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Fly sparge vs. Batch

Discussion in 'Homebrewing' started by Jesse14, Jul 27, 2013.

  1. Jesse14

    Jesse14 Savant (255) Massachusetts Jul 21, 2011

    I'm on the fence and need a push on which method to go with. I've done both with mixed results. I recently did back to back fly sparges with very different extractions. The first was around 79%. The second was around 60%. Same LHBS milling the grains, same brewing set-up, same procedures. I lautered both at about 1 qt every 2 min. and always kept the grain bed covered. My thoughts were that my pH was off during the lauter or my HLT temp dropped quite a bit. I didn't monitor either during the sparge....distracted with domestic duties.

    I have a 10 gal cylindrical cooler for a mash tun and a 7.5 gal aluminum HLT set up on a gravity tier system. Not ideal for doing a mash-out or maintaining a consistent temp on the sparge water. Any tips on doing a mash-out other than adding x gallons of boiling water to get to 168 before I lauter? I'm worried about mash tun space for big beers and adding excessive water that is not pH adjusted. I boil the water in an electric tea pot.

    Or should I just go back to batch sparging? I started fly sparging to improve extraction on big beers but I have not been able to dial it in yet.
  2. utahbeerdude

    utahbeerdude Savant (415) Utah May 2, 2006

    Such a big drop in efficiency suggests (to me, anyway) that perhaps you had channeling of the sparge water in the second runoff.
    MLucky likes this.
  3. Genuine

    Genuine Savant (415) Connecticut May 7, 2009

    I've always batch sparged. I heat up my sparge water up to 190 or so, which brings the temp up to 170, then I let it sit for 10 minutes before start to collect 2nd runnings. Been getting great efficiency with that method and I don't plan on changing it anytime soon.
    koopa likes this.
  4. Amaral

    Amaral Aspirant (40) Rhode Island Jul 2, 2013

    I agree with Genuine . I get good efficiency and saves time.
  5. +1. What are you using: Bazooka screen? Some kind of manifold? False bottom?
  6. inchrisin

    inchrisin Savant (435) Indiana Sep 25, 2008


    They'll all do about the same if you're batch sparging.
  7. AlCaponeJunior

    AlCaponeJunior Champion (790) Texas May 21, 2010

    I have to decide this soon myself. I was intending on fly sparging, but I'm not opposed to the idea of going back to batch sparging if fly sparging proves to be more trouble than it's worth.

    I'm going to use a false bottom made from a stainless steel pot lid that fits well, and has a handle built in. I was going to essentially drill a bunch of holes in it so it would be similar to a false bottom. My 5 gallon mash tun has a bazooka screen, which works great. I was considering the possibility that a false bottom with a screen might be the best way to do it (don't really know, but it's possible, I suppose).

    Is there any particular false bottom or configuration that is known to work better/best? How is yours designed, and what are the pros/cons? Please do elaborate in great detail. With pics and links if need be!
  8. Jesse14

    Jesse14 Savant (255) Massachusetts Jul 21, 2011

    I have a braided round ring in my mash tun that evenly divides the inside and outside area. According the Palmer, this set up is more uniform than a false bottom of the same size. I don't think I have any issues with channeling or compaction. I'm pretty careful to set the bed and lauter out very slowly (1 hour plus). Just frustrated with the inconsistencies.
  9. Sure, but not if you're fly sparging.

    Sounds like your hunch that it was a PH issue could be correct.
  10. utahbeerdude

    utahbeerdude Savant (415) Utah May 2, 2006

    Could be pH if the acidity of the grist was very different for the two beers: see KT's webpage describing his mash efficiency experiments to see how pH affects efficiency. Was one a light colored beer and one a dark beer with perhaps lots of crystal? If so, then the pH values for the two mashes may possibly have been different enough to account for at least part of the difference in efficiencies.

    This set of slides is also worth a look if one is thinking about batch vs fly sparging.
  11. Jesse14

    Jesse14 Savant (255) Massachusetts Jul 21, 2011

    Thanks for the link. Very interesting read. I'm thinking it might have been my pH and/or temperature during lautering. Everything else was consistent and inline. Even the grain bill was similar. One was a saison and the other an IPA. No big crystal in either. I think I might try batch for beers with an OG less than 1.065. And fly for larger. I might move to thinner mashes too. I usually do 1.25 qt/lb but might bump to 1.5 qt or more.
  12. utahbeerdude

    utahbeerdude Savant (415) Utah May 2, 2006

    If the two grain bills were similar and you used the same water for both, then it is very unlikely to be pH. Do you have temperature data?

    From your description of your filter it sounds as if you have a cylindrical mash tun? If so, I believe that you should be able to fly sparge with consistent results, especially if (1) the mash is fairly thin before you start sparging (either by doing a fairly thin mash or adding water at the end, (2) you do a mashout to ~168 F (and mix well along the way to distribute the heat), and (3) you plan for your sparge to take ~1/2 hour. This is my procedure and I get consistently get >80% efficiency out of my mash.
  13. jbakajust1

    jbakajust1 Moderator (510) Oregon Aug 25, 2009 Staff Member

    Are you going off your efficiency from the fermenter volume and gravity or preboil? An IPA will have a worse efficiency than a Saison due to volume losses to the absorption of the hop mass on an IPA.
  14. Jesse14

    Jesse14 Savant (255) Massachusetts Jul 21, 2011

    I added more gypsum and acidulated malt for the IPA. Used a program to give me a theoretical pH but have a feeling it went more acidic than anticipated. The pH strip was reading lighter than 5.0 after 15 min. of mash and cooled to room temp. I didn't mash out. That is what I'm looking for some advice on. What's the best way to mash out in a cooler besides adding boiling water? I read somewhere that lautering off some of the wort, boiling it, and dumping back in to raise the mash temp was one way. Seems like it will take a while though. I sparge with 175-180 water but I shut off the burner when the sparge starts. The temp drops over the hour or so it takes to get my preboil volume not much choice unless I insulate the sparge water. I may have to. I then take a gravity reading pre-boil to check my efficiency. Head scratcher for me.
  15. mattbk

    mattbk Savant (390) New York Dec 12, 2011

    Don't know about your LHBS - but I used to get a lot of inconsistency in my efficiency when they used to crush my grain. Sometimes in the 80s, sometimes in the 60s. Bought a barley crusher, now I'm 72-76 every batch with no stuck mashes.
  16. I used to batch sparge, now I fly. I usually get about the same efficiency, mid-70's, but I'm still dialing in my method. Anyway, I prefer to fly sparge as I get the same efficiency as batch sparging, but I need less wort to do so. To keep my numbers up during batch sparging I generally needed more wort than I could boil off during my 60 min boil. With fly sparging I get the same efficiency but I only need about 6.5 gallons of wort...where batch sparging needed 7.5 to 8.

    YMMV
  17. telejunkie

    telejunkie Savant (330) Vermont Sep 14, 2007

    I used to have problems sometimes with my manifold when fly sparging for reasons that perplexed me regarding missed gravities so ended up going over to batch sparge. Batch sparging always annoyed me with the extra work and it never saved me any time.

    Fly sparging with a float valve is a thing of beauty...don't think i would ever go back. It allows me set it & forget it. I also use a false bottom now (blichmann) and have never had a problem with missed numbers. Blichmann stuff requires massive capital investment so while I almost never really recommend it for most (besides his burner), it's serious engineered equipment.

    One technique I developed for big beers is a hybrid batch sparge. Instead of draining the whole tun, drain 1/3 to half, then fill back up, mix, drain 1/3 to half, fill back up, etc...until your kettle is full. You should notice a decent bump in your numbers. I got 100% brewhouse efficiency using this technique once on a moderate-big gravity beer (~1070).

    As for the mash out, you could always put together a heat stick or try to develop a HERMS system if you a ready to invest in a pump (which I do highly recommend).
  18. Jesse14

    Jesse14 Savant (255) Massachusetts Jul 21, 2011

    I like the sounds of your modified batch sparge. Do you let the mash sit for 10-15 minutes after each refill and mix? Or do you only do that for the first drain and mix?
  19. telejunkie

    telejunkie Savant (330) Vermont Sep 14, 2007

    maybe 5 mins for first two or three sparge re-fills, basically using 185-190F water to try to get the mash up to mash out temp.
  20. koopa

    koopa Champion (790) New Jersey Apr 20, 2008

    Were you using a pump when batch sparging? If so, my guess would be that your run off rate may have been too quick and impeded your ability to collect all more the volume when batch sparging. I recently did a 16.5 gallon batch and collected 1.5 gallons more than I anticipated simply by reducing my run off rate! Doing so keeps my pump "feed side" fed longer and improves my efficiency presumably reducing lauter channeling.

  21. Nope, no pump.
  22. AlCaponeJunior

    AlCaponeJunior Champion (790) Texas May 21, 2010


    You know, I hadn't even thought about this. Guess I was just lucky till now, but this could make a big difference when my new system is up (although it will still probably be fly sparging, but still). I suspect that I have been consistent merely because I open the valve all the way when sparging (it's not got a real large opening, but it's not tiny either, actually, it seems about right).

    Will make sure to take this into account on new system.
  23. koopa

    koopa Champion (790) New Jersey Apr 20, 2008

    FWIW I've only used Blichmann false bottoms and they have a button louver design with a slotted manifold. Not sure if that design plays a part in my experience.

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