Help! I need more beer!

Help! I need more beer!

The classic saying is “time is money”. More aptly put; it would read “product is money”. In nearly every industrialized operation, efficiency is of paramount importance. Not only does it lead to profitability, but it ensures sustainability and reduces waste. Efficiency can take many forms, however increased production is ultimately the goal. Exponential value of turning raw material into product sustains the ability to continue. The heart of this post will focus on input material, extraction efficiency and enzyme advantages. Follow along as we discuss techniques directed towards growing your bottom line.

While no brewery is running 100% optimal, tracking performance in the brewery is essential to success. Monitoring extractions, collections, and distributions should be standard practice, but it is never too late to start. Analyzing data will help you direct efforts appropriately, and put some money back into your pocket.


In a casual discussion with a fellow brewing colleague, we outlined a discrepancy that warranted further investigation. The conversation focused on our spent grain removal and the associated methods, however we came upon a realization that we use proportionally different quantities of grain. You see, my colleagues local pub system was particularly poor at extraction, outputting around 72% total brewhouse efficiency. With a typical figure of about 86% on several brewhouses, I saw less output of grain for a nearly identical brew recipe. After adjusting batches to be equal volumes, the recipes would break down as follows. Ten barrels into the fermenter would require 660 pounds of grain to achieve 1.056 specific gravity (13.8*P) for my colleague. This would give an overall brewhouse efficiency of 72%. For myself, I save one fifty-pound bag of malt at 86% extraction, still achieving a 1.056 (13.8*P) gravity. 

Okay, so let us take this example and really try to make some extra money by focusing our attention to production volumes. If my colleague and I were to use the same 660 pound grain bill, the difference in extraction gravities would be 11 specific gravity points, or 1.056 vs 1.067. Trying to make the same brew, I would add water to produce an extra 60 gallons, almost 2 barrels! Now that is worth some money! Hopefully by now I have your attention. If you are not tracking your efficiency, you might be shoveling money out the lauter! 

Spent grain should contain little water and not taste sweet. Work to dial in your total water volume and sparging procedure for maximum value. Lautering can significantly impact extraction, even when a full conversion of starch has taken place, so verify results by gravity measurements and volumes. 

Most every brewer is aware of the importance of temperature and pH when mashing. The proper combination of environmental factors allows for higher enzymatic activity, and ultimately, a more complete conversion of starch to simple sugar. Less well understood is how we can manipulate these factors to achieve optimal results. Adding supplemental enzymes can unlock more potential from your raw ingredients, potentially turning a $30 bag of malt into $300 of additional profit.

Perhaps you are already achieving 86% brewhouse efficiency and want to reach even higher. Without the need of a dedicated mash filter, you can manipulate mashing and lautering to aim towards 96% total brewhouse efficiency. At that mark, you will have gained another 1.5 barrels of beer – maximizing production to its fullest potential. In order to do so, attention must be focused on enzymatic activity throughout wort production (and beyond).

6-row barley has slightly smaller kernels than two row barley, providing a higher ratio of enzyme-active outer layer (aleurone) to inner starch reserve. This gives more diastatic power per pound, and can be mixed with larger percentages of adjuncts, comparatively. 2-row barley offers more starch per pound, and thus more extraction potential.

The use of supplemental enzymes such as Attenuzyme® Pro can increase the amount of starch available for conversion by increasing liquefaction. When combined with certain pullulanases, amylopectin bonds can be broken down at the 1,6 linkage, providing typically “locked” sugar chains. Amylases can break down these chain remnants into mono, di and tri saccharides, ideal for fermentation. This is where your additional value comes from. Previously wasted branching points are cleaved more effectively.

All that extra sugar needs to be extracted, not just converted, so enzymes such as Ultraflo® Max can help. Breaking down b-glucans and arabinoxylans can drastically improve lautering time, but it also prevents starch molecules from “hiding” during enzymatic conversion. The molecules can get bound by glucans and xylans, which are part of normal cell tissues. Exposing all starch unlocks full potential. 

Amylose is easily broken down by enzymatic activity, but more bonds are harder to break. Amylopectin provides energy reserves for the barley plant, while glycogen is stored energy in yeast cells. The branched chains create a “slow release” effect in their natural process. Cellulose is tightly bonded and forms rigid cell walls, such as forming the “kernel” of the barley.

Ondea® Pro is another product that can help with most brews. Compatible with 100% malted barley, but targeted to under-modified mashes, this complex of enzymes can improve protein degradation. This leads to reduced turbidity and improved stability, extending the life of all that new beer you’ve made! 

When you really look to analyze the details there are even more hidden gems. Increasing your brewhouse efficiency means better landed costs. Fifty pounds of malt per ten barrels adds up. Even a brewery with a 1,000 bbl per year production volume will see a difference of two pallets per year. That can be waste going out, or beer going out! The choice is yours!