BIAB Brewing (with pics)
I started brewing by following the advice from the popular brewing books such as The Complete Joy of Homebrewing and How to Brew. My original plan was to move to 3-vessel all-grain brewing once I became comfortable with extract brewing. I stumbled upon BIAB (brew in a bag) while perusing various brewing forums and my recent batches have used the BIAB techniques that I learned from those forums.
The BIAB concept made a lot of sense to me and since I already had a 10-gallon brew kettle all I needed was a large mesh bag to give this brewing technique a try. There are many different types of BIAB methods out there. Some people perform a sparge when doing BIAB. Others may use more than one kettle or different parts/materials altogether. BIAB is flexible and there are many different ways to make excellent beer with this technique. The important thing is to experiment to find what works best for you.
Iíve documented the no-sparge BIAB brewing process that I use here. This is the process that has worked well for me.
This requires the same basic equipment used for extract brewing with the following changes/additions:
10-gallon (or larger) brew kettle: The no-sparge BIAB method requires a brew kettle large enough to hold all of your boil water, sparge water, and all of the grain required for your recipe. No other pots or containers are used during this process so the brew kettle must be large enough to hold all of the water and grains at the same time.
An accurate thermometer: This is important so you can take accurate readings of your mash temps. Make sure to check the accuracy/calibration of your thermometer so you know it's giving you reliable temperature readings.
Digital thermometer with a wire probe: (OPTIONAL) used to monitor the mash temperature while the mash kettle is sealed.
Mesh voile cloth or other mesh bag: to line the inside of the brewing kettle. I used a large paint strainer bag from the hardware store. Another option is to use a bag made from voile cloth available at most fabric stores. The bag needs to be big enough to hold all of the grain that you intend to use without being too taught since this will make stirring easier.
Binder clips: Used to secure the mesh cloth/bag to the brew kettle or basket.
A simple overhead pulley system with a hook or carabiner attached: It should be able to support at least 50-pounds of weight since it will be supporting the weight of the grains and the water absorbed by the grains. I got all of these parts for less than twenty dollars at the hardware store. This should be attached to the ceiling or other overhead structure (directly over the brew kettle) in a secure fashion.
** OPTIONAL ** Turkey frying basket: I use a 44-quart Bayou Classic model B144 perforated basket. Shop around for these because prices vary from place to place. I paid something like thirty dollars for it on sale at sears.com. Measure your kettle and get a basket as large as possible that will fit. It needs to be large enough to hold all the grain for your recipe. I can fit up to 21-pounds of grain and 8.5 gallons of water into my kettle/basket with the equipment listed here.
I decided to use a steel basket with my BIAB process because I was concerned about the possibility of grain bag disasters from burns or tears. My family & friends like big IPAs so I needed something that could support up to 20+ pounds of grain PLUS the weight of the absorbed water without tearing. The basket provides much more support and peace of mind when lifting heavy, hot grains from the brew kettle. The basket handle provides a convenient and secure attachment point when using a pulley and it also saves my back since I don't have to stand there holding the grain bag over the kettle while it drains.
I used the following recipe with some slight modifications: Mint Chocolate Stout
(Credit to eschatz @ Homebrewtalk for the great stout recipe)
1. I increased the pale malt by 1-pound
2. Iím not using the mint because I only want a chocolate stout this time.
Increasing the base malt helps compensate for the slight efficiency loss that is typical from this no-sparge BIAB brewing technique. Note that increasing the base malt may not be required in all cases. It's just another tool to help if you find that you are consistently below the OG that your recipes call for.
BIAB brewhouse efficiency can be improved by milling your grains very finely Ė or by having them double milled. I typically just ask my grain provider to mill my grains at the standard setting. If you find that your efficiency is low, try milling the grains very finely or double mill them.
Recipe Type: All Grain
Yeast: Irish Ale (Wyeast Labs #1084)
Yeast Starter: Yes
Batch Size: 5.50 gal
Boil Size: 7.50 gal
Estimated OG: 1.056 SG
Estimated Color: 34.2 SRM
Estimated IBU: 16.3 IBU
Brewhouse Efficiency: 70.00 %
Boil Time: 60 Minutes
Mash In: 60 Minutes with 7.50 gal of water @ 159.3 F
Mash Out: 10 Minutes with 0.00 gal of water at 170.0 F
9.00 lb Pale Malt (2 Row) US (2.0 SRM)
1.00 lb Barley, Flaked (1.7 SRM) Grain
1.00 lb Roasted Barley (300.0 SRM) Grain
0.75 lb Caramel/Crystal Malt - 20L Grain
0.50 lb Caramel/Crystal Malt - 40L Grain
0.50 lb Chocolate Malt (350.0 SRM) Grain
0.70 oz Cluster (60 min) Hops
1.00 oz Goldings, East Kent (10 min) Hops
0.25 oz Williamette (2 min) Hops
8.00 oz Cocoa Powder (Boil 5.0 min) (pre-mixed with hot water)
1 Pkgs Irish Ale (Wyeast Labs #1084) Yeast
Total Grain Weight: 12.75 lbs
Steps - Overview
STEP 1: Prepare equipment
Check valves on brew kettle, are they closed? Are all bits and pieces in place and watertight?
Attach mesh bag to inside of steel basket using binder clips.
Test basket/pulley/kettle placement so basket lifts smoothly in and out of kettle. To avoid messes, the basket shouldn't pull on the kettle or swing to the side when lifted from the kettle.
STEP 2: Heat water
Mash temperature for this batch is 152-degrees F.
Strike temperature is 160-degrees F.
Add 7.5 gallons of water to boil kettle and heat to the required strike temperature
While heating the water, lower basket into kettle so it heats up as well
STEP 3: Mash-in
Once you have reached your target strike temperature, turn off the heat and slowly add your grains while stirring the mash. If possible have someone help with this so one can pour grains while the other stirs. Stir well so there are no grain balls or clumps.
Once all the grain has been added and stirred, you should be at or near the required mash temperature.
If your mash temperature is too high, add cold water to lower the temperature. If it's too low, add hot water or heat to raise the temperature. It may take some practice to hit your mash temperature and hold it. This can change based on many factors such as the weather, your equipment, etc.
Here in Florida I am able to maintain a constant mash temperature for at least an hour during the warmer months, but when itís very cold outside it is a bit trickier. Wrapping the mash kettle with a towel or blanket or sleeping bag will help maintain a constant mash temperature.
Hitting your mash numbers consistently is an art that takes practice. After a few batches, you'll get the hang of it.
Cover the kettle and monitor with your thermometer and maintain the required mash temperature.
Once the mash is completed remove cover and stir gently.
STEP 4: Mash-out
The mash-out step is important when doing no-sparge BIAB because it helps improve brewhouse efficiency by making the grain bed more fluid. This helps you get the most amount of sugars/wort possible when draining the grain in the following steps.
Fire up the burner and stir the mash while bringing the temperature up to the required mash-out temperature of 170-degrees F.
Once mash reaches 170-degrees, cut the heat, cover, and let sit at 170-degrees for 10-minutes.
After 10-minutes at 170-degrees, mash-out is complete.
STEP 5: Lift, Drain, Squeeze Grains
Attach your pulley to the basket and slowly lift the grain basket from the kettle and secure rope/pulley so that it allows the basket to hang directly above the kettle while draining.
*OPTIONAL STEP* Wort will continue draining from the grains for up to 30-minutes so I like to leave the basket suspended above the kettle for at least 30-minutes to get as much wort as possible from the grains. This step is not mandatory if you already have enough wort in your kettle.
After draining, use a flat lid from a small saucepan (or something similar) to press down on the grains to squeeze as much wort as possible from them. You don't have to go crazy here, just press the grains down firmly, but carefully, with the lid.
Remove the basket from the pulley and dispose of the spent grains.
STEP 6: Measure results
Taking a gravity reading at this point will allow you to determine your brewhouse efficiency.
Take a pre-boil specific gravity measurement using a hydrometer or refractometer.
Record how much wort you collected in your kettle.
I used the calculator here to determine my efficiency: Brewer's Friend
According to this calculator, my brewhouse efficiency for this batch is 75.53%.
Not too shabby!
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