How can I avoid the "dough balls" that are common when I am mashing in?
As far as the crush goes, you are looking for the grains to be cracked open, but not ground into flour. This being said, there are a few ways to avoid the dreaded dough balls. Try starting with hot (170° F) water in your mash tun, and adding the grain a little bit at a time, dispersing it as you go. With each addition, stir it up a little bit. With a typical 10-12 lb. grain bill, you should divide it into five to eight additions.
Method number two requires an additional set of hands. If someone else is available, have them stir the mash as you slowly add the grain to the mash tun.
A third method would be to pour your grains into the mash tun before the hot water goes in. Using this method, you should dough in a a slightly higher temp (3-4° F), as you will lose a little heat while you are stirring up the mash.