BIAB thoughts from a relative newbie

Discussion in 'Beginners Brewing Forum' started by SabreSteve, Jan 26, 2021.

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  1. SabreSteve

    SabreSteve Well-Known Member

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    So I've noticed there's a lot of questions here in the beginners sub involving BIAB (brew in a bag). I've only done a handful of batches that way myself but I figured I could answer as many of the basic questions as I can think of, some other people can add a few things and then we can always link back to this thread when people ask these same few questions again.

    Why BIAB?
    BIAB is essentially a cheaper (equipment wise) simple way to do all-grain brewing because it doesn't require a lot of extra equipment like a mash-tun. The only extra equipment you need from extract brewing is a bag. They are easy enough to find and cheap enough at your LHBS or online retailers. Just get something that says BIAB or brew in a bag on the packaging. I know some members outside North America have made their own when the pandemic made having things shipped difficult. Any food safe material that will allow water through while filtering most solid materials out will do. Mesh, muslin and cheesecloth are all fine but I don't like cheesecloth because it drains water through it too slowly for my taste. You want to make sure you have someway to secure it, such as a drawstring, so that it doesn't touch the bottom of your kettle where it could get scorched. As far as your kettle the general rule of thumb is you want to go twice as large as the desired end volume of your batches. For instance I target 5 gallons in my fermenter, I bought a 10 gallon kettle. Found I could do 4 gallons in my borrowed 7 gallon turkey fryer but it wouldn't hold the mash volume of a 5: gallon batch without overflowing.

    Grains
    You typically just get your grains through whatever supplier you source the rest of your ingredients. I typically use MoreBeer because I take advantage of their free shipping program and my LHBS tends to be pricier. Your grains will need to be milled but I choose to order them unmilled and do it myself. If you're going to have your LHBS mill it for you ask them to mill it real fine or tell them it's for BIAB. Without going into depth for the reasons why (someone else can do that better) BIAB benefits from a finer crush than you'd normally want for all-grain. Since this has come up in multiple threads lately: IT'S VERY DIFFICULT TO CRUSH TOO FINE FOR BIAB. You might have a fair bit of flour, that's ok. If you can't get it milled you can pulse it in a blender, food processor or coffee grinder, whatever works but if this is a hobby you're planning to stick with I recommend buying a mill. Corona style mills (just Google corona mill) are fairly cheap and they're also pretty easy to convert for use with a power drill. Not necessary to convert it but it'll make the task much quicker and easier. I always double mill my grains too so once you're done put it through for another pass.

    Mash
    BIAB is typically done as a full volume mash. What this means is that you aren't starting with a smaller volume and sparging until you reach your pre-boil volume. You're instead mashing with enough water that after your loses to grain absorption that you'll be at your pre-boil volume without having to really top up. There are any number of BIAB calculators that you can find online to figure out your water for your mash. There is no need to sparge or rinse the grain bag with hot water but it's ok to squeeze it while draining over the kettle. Squeeze that thing until you feel you can't squeeze anymore out or you hit pre-boil volume. Once your done with that take a hydrometer reading and then prep for your boil. One last thing to keep in mind is that you typically do not want to really fire your kettle when your bag is in because of risk of scorching it so it's good to have a nice thick blanket or sleeping bag to wrap your kettle in to insulate it during the mash. I typically check in every 15-20 minutes to check the temp and give it a quick stir and then cover it back up. If you do want to fire the kettle during the mash I'd advise extreme caution and a really low flame. Keep in mind that you can also always adjust the mash temp up or down by adding hotter or cooler water.

    That's about all I got off the top of my head. It really is pretty simple and less scary than it seems. If anyone wants to add or amend any of that go ahead
     
  2. Megary

    Megary Well-Known Member

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    Great post @SabreSteve.

    Only thing I would add is that if you want to make high gravity beers, I would get a bigger pot than "twice as large as end volume". I brew 3 gallon batches (into fermenter) and use an 8 gallon pot. This allows me to "all grain" up to 1.080-1.090 comfortably enough (without sugar or extract).
     
  3. SabreSteve

    SabreSteve Well-Known Member

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    Maybe I should have said atleast...
    But yeah that's a good point that rules of thumb are more general guidelines than one-size-fits-all rules.

    Like I said I was trying to do 5 gallons in a 7 gallon kettle (I'd do 4 and top to 5 in the fermenter like an extract batch) so doing my 5 gallon porter in my 10 gallon kettle felt like I had more room than I could ever possibly need:D
     
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  4. Bubba Wade

    Bubba Wade Well-Known Member

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    Another advantage is that BIAB is perfect for electric mash/boil combo vessels with temperature control.
     
  5. Dirty Dingo Brewing CO.

    Dirty Dingo Brewing CO. Active Member

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    Yeah, I ironically use the BIAB system when I'm at work (I work at my LHBS) and I'm on the grainfather. I sometimes don't have time to do a full sparge, it adds at least an extra hour. So I just stick to what I know and I'm comfortable with. I'm pretty consistent at 70% efficiency, so I think adding a sparge from a bucket with an upside down colander will put be well into the 70's.

    Bottom line, I think BIAB is underrated. I make tons of beer (usually 2 20l batches a week) and I find mine taste just as good as on the grainfather.
     
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  6. Bubba Wade

    Bubba Wade Well-Known Member

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    I pull out the grain bag and put in in another plastic bucket at the end of the mash. I add enough hot water to get me to the pre-boil volume and do a modified batch sparge. Pretty much always hit around 75% with this method. And it’s very quick.
     
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  7. Bubba Wade

    Bubba Wade Well-Known Member

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    I would also contend that BIAB suffers from a certain kind of snobbery from some quarters. I’ve seen posts on other forums saying that BIAB is a good place to start on all-grain until you can work up to a 3-vessel system. These people won’t use BIAB because “insert brewery name” doesn’t use it.

    BIAB is perfect for any brewer making small batches. However, once you exceed 5 gallons, the process fails to scale up. You can no longer lift the grain bag without a hoist, grain bags aren’t strong enough for that much weight, etc.

    Anyway, enough of the rant. And since I’m retiring tomorrow, “Hey, you kids! Get off of my lawn!”
     
  8. Craigerrr

    Craigerrr Well-Known Member

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    Holy Shit!
    Good for you man!
    Congrats!
     
  9. Craigerrr

    Craigerrr Well-Known Member

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    Maybe now you will have time to get a 3 vessel system together, and be "real" brewer :D:D:D:D:D
     
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  10. Megary

    Megary Well-Known Member

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    Congratulations!!
     
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  11. Nosybear

    Nosybear Well-Known Member

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    Yeah, step up, man!

    Congrats on the retirement. I'm hopefully not far behind.
     
  12. Hawkbox

    Hawkbox Well-Known Member

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    When you plebs level up to a 2 vessel and a bucket system like I have then you will be pro brewers. ;)

    Just ignore me pricing out electric rigs.

    Congrats Bubba.
     
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  13. soccerdad

    soccerdad Well-Known Member

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    File this under "It doesn't matter what he thinks."
    A finer crush for BIAB is one of those things that is nifty but not necessary. Many folks who crush really fine say their mash is done in 40 minutes or less. Easy peasy. But the guys in OZ who pioneered this method often say, 'just use a normal crush and let in run for 90 minutes (or more). The idea is to simply fully and completely saturate every bit of the grain at the right temp, and there are more than two ways to skin that cat. As Bubba notes above, he often does a mash and sparge, which increases the chance of full saturation.
    So the bottom line, for me, is that if you aren't hitting the numbers you want at 60 minutes, go read a chapter in your favorite book and come back in 30 minutes. Your numbers at that point might be right where they were supposed to be. Or dunk you bag in a sparge bucket.
     
  14. Megary

    Megary Well-Known Member

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    I agree with all of this. But if a brewer can shave 30-40-50 minutes off the brew day by crushing finer (with no obvious consequences that I'm aware of), why not?
    Another interesting twist that essentially agrees with your point: I have found that I can get much better extraction simply by mashing thin. Kind of like a no-sparge sparge. This, of course, leads to a longer boil and a longer brew day so I don't usually do it. But I could easily add 5-6 points of efficiency simply by adding more water to my mash (and boiling longer).
     
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  15. FrostyBeach

    FrostyBeach Well-Known Member

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    Congratulations, best thing I did.
     
  16. Over The Cliff Brewing

    Over The Cliff Brewing Well-Known Member

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    Congrats to you!
     
  17. Nosybear

    Nosybear Well-Known Member

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    The perfect system is the one that makes your beer. I've found that those who brag about their systems and put others' systems down generally make the worst beer.
     
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  18. Donoroto

    Donoroto Well-Known Member

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    Congratulations Bubba.

    It may be slightly disorienting at first, but you will quickly grow used to it and enjoy it tremendously.

    Great WiFi system name: "Hey you kids get off my LAN"...
     
  19. Dirty Dingo Brewing CO.

    Dirty Dingo Brewing CO. Active Member

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    So Genus spoke on the finer crush and said that once you go to fine you actually end up losing efficiency. I think I should start trying maybe 75 mins instead of 70? and also make sure I'm really keeping the water moving to pull off the sugars on the grains.

    I have to head to Bunnings to pick some things up, so I think I'll get the bucket and start sparging soon.
     
  20. thunderwagn

    thunderwagn Well-Known Member

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    Haha, another train off the tracks on BF.
    @Bubba Wade congratulations on your retirement. Another chapter begins. Time to get busy.
     

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