Explain It To Nick: Mash Thickness

Discussion in 'Homebrewing' started by NGennaroL777, Jul 5, 2018.

  1. NGennaroL777

    NGennaroL777 Initiate (85) Aug 15, 2013 Massachusetts
    Beer Trader

    I'm in the planning stages of doing a SMaSH with some Pale 2 Row grain I got from a local grower here in Massachusetts. I usually mash at 1.25 qt but have noticed that the Brewers Friend app has been pre-selecting 1.5. I saw a poll from 2016 on here where the top two measurements people choose were 1.25 and 1.5. How much difference does mash thickness make in efficiency? I know it depends on the malts being used, but not much else.

    What measurement do you utilize for mash thickness?

    Lets get a good conversation started!!
     
  2. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (3,575) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania
    Premium Member

    From Kai Troester’s blog:

    “A significant difference was however found in the efficiency. The brewhouse efficiency of the thick mashes remained almost constant between 58 and 60% over the temperature range of the experiments, but the brewhouse efficiency for the thinner mash showed a strong dependency on the temperature and was always better than the efficiency of the tick mash. That leads to the conclusion that thinner mashes perform better and allow for better extraction of the grain.”

    Results are presented in Figure 18: http://braukaiser.com/wiki/index.ph...ity_and_efficiency_in_single_infusion_mashing

    Cheers!
     
  3. JohnnyChicago

    JohnnyChicago Champion (822) Sep 3, 2010 Illinois

    I don’t know the exact ratio (I eyeball it), but I definitely prefer a thinner mash. Easier to work with, extraction is better, less chance of sticking the lauter.I have always felt the 1.25 standard is way too thick.

    Regardless of thickness, you always want a couple of inches of water above your grain bed during the lauter. Too much or too little and you will compact the grain bed.
     
  4. dmtaylor

    dmtaylor Initiate (178) Dec 30, 2003 Wisconsin

    Thickness doesn't matter much at all... within a range of about 0.8 - 3 qts/lb. It's all good. Stupid variable, certainly just about the least of your worries on this planet.

    FWIW, I typically target anywhere from about 1.2-1.8 qt/lb, just because it "seems right to me".

    Cheers.
     
  5. NGennaroL777

    NGennaroL777 Initiate (85) Aug 15, 2013 Massachusetts
    Beer Trader

    I'm reading up on sparge temps and see to batch sparge at a temp of 168-170 degrees. I sparge at 60 minutes because I've seen an uptick in efficiency. With that said, I don't generally mash at a temperature as low as 145 degrees (which I plan on doing for this SMaSH). With that said, why am I sparging at that high of a temp for this beer? I haven't seen any literature in my searches for any other temp but that one.
     
  6. dmtaylor

    dmtaylor Initiate (178) Dec 30, 2003 Wisconsin

    If you are batch sparging, I would encourage you to use boiling water or very hot water 190-210 F. That's the only way it will come up to mashout temp of 168 F that you desire. Otherwise I know for my batch sparging I can only hit upper 150s or 160 F if I used sparge water temp below 190 F. There are zero drawbacks to using near-boiling water, contrary to what some texts will claim.

    Seems you are reading a lot of outdated texts, grasshopper. If you have more questions, I'll be happy to debunk more of them for you based on real life experience, which includes my own experience as well as confirmation by many many others.
     
  7. NGennaroL777

    NGennaroL777 Initiate (85) Aug 15, 2013 Massachusetts
    Beer Trader

    I've only been brewing about 2 years now, so I'm still doing research & reading up, trying to avoid older posts. So adding 210 degree sparge water doesn't introduce tannins into the beer?
     
  8. VikeMan

    VikeMan Meyvn (1,431) Jul 12, 2009 Pennsylvania
    Beer Trader

    The reason to add hot water at a temperature that will settle out at 168-170F is to deactivate enzymes and therefore "lock in" (somewhat) your wort fermentability profile. This is call a mashout.
     
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  9. NGennaroL777

    NGennaroL777 Initiate (85) Aug 15, 2013 Massachusetts
    Beer Trader

    Where can I find a sparge water volume & temp calculator?
     
  10. VikeMan

    VikeMan Meyvn (1,431) Jul 12, 2009 Pennsylvania
    Beer Trader

    I've never needed a mashout water temperature anywhere near 210 to reach 168-170. Most of my mashouts use water that's less than 190F.

    ETA: but the idea is that the temperature settles fairly quickly to 168 or 170 (or whatever), so the grains are not spending much time in the tannin danger zone.
     
    #10 VikeMan, Jul 5, 2018
    Last edited: Jul 5, 2018
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  11. VikeMan

    VikeMan Meyvn (1,431) Jul 12, 2009 Pennsylvania
    Beer Trader

    I think there are some standalone on line calculators for that. But AFAIK, none take the thermal capacity of the mash tun into consideration. So when people use them, they have to guess (or know from experience based on the equipment/batch size/recipe) at how much higher to heat the water to account for that. But if you want an "all in one" type solution, take a look at BrewCipher. It's free and the author is pretty much always around.
     
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  12. dmtaylor

    dmtaylor Initiate (178) Dec 30, 2003 Wisconsin

    Nope, nothing detectable anyway.
     
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  13. dmtaylor

    dmtaylor Initiate (178) Dec 30, 2003 Wisconsin

    I have my own spreadsheet which includes mash tun thermal capacity. If I can figure out a way to share it on Google docs or something, maybe I'll put a link up. I'm at work right now, so maybe later.
     
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  14. NGennaroL777

    NGennaroL777 Initiate (85) Aug 15, 2013 Massachusetts
    Beer Trader

    I'm adding almost 6 gallons to mash in, for a 5 gal batch I lose approx 2 gallons in a 75 minute mash, so I'll have about 4 gallons in the kettle. My thinking is 2.5 gallons of batch sparge water at 60 minutes will yield just about the same since my qt/lb ratio is so high (2.0), so 6.5 gallons into the kettle w/ a 1 gallon boil off for the hour will result in approx 5.5 gallons into the fermenter. Thoughts?
     
  15. VikeMan

    VikeMan Meyvn (1,431) Jul 12, 2009 Pennsylvania
    Beer Trader

    My thought is you need to use a calculator, spreadsheet, or program for this. Don't guess. (BTW, mash length doesn't affect water volumes needed.)
     
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  16. VikeMan

    VikeMan Meyvn (1,431) Jul 12, 2009 Pennsylvania
    Beer Trader

    ETA: didn't mean to seem flippant about this, but there are also other factors that go into it. For example, the amount of hops you're using (and thus losing wort to).
     
  17. NGennaroL777

    NGennaroL777 Initiate (85) Aug 15, 2013 Massachusetts
    Beer Trader

    I'm going to use about 4oz of Loral hops at 10 minute intervals, 1oz @ 60, 50, 40 & 30.
     
  18. dmtaylor

    dmtaylor Initiate (178) Dec 30, 2003 Wisconsin

    I had to make assumptions on several of the variables here, including pounds of grain, grain temperature, etc., but if I'm in the ballpark, my calculator suggests you probably need to use boiling water to sparge. Volumes are all given in both gallons and quarts. If you have tweaks, let me know and I'll show you how it looks.

    [​IMG]
     
  19. NGennaroL777

    NGennaroL777 Initiate (85) Aug 15, 2013 Massachusetts
    Beer Trader

    So here are my tweaks:
    11.65lb of grain, losing approx. 8.0 qt, losing 1 gal in evaporation. Looking to see how many gallons of sparge water at what temperature if I'm mashing at 145 degrees for 75 minutes
     
  20. dmtaylor

    dmtaylor Initiate (178) Dec 30, 2003 Wisconsin

    Losing 8 quarts?! Where, specifically? Needs to be spelled out in detail.
     
  21. NGennaroL777

    NGennaroL777 Initiate (85) Aug 15, 2013 Massachusetts
    Beer Trader

    I lose 2 gallons easily in a 75 minute mash. I've never mashed with such a high qt/lb ratio before so maybe I do better this time around.
     
  22. dmtaylor

    dmtaylor Initiate (178) Dec 30, 2003 Wisconsin

    Okay, I see it now.... your 2 gallons (8 quarts) is including both permanent absorption of water in the grains AND losses in the bottom of the mash tun. Looks like the breakdown is about 1.2 gallons permanently soaked and 3.5 quarts not being drained out of the mash tun. Okay, I can help you. Give me a couple more minutes......
     
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  23. dmtaylor

    dmtaylor Initiate (178) Dec 30, 2003 Wisconsin

    Okay, here you go.... if you strike with 6 gallons water at 163 F, you'll hit about 145 F desired, then can sparge with 1.6 gallons water at about 207 F to hit about 168 F mashout temp.

    Doing this will result in a slight loss of efficiency because you're striking with too much volume and not sparging enough. For maximum efficiency, try instead striking with 5.25 gallons at 164 F at a ratio of 1.8 qt/lb, then sparge with 3.25 gallons at 206 F. You should see an efficiency bump of maybe ~3% from this, ballpark estimate.

    [​IMG]
     
  24. NGennaroL777

    NGennaroL777 Initiate (85) Aug 15, 2013 Massachusetts
    Beer Trader

    My initial idea, based on brewers friend, was to go 6.5 gal strike & 2.6 gal sparge to = 9.1gal water -- that's @ a 64% efficiency.
     
  25. dmtaylor

    dmtaylor Initiate (178) Dec 30, 2003 Wisconsin

    I understand that. Just pointing out that by simply changing the ratio to 1.8 qt/lb, your efficiency will increase towards 70%-ish.
     
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  26. NGennaroL777

    NGennaroL777 Initiate (85) Aug 15, 2013 Massachusetts
    Beer Trader

    So what you're saying is people who go 2.0+ generally experience a loss of efficiency?
     
  27. dmtaylor

    dmtaylor Initiate (178) Dec 30, 2003 Wisconsin

    Not exactly. I'm saying that a 50/50 split of first runnings and sparge volumes will maximize efficiency regardless of the ratio, and that you can use science & math to purposefully change the qt/lb ratio to anything you want to maximize efficiency, IF you care about doing that at all. Some people care about efficiency, some don't. The efficiency guru will recognize that there simply is NOT any magic ratio like 1.25 or 2.0 or whatever that is always right for every situation; the best ratio to use varies, and it's based in part on the 50/50 volume thing.

    I honestly don't care all that much about efficiency, because a couple percent here & there isn't that big of a deal, and I'm getting 80-90% all the time. But if you're only getting low 60s percent efficiency, that's kind of crummy, to be honest. Aiming for 50/50 split of first running volume and sparge volume would help kick it up a notch. That's really all I'm doing. You might also want to mill your grains a bit more, IF you care about efficiency. Maybe you don't.

    Just stuff to think about. Don't be locked into any particular volumes or ratios if efficiency matters to you. But if it doesn't matter, then I don't care either, do whatever you want. You'll make great beer either way honestly.
     
  28. NGennaroL777

    NGennaroL777 Initiate (85) Aug 15, 2013 Massachusetts
    Beer Trader

    We definitely care about efficiency. We mill our grains right now at about .350, which seems really, really fine. Anything more and I fear a stuck sparge. The main idea of going up to 2.0 was in reading some online literature, it increases efficiency. It's more of an experiment than anything, but at 13lb of grain I don't know if I can get 6.5 gallons in my cooler at once. I really appreciate your advice and would love to hear any other thoughts.
     
  29. NGennaroL777

    NGennaroL777 Initiate (85) Aug 15, 2013 Massachusetts
    Beer Trader

    Also, FWIW we've gone from 58% efficiency, to 64% and even hit up to probably 71% or so. It varies, and we're trying to figure out what works for us the best in terms of maximizing efficiency to save us money in the long run.
     
  30. Brewday

    Brewday Initiate (186) Dec 25, 2015 New York

    Do you know if there's proven science on this. If you mash at 160, will 8 more degrees really deactivate enzymes or was this done during the mash. I know the hotter water thins the sugars more but i often wonder about the mashout temps.
    BTW i always use 2.0 qts/pound or even more if i have to raise the temp.
     
    #30 Brewday, Jul 5, 2018
    Last edited: Jul 5, 2018
  31. NGennaroL777

    NGennaroL777 Initiate (85) Aug 15, 2013 Massachusetts
    Beer Trader

    What do you use for a HLT? I use a cooler and am worried I won't have enough space for 13lb grain and 6.5gal water.
     
  32. NGennaroL777

    NGennaroL777 Initiate (85) Aug 15, 2013 Massachusetts
    Beer Trader

    Would you be willing to e-mail me your spreadsheet?
     
  33. dmtaylor

    dmtaylor Initiate (178) Dec 30, 2003 Wisconsin

    Yes, just send me your email address in a private message.
     
  34. NGennaroL777

    NGennaroL777 Initiate (85) Aug 15, 2013 Massachusetts
    Beer Trader

    Done. Thank you sir!
     
  35. dmtaylor

    dmtaylor Initiate (178) Dec 30, 2003 Wisconsin

    0.035 is not very fine. Try at least 0.030. Only back off if it gets stuck, otherwise don't be afraid to crank down even more.

    2 qt/lb might improve efficiency but I doubt it. Crush matters more than anything else. If your crush sucks, your efficiency will suck, regardless of the ratio.
     
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  36. VikeMan

    VikeMan Meyvn (1,431) Jul 12, 2009 Pennsylvania
    Beer Trader

    There is, but it's so commonly understood that I can't think of a paper on it, offhand. The hotter the temperature, the faster they are denatured. OTOH, if you mash for long enough at 160 (or any temp), they will all denature anyway. (But then you haven't locked in a (non)fermentability.) Basically it's a race between conversion of starches/sugars and denaturing of the enzymes. Normal mash temps favor the former. Mashout temps favor the latter.

    I should also have mentioned before that increasing the temperature decreases the viscosity of the wort, so it will flow a little easier, helping to prevent stuck runoffs, and very slightly increasing efficiency. (There are various degrees of "stuck.")
     
  37. VikeMan

    VikeMan Meyvn (1,431) Jul 12, 2009 Pennsylvania
    Beer Trader

    So, this is somewhat brewery/process dependent, but the value I use (and BrewCipher's default) is 0.025 gallons of wort loss per ounce of pellet hops. And when you lose wort volume, you need more total water, which means more grains to get the same gravity. This is among the reasons why I highly recommend software. Standalone calculators can be good, but they don't talk to each other. And rules of thumb are great, but they typically are derived under a limited set of circumstances that don't always work under other circumstances.
     
  38. Brewday

    Brewday Initiate (186) Dec 25, 2015 New York

    I use the orange igloos. My last mash batch was 12-1/2 lbs with 7-1/4 gals(i added more to raise the temp) and it wasn't at the top.
     
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  39. Brewday

    Brewday Initiate (186) Dec 25, 2015 New York

    That would also be interesting to learn about since i read some malts only take 15 mins to convert.
     
  40. VikeMan

    VikeMan Meyvn (1,431) Jul 12, 2009 Pennsylvania
    Beer Trader

    It's possible to have full conversion (or close to it) in 15 minutes. But full conversion only means that all of the starches have been converted to fermentable and unfermentable sugars and dextrins. Beyond full conversion, the longer the enzymes work, the more fermentable the wort becomes, as longer chains are chopped into shorter chains. If you want to read up on the concepts, read the All Grain chapter at www.howtobrew.com. If you want to see some data, Kai Troester ran some experiments about the impact of various mash factors (including time) and the writeup is on the web. Also, Greg Doss (Wyeast) published a powerpoint brief on similar measurements he did. It's available (or at least used to be) to AHA members on the AHA site.

    Ironically, "How to Brew" (at least the old version) more or less encouraged brewers to use iodine to check for full conversion, which really ignores the purpose of manipulating mash conditions to get the wort you want. I know a guy who in his noob days read that, went to the LHBS, and asked for an "iodine test kit" (instead of just going to the drug store to buy iodine). As luck would have it, the LHBS was apparently just as clueless, because they indeed did have "iodine test kits" in stock, i.e. chemical(s) that tested for the presence of iodine itself. Anyway, I don't see the value in doing a test for full conversion, except maybe as part of troubleshooting very low efficiency or something like that.
     
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