More IS always better! Get more from your brew!
It is a common misconception that only the “big” producers should be concerned with their efficiency, however nothing could be further from the truth! In fact, scale of economy often dictates higher ingredient costs for smaller operations, meaning the smaller you are, the more your efficiency matters!
For a brief summation of the impact of raw material optimization, let us use some basic numbers to run out a couple scenarios. We will use an example of a brewer who already has an existing recipe, but has maxed out the equipment capacity. In this instance wort quality is high, and production volumes are optimum, so any efficiency gained will be balanced by removing input ingredients. At a 10bbl size, a basic pilsner recipe may contain roughly 550 pounds of grain for an Original Gravity of 13.1*P (or 1.053). If this brewing system produces a total efficiency of 82%, this may seem an acceptable standard at most outfits.
Over-sparging can lead to poor efficiency and a diluted wort collection. A good rule of thumb is to estimate one pound of water per pound of spent grain for water retention. This mash bed has been extracted efficiently leaving behind a nice dry "mash cake".
If this brewer is able to achieve 90.5% total efficiency, a gain of 8.5%, they would be able to reduce the input grain by 50 pounds, while still achieving the desired Original Gravity of 13.1* (or 1.053). At an average price of around $0.60 per pound of base malt, the brewer could save as much as $30 in ingredients per batch.
Now let us take the example a few steps further. A colleague brewer at another production site is making the same product, but the kettle capacity is larger. For this brewer, removing the grain from the recipe would only help if they are wanting to limit the total production volume of the batch to 10bbl. Instead, brewer 2 will take advantage of the same 8.5% increase in brewhouse efficiency to add more wort to his kettle.
Here we collect the initial run-off after mashing a brew. Achieving first wort collection as high as 26*P is possible with use of supplemental enzymes and enhanced procedures.
With an 8.5% increase in total brewhouse efficiency, brewer 2 is able to collect 343 gallons, which is 33 gallons (about 1bbl) more than brewer 1, while still achieving the 13.1*P target Original Gravity. If we take into account the added value of the manufactured product, we might suggest that brewer 2 is able to profit over $200 from the same $30 ingredient savings brewer 1 sees. This might account for as much as 2/3 of the total grain bill cost on the entire batch, proving the power of exponential efficiency.
When using adjunct ingredients, it may be difficult or impossible to find quality malted options. Fluctuations in growing conditions or malting process can impact the raw material quality, causing inconsistencies in the brewing process. Add to that less-than-ideal processing and you have quite a mess.
Raw materials or poorly modified malted materials can be aided by the addition of supplemental enzymes. The enzymes will allow for a more total conversion of starch into fermentable sugars, but they can also aid in processing. Certain enzymes help breakdown glucans and xylans in order to increase the real extraction. When used properly, these tools can aid in faster conversion, and faster wort collection, saving labor and resources. Again, these savings can be exponentially valued when considering the increased production potential.
All brewers can benefit from analysis of their efficiency. In many circumstances a simple enzyme addition can help increase real extract and attenuation while reducing processing time and labor. If you find yourself below 90% total processing efficiency, reach out! You may be leaving some meat on the bone!
A refractometer is one tool used in measuring your efficiency. Often, final runnings below 2*P signal proper extraction of the sugar content. Higher numbers mean you are leaving sugar behind!
Check back soon when we discuss mashing techniques designed to maximize your efficiency. We will explore some common ingredients and processing techniques used primarily in Gluten-free and high adjunct brewing.