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Avoiding Stuck Sparging With Bucket-in-bucket

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Lurks

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As I discussed in the AG forum (erroneously), I had a crack at using the ghetto lauter bucket-in-bucket system in a brew. Overall it worked but only after I literally poured my sparge water into it - up to that point it was completely stuck.

John Palmer's How to Brew discusses this situation. His point is that letting the grain bed settle, by draining off all the first runnings, will result in exactly the stuck sparge scenario I experienced. So how to solve it?

One of the problems I see is that there's a lot of dead space in the bottom bucket. Pouring the grains in is really going to drain out a few litres even with the tap closed. I was thinking that adding a couple of litres of sparge water immediately with the tap closed might keep it nice and wet.

Then maybe just cracking the tap slightly to recirculate, keeping a water layer on top of the grains (which is slightly counter-intuitive) might keep it all peachy. Palmer specifically talks about keeping water on top of the grains. What I saw on the YouTube Babbs system wars video was essentially draining the grains and using a defuser (theirs was a drilled plastic lid) to evenly distribute recirc/sparge water over the grain bed. Keeping some water on top of the grains would, makes that slightly redundant. Anything floaty to stop from pouring right into the grain bed should be okay.

My first go ended up sparging very quickly after it became unstuck with all the water sat on top, resulting in a low-ish efficiency of 75%. I think a slightly opened tap with a slow addition of sparge water might get the whole sparge thing working like it's supposed to. Well I hope so anyway.
 

Lord Raja Goomba I

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I use a diffuser - (one of the plastic lids that came with the bucket scaled down and drilled with larger holes).

I let the grain bed settled, reintroduce some of the first runnings (the bits before it becomes clear) whilst the tape is on (1L Stein or two usually does the trick).

I then sparge with the diffuser, and I don't end up with a stuck sparge.

Even with a stuck sparge (I've had them with BIAB to get better efficiency), it's a helluva lot less effort than lifting a bag to drain, or trying to sparge a bag.

Goomba
 

Lurks

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Interesting. Couple of questions, what size are your holes and what sort of efficiency are you getting?
 

Lord Raja Goomba I

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Efficiency - generally low-mid 80's (I'm not going to push it farther than this, though it is possible).

The holes are about 8mm (from memory). Not as numerous as the bottom of the first bucket.

Goomba
 

Jazzafish

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I still use my bucket in bucket system for starters or a hop back.

I don't really have an issue with stuck sparges. I always pour slow, 0.5L per min. Before you sparge, try cutting the grainbed in a tight grid. This will create channeling, but in a controlled manner. Also the difuser works a treat, I use an old icecream bucket lid floating on top of the mash.
 

malt_shovel

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My first go ended up sparging very quickly after it became unstuck with all the water sat on top, resulting in a low-ish efficiency of 75%. I think a slightly opened tap with a slow addition of sparge water might get the whole sparge thing working like it's supposed to. Well I hope so anyway.
Try having some of the sparge water in the dead space between the bottom of the top bucket and the bucket underneathe prior to adding the mash to the lautering system. When the mash is added in preperation for lautering, there is reduced effect of compaction as their is some buoyancy provided by this layer of water.

Charlie Papazian describes this in his books, but I can't recall the exact term he uses for this initial water layer in his lautering system. During sparging, keeping the water layer above the grain bed by balancing the amount of sparge water added and wort being removed at the bottom can take a little while to get used to. Too fast and you can cause channels in the grain bed, by-passing high sugar wort (sounds like what you describe towards the end of your post). Your last sentence is the right way to go for fly-sparging and should help things out. Don't be too concerned with 75% effeciency (I try to stay under this). Good beer doesn't always equate to high extract efficiency. It often pays to leave some behind to keep undesirables out of the wort. Each to their own though.
 

Lurks

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Try having some of the sparge water in the dead space between the bottom of the top bucket and the bucket underneathe prior to adding the mash to the lautering system.
I thought about that... I wasn't sure if it was crazy or not. Thanks for that :)

Don't be too concerned with 75% effeciency (I try to stay under this). Good beer doesn't always equate to high extract efficiency.
I don't really mind too much what the efficiency is but I'd like it to be equivalent to what I was getting with BIAB and of course I like to know the sparge is working correctly and that the process is roughly repeatable.

Lord Raja Goomba I said:
The holes are about 8mm
Woah, that's really big, considerably bigger than other build notes I found on it (which mention about 3-4mm). Presumably you don't end up with too many grains in the second bucket, don't get any in your kettle? Maybe you do but after a bit of recirc (with some grains in it) they stop coming through?

That's certainly one solution to getting stuck :)
 

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