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New to BIAB, Burner / Heat source questions

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Coastalbrew

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Just did my first BIAB batch on Monday. It was my first full volume boil and I attempted it on my kitchen stove. It quickly became apparent that the stove was not up to the task as it took over an hour to reach my mash temp and then again nearly an hour to reach boiling once the mash was complete. The boil was more of a rolling simmer in the end, but eventually I was able to finish the boil, cool the wort (via immersion bath) and pitch my yeast. Total time investment for the day was nearly 7 hours. EPIC!

Clearly there is some room for improvement. I am looking into options for burners or heat sources that will improve my ability to heat the water / wort quickly and easily. I have of course seen the propane burner option, which is appealing in its simplicity and cost, however I'm not wild about brewing outdoors and wonder about scorching the grains and wort with the high heat output and focus point on the kettle. For me, brewing is a winter time event and it seems like maintaining mash temp would be more of an issue in cold weather, plus environmental contamination, etc. This brings me to eBIAB options...Are there any eBIAB options that could be used with my existing equipment and would allow me to continue to brew indoors? I just bought a new kettle and don't want to turn around and replace it after only 1 batch, but I am not opposed to modifying the kettle if that would allow me to accomplish the end goal. What are the pros and cons of propane vs. eBIAB systems? What set ups, compatible with my gear, do folks recommend? If propane is the only / best option, what burner should I go with? Is there a noticeable difference between say the Blichman type burners vs the basic turkey fryer Home depot style burners (assuming similar BTU output)?

My current system is bare bones, and low tech: 42 Qt SS brew kettle and paint strainer bag. I use a separate analog thermometer that measures in 2* increments. I am planning to invest in a wort chiller to aid in the cooling time (another area where there is allot of room for improvement) Cost is definitely a factor.

Thanks!
 

probablynotnick

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I've always used propane or natural gas, so I do have that bias. **DISCLAIMER**

With that said, if your pot is decently thick or has a clad bottom you shouldn't have to worry about scorching. I started using an aluminum kettle doing single vessel BIAB, and have since added a keggle to the mix. I BIAB mash in the kettle and then transfer to the keg for boiling while the bag continues to drain in the kettle. Both are on propane burners and have never had an issue.

Propane does mean that I need to brew in a ventilated area, so in the winter I brew at the mouth of my garage with the door up about 2 feet. I place a box fan blowing out right at the door edge in front of my burner and keep a Carbon Monoxide alarm nearby. I'll close the door during the mash and wrap the kettle in an insulated blanket I made. With this setup I don't lose more than a couple degrees during the mash and have never had the alarm go off except when I test it.

There are plenty of burners on the market that work well without shelling out too much. I can boil 10 gallon batches with this guy:
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B000291GBQ/?tag=skimlinks_replacement-20

A decent thermometer is a must and is great for the kitchen too.

I'd recommend an immersion chiller as they are the easiest to clean and don't require pumps. You can make one yourself, but you need to be careful to get the right grade of copper. I made a dual coil chiller myself and didn't end up saving that much money, but YMMV. The ones from JaDeD Brewing look pretty sweet and I've always heard good things about them.

OH! ALWAYS check Craigslist and similar sources as you can often find great gear for cheap. I've scored a bunch of good stuff this way
 

wilserbrewer

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The easiest solution is to supplement your stove w an electric heat stick.

Brewhardware.com offers the hot rod heat stick that will cut your heating times considerably when used to
Supplement the stove.

A more involved approach would be to install a 240v element in your kettle w a temp controller and pump for recirculating.

How far down the rabbit hole do you want to go?
 
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Coastalbrew

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With e-systems like the hot rod and bucket heaters, is it possible to use the element to adjust mash temp? Seems like the heat from the element would melt the bag. Likewise would the heat from re-firing the propane burner do the same thing?
 

doug293cz

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With e-systems like the hot rod and bucket heaters, is it possible to use the element to adjust mash temp? Seems like the heat from the element would melt the bag. Likewise would the heat from re-firing the propane burner do the same thing?
Yes, you should have some way to keep the bag off of the bottom when gas heating, and off of the heating element if electric, if you want to heat the mash during BIAB.

Brew on :mug:
 

MaxStout

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I'm not familiar with the Hotrod, but the bucket heater has a shroud that covers the heating element. Not sure if this shroud would provide enough protection to keep from damaging the bag. I've never set the heater in a kettle with the bag in place--I'm a bit paranoid. I heat the strike water in the kettle, remove the bucket heater, then install the bag. If I need to bump up the mash temp a few degrees, I use the stove alone (at low heat) and stir to raise the temp. After the mash, remove the bag, drop the bucket heater back in and bring to a boil.
 

wilserbrewer

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You can cheat...w/ a gas burner and a bag you can apply low /medium heat and constantly stir while heating.

With a heat stick, you can heat the mash by stirring with he stick while heating.
 
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Coastalbrew

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If I go with the heat stick/bucket heater option is it worth while or necessary to get a temp control system?
 

RM-MN

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With e-systems like the hot rod and bucket heaters, is it possible to use the element to adjust mash temp?
With BIAB you can and should mill your grains really well. With the well milled grains you will have conversion before the temperature drops enough to notice. Forget the controller and forget adjusting the mash temp.
 
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Coastalbrew

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With BIAB you can and should mill your grains really well. With the well milled grains you will have conversion before the temperature drops enough to notice. Forget the controller and forget adjusting the mash temp.
In that case is the full 60 minute mash time necessary?
 

RM-MN

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In that case is the full 60 minute mash time necessary?
I don't know if the 60 minute mash time is necessary. I've been doing a 30 minute mash for the last couple years with the same brewhouse efficiency as I had with the 60 minute mash, the same attenuation, but now I have half an hour to do other thing when the beer is in the fermenter. Well, to be completely honest that isn't right because I also went to a 30 minute boil and now I have an hour more after the beer is in the fermenter.
 

LittleRiver

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...propane burner option ... I'm not wild about brewing outdoors and wonder about scorching the grains and wort with the high heat output and focus point on the kettle....maintaining mash temp would be more of an issue in cold weather, plus environmental contamination, etc.
The real question seems to be: do you want to brew indoors or outdoors?

Scorching the grains with propane is not an issue. You won't be firing the burner with the grains in the kettle unless you have a serious temperature drop, which is easily eliminated by putting some insulation over the kettle.

Don't kid yourself that environmental contamination is worse outside, it is just as possible inside your house as it is outside.

... What are the pros and cons of propane vs. eBIAB systems? What set ups, compatible with my gear, do folks recommend? If propane is the only / best option, what burner should I go with? Is there a noticeable difference between say the Blichman type burners vs the basic turkey fryer ...
One pro of propane is that it's very portable. I normally brew just inside the big dock door of my shop (with the door open), but sometimes I brew outside on the dock because there's a nice view of the valley and the mountain beyond.

The high end brewing specific propane burners will have high heat output, and distribute that heat evenly across the bottom of the kettle. Burners such as the KAB4 do basically the same thing for less money. But you don't need that to make good beer. I use an inexpensive SP10 burner, which I got ridiculously cheap on a clearance sale at Lowes. It works just fine.

But if you want/need to brew indoors, follow the good advice in this thread and get a heat stick to supplement your stove.

My current system is bare bones, and low tech: 42 Qt SS brew kettle and paint strainer bag. I use a separate analog thermometer that measures in 2* increments. I am planning to invest in a wort chiller to aid in the cooling time (another area where there is allot of room for improvement) Cost is definitely a factor...
Bare bones and low tech is good. You don't need multiple vessels, pumps, controllers, etc, to make good beer.

When you can, make or buy a brew bag of swiss voile fabric. It will do a much better job of filtering than a paint strainer. I got my bag from Wilser, it's great.

Grain crush is very important. For BIAB you can and should use a finer crush than you'll probably be able to get at your local store or through a mail order supplier. Make getting your own mill a priority. The Cereal Killer is a great value on a good mill.

You probably have the skills to make your own immersion chiller, there are plenty of resources on the net to show you how. Buy copper at a plumbing supply vendor, their prices can be 50% of what Home Depot or Lowes will charge.
 

balrog

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I second @RM-MN , in that BIAB full vol mash (A) has very large thermal mass, therefore thermal stability; and (B) with finer grind, conversion will happen before your temp drops more than a couple degrees anyway. I think folks worry way too much about having 1° stability at 60m, but you have to determine what works best for you, your system, and the outcomes desired.
 

madscientist451

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What set ups, compatible with my gear, do folks recommend?
Cost is definitely a factor.

Thanks!
If cost is a factor, keep using your kitchen stove. You already have it.
The problem is you are trying to use a 10 gallon pot. A 7.5 gallon would be better on an indoor stove.
Here are some options:
-Brew smaller batches. 3.5 gallon batches will get to temperature quicker and get boiling faster than a full 5 gallon batch
-Get a cheap 16 quart "side pot" for about $15 at Walmart. use 2 burners to heat up your water instead of 1. You can also use the side pot to help get the boil going faster and then combine everything once it gets going.
-Put the lid partially on your kettle. You can get a better boil rolling and the steam will still get out.
-Go to Walmart and get a 5 gallon cooler for about $20. Put your BIAB bag in that and you don't have to worry about temperature swings. You'll need to add a spigot.

Making wort is the easiest part of brewing. Lots of people will try to sell you on expensive, complicated brewing rigs, but all you really need is a pot, a bag and your stove. OK, a few other things make it easier and desirable, but you can get that later. Once you get wort production straightened out, spend your available cash on fermentation temperature control, look on You Tube for all kinds of cheap DIY fermentation chambers. Or go on craigslist and find a chest freezer.
Good Luck!
:mug:
 
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z-bob

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I sometimes brew outdoors with a propane burner, but usually I do it on my kitchen stove with a 1650W heat stick to provide supplemental heat. Scorching the grain (or melting the bag) is not a problem because the heat stick and the bag of grain are not in the kettle at the same time.
 
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