BIAB Brewing (with pics)

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Seven

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Overview

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.

I’ve documented the no-sparge BIAB brewing process that I use here. This is the process that has worked well for me.
 
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Seven

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Equipment

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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.

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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.

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** 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.
 
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Seven

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Recipe used

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. I’m 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 – 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.


Modified Recipe
--------------------------
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

Ingredients:
---------------
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
 
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Seven

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Steps - Overview


  1. Prepare equipment
  2. Heat water
  3. Mash-in
  4. Mash-out
  5. Lift, drain, squeeze grains
  6. Measure results (pre-boil) using hydrometer or refractometer
  7. Boil
  8. Cool
  9. Measure results (post-boil) using hydrometer or refractometer
  10. Transfer, aerate, pitch yeast, ferment
 
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Seven

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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.

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Seven

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STEP 2: Heat water

Mash temperature for this batch is 152-degrees F.
Strike temperature is 160-degrees F.

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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
 
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Seven

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STEP 3: Mash-in

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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.

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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 it’s 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.

0008.jpg

Cover the kettle and monitor with your thermometer and maintain the required mash temperature.

Once the mash is completed remove cover and stir gently.
 
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Seven

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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.

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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.
 
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Seven

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STEP 5: Lift, Drain, Squeeze Grains

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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.

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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.

0013.jpg

Remove the basket from the pulley and dispose of the spent grains.

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Seven

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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.

0014.jpg

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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Seven

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STEP 7: Boil

Now you continue on with the boiling process just as you would for an extract or all-grain batch.

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I use the pulley again to hang a small mesh bag to hold any hops or spices. Placing these ingredients inside a mesh bag helps keep it out of your fermentor at the end of the boil.

0017.jpg
 
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Seven

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STEP 8: Cool

I use an immersion chiller to quickly lower the temperature of the wort to yeast pitching temperature.

0018.jpg
 
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Seven

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STEP 9: Measure results

Take a post-boil hydrometer reading to determine your original gravity (OG) for this batch.

0020.jpg

My OG for this batch = 1.055
Recipe OG = 1.056
 
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Seven

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STEP 10: Transfer, Aerate, Pitch, Ferment

Transfer wort to fermentor.

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Aerate wort using the aeration method of your choice. Splashing the wort while siphoning, rocking or shaking the fermentor, or using an aquarium pump or pure O2 all work great.

Pitch yeast and ferment.

0021.jpg
 
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Seven

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Conclusion

So this is how I do BIAB and I've had excellent results with this process. I’ve brewed everything from simple pale ales to big IPAs (Hopslam, Pliny the Elder) to English milds and Irish stouts using the BIAB technique described here.

I'm not saying BIAB is better or quicker or cheaper than traditional all-grain brewing techniques. I can say that I’ve had success with this technique and I am very pleased with the overall process and the beers that are created using this method.

It takes me approximately 4 to 6 hours to complete a typical all-grain batch with this brewing method. BIAB is said to be less equipment intensive than traditional all-grain brewing but I can say from my experience that BIAB can still be fairly equipment intensive - depending on how you choose to do it. Since I haven’t brewed a traditional 3-vessel all-grain batch (yet) I can’t compare and contrast the two methods or give any personal opinion on which is best. I suspect, as with anything else, there is no "best" brewing method and it really just boils down to finding what works best for YOU.

I'd love to hear any feedback you may have about the information provided here. I'm still learning and evolving and I know I've only barely scraped the surface of the mountain of brewing information out there.

Happy brewing! :mug:

(A big thanks goes out to all of the BIAB brewers out there who took the time to document and share their ideas, experiences, and results. Credit to the Australians who pioneered this BIAB method of brewing. Forums like HomeBrewTalk and TheBrewingNetwork were instrumental in providing a resource where people like me could learn and share information. I couldn’t have done any of this without you.)
 

johnnyc

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I've been using BIAB for a couple years now and you seem to have the system down pat! I didn't rig up a pulley though so I will hold the bag over the kettle til the draining slows then hang the bag on a peg w/ a bucket underneath that I add back during the boil. Other than that we're on the same page. I use a keggle and I've been able to do moderate 10 gallon batches too, 22 lbs is about all that will fit through the keggle opening though. For me those brew days require a second set of hands!
 

eastoak

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love your set up. looks like i need to buy one of those blichmann pots too.
 

smokewater

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That's very similar to the way I do mine except that I have to use a second pot for the sparge since my pot is only 7.5 gallons. I also found with my strainer basket that if you take the handle off, put the liner in it then put the handle back on it will hold the grain bag on without clips.

That pulley looks nice but I have this vision of it swinging back and forth out of control knocking my pot over. I just set mine in the other pot and pour my sparge water through it.

Good job with the pictures.
 

camus

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I can say that I’ve had success with this technique and I am very pleased with the overall process and the beers that were created using this method.
Really, this is what counts here, IMO.

Great documentation and a really cool process. :mug:

Did I mention this is really cool?
 

jjones17

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STEP 5: Lift, Drain, Squeeze Grains
I love your pics! Great job! Naturally, a suggestion - As a fellow BIAB brewer, I get 80-80% efficiency every time and I drain my mash about 25 seconds. Have you tried NOT doing that drain for 30 mins?Maybe give it a whirl, you might be surprised! Just hoping to save you 30 mins! LOVE your setup though!
 

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Nicely done. I've used BIAB method in the past and sometimes enjoy the simplicity of just a bag. Saves a whole bunch of time on extra cleaning and such. There are many ways to skin a cat. The whole point is good beer. Sometimes,,as in life, we make this hobby harder than it has to be. Cheers.
 

robcj

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Great BIAB post. Have you joined the BIABrewer forum yet?

My brewing partner and I started brewing two months ago. We undertook our first all-grain brew this past Wednesday. We decided to use both the BIAB and no-chill methods. This results in a simple and minimalist approach to brewing.

Our system and process was slightly different. We milled our own grain and tightened the mill for a finer grind to compensate for the lower efficiency. We invested in a 64-litre (17-gallon) stockpot so we could brew 30-litre (8-gallon) batches. My brewing partner created a stainless steel siphon system that we used to transfer the hot wort to two HDPE water storage containers. We each took one sealed container with 4 gallons of hot wort home. This allows us to easily split the batch and shorten the brew day by postponing pitching the yeast for one or two days. This way we can brew on weeknights if we want.

Our target OG was 1.067 and we hit 1.063. The difference can be attributed to a drop in the mash temperature near the end of the mash due to poor monitoring and an overestimation of our evaporation rate. This could have been fixed by prolonging the boil but it was getting late and we agreed that it would not be worth the wait. Other than these two small errors, we were very pleased with the BIAB method, particularly when combined with the no-chill method. It suits our needs perfectly.
 
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Seven

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I love your pics! Great job! Naturally, a suggestion - As a fellow BIAB brewer, I get 80-80% efficiency every time and I drain my mash about 25 seconds. Have you tried NOT doing that drain for 30 mins?Maybe give it a whirl, you might be surprised! Just hoping to save you 30 mins! LOVE your setup though!
I have tried not doing this and I ended up with sticky wort all over the garage floor that I figured would be better off in my kettle. This was my fault though for not having something readily available to catch the drainage.

You are right though - it's not absolutely critical to perform this step. I edited this step to make it optional.

Thanks for your suggestion!
 
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Seven

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Great BIAB post. Have you joined the BIABrewer forum yet?
I haven't been to that site very much but I can see it's a good source of information for all things BIAB.

I joined it just now.
 

Time-Travelers

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Did my first BIAB/No-chill yesterday!

My end of boil gravity reading (adjusted for temp) was 1.047, my recipe OG is est @ 1.040.

I haven't pitched the yeast yet and plan to take another gravity reading before doing so (not sure if it will change from end of boil?), but if it doesn't change, should I add more water to get closer to the original recipe??? My recipe was for a 5-gal batch. My end of boil volume was 5.8 gal.

Thanks!
 

Time-Travelers

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LOL! Yes, normally a higher alcohol brew isn't a problem, however... I was trying to brew a beer under 5.0 ABV for entry into a local comp ;)

- If this batches SG is higher that estimated, will resulting FG be higher also???

- Is the higher SG a result of a higher efficiency?

- Should I make any adjustments in my next brew? I did a 90-min mash w/mash-out and a 90-min boil.

Sorry for all the questions ...this is also my first all-grain as well :p
 

Mysticmead

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the FG will be slightly higher..and yes, you got good efficiency which caused the higher SG.. diluting it out a bit more to reach the SG you want will work.. but hops utilization will be a little lower as well. What was teh grain bill.. that will help determine the efficiency you got
 

Time-Travelers

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Sweet!!
I'm going to leave well enough alone...
If it ferments out to just .001 higher than the original recipe, I'll still be under 5.0 ABV (just!)

Thanks for your help!
 

EllisTX

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I just did my second BIAB and have had over 70% effeciency both times. I do have a pulley set up and I makes things a lot easier.
 

The_Dog_42

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I just did my second BIAB and have had over 70% effeciency both times. I do have a pulley set up and I makes things a lot easier.
Alton Brown has a pulley setup that may work for those of us who can't or don't want to permanently attach pulleys to ceilings. In season 10, he did an episode called "Fry Turkey Fry" and built a rig off of his aluminum (I think) ladder that would accept a pulley system along with a cleat to lock the grain bag in place above the brew kettle. It seems to work well and is adjustable in position so you can make sure you don't get any swing or motion when lifting it out of the brew pot. I'd trust the set up to hold at least 40 lbs when using a sst bucket like Seven did, if your mounting is secure enough, with some decent sized bolts.

I'm going to try this method out when I do my first BIAB, but I need a fermy chamber built before this so it'll probably be a few months.

Great advice though! :mug:
 

BARBQ

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Once mash reaches 170-degrees, cut the heat again and let sit at 170-degrees for 10-minutes. This mash-out step is important when doing no-sparge BIAB since it will help improve brewhouse efficiency and it also makes the grain bed more fluid which helps when draining the grains in the following steps.
After 10-minutes at 170-degrees, mash-out is complete.
Damn I didnt know this step. I will add it to my list of things to try. I pretty much do my BIAB like this. I didnt have all my grains cracked because of brew store. Between that and this step could have alot to do with my low eff.
 

sammy33

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Overview
I’ve documented the no-sparge BIAB brewing process that I use here. This is the process that works well for me.

(Credit to all of thee BIAB brewers out there who took the time to document and share their ideas, experiences, and results. I couldn’t have done any of this without their valuable information.)
Great setup and thanks for the detailed thread on this process. :mug:

Question: I noticed you have a piece of sheet metal over your burner and under your boilermaker. What is this for?
 
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Seven

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Great setup and thanks for the detailed thread on this process. :mug:

Question: I noticed you have a piece of sheet metal over your burner and under your boilermaker. What is this for?
That is a heat shield that keeps the sight-glass from boiling and the plastic cover on the valve handle from melting. It also protects the thermometer casing from overheating and breaking. Although I temporarily removed the built-in kettle thermometer for BIAB.
 

gunner65

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Nice documenting I have almost 10 no sparge BIABs done on my single vessel electric system. I am averaging about 77 percent with the lowest @ 74. I am hooked on this method.
 

wrench

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I'm getting ready for my first all-grain BIAB and wonder if anyone is JUST using a mesh (voile) bag and not the added strength of a metal basket. Am I asking for trouble in trusting a cloth bag to hold all that wet grain? Also, what's the average batch size folks brew when using this method and a keggle?
 
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