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Old 01-28-2011, 01:44 AM   #1
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Default Does this BIAB technique make sense?

I've been doing partial mashes using BIAB for a while and I'm wondering if there is anything I can do to improve it. I seem to get about 70% efficiency and I'm happy with that but I want to make sure I'm mashing correctly and getting the best flavor out of my beers that I can.

For example, I'm planning on brewing an IPA this weekend. It has a OG of 1.089 and uses 9.75lbs of grain and 5lbs DME. Recipe calls for a step mash, rest at 122 and then at 149.

I'm planning on adding 10qts 133 degree strike water to hit 122 (1:1 ratio), and then an additional 5.1qts boiling water to hit 149 (about a 1.5qt/lb final ratio). Assuming I lose about 5qts absorbed by the grain, that will leave me with ~10qts.

I plan on then dipping my grain bag in 8qts sparge water (in a 4 gallon pot) at 170 and letting it sit for 10 min. I'll then remove the grains, and pour the sparge water into the brew pot, along with probably another 2-4qts sparge water at 170 poured over the grains in a colander to hit 20qts for my boil (I have a 24qt brew pot). That means I'll only be sparging with 10-12qts. Sparging by steeping still bothers me. And I worry that I'm extracting too many tannins by squeezing the grain bag afterwards because sometimes I think my beers are a little bit astringent.

The amounts of water I use are pretty much just guesses. I try to aim for 1.25 qt/lb for mash water, but there is usually no way I can sparge with 2 qt/lb and fit it all in my 24 qt pot. And for step mashes like this, I'm not sure if I want the 1.25 ratio at the initial strike or at the end so I usually split the difference. Does my technique sound good, or should I be using different ratios of water for mashing and sparging?

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Old 01-28-2011, 01:56 AM   #2
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Only thing that jumps to mind is that you will get a bit more efficiency if your sparge water to a bit hotter. You don't want to get above 170F, but if you're dipping 149F grain into 170F water, you're going to drop below that significantly.

You could also stand to use some more sparge water. Again, this would only be to help efficiency, which may or may not be a priority for you.

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Old 01-28-2011, 02:38 AM   #3
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subscribing - post your results from this weekends brew!

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Old 01-28-2011, 02:54 AM   #4
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I had an idea to pour sparge water over my grains in a colander. I had 9lbs of grain, when they're dry it seemed like a great idea. Once they've been mashed they have so much volume it would be pretty damn hard to poor water over them without getting it everywhere. I have a 5qt colander and the grains were twice as tall as the colander.

I did get my BIAB PM up from 68% to 76% this last brew, huge pain in the butt. Will not do again. I had this brilliant idea that I could mash without the bag allowing me to really stir the hell out of it. I thought I could drain my wort into a bucket catching the grains in the colander.

So now I've got 2.8 gallons and 9lbs in a 4 gallon pot, ended up with 1/2" of headspace. That's when it hit me, how am I going to pour this without spilling it everywhere? So I siphoned some, then started with this colander idea. The colander was filling up so fast it took 3 pourings, I was putting the grains in other pots making a huge mess of my kitchen and eventually got them all in the bag for the sparge. At this point the bag is a heaping mound outside of the colander, water would have splashed everywhere if I tried to pour any on. Using the metal colander I did squeeze every drop out that I could.

I set beersmith at 70% since I've been getting 68 and was being optimistic. My 1.060 beer ended up a 1.077. I have since decided I'll just convert a cooler I already own to mash in.

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Old 01-28-2011, 03:07 AM   #5
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I did a PM BIAB batch and hit ~73% efficiency (was my first BIAB brew)... I used two 5 gallon pots, which was the main thing holding me back.

My latest all grain BIAB batch, using a 32 quart mash pot, with one of the 20 quart pots for the sparge stage, hit just over 81% efficiency. I heated 22 quarts of water (grain bill was 11 pounds, 5 pounds UK 2-Row, 5 pounds MO, and 12 ounces British Crystal Malt II, and 4 ounces dark BCM I). Sparge volume was 2 gallons, which was a little less than I would have liked, but got great results. I did make sure to break up ALL the dough balls in the grain bag once I added it to the mash water (target was 154F, didn't step it up, just added the grain to the warmer water and controlled the temp to keep it at the same range). I mashed for 90 minutes, then did a 20-30 minute sparge (forget which exactly, didn't write it down). Boil time was also 90 minutes. Ended up with just a hair over 5 gallons of wort.

What size is your grain crush? That's one of the factors that can limit your efficiency level. If you don't break up the dough balls soon enough, that could also limit you. I make sure to have them fully broken up as fast as possible, stirring as much as needed to be sure they are all broken up. If you're not mashing long enough, that will also limit your efficiency.

I'm brewing again this Saturday, with 10 pounds of grain. I'll work to post up how it comes out, and how long I sparge for. I'm thinking about trying the single infusion mash, no mash out method with this one. My pot is large enough to handle it all (all the water needed, plus the grain) at one time.

I would say that instead of assuming how much water you'll lose to grain absorption, use the available calculation tools to give you a solid answer. I would also make sure the pots you have are actually large enough to do the job properly.

What kind of bag are you using for the BIAB? Is it a fine mesh nylon bag, or something else? I've been using the fine mesh grain bag from the LHBS (same mesh size as the hop bags I believe) for my batches, with solid results.

I do believe that if you don't mash at a high enough temperature, for long enough, you won't get enough extraction from the grains. Same thing for the sparge time. I would go for at least 15-20 minutes in the sparge, 30 if you can.

One of the things I'm planning on trying out this coming brew day is wrapping my pot(s) in reflective insulation (from Lowe's)... I'm hoping that will help the pots to maintain the water temperature for longer, before needing to apply heat to them.

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Old 01-28-2011, 03:26 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by evilhomer View Post
I had an idea to pour sparge water over my grains in a colander. I had 9lbs of grain, when they're dry it seemed like a great idea. Once they've been mashed they have so much volume it would be pretty damn hard to poor water over them without getting it everywhere. I have a 5qt colander and the grains were twice as tall as the colander.

I did get my BIAB PM up from 68% to 76% this last brew, huge pain in the butt. Will not do again. I had this brilliant idea that I could mash without the bag allowing me to really stir the hell out of it. I thought I could drain my wort into a bucket catching the grains in the colander.

So now I've got 2.8 gallons and 9lbs in a 4 gallon pot, ended up with 1/2" of headspace. That's when it hit me, how am I going to pour this without spilling it everywhere? So I siphoned some, then started with this colander idea. The colander was filling up so fast it took 3 pourings, I was putting the grains in other pots making a huge mess of my kitchen and eventually got them all in the bag for the sparge. At this point the bag is a heaping mound outside of the colander, water would have splashed everywhere if I tried to pour any on. Using the metal colander I did squeeze every drop out that I could.

I set beersmith at 70% since I've been getting 68 and was being optimistic. My 1.060 beer ended up a 1.077. I have since decided I'll just convert a cooler I already own to mash in.
I could see this exact situation happening to me. Thanks for the info, I'll try to learn from your experience. My bag is huge, and I keep it open so I can stir the grains, but I will probably have a similar problem when I try to pour sparge water over the grains in the bag sitting in a colander. I have 3 pots, 2, 4, and 6 gallons, and I don't think I'll have a problem mashing in the 6, but I'm worried about having enough room to sparge in the 4 which is why I'm heating extra water in the 2 to sparge by pouring over with. If that doesn't work, oh well, I added extra grain in the recipe to deal with lower efficiency.
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Old 01-28-2011, 03:34 AM   #7
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BIAB, sparge water
IPA, step mashing

none of this makes much sense. BIAB does not need sparge, I'd just mash out @ 170 before pulling bag and letting it drain.

What kind of grains are requiring a step mash?

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Old 01-28-2011, 03:48 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Golddiggie View Post
I did a PM BIAB batch and hit ~73% efficiency (was my first BIAB brew)... I used two 5 gallon pots, which was the main thing holding me back.

My latest all grain BIAB batch, using a 32 quart mash pot, with one of the 20 quart pots for the sparge stage, hit just over 81% efficiency. I heated 22 quarts of water (grain bill was 11 pounds, 5 pounds UK 2-Row, 5 pounds MO, and 12 ounces British Crystal Malt II, and 4 ounces dark BCM I). Sparge volume was 2 gallons, which was a little less than I would have liked, but got great results. I did make sure to break up ALL the dough balls in the grain bag once I added it to the mash water (target was 154F, didn't step it up, just added the grain to the warmer water and controlled the temp to keep it at the same range). I mashed for 90 minutes, then did a 20-30 minute sparge (forget which exactly, didn't write it down). Boil time was also 90 minutes. Ended up with just a hair over 5 gallons of wort.

What size is your grain crush? That's one of the factors that can limit your efficiency level. If you don't break up the dough balls soon enough, that could also limit you. I make sure to have them fully broken up as fast as possible, stirring as much as needed to be sure they are all broken up. If you're not mashing long enough, that will also limit your efficiency.

I'm brewing again this Saturday, with 10 pounds of grain. I'll work to post up how it comes out, and how long I sparge for. I'm thinking about trying the single infusion mash, no mash out method with this one. My pot is large enough to handle it all (all the water needed, plus the grain) at one time.

I would say that instead of assuming how much water you'll lose to grain absorption, use the available calculation tools to give you a solid answer. I would also make sure the pots you have are actually large enough to do the job properly.

What kind of bag are you using for the BIAB? Is it a fine mesh nylon bag, or something else? I've been using the fine mesh grain bag from the LHBS (same mesh size as the hop bags I believe) for my batches, with solid results.

I do believe that if you don't mash at a high enough temperature, for long enough, you won't get enough extraction from the grains. Same thing for the sparge time. I would go for at least 15-20 minutes in the sparge, 30 if you can.

One of the things I'm planning on trying out this coming brew day is wrapping my pot(s) in reflective insulation (from Lowe's)... I'm hoping that will help the pots to maintain the water temperature for longer, before needing to apply heat to them.

I use the grain mill at my LHBS. I really don't know how good it is, but I've heard that LHBS's machines tend to grind grain a little too finely. In the past, I used to stir continuously while mashing and adding a very small amount of heat to keep the temperature constant. I found that the variations between the bottom of the pot and the top are too great though, so next time I'm going to heat the water, add the grain, cover the mash pot and place it inside my pre-heated oven to insulate it and touch it as little as possible.

I haven't come across a calculator that tells you how much water grain will absorb but I've read that it roughly 0.125 gallons per pound. The exact amount doesn't really matter. I'll just compensate with more sparge water to hit 5 gallons for the boil. The 6 gallon pot should be fine with 15 qt and 10lbs grain in it for mashing, losing about 5 from the grain, and then adding back 10qt to hit 20qt for the boil. The 4 gallon pot with ~10lb grain plus 2 gallons sparge water might be a little tight. I don't know a good way to calculate volume of grain though to know for sure.

I use a fine mesh nylon bag. It's huge. It easily fits in my 6.5 plastic bucket fermenter with more material at the top to spare so I assume it probably would hold about 7.5 gallons in volume. It should be able to hold 10lb grain no problem.

In the past I have tested the mash with iodine and stopped mashing when there were no more starches left. My last mash was a single infusion mash at 152 for 90 minutes for a hefeweizen. I think my efficiency was around 70-75% but I'm not totally sure because I broke my hydrometer before I topped it off with the correct amount of water.

If I ever go to AG brewing (right now I only do partial mashes), I'll get a second 6 gallon pot and split my wort between the two of them. I'll probably convert a 10 gallon cooler and use that as a mash and lauter tun. That's months in the future though, I'm still a beginner and have a lot to learn first.
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Old 01-28-2011, 03:55 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by samc View Post
BIAB, sparge water
IPA, step mashing

none of this makes much sense. BIAB does not need sparge, I'd just mash out @ 170 before pulling bag and letting it drain.

What kind of grains are requiring a step mash?
I use the BIAB technique from the BIAB sticky on the beginner's forum. I have a separate pot of sparge water I heat to 170 and then steep the grains in that pot for 10 minutes after mashing is complete. Then I pour the sparge water into the mash pot and proceed to boil. It seems to get better efficiency that just mashing and throwing the grains away.

The grains are 8lbs of pilsner malt and 1.75lbs of amber malt. The step mash is a simple two steps, first at 122 (I assume that's a protein rest?) and then mashing at 149. I'm just following what the recipe says. Honestly, I still don't really understand why some recipes have just a single infusion mash at 152 or so, and others have complicated rests at various steps. I don't know enough about the styles or the malts to know what is required when so for now I just follow what the recipes tell me.
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Old 01-28-2011, 04:04 AM   #10
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Instead of getting another 6 gallon pot, get one that's 10 (40 quart) or a little larger... If you can swing it, get a 60 quart pot (15 gallons) so that you're ready for when you go to 10 gallon batches.

I'll be brewing a 10 gallon batch on 2/26 with a brew-bud at a sponsored event (at the LHBS I go to)... I'll have my 60-80 quart (aluminum) pot already (conditioned/cured too) as well as my propane burner (brew-bud is also bringing his)... We figured that it makes more sense to do a 10 gallon batch, than to try and split a 5 gallon batch. Especially since we're making a cream ale. Splitting the batch this way also lets us have our own to ferment (at our own places) so that will be easier too.

I wouldn't convert a cooler just yet. You'll spend more on the cooler conversion, and probably not get all that much different efficiency. You should figure out what's going on with the PM batches first. Of course, if could be the DME you're using that's giving you the lower efficiency. For giggles, try an all grain BIAB batch soon. Even if it's a fairly low OG brew, to see how it goes. Using the Green Bay Rackers site, you can figure out how much grain, and water to pound of grain, will fit in your 6 gallon pot...

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