Batch or Fly?

A few nights back I had a great conversation with Ted to catch up on brewing. Ted was marveling at the massive new mashtun we were using and he had some practical questions about it. The one that stuck out to me was:

“Do you have something against batch sparging?”

While I have saught for the fly sparge that actually works, I have never stopped and asked myself if it’s really worth all the effort. Perhaps I am totally focused on doing it just so I can say that I do it. Maybe it’s the trickling water and the crazy hoisting of scaulding hot water that attracts me to the fly sparge like a moth to a flame, who knows.

All I know that it’s time for me to take a step back and review the benefits and drawbacks of fly versus batch sparging. There is a great artile in BYO about this, but I would like to hear what you have to say, please make a vote on the survay (right side) and leave a comment. I’ll do a follow up to sum up the stances.


Categories: All Grain Brewing, Commentary Tags:
  1. Keith Brainard
    April 23rd, 2008 at 02:06 | #1

    I chose “A Little of Both” because I have an unusual combination technique. I basically fly sparge. But rather than exactly match the flow rate of incoming sparge water with that of the runoff wort, I just add a bunch of sparge water to the top of the mash tun, then when the water level drops to a little above the grain bed, I add a bunch more water.

    This is what the BYO article came up with at the end for a compromise between batch and fly sparging . I never tried batch sparging, but I don’t really see a problem with the way I do it. It seems to me like the extra recirculation step in batch sparging would be a pain, and it’s not that hard to go add a bunch of sparge water to the mash tun every few minutes.

  2. Ted Danyluk
    April 23rd, 2008 at 04:31 | #2

    I prefer “batch” for most beers. It does become more challenging as the gravity goes really low or really high, and obviously as the batch size goes up (beyond 8-10 gallons). But usually the mash-out and 2nd-sparge water volumes can be increased/altered. Overall, it is simple and very effective.

    I’ve noticed better efficiency, because the grains are more thoroughly rinsed, and there’s almost no chance of channeling. It has been a long time since I’ve fly sparged, but I recall the finished beer was not as clean tasting and clear. Or perhaps my overall skills have gotten for fine tuned.

    For the size and long shape of that massive mashtun, it would definitely require a large sparge arm. It would also require a very large volume of 2nd sparge water (probably too difficult to handle). In this case, fly sparging with a closed and vented lid would be best.

  3. Andy
    April 23rd, 2008 at 12:32 | #3

    i’ve only done batch sparging so far. i’ve only been brewing fro a year, though and i’ll try fly sparging at some point, just for the learning experience. but i must say, being able to do the run off, sparge and run off again in about 1/2 an hour total time is a benefit to me on a long brew day. i don’t think either way is “right” or “wrong”, though.

  4. Travis
    April 23rd, 2008 at 12:51 | #4


    When you say “extra recirculation” what do you mean? When I fly sparged I recirculated as well and with the batch I pretty much recirculate like normal. Do people normally do more or add an extra step in their batch sparging compared to fly?

    We’ve done what you’re talking about as “a little of both” before, it worked out pretty well.

  5. marcus
    April 24th, 2008 at 19:55 | #5

    I started with batch, then went to fly, maybe I will alternate both. You have a great point. I think its because I like watching the fly sparger go round and round and round…

  6. Keith Brainard
    April 25th, 2008 at 01:36 | #6

    I thought you have to recirc again after you add the second sparge water because you’ve disturbed the grain bed… but I’ve never tried it, so I could be wrong. But I can fill my kettle on a five gallon batch in about 45 minutes with nearly 90% extract efficiency with my method.

  7. Travis
    April 25th, 2008 at 14:23 | #7

    Keith –

    Funny you mentioned that method. I was catching up on some of my old Basic Brewing Radio podcasts and James was interviewing Chris Colby who wrote that article and they were talking about that. Oddly, Nick and I have talked about doing that and never really thought of it as a method. Maybe we’ll have to revisit that one again!


  8. Ted Danyluk
    April 25th, 2008 at 15:31 | #8


    Once the fly apparatus is set up and flowing, then it just flows. With batch, you’ll have to pour the second batch water in and vorlauf a second time. But overall, I think it is easier, and rinses the grains more thoroughly. Plus, if the mash out wasn’t quite hot enough, or was too hot, it can be adjusted with the second batch. I also prefer to do a mash-out, and with batch it is required, and instantaneous. Where-as with fly I usually let that step go most of the time…then I always questioned the temp of the mash during that long phase.

    Some folks take a long time to get into all-grain. Then there are those who take quite a while to get into batch sparging. I find that its taking me a long time to get into open fermenting. But each of these changes in the process does take planning, equipment and a willingness to try. Catch ya later.

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