Dedicated Grainfather Guide, Problems and Solutions Thread

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jayjt29

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Killer Brew said:
Consider adding rice hulls (around $1.50 per kg from your LHBS) to small grain bills, particularly those with wheat. Will boost the bill size so the GF can be used as designed plus provides a filter bed to help prevent stuck sparges.
Cheers Killer Brew, great idea only watched a Youtube video about this the other day!

Jay
 

GalBrew

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Aside from crush issues, people found that the sparge went much faster if grain bed was not allowed to compact (by fully draining) before adding the sparge water. It's covered somewhere in this thread.
 

carniebrew

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GalBrew said:
Aside from crush issues, people found that the sparge went much faster if grain bed was not allowed to compact (by fully draining) before adding the sparge water. It's covered somewhere in this thread.
I am one of those, but my efficiency has suffered as a result. I was getting low 80's with a 45m sparge early on, where i'd let the malt pipe drain before starting the sparge. Now I start the sparge as soon as lifting the malt pipe, sparge takes under 10 mins, but getting more like low-mid 70's in total efficiency.
 

banora brewer

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Just wondering how you guy's have got your grainfather set up, do you have a stand? I'm not sure how to set mine up, I would like to keep it off the floor. I would like to put my urn above it so I could sparge. Any ideas would be great.
 

carniebrew

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banora brewer said:
Just wondering how you guy's have got your grainfather set up, do you have a stand? I'm not sure how to set mine up, I would like to keep it off the floor. I would like to put my urn above it so I could sparge. Any ideas would be great.
I've just got mine sitting on 3 bricks on the ground in my garage to bring the height up a bit. And I figured it would make it easier if I had to use the reset switch at the bottom at any stage, haven't had to yet though.
 

Killer Brew

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banora brewer said:
Just wondering how you guy's have got your grainfather set up, do you have a stand? I'm not sure how to set mine up, I would like to keep it off the floor. I would like to put my urn above it so I could sparge. Any ideas would be great.
I have a crate i knocked together standing around 40cm high. Means the top of the GF is around bench height. Perfect!
 

banora brewer

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I was planning on having my urn above the grainfather so I could sparge easier, would this work?
 

carniebrew

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Yeah why not, gravity fed sparge, if you could hook up some kind of flow control you could adjust the flow rate so that you can set and forget
 

Chridech

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banora brewer said:
Just wondering how you guy's have got your grainfather set up, do you have a stand? I'm not sure how to set mine up, I would like to keep it off the floor. I would like to put my urn above it so I could sparge. Any ideas would be great.
I have mine on the ground next to a table with all the brewing paraphernalia and sparge water urn. Can't see any problem getting it off the ground with a crate/bricks/custom stand, but the higher you have it the more of a challenge it will be to lift the mash tun for sparging. The one time I did hit the reset button during the boil it required two operators; one to tilt the GF and another to stick a hand underneath. I can see 40cm of elevation has its advantages. Imake advise to have it on the ground, but I expect this is to dissuade first time users putting it on a bench, making the mash tun lift very challenging.

I think there are comments in this thread that advise about running a hose direct from the sparge urn to the GF by gravity feed. Should work fine but I have no problem filling a 5L jug three times from the urn to do the sparge.

In other threads eg. Herms?, there are pictures of brewery set-ups on mobile trolleys. Sparge heater up high and mash tun and boilers low. Mounted pumps to move wort between vessels. Something similar could be done for the GF, but one of the selling points for me was the compactness of the unit, such that I can pack it away between brews.

image.jpeg
 

Killer Brew

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It could if you built the crate to the right height relative to a bench. Might be easier to elevate the urn though? I built it because i was tired of bending down to operate the GF. Will get a pic up when i can but its nothing spectacular!
 

Chridech

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carniebrew said:
I am one of those, but my efficiency has suffered as a result. I was getting low 80's with a 45m sparge early on, where i'd let the malt pipe drain before starting the sparge. Now I start the sparge as soon as lifting the malt pipe, sparge takes under 10 mins, but getting more like low-mid 70's in total efficiency.
There are so many factors to consider when it comes to mash efficiency. At the end of the day it doesn't really matter if you are hitting 70% or 85%, it's being consistent that counts. That way you can brew true your recipe, no surprises.

Here's my 2 cents worth when it comes to the Grainfather and mash efficiency:

1. Getting the water chemistry right helps. The times I have achieved highest mash efficiency is when I have hit mash pH of 5.2 bang on. Calculate your salts and acid additions on one of the water spreadsheets, measure your mash pH after 5 minutes recirculating, and adjust pH accordingly. I tend to hold a little lactic acid back from the calculations, because it seems easier to lower rather than raise pH. FWIW I did one brew at mash pH 4.8 and it didn't seem to matter. Remember to acidify sparge water to pH 5.5.

2. Grain crush size - the yin/yang of mash efficiency and sparging time. Can't use BIAB grain crush sizes for the GF. Stuck or very slow sparge will result. Too coarse a crush will result in poor efficiency. Crush size is also mill dependent. The only way to make an accurate recommendation would be to quote grain crush size percentages using the calibrated sieve thingies. FWIW I've had good efficiency (87%) using a crush size of 1mm with a Mashmaster Minimill (new fluted rollers). Sparge time was about 15 minutes.

3. Sparge technique. I've only ever started sparging within a minute or less of hoisting the mash tun. Haven't had a stuck sparge doing this, but I also haven't pushed the envelope with crush size.

I'd say find a range of techniques that give you an efficiency you are happy with and then refine in very small increments. For me, I'm now happy with my water chemistry and sparging, but will try dropping crush size eg. to 0.9mm, to see if this improves mash efficiency any more without creating too slow a sparge. Once I've found the right balance I plan to stick with it to achieve consistent brewing.
 

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only thing to watch for if elevating the gf is if you're tall enough to then haul the grain cannister out. i've always had mine on the floor, and everything functions fine . immersion chiller is high enough to feed into a fermenter, and its hoses are easy height to feed under the dish drainer and into the kitchen sink. bit of stooping about on the hotbreak, but not worth the effort of elevation. although carniebrew's thing about the reset button is handy. reset button is a design nuisance, as mentioned very early in this thread. all relative though - my missus is about 5' 2 in the old, and on the one time she decided to lift the cannister out, she seriously struggled on height. and if i was 2m tall, i'd probably get a bit nnngh about it being at floor level.
be interested if you report back on a .9mm crush, chridech. i'm currently on .9mm fluted, and was thinking to go to 1.0 just to see.
 

Killer Brew

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Chridech said:
There are so many factors to consider when it comes to mash efficiency. At the end of the day it doesn't really matter if you are hitting 70% or 85%, it's being consistent that counts. That way you can brew true your recipe, no surprises.
Here's my 2 cents worth when it comes to the Grainfather and mash efficiency:
1. Getting the water chemistry right helps. The times I have achieved highest mash efficiency is when I have hit mash pH of 5.2 bang on. Calculate your salts and acid additions on one of the water spreadsheets, measure your mash pH after 5 minutes recirculating, and adjust pH accordingly. I tend to hold a little lactic acid back from the calculations, because it seems easier to lower rather than raise pH. FWIW I did one brew at mash pH 4.8 and it didn't seem to matter. Remember to acidify sparge water to pH 5.5.
2. Grain crush size - the yin/yang of mash efficiency and sparging time. Can't use BIAB grain crush sizes for the GF. Stuck or very slow sparge will result. Too coarse a crush will result in poor efficiency. Crush size is also mill dependent. The only way to make an accurate recommendation would be to quote grain crush size percentages using the calibrated sieve thingies. FWIW I've had good efficiency (87%) using a crush size of 1mm with a Mashmaster Minimill (new fluted rollers). Sparge time was about 15 minutes.
3. Sparge technique. I've only ever started sparging within a minute or less of hoisting the mash tun. Haven't had a stuck sparge doing this, but I also haven't pushed the envelope with crush size.
I'd say find a range of techniques that give you an efficiency you are happy with and then refine in very small increments. For me, I'm now happy with my water chemistry and sparging, but will try dropping crush size eg. to 0.9mm, to see if this improves mash efficiency any more without creating too slow a sparge. Once I've found the right balance I plan to stick with it to achieve consistent brewing.
Good info and you are bang on about consistency being the key. With your salts and acid additions do you add to the top of the basket while recirculating so that they wash straight into the mash or try to slip them down the side of the tube?
 

Jamescoolness

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Chridech said:
There are so many factors to consider when it comes to mash efficiency. At the end of the day it doesn't really matter if you are hitting 70% or 85%, it's being consistent that counts. That way you can brew true your recipe, no surprises.

Here's my 2 cents worth when it comes to the Grainfather and mash efficiency:

1. Getting the water chemistry right helps. The times I have achieved highest mash efficiency is when I have hit mash pH of 5.2 bang on. Calculate your salts and acid additions on one of the water spreadsheets, measure your mash pH after 5 minutes recirculating, and adjust pH accordingly. I tend to hold a little lactic acid back from the calculations, because it seems easier to lower rather than raise pH. FWIW I did one brew at mash pH 4.8 and it didn't seem to matter. Remember to acidify sparge water to pH 5.5.

2. Grain crush size - the yin/yang of mash efficiency and sparging time. Can't use BIAB grain crush sizes for the GF. Stuck or very slow sparge will result. Too coarse a crush will result in poor efficiency. Crush size is also mill dependent. The only way to make an accurate recommendation would be to quote grain crush size percentages using the calibrated sieve thingies. FWIW I've had good efficiency (87%) using a crush size of 1mm with a Mashmaster Minimill (new fluted rollers). Sparge time was about 15 minutes.

3. Sparge technique. I've only ever started sparging within a minute or less of hoisting the mash tun. Haven't had a stuck sparge doing this, but I also haven't pushed the envelope with crush size.

I'd say find a range of techniques that give you an efficiency you are happy with and then refine in very small increments. For me, I'm now happy with my water chemistry and sparging, but will try dropping crush size eg. to 0.9mm, to see if this improves mash efficiency any more without creating too slow a sparge. Once I've found the right balance I plan to stick with it to achieve consistent brewing.
Chridech great tips. Can I ask how you obtained your local water chemistry? The brisbane water information online is incomplete and out of date. Is there another source?
James
 

Killer Brew

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Jamescoolness said:
Chridech great tips. Can I ask how you obtained your local water chemistry? The brisbane water information online is incomplete and out of date. Is there another source?
James
I believe that if you formally request it from your local water board then they are obliged to provide it (public interest).
 

Chridech

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butisitart said:
be interested if you report back on a .9mm crush, chridech. i'm currently on .9mm fluted, and was thinking to go to 1.0 just to see.
A couple of the Braumeister guys have reported in the Mashmaster MiniMill thread (and I think I have seen you pop up on that thread) that they are getting good mash and sparge results with a mill-gap of 0.9mm. Figure the Grainfather process is pretty similar. I'm getting pretty good results with 1mm, but will try 0.9mm. The next step will be to find the ideal mill-gap size for unhusked grains (e.g., wheat).
 

Chridech

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Jamescoolness said:
Chridech great tips. Can I ask how you obtained your local water chemistry? The brisbane water information online is incomplete and out of date. Is there another source?
James
Sorry but might go a bit OT here...

As Killer Brew says you need to contact the water authority directly. I downloaded the local water report from the internet. I found it was mostly about meeting standards for water quality, rather than exact reports of salt concentrations and pH (i.e.- a range rather than a mean for each analyte was published, and it's not a standard distribution). I therefore emailed the authority and very quickly had direct email contact with the Water Quality Engineer. He eyeballed the figures and supplied me with mode values for each analyte. These still only get you in the ballpark. My water supply is almost exclusively treated deep artesian bore-water. The salt values can vary considerably throughout the year; possibly rain water entering the aquifer has an influence. I then also boil the water the night before brewing to drive off chlorine (thankfully no chloramine in the local water). This also drives off CO2 in the water and reduces temporary hardness/bicarbonate levels. As a result boiled water has less buffering capacity than un-boiled, hence my preference for holding back 1/2 the acid addition, as I usually find I need less acid than my water chemistry calcs suggest based on my inputs using un-boiled water. Also the sodium and chloride levels of my tap-water are usually higher than most of the water profiles I try to emulate. I therefore often dilute the tap water with 10-20% of pure water (e.g. Pureau brand from Coles) that contains bugger all salts. I presume it is very pure RO water.
 

Chridech

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Killer Brew said:
Good info and you are bang on about consistency being the key. With your salts and acid additions do you add to the top of the basket while recirculating so that they wash straight into the mash or try to slip them down the side of the tube?
Ok, another one. I would be very wary about adding dried salts direct to the mash. My experience with Gypsum, and Calcium carbonate especially, is that they are not very soluble. Epsom salts seem to dissolve more easily. They take ages to dissipate when bringing the strike water up to mash temp, so adding them down the side of the mash tun may not work. I have never added salts to the mash tun whilst mashing and I don't think I ever will.

I use liquid lactic acid (88%) in a squirty bottle to bring down pH. It seems to dissipate very quickly when added directly to the wort above the top perforated plate. Within a few minutes the pH has stabilised. From experience I have a rough idea how many drops it takes to drop pH by a certain amount. I only add a few drops at a time and can usually get pH to within 0.1 of 5.2. Funnily enough I have had to do this more often with the sparge water than the mash.

Another option is to use a pH stabiliser, which I have seen in the LHBS. Said to keep the mash pH bang on 5.2 and doesn't impart any flavour.

Edit: There's a current thread 'measuring water chemistry salt additions' or similar. Member MHB suggests making stock solutions of the salts at known concentration. This would likely negate my concern about salts not dissolving in the mash. A good suggestion.
 

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