Beginner’s Guide to Continuous Sparging

Just in case you’re coming here to learn only about continuous or fly sparging and not after my post on batch sparging, I’ll recap a little and then dive in.

What is Sparging?

This occurs at the end of your mash. Using hot water (typically 170 degrees) you add around 1.5 times more water to your tun than you had in the mash. For example if you mashed with 8 quarts of water, you’ll sparge with 12.

Sparging rinses the grain bed, extracting more sugars and without bring the tannins along for the ride. It also determine you boil volume and initial pre-boil gravity.

Continuous (Fly) Sparging

With this sparge method, you’re going to sprinkle your sparge water into your mash tun over the period of 60-90 minutes. During that time you’ll want to keep the sparge water up around 170 – which can be a little tricky. But the pay off is higher efficiency and in a lot of brewers opinions – better beer.

You’ll need some extra equipment as well. You’ll need a hot water bucket and a fly arm. I use my bottling bucket and attach a small length of hose to my fly arm (hence why some people refer to it as fly sparging) that sits on the top of my mash tun.

I don’t make it the full hour either, usually 20-30 mins. The goal is to have a single run of wort (unlike batch sparging where you essentially have two).

Continuous is much “cleaner” in the fact that you’ll aiming to have a steady, constant sparge happening. This will firm up the grain bed and you’ll have less tannins and husks in your boil – plus there’s less of a change of getting a stuck sparge.

The Process

  1. Heat up 1.5x as much water as you used in your mash. You’re going to want the actual temperature to be 170 after you strike the grains, so be sure to heat it up a little more than 170 to account for the temp difference.
  2. Set up your hot water bucket and start draining the wort into your kettle. Be sure to re-circulate a few times to get rid of any husks. I pour back in on a plastic lid or piece of foil to not disturb the grain bed. When it runs clear, let it drain for real.
  3. Once the water level is below the top of the grain bed, start running your hot water through the sparge arm. You’re going to want to try to get the rate of water falling on the grains to equal the amount that’s flowing out in to the kettle.
  4. Let the sparge run its course and try to keep your hot water bucket up around 170. One the sparge is done, give yourself like 10 minus to make sure all the wort is collected, then on to the boil.

The Downside

Overall, this method is more efficient that batch sparging, but if you over sparge, you run the risk of getting an overall thinner wort.

Secondly, this method requires a lot more time and attention to be spent on brew day– which isn’t always a bad thing to the perfectionist brewer.

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