Mash tun or biab?

Discussion in 'General Brewing Discussions' started by BrewerMichel, Jan 27, 2020.

  1. BrewerMichel

    BrewerMichel Member

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    #1 BrewerMichel, Jan 27, 2020
    Last edited: Jan 27, 2020
    Hello,

    Thinking about trying all grain without investing too much time and money. But can't decide between biab or a (small) mash tun. Atm i only have a 2,5 gal brewing pot for the biab.

    What do you recon? Keep cost and ease to use in mind. My purpose is brewing (a lot of) smaller batches (2,5 to 5) just to learn brewing and try different recipes and methods.

    Thanks!
     
  2. BOB357

    BOB357 Well-Known Member

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    You definitely need a bigger kettle either way. You can usually find 5 gallon kettles at thrift stores cheap. Walmart has 5 gallon stainless pots with lid starting at about $28.. If you go BIAB you'll need a brewing bag. If you go with a mash tun, an ice chest can be converted cheap. To be realistic, for 2 1/2 gallon BIAB batches you should have a 5 gallon kettle. For the same size batches and batch sparging a 12 to 16 qt. ice chest or water cooler.

    For ease of use, a mash tun made from an ice chest will do a much better job of maintaining mash temperature, so is probably easier for a beginner.
     
  3. Bubba Wade

    Bubba Wade Well-Known Member

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    For a while, I used a hybrid system. I would mash in a 5 gallon Igloo beverage cooler using a BIAB bag. The cooler would hold temperature with no more than a 2-3 °F drop over an hour. I could even pour off the first wort into the brew pot and add more hot water for rinsing to get the efficiency up.

    A pretty cheap and efficient way to go.
     
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  4. BrewerMichel

    BrewerMichel Member

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    #4 BrewerMichel, Jan 27, 2020
    Last edited: Jan 27, 2020
    thanks for replies! will convert a bevrage cooler when I can find one on the cheap. I do have a 10 gallon pot but it is made of aluminium. I did my first brew in this one but it discoulored a lot (and a metallic smell) and I read a lot of aluminium gets in to your "cooking". Better go for stainless steel or do you guys don't see a problem with the aluminium pot?
     
  5. Nosybear

    Nosybear Well-Known Member

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    No problem - the discoloration is the aluminum "passivating", or building up a protective layer of aluminum oxide on the pot. The darker the coating, the better the metal is protected. It has advantages - aluminum conducts heat better than stainless - and disadvantages - you can't use aluminum on an induction range. But it won't dissolve aluminum into your food or beer, aluminum oxide is far too insoluble for that.
     
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  6. 56 Firedome

    56 Firedome Active Member

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    I recently watched a YouTube video about something called Sous Vide. It's an immersion heating device with circulating propeller. It can achieve step temps & even boil at vigorous or soft boil temps without over heating, so great for step mash & also for BIAB. Found a wide variety of them on Amazon. Approx $100
     
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  7. Nosybear

    Nosybear Well-Known Member

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    I picked up my sous vide machine for around $50 - check Monoprice. It's my warm water bath heater when I'm incubating lactobacillus (kettle souring). I don't use it for mashing - the impeller wasn't strong enough to circulate the mash well enough but I imagine if I were mashing in a pot, I could use it to heat a water bath to mash temperature and hold the temperature.
     
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  8. thunderwagn

    thunderwagn Well-Known Member

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    Agree with @Nosybear on the aluminum. I have used an aluminum kettle for years and they work just fine. In your situation however, I think I'd lean more towards using a cooler and a bag. Your low volume will actually play against you here in holding temp in a kettle. The smaller volume cools quicker, but it'll still work. Just require more dedication on your part. I'd go with the cooler to start. jmo.
     
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  9. 56 Firedome

    56 Firedome Active Member

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    They were using it with BIAB in a 2-1/2 gal bactch. The sous vide was in the pot outside the bag circulating thru the bag on a countertop for an hour. Appears he adds water in the kettle but the didn't show that.
     
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  10. Mark Farrall

    Mark Farrall Well-Known Member

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    I used it at about that scale for half a dozen batches. Really convenient, but the temp on the display of the sous vide will be below the average temp of the water during the mash. And as Nosy points out, it's not that great at circulating the heat.

    So if you were interested you'd need a temperature probe to see how much of a difference there is between the water and the temp of the stick and set the stick a bit higher. You'd also need to stir relatively often, which is actually a good thing for the mash.
     
  11. Bubba Wade

    Bubba Wade Well-Known Member

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    If you're clever, you can replace the valve on the beverage cooler with a ball valve from the plumbing department. This makes for easier transfer to the brew pot.
    Cooler.jpg
     
  12. BarbarianBrewer

    BarbarianBrewer Well-Known Member

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    Would a sous vide device be able to heat 5-10 gallons of water to fermentation temperature? This discussion got me thinking of making a reverse swamp cooler...a swamp heater. All it would need to do is raise the water temperature 5-15 degrees to keep the wort/beer within most yeast's optimum temperature range?
     
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  13. Bubba Wade

    Bubba Wade Well-Known Member

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    Maybe. Depends on the ambient temperature. Would you be circulating the wort or water to heat the wort?

    If you used a jacket with heating water, I think it would work well.
     
  14. Mark Farrall

    Mark Farrall Well-Known Member

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    You'd probably want to start thinking about kicking it off via a timer so you don't waste most of your day getting to temp. I uised to do it stove top and I'd put the burner on underneath until I got near temp, then just let the stick maintain the temp.
     
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  15. BarbarianBrewer

    BarbarianBrewer Well-Known Member

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    Yeah, I would start with warm water and use the sous vide to maintain temperature. Just randomly googling most can heat 30L of water and have flow rates of 5L/min to 12L/min. Seems like that would work.
     
  16. Zambezi Special

    Zambezi Special Well-Known Member

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    Back a bit to the original question:
    I did my first biab batch in an 8 ltr pot and just put pot and all in a cooler for the mash.
    My future batches was/will be a bit bigger and I'll just cover the pot with an old sleeping bag or duvet.
    Just some other cheap options :)
     
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  17. The Brew Mentor

    The Brew Mentor Well-Known Member

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    If the OP is looking for ease and cheap to get started, The 10 gallon pot he has will work fine and then all you would need is a bag.

    If your concern with the BIAB is temp drop, you can always slip the 10 gallon pot into a warm oven after mashing in. You'd be surprised how consistent that can be.

    So my advice would be to experiment without spending too much money until you find out exactly what size and how you want to brew going forward.

    Good Luck,
    Brian
     
  18. Frankenbrewer

    Frankenbrewer Well-Known Member

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    My last few batches have been BIAB and once i get the needed temp, I wrap an old sleeping bag around the kettle and the temp moves may 2 -3 degrees in 60 min. I do, however like Bubba Wade's hybrid idea. I might give it a shot on my next batch providing I can find a cooler on the cheap.
     
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  19. Hawkbox

    Hawkbox Well-Known Member

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    This is how I rolled for a while, before moving to a larger chest cooler. I still use the chest cooler, it's on its 3rd season with me now.
     
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  20. Bubba Wade

    Bubba Wade Well-Known Member

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    One thing I like about the hybrid (mash in a bag) system is that there is no problems with stuck sparges.
     
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