Homebrewers Association | AHA Forum

General Category => All Grain Brewing => Topic started by: brewmonk on October 01, 2011, 07:15:13 AM

Title: How many people "brew in a bag" and their thoughts?
Post by: brewmonk on October 01, 2011, 07:15:13 AM
So I just started reading about the "Brew in a Bag" technique" which is supposed to be a great way to step into all grain and save some time.  Aside from lifting a heavy bag full of wet grains seeming to be a PITA, is this a pretty good thing to try out?
Experiences, opinions, rants, raves?
Title: Re: How many people "brew in a bag" and their thoughts?
Post by: dmtaylor on October 01, 2011, 01:44:02 PM
BIAB (actually should be "MASH in a bag") is great.  I can't think of any easier and effective way to get into all-grain.  I use BIAB about 2/3 of the time lately, as it's super-easy with the small 2.5-gallon batch size that I've been doing.  And I know some people who've scaled it up to 10 or 15 gallons (with giant pillowcase sized bags! just get a pulley) and it's still all they ever do because it's so darn cheap easy and effective.  Sparge is optional, time & effort savings is really big, and efficiency is pretty dang nice.

The primary issue with it that I have seen, which has been experienced by my friend the 15-gallon brewer, is that all his beers are hazy/cloudy.  With my 2.5-gallon batches, I'm not seeing the same problem.  I think with the weight of such a big bag, he's squeezing something out of the grains (whether it's starch or tannin) that clouds things up, and even with clarifying agents he's having a hard time getting it all to settle out.  And this is after dozens of batches of trying.  But somehow I think with more experience, he'll get there.  And even if not, the agents causing the haze don't seem to affect the flavor at all, as he's truly one of the very best brewers I know.  And that means a *little* something coming from a fanatically picky BJCP judge like me.

If you're considering trying BIAB at all, I very highly recommend it.  I have no doubt that you will be VERY glad you tried it.
Title: Re: How many people "brew in a bag" and their thoughts?
Post by: skyler on October 01, 2011, 03:12:53 PM
This was how I did partial mashing before I stepped it up to all grain. IMO, the Denny-style cooler mash tun batch sparge system is so easy, I couldn't imagine BIAB would have any benefit over it (at least for 5-10 gal batches).
Title: Re: How many people "brew in a bag" and their thoughts?
Post by: denny on October 01, 2011, 03:53:06 PM
IMO, the Denny-style cooler mash tun batch sparge system is so easy, I couldn't imagine BIAB would have any benefit over it (at least for 5-10 gal batches).

With as much humility as I can muster, I have to agree.  Maybe for very small batches BIAB would be easier, but I think that advantage vanishes as your batch size gets bigger.  Building a hoist system for a 10 gal. batch is easier than putting together a cooler?  I dunno...
Title: Re: How many people "brew in a bag" and their thoughts?
Post by: dmtaylor on October 01, 2011, 04:08:39 PM
As far as relative advantages of each, it's six of one, half dozen of the other.

To be perfectly honest, I actually combined the two methods on my first couple all-grain batches (no I don't do this anymore).  I actually mashed in a bag in an unmodified cooler.  When it was time to drain and sparge, the bag held the grains while the wort poured out the spout of the cooler.  Pretty rad, at least I thought so.  Disadvantage was the grain tended to creep into the spout so I had to poke at it with a stick to get the wort to run faster, or it would just drip drip drip.  But, no expenditure, and really, barely any brain cells, required!  It worked (as did the blender grain mill method, for several years, but I digress).

Have I mentioned that I am THE cheapest homebrewer on the planet?!?!  Try though you might, you will not be able to defeat me in a battle of cheapness.   ;D
Title: Re: How many people "brew in a bag" and their thoughts?
Post by: denny on October 01, 2011, 04:19:15 PM
Have I mentioned that I am THE cheapest homebrewer on the planet?!?!  Try though you might, you will not be able to defeat me in a battle of cheapness.   ;D

I think I might have to concede that title to you, Dave!
Title: Re: How many people "brew in a bag" and their thoughts?
Post by: brewmonk on October 02, 2011, 05:41:13 AM

The primary issue with it that I have seen, which has been experienced by my friend the 15-gallon brewer, is that all his beers are hazy/cloudy.  With my 2.5-gallon batches, I'm not seeing the same problem.  I think with the weight of such a big bag, he's squeezing something out of the grains (whether it's starch or tannin) that clouds things up, and even with clarifying agents he's having a hard time getting it all to settle out.  And this is after dozens of batches of trying.  But somehow I think with more experience, he'll get there.  And even if not, the agents causing the haze don't seem to affect the flavor at all, as he's truly one of the very best brewers I know.  And that means a *little* something coming from a fanatically picky BJCP judge like me.

If you're considering trying BIAB at all, I very highly recommend it.  I have no doubt that you will be VERY glad you tried it.

Clarity issues are not a problem with me.  As long as it doesn't affect the flavor, I'm willing to give it a shot, and I'm far from BJCP tasting abilities.  Sounds pretty cool, now I just need to figure out how to get a bag.  Although maybe just trying a 2.5 gal batch might be a good way to start.  That way I won't break a bag or my back.  :D
Title: Re: How many people "brew in a bag" and their thoughts?
Post by: tomsawyer on October 03, 2011, 02:26:36 PM
I've tried it and decided the dennybrew braided cooler MLT was more convenient as far as hitting/keeping my mash temps, stirring, and cleanup.  I always bounce around temp-wise when I try to maintain temp in a pot on the stovetop.  NEver found that sweet spot burner setting that let me walk off and maintain 150-155F.

They are both perfectly legitimate methods though, and you'll really like the added dimension that AG brings to your hobby.  You can get several sizes of bags through an online homebrew supply, or I think the large nylon paint strainer bags at Lowes would work.  Walmart sells a laundry bag for $1 that might work but the holes are pretty large.
Title: Re: How many people "brew in a bag" and their thoughts?
Post by: Will's Swill on October 03, 2011, 02:33:15 PM
mmmmmmmmmm.........  Dirty Underwear Lager    :o
Title: Re: How many people "brew in a bag" and their thoughts?
Post by: tomsawyer on October 03, 2011, 05:25:48 PM
mmmmmmmmmm.........  Dirty Underwear Lager    :o

Nut brown ale.
Title: Re: How many people "brew in a bag" and their thoughts?
Post by: DaveR on October 03, 2011, 07:20:42 PM
So I just started reading about the "Brew in a Bag" technique" which is supposed to be a great way to step into all grain and save some time.  Aside from lifting a heavy bag full of wet grains seeming to be a PITA, is this a pretty good thing to try out?
Experiences, opinions, rants, raves?

I normally mash in a cooler. Last winter I decided to try BIAB for several 3 gallon batches that I made for a base malt comparison. My feelings match the comments made earlier. For smaller batches BIAB is great. Small for me is 3 gallons or less.

Personally I wouldn't use BAIB for bigger AG batches. Partial mash with extract would be OK. 

One thing I liked about BIAB is easy cleanup. Not that it's all that hard to clean up a cooler. But it's easier to clean out a bag.

Another thing I found is that not all bags are the same. I found one bag that is sewn into the shape of a pot -- i.e. a cylinder with a flat bottom.  I have a high quality 4 gallon NSF kettle. The bag fits in it perfectly. BIAB gives me more reason to use the smaller kettle. The bag is easy to pull out when I'm done mashing, even when I use a lot of grain and have a relatively thick mash. I've even tried sparging using a second kettle, but I didn't really find the effort worth the result.

I haven't been able to find another bag just like that one. I have other bags but it seems like they expand more when I take out the grain. It's difficult to get them out of the kettle easily without spilling water.

It's pretty easy to knock out a 3 gallon BIAB from start to finish. I've done it when I was pressed for time. I've also done it when I decided to brew at the last minute and didn't have a starter. I just pitch a WL vial or Wyeast smack pack in a 3 gallon batch of normal gravity beer.

I have several 3 gallon corny kegs. Three gallon BIAB batches are great for filling those. It's useful when I'm not totally sold on a new recipe. I won't throw out beer. I drink what I make. It's easier to work through 3 gallons of less than stellar beer than 5 gallons, or more. It hasn't happened often but I've had a few times when a 5 gallon keg hung around for way too long. The flip side is that one of my best beers ever was a 3 gallon BIAB batch and it disappeared far too quickly. 

For 5 gallon normal gravity batches I use a 5 gallon round cooler. For higher gravity or bigger batches I have a 15 gallon rectangular cooler. My coolers hardly drop in temp when mashing. A kettle with a bag will drop quite a bit. So I have to watch that more closely. That's one disadvantage to BIAB -- maintaining/controlling mash temp.
 
Again, for me it's about batch size and time. I haven't really seen where infusion mashing results in beer that's better or worse than bag mashing.   
Title: Re: How many people "brew in a bag" and their thoughts?
Post by: beerrat on October 03, 2011, 07:41:28 PM
I am a fan of brew in a bag, if you get the right bag, and it does not melt and tear when you lift out the bag.   :(

Difficult if you only had one brew pot or no other device to hold 8 gallons of wort so you could clean out the brew pot  --  which is likely if you were doing brew in a bag to save on equipment.
Title: Re: How many people "brew in a bag" and their thoughts?
Post by: DaveR on October 04, 2011, 01:39:28 PM
I'm confused about efficiency terminology. I'll just call it the actual points vs the potential points I extract from grain. I get between 75% and 80% with single infusion mashing and batch sparging. Occasionally I'll get above 80%.

With BIAB and no sparge I get between 60% and 65%. I just add some extra base malt to compensate. That obviously changes the recipe somewhat. It's no big deal for me. I often wonder what other people think on that front.   
Title: Re: How many people "brew in a bag" and their thoughts?
Post by: scott on October 04, 2011, 02:35:42 PM
I've done two BIAB small batches (2.5 gallons).  This is a great way to get into all grain without all the equipment.  I'm able to brew in the kitchen (on an electric stove no less). 

To help control the temperature of the mash, I put it into a pre-warmed oven.  Just make sure the oven is OFF.  Depending on the temp of the oven the mash will only go up or down about 5 degrees over an hour.

I think the beer I've made this way is better than my extract beer, but that may just be because of all the extra love I put into it.
Title: Re: How many people "brew in a bag" and their thoughts?
Post by: weithman5 on October 04, 2011, 05:18:37 PM
i have done several biab. i also do mostly small 1-2 gal batches. it is easy but so is the cooler. (i actually use one of my bottling buckets as a tun with hose braid.  the only problem i really have with the biab (or i agree with dave a miab) is that sometimes the inner part of the grist does not get saturated and it drops efficiency.  easy enough when you know to watch for it.
Title: Re: How many people "brew in a bag" and their thoughts?
Post by: bigchicken on October 04, 2011, 05:23:41 PM
I have done just 1 BIAB and the beer turned out great, but cloudy. I bought a bag from Northern Brewer and I had horrible luck cleaning it. Took me over a half hour to pick out the grain when I was done. I have no intention of doing another one because of it.
Title: Re: How many people "brew in a bag" and their thoughts?
Post by: weithman5 on October 04, 2011, 06:07:28 PM
i usually have tossed the bag.
Title: Re: How many people "brew in a bag" and their thoughts?
Post by: udubdawg on October 04, 2011, 07:19:54 PM
I've done several of these when the weather got ridiculous outside and enjoyed it.  I echo the "best for small batches" comments.
I didn't like the amount my temps drifted in a pot, so I used the bag in a cooler like other people, then lifted it out into the brewpot where the sort-of-batch-sparge water was waiting.  Heated the wort from the cooler in a separate pot, then added it to the brewpot after I lifted out the bag. 
It won't completely replace my standard mashing method but I can see the attraction.  Once I even did a no-sparge with the BIAB method - I was like "that's it? - I'm done?!" It feels a bit like cheating but I've enjoyed the results.  I haven't noticed any loss of clarity in my beers but I have used a very fine mesh... 

...and make sure any stitches/seams are on the outside of the bag when you fill it to minimize the grain caught in the seam.

cheers--
--Michael
Title: Re: How many people "brew in a bag" and their thoughts?
Post by: tomsawyer on October 05, 2011, 08:39:24 PM
I don't toss the bag, just turn it inside out and snap it a few times on the deck to remove as much of the grain bits as possible, then soak it in a few changes of hot water, then hang to dry.  It doesn't need to be devoid of grain bits, any more than the MLT does.
Title: Re: How many people "brew in a bag" and their thoughts?
Post by: 1vertical on October 05, 2011, 10:56:24 PM
My experience was a positive one. Not a bad method...you'll make beer!
Title: Re: How many people "brew in a bag" and their thoughts?
Post by: Simon on October 06, 2011, 12:04:45 AM

I've done several batches of BIAB over the past few years but none for quite a while - mostly because I was cramped for space while renovating the garage and the full system needed to be packed away.

The killer dislike for me was the lack of efficiency. At first I kept coming up way short on my pre-boil gravity despite the BIAB people saying they got better efficiency. Yes, I just upped the grain bill to hit the pre boil gravity but why spend the extra money when you don't need to? The difference in the grain bill price would have been about $5 or so and, after a while, that would pay for the mash tun.

So essentially I think that it's good to use this to go to all grain but it's only a baby step - you still will want to get to a mash tun in the long run to get more stable mash temps, the ability to do larger batches, maximum efficiency (I know as home brewers we shouldn't worry about efficiency but $10 is better in my wallet than anyone else's).

However if it's BIAB or extract, then go BIAB.

cheers


Title: Re: How many people "brew in a bag" and their thoughts?
Post by: tomsawyer on October 06, 2011, 07:39:25 PM

I've done several batches of BIAB over the past few years but none for quite a while - mostly because I was cramped for space while renovating the garage and the full system needed to be packed away.

The killer dislike for me was the lack of efficiency. At first I kept coming up way short on my pre-boil gravity despite the BIAB people saying they got better efficiency. Yes, I just upped the grain bill to hit the pre boil gravity but why spend the extra money when you don't need to? The difference in the grain bill price would have been about $5 or so and, after a while, that would pay for the mash tun.

So essentially I think that it's good to use this to go to all grain but it's only a baby step - you still will want to get to a mash tun in the long run to get more stable mash temps, the ability to do larger batches, maximum efficiency (I know as home brewers we shouldn't worry about efficiency but $10 is better in my wallet than anyone else's).

However if it's BIAB or extract, then go BIAB.

cheers

If you mash and sparge I don't see why the efficiency would be any different.  I thik people equae BIAB with no sparge and it is one popular way to do it, but you don't have to.
Title: Re: How many people "brew in a bag" and their thoughts?
Post by: packerduf on October 11, 2011, 08:12:10 PM
I have done three BIABs/MIABs.  The first two were 2.4 gallon batches.  The third was a 5-gal PM.  I like the fact that all you need is a brew kettle and nylon bag.  I use the 5-gal paint strainers sold at Lowes and Home Depot.  Temperature control can be challenging, as stated above, but not a huge problem.  Obviously it is more time consuming than extract brewing, so plan accordingly.  Overall, I think it's a great alternative for those who do not wish to purchase the extra equipment for all-grain brewing.