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Does sparging with BIAB improve efficiency?

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TomVA

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I brew all grain in a bag with the full amount of water, then drain and squeeze the bag. I understand many mash with only a portion of the full water amount, holding back some fresh hot water for sparging the grains. It seems logical that flushing the grains with fresh hot water will remove more sugars, but then again, the wort in the grains starts with a higher sugar concentration than the grains from a full water mash. I would expect this to offset to some degree the apparent efficiency from sparging.

So in the end, does batch sparging in BIAB brewing actually improve efficiency versus mashing with the full water, and if so by how much?

TomVA
 

McKnuckle

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I also do full volume BIAB with draining and a moderate squeeze. I've gotten 74-77% mash eff over a couple dozen batches done in that way.

I recently was trying out a small 1 gallon rig where I had to mash with a partial volume. I dunk sparged the rest. I got 80% mash efficiency. I won't do this every time, but it did convince me that dunking has a benefit. I would not think that pouring over would be as effective though.
 

wilserbrewer

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Typically sparging wil raise your efficiency, more so as gravity increases.

The question one needs to ask themselves is if it is worth the extra time and effort. While you're all proud that you raised your efficiency from 75 - 80%, realize that for another $0.75 cents worth of grain you wouldn't have spent 20 minutes doing gymnastics with a 20 lb bag of hot grain spilling wort all over your floor and shoes. It's easier to sparge small batches, but the savings are smaller as well.

Lol cheers!
 

dmtaylor

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So in the end, does batch sparging in BIAB brewing actually improve efficiency versus mashing with the full water, and if so by how much?
Hells yes. By how much, depends on how big the beer is, how much you normally squeeze, and how well you rinse/sparge. I can easily hit >90% brewhouse efficiency with a good crush, a good rinse, and zero squeezing on any reasonable gravity beer (like <1.065). You can't do that with a squeeze alone.
 

Weezy

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Yes it does but chasing efficiency doesn't get you much more than a bigger number. A comfortable, repeatable brewing process is what you're looking for. Whether or not that process includes squeezing or even sparging is up to your preferences.
 

phyllobeddo

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I'm generally in the low to mid 80s for mash efficiency per Beersmith. I brew 2.5 gallon batches, mash with three gallons in a cooler, rinse the bag with the remaining gallon and squeeze like crazy. I generally heat the gallon to 150 or 160 before rinsing. Sometimes it's just room temp. I also crush my own grain. The mill width is set to the width of a credit card.
 

doug293cz

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Yes, all other things being equal, sparging always gives you better efficiency than full volume mashing, but all other things are seldom equal.

Here's a chart that shows the effects of degree of squeeze (or very long drain times), batch sparging, and size of grain bill (relative to pre-boil volume.) Squeezing more or draining longer lowers the grain absorption rate. A traditional MLT has an absorption rate of about 0.12 gal/lb. Draining a bag typically gives you 0.09 - 0.11 gal/lb depending on length of drain, and longer drains get you lower. Squeezing typically gets you 0.06 - 0.08 gal/lb, depending on aggressiveness of the squeeze.

No Sparge vs Sparge big beers ratio.png

Brew on :mug:
 

drunkinThailand

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I sparge the very easy way - say i mash 25 liters and keep back about 10 (i do 25 liter batches) i just pull the bag with the pully and put it into a container (spare bucket or old brewpot) without squeezing yet, add the room temperature sparge water, knead the bag to rinse all the grains, the put the bag back over the kettle and twist/squeeze (much easier now because its not too hot) and then dump the sparge water into the kettle. I've already first wort hopped and turned on the burner, so adds maybe 5 minutes (the time to heat up the additional room temperature water) and my efficiency is ~90% for regular beers and ~80% for bigger beers.
 

petrolSpice

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I typically get 70-75% efficiency without sparging. On my last brew I decided to sparge by pouring 2 gallons of water over the grains and got 84% efficiency. It wasn't much extra work. Next time I'll try dunk sparging instead.
 

Bobby_M

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While an extra 5% feels pretty good, it helps to know if your pH remains in range during the sparge. The beauty of full volume mashing is that pH is more predictable, and at the very least, stable.
 

howamidriving

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I use a mash calculator and mash with the amount of water recommend for a regular mash. When I'm done with that I let the bag drip over a smaller pot and sparge with hot tap water (probably like 120 degrees) while I'm heating the mash up. Once I sparge and squeeze I put that in the main kettle.

Doesn't really take any extra time this way and it's simple enough. As other have kinda said, to me a big part of this hobby is finding an approach that works for you. If you don't have the set up or time to spend with sparging is an extra 5% efficiency really worth it?
 
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In my experience, no. I have sparged on occasion. The sqeezin's from the sparge may be a point higher than the larger volume of wort, but when I add (let's say a gallon) of 1046 wort to (let's say 6 gallons) of wort in the kettle at 1045, the combined wort is still 1045. I tend to just let the bag drain for a few minutes (5?), then with a weight on top of the bag (I use a panini press) and the bag in a large colander, I get another 1 to 3 cups of wort. As others have said, I'm not chasing efficiency, I work on getting the right number and volume in the mash so that I have the right pre-boil gravity without undo gyration.
 

cegan09

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It definitely helps me. I had a lot of issues hitting my numbers with no sparge. I starting hitting them reliably once I went to a rinse method. It also helps deal with larger beers since I only have an 8.5gallon kettle. For large beers I'll keep back between 1-2.5 gallons so that the mash will fit in the kettle, then pull the bag and rise with the withheld heated water. Means I can do 5 gallon batches of some really big beers (1.1+ OG) with my limited equipment.
 

csurowiec

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I mash almost every batch in 20 qts of water. When it is done the mash I lift the bag and let it drain 30 seconds then put it in a bucket. I pour 10 qts of water into the bucket over the grain and stir it every couple minutes for 10-15 minutes. Pull the bag from the bucket and let it drain a minute or so then give it a good hard squeeze. I add the bucket contents to the kettle and its straight to the boil. 80+% efficiency is typical for me on a grain bill that would yield a 1.050-1.060 SG and I have hit 90%.
Is it more work? Yes.
Do I have more clean up? Yes, 1 bucket.
Is it worth it? Good question. You could compare my time and effort spent to an extra dollar of grain and say no but for me it's about consistency. This is how I do it, it works for me, so this is how I continue to do it.
 

doug293cz

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In my experience, no. I have sparged on occasion. The sqeezin's from the sparge may be a point higher than the larger volume of wort, but when I add (let's say a gallon) of 1046 wort to (let's say 6 gallons) of wort in the kettle at 1045, the combined wort is still 1045...
Not sure what you're doing, but it is not sparging! Sparging is adding plain water to the mash after (or while) draining the first runnings. The fresh water dilutes the wort, so sparged wort is always lower SG than the initial runnings. When you don't do a full volume mash, your initial runnings SG is higher than for a full volume mash, and your sparge runnings are significantly lower SG. However, the pre-boil SG (for equal pre-boil volumes, and equal squeezing and drain times) of a sparged mash will be higher than the pre-boil SG of a full volume mash, unless you make a real mess of the sparge process.

Brew on :mug:
 
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Yer right Doug. My bad. I was thinking squeezing the bag rather than sparging. My basic experience still holds, neither gets me a lot more in volume or points. Just my experience.
 

doug293cz

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Yer right Doug. My bad. I was thinking squeezing the bag rather than sparging. My basic experience still holds, neither gets me a lot more in volume or points. Just my experience.
The squeezed wort should not be a significantly higher SG than the initially drained wort, unless the mash was not stirred prior to bag pull, or the conversion was incomplete when the bag was initially pulled. But, squeezing does get you more sugar from the same amount of grain, so higher efficiency. Think about it. If you start with the same volume of strike water, to get the same pre-boil volume without squeezing. you would have to add water to the BK, thus diluting the wort, and lowering SG. If you add the extra water to the strike volume to get the same pre-boil volume, then the initial wort will be more dilute, and thus lower SG. Squeezing effectively lowers the grain absorption rate. The chart in my previous post shows how absorption rate affects lauter efficiency.

Brew on :mug:
 
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Exactly - sqeezed wort not significantly higher - that has been my experience. But again I took the thread off course getting squeezing and sparging mixed - sorry guys.
 

StephanHaus

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Like the others have stated, I believe that sparring rinses the rest of the sugars coating the malts, thus resulting in higher efficiencies. By this logic, I believe that sparging should always result in higher efficiencies than if you weren't to spare. That being said, sparging a biab kind of seems counter-intuitive because the whole point of biab is simplicity and reduction of space compared to all grain.
 

doug293cz

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Like the others have stated, I believe that sparring rinses the rest of the sugars coating the malts, thus resulting in higher efficiencies. By this logic, I believe that sparging should always result in higher efficiencies than if you weren't to spare. That being said, sparging a biab kind of seems counter-intuitive because the whole point of biab is simplicity and reduction of space compared to all grain.
The fact that sparging increases efficiency does not answer the question of whether any particular BIAB'er should or shouldn't sparge (but it does answer the OP's original question.) That answer depends on what's important to the brewer. If they value simplicity highly, then they can get perfectly acceptable efficiency without sparging. If they would rather they get everything they can out of each pound of grain, then sparging can help them do that. In either case, what's more important than efficiency is consistency, as that is what allows you to have predictability from recipe to fermenter.

With that said, for most brewers suffering from low efficiency (less than 70% for normal gravity beers), the primary cause is too coarse a crush, and incomplete starch to sugar conversion (because of the coarse crush) in the time allotted for the mash. That is where most brewers need to focus to improve their efficiency.

Brew on :mug:
 

OddBrew

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That being said, sparging a biab kind of seems counter-intuitive because the whole point of biab is simplicity and reduction of space compared to all grain.
I'm relatively new here, but I respectively disagree with this mentality. I believe that biab is just one method of brewing. How you use it in conjunction with or without all the other brewing processes (squeezing, sparging, step mashes, etc) is each brewers own prerogative. While biab can be simple, I don't think it's point is to be simple.

I enjoy threads like this because they weigh the pros and cons of the various methods. Ultimately I think each brewer should find a process that works for them, is consistent and reliable, and most importantly keeps brewing fun.

Cheers!
 

McKnuckle

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Brewer's often call BIAB a "method" which implies that it's fundamentally different from traditional techniques. The bag is just a way to separate liquid from grain after mashing. Just like the manifold or false bottom in a mash tun. In a traditional tun, you drain the liquid and leave the grain behind. With a bag, you remove the grain and leave the liquid behind. It's an opposite but equivalent procedure.

You can mash with full volume using either procedure, but for whatever reason, that became the common practice for BIAB, which may be why it's perceived as different. All we're talking about here, though, is using a bag but NOT mashing with full volume. You can literally sparge (or not sparge) any way you like, bag or no bag. Fly, batch, pour, or dunk - it all works. Some are easier to accomplish given the varied equipment we all employ, hence the topic will never be resolved and frankly - "it's all good."
 

wilserbrewer

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Everyone's situation is a bit different. I buy grain in bulk and typically have a few sacks in the pantry. For me a pound of grain is not really important compared to ease of process.

If I were buying pre made recipe kits, and all I had was 10 lbs of grain to make a batch, perhaps I would be more cautious and want to sparge and squeeze all the fermentables out of it!!!

FWIW I typically do a small pour over sparge while the bag hangs on a ratchet pulley over the kettle. While this helps efficiency a bit, what is important to me is that this is very easy, and it is also a simple way to accurately hit preboil volume as you simply keep sparging until PB volume is reached. This removes needing to crunch numbers doing water volume calculations. Basically I eyeball my strike water volume in the kettle usually using approx my preboil volume, after the mash and removing the bag I hone in on my volume while sparging up to preboil volume. So my sparge volume replaces wort lost to grain absorption. Very simple yet effective with just a mark on my mash paddle for preboil volume and post boil volume.

My goal is to hone my process to be as easy as possible yet still effective.

I think Denny said something like "the least work possible, the most fun possible for the best beer possible. "

Find a combination of the above that works well for you :)

RDWHAHB
Wilser
 

dmtaylor

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For the record, I agree with others that brewing should be fun and easy, and if it's becoming work (as homebrewers) then you've gone too far. Do whatever makes you happy.

Also, I for one no longer chase efficiency. After achieving the ultimate average 92% efficiency, I thought I might be missing out on something so I opened the gap on the mill and now average 82%. Runoffs and sparges are easier this way as well, and, since I'm only brewing 1.7-2 gallons on average, it's like easy-peasy with BIAB -- mash, pull bag, sparge if desired (optional), and roll.
 
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TomVA

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I am new to brewing and still experimenting with brewing variables to learn their effects on the finished beer. Therefore I am making small all-grain batches, 1.5 - 2.5 gallons, and doing two batches in the same day (once even simultaneously with just one hour lag!). Time and effort efficiency is more important to me than Brewhouse efficiency, so I try to simplify the process with BIAB.

Sparging involves heating another pot of water, managing it to a specific temperature, and pouring slowly over the grains while the bag is held over the mash pot - time consuming and potentially messy. I am getting a consistent 76-78% efficiency so far with a full water mash followed by simple bag draining and squeezing. My self designed beers have been coming out great and I am learning a lot about my tastes and how to achieve them. This site is priceless to my learning process and I am grateful to all who contribute!

TomVA
 

McKnuckle

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Sparging involves heating another pot of water, managing it to a specific temperature, and pouring slowly over the grains while the bag is held over the mash pot - time consuming and potentially messy.
As you've noticed, you don't need to sparge at all. But if you want, try this instead:

Heat the water in that second pot to somewhere in the range of 160-170F, but not at all precise. It doesn't even have to be any specific temp, actually, as long as it's not near boiling or ice cold! Drain the bag over the mash pot until it slows to a very thin stream, then dunk it in the second pot. Loosen the bag around the second pot's rim, and stir the grains for a minute. Then pick up the bag and drain it again into either pot.

When finished, set the bag of grain aside, and combine the water from both pots - either in one of the pots, or in a separate kettle, whatever is required from a boil volume perspective.
 

TorMag

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As you've noticed, you don't need to sparge at all. But if you want, try this instead:

Heat the water in that second pot to somewhere in the range of 160-170F, but not at all precise. It doesn't even have to be any specific temp, actually, as long as it's not near boiling or ice cold! Drain the bag over the mash pot until it slows to a very thin stream, then dunk it in the second pot. Loosen the bag around the second pot's rim, and stir the grains for a minute. Then pick up the bag and drain it again into either pot.

When finished, set the bag of grain aside, and combine the water from both pots - either in one of the pots, or in a separate kettle, whatever is required from a boil volume perspective.
+1 on the dunk sparge. Very easy. I did my first 10 gallon batch two weeks ago. It took me to the limits of my kettle, so I decided to do a dunk sparge as I have other kettles and burners. I held back 4 gallons of water and did a dunk. I let the bag hang and drain over my first kettle, moved it over to the second, opened the bag back up, put it over the edge of the kettle and stirred for a few minutes, then pulled the bag, let it only drain for a couple of minutes and topped off the original kettle to my preboil volume. This was the first time I hit all my numbers.

That being said, I am not chasing the numbers, I am chasing good tasting beer.
 

pricelessbrewing

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I'm relatively new here, but I respectively disagree with this mentality. I believe that biab is just one method of brewing. How you use it in conjunction with or without all the other brewing processes (squeezing, sparging, step mashes, etc) is each brewers own prerogative. While biab can be simple, I don't think it's point is to be simple.

I enjoy threads like this because they weigh the pros and cons of the various methods. Ultimately I think each brewer should find a process that works for them, is consistent and reliable, and most importantly keeps brewing fun.

Cheers!
I completely agree. I view BIAB as just another mash filtering method, as it's completely compatible with any other brewing method. Biab does not necessity no sparge, biab is equipment, no sparge is process.
 
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