Brew in a bag
Up to now I have been brewing from malt kits, and have now bought materials to 'brew in a bag', my first attempt using grain and hops.
I think I have all the ingredients - anyone got any tips?
I did my first BIAB last week and it was a complete success. I am officially hooked.
A couple of things you should know:
- Don't let the bag touch the bottom of your kettle. Definitely use a colander or false bottom of some kind as the bag could burn and get holes in it.
- Try to figure out some way to hang the bag over the kettle after your mash. Standing over a kettle holding a 20lb bag of wet grain while draining and sparging is not my idea of fun.
Other than that, I think you're going to really like it!
The first thread on the top of this page may help.
My suggestions/things I learned the hard way:
Mill the grains very fine.
Use a steamer basket to keep the bag off the kettle.
Make a custom shaped bag out of voile deep enough that you can grab the bag and tie it in a knot.
Have a hook, cross bar, or pully system to support the bag over the kettle.
Clip the bag (open) to the edges of the steamer basket.
Use the full volume of water in your mash and forget about sparging.
Heat the water, basket, and bag to strike temp (just slightly over mash temp).
Add the grains while stiring, stir every 15 vto 30 minutes.
Mash at recipe time and temp then raise temp to 170F for 10 min.
Pull the bag and support over the kettle then SCOOB (squeeze crap out of bag).
Toss the grains, keep the bag for re-use.
Take a starting gravity reading.
Boil the wort per recipe.
Take an original gravity reading.
Cool, pitch yeast, ferment, enjoy.
Take carefull notes of water volumes, strike temp, water losses, etc. so you can dial in/adjust next time/calculate brew house efficiency.
I always forget to take the starting gravity. :(
Don't try and brew anything too huge.
I usually BIAB about 15 lbs but I have another very good bag that I put in a 5 gallon Lowes paint bucket, I use a very strong (wroth the money) strainer and use it to move about half the grain out the BIAB and into the second bucket. That makes the BIAB bag easier to remove and drain over the pot. Also, if I can or need to, I can sparge a bit.
I'll second the "don't brew anything to huge". 5-7 lbs of all barley malt is very manageable for a first BIAB. I tried several different lautering techniques before BIAB. My first brew using the bag was simply 5lbs of 2-row, and it was a night and day difference. It was by far the easiest, highest efficiency, and simplest methods I had done to day.
I don't use anything on the bottom of the pot, the bag always touches the bottom, and I don't burn holes in the bag. How? I don't add heat after the bag is in the pot.
Bring the proper amount of water to the calculated strike temperature and turn off the heat. Stir in the grains you have milled. Put the lid on and wrap the kettle including the lid with something insulating. I use a bath towel. The large volume of water will lose heat slowly and if your grain is milled correctly for BIAB (quite fine since the bag is the filter, not the grain particles) your conversion will take place quite quickly. I still leave my grains in for the full hour but I can see that the wort has gone from cloudy from the starches to clear with sugars within about 20 minutes.
Now I move the pot off the stove to get it out from under the range hood and pull the bag, holding it for a minute above the pot and then shove another mixing bowl under it and transfer that to the counter to keep draining. A colander inside it lets it drain a bit. While that is draining I move the pot back on the burner and turn the heat back on. Then I move the colander with the grain to another mixing bowl and dump the collected wort into the pot and keep letting the grain drain and shuffling the grain bag between mixing bowl until it needs squeezed to get more wort out. Squeeze until you can't get any more out. Don't worry about tannins, you can't get them by squeezing. By the time I get done squeezing out the wort and adding it to the pot the wort is probably near mash out temperature.
Everybody has their own BIAB method, here's mine. I haven't had problems scortching the bag and I haven't put anything on the bottom, but I plan to next time. Twice now my bag has gotten stuck under the dip tube.
I use a step ladder and a 2X4 to lift the bag. Get a 2x4, 3-4 feet long, and screw an eye hook into the center. Add a pulley and place it across the top of your tallest stepladder. When you're ready to lift the bag, tie a length of rope around the neck (google "miller's knot") and thread it through the pulley. Lift the bag with one hand and pull the rope down with the other. You can tie off the bag and let it drip or, (as I do) get a new BBQ grille grate and a small tupperware tote bin. Place the grille grate over the top of the kettle. cut a hole in the bottom of the tote bin and place it on the grille grate. Lower the bag into the bin and let it drip back into the kettle. Squeeze like it owes you beer.
Tip on lifting the bag:
When raising the bag, don't pull it all the way out, pull it so that the grain mass is partially out, and partially floating. This will allow the liquid in the top half of the grain mass to drain. Then pull it out some more.
Lifting a 12 pound bag is not too hard for a male. A female brewer may have problems and want to resort to a pulley/ratchet.
I am a squeezer [SCOOB], those last drops are loaded with sugar! :)
SCOOB = Squeeze the Crap Out of the Bag
For Stovetop brewing, my stove is wimpy, so I mashed in two 5 gallon pots.
I made a 16 gallon Old Ale using BIAB on my Stovetop, came out well. But it would have been easier with a real kettle and burner.
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