Batch sparging

Mashing, fly sparging, batch sparging, dry hopping, late additions. Have an idea you want to bounce or stop by and share your experiences here.

Batch sparging

Postby ScottK on Mon Nov 28, 2011 10:46 am

Chris Blohm and I brewed a Brown ale this weekend. It was my first try at batch sparging. I missed my target gravity by .010 and my efficiency was only 60%, so I'm trying to figure out what went wrong. I will blame some of this on my neighbor who walked up and distracted me during the sparge steps. After the initial 60 minute mash, I added the required amount of sparge water. I did not stir the grain bed nor let it rest after adding this initial water. I vorlaufed and drained. I then added the next volume of sparge water and again did not stir the bed or give it a rest before vorlauf and draining. My assumption is that by not stirring I did not the warmer sparge water distributed to all the sugars. I am confident that my water volumes and temps were correct. Could the lack of stirring the mash and allowing a 10-15 minute rest at each sparge water addition contribute to a loss of efficiency?
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Re: Batch sparging

Postby jward on Mon Nov 28, 2011 2:27 pm

IMHO, when batch sparging you should do the water addition, stir, and then vourlof. I don't think you need to wait any longer then the time it takes to vourlof.
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Re: Batch sparging

Postby SamIam on Mon Nov 28, 2011 5:24 pm

+1 with jward
jward wrote:IMHO, when batch sparging you should do the water addition, stir, and then vourlof. I don't think you need to wait any longer then the time it takes to vourlof.

Definitely want to stir to help wash the grain. Also, what temp was your sparge water? I always like to heat my sparge water up to 168-170, sparge, stir, vourlof then drain. The hotter water seems to help it flow a bit better.
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Re: Batch sparging

Postby ScottK on Mon Nov 28, 2011 8:16 pm

My sparge water was 168. It sounds like the lack of stirring was what led to my low efficiency. Everything else was spot on.
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Re: Batch sparging

Postby dhempy on Mon Nov 28, 2011 10:53 pm

I generally add sparge water a little hotter than that (175 or so) figuring that there has been some heat loss by the grain during wort transfer to the BP. I also fill, stir, vorlauf, and then transfer. BUT I also take refractometer readings as well. In general, I've found that by 10 minutes, the readings have stabilized for several minutes so as a rule of thumb, I "batch" for 10 minutes. I haven't checked efficiency in a while but I think I was pretty consistently in the low 70s.

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Re: Batch sparging

Postby brahn on Tue Nov 29, 2011 12:19 pm

If you're batch sparging you can go much warmer with the mash out/sparge water since you're adding the water and stirring immediately. I usually shoot for around 185. The key is to not let the grain bed temperature get above 170-175. If you were using hotter water when you fly sparge the top of the grain bed could get too hot and you could start extracting tannins from the grain husks. Since you stir the water in when you batch sparge the temperature equalizes quickly and this isn't an issue.
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Re: Batch sparging

Postby dhempy on Wed Nov 30, 2011 9:05 am

+1 for being aware of tannin extraction ... .. like I said ... I shoot for 175.

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Re: Batch sparging

Postby BrewMasterBrad on Wed Nov 30, 2011 10:41 am

Sounds like too much work. By the time you measure, heat, add, stir, vorlauf, runoff, repeat - what is the time or efficiency savings over fly sparging? Unless batch sparging is necessitated by equipment limitations, I just don't get the benefit.
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Re: Batch sparging

Postby JonW on Wed Nov 30, 2011 12:43 pm

My thoughts exactly Brad. Some people think that fly sparging is difficult or more complex than batch sparging, but it is really simple. I usually runoff around 13 gallons into the BK in about 45 minutes. During that time I can measure and prep my hops, clean equipment, etc. My efficiency is usually around 80%.
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Re: Batch sparging

Postby lexuschris on Wed Nov 30, 2011 2:11 pm

When I first started, the whole fly-sparge thing was very confusing ... I was very happy that my equipment (10-gal rubbermaid cooler for a mash-tun) made batch sparging the only real option. However, now that I understand the concept, I would probably build my next system with fly-sparging in mind.

Just to pipe in here... I usually target a 1.25 qt/lb mash thickness, and just drain the mash water as my 1st runnings (no topping off). Then dump in a single batch sparge volume at 168-F, which completely breaks up the grain bed during the pour. I give it a few minutes to settle, then drain the 2nd runnings. Done.

However, my efficiency peaks at 70% ... and is quite variable (60%-70%). Just another reason for me to upgrade my system and move to something more repeatable.
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edit: also, I do vorlauf a few quarts until it is clear of grain material....
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Re: Batch sparging

Postby jward on Wed Nov 30, 2011 2:56 pm

When batch sparging, I top off the MT before the vorlauf. After the vorlauf I drain as fast as it will drain. I measure the wort in the BK and pump the required water into the MT for another stir, vorlauf, drain cycle. If I measure correctly, I can't over sparge, need to worry about tannin extraction, or mash pH. I don't have to account for losses to deadspace or the grain. I hit preboil volumes without monitoring the sparge. This takes less time then fly sparging even if a little more work. The brew day is shorter.

Even when fly sparging, one is supposed to sparge with a specific amount of water. Theoretically one could run too much water through the grain. Asking around I didn't find anyone who actually does this. Home brewers seem to stop the flow into the BK when they hit the pre-boil levels. However, brewer's beers don't seem to indicate an issue. Keeping an eye on how much is sparged, a task I find leads to over sparging, takes more time to monitor then the batch process. I have been discussing ideas with backyard brewer on controlling sparge water pumped from the HTL to MT which would solve this problem on my system.
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Re: Batch sparging

Postby BrewMasterBrad on Wed Nov 30, 2011 3:26 pm

I don't worry about mash pH or tannin extraction either. I know exactly how much combined mash water and sparge water I need to reach my desired boil kettle volume. I don't bother measuring runoff pH. I add some gypsum and/or calcium chloride to my pale beer mashes and some chalk and/or baking soda to my dark beer mashes. I lower the pH of my sparge water by adding a little lactic acid. I do it by feel (after much practice and trial and error, of course). I have never measured the amount of time it takes to fill my boil kettle once I start sparging.

I don't know exactly what my point is other than it takes practice and it takes whatever means necessary or available to make good beer. I have always fly sparged because that is how I learned to brew and I find it very easy to execute. I almost always get close to 72% efficiency using this method. Efficiency, by the way, is highly overrated. Consistency is underrated. I don't think I have every tasted a beer and said, "Hey, this beer is great. You must have had over 80% efficiency on this" or "The only thing that is missing in this beer is that distinctive batch sparge flavor". Being able to brew the exact same beer two or more times, now that is impressive.
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Re: Batch sparging

Postby brahn on Wed Nov 30, 2011 3:30 pm

For me it was mainly an equipment issue, it's much easier to setup a cooler for batch sparging than for fly sparging where you need to consider channelling and I didn't have the space for multiple tiers. On brewday I don't think it takes a lot less time, but I do think it's a little more foolproof for some of the reasons jward mentioned. My efficiency varies some based on the expected OG, but generally comes in at 79% on an average beer.

Brad, I agree with you 100% about efficiency not being terribly important other than as a tool to maintain consistency.
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Re: Batch sparging

Postby jward on Wed Nov 30, 2011 4:36 pm

BrewMasterBrad wrote:I know exactly how much combined mash water and sparge water I need to reach my desired boil kettle volume.

Would you elaborate a little more on this? How do you manage sparge water? My system will keep the MT topped off until the HLT is empty or I stop it. The MT will drain until empty or I stop it. My goal is to pump just the right amount sparge water into the MT and have the MT drain empty at desired volume.

This kind of begs the question what is just the right amount of sparge water. Brewing software often suggests mashing with a certain amount, sparging with a certain amount and topping off the BK level. Is the software right in suggesting one use a certain amount based on the grain and to top off to hit desired gravity and boil amount? Should one spare with all and only the water water needed to hit desired boil volume and gravity? Should one not care how much water is left in the MT and stop the sparge at desired boil volume and gravity? Asking around at meetings and brew days most fly spargers seem to stop the sparge with water in the MT.
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Re: Batch sparging

Postby BrewMasterBrad on Wed Nov 30, 2011 5:55 pm

Would you elaborate a little more on this?


I created my own custom equipment profile in BeerSmith based on my measurements and experience with my system over several brew sessions. Now that I have that dialed in, I trust the measurements that the software spits out at me. Also, I don't really have any deadspace loss in either my MT or HLT since I set them up to drain from the bottom of the kettles. I do leave about a half gallon of trub and liquid behind in my boil kettle. I normally mash pretty thin (1.5 to 2 qts/lb.). Once I have my mash profile set, BeerSmith tells me how much sparge water I will need. I take that number and I round it up to the next gallon because that is easier to measure and I am lazy. That leaves me with a little water left in the MT after my boil kettle reaches 13.5 gallons of pre-boil wort. If all goes well, that 13.5 gallons will be within an acceptable margin of error range from my desired gravity and I am good to go.

I have brewed enough times (194 batches so far with 89 on my current system) to have a pretty good feel for how a batch is going and can make adjustments on the fly if needed. But in all honesty, I just try to formulate the best recipe I can based on my equipment and experience and then try not to worry too much about it. Brewing is supposed to be fun. I think enough during the week, so on brew days I just want to relax and make beer. If I miss my numbers, so what? I'm still making beer.
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