Author Topic: Efficiency Problem out of Left Field  (Read 840 times)

Offline strongsidebrewing

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Efficiency Problem out of Left Field
« on: July 20, 2017, 12:58:24 PM »
Hey guys,

I see "Efficiency Issue" topics all over this thing, but wanted to start my own to track my own experience here.

I've been brewing all-grain on a 3-tier gravity feed gatorade jug style system for 7 years now. 7Gal HLT, 10Gal MT, 8Gal Kettle - Doing 5Gal batches.

I've consistently hit 70-75% efficiency for every brew since my first (which was low because my temps were all off, beginner's troubles).

Just recently, this year, I've been way low on my OG readings. I used iBrewmaster (iPhone app brewing software) forever and have never had a problem. I switched to BeerSmith and I've been low ever since. I've adjusted every facet of my profiles to match as closely as I can to my actual setup. Volume calculations have been fine, but I cannot get my OG anywhere near the estimation (with an estimated 70% efficiency used to create the recipe). I've consistently coming up 0.010 low.

I don't think BeerSmith is the issue, however, because even when repeating an old recipe I'm coming up low.

For example, I brewed this week, a recipe that I've done in the past:

Coffee Stout:
10# - Pale 2 row
1# - Caramel 20L
0.75# - Black Patent
0.5# - Chocolate
0.5# - Carafoam

12.75# of Total Malt

Mash with 4Gal at 156deg - 60min
Sparge with 4.5Gal at 170deg - 60min
Total runoff: 6.75Gal
Boil 60min - Volume into carboy - 5.25Gal

Est. Efficiency 75% - Est. OG 1.061

***Exact same recipe, brewed twice, results***
Act. Efficiency 74% - Act. OG 1.060 <--- Brewed 3/04/2017
Act. Efficiency 61% - Act. OG 1.050 <--- Brewed 7/18/2017

It's killing me. I'm literally changing nothing.

I always run the grain through the mill at my homebrew shop twice to get a good crush. I hit my temperatures dead on. I mash in for a good 10 minutes to assure no clumps or pockets. I sparge slow for a full hour to assure a slow runoff and continued conversion. I have no idea what could be going wrong.

One anomaly to throw in the mix....I brewed about a month ago, a "Pale Ale" that was supposed to be around 5.5%...11.5# grain bill...and I hit 88% efficiency, OG of 1.070, final ABV of about 7.7%. I can deal with being consistently low because I can compensate for it with more grain...but not if I'm going to have curveballs that come out to be monsters when I'm just going for something light and simple.

Any help would be appreciated. Thanks a lot guys. Happy brewing!


Offline jtoots

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Re: Efficiency Problem out of Left Field
« Reply #1 on: July 21, 2017, 05:57:54 AM »
let's start here... what are you measuring gravity with?  i've heard of hydrometers slipping (the paper on the inside of the glass) and refractometers need calibration.

Offline strongsidebrewing

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Re: Efficiency Problem out of Left Field
« Reply #2 on: July 21, 2017, 08:05:42 AM »
Thanks so much for the reply! I wrote a bit of a novel there, thanks for the read.

I've been using a hydrometer. Now that you mention it, I have bought a new one this year. I haven't tried a second one to verify accuracy.

Offline GigaFemto

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Re: Efficiency Problem out of Left Field
« Reply #3 on: July 22, 2017, 09:43:33 AM »
Has your water changed? Do you measure your mash pH? That can have an effect on efficiency.

--GF

Offline strongsidebrewing

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Re: Efficiency Problem out of Left Field
« Reply #4 on: July 22, 2017, 01:55:34 PM »
Thanks! I have recently started messing with water quality to. A lance sulfate / chloride ratio.  The difference in these 2 beers mentioned..first was plain water, second was same water with 2g calcium chloride, 1.5g calcium sulfate in the mash. Been hitting pH's of 5.25-5.5 since playing with water quality.

Offline strongsidebrewing

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Re: Efficiency Problem out of Left Field
« Reply #5 on: August 05, 2017, 06:53:37 PM »
let's start here... what are you measuring gravity with?  i've heard of hydrometers slipping (the paper on the inside of the glass) and refractometers need calibration.

Gave some of my tools a test. Thermometer is measuring a perfect 32deg F in heavily iced distilled water, and hydrometer is measuring 1.000 in room temperature distilled water.

Need to go back to the drawing board.

I'm attempting to enter old recipes (from my old app, iBrewmaster) into BS. I have good actual values from my previous brews, so I'm attempting to adjust all of my profiles to get estimated values close to the actual values that I took when I brewed back in the day, with an estimation of the same actual efficiency that I calculated in the past.

I'll let the forum know how it goes.

Offline strongsidebrewing

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Re: Efficiency Problem out of Left Field
« Reply #6 on: August 18, 2017, 07:35:31 AM »
For those keeping track at home, just wanted to update this with latest thoughts / findings

Correlating any issues with efficiency by comparing old batch actual values to beersmith new recipes with adjusted equipment profiles has been difficult. I feel like I'm chasing a ghost, just way too many variables.

Something that somebody mentioned that might make sense is that maybe I didn't have the amount of grain that I thought I had. My homebrew store has been cycling through a few scales the past few times I've been there, always complaining that they're not staying on for long and just acting flaky overall. So I'm thinking maybe it could have been a scale calibration issue. I reached out to my contact there but he hasn't answered me yet.

Will keep posting until I lock down an estimated OG with an actual OG and a reason. Thanks.