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72% efficiency with a bag? Yes!

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MikeRLynch

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This is more of a shameless plug rather than a topic, but who cares?

So after a tragic and tottaly disheartening accident with the last batch (brand new glass carboy exploded, spilling 4 hours of work on the front porch...) we were determined to make a good batch of all grain beer out of sheer spite. And this time we even did two.

We don't have any special equipment for all grain, so we use a kind of brew in a bag system. We have a 5 gallon gatorade cooler with the spigot on the bottom, and we simply line the whole thing with an oversized mesh bag. We dough in with water heated on the stove, and thats pretty much it. When the hour is up we simply open the spigot and let it run. When things start to slow down, all we do is pull up on the bag a bit and the flow starts again. We batch sparge once, we get our boil volume, and thats it! Normally we had pretty bad efficiency, around 55%. But for some reason the brew gods smiled on us (perhaps because of the sacrifice of spilled wort on the porch) and we hit a solid 72%. I'm really happy with this, and because we're hitting our numbers without spending a ton on equipment, I might just go out and get a second mash tun cooler. This way we can mash two totally seperate beers at the same time, without having to make ridiculous monthly payments to our credit cards to pay off the three tier system.

so to all you poor ass brewers, don't be disheartened! It may not look flash, but you can brew full volume all grain without spending a lot of money, or even modifying anything! Maybe someday I'll follow the directions to put a false bottom in my tun with a new metal spigot, but for now this works pretty damn well!

sorry, just had to break my arm patting my own back for a minute there. I'm done :)
 

vmpolesov

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when you say exploded do you mean oveflowed or do you mean it literally shattered into bits and pieces of glass. Was it just a bad carboy, did it get dropped, was hot liquid added to it, etc? I ask because if carboyexplosions are a common occurence I would want to switch to a 'better bottle', especially with 5 gallons of beer sitting in a carboy indoors.
 

McKBrew

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vmpolesov said:
when you say exploded do you mean oveflowed or do you mean it literally shattered into bits and pieces of glass. Was it just a bad carboy, did it get dropped, was hot liquid added to it, etc? I ask because if carboyexplosions are a common occurence I would want to switch to a 'better bottle', especially with 5 gallons of beer sitting in a carboy indoors.
Glass carboys are not commonly going to explode, break or come after you with a knife while you sleep. Glass vs. Better Bottle is really a matter of preference. Each have their advantages and disadvantages.

There are die hard glass users on this forum who have never had a broken carboy in years of brewing. Some people have had a few close calls. Some Better Bottle users have melted their bottles by pouring in wort that was too hot.

Personally I like and recommend Better Bottles. The costs are within a few dollars for each type. In the end, it depends on what you like.
 

Evets

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I'm a glass man. Knock on wood, I've never broken one, but I keep myself aware of the dangers of glass.
 

david_42

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I've been singing the praises of the VLGB (very large grain bag) for a long time. it may not be for people who use 15-20 pounds of grain for a 5 gallon batch, but I've done 8-9 lb batches without any problem.

A second sparge will boost your typical efficiency by 10-12 percent, but sounds like you did nicely with just one.
 
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MikeRLynch

MikeRLynch

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david_42 said:
I've been singing the praises of the VLGB (very large grain bag) for a long time. it may not be for people who use 15-20 pounds of grain for a 5 gallon batch, but I've done 8-9 lb batches without any problem.

A second sparge will boost your typical efficiency by 10-12 percent, but sounds like you did nicely with just one.
I think I'll probably do that next time, just to see how far I can push this. As for the glass carboy, it was an embarrasing story, but what the hell:

First of all lets put this out there: I was drinking. And I mean drinking.

Second of all, this was the first time I was going to use a glass carboy. I had been using buckets up to this point, but I think we kind of wore ours out. We got two infections in a row and the rubber seal around the lid was coming off. So I shelled out the bucks and got a shiny new glass carboy.

So cue the long brew day. Of course this was the most flawless brew we had done to date, no problems, gravity was spot on, no boilovers, added the hops at the exact second they were scheduled for, et cetera. So the boil is over, and we usually use natures wort chiller, aka snow. So, after a number of beers that I'm ashamed to relay, I dump the barely cooled down wort into the carboy and put it on the porch.

I know I know. In the light of day in a normal state of mind this is obviously a bad idea, but sometimes my brain decides it's had enough of the punishment I put it through and just up and leaves. This was one of those occasions. First of all, putting hot wort in glass is a bad idea. Second of all putting it on the freezing cold cement porch is a bad idea. The worst idea in the history of ideas is putting the thing into a snow bank. Which is of course what I did. I heard the little cracks, starting small and getting louder. It was like in the movies when you're on a frozen lake and you hear it start to give way. There's a deafening silence right before the whole thing caves in. That's what I heard in the carboy. A few cracks, silence, and then the whole thing shatters into a million peices and the hot wort flows over my shoes.

Needless to say, suicide was looking like a viable option here. Not only was four hours work gone, not only was a potentially award winning beer seeping into what became wort flavored snow cones, but I had to go into the house and tell my brewing partner that I tottaly fcuked up. I was thinking about jumping from the roof, but my friends house wasn't that tall and all that would happen is a broken arm and my having to explain what happened not only to my friend, but the EMTs as well. So I decided to take the noble route, tell him, and then immediately leave.

He forgave me, but I had a hard time getting to sleep that night.

There's your morality story for the day. Whatever moral might be derived.

mike
 

BeerCanuck

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sorry to hear about your beer MLynchLtd
You came out uninjured which is the main thing to brew another day.
I like the idea of a big brewing bag...saves on effort and cleaning up...one application I use the bag in is with my primary pales;


I use some 26*36 strong clear bags to line the interior
makes cleanup a snap

Cheers
BeerCanuck
 

Danek

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Yeah, another thumbs up for brewing in a bag. My AG brew-in-a-bag beer is so much better than any beer I've made with extract.
 

cowgo

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OMG. That's too funny. Truly beer karma smiled on your good clean heart. You didn't get hurt by your carboy bomb and you got a great rebound brew going.

For the record, I have 2 glass carboys (dating back 20 years) 2 Better Bottles and a minibrew 6.5 gallon conical. I use what's next in line and clean. Doesn't make a rats a** worth of difference on the final product which one is used.

Your bag can work just fine too. Make sure to really stir it up, keep your target temp and do multiple sparges.
 

lustreking

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vmpolesov said:
I ask because if carboyexplosions are a common occurence I would want to switch to a 'better bottle', especially with 5 gallons of beer sitting in a carboy indoors.
No, it's not a common occurrence, but the problem is that, if they do break, they do it in a very big and dangerous way.

Here's a list of stories from people who have been seriously injured by carboys.
 
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MikeRLynch

MikeRLynch

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BeerCanuck said:
sorry to hear about your beer MLynchLtd
You came out uninjured which is the main thing to brew another day.
I like the idea of a big brewing bag...saves on effort and cleaning up...one application I use the bag in is with my primary pales;


I use some 26*36 strong clear bags to line the interior
makes cleanup a snap

Cheers
BeerCanuck
That is a ridiculously good idea! The only thing I'd worry about is off flavors from the bag. Do you use a certain kind of food grade bag? Where do you get them? Are they expensive? What's the meaning of life?

mike
 

talleymonster

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Evets said:
I'm a glass man. Knock on wood, I've never broken one, but I keep myself aware of the dangers of glass.
Ditto! I've been pretty careful. I've never even had a close call.:cross:
 

talleymonster

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MLynchLtd,

Very nice! I've been toying with trying to do a few AG's before we move. I haven't been doing much brewing lately because of the move. I don't want to get all into building my sculpture and making my keggles. Just another big bulky item to have to pack up and move. But I could definitely do it with the methods you described. Awesome!! Thanks!
 

njnear76

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MLynchLtd said:
We have a 5 gallon gatorade cooler with the spigot on the bottom, and we simply line the whole thing with an oversized mesh bag.
Hmmmm.... easy cleanup. This might be a good idea. What kind of mesh bag did you use?
 

ColoradoXJ13

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I dunno, I had nothing but trouble with those bags. Hopelessly stuck lauters and sparges, torn bags, etc. Drove me nuts. You have the cooler, all you need is about $20 worth of hardware and a stainless steel water hose and you are good to go, no more stuck sparges.

But...whatever works! I have a friend who brews with bags, he makes good beer but it seems like more work. He also does direct heat, 5 step mashes and only secondaries his beer for a couple days, and refuses to try anything else.
 

discgolfin

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I think it really boils down to common sense. I have all glass and love them. I will get PET as they age becasue it is easier to carry not becasue I fear exploding glass. If you look and read a majority of the stories they are from accidents that could have been prevented. They sell a lot of nice reliable items to carry these. The one that sticks out however if the hadle that had the neck break..these clearly is unavoidable unless the carboy had a visable hairline crack. For all of those who bottle beer and use PET fermenter becasue of the dangers this can just as easily happen with a 12 0z bottle. If u use recyled or used bottles many of these have been dropped and banged and risk fracture much easier.

That being said use common sense to avoid major injuries, I carry mine with a handle, I move slow and careful, I leave the bottle at my side and if the neck breaks it will break on the floor not my foot..I would never attempt to catch 6 gallons og beer in a glass vessel..let it go and save yourself from the injury.

Jay
 

DeathBrewer

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Evets said:
I'm a glass man. Knock on wood, I've never broken one, but I keep myself aware of the dangers of glass.
i broke one while cleaning it. my own fault. cleaning up the glass in the bathroom was fun.

i have different methods now and all my carboys have handles. i DO get a little worried when my friends carry full carboys by the handles...it's gonna snap a neck one of these days and they're going to owe me some money, some beer and a new carpet. oh well, i've warned 'em :D

a friend of mine recently shattered a carboy with hot wort, too. he only lost about a gallon, tho...the rest wasn't poured in yet.
 

discgolfin

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I think hot wort and glass really is asking for trouble..if it doesn't visibly break the glass..it probably will leave stress fractures.

Jay
 

BeerCanuck

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MLynchLtd said:
That is a ridiculously good idea! The only thing I'd worry about is off flavors from the bag. Do you use a certain kind of food grade bag? Where do you get them? Are they expensive? What's the meaning of life?

mike
Didnt want to derail your thread so I started a new one;
Primary Pale Liner (BeerInBag)

Cheers
BeerCanuck
 

chefmike

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MLynchLtd said:
I think I'll probably do that next time, just to see how far I can push this. As for the glass carboy, it was an embarrasing story, but what the hell:

First of all lets put this out there: I was drinking. And I mean drinking.

There's your morality story for the day. Whatever moral might be derived.

mike

I love the honesty around here. Mike, thanks for a great AG idea for a fellow cheapskate and thanks for sharing a story that had me laughing so hard my dogs got worried!

mike sig
 
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MikeRLynch

MikeRLynch

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Always glad to worry dogs :) and thanks beercanuck, I'll certianly be looking into that in the future. The biggest pain in the ass is cleaning out the sludge from the bottom of those buckets, and with a brand new bag each time (sanitized of course) I don't have to worry about scratching my plastic bucket and getting an infection in there (which I believe has already happened. Anyone want a source for brett?)

Anyway, we're transferring the beers from this batch to secondary (or possibly keg) this weekend, so I'll have the FG and a preliminary taste test. This will be our first (sucessful) all grain batch, so cross your fingers.

mike
 

Pirate Ale

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My first AG was done the same way. I did Dude's Lake Walk Pale Ale in a 5 gallon cooler with a bag and it was the best beer I have made yet. Of course the 55% eff sucked. I am interested in how you managed 72%, cause I would love to get there.
 
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MikeRLynch

MikeRLynch

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A recent calculation showed that I was actually at 65%, which still isn't bad. However we got that eff after our noob sparging methods and miscalculations, so there is definite room for improvement. Today we're going to brew an american brown ale, thrown on the yeast cake from EdWorts Pale ale. We'll see what happens, stay tuned!

mike
 

Jim Karr

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OK guys, I'm confused......MLynch says "mesh bag", and now you're showing pictures of clear plastic garbage bags. Am I missin' somethin'? Or am I just a deranged brewer?:drunk:
 
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MikeRLynch

MikeRLynch

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Jim Karr said:
OK guys, I'm confused......MLynch says "mesh bag", and now you're showing pictures of clear plastic garbage bags. Am I missin' somethin'? Or am I just a deranged brewer?:drunk:
Lol, possibly, but I think that's for a jury of your peers to decide :)

Essentially three topics in this thread: Mash in mesh, ferment in plastic, and embarrasing glass carboy disasters.

My topic was mashing in big mesh bags, mostly found in LHBS that do winemaking ( I think these bags are mostly used for that purpose) instead of making a DIY braided hose/spigot thingy.

The other topic was fermenting in big xtra strong plastic garbage bags (sanitized) that line your bucket, so cleanup is super simple. I think another thread was started for that.

And as for the carboy topic, I'm not bringing that up again :p

mike
 
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MikeRLynch

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Alright guys, the results are in, and they are mixed:

The Haus Pale Ale only fermented out to about 1.018, which is on the fuller side of what I was looking for. However, despite the fuller body the flavor is gorgeous, with nice floral hop notes from the cascade and a very clean taste and finish. I have to say, after doing countless extract batches and saying "eh, its not bad for a homebrew," AG has opened my eyes to good beer making. I was starting to get worried that those funky flavors from my extract batches were universal to all homebrews.

The Rye pale ale we did the same night finished a little lower, at 1.015, which is right where I'd like it to be. Full bodied as well, but not nearly as much as the other pale. Very clean, crisp, and just complex enough from the rye to make you say, "hey, theres something about this beer that I like, but I can't put my finger on it." I have a feeling this one will be finished before the other.

And of course we did another batch last night, Foxy Brown ale thrown on the yeast cake from the pale. I've never done it before, and my god that thing took off like a rocket. Honestly, in less than an hour it was chugging like mad.

So here's the scorecard for Brew in a Bag mashing:

- Haus Pale Ale: 60% Efficiency
- The Evil Rye: 65% Efficiency
- Foxy Brown: (and I'm not kidding when I say this) a whopping 80%

Your tips really helped guys, and there you have it! 80% on a completely unmodified, cheap, and simple brew design.

Of course the trick is to do it again ;)

mike
 

Pirate Ale

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Why does a 5 gallon cooler with the brewers bag get less effieceincy than one with a false bottom? Assumeing both are batch sparged.
 
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MikeRLynch

MikeRLynch

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The bag tends to get stuck a bit when you sparge, so you have to manuver it a bit. It may simply be that I'm a newbie with all grain, and the efficiency problems we my own fault.

I did another 3 gal batch this way over the weekend, and hit a solid 70%, so I think I just need to dial in my system.

mike
 
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