The longer you brew, the more technical you tend to get. Immersion chillers? That's for beginners. More and more brewers (especially us gadget crazy Falcons) are opting not just for counterflow devices, but for mini plate style heatexchangers, just like the pros use (only minus all that glycol). Therminators for all! Hydrometers? Get a refractometer. Glass Carboys? I'll take my conical in Stainless Steel, please. And on and on it goes until many of us have a full working small scale brewery sitting in the backyard. And some aren't so small! The point is, as your enthusiasm for homebrewing increases, so does the complexity of your system, and probably the complexity of your various techniques. And of course, along with more money comes more time.
How about we take a step backwards and try something simpler? In this case, Batch Sparging. If you have ever been to a shop brew or brewed a batch of all-grain beer, you are (probably) familiar with fly sparging. This technique, developed in Britain around a century ago, is where you gently rinse the grains post-voraluf with new water at the same rate that you are running the wort off into the kettle. Slow and steady is the name of the game, for the slower your sparge, the more sugar you will be able to extract from the mash. Batch Sparging is the opposite of fly (or continuous) sparging. Once you are done recirculating your mash, open up the valve and let her rip! The idea is to drain the mash tun as quickly as possible. Then, you refill the mashtun with new water, give it a stir, let it sit for a bit, restir and then once again drain the tun as fast as you can. Essentially, you are doing a parti-gyle and then immediately combining the two run offs.
Besides a reduction in time, Batch Sparging has a couple of other benefits. One is that you never have to worry about mash pH since the grains' buffering ability is not being continuously diluted like it would be in a fly sparge. Another benefit is that you can essentially skip Mashing Out since the liquid will get into the kettle so quickly the heat will denature any enzymes present. Drawbacks? Depending on your system, you will probably see a reduction in efficiency, but some brewers actually claim better extraction rates from Batching. Also, remember, grain costs about a dollar a pound, so just toss in some more. Is an extra buck per batch worth a one hour reduction in time? Probably. And best of all, you can use your existing equipment. And throw out your sparge-ring.
Keys to a Successful Batch Sparge:
- Mash at the usual ratio -- slightly more than 1 quart per pound of grain.
- Due to grain absorption, you will need to add additional water to the Mash Tun before the first runoff. So if you are mashing 5 gallons of water, two of those gallon will be absorbed by the grain, so you will need to add the two lost gallons back.
- You still need to perform a vourlaf -- on both mashes.