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First BIAB underway - Centennial Blonde Ale

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KookyBrewsky

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Thanks everyone for all the help with my extract batches. I’ve learned a lot and made some great beer so far. Great Lakes Pale Ale is a crowd favorite, does not taste like “extract”, patiently waiting for my American Pale Ale to finish bottle conditioning. I’ve updated my setup to be finalized at 10 gallon BIAB. I don’t think I’ll ever keg, I like to share my bottles with lots of people.

Right now I’m doing a 5.5 gallon Centennial Blonde from the recipe section here.

If you’ve any first BIAB day tips I’d love to hear them. We have a tiny house in the backyard, using a Wilser bag/pulley with a structure built onto the side, Spike+ 20 gallon kettle and a Hellfire Burner.

cheers

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wilserbrewer

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If you plan on lighting that burner with the bag in the kettle, for the love of god, please use a gentle flame and stir constantly.

while it will work either way, some prefer to attach the pulley to the bag, and the free end of the pulley rope to the lifting point. Best of all worlds is the double pulley option for $3 additional imo.
Have fun
 
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KookyBrewsky

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If you plan on lighting that burner with the bag in the kettle, for the love of god, please use a gentle flame and stir constantly.

while it will work either way, some prefer to attach the pulley to the bag, and the free end of the pulley rope to the lifting point. Best of all worlds is the double pulley option for $3 additional imo.
Have fun
I heated the water to 162 then put the bag in and poured half grains in, stirred, half grains in, stir (I was alone at the time). I’ve been stirring constantly regardless.

These pictures were from mid-mash when I felt like posting :)
 
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KookyBrewsky

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I don’t get the joke. Did I do something wrong based on my previous post? I did have to relight the flame with 20 minutes left as the temp dipped 3F below target, I stirred constantly. The bag is as pristine as when it arrived post-clean.
 

iamwhatiseem

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I don’t get the joke. Did I do something wrong based on my previous post? I did have to relight the flame with 20 minutes left as the temp dipped 3F below target, I stirred constantly. The bag is as pristine as when it arrived post-clean.
No not at all.... just funny how he reacted to the thought you might be boiling with his bag in the kettle!
 

camonick

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I don’t get the joke. Did I do something wrong based on my previous post? I did have to relight the flame with 20 minutes left as the temp dipped 3F below target, I stirred constantly. The bag is as pristine as when it arrived post-clean.
If you use an old sleeping bag, comforter, etc to insulate your kettle, you will experience minimal heat loss and the need to reheat/ stir will not be necessary. I also put an old pillow on top of my kettle before the blankets to further insulate. A loss of 2-3° in an hour mash isn’t anything to get too much heartburn over. Most of the conversion takes place early in the mash using BIAB and a fine crush.
 
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KookyBrewsky

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If you use an old sleeping bag, comforter, etc to insulate your kettle, you will experience minimal heat loss and the need to reheat/ stir will not be necessary. I also put an old pillow on top of my kettle before the blankets to further insulate. A loss of 2-3° in an hour mash isn’t anything to get too much heartburn over. Most of the conversion takes place early in the mash using BIAB and a fine crush.
Ok thanks, was pretty nervous since this was my first time. I put the strike water to 162F and it only dropped to around 159F even though I double milled it quite fine, I decided to add a little cool water to get it to 155F and let it go down from there. I will try your recommendations next time. I should be more clear, my mash dropped 3F below target, my target was around 152F but once it got to 155F I stopped adding cool water. So it was about an 8F drop.

I did a mash-out at 170F after mashing for roughly 70 minutes in the 150-155F range, then let it drain as I heated the water to a boil but I didn't squeeze the bag. Perhaps I will next time, perhaps not, I have to see how this turns out before I change anything. Hopefully everything went well and I have no infection.

OG was a bit high from the recipe at 1.045 with hydrometer temp adjustment.
 

iamwhatiseem

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If you use an old sleeping bag, comforter, etc to insulate your kettle, you will experience minimal heat loss and the need to reheat/ stir will not be necessary. I also put an old pillow on top of my kettle before the blankets to further insulate. A loss of 2-3° in an hour mash isn’t anything to get too much heartburn over. Most of the conversion takes place early in the mash using BIAB and a fine crush.
Pretty much what I do also.
I remove the pot from the burner and I have two heavy blankets I wrap around it.
I only lose a couple degrees in the hour and a half I mash.
 
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KookyBrewsky

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Pretty much what I do also.
I remove the pot from the burner and I have two heavy blankets I wrap around it.
I only lose a couple degrees in the hour and a half I mash.
I did a decent amount of research and I had seen this before but I simply forgot about it. Oh well...
 

RM-MN

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Pretty much what I do also.
I remove the pot from the burner and I have two heavy blankets I wrap around it.
I only lose a couple degrees in the hour and a half I mash.
How long does it take for your grains to complete conversion? That's the only time the temperature is critical. With well crushed grains that takes much less than 90 minutes.
 

wilserbrewer

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Ok jmo...skip the mash out. Highest cause of burnt grain and bag and ruined batch. If you want to do it, do so at your own risk, and please don’t email me about a toasted bag.

sure it can be done if your diligent in stirring and heating, but the benefits are debatable at best, and some see zero benefit w risk assumed. Ymmv
 

camonick

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Ok jmo...skip the mash out. Highest cause of burnt grain and bag and ruined batch. If you want to do it, do so at your own risk, and please don’t email me about a toasted bag.

sure it can be done if your diligent in stirring and heating, but the benefits are debatable at best, and some see zero benefit w risk assumed. Ymmv
I have never done a mash out with any of my batches. When the mash is over, I just gather the bag together, cinch it with a Prusik hitch and lift it out with my rope pulley.
 
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KookyBrewsky

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Ok jmo...skip the mash out. Highest cause of burnt grain and bag and ruined batch. If you want to do it, do so at your own risk, and please don’t email me about a toasted bag.

sure it can be done if your diligent in stirring and heating, but the benefits are debatable at best, and some see zero benefit w risk assumed. Ymmv
Alright, I won’t do it in future batches. Information is saturated. I find one source that seems respectable only to find out it’s unnecessary and possibly harmful. Chalking mash out up there with secondaries.
 

iamwhatiseem

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How long does it take for your grains to complete conversion? That's the only time the temperature is critical. With well crushed grains that takes much less than 90 minutes.
I never do less than 1:15, sometimes 1:30. Usually I go to do something else and if it is close to the 90 minutes I go ahead and start the boil.
 
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KookyBrewsky

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I never do less than 1:15, sometimes 1:30. Usually I go to do something else and if it is close to the 90 minutes I go ahead and start the boil.
I’ve read accounts on here of people raising efficiency quite a bit by adding time to their mash, so that’s what I did, albeit partly with a now unnecessary mash out.
 

LittleRiver

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...If you’ve any first BIAB day tips I’d love to hear them...
Put another pulley in your lifting system. You want the ratcheting pulley down low, where you can reach the release lever. Put a simple pulley at the top. This will also give you some mechanical advantage that you don't currently have.

If you haven't invested in a grain mill yet, make that a priority. A fine crush makes a huge difference in efficiency. A mill gap of .025" works great for me.

With finely milled grains, sparging is unnecessary for "normal" ABV brews. I only sparge if I'm shooting for an OG above 1.065, which is rare for me.

Grind your grains into a bucket. Clip the handle of the bucket to your overhead hoist so it can hold the weight while you slowly tip the bucket with one hand while stirring with the other hand.

Insulate the kettle during the mash. Don't open it to check it or stir it during the mash.

When the mash is over, raise the bag and immediately fire the heat for the boil. Let the bag drip over the kettle during the entire boil. Gravity will fully drain it. It will be lightweight and cool when it comes time to dispose of the grains. There's no need to squeeze a fully drained bag.

I like using a thermometer that has a remote probe, temperature alarms, and a timer. It's all the automation I need. The temp alarm feature frees you up from having to manually check temps. While the water is ramping up to strike temp, I weigh and grind grain. The thermometer will beep me when the water is ready. Same thing for the ramp up to boil temp, except that I'm getting my hops ready. I use the Thermoworks ChefAlarm. It does have a weakness, the probe to wire joint is not waterproof. In this post you can see how I waterproofed mine.
 
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KookyBrewsky

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Put another pulley in your lifting system. You want the ratcheting pulley down low, where you can reach the release lever. Put a simple pulley at the top. This will also give you some mechanical advantage that you don't currently have.

If you haven't invested in a grain mill yet, make that a priority. A fine crush makes a huge difference in efficiency. A mill gap of .025" works great for me.

With finely milled grains, sparging is unnecessary for "normal" ABV brews. I only sparge if I'm shooting for an OG above 1.065, which is rare for me.

Grind your grains into a bucket. Clip the handle of the bucket to your overhead hoist so it can hold the weight while you slowly tip the bucket with one hand while stirring with the other hand.

Insulate the kettle during the mash. Don't open it to check it or stir it during the mash.

When the mash is over, raise the bag and immediately fire the heat for the boil. Let the bag drip over the kettle during the entire boil. Gravity will fully drain it. It will be lightweight and cool when it comes time to dispose of the grains. There's no need to squeeze a fully drained bag.

I like using a thermometer that has a remote probe, temperature alarms, and a timer. It's all the automation I need. The temp alarm feature frees you up from having to manually check temps. While the water is ramping up to strike temp, I weigh and grind grain. The thermometer will beep me when the water is ready. Same thing for the ramp up to boil temp, except that I'm getting my hops ready. I use the Thermoworks ChefAlarm. It does have a weakness, the probe to wire joint is not waterproof. In this post you can see how I waterproofed mine.
Post first BIAB day after sleeping like a log :

The old fashioned non-electric ones work well for me and are accurate, plus it is built into the Spike+ kettle. My system requires no electricity and for the most part I plan to keep it that way even if it may not be as "useful" as an automated setup. Like an alarm "not going off" in the morning, automation has its bugs, my eyes don't besides from going blind or being too drunk to see. I just sat there drinking and listening to music anyway. I did everything I needed to do quickly while the strike water was heating up, weighed hops, got the sanitizer/buckets ready, not much to it when everything is outside in easy reach. Then I watered the raised vegetable gardens.

I have a grain mill. I double milled the night before, once at roughly 0.04 and once again at around 0.03 or a little lower. That might be why my OG was 0.005 above what the recipe had listed. I didn't squeeze the bag, I raised it and let it drain during boil as you described. The pulley was easy to use, I see no need to mess with it for right now. For my first 10 gallon batch, I will likely do what wilser said and attach the pulley onto the bag directly and pull the locking rope upwards. However the 5 seconds of utilizing the pulley was probably the easiest part of the entire brew-day.

The one thing so far I didn't do that everyone has suggested is to insulate the bag. I had quite a range of temps, 155F to 147F, also when I put the grain in the temp didn't lower very much, it's a low ABV beer but it barely 3F. I think it turned out well, next time I will insulate.

Regardless, the batch is steaming along, I've never seen the air-lock bubble so much, a complete steady stream if not a machine gun of bubbles. I'm preparing for if I need a blow-off tube, it's on standby.

Also thanks everyone, seems like a successful first BIAB to me. I highly doubt I will ever stray from BIAB and go into traditional all-grain. This process was streamlined, straightforward and cleaning was a breeze. I was able to transfer the wort right into the fermenter with the help of the Spike+ kettle butterfly valve, it provided me with less stuff to clean, actually, I probably cleaned less this BIAB brew than any of my extract brews. I hit post boil volume and there was exactly 5.75 gallons in my fermenting bucket, I hope to lose roughly .25 gallon in trub and reach 5.5 gallon mark.
 

RM-MN

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I’ve read accounts on here of people raising efficiency quite a bit by adding time to their mash, so that’s what I did, albeit partly with a now unnecessary mash out.
The mash efficiency and the time required for full conversion are closely related to the quality of the crush. With a poor crush the water can't get inside the particles of grain to gelatinize the starch which is the first step in conversion. As the crush gets poorer the time required to gelatinize the starch is longer so a longer mash compensates for a poor crush. If the conversion is not complete, heating the wort gets more activity from the alpha amylase so it can raise the OG but it produces more dextrines so your beer has more body and a higher FG.

With my grains being so well milled, conversion is incredibly quick and the mash efficiency (and brewhouse efficiency) are very high. Try another batch where you double crush again but adjust the mill even closer for the second crush this time.
 

McKnuckle

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I find one source that seems respectable only to find out it’s unnecessary and possibly harmful. Chalking mash out up there with secondaries.
Welcome to homebrewing. Heck, welcome to just about any human endeavor, rife with contradictory experiences and opinions! And who's right? Everybody! :)

Don't discard mash out quite yet. It's not a fool's errand like secondary can be. I do it every time now, but I've done many, many batches without. There is a difference in efficiency, and it's traditional in, for example, German brewing.

Now, I do electric brewing where step mashes are easy to perform. A brew bag inside a kettle on a propane burner is a different story. I can see the advice to skip mash out in your situation. I am just advocating for it as a legitimate and useful technique, not to be removed forever from your brewing repertoire at such an early stage in your exploration.

The brew day sounds great! Congrats!
 
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KookyBrewsky

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I just checked on my first BIAB (Centennial Blonde) after two weeks in fermentation... something went wrong it seems. The entire beer is extremely hazy and it has an unidentifiable and also relatively unpleasant off-smell... just when I think everything went correctly there's of course something that seems off. I'm not even sure I'd want to bottle this and drink it D:

The OG also turned out higher than expected, it's roughly 1.016 or so.
 

ChiknNutz

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Put another pulley in your lifting system. You want the ratcheting pulley down low, where you can reach the release lever. Put a simple pulley at the top. This will also give you some mechanical advantage that you don't currently have...
This does seem like a much better approach. I am not yet using BIAB, but kept thinking it to be a PITA to lift up on the rope, when pulling down or even sideways seems so much better. Do you have a pic of how yours is set up?
 
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KookyBrewsky

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pulling down or even sideways seems so much better.
If you'll notice LittleRiver's setup uses a dual pulley system. I only have one pulley as based on the picture in the first post here and in order to hoist the bag I can only pull down.
 
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