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Home Brew Forums > Home Brewing Beer > General Techniques > Why doesn't everyone just BIAB?
View Poll Results: How do you brew?
I BIAB 294 34.83%
I use a 3 vessel system 339 40.17%
I don't brew all-grain, I'm an extract brewer 100 11.85%
What's BIAB? 22 2.61%
I use a system that doesn't fit into the other categories 89 10.55%
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Old 04-06-2012, 03:28 PM   #1
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Default Why doesn't everyone just BIAB?

OK, so I figured I'd start a thread/discussion on why more people don't just BIAB. I also wanted to get a feel for what percentage of people here on HBT brew using BIAB.

So, this mainly stems from a discussion with my manager at work and my SWMBO at home about the BIAB brewing process. And they both separately asked, "If it's so easy, why doesn't everyone just BIAB?"

I figured I'd start a discussion on this to see what people had to say about it. Now let me preface by saying that I am in no way a seasoned brewer with hundreds of brews under my belt, but I feel that I have a pretty good grasp on this "brewing" thing. Also, I have never brewed with the traditional 3 vessel system. I also want to mention that this site is a huge source of information for me and a lot of other brewers. Brewers have their own way of brewing and that's cool. To me, it's a lot like religion: I'm all up for discussing and sharing differing views, but don't get up in my face or get violent about it...

Just wanted to add a link to the post that I found to be very informative about BIAB for those who may not know what it is: http://www.homebrewtalk.com/f36/biab...g-pics-233289/

Let me start by saying that I know the most common arguments for and against BIAB and I thought I'd list some to get the discussion rolling:

1. Clarity - People may say that you won't get a clear beer from BIAB. To that I say, NAY!! While the WORT may be cloudier from the extra trub, i.e. "grain dust", it will settle out and you will get clear beer. I know this from experience. I've read people winning Lager categories at competitions using BIAB. There's nothing that time and a nice cold crash won't clear. The only negative that I see is that the use of a secondary is more useful with BIAB to help clarify. Now I know that this may be up for discussion, since there's a strong movement to longer primary fermentation only, but because of the fact that BIAB does introduce more trub into the fermentor I feel that I should use the secondary to help clarify the beer. I'll have to test this one and just leave my next BIAB in the primary for a month and see if I can tell a difference.

2. Extra Trub - Brewers don't like the "grain dust" in the fermentor. This can almost be 1(b) as this is related to #1. I'm assuming that people just don't like the idea of extra trub in the fermentor. I have not had any off-flavors or negative reactions to having slightly more trub in the fermentor. I have added a few steps in order to reduce the amount of trub that gets into my fermentor, including Irish Moss, the "whirlpool", siphoning the wort through a grain bag laid across my fermentor, etc. (I know this may not be entirely necessary, but it makes me feel better that I will have less trub in the fermentor, mainly wanting to reduce the wort loss due to the trub.)

3. Tradition! - I feel like singing and dancing like a Fiddler when I think of this one. I feel that some people are really holding on tight to tradition "because that's how it's always been done". I understand that there may be some benefits to the traditional 3 vessel system, but I cant help but to think that while the exact process may be different, the outcome is still the same: great tasting beer! And yes, there may be the argument "Well, you cant brew this style exactly because you need this or that or can't do this or that..." To this I say, OK. I understand that BIAB is not the cure-all, do-all answer to brewing, but I just want to share my view on BIAB brewing. I really like the current evolution of brewers that try and innovate new ways/methods/ideas for brewing. I would lump BIAB into this category. (I know its not THAT new, but still...)

4. Cost - I'm surprised, but then not really, when I mention BIAB at the LHBS (Austin Homebrew Supply ). I've even read a couple of stories on here where their LHBS tries to sell the biggest, baddest setup with coolers, expensive kettles, -- the "works". So, say that the LBHS supports/promotes/suggests BIAB (single pot/turkey fryer in order to brew all grain), then that cuts into their bottom line. That would almost always never happen. They want to make money; it's a business, I get that. But it's sites like this one that are crucial to sharing ideas like BIAB. I found out about here. Learned a lot about it right here, enough to get me started on it. I never heard BIAB mentioned once at my LBHS. (I do want to say that I love my LBHS and the guys that work there and I'm sure that if I wanted to, I could find someone who would talk about it and say, "Just try it out and see if it works for you..")

5. "Not real brewing" - I've ordered grain a couple of times and asked them to double-crush the grain or crush a little finer for me. He gave me the "You know you get better efficiency with a courser crush..." I then mention that I BIAB and he replies "Oh, ok..." But I have to say that he didn't give me any trouble and did exactly what I asked. I just felt that once I mentioned BIAB, he thought of me as a lowly peasant of the brewing world. Maybe not, maybe its just me...

6. Time - People may be able to argue this one a little, but I feel that I am able to get through a brew session quicker with BIAB. Maybe not quicker than someone with a three tiered brew stand and what not, but see #4 and #7...

7. Space - This one is kinda self-explanatory. With a 3 vessel system, there's just more stuff to store away. If you've got space in your garage or whatever, then cool, no problem. But my SWMBO and even I don't want a whole mess of equipment to have to store away when not brewing. I only need my turkey fryer and a bucket; and I have those stored in my spare bedroom's closet.

8. Efficiency - Some brewers may say that you don't get good efficiency from BIAB. Well, I sparge while my grain is draining over the kettle. I know it's not a true BIAB in the sense that you're not supposed to sparge, etc, but I only use a 7.5G kettle right now, and I use a sparge to bring up my boil volume and to get more wort out of the grains. I'm running a pretty constant 73% "brewhouse" efficiency and I'm fine with that. And some are just not that concerned about high efficiency numbers.. Just give me an extra half a pound of grain, eeh, what's that? Like $0.60?

There may be a couple more, but I feel that this is already too long of a post. To summarize: I like BIAB because it's a cheap way to brew all-grain. (I'm surprised at how easy all-grain brewing is and how much better the beer is compared to extract! And buying grain is cheaper than buying extract!) At the end of the day, if there's clean wort and happy yeast in my fermentor, then I had a great brew day!

This hobby/passion/experience of brewing is an unceasing journey that many endure, although they may take different paths.

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Old 04-06-2012, 03:33 PM   #2
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For me, the main reason would be mostly because of the weight. I simply can't lift much wet grain. Adding a winch or something would be harder than simply having my single tier set up. In fact, my friend (lschiavo on this forum) is helping me add a tippy dump to my MLT because I can't lift an MLT when it's full of wet grain once I get over about 20 pounds of grain.

Also, occasionally I do decoction mashing. Not often, but sometimes.

Lastly, my water. I have highly alkaline water that I treat in advance of brewing by mixing with RO and/or salts and acids. I do that in the HLT, so I need an HLT anyway. Nothing ever goes into my HLT except water.

There are other, smaller, issues, too. Like holding temps. Since I'm all electric, the easiest way to hold temperatures is with a HERMs. That still might work with BIAB, but it's really easier with a traditional MLT.

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Old 04-06-2012, 03:36 PM   #3
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I actually started all grain brewing with a bag for three batches and put together a tun because I thought that was the "right" way to brew .... well I used the tun and though it worked just fine I found it to be just one more thing to have to clean .... I usually brew in my kitchen too so the cooler was just really in the way .... if the beer had been better I would still be using the tun .... but it just really wasn't ... just my 2 cents

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Old 04-06-2012, 03:49 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Yooper View Post
For me, the main reason would be mostly because of the weight. I simply can't lift much wet grain. Adding a winch or something would be harder than simply having my single tier set up. In fact, my friend (lschiavo on this forum) is helping me add a tippy dump to my MLT because I can't lift an MLT when it's full of wet grain once I get over about 20 pounds of grain.
Sure, that's definitely a aspect that has to be considered. Since I only do 5G boils and have not done with a really, really big brew (1.100+) in it yet, my grain bills have not been 20lbs+... (And I've got big guns! )

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Originally Posted by Yooper View Post
Also, occasionally I do decoction mashing. Not often, but sometimes.
Again, stated that BIAB cannot be a solution for all, but isn't decoction mashing just taking some of the mash and boiling it on the stove? Cant that be done with BIAB too?

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Lastly, my water. I have highly alkaline water that I treat in advance of brewing by mixing with RO and/or salts and acids. I do that in the HLT, so I need an HLT anyway. Nothing ever goes into my HLT except water.
Is there a reason that adding salts to the water in the kettle before BIAB mashing couldn't be done?

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Originally Posted by Yooper View Post
There are other, smaller, issues, too. Like holding temps. Since I'm all electric, the easiest way to hold temperatures is with a HERMs. That still might work with BIAB, but it's really easier with a traditional MLT.
True, holding temp can be an issue. I just wrap a sleeping bag around it, it only drops a degree or two over the hour. Plus, if I have to heat, I'll just pull the sleeping bag off and turn the burner on for a few seconds to a minute. And my response to the all electric setup, while it is easier to hold mash temps, it also costs more and takes up more space.

Not trying to be too argumentative, I love the points that you brought up! And I am humbled to have your presence in my thread!
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Old 04-06-2012, 03:53 PM   #5
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I'll continue to use my 3 vessel system since it's easier for me to handle the grain and there is no bag to clean.

However, I have started doing BIAB in the house for half batches or in the dead cold of winter when I won't make myself stand out in the garage.

I think it's a great way to start in AG, or to do smaller batches. Pretty hard to recirculate a BIAB system...

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Old 04-06-2012, 04:03 PM   #6
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I do BIAB for smaller batches but I already own the MLT cooler. No reason to buy more equipment to do what I already have spent money to do.

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Old 04-06-2012, 04:09 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Homercidal View Post
Pretty hard to recirculate a BIAB system...


It doesn't seem that hard to me

I will admit that I'm only doing BIAB as I assemble the 3 vessel system, however. It does work in a pinch, but the lack of flexibility is annoying.
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Old 04-06-2012, 04:10 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by chalkdust41485 View Post
Again, stated that BIAB cannot be a solution for all, but isn't decoction mashing just taking some of the mash and boiling it on the stove? Cant that be done with BIAB too?

Is there a reason that adding salts to the water in the kettle before BIAB mashing couldn't be done?

True, holding temp can be an issue. I just wrap a sleeping bag around it, it only drops a degree or two over the hour. Plus, if I have to heat, I'll just pull the sleeping bag off and turn the burner on for a few seconds to a minute. And my response to the all electric setup, while it is easier to hold mash temps, it also costs more and takes up more space.

Not trying to be too argumentative, I love the points that you brought up! And I am humbled to have your presence in my thread!
I brew 10.5 gallon batches often, and I "need" the HLT because no way I could pretreat my water and then use my small 15.5 gallon keggle to hold all the water and the grain. I could get a bigger kettle, I guess, but that's really not needed with my three vessel system. I also can't turn on the burner, as I brew all-electric, when I need more heat.

Electric brewing is my preferred way, because I brew indoors. Our climate isn't really a great one for brewing in the fall/winter/spring (no hoses outdoors, for example) so indoor brewing is great.

Decoction mashing is indeed pulling out some of the grist and holding it at conversion temperatures and then returning it to the MLT. I could probably do it with BIAB. It's easy with my system now, though.

I think if I was starting out, and not wanting to brew indoors, maybe BIAB would work for me if I had a way to lift heavy bags of wet grain. I've seen guys in the garage using a winch or a pulley, and that is one way to do it for sure!
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Old 04-06-2012, 04:22 PM   #9
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The advantage to a multi-vessel system is mostly based on efficiency, back to back or simultaneous batches, split boils, and capacity. However, for those who are sticking with 6 gallon batches, BIAB does seem attractive. I think the biggest hurdle is breaking tradition.

I really do like the idea of a single vessel electric BIAB with an overhead winch to lift the basket. I think you'd want a 20 gal vessel to be able to do 11 gallon batches. Adding a "side car" kettle of 10gallons or so would allow for a partigyle batch on the big beers.

I'm slightly concerned with having a element directly in the same vessel where the grains are mashing, but good recirculation should take care of it.

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Old 04-06-2012, 04:25 PM   #10
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Reality is that some people prefer to do things one way or the other, and there isn't anything wrong with that. I do BIAB, but am gathering everything for a standard 3 vessel recirculating system.

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