Author Topic: BIAB advice  (Read 2315 times)

Offline flbrewer

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BIAB advice
« on: January 22, 2014, 09:52:59 AM »
Planning my next brew and I would like to have a go at BIAB. Any advice on the below would be appreciated!
-Is the main advantage over extract the ability to use base malts?
-it seems I only need a large bag outside of my existing equipment (10 gallon brew kettle). Can anyone recommend the preferred bag?
-is there a chance that I'll get low efficiency and the extract process would have been better in this arena?


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Offline Steve in TX

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Re: BIAB advice
« Reply #1 on: January 22, 2014, 10:30:01 AM »
-Is the main advantage over extract the ability to use base malts?
Yes, and you can also use unmalted grains like flaked oats and flaked corn. Also, you are able to control the fermentablilty of the wort with a much greater degree than you can with extract.

-it seems I only need a large bag outside of my existing equipment (10 gallon brew kettle). Can anyone recommend the preferred bag?
Paint strainer bags seem to be well received, your LHBS should also sell large bags suitable for BIAB

-is there a chance that I'll get low efficiency and the extract process would have been better in this arena?
In the one stove top BIAB I have done, I got 60% mash efficiency. My normal Denny-tun process gets me around 75%. I have heard as low as 50% from others.

Extract is expensive and that expense was the main reason why I switched to all-grain. Two batches of big beers pays for the investment in the equipment, depending on how elaborate you get.

Offline Joe Sr.

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Re: BIAB advice
« Reply #2 on: January 22, 2014, 11:05:49 AM »
[/b]Paint strainer bags seem to be well received, your LHBS should also sell large bags suitable for BIAB

IME, paint strainer bags can comfortable hold about 6 lbs of grain.  If you go for much more, you'll be packing the bag too tightly to get the grains mashed.  I've found that these are a good size for a partial mash, using DME to hit the expected FG.  If you're looking to do a full all-grain mash I would recommend getting a larger bag.

I agree that the main advantage is increased control over the wort.  You can get part way there with a partial mash (or mini-mash if you prefer) which will also allow you to use flaked oats, corn, whatever but a full mash would give you greater control.
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Offline denny

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Re: BIAB advice
« Reply #3 on: January 22, 2014, 11:12:02 AM »
My experience is that BIAB works for (much) less than 10 lb. of grain.  More than that and you have to start using special equipment that negates the easiness of the method.
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Offline bdrinkrow

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Re: BIAB advice
« Reply #4 on: January 22, 2014, 11:26:44 AM »
-Is the main advantage over extract the ability to use base malts?

This and you have total control over your recipe.  You can successfully make a beer with an SRM of 3, which I understand you can't do with extract.  I only made 2 extract batches, and went to BIAB, but the two extract batches I made had such pronounced maillard reactions since you're really using pre cooked wort and then cooking it again..  The colors were always way darker than what any program said, or what I expected..

being able to adjust your mash temp is probably the biggest though, although now you have to look at your water and ph more carefully.

-it seems I only need a large bag outside of my existing equipment (10 gallon brew kettle). Can anyone recommend the preferred bag?

I ordered one from a site called BIAB tailor and it works great, except I hate how the drawstring is made.  But, he will make it to fit your kettle and I'm just going to fix how the drawstring is fixed myself.  http://biabbags.webs.com/

-is there a chance that I'll get low efficiency and the extract process would have been better in this arena?

My mash efficiency is 82%, brewhouse 70%.  You'll have a little learning curve getting used to your equipment at first.  You volumes will be off, gravities, etc.  After a few batches you should be able to get your equipment profile dialed in in a program like Beersmith and soon your numbers will be right on.  I would advise either grinding your grain smaller or having you local shop grind it twice, which is what I do right now.  I also don't do full volume mashes, I scale it down so my ph is lower and reserve the water to 'dunk sparge' with.  Lastly, you'll get more proteins in your kettle with BIAB, so keep that in mind if you do a big beer.  You might need to add a .5 gallon of pre boil volume for big beers, or maybe filter between the kettle and fermenter with something like a hop rocket or other device.  My first beer with a 14.5 lb grain bill made a big mess trying to get it in the fermenter...  Last advice, figure out a way to insulate your kettle.  I have insulation I put on while mashing and take off during the boil.  I don't have a false bottom and turn the heat off when mashing and I have maybe a 2degree loss over an hour, 3 for 90.

Even with that, it still takes less time to set up, to brew, and less to clean up compared to standard all grain without question.  You should have most or all of your gear cleaned up and ready to go while the mash and boil are going.

Double crushing or a finer crush, plus the dunk sparge makes a big difference in efficiency.

You'll figure out your own way to do it and it's different for everyone.  and yeah, extract is good to get your feet wet, but it's cost prohibitive when you look at grain cost, plus it's less flexible.  I do it because it was a way to get into all grain without dropping another 500 bucks on a mash tun, HLT, burner.  I just made a hot stick and do it all on my stovetop and the beer is great.  Adjusting water and mashing in partial volumes made a big difference. Plus, like yesterday when it was 5 degrees outside, I was brewing an IIPA and watching some college hoops while mashing.

That's my advice.  I only brew BIAB now.  Do it, you'll wonder why you hadn't done it sooner.

edit:  I also have a 10 gallon kettle.  with how I mash and dunk sparge I do big beers with no problem at all.  I dunk sparge in a hot water canning kettle I have.  You grain bag will be wider than you think with a ten gallon kettle.  You might do it in a cooler too, but those are a pain to clean and are too big, at least the ones I have.
« Last Edit: January 22, 2014, 11:29:29 AM by bdrinkrow »
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Offline erockrph

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Re: BIAB advice
« Reply #5 on: January 22, 2014, 12:54:15 PM »
The main advantage of any all-grain technique is that you get to control every aspect of the wort production process. You get to pick all the grains; you can adjust the brewing water to your liking; you can select mash temperatures, schedules and techniques; etc. With extract brewing, someone does the majority of that for you.

For a 10-gallon kettle you will want a bag that can handle the amount of grain that you will need. I got a custom bag from http://bagbrewer.com, and it was a great investment for me. The fine-mesh grain bags I got from NB or my LHBS were a tight fit as it is in my 5-gallon cooler, and they would rip if you squeezed too hard. I think for large batches you'd need a way to hoist the wet bag out of your kettle, since it gets heavy fast.

I get around 80% brewhouse efficiency with my setup, but that is because I'm only brewing 3-gallon batches and it's easy to squeeze everything out of my grain bag. I don't have experience brewing bigger batches using BIAB, but I'd be seriously tempted to step up to a cooler/batch sparge setup if I was going to be brewing 5-10 gallon batches on a regular basis.
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Offline scottNU

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Re: BIAB advice
« Reply #6 on: January 22, 2014, 12:59:58 PM »
Lastly, you'll get more proteins in your kettle with BIAB, so keep that in mind if you do a big beer.  You might need to add a .5 gallon of pre boil volume for big beers, or maybe filter between the kettle and fermenter with something like a hop rocket or other device.  My first beer with a 14.5 lb grain bill made a big mess trying to get it in the fermenter... 

A good point on more trub in the kettle and something that surprised me with my early BIAB batches.

Offline bdrinkrow

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Re: BIAB advice
« Reply #7 on: January 22, 2014, 01:05:21 PM »
See, those bags he showed I like much better than mine.  Mine has like a 5 inch collar that the drawstring goes into so it's hard to get it around the kettle and tight.  With that bag, I could just fold it over and wrap it around the handle.

The last IIPA I did was 14.5 lb's of grain and it absorbed a little over a gallon I think?  So, if you can lift 23 lbs out of the pot and high enough for someone to stick a strainer under, it's fine.  Mine is stovetop, so it's  a high lift.  I'm planning to push the limits of my system with an RiS and an 18 lb grain bill, but I need to improve how I filter post kettle first.
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Offline Joe Sr.

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Re: BIAB advice
« Reply #8 on: January 22, 2014, 01:23:22 PM »
Could you not split the mash into two separate pots?  I suppose you might be collecting more wort that way, but it seems that it might help to manage brewing bigger styles using BIAB as far as the weight of the bag of grain goes.
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Offline denny

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Re: BIAB advice
« Reply #9 on: January 22, 2014, 01:50:40 PM »
Could you not split the mash into two separate pots?  I suppose you might be collecting more wort that way, but it seems that it might help to manage brewing bigger styles using BIAB as far as the weight of the bag of grain goes.

At what point does the "ease" of BIAB stop being easy?  2 pots, a lift for the bag...a lot of the stuff I see people doing for "easy" BIAB is more work than using a mash tun.
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Offline Joe Sr.

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Re: BIAB advice
« Reply #10 on: January 22, 2014, 01:58:33 PM »
At what point does the "ease" of BIAB stop being easy?  2 pots, a lift for the bag...a lot of the stuff I see people doing for "easy" BIAB is more work than using a mash tun.

I don't disagree with you and I'm was just sort of thinking out loud, as it were.

But if I was set on doing BIAB for a large beer, I'd split the mash before I'd rig up some sort of hoist. The whole hoist thing just seems like too much. 

A little extra time boiling and one extra pot to clean seems like a lot less work than a hoist and maybe you're in the same place you'd be with cleaning a mash tun and a pot. 
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Offline bdrinkrow

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Re: BIAB advice
« Reply #11 on: January 22, 2014, 02:21:16 PM »
I do it because it's significantly cheaper than buying a mash tun, HLT, and a burner or 240 volt setup.  That is not only more expensive but there is definitely a longer cleanup time with a mash tun with a false bottom, full of spent grain as compared to a bag you turn inside out and rinse off.

I lift the bag and dump it out back for the deer, easy as can be.  Also, it's faster since I'm not waiting for the sparge and with that in mind, I have less water to treat and dilute since my water is so hard.  Oh and, you can never have a stuck sparge.

It's still easier and faster hands down for me, plus significantly less cost to get into.  But, I'm a big believer in doing what works best for you.  If I had standard all grain setup I wouldn't have gotten into it, I'm sure.

If you have a ten gallon kettle and dunk sparge there is no need to split the mash.  By time you split the mash, if you did want to dunk sparge or something like that you now have twice the work.

I guess everyone's different, but lifting a bag full of 14.5 lbs of grain was not at all difficult.  For a ten gallon batch, that would be a different story. 
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Offline morticaixavier

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Re: BIAB advice
« Reply #12 on: January 22, 2014, 02:34:27 PM »
I do it because it's significantly cheaper than buying a mash tun, HLT, and a burner or 240 volt setup.  That is not only more expensive but there is definitely a longer cleanup time with a mash tun with a false bottom, full of spent grain as compared to a bag you turn inside out and rinse off.

I lift the bag and dump it out back for the deer, easy as can be.  Also, it's faster since I'm not waiting for the sparge and with that in mind, I have less water to treat and dilute since my water is so hard.  Oh and, you can never have a stuck sparge.

It's still easier and faster hands down for me, plus significantly less cost to get into.  But, I'm a big believer in doing what works best for you.  If I had standard all grain setup I wouldn't have gotten into it, I'm sure.

If you have a ten gallon kettle and dunk sparge there is no need to split the mash.  By time you split the mash, if you did want to dunk sparge or something like that you now have twice the work.

I guess everyone's different, but lifting a bag full of 14.5 lbs of grain was not at all difficult.  For a ten gallon batch, that would be a different story.

I paid ~35 bucks for my coleman cooler, another 8 for the water supply braid, 4 bucks for some vinyl tubing. I tip my tun and scoop the spent grain into a bucket which lives near the chicken coop and is slowly emptied into it. If I get a stuck sparge I just stir it up and start the runoff again. run off takes about 10 minutes and I don't have to squeeze a hot grain bag. While the first runnings are coming to a boil I run off the second runnings (assuming I'm sparging at all).

I started AG with sort of BIAB because I had a bottling bucket and a grain bag and I figured it would work as a mashtun if I wrapped everything in blankets to hold the heat and it did but man was I glad to get a bigger mashtun. particularly when I'm doing a big 20 lb recipe or a partigyle.

So, maybe 14.5 lbs and associated absorbed water is easy for you to lift but how about 20 lbs of grain and associated water? and can you do partigyle?

Burner is beside the point. there is nothing magical about BIAB that means you don't need to boil the full volume is there?

I think that BIAB is a great way to get into AG brewing for really minimal investment, a great way to brew small batch AG beers, and a great way to get comfortable with brewing all grain. I think that batch sparging in a cheap-and-easy type system is just as easy, more flexible, and only slightly more expensive up front.
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Offline HoosierBrew

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Re: BIAB advice
« Reply #13 on: January 22, 2014, 02:43:14 PM »
I do it because it's significantly cheaper than buying a mash tun, HLT, and a burner or 240 volt setup.  That is not only more expensive but there is definitely a longer cleanup time with a mash tun with a false bottom, full of spent grain as compared to a bag you turn inside out and rinse off.

I lift the bag and dump it out back for the deer, easy as can be.  Also, it's faster since I'm not waiting for the sparge and with that in mind, I have less water to treat and dilute since my water is so hard.  Oh and, you can never have a stuck sparge.

It's still easier and faster hands down for me, plus significantly less cost to get into.  But, I'm a big believer in doing what works best for you.  If I had standard all grain setup I wouldn't have gotten into it, I'm sure.

If you have a ten gallon kettle and dunk sparge there is no need to split the mash.  By time you split the mash, if you did want to dunk sparge or something like that you now have twice the work.

I guess everyone's different, but lifting a bag full of 14.5 lbs of grain was not at all difficult.  For a ten gallon batch, that would be a different story.


I paid ~35 bucks for my coleman cooler, another 8 for the water supply braid, 4 bucks for some vinyl tubing. I tip my tun and scoop the spent grain into a bucket which lives near the chicken coop and is slowly emptied into it. If I get a stuck sparge I just stir it up and start the runoff again. run off takes about 10 minutes and I don't have to squeeze a hot grain bag.  I think that batch sparging in a cheap-and-easy type system is just as easy, more flexible, and only slightly more expensive up front.


+1.  Totally agree.
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Offline bdrinkrow

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Re: BIAB advice
« Reply #14 on: January 22, 2014, 03:56:28 PM »
I do it because it's significantly cheaper than buying a mash tun, HLT, and a burner or 240 volt setup.  That is not only more expensive but there is definitely a longer cleanup time with a mash tun with a false bottom, full of spent grain as compared to a bag you turn inside out and rinse off.

I lift the bag and dump it out back for the deer, easy as can be.  Also, it's faster since I'm not waiting for the sparge and with that in mind, I have less water to treat and dilute since my water is so hard.  Oh and, you can never have a stuck sparge.

It's still easier and faster hands down for me, plus significantly less cost to get into.  But, I'm a big believer in doing what works best for you.  If I had standard all grain setup I wouldn't have gotten into it, I'm sure.

If you have a ten gallon kettle and dunk sparge there is no need to split the mash.  By time you split the mash, if you did want to dunk sparge or something like that you now have twice the work.

I guess everyone's different, but lifting a bag full of 14.5 lbs of grain was not at all difficult.  For a ten gallon batch, that would be a different story.

I paid ~35 bucks for my coleman cooler, another 8 for the water supply braid, 4 bucks for some vinyl tubing. I tip my tun and scoop the spent grain into a bucket which lives near the chicken coop and is slowly emptied into it. If I get a stuck sparge I just stir it up and start the runoff again. run off takes about 10 minutes and I don't have to squeeze a hot grain bag. While the first runnings are coming to a boil I run off the second runnings (assuming I'm sparging at all).

I started AG with sort of BIAB because I had a bottling bucket and a grain bag and I figured it would work as a mashtun if I wrapped everything in blankets to hold the heat and it did but man was I glad to get a bigger mashtun. particularly when I'm doing a big 20 lb recipe or a partigyle.

So, maybe 14.5 lbs and associated absorbed water is easy for you to lift but how about 20 lbs of grain and associated water? and can you do partigyle?

Burner is beside the point. there is nothing magical about BIAB that means you don't need to boil the full volume is there?

I think that BIAB is a great way to get into AG brewing for really minimal investment, a great way to brew small batch AG beers, and a great way to get comfortable with brewing all grain. I think that batch sparging in a cheap-and-easy type system is just as easy, more flexible, and only slightly more expensive up front.

I get you can make things at home cheaper, but that's not really what I was comparing. I could've stitched my bag too, but since we are comparing buying the bag the alternative is buying a mash tun.  I've seen mash tuns like yours and thought about that, but for me brewing on my stovetop it was less appealing.  Without an extra burner to make a gravity system or buy a pump I'd have to stand there and sparge by hand and I'd still have to buy another kettle big enough to heat and hold my hot liquor.  I guess I could use multiple pots and sparge by hand, but it's just more work.

A 20 lb bag would absorb maybe 2 gallons of water, so 36 lbs.  Yeah, I've got that by hand, no problem.  Like I said others may not and that certainly would take away from the ease of my system.  Without a doubt..  If I had to rig some kind of pulley system it would pretty much eliminate me working in my kitchen.  At that point, I wouldn't have stuck with it.  Where I live it's just too damn cold to be brewing outside most of the winter and I hate dealing with propane tank refills and keeping an extra.  My electricity bill really doesn't change much by brewing inside.

I was more trying to give the OP the advice he asked for and some additional advice based on my BIAB experiences.  It's also important for him to keep in mind that no matter what system you use, the vast majority of people will debate their system is better and won't acknowledge the merits of your system.  This is amplified with BIAB.  It seems to be polarizing for some reason.  There are people who are open minded to it but many more who say nay, regardless of the points you make. 

I really don't think you can debate that it is cheaper to get into AG, that it is a faster brew day and cleanup, and that it still provides you with plenty of flexibility as long as you can lift the weight of your grain bag.  My brew days for 60 minute boils and mashes take me from turning on the stove to pitching yeast 3.5 hours.  half hour to heat mash water, hour to mash, half hour to dunk sparge and come to boil, hour boil, half hour cooldown.  All I have to clean afterwards is my brew kettle, hot stick, spoon, a short section of 1/2" tubing, Immersion chiller, and dump and clean my pond pump and cooler set up.  Cleanup could take a half hour if I wanted it too. 

It works for me and if the OP doesn't have stuff for AG, it will work for him too.  Especially since he has the 10 gallon kettle already.  You'll pay for the bag with the first two beers you do.  I'd recommend doing lighter ones since you'll love the color you couldn't get with extract and get to figure out your system with a smaller bill.  You'll be impressed at the difference of the beer over extract.  I would wager the difference will be so stark that even if you decide BIAB isn't for you, you will decide you want to do AG over extract badly enough to buy the stuff for a more traditional method of AG brewing.

Oh and.. quit hating on us BIAB'ers!!!
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