Poor homebrewing efficiency in all grain brewing can tend to drive homebrewers to go to great lengths to get better efficiency numbers. In an effort to make better beer I also have endeavored to raise my efficiency. As I have traveled down the path to better efficiency, I’ve found that there are key steps that I now take as a general rule to making better beer.
The most common homebrewing efficiency problem home brewers encounter is the milling process or grain crush. Most of us don’t have our own barley mill so we are relegated to using the one at a local store, which may or may not be serviced very often and sees daily wear and tear. This can be remedied usually by asking the clerk to run the grains through the mill more than once. The other option is to purchase your own barley mill. This does incur an extra investment in equipment and should be evaluated by each brewer. I personally own a “Barley Crusher” and have been happy with its performance. Another item to watch is grain size. Grain size may contribute to a poor crush. 6 row barley and rye are smaller and you may need to run them through twice to get a consistent crush. The Grain Cellar in Humble, TX has a professional grade mill that is maintained regularly and you should not find this to be an issue if you use our mill.
The PH of the Mash and Sparge can also make a difference in your homebrewing efficiency. Most of today’s grains are well modified and don’t need a protein rest. However, the acidity or alkalinity of the water you use could impact your efficiency. The optimal PH for most beer is 5.2 – 5.4. This can be accomplished by the addition of an acid rest before you start the sacrification rest. An alternative is to use an acidulated malt (Lactic Malt) or an acid of some kind. There are many to choose from, I use phosphoric acid. Phosphoric acid is the same acid that is in the malt which is why it is what I use. You should note that this matters most on lighter beers; darker beers aren’t usually as affected by the PH because there is plenty of acidity in the malt.
The Mash-Out performs two functions for Homebrewers; the first is to bring the temp of the grist up to sparge temperatures. The second function is that the warmer the liquid is, the easier it is to extract the sugars out of the spent grains. Think of hot and cold tea, it is easier to liquefy sugar in hot tea than it is in cold tea. It can still be done, but it takes a lot longer.
Number of Batch Sparge Rounds
Splitting the number of batch sparge rounds into multiple rounds helps to flush the sugars with clean water. Usually, two equal rounds are adequate. This means that there will be three running’s. The first running is the wort. The second running is the first batch sparge and the last running is the second batch sparge. Most homebrewers use batch sparge over Fly sparge because it’s easier and requires less equipment.
Size of Grain Bill
Grain bill size, as it relates to raising your homebrewing efficiency, is actually quite simple. The larger the grain bill, the more water it will take to rinse. If you have the capacity to add an extra gallon in your boil volume, you can boil the wort for 2 hours instead of 1, which should add about 1.15 gallons to your sparge water; which should help the efficiency with large grain bills.
If you have any questions about homebrewing or would like more information please leave me a comment below, and I will help in any way I can. You can also stop in for a homebrew at The Grain Cellar. We offer free homebrew classes in Humble, TX!