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During my brew yesterday and possibly my 3rd brew in a row, I have noticed my efficiency has dropped. I used to get close to 75% - 80% when all-grain brewing. I was excited for that. I base most my recipes for 75% and was hitting my number like 8 brews in a row. The last 3 brews I have missed my number.

I don't crush my grains, I have the store do it when I buy it. I know crush has a lot to do with efficiency, but I am wondering how much. I actually bought some grain at another store (sorry paul) to see if their crush gave me any better results. The answer was basically no. But that doesn't mean it wasn't the crush. I have been getting like 65% efficiency recently and was wondering if it is something I may be doing.

I have a mill on my need to get list. But until then, I am wondering if crush is the case or not. What else may cause efficiency to drop like that?

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In my opinion, crush is HUGE! I batch sparge and was getting 60% efficiencies when buying my grain pre-crushed. When I bought my mill, the first batch I did was around 70%. I read a bunch of forum posts where people said to adjust the mill 'till you were scared.... so I did. There's much more flour in my grist now but it didn't seem to mess up the husks that much. They are definitely more shredded husks but not tons of them. The last 6 batches I've done I've gotten 80% every time. No stuck sparges (yet).

Actually, the first batch I did after adjusting the mill really screwed me up. I had the recipe still set @ 60% and ended up getting 80% efficiency. It was supposed to be a 10 gallon batch of pale ale. Turned out to be an IPA without enough hops.

If you think about it though, efficiency doesn't really matter all that much. Who care's if you get 60% or 80%. What's it add up to, a few bucks worth of grain? The key is to be consistent so that your gravity, volume, and IBU's match up to your recipe and you beer stays in balance. If I'm gonna miss my gravity, I'm really hoping I miss it low. You can extend the boil to reduce your volume and get closer to the desired gravity... or add some DME at the end of the boil... or just leave it over hopped a bit; the bitterness will drop out with aging. When you miss your gravity high it's much more difficult to fix. You can dilute and make more beer but you've already under-hopped because of the higher gravity boil. Diluting will make it much worse.

So, yes, crush is big but I just noticed in my rambling that I didn't address your actual question. ;)
Did any of your equipment change that might affect the calibration of your volumes? How about recipe... Are you comparing recipes with similar gravities and grain bills? I'm sure your Russian American Imperial Stout came in at a lower efficiency than your Honey Blonde Ale. At least, that would be my guess, right?
Well the honey blonde was extract, so that wasn't effected.

I do want to be consistent, and if I can't control the crush, I don't think I can be. The RIS came in around 73% and I adjusted up with DME. I didn't mind coming in at 65%, but it was the variation that got me. I was getting a higher rate and setting my recipes there.

Nothing else really changed in that portion of my brewing. Same cooler, same water. Well, unless my township did something to the water, which I really don't know.
Hi Jeff,

Are you using basically the same types of malts, (base malt, more or less crystal or dark malts)? Also what type of temperature profile are you using on your mash? Do you check your pH while mashing/sparging?

Carl
Most of the time I am using US 2 Row with about 15% specialty grains. I tend to mash in around 151-154 depending on style. I use 5.2 from 5 Star to keep my mash at a ph of 5.2. I have tested it a couple of batches and it does stick to 5.2 through out.

I know when I load up my cooler with 20lbs of grain to not expect as much efficiency as if I used 10lbs. The only reason I even brought it up was that it seemed to drop a lot. I will just plan my future recipes to be 65% efficiency until I get my own grain mill.
My thought is what changed? If all of your parameters are the same it has to be the grain, or you are not getting a good flow out of the bed, (are the parts on the bottom of the cooler all tight and the way they were three batches ago?) The only other thing to try is try a different brand or lot of malt.
If your brewing water has changed it could have caused a drop in efficiency. Have you started using RO water or tap water instead of bottled spring water? If you've been using tap water all along, maybe your provider has been softening your water more than they previously were? You need 50ppm of calcium to ensure proper enzymatic activity.

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