First BIAB -- Low Efficiency Problem

Post #1 made 8 years ago
I brewed my first all-grain beer with my BIAB set up. I utilized the Amarillo Ale recipe suggested and my brew pot was almost identical to the example (60L instead of 70L; 44 cm instead of 45 cm).

I put in all of the calculations and followed just everything very closely. All went well -- until I measured my OG at the end of the boil -- 1.048 instead of 1.058. By my calculations, that works out a mash efficiency of 56-57%. Yikes! I did a mash out and still got those numbers.

I am wondering what could have caused such dreadful efficiency? I did not have any pH strips to test the pH during the mash.

Also, I have dreadfully hard water (302 ppm CaCO2) and attempted to removed some of the alkalinity by using slaked lime. So, I am wondering if that could be the issue?

Another possible culprit is that I did not have the fully anticipated boil-off. I had a 90 minute boil, but I would not call it a hard rolling boil for that entire time.

I am hoping that with how thin this beer is going to be, that it will be well balanced enough to handle the hops load. Even though the beer is in the fermenter, does anyone think adding some boiled dry malt extract would help potentially balance the beer -- or am I just inviting additional problems?

Any suggestions by experienced brewers utilizing BIAG to improve my efficiency? What have you found to be the one or two key items to keep an eye on? We are in the process of installing a Reverse Osmosis system for drinking (and brewing) water. So at least I should have "neutral water" in the future.

Thanks for any help or suggestions.

Post #2 made 8 years ago
Ice

First of all well done on your first BIAB. :clap:

As to your efficiency figures personally I wouldn't worry too much, 1048 is still going to end up a good beer. My hunch is that your boil off may be part of the problem. How much difference was there between your target end of boil volume and your actual ?
I struggled to get the calculated boil off during my first couple of brews but I'm starting to dial it in now, the more you brew the more data you'll have. Good record keeping is the key.

As to water quality I've made a pledge to forget about it until I've got 10 biabs done and drunk :drink: mind you my tap water tastes good and is very soft so I may not have the same problems as yourself.

If strength is going to be an issue you could add some fermentables but I'd leave it and see how it turns out.

Good luck on your next one.

:peace:

Yeasty
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Post #3 made 8 years ago
Welcome and well done icemaker.

Yeasty has nailed it above, don't worry, it will be fine.

If, as you say, your boil off didn't hit the target, then that will play a big roll in your numbers. In fact it's quite possible that your efficiency will be up in the 70's when you allow for the extra wort you produced.

One of the single biggest improvements I've made to my brewing is insulting the brew pot during the mash. Having a stable mash temperature gives a much more efficient mash.
"It's beer Jim, but not as we know it."

Post #4 made 8 years ago
Thanks for the helpful hints. I am not going to chuck my bag yet!

Looking over my numbers, my pre-boil, mash-out gravity was 1.036 (temp when measured was 40 C) beginning with 41 L of water. I think I need to do a better job of calculating my "boil-off" rate. I was so excited about the brewing process that I failed to measure my pre-boil wort. I should have used that first 1/2 hour to measure my actual boil-off rate to calculate better how much time it will take to get to my post-boil volume. Then I could have delayed my hops additions until I reached that volume.

Additionally, it was cold here in the Midwestern part of the U.S. -- probably 2 - 3 C when I was out there. So, that may have had an impact as well. I did the best I could to insulate my pot (a sleeping bag and a couple of flannel blankets). Even with that, I was losing 2-4 degrees every half hour.

Thanks again for the hints. It is bubbling away in the fermenter. If it is drinkable, I will be happy for my first time effort. I will just have to do a better job in the future of making sure my mash is at the proper temperature and the pH level is around 5.2. I think if I do those things while getting better measurements on my boil-off rate, I should improve on my efficiency. Good to hear that there are at least a couple of people out there who don't think this is a lost cause.

Post #6 made 8 years ago
hashie wrote: One of the single biggest improvements I've made to my brewing is insulting the brew pot during the mash..
:lol:

Do you swear at it, sorry could not resist.

Welcome to the forum icemaker, sure it will be a good beer, just keep good records.
Last edited by ianh on 06 May 2011, 11:57, edited 5 times in total.

Post #8 made 8 years ago
Your efficiency was probably fine

Just your end-of-boil volume was out

You need to tell us your end-of-boil volume and your original kilograms for us to calculate the efficiency given the OG

If your boil wasn't as vigorous as it should've been that'd affect it, but you don't need to aim for the same boil-off rate as the calculator, rather if you have a vigourous enough boil, and your boil-off rate is less than expected, then simply change the expectation ;)

Seriously, just add a *0.8 or whatever to the boil-off / hr formula :) to take 20% off

Once you dial in your boil-off rate, your results will be more predictable.

1.048 though sounds like a nice OG, and 1.058 would be fairly strong
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Post #9 made 8 years ago
Thanks for all of the helpful comments. As you can tell, I get obsessed with this stuff when I am in a brewing mindset.

I agree that I need to keep better records -- particularly of volume levels during the process. I spent last night confirming the measurements of my brew pot and volume of water. I think I have that dialed in at this point. Another "take-away" is that I can always add more water if my wort is too strong, but I really can't continue the boil and have the hops profile I am looking for. So if I am to adjust, better to adjust water levels down instead of up.

My anticipated changes for my second "BIAB"

1 - change the boil-off rate to either .8 or .9
2 - check mash pH in order to achieve the optimal pH for efficiency (5.2)
3 - make adjustments to mash pH if necessary during the mash
4 - take good measurement of wort volume -- both pre and post boil.
5 - get better readings of post-mash, pre-boil gravity (by the way, for those experienced at such things, how do you cool your sample in order to get a good reading of pre-boil gravity).
6 - Take Charlie Papazian's advice and "just relax and have a homebrew." It is not like I am screwing up a liver transplant for god's sake. It is just beer.

Post #10 made 8 years ago
[center][INFORMATION NOTE][/center]
We need a better answer here. The original question is not being answered. No type of efficiency is ever affected by evaporation rates or boil vigour.

There are several simple reasons for a low efficiency and some rare ones. PP has listed these several times before. If someone has the time to search for these and maybe even summarise them, please post back here.

...

Congratulations icemaker on your first brew. Your original post here was very well written. The members who have replied above are all actually excellent posters and I'm sure will provide you with some complete information shortly.

Cheers,
Pat
Last edited by Pat on 06 May 2011, 23:17, edited 5 times in total.
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Post #11 made 8 years ago
icemaker, did you use this method to treat your water: Braukaiser Slaked Lime Alkalinity Reduction. Kai's wiki is a real wealth of superb information, I learn something from every single page visit!
Well spotted WRT wort dilution being possible after the fact, whereas wort concentration isn't without negative effects. However, low efficiency with your first BIAB is not uncommon, there are many factors which need to be taken into account, so keep at it is my advice and things should improve. (No, sorry, I can't give a specific answer...)
Last edited by Ralph on 07 May 2011, 07:47, edited 5 times in total.
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Some Common Reasons for a Low Efficiency Reading

Post #12 made 8 years ago
Ah, one of my favourite subjects :)

I just searched for a list of why someone might get low efficiency. I couldn't find one so will have a crack at it now...

Some Common Reasons for a Low Efficiency Reading

Firstly, never rely on a single reading on a single brew. An occasional strange reading is common. We, home brewers are trying to take measurements at a micro level. There's several points in the brew you can take gravity and volume readings so try and find two points on each brew until you have say 4 or 5 brews notched up. (And, don't be worried if you forget to measure. It's very hard for anything to go very wrong.) After say four or five brews, you'll develop an understanding of how much brew figures can fluctuate. So this is number one on the list below.

If an odd reading persists, points 2 to 10 below should be checked or re-checked.

1. Reading has not been confirmed. (This table shows the resulting measurements of 30 brewers mailed identical ingredients and then asked to brew the same recipe.)
2. Grain bill incorrectly weighed.
3. Thermometer not calibrated at mash temperatures. (This post shows how unreliable a single thermometer is.)
4. Hydrometer not calibrated at original gravity (or the brewer is taking gravity samples that are too hot to temperature correct.)
5. Bag is too small and restricts liquor flow. Your BIAB bag needs to fully line the kettle.
6. Bag porosity is too small. 35 vertical and horizontal threads per cm works well.
7. pH of mash has not been adjusted.
8. Estimated mash efficiency did not reflect the gravity of the brew. (A high gravity beer will have a lower mash efficiency than a low gravity beer. NOTE CAREFULLY: This point can be ignored if you are using the BIABacus as the BIABacus adjusts for gravity.)
9. The brewer is measuring 'efficiency into fermenter' rather than 'efficiency into the kettle.' The first figure is often far lower than the second.
10. The grain used has lower extract potential or higher moisture content than the specifications being used for the calculations.
11. Mash time is too short. In full-volume BIAB, mashing and sparging occurs simultaneously. Pulling your bag at 60 minutes, cuts this process too short. Allow at least 90 minutes and preferably follow with a mash-out.
12. The grain is not being agitated during the mash. Time, temperature and agitation are how we 'wash' things. Agitating the grain and checking the temperature several times throughout the 90 minute mash has no downside and should be done so as you can determine the cost of not agitating.
13. Grain crush is too fine or too coarse (see this post for correct crush.)

Please let me know if I have missed something off this list.

Congratulations icemaker on your first brew :champ:
PP
Last edited by PistolPatch on 06 Mar 2018, 21:00, edited 11 times in total.
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Post #13 made 8 years ago
Yes, I used the Braukaiser method using calcium hydroxide and calcium carbonate.

The bag was made using the specifications on this site, so I don't think that is the issue. But everything else could be it. I really do suspect that it has more to do with the pH of my mash. If I am screwing around with altering water, I really do need to get good pH readings -- both of the water and of the mash.

Thanks again for all of the helpful hints. I assure you, my second brew I will better prepared and take better measurements.

Post #14 made 6 years ago
Thanks PP,
I don't understand what brewhouse and mash efficiency really mean or their overall affect or what will happen if i adjust up or down.
I've made comment on the 9 items below.
2. Grain bill incorrectly weighed. NOT CHECKED...UNLIKELY
3. Thermometer not calibrated at mash temperatures. (This post shows how unreliable a single thermometer is.) DOUBLE CHECKED AND OK
4. Hydrometer not calibrated at original gravity. CHECKED OK
5. Bag is too tight and restricts liquor flow. STANDARD BAG FROM MY BREWSHOP TWOC
6. pH of mash has not been adjusted. DEFINITELY HAVEN'T CHECKED
7. Estimated mash efficiency did not reflect the gravity of the brew. (A high gravity beer will have a lower mash efficiency than a low gravity beer. NOTE CAREFULLY: This point can be ignored if you are using the BIABacus as the BIABacus adjusts for gravity.)
8. The brewer is measuring 'efficiency into fermenter' rather than 'efficiency into the kettle.' The first figure is often far lower than the second. DON'T UNDERSTAND THIS COMMENT
9. The grain used has lower extract potential or higher moisture content than the specifications being used for the calculations. NEARLY ALL BREWS ARE PRODUCING LOW GRAVS SO DOUBT THIS ONE.

Thanks for your help.

Look forward to your next tip.

mcgooooooo

Post #15 made 6 years ago
mcgoo wrote:Thanks PP,
I don't understand what brewhouse and mash efficiency really mean or their overall affect or what will happen if i adjust up or down...
Yep, it is not an easy area. I've just written a fair bit tonight on your questions starting here but there's still more to come before we get to the brewhouse/mash question.

That will be the best thread though for now to keep an eye on.

:peace:
PP
Last edited by PistolPatch on 02 May 2013, 22:52, edited 5 times in total.
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Post #16 made 5 years ago
Hi,

Ive got 2 biab's done and while not being hard on myself as im only getting going with all grain im wondering where im losing my efficiency. Uploaded first 2 brews. Happy enough with my EIK and EOBE. Just seems the EIF is a little low. Both beers were below 70% EIF.

I do add salts to the water to change the PH. Don't have a digital ph meter so hard to say how accurate this is but looks ok using the test strips.

I do a mashout to 78 deg C for 10 mins.

I also no chill into a cube so from what I read I should be getting fairly high efficiency considering trub, hot break and cold break should be in there.

Appreciate the help.

Dave
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Post #17 made 5 years ago
Dave,

Two things. Firstly I'm short on time tonight and so wouldn't have time to answer your question anyway but I should have more time tomorrow if someone else doesn't beat me to it first.

There is one problem though. It looks like yu have slipped through a loophole. Before getting any answers on this site, you are meant to make an introductory post in this thread first. Doing that shows everyone else that you have done a bit of reading here first and understand the culture of the site - in other words, you'll get a lot of time spent on you from day one as long as the members here can see you are also prepared to spend some time reading and learning.

Just a quick comment for you. In HTC, both your kettle and fermentor efficiencies almost exactly match the estimates so no problems on that file apart from those numbers looking too ideal! On your other file, which was an earlier brew, your numbers are a bit iffy but they'll be due toi measurement error.

A few other things to comment on but I'l get in trouble if I write more here without seeing an introductory post.

:peace:
Last edited by PistolPatch on 19 Mar 2014, 20:08, edited 5 times in total.
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Post #18 made 5 years ago
Thanks PP.
Apologies wasn't aware of the introductory post. Have posted my details there now. Very new to biab having only done 2 so far so a lot to learn. I use beersmith atm to design the recipes.
Cheers

Post #19 made 5 years ago
No need to apologise Dave. That first post thing is something you can edit and add to as time goes by but if you don't get that first post in early, then chronologically, no one looking for it will be able to find your basic info. Now I know however that you are from Sydney, my hometown and originated in Ireland. I want to go to Ireland as apparently the ruins of the maternal side of my family's old farmhouse that they left about 175 years ago are still standing!

Anyway, on with the job....

A few quick things...

1. This site was founded by the main BIAB pioneers so you are in good hands here.

2. The site tried to work with existing software and contributed time to the development of existing brewing software for several years as designing and developing a brewing program was an area they had no interest in getting involved in. Alas, so much time ended up being spent on explaining the errors and logic problems of existing software, the site then moved to spending all resources on creating terminology, formulas and software (the BIABacus spreadsheet) that would match the 'information' standard of this site.

The site is currently trying to pull everything together. For example, there should be a thread that shows you how to design a recipe in the BIABacus and why it is best to design a recipe in the BIABacus but currently there isn't one. Other software will allow you to design a recipe that simply won't even physically work. (At the end of this post I wrote yesterday, you will find an example.)

The main point I am trying to make before looking at your files is that a lot of what you read out there and a lot of the tools you use out there are wrong. It took me years and many hours of discourse with several other brewers to accept that.

Finally, your files...

There's another truth that we try and hammer home on this site - you can't trust the numbers from a single brew. (Search my posts for the phrase "trust a single reading on a single brew" or "five" and "average".) What these posts will tell you is to disrespect single readings but respect patterns.

You've done two brews and so we won't be able to see much of a pattern yet and, if we did, we couldn't give it too much respect.

Let's have a look though... I think my comments above apply. HTC is fine. PBR, your first brew, is erratic which is pretty normal.

Can I just stop here for a second though and say, mighty fine job on your BIABacus files :thumbs:.

Anyway, the HTC file says you have no efficiency problem at all so there is no pattern here of low efficiency.

A few things...

In section N, you are typing in 2.5 L in "Wort 'lost' from Fermentor". That section is all about 'Pre-Pitching Corrections'. Never fill that field in unless you actually pour wort out of your fermentor or spill it. Suffice to say that your KFL has already been accounted for in Section L and FPL (Fermentor to Packaging Loss) is not displayed but is accounted for if you measure your final Volume into Packaging.

Don't worry about the above too much for now.

Only other problem I saw in the file was a 60 minute boil. Heaps of people do this as that is what they did with their extract brews. I don't have a problem with 60 minute boils but it is not best practice and can cause problems in some situations/waters/styles.

That's another problem with the site atm. Lots of posts here written on the benefits of 90 minute boils but they are hard to find!!!

Welcome aboard Dave,
PP
Last edited by PistolPatch on 20 Mar 2014, 18:51, edited 5 times in total.
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Post #20 made 5 years ago
Great post,
Thanks PP. Lots of great information that I will make se of. Will up the boil time to 90mins from now on and have removed the 2.5L loss in section N.
Was hoping to do a weizen next and note the multi step mash profile is desired. Is this a bit optimistic with it being my 3rd AG brew.
Will upload the recipe later on. Is there a particular section to upload recipes for discussion or maybe just in the new brewers section?

By the by if you ever get a copy of "Mc Carthys Bar" its well worth a read. Author goes traveling around west coast of Ireland looking at celtic ruins and stopping in every pub called Mc Carthey. Quite a funny book.

Post #21 made 5 years ago
Great Dave. I hope that made sense on you not having an efficiency problem. If not, keep asking questions.

I think the multi-step thing is easy if you have a pulley set-up. This way you can lift the bag to the top of the sweet liquor (just submerged) whilst applying heat. Give the bag an occasional stir to check temp and then when good, let the bag fall and turn the flame off.

If you don't have a pulley, the multi-step will be a PITA as you really should be stirring while the heat is applied.

As for uploading BIABacus files, the Use this thread to convert recipes to suit your equipment... thread is always a good one for now even if you aren't actually converting a recipe. That thread is the main home for BIABacus Pre-Release file checks at the moment.

McCarthy's Bar - lol :lol:.
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Post #22 made 5 years ago
Ok sorry more questions.
No Pulley and not doing a sparge at present. I normally leave the bag open during mash and stir every 15mins.
Im also leaving heat on and measuring temp at every 15 mins as well. Managed to keep it at 66 for 90 mins so far.. . so far so good so?

Although my urn is exposed element I have a collender covering element so don't think ill scorch the bag. Was planning on upping the temp and stirring all the time. Makes for lots of stirring but would it work.

Post #23 made 5 years ago
Dave,

You wrote above, "...not doing a sparge at present." In BIAB, you should never do a sparge if you can fit all your water in your kettle. So, with BIAB, never think 'active' sparging as there is no advantage in doing so. In proper full-volume BIAB, the sparge occurs passively at the same time as the mash.

If you are prepared to stir for all that time then you are good to go. It will work for sure.

:peace:
PP

Note: Bit worried when you say you are leaving heat on. This might be causing the bottom of your grist to get much too hot. It is not hard to have a 10 C difference between the bottom and top of a mash so be careful about leaving heat on.
Last edited by PistolPatch on 24 Mar 2014, 16:06, edited 5 times in total.
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Post #24 made 5 years ago
Ok thanks PP.
Give it a good stir every 15mins and stir constantly during mash out.
Taking the temp readings every 15mins as im stirring also. The colander is a bit high (200mm or so above the element) so this may be just supporting the bag.

Will post the recipe soon.
Thanks
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