Monday 17 May 2021

Improve Mash Efficiency with the BrewZilla (How To Guide)

A big factor for many home brewers is the efficiency they're able to get from their equipment. Efficiency refers to how much sugar they're able to extract from the malts or grains in their recipe - and the more you can extract, the better (and stronger) your beer will be.

Many can become disheartened when falling short of expected gravity readings - I know I've felt like this at times, but have still made some great tasting beers with lower than expected efficiency - so if you're falling short a few gravity points don't despair. Here are a few tips and tricks I've come across and tried myself to help improve my efficiency - each one seems to have helped me get a little closer to my expected readings, and I hope they'll help you as well.

Take your time when mashing 

You can't "over-mash" or mash for too long. I've even done an overnight mash due to time constraints during the daytime - so don't feel the need to start your 60 minute timer as soon as your grains are in the BrewZilla, or get them out as soon as your timer is up. Brewing is art, and art takes time.

Stirring the mash on the Brewzilla

Wait before turning the pump on

In my first couple of brews I was always in a hurry to get the grain stirred and the pump on to begin recirculating the wort. I saw a few Facebook group posts that advised waiting 10 minutes or so after stirring in your grain before recirculating. The idea being to let the grain bed 'settle'. My process now is to stir in the grain, let it settle for 10 minutes, then turn on the pump and start my 60 minute timer.

Stir during the mash

Some have recommended stirring a couple of times during the mash - I stop the pump after 20 and 40 minutes to stir the grain bed then turn the pump back on.

Don't use the (fine mesh) bottom screen

The fine mesh bottom screen has been known to cause issues with stuck mashes and stuck sparges as it further restricts the amount of water that can flow through once it reaches the bottom of the grain bed. Apparantly KegLand don't even include the fine mesh bottom screen with BrewZilla's so I'd recommend not using it.

Make sure you use the glass lid

Leave the glass lid on as much as you can during your mash to help retain the heat. The design of the BrewZilla being essentially a tall cylinder with heating elements at the bottom means there is a discrepancy in temperature between the base where the elements are and the top of the grain bed. Keeping the glass lid on helps keep the heat captured at the top and aims to reduce this temperature difference.

Use the neoprene jacket

Similar to the point above with the glass lid - the neoprene jacket helps to insulate and maintain temperature within the Brewzilla.

Brewzilla 3.1.1 35L with Neoprene Jacket

Check your temperature 

Use a hand held kitchen thermometer to check the temperature of the wort coming out of the recirculation arm, or in the middle of the grain bed at the top. You'll find the temperature will be different to your target/current temperature set on the BrewZilla control panel - by as much as 5C. Adjust the temperature on the BrewZilla so you're closer to your target mash temperature at the top of the grain bed.

Use a thermometer to measure the temperature at the top of the grain bed

Mash Out

This is something I didn't do with my first few brews. Most recipes will call for a mash out which involves ramping the temperature up from mashing temperature to around 75-80C. This helps to loosen the grain bed which in turn extracts more sugars and improves the flow of water when sparging.

Boiler & Malt Pipe Extensions

You can also upgrade your BrewZilla with a boiler extension and increased malt pipe to allow more grain and water to be used in your BrewZilla. Check out our article providing more detail on these below;

BrewZilla - Boiler & Malt Pipe Extensions to Increase Capacity

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