Sparging 101

This page will discuss different methods of draining and rinsing your grains in an all grain beer to extract sugars after you have completed mashing. During the mash process, malted barley will sit in hot water at approximately 150-158 degrees for about an hour. When the hour is up, it is time to sparge (or lauter) the grains. There are 3 main methods we will discuss here.

No Sparge Technique
The the no sparge technique is the easiest technique, but also has its disadvantages. In this technique, you drain the wort from the mash lauter tun into the boil kettle without adding any more water to the MLT. In the MLT, there is a false bottom that will allow the wort to separate from the grain. You will need to add water to the boil kettle to bring the level up to the recipe’s pre-boil volume.

The benefits of this technique are ease and quickness. The other two techniques can add anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour to your brew day, so this method is definitely the fastest. The drawback is that you will have to use more grain to get the same amount of sugar out of your grains (poor efficiency) than one of the other sparge methods.

Batch Sparge Technique
Batch sparging is only slightly more complicated than not sparging. After you have drained the MLT, you will add hot water at 168-170 to rinse the malted barley of any residual sugar. You will then drain the MLT again to bring the kettle to the recipe’s pre-boil volume.

This method will greatly increase your efficiency over the no sparge method. The drawback is that it is not as efficient as a continous sparge method, and you will disturb the filter bed by stirring in more water.

Continous Sparging Technique
Continous sparging, or fly sparging, is the most efficient sparge method you can use. It involves slowly (over 45 minutes-1 hour) draining the wort from the mash tun and simultaneously adding hot water to the top. It is the most complicated method because you must balance the speed of draining the mash tun as well as filling it from the hot liquor tank. It is advisable to stop the sparge when the gravity of the wort drops to 1.019 to avoid extracting undesirable tannins from the grain.

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