on target to get a good mash pH.

Cheers,
Tom
 

mac
New Member
Username: Homeycat

Post Number: 2
Registered: 05-2008
Posted From: 128.2.231.50
Posted on Monday, May 05, 2008 - 07:40 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

other than buying the malts at a new supplier here in PA, nothing different. crushed at the store and the crush looked fine and both malts i've used before: muntons pale and dingemans pilsener, each with about a pound of medium crystal. strike water is about 167, single infusion at 150. it was pretty much dead on the whole time (over 2 hours for the pilser malt, and it never really completely converted) 1.25 qt/lb - alternately adding water and malt while stirring. i don't know how the LHS stored the malt, but it looked and smelled fine to me.

nothing else is different - same equipment set-up, recipes, temperatures....

the whole thing has me stumped. poor conversion and poor efficiency, what else could it be?
 

mac
New Member
Username: Homeycat

Post Number: 3
Registered: 05-2008
Posted From: 128.2.231.50
Posted on Monday, May 05, 2008 - 07:46 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

thanks for the responses/suggestions -

1) yes, LHS crushed the grain for me - i checked it, and it looked fine (as in good, not 'finely crushed into a powder')

2) i have two thermometers, a digital one and a standard dial one, i checked with both when i saw i wasn't getting conversion.

mm
 

HEU Brewer
Intermediate Member
Username: Heu_brewer

Post Number: 368
Registered: 01-2002
Posted From: 146.137.152.40
Posted on Monday, May 05, 2008 - 07:50 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

Sounds like....bad malt
 

Little Dipper
Intermediate Member
Username: Littledipper

Post Number: 404
Registered: 02-2004
Posted From: 206.114.61.199
Posted on Monday, May 05, 2008 - 08:11 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

Is it possible that something's up with the iodine test? Does iodine go bad or anything like that? Did the beers ferment out? How did they taste?
 

mac
New Member
Username: Homeycat

Post Number: 4
Registered: 05-2008
Posted From: 128.2.231.50
Posted on Monday, May 05, 2008 - 08:50 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

yeah - that actually crossed my miind, that something was up with the iodine. because they
did ferment out, fg 1.010, no bottle bombs, and they actually tasted good, but weaker than planned.

that was the thing, i gave up on the conversion because i didn't have all day, but the efficieny was much less than normal for my set-up. o.g. 1.035 for 10lb pale male/1lb crystal. i'm usually at 1.05-1.06 for a batch like this.

i was tackling this as two symptoms (bad conversion/low efficiency) for one problem...maybe
i have two problems...

i think i will just use more grain to factor in bad efficiency as a norm now...but that's like punting.
 

Dan Listermann
Senior Member
Username: Listermann

Post Number: 5559
Registered: 03-2004
Posted From: 216.23.55.202
Posted on Monday, May 05, 2008 - 08:56 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

The huge bulk of efficiency problems are crush related. It may have looked OK, but that is probably where the problem lies.
 

Dave Witt
Senior Member
Username: Davew

Post Number: 1104
Registered: 03-2003
Posted From: 71.194.189.126
Posted on Tuesday, May 06, 2008 - 01:32 am:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

How was the malt weighed? Is your scale accuate? Did you weigh it or did you take it for granted that there was 10# in the bag, etc? Although, even if the weight is off, it shouldn't affect your conversion problem.
 

John Ferens
Intermediate Member
Username: John_ferens

Post Number: 253
Registered: 05-2003
Posted From: 192.104.24.222
Posted on Tuesday, May 06, 2008 - 03:22 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

Mac, I'm also in the Pittsburgh area (south hills) and get my grains from South Hills Brewing Supply, a well-run establishment I have high regard for. Regarding your efficiency, I get about 60% or so and believe it to be the crush. I've asked them to tighten the crush in my on-line grain orders, but perhaps their system doesn't allow it - I've never really talked directly to them about it before.

One of these days I'll get my own mill, but it's a pretty low priority for me.

Cheers!
John.
 

Denny Conn
Senior Member
Username: Denny

Post Number: 6764
Registered: 01-2001
Posted From: 63.114.138.2
Posted on Tuesday, May 06, 2008 - 06:09 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

I'm with Dan...90% of the efficiency issues I see are related to the crush.
 

mac
New Member
Username: Homeycat

Post Number: 5
Registered: 05-2008
Posted From: 128.2.231.50
Posted on Tuesday, May 06, 2008 - 09:18 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

okay - you've all talked me into the crush being the problem, thanks for all the tips.

john- yes, i usually go to south hills for my supplies and have them crush it. weird thing, i once went to the guy in the strip and had the same poor conversion/efficiency problem. i'm doing a batch this weekend and was going to talk to them about the crush. i asked them when i was there last time if they had any issues like mine and they said no one there did all grain (at the time)

currently looking at mills...
 

Hophead
Senior Member
Username: Hophead

Post Number: 2768
Registered: 03-2002
Posted From: 167.4.1.41
Posted on Tuesday, May 06, 2008 - 09:45 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

philbobber
 

Bill Pierce
Moderator
Username: Billpierce

Post Number: 8850
Registered: 01-2002
Posted From: 24.57.225.170
Posted on Tuesday, May 06, 2008 - 10:26 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

If very few all-grain brewers are using the shop's grain, they may have little idea of what a good crush should be. The quality of the crush is much less critical for steeped grains. Tell them to tighten the gap on their mill until there is a small portion (but certainly not a majority) of coarse flour and almost no whole husks. Most of the malt should be in pieces of a size somewhere in between.

Also, you have to question the freshness of their base malt if they have very few all-grain customers. Base malts are not intended for steeping, and they may have been in the store for a long time. Assuming it's kept dry, in general I would want to use uncrushed malt within 18-24 months.
 

Mike G.
Intermediate Member
Username: Mikeg

Post Number: 274
Registered: 04-2005
Posted From: 64.68.174.119
Posted on Wednesday, May 07, 2008 - 02:45 am:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

I'd recommend a corona.
 

Vance Barnes
Senior Member
Username: Vancebarnes

Post Number: 3192
Registered: 03-2003
Posted From: 74.7.7.66
Posted on Wednesday, May 07, 2008 - 09:09 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

with lime? Wasn't that on Monday?
 

mac
New Member
Username: Homeycat

Post Number: 6
Registered: 05-2008
Posted From: 128.2.231.50
Posted on Sunday, May 11, 2008 - 05:25 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

update:

bought a crusher - crush was completely different than the LHS crush, much finer.

converted a pale ale mash (8lb pale, 1lb crysal) in about 45min and hit my my 'normal' 75% efficiency on the nose (og = 1.052). the mash pH was about 5.3 according to the strips i used. relieved things are back to normal.

bill p. - never had this problem in SLC when the beer nut crushed my grains.

john f. - i looked at the crusher they use at south hills, didn't bother asking them about it.
they use the adjustable barley crusher - i'd like to know how wide the gap is on their mill.

hooked indeed, lesson learned, thanks all for the tips
 

Steve H.
Member
Username: Steveh

Post Number: 156
Registered: 02-2003
Posted From: 65.78.86.110
Posted on Sunday, May 11, 2008 - 10:08 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

I also use the Barley Crusher. Lately I've let my crush be slightly coarser than flour, and no whole husks apparent. Add some rice hulls and no stuck sparge. Their gap must be large.

Steve