Condensed Steps for Brew Day Measurements

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Monmouth00

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Hello All,

I'm getting ready for my first brew on the new eBIAB system, and would like to get an idea of when and how I should be taking some measurements throughout the process.

As I get deeper into Beersmith under the Brewing Session Data, I'd like to start recording some information, but would like your opinions on what is important and what isn't. I'm armed with not a lot more than a refractometer and a hydrometer, and want to know when I should be taking gravity readings through the day. Can y'all give me a quick rundown?

Are pre-boil gravities important? Post-boil? Both?
I'm going to trust the Bru 'N Water pH calculations until I get a proper pH meter - should I? Or get a meter ASAP?
What is runoff gravity and pH? Is it important?

Are there any other measurements that I should be taking during the brew day that will either come in handy now, or in the future?

Thanks for any step-by-step tips you can provide.

--Monmouth00
 

McKnuckle

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First of all, I'd bypass the pH meter and trust the software. Save that for another day, if ever (I still don't have one and don't plan to).

Gravity and volume measurements are the most important for dialing in your system. Warning: I am obsessive about this stuff. Detailed answer follows as a result. :)

Pre-boil gravity and boil volume are the keys to determining mash efficiency, which, along with boil-off, allow you to predict batch size and OG in your recipes.

Pre-boil gravity is notoriously difficult to measure. Wort stratifies, with heavier sugar at the bottom. And hot temps confound the hydrometer, even with temperature correction. Use the refractometer, but don't just put a drop on it from a random spot. Use a ladle and purposefully scoop wort from all levels of the kettle, stirring and lifting, then put a measure of wort into a cup. Mix that again, and place some on the refractometer, closing the cover. Allow it to cool on the refract's glass surface (the reading will go up a little).

Next, you need a way to measure how much wort you collected, i.e. the boil volume. That will confirm grain absorption and, along with gravity, determine your mash efficiency. E.g. "I collected 3.42 gallons at 1.045 SG."

You can be totally anal about this and run off the wort into an accurately graduated pitcher, like this one. You'll need another holding vessel for this, which you would obviously pour back into the kettle when finished.

Otherwise you have to use volume markers on the kettle, which can be inaccurate, so if you have them, test them before brewing**. It's more accurate to measure with a ruler from the bottom of the kettle, using a kettle volume calculator. You will need a precise diameter, temperature reading from the wort, and a reading to at least 1/16" accuracy (or 0.1 cm).

Perform the same volume measurements after the boil, as soon as wort can be safely examined. Again, note the temperature at which you are taking the volume reading. Now you can get an easy hydrometer sample at no warmer than 80oF and determine your OG. Fully chilled is best.

The nice part is that if you have both volumes and the OG, you can use a calculator to confirm what the pre-boil gravity was.

Finally, if you discard any trub, measure its volume with either the nice pitcher you bought, or with measuring cups.

**Use a scale to weigh water in kilograms, which equate to liters, and pour into your kettle to judge the marking lines.
 
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Monmouth00

Monmouth00

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Wow! Awesome and thorough. Thanks.
I'll do my best to calculate volumes. This is where I haven't been able to pay the appropriate amount of attention.
I'm nervous because I'll be doing a garage brew day in cold ambient temps and am worries about too much boil-off.
I can always add more volume after the boil by topping up with spring water, right?

PS- That kettle calculator you linked is from ManSkirt in Hackettstown, not far from me. I haven't been able to try their beers yet, but have wanted to. I used to go to Homebrew University, owned by an old friend, until they unfortunately closed. Do you know ManSkirt, or just found their calculators?
 
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McKnuckle

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Of course you can top up after the boil if you insist on a precise fermentation (and packaging) volume. Some all grain brewers, maybe most, don't do that, just accepting what comes their way. If you are bottling, it doesn't really matter - you'll just have a few less bottles of higher gravity beer. If you are kegging and you purge your keg, it doesn't really matter either to have 2 gallons in a 2.5 or 4.5 gallons in a 5'er.

People's personalities factor into these decisions. :) I am more of a purist in that I don't want to dilute what my brew day created. Others will disagree.

Which is your BIAB system again? I know you've had a bunch of threads but I can't recall...
 
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Monmouth00

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My system was built by Bobby at BrewHardware.
I have a 15 gallon (I think, maybe a bit bigger) aluminum pot with two 1650volt heating elements. It's got a false bottom and a thermowell for the inkbird 16S PID temp probe. I'll be recirculating often during the mash via pump through the lid, as well as stirring. Trying to max out efficiencies.
I'm going to wrap the kettle in reflectix today - both the sides and lid.
I'd rather not dilute either, but want to keep an eye on the post-boil volume. I am really worried about the boil off in such cold temps.
 

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If you are in Jersey as I am, I pity you. It's farking cold today. Electric brewing is supposed to bring you indoors!

You can put the lid on and leave it cracked if you want to limit excessive boil-off. And two layers of Reflectix are better than one. Stirring will cause heat loss and is unnecessary, especially if you are recirculating, but follow your instincts. It's your first run and you'll tweak as you go.
 

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If you're calculating volume as McKnuckle suggests (it's how I do it), be aware of thermal expansion. It's not noticable when reading the 1/2 or even 1/4 gallon marks on the side of the kettle. But when measured to the 1/16" or 1mm it'll be enough to skew your numbers.

Compared to room temp, mash temp will be ~2.7% more volume. At boil, the difference is ~4%.

So for example, when I seek the pre-boil volume:

I drop my ruler in, find the height. Put that into the formula for the volume of a cylinder. But that's the wort's volume at 212°. I take that and divide by 1.04. That figure, adjusted for temp, can then be compared to the recipe.
 

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Hmm I disagree on the need for the pH meter vs software. Software is probably good enough if you start with RO or distilled water but if you are using city tap water even with filtration you really don't know what is coming out of there any given day. And even if you use RO or have your own tested well water, the calculators make broad assumptions on how any given malt will impact pH. Seems there can be pretty significant differences between same named malts (pilsner for example) from different suppliers and even from same supplier from year to year.

If you don't check pH with a meter you really don't know if you are close to your target pH or not. You might get some clues from efficiency or visible appearance of the hot break in the kettle or taste of the final product but all that is kind of far downstream to do anything about in on brew day and could be water chemistry related or due to any number of other issues.
 
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Monmouth00

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If you are in Jersey as I am, I pity you. It's farking cold today. Electric brewing is supposed to bring you indoors!
I'm in Jersey, yes. And it is farging cold.

If you're calculating volume as McKnuckle suggests (it's how I do it), be aware of thermal expansion. It's not noticable when reading the 1/2 or even 1/4 gallon marks on the side of the kettle. But when measured to the 1/16" or 1mm it'll be enough to skew your numbers.
I'm planning to check volumes prior to boil (post mash) and after cooling. Hopefully that will get me more accurate numbers.

Hmm I disagree on the need for the pH meter vs software. Software is probably good enough if you start with RO or distilled water
I'm starting with Distilled, and building my water from Bru 'N Water. I bought some test strip - even though I know it won't be accurate - to make sure I'm in the neighborhood. If the beer tastes like crap, I'll make the investment in a pH meter if I need to eventually, but I've dropped a lot of coin recently building this system. I have to cut it off somewhere before I nickel and dime myself to death.
 

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Shoot for 5.4 in a pale beer mash, and 5.5 in a dark one. That way there’s ample margin of error in both directions. This being said, anecdotal reports are that Bru’n Water is pretty reliable.

Just be sure to measure salts accurately with a gram scale registering in 0.1g increments. Tiny differences shift the estimate quite a bit.
 
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Monmouth00

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Shoot for 5.4 in a pale beer mash, and 5.5 in a dark one. That way there’s ample margin of error in both directions. This being said, anecdotal reports are that Bru’n Water is pretty reliable.
I'm dialed in at 5.4 for my Amber. Fingers crossed that it's accurate.
 

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In the midst of all this advice and detail, don't worry about it so much. Unless you are totally ignorant and/or incompetent, you will not make any important mistakes! Most deviations from your predictions and expectations will not matter in the end. Mashing is pretty darn easy and essentially happens whether you like it or not, despite the endless talk of gear and best practices for doing things. Seriously.

Now fermentation - that's honestly where you can bugger things up more easily. :)
 

eric19312

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I'm starting with Distilled, and building my water from Bru 'N Water. I bought some test strip - even though I know it won't be accurate - to make sure I'm in the neighborhood. If the beer tastes like crap, I'll make the investment in a pH meter if I need to eventually, but I've dropped a lot of coin recently building this system. I have to cut it off somewhere before I nickel and dime myself to death.
It will be close enough if you are starting with distilled and building it up. There is room for error on this. But If you are working through efficiency issues and people ask you what pH you mashed at make sure you let them know it is estimated from software and not a measured value.

I can't see sweating tenths of a gram in brewing salts and acid additions if you aren't measuring pH though. Measuring spoons will get you close enough given margin of error you are already accepting.
 
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Monmouth00

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In the midst of all this advice and detail, don't worry about it so much. Unless you are totally ignorant and/or incompetent, you will not make any important mistakes! Most deviations from your predictions and expectations will not matter in the end. Mashing is pretty darn easy and essentially happens whether you like it or not, despite the endless talk of gear and best practices for doing things. Seriously.

Now fermentation - that's honestly where you can bugger things up more easily. :)
Thanks, but I think you may be underestimating my incompetence.;)
 

McKnuckle

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I respectfully disagree with Eric a bit. If you are using software to estimate pH and you are winging the salt quantities, it will compound the margin of error. Big estimation differences can result with 0.2g variation. Nail it the best you can, and that means weighing, not measuring in a spoon. The famous HBT water primer thread may disagree with me on this, but so be it.

Now if you don't have the right kind of scale, that's another story and in that case, break out the measuring spoons.
 

eric19312

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I respectfully disagree with Eric a bit. If you are using software to estimate pH and you are winging the salt quantities, it will compound the margin of error. Big estimation differences can result with 0.2g variation. Nail it the best you can, and that means weighing, not measuring in a spoon. The famous HBT water primer thread may disagree with me on this, but so be it.

Now if you don't have the right kind of scale, that's another story and in that case, break out the measuring spoons.
I'm ok with agreeing to disagree on this point.

But maybe my situation is different...I brew with tap water as my tap water is on average really nice soft water with almost no minerals and RA under 20. It is super convenient to be able to use tap water, I run it through an RV hose and RV carbon filter and treat it with a campden tablet to take care of any chlorine or chloramine. The city publishes the annual range specific to my distribution region and it varies over course of the year. For example total hardness ranged from 9.7 to 52.9 over 18 measurements last year the average was 21.6ppm. ppm is mg/L my batches use about 90L so my starting water contains 0.87 grams to 4.76 grams combined Ca + Mg ions. Gypsum is 23% Calcium so the equivalent gypsum alone addition to create similarly hard water from distilled water would be 3.8 grams to 20.7 grams with matching the annual average would be 8.5 grams. All that said I normally do use a scale that measures 10ths of grams for salt, acid and hop additions but when that scale got wonky I had no reservation switching to my kitchen scale that measures in 2 gram increments.
 

McKnuckle

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Yes, if your water really varies, that changes things. I brew with RO or distilled produced at home. And I also brew small batches, 1-2.5 gallons, where small measurement variances can make a difference.
 
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Monmouth00

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Starting with distilled water, using Bru 'N Water, measuring with a scale that can weight Grams to the tenth. Check, check, and check.
Wrapped the eBIAB with two layers of Reflectix, triple-checked the recipe and the steps, and have everything laid out to begin brewing tomorrow morning.
If I screw this up it'll be because of me doing something stupid, not because of all of your helpful advice.
I'll let you all know how the first one goes. Finger crossed for me.
 
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Monmouth00

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I've mashed in.
The temp probe from the inkbird at the bottom of the kettle is reading 155 degrees, but the top of the wort is consistently reading about 150 with my handheld thermometer.
I'm using the pump to recirculate at a fairly slow rate. Am I losing some heat through the pump and hose?
Which should I trust? Split the difference?
Thanks,
Monmouth00
 

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I've mashed in.
The temp probe from the inkbird at the bottom of the kettle is reading 155 degrees, but the top of the wort is consistently reading about 150 with my handheld thermometer.
I'm using the pump to recirculate at a fairly slow rate. Am I losing some heat through the pump and hose?
Which should I trust? Split the difference?
Thanks,
Monmouth00
What you see is somewhat expected I believe. The heater is at the bottom of the pot, temp will be the hottest there. Even with recirculation.

Best would be to have a thermometer somewhere inside the grain bed. That would arguably be where the temperature is most important. I've added a regular old dial thermometer about 1/3 up from the bottom for that purpose. I usually notice multi degree variation between grain bed and bottom of the pot, but it eventually settles as the mash goes on.

Without a thermometer I the grain bed, I suggest you give it a good stir before measuring. Top and bottom should be a little closer if you stir first.
 
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Monmouth00

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What you see is somewhat expected I believe. The heater is at the bottom of the pot, temp will be the hottest there. Even with recirculation.

Best would be to have a thermometer somewhere inside the grain bed. That would arguably be where the temperature is most important. I've added a regular old dial thermometer about 1/3 up from the bottom for that purpose. I usually notice multi degree variation between grain bed and bottom of the pot, but it eventually settles as the mash goes on.

Without a thermometer I the grain bed, I suggest you give it a good stir before measuring. Top and bottom should be a little closer if you stir first.
Yep, I've stirred and re-measures temps. Still saying about 150. The handheld thermometer probe is only about 5", so I'm not in the grain bed though.

The inkbird is still reading about 154-155, even though I've set the temps at 152. If I bump it to 154, it jumps up to 156+. I'm worried that I'm too high when I do that.

I'm just going to leave it at 152 and hope it's right. Only have 20 minutes left in the mash anyway.

Thanks!
 

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I'm just going to leave it at 152 and hope it's right. Only have 20 minutes left in the mash anyway.
That's a good plan, you're fully in the range of making beer. And remember this most important advice from above...

don't worry about it so much. Unless you are totally ignorant and/or incompetent, you will not make any important mistakes! Most deviations from your predictions and expectations will not matter in the end. Mashing is pretty darn easy and essentially happens whether you like it or not, despite the endless talk of gear and best practices for doing things. Seriously.
 

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it could also be that the 2 thermometers are not perfectly calibrated. You could test them later on some tap water without grain. could be a couple of degrees there... It could also be that the water is relatively static by the bottom probe, depending on the relative position of the drain valve and the probe. I believe the spike solo had this issue based on a review video from short circuited brewers

I recently went the way Bobby has it in one of his videos where the recirculation is split between the top and the bottom (whirlpool port). You get "Stirring" at the bottom by the probe as well as dumping of the hot water to the top. I've not had a chance to test it with a brew yet but it was pretty solid with water being warmed up (all probes agreed during the warming up time... they used to be way off each other while temp was being increased)

In any case, if you stir and get 150, then that's probably what you're mashing at, assuming you can trust the handheld thermometer. I'm a little surprised stirring made NO difference to what the ink bird probe is picking up.

either way, you're in the range of a good mash and it will be fine in the end... You may get a very very small drop in the body of the beer (it will be a tad drier), likely not noticeable I would say.
 
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Monmouth00

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Would a 20 minute mash out at 170 help?
 
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Post boil Gravity reading was 1.042 - right where the Beersmith recipe was telling me I should hit.
It says my measured mash efficiency was 87.6% - that seems really high.
 

eric19312

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Sounds like a good brew day!

Slow flow in a non-insulated recirculating system is likely to result in temperature variations. I think the answers are to either increase the flow (if you can without sticking the mash) or to stir it a few times during the mash.
 
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Monmouth00

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Sounds like a good brew day!

Slow flow in a non-insulated recirculating system is likely to result in temperature variations. I think the answers are to either increase the flow (if you can without sticking the mash) or to stir it a few times during the mash.
Well, there were no major screw-ups as far as I can tell, so I guess it was a good brew day.

The kettle is about as insulated as I could get it, with two layers of reflectix around it. I'm thinking it's enough, because it came up to temps quickly, and kept a good boil, despite the 27 degree ambient temps in my garage.

With regard to recirculation, I had it going as much as I felt comfortable without pancaking my grain bed. It's about 2 cups a minute I would guess. I also ended up stirring frequently, trying to even out the temps from top to bottom. As I said, despite the probe (at the bottom, below the false bottom) reading 154-155 degrees, the top of the grain bed was only reading 150 with the handheld.

I'm really hoping I was warm enough at the top to get good conversion. I understand that lower mash temps can result in a "thinner" beer. But, pre-boil and post-boil gravities show a good conversion according to Beersmith. (actually much higher at 87.6% than I was expecting)

Hopefully this all translates into a full bodied amber, that's reasonably equivalent to the Fat Tire I was aiming for.

She got pitched at 69 degrees with the Wyeast 1762 Belgian Abbey. It's sitting at about 68 degrees right now, and has a slow bubble with a thin krausen. Starting a little slow compared to other brews, but I understand this yeast isn't a turbo-charged variety. I'm about 18 hours post-pitching, and am reasonably satisfied I'll end up with a beer I'm not embarassed to share with friends.

Thanks all again for your help and advice. Much appreciated!

-Monmouth00
 

eric19312

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2-cups per minutes is really slow. I'd think you would run into risk of scorching the wort at that rate. Recirculation systems like a coarser crush than traditional BIAB prefers. You may decide it would be worth backing off on the crush, even if that means taking a modest hit on efficiency, in order to be able to increase recirculation rate. You may also want to look for a bag or false bottom design to improve flow rate.

I've been struggling with similar issue...I have been using a Wilser bag for about 40 batches now. When it was new seemed to work quite well but over last 4-5 batches it has really started to slow my flow. I tried coarser crush but that didn't help the issue is the bag. Last two batches I had to give up on the the bag mid mash. Luckily I am 3 vessel and just using the bag to make cleaning out my mash tun easier so I was able to just turn the bag over in the mash tun and dump it out.

Wilser suggests I replace my false bottom to one of these Stainless Steel False Bottom for Brew In a Bag (BIAB) - 17.5'' Diameter but I like my Norcal false bottom and my dip tube is cut to fit that.

I am also considering trying one of the 400 micron bags from brewinabag.com which are apparantly designed for recirculation.
 

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Post boil Gravity reading was 1.042 - right where the Beersmith recipe was telling me I should hit.
It says my measured mash efficiency was 87.6% - that seems really high.
Are you doing a full volume mash or are you sparging? 87.6 seems unrealistically high, unless you've got a very good sparge going on.
 
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Monmouth00

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2-cups per minutes is really slow.

Wilser suggests I replace my false bottom to one of these Stainless Steel False Bottom for Brew In a Bag (BIAB) - 17.5'' Diameter but I like my Norcal false bottom and my dip tube is cut to fit that.
So, the 2 cups per minute is a total estimation. It's probably more than that. It's much more than a trickle, so maybe double that estimation? I don't know - I'll try to be more precise next time. I don't think recirculation rate is the problem.

I do have a wilser bag, and a false bottom from Brewhardware.com. I'm going to defer to Bobby, who built the system. I'm sure he didn't give me something that wouldn't work. Any error is likely on the user's part.

Are you doing a full volume mash or are you sparging? 87.6 seems unrealistically high, unless you've got a very good sparge going on.
I am doing a full volume mash. Also draining and squeezing the hell out of the bag. Plus, all the stirring during the mash.

I agree that 87.6% still seems unrealistic. Keep in mind, though, that I'm new to the Beersmith program, and this was the first time I was using a refractometer. There's a definite possibility that my sample came from a concentrated pocket of wort, I read it wrong, put the wrong values in the program, or all three. I'll dial it in and maybe see more realistic numbers on future brews.

Thanks!!
 

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So, the 2 cups per minute is a total estimation. It's probably more than that. It's much more than a trickle, so maybe double that estimation? I don't know - I'll try to be more precise next time. I don't think recirculation rate is the problem.

I do have a wilser bag, and a false bottom from Brewhardware.com. I'm going to defer to Bobby, who built the system. I'm sure he didn't give me something that wouldn't work. Any error is likely on the user's part.



I am doing a full volume mash. Also draining and squeezing the hell out of the bag. Plus, all the stirring during the mash.

I agree that 87.6% still seems unrealistic. Keep in mind, though, that I'm new to the Beersmith program, and this was the first time I was using a refractometer. There's a definite possibility that my sample came from a concentrated pocket of wort, I read it wrong, put the wrong values in the program, or all three. I'll dial it in and maybe see more realistic numbers on future brews.

Thanks!!
yeah makes sense. you can get 100% conversion efficiency from a good mash, which you are likely getting (or very close). However that would still require a 87% lautter efficiency (removing the liquid from the grain) which does seem a bit of feat. I let drain and usually get around 75%. A good squeeze can get you in the low 80s. 85+ typically requires sparging.

but in any case, I'm sure the beer will be good!
 

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On flow rate I think this chart and explanation from Blichmann is pretty applicable to any recirculating mash system. High flow is especially important if you are doing step mashing.

1612202016860.png
 

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Wilser suggests I replace my false bottom to one of these Stainless Steel False Bottom for Brew In a Bag (BIAB) - 17.5'' Diameter but I like my Norcal false bottom and my dip tube is cut to fit
[/QUOTE]
For the record, Wilser suggests a full volume mash single infusion, insulate the kettle and take a nap.
But if you enjoy watching your pid display, taking hand held temps and monitoring your pump, knock yourself out! LOL jk

A standard FB, or a strainer basket is typically too restrictive for recirculating BIAB in my opinion, and also documented repeatedly here on the board.
happy brewing regardless!
 

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If you chose to do recirc, it's critical to match flow rate of your pump with the gravity flow rate of your system/setup. Numerous factors will affect the static/gravity flow rate.

There seems to be no "typical" setup so to say recirc is not for BIAB is a rather broad statement. If my basic setup was propane I might agree. But mine is electric, which usually means an internal element and dead space to contend with...thus the desire to recirc.

Current set up:
*15 gal kettle with spigot
*sight tube/glass
*reflectix wrap
*1650 watt 110v element 1" below basket bottom
*steamer basket with 1/4" side clearance 2" bottom clearance
*digital controller, temperature probe at bottom of basket centered 1" above heating element
*basket side insert, flashing covers all basket side holes preventing wort "side flow"
*basket bottom insert, raised coarse mesh insert, exposes entire bottom of grain bed/bag to wort flow vice only thru the basket holes
*Wilser bag
*very small 12v magnetic pump, 1amp, $10 ebay special, 260L/H (1.08gal/min) max rate but never actually timed it.
*mechanical lamp timer

What I have found is that having the bag sit on the bottom of the steamer basket, the only grain that is exposed to flow is over few dozen small holes in the basket bottom. the sight tube slowly drops until the basket is very full and the wort level in the kettle is below the element. Not good. A mechanical timer on the pump helps with this issue.

By placing a mesh panel to raise the bag bottom allowed the entire bottom of the bag to flow, the same as if I used a custom basket with a screened or mesh bottom. Usually the gravity flow can keep up with the pump so that the wort level remains constant and the element does not run dry. I can now run the pump constantly.

The larger the grain bill, the slower the natural flow rate. Even with a fully exposed bag bottom the wort level would slowly drop. With that I've had to incorporate a mechanical lamp timer. It cycles every 30 minutes (I would prefer 15), shutting off before the wort level drops too far. Then the gravity flow levels everything out again.

Also, by having the temp probe near the element I think ensures the wort temp never exceeds the set point, especially when the pump cycles off, so I don't have to worry about denaturing the enzymes or scorching the wort. Even with the pump cycling, the wort temps seem to even out and hold pretty well though the entire kettle & bag.

But these are just my observations and conclusions from my electric current set up...

If I never had a propane tank go out during a brew session, I probably would not have gone electric...

If I stuck with propane, I would do as Wilser suggests...

But with electric, I can mash all day while at work and have a much quicker brewing session once I get home...

there is a plus and minus to everything...if I was to do it all over again it would look totally different every time...
 

jdudek

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If you chose to do recirc, it's critical to match flow rate of your pump with the gravity flow rate of your system/setup.
I've added a blichmann autosparge to my BIAB recirculating setup. No more flow control tweaking. Pump is going full tilt and the autosparge takes care of the rest.
 

eric19312

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I've added a blichmann autosparge to my BIAB recirculating setup. No more flow control tweaking. Pump is going full tilt and the autosparge takes care of the rest.
I use the autosparge too but unscrew the float ball during mash. I don't want the flow to stop for any reason during the mash. I then use the float ball when I am ready to fly sparge.
 

jdudek

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I use the autosparge too but unscrew the float ball during mash. I don't want the flow to stop for any reason during the mash. I then use the float ball when I am ready to fly sparge.
The reason you DO want the flow to stop is to avoid dry frying your heating element or avoid overflowing your kettle.
 

odie

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what is "autosparge"? can it be used with many setups or is it proprietary and usable only with blichmann?
 
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