Modifications & Tricks to Increase Efficiency of Anvil Foundry
By Jim Mulkern
Let me set the scene for you. The day has finally come. That eight percent double IPA kit you have been waiting for has finally arrived after weeks of waiting. You meticulously build your water profile, select the perfect yeast, and break out your bright and shining Anvil Foundry. This is the moment you have been waiting for. You follow the directions in the kit step by step and are feeling great. You cool it off and anxiously check the original gravity, but wait. That can not possibly be right, you thought everything went perfectly. The expected OG was 1.078 and your hydrometer is reading 1.046. After doing the math you end up with a brewhouse efficiency of roughly fifty percent.
Most of us who already own a Foundry have most likely had this same experience at least once. Buying an all-in-one (AIO) system as a professional homebrewer or a beginner feels like a cheat code. There is an expectation that ingredients go in and perfect beer comes out. What many people find out, myself included, is that it is not that simple. The Foundry is an excellent AIO but that does not mean that it is perfect. With practice and a little bit of elbow grease you are able to take that low brewhouse efficiency and turn it into a 90-95% efficiency brew.
The Malt Pipe:
The Foundry is a great system but it has a few drawbacks. The first major flaw is the malt pipe. While having a malt pipe in an AIO system seems like a fantastic upgrade, in the Foundry it actually hinders the brewing process. An overwhelming amount of Foundry owners through forums and conversations alike admit to struggling with the malt pipe. The recommendation is to remove the malt pipe entirely and brew in a bag inside of the Foundry. The malt pipe in the Foundry creates a large amount of deadspace around the pipe where flow does not reach leading to large portions of low gravity wort. By removing the malt pipe and using a bag there is no dead space and that problem is eliminated. An important note when doing this is to ensure you use large spring clips or binder clips to keep the bag off of the bottom of the kettle or it will inhibit the flow for recirculation.
Another glaring issue that exists with the Foundry is the recirculation plate that lives on top of the malt pipe. Trust me when I say that by removing the malt pipe and in turn removing this thin sad excuse for a disbursement plate you are not missing much. Even if you do not modify your system as heavily as I have done, just by running the flow directly into your wort and spraying it by hand you will drastically increase your efficiency. On my Foundry I upgraded this system. With my set-up, I have the tri-clamp lid fitting that is sold separately and through that hole in the lid I lower an aftermarket sparge/diffusion plate like the one pictured below. There are many variations of this attachment sold aftermarket. It does what the diffusion plate on the Foundry was originally supposed to do but far more efficiently. By adjusting the flow of wort during recirculation, you can adjust the spray width coming off of the plate which will allow you to cover different parts of your grain bed and recirculate properly. This is also a nice upgrade because when you are ready to sparge, just connect your pump hose to your Hot Liquor Tank and this will do a very good job sparging over your entire grain bed as well. Depending on the size of attachment you buy you may have to do what I have done and attach this onto a quick connect to fit it through the tri-clamp fitting to avoid messing with hot and sticky hose clamps during brewing.
Your malt pipe is gone, your recirculation flow is better, now what? With a few more tips you will be pulling professional efficiency in no time. Water is the basis of good beer. Too much water and you get terrible efficiency, but too little and you don’t extract enough sugar from the grain. There are two ways you can fix this problem.
One is to calculate the boil off rate of your system. Every system is a little different and people have different brew spaces. I personally use the Anvil steam condenser and primarily do 3 gallon batches. The steam extraction method and amount of fluid in the kettle will all impact the boil off rate. To calculate this number, fill your kettle with water to the size of the batch you would normally do, set it to boil, and boil for your planned boil time. For the sake of this example, after a 60 minute boil you have gone from 5 gallons to 4 gallons in the kettle and you wanted a five gallon batch total, then your pre boil volume needs to be 6 gallons to achieve your desired batch size.
After you have calculated your necessary pre boil volume, you need to adjust the amount of water you are using for your batches. My preferred rule of thumb for brewing is 1.25 quarts of water per pound of grain in strike water. Once you have that number calculated, subtract that number from your total pre boil volume and that will give you the amount of sparge water you should use.
Secondly, different grains have different size hulls and with different crush sizes, thus you may not need rice hulls in every brew. With grain bills that have a tendency to thicken up more, I find that adding rice hulls, even a small amount, really helps to keep grain balls from forming. In my opinion, if it does not impact the flavor and can only help increase your efficiency then why not? I have only found benefit from using rice hulls in my brews with the Foundry.
While some of this information may seem intimidating to a new brewer, rest assured the Anvil Foundry is a great system. By making a few simple modifications to the system and your brewing process you will be pulling 90-95% efficiency in no time. Most importantly to remember is to have fun. Homebrewing is about learning the process, making great beer, and spending time with friends. Go forth, enjoy some brews, and make some great beer. Cheers.
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