Home Brewing

 
The obvious point of beer brewing is to make good beer. A key component of that goal is to get good efficiency when you brew. The better your efficiency, the better the beer you make. Efficiency is the amount of sugars you extract from the grains. It is important to note that you will not get 100% efficiency because this would mean that you not only extracted all of the sugars, but that you will have also extracted undesirable tannins.

In home beer brewing, anything over 75% efficiency is good, and most home brewers shoot for efficiencies in the 75% to 90% range. Not only does better efficiency improve the quality of your beer, but you will also maximize the money spent on the grains. There are several factors that influence efficiency, here is a quick look at them.

First, the crush of the grain is important. You can buy the grains crushed, by having your LHBS crush them when you purchase them, or, if bought online, having them crushed prior to shipping. Some brewers opt to purchase or make their own grain mill in order to crush at home an additional time before using,

You can ask your grain provider to crush them an additional time, or at a finer crush, although they could charge for this. If the grains aren't crushed enough, then you won't get the full conversion of starch to sugar in the mash or the sparge, which will leave behind valuable sugars and hurt your efficiency. You can lose efficiency when mashing as well, and this is often attributed to the crush.

Keep in mind you do not want to crush the grains too fine, as this can lead to a stuck sparge. Speaking of sparging, you can lose efficiency in this step as well. Generally speaking, batch sparging is not as efficient as fly sparging. Home brewers choose to batch sparge because it is quicker, easier and doesn't depend upon the mash/lauter tun design. With a little practice and research, you can still get great efficiency using batch sparging, so do not outright dismiss it as being inferior to fly sparging. Whichever process you choose, if you perfect your technique, you can accomplish good efficiencies.

The design of your tun also affects efficiency. The design is more important to fly sparging, so it is possible that you use the wrong equipment for the chosen technique. It is important to avoid dead space in your tun, places where the wort can become trapped. The design factors that can impact efficiency are the shape of the tun, the size, the thermal capacity, as well as whether you use a false bottom, mesh screen or manifold.

The temperature you sparge at also is key. Sugars are more soluble at higher temperatures. Think of honey--if you heat it up, it becomes easier to pour. That's because you are making the sugars more soluble. Temperatures of 165F to 170F are ideal to maximize the extraction of sugars. However, you do not want to exceed 170F because then you will start to extract tannins.

The amount of water used for sparging is also important. More water will extract more sugars, but then you could dilute the wort too much, which will decrease your efficiency. Finally, target gravity of the beer also plays a factor. As the target gravity increases, so does the ratio of sparge water needed. This will result in a drop of efficiency. However, as you gain experience and get better at the process of beer brewing, you will be able to better predict this and account for it.

 


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