BIAB in a cooler? What’s your process?

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Nathan Hassey

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I’ve been AG brewing for about a year now and started at the 2 cooler mash tun and HLT combo. I then switched to BIAB in a kettle and had issues with losing as much as 10 degrees during winter during a one hour mash. This past weekend I tried BIAB in a cooler and ran into some weird issues. First issue was the bag plugging up the drain, so I had to suspend it in the air while I was draining. Second, sparging was a little annoying having to raise and lower the bag 4-6 times. I would
Like to continue using this method due to the 0 degree drop in mash temp but I wanted to see what you all do to avoid the above issues. Thanks!
 

myndflyte

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I BIAB in a 10 gallon cooler. Instead of sparging, just mash with all the water you'll need for your batch. So for a typical 5 gallon batch, I'm mashing with about 7.5 gallons, give or take the amount of grain. Then once the mash is done, lift it out and start draining it to your kettle while giving the bag a good squeeze. This takes care of the bag plugging issue and no more sparging.

For a beer in the 1.060 range, I hit a brewhouse efficiency of 80% quite easily.
 

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When I used a BIAB in a cooler, I would mash normally at 1.25-1.5q per pound, lauter and drain, then batch sparge from my HLT to the cooler using a chugger pump to move water, to get full volume.

I think you're making life more complicated than it needs to with it, which is why I retired the process and my HLT/cooler. If you have a quality burner, turn it on as low as it will go mid-way through the mash to raise the temperature back up, stirring a bit here and there. Of course, I like my beers dry, so doughing in at 149-150° F is normal for me. I do full-volume BIAB, so there is no sparing - just use a ratchet strap hooked to a garage rafter to lift the bag.
 
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Nathan Hassey

Nathan Hassey

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I BIAB in a 10 gallon cooler. Instead of sparging, just mash with all the water you'll need for your batch. So for a typical 5 gallon batch, I'm mashing with about 7.5 gallons, give or take the amount of grain. Then once the mash is done, lift it out and start draining it to your kettle while giving the bag a good squeeze. This takes care of the bag plugging issue and no more sparging.

For a beer in the 1.060 range, I hit a brewhouse efficiency of 80% quite easily.
Do you not do a mash out or anything? With the BIAB method, I would raise my wort temp to 168 for 10 minutes but obviously in a cooler I cant do that.
 
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Nathan Hassey

Nathan Hassey

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When I used a BIAB in a cooler, I would mash normally at 1.25-1.5q per pound, lauter and drain, then batch sparge from my HLT to the cooler using a chugger pump to move water, to get full volume.

I think you're making life more complicated than it needs to with it, which is why I retired the process and my HLT/cooler. If you have a quality burner, turn it on as low as it will go mid-way through the mash to raise the temperature back up, stirring a bit here and there. Of course, I like my beers dry, so doughing in at 149-150° F is normal for me. I do full-volume BIAB, so there is no sparing - just use a ratchet strap hooked to a garage rafter to lift the bag.
I tried doing that and it would drop about 2-3 degrees every 15 min. So every 15 min I would have to relight the burner and heat it back up. 4 times of that each mash it really annoying.
 

RM-MN

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Do you not do a mash out or anything? With the BIAB method, I would raise my wort temp to 168 for 10 minutes but obviously in a cooler I cant do that.
Mash out is only needed for fly sparging and I'm not entirely sure it is needed then. Skip it for BIAB.

I tried doing that and it would drop about 2-3 degrees every 15 min. So every 15 min I would have to relight the burner and heat it back up. 4 times of that each mash it really annoying.
How long does it take to get full conversion?

My finely milled grain converts in less than 20 minutes. I wouldn't worry about heating it every 15 minutes.
 
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Nathan Hassey

Nathan Hassey

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I never thought about mash out not needed. I don't check for conversion TBH, I just know that it will be done for sure in 60 min without having to check. Not requiring a mashout solves my problem i guess though. I dont have to worry about the bag clogging the drain or having to raise and lower it a bunch when sparging. Thanks for all the help guys!
 

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I bought an old colander at a yard sale. It goes in the bottom of the cooler and prevents clogging the spigot. A strainer will work too, possibly even a slotted spoon. I used to squeeze by pressing with a plate, now I just let it dribble and add the wort during the boil.
 

RPh_Guy

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I brew in a cooler. Skip the bag.
Rice hulls for additional ease of lautering.
May need to adjust crush size.
 

Silver_Is_Money

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I'm making the transition to no-sparge-BIAB in a cooler also. In general, for no sparge should I up my grist weights on all of my recipes that formerly received a batch sparge by about 10% so my FG's will be in the same ballpark as for batch sparging? I can't get less than a 0.032" gap on my budget mill, so that's the best I can do crush-wise to salvage efficiency.
 

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I'm making the transition to no-sparge-BIAB in a cooler also. In general, for no sparge should I up my grist weights on all of my recipes that formerly received a batch sparge by about 10% so my FG's will be in the same ballpark as for batch sparging? I can't get less than a 0.032" gap on my budget mill, so that's the best I can do crush-wise to salvage efficiency.
I don’t think you can generalize where your efficiency may land on a different system. While your giving up the batch sparge, your former MT wort losses and finer crush (perhaps try a double crush) could actually gain efficiency???

Wort loss w BIAB can be very low with just merely allowing the bag to drain for 30 minutes or so...doesn’t need to be elaborate, simply lifting the bag and placing a stainless bowl underneath will allow it to drain.

Or you could be a bag squeezer, but I find no joy in that and prefer the ease of time and gravity.
Ymmv
 

Silver_Is_Money

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I don’t think you can generalize where your efficiency may land on a different system. While your giving up the batch sparge, your former MT wort losses and finer crush (perhaps try a double crush) could actually gain efficiency???

Wort loss w BIAB can be very low with just merely allowing the bag to drain for 30 minutes or so...doesn’t need to be elaborate, simply lifting the bag and placing a stainless bowl underneath will allow it to drain.

Or you could be a bag squeezer, but I find no joy in that and prefer the ease of time and gravity.
Ymmv
It's not exactly a different system. I have merely removed a braid and replaced it with a bag. I could also have done no-sparge with the braid in place.

The idea of double crushing seems to have merit.
 

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I'm making the transition to no-sparge-BIAB in a cooler also. In general, for no sparge should I up my grist weights on all of my recipes that formerly received a batch sparge by about 10% so my FG's will be in the same ballpark as for batch sparging? I can't get less than a 0.032" gap on my budget mill, so that's the best I can do crush-wise to salvage efficiency.
Maybe one of these is in your near future? https://www.walmart.com/ip/COKO-Man...M0tmXK0pvsVTP7KYMV18ROvl7E4Mnjy8aAgGuEALw_wcB
 

Silver_Is_Money

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Godot

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I do BIAB in a cooler. I wrap and pile the cooler with blankets and only lose about 2 degrees C over an hour (mostly, I assume, when I open the cooler to stir). I love how easy it makes cooler cleanup compared to using just a "bazooka screen".

I have done both no sparge and batch sparge with my bag in a cooler. The batch sparge (I lift the bag and drain the cooler and then pour 70C sparge water over bag of grains) does earn me a few more points in efficiency. However, that can be compensated in no sparge by adding extra grain to the mash. I generally do prefer to wash the sugars off the grain just simply because it seems a waste not to (or make a parti-gyle). It does add some extra time to the process but I do it while I wait for the first wort to boil.
 

RM-MN

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I do BIAB in a cooler. I wrap and pile the cooler with blankets and only lose about 2 degrees C over an hour (mostly, I assume, when I open the cooler to stir). I love how easy it makes cooler cleanup compared to using just a "bazooka screen".

I have done both no sparge and batch sparge with my bag in a cooler. The batch sparge (I lift the bag and drain the cooler and then pour 70C sparge water over bag of grains) does earn me a few more points in efficiency. However, that can be compensated in no sparge by adding extra grain to the mash. I generally do prefer to wash the sugars off the grain just simply because it seems a waste not to (or make a parti-gyle). It does add some extra time to the process but I do it while I wait for the first wort to boil.
If you didn't want to use that hot water you could use 20C and get nearly identical results. While you only lose the 2 degrees in the hour, the temperature only matters while conversion is happening. How long does it take for conversion in your system? For your sparge, you simply need to dump in the water, stir it well, and then drain. It shouldn't take very long. Using cool water will add time to get to boil, especially if your burner is low power.
 

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With a bag in my Coleman Xtreme 52 Qt. cooler, how fine can I crush without incurring stuck mash problems? And will I still need to add rice hulls when using adjuncts such as flaked or rolled oats?
The only time I have come close to a stuck mash is when I had a large percentage of rye. That led to a stick mash and I had to squeeze the bag to get the wort out, both mash and sparge. I use one of the cheap mills like I suggested to Silver is Money and set it as tight as I can.
 
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Nathan Hassey

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I think I will just try a full volume mash in the cooler next time. If i have a grain bill that requires more room than my 10g cooler can provide, ill try dumping hot water over the bag to rinse the sugars off. Thanks for all the advice and the different methods you all use.
 
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