Brewer checking the characteristics of his beer.
by Blake Sandnes

What is Brewing/Brewhouse Efficiency?

During the brewing process, crushed malted barley is combined with water creating “mash” in a stainless steel tank referred to as the mash tun. The mash tun then holds the mash at a set temperature for a set amount of time while the starches in the malted barley are converted into sugars that are used to create the beer.

Image of brewery equipment. Ideally, 100% of those extracted sugars are collected, but due to the intricacies of the brewing process, that is not always the case. When talking about “mash efficiency”, we are referring to what percentage of the sugars are extracted from the malted barley. The closer we get to extracting 100% of the sugars, the more efficient we are. Higher efficiency reduces grain costs.

This percentage of sugar content or target sugar content is also known as “gravity”. Each brewer and type of malted barley has a set potential gravity that they are looking to achieve and put into the fermentation process. Gravity is used to help measure brewhouse efficiency. 

More About Brewhouse Efficiency

There are two types of efficiency when it comes to brewing beer: mash efficiency and brewhouse efficiency. Brewhouse efficiency relates to the efficiency of the overall system. Mash efficiency relates to how much of your total overall sugar content makes it from the “mash tun” to the “boil kettle”. Mash efficiency is recipe driven. Each style of beer requires a different sugar content and thus a different “gravity”.

What Is Considered an Efficient Brewhouse?

It is extremely difficult—practically impossible—to get to 100% efficiency. An efficient brewhouse is a brewhouse that is able to collect 80-95% of the sugars from the mash tun. The more efficient a brewhouse is during this process, the less money they spend on barley, and the more money they make in the long run! 

How is Efficiency in a Brewhouse calculated?

Calculating brewhouse efficiency is essential for any brewery. It is important to know your brewhouse efficiency so you can better improve your processes and make the most profit. Brewer’s Friend offers a great efficiency calculator, but there are many other useful sites.

How Can Efficiency in a Brewhouse Be Improved?

 Image of modern brewing equipment. Various equipment—such as a roller mill for brewing—can affect efficiency. A finer, more consistent crush from a roller mill allows the ability to pull more sugar off of the malt and barley. Roller mills that are not as consistent or fine in crushing grain, do not allow for as much sugar to be pulled which results in lower efficiency.

It is important to have a well-balanced and repeatable grind where some of the barley is finely milled and some is larger. A quality sieve set helps evaluate this mill distribution. Any inconsistencies in your “grist” (milled barley) will negatively affect your brewing efficiency and your ability to properly extract sugars from the malt.

2 Roller vs. 4 Roller Mill: Which Is Better for Brewhouse Efficiency?

A two-roller mill has two rolls that are being used to crush the grain. This type of roll configuration creates a consistent mill and allows for the distribution of grain sizes. This is a base roller mill option. 

Image of equipment for beer preparation.A four-roller mill has two sets of rollers. The additional two rollers create a finer grist, while still delivering consistent results. Four-roller mills offer more control and options for milling barley. Once the right level of milling has been achieved, that level can be set for future use. Lastly, four roller mills make it easier to separate the “sugar water” (also known as “wort”) from spent grain in a process known as “lautering”.

When RMS Roller-Grinder tested the two-roll mills next to the four-roll mills, there was a 4-6% increase in efficiency. When a four-roll RMS roller mill replaced a competitor’s roller mill, there was as much as a 10% increase in efficiency! However, there is more involved than simply roller mills when it comes to brewhouse efficiency. Poor brewhouse layout and long hoses also play a factor. On the other side of the coin, it’s also important to analyze efficiency in the tasting room.

The team at RMS Roller-Grinder prides themselves on creating the most efficient and consistent roller mills in the industry. When you are ready to improve your brewing equipment and brewhouse efficiency, reach out and give us a call!

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