Author Topic: BIAB. Please share ideas, pros/cons, methods.  (Read 4084 times)

Offline Philbrew

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BIAB. Please share ideas, pros/cons, methods.
« on: November 02, 2015, 03:44:02 PM »
I started a thread looking for boil kettle suggestions and mentioned that I was thinking about going to BIAB.  From some of the comments I realized that I needed to learn a lot more about that mash method. 

* I do 5-6 gallon batches. (Extract and steeped grain but want to jump to all-grain)

* I rarely do beers bigger than 1.060.

* Have lots of brewing space (garage) but limited storage space.

Please share your thoughts, ideas, pros/cons, methods, where to find more info, etc.
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Offline reverseapachemaster

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Re: BIAB. Please share ideas, pros/cons, methods.
« Reply #1 on: November 02, 2015, 04:29:27 PM »
I think there is a BIAB-focused forum somewhere online that might be worth checking out.

I tried out BIAB for a while on my small batches. I had a hard time keeping stable temperatures in a pot but that likely won't be a problem for a five or six gallon batch. The biggest detraction to me was the volume of trub it produces. The bag does not create an effective filter for all the small grain particles. I didn't have clarity problems but I was losing an unacceptable amount of beer to trub. There are workarounds to that problem like letting the wort settle and racking off the trub but it still seems like you're giving up wort unnecessarily. The bag does not create an effective filter for all the small grain particles. It's not just that you are losing more wort to the trub but that to create enough wort to account for the trub means expending more hops in the boil and more electricity/fuel to boil more wort.
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Offline BrodyR

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Re: BIAB. Please share ideas, pros/cons, methods.
« Reply #2 on: November 02, 2015, 04:39:21 PM »
In my opinion BIAB is king for homebrewing with Batch Sparging right up there with it. IMO it is the perfect combination of an easy quick brew day while still having the flavor and customization of all grain.

My process evolution: Mr Beer Kits, Extract + Steeped, 3 Gallon BIAB, 5 Gallon half assed fly sparge, 5 gallon Batch Sparge, now settled in at 5 Gallon BIAB.

Pros:
1) Minimal Investment: You can buy a bag for less than $30 (check out the Brulosophers review of the brew bag, just bought one myself, bit of a discount with his code). Presumably you already have a kettle and no mash tun is needed.
2) You can produce all grain beer as tasty as a traditionally sparged batch.
3) You don't have to worry about your sparge pH
4) Less to clean. No mash tun and all.
5) You save time by not sparging.

Cons:
1) Relative to sparging: BIAB/No Sparge methods result in a bit lower efficieny (at least in my experience). But still, I'd rather use another $1 or $2 of grain to compensate and have a smoother brew day.
2) Relative to extract: You need to pay attention to things you don't need to with extract like your water and efficiency. The good news though is Brun Water is cheap, the forum is fantastic for helping you straighten out your water, and you can find decently priced pH meters. Flavor minerals are less important but at a minimum it helps to measure your mash pH and adjust it up or down with acid or baking soda. As far as efficiency goes if your batch comes out a bit stronger than predicted you can always add a bit more water to the boil or some DME if it comes under. After a few batches you should be able to make decent predictions.

There's a nice old video by Brewing TV/Northern Brewer that gives a solid overview of method:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o6WVul6IEKk

The Brew Bag website also covers some stuff like grain absorption. You will loose a few degrees during the mash if you BIAB in the kettle - 2 approaches that work for me are leaving the burner on real low and stirring periodically or mashing in a circular cooler with a bag. Some bags filter better than others - I've left the trub and had no issues but also have filtered the wort after the mash, and just recently bought a finer bag.

Offline BrodyR

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Re: BIAB. Please share ideas, pros/cons, methods.
« Reply #3 on: November 02, 2015, 04:40:46 PM »
Oh, and never having to worry about a stuck sparge is another pro. You can also crush the grain finer than usual which helps bring the efficiency back up.

Offline denny

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Re: BIAB. Please share ideas, pros/cons, methods.
« Reply #4 on: November 02, 2015, 04:55:43 PM »
I tried BIAB for 5 gal. batches and found it to be a PITA!  Just not an easy, pleasant experience with a hot, wet, heavy bag of grain.  As to the purported benefits of no stuck runoff and higher efficiency, by batch sparging on a cooler I've never had a stuck runoff in 490 batches, and my efficiency averages about 83%.  So those "benefits" are of no value to me.  I encourage you to try it and decide for yourself, like I did.  My decision was that BIAB wasn't for me, except for maybe very small batches.
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Offline pete b

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Re: BIAB. Please share ideas, pros/cons, methods.
« Reply #5 on: November 02, 2015, 05:03:45 PM »
I love BIAB for 2.5-3 gallon batches. I can come home after work and start a batch at 5:30 and be cleaned up by 8:30 and eat supper during the mash. I have good efficiency and not much more trub. My bag is very fine.

I love batch sparge for 5+ gallons.

EDIT: I would add that they are both so cheap that its no problem to get the equipment for both. Storage wise biab is obviously better but you can also store equipment in a cooler MT.
« Last Edit: November 02, 2015, 05:06:14 PM by pete b »
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Offline jimmykx250

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Re: BIAB. Please share ideas, pros/cons, methods.
« Reply #6 on: November 02, 2015, 05:33:34 PM »
In my own opinion for the minimal amount of equipment you need to buy you cant beat it. You only need a kettle and a bag. I don't experience huge temp drops while mashing sometimes I will hit the burner half way thru the mash but that's about it. Everyone likes their particular processes and maybe because I started with BIAB is why i'm here now. I am all about keep it simple, I don't like to complicate things and I think brewing is very much one of those things you can make it simple or as complicated as you want. I have my neighbor to thank for getting me into the hobby and maybe someday I will try a traditional 3 vessel system like he has. 
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Offline BrodyR

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Re: BIAB. Please share ideas, pros/cons, methods.
« Reply #7 on: November 02, 2015, 06:03:12 PM »
I tried BIAB for 5 gal. batches and found it to be a PITA!  Just not an easy, pleasant experience with a hot, wet, heavy bag of grain.  As to the purported benefits of no stuck runoff and higher efficiency, by batch sparging on a cooler I've never had a stuck runoff in 490 batches, and my efficiency averages about 83%.  So those "benefits" are of no value to me.  I encourage you to try it and decide for yourself, like I did.  My decision was that BIAB wasn't for me, except for maybe very small batches.

One big factor about wether or not it's a pain in the ass for me is gravity. I normally brew beers in the 3.5-5% abv range so I typically only use ~10lbs or so of grain, sometimes less. After the mash I lift it up and slide a strainer I bought at Ikea underneath it and let it drain out as I begin the boil. Pretty painless but if you don't have a strainer or are brewing a large gravity batch trying to wrangle all the grain can suck. In those cases where I want to try a RIS or a 2xIPA I break out the cooler and go batch sparge (which I also love).

Offline brewday

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Re: BIAB. Please share ideas, pros/cons, methods.
« Reply #8 on: November 02, 2015, 06:15:18 PM »
Nothing against BIAB, but once we start talking about an oversized kettle, a $30 bag, a big strainer, a ladder, an eye bolt in a ceiling joist, etc., are we still saying it's less equipment than batch sparging?

I use a pot and a cooler, that equals two!  Ok, sometimes I grab a bucket. 

Just sayin'.
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Offline erockrph

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Re: BIAB. Please share ideas, pros/cons, methods.
« Reply #9 on: November 02, 2015, 06:28:36 PM »
I love BIAB for 2.5-3 gallon batches. I can come home after work and start a batch at 5:30 and be cleaned up by 8:30 and eat supper during the mash. I have good efficiency and not much more trub. My bag is very fine.

I love batch sparge for 5+ gallons.

EDIT: I would add that they are both so cheap that its no problem to get the equipment for both. Storage wise biab is obviously better but you can also store equipment in a cooler MT.
I split the difference and BIAB in a cooler to hold my mash temps. I brew 3 gallon batches (ending kettle volume), and this hits the sweet spot for me. I agree that managing the wet grain would potentially become an issue in larger batches, but this system works great for my purposes.
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Offline pete b

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Re: BIAB. Please share ideas, pros/cons, methods.
« Reply #10 on: November 02, 2015, 06:32:08 PM »
I would add that when doing small batches of BIAB on the kitchen stove in winter I cook supper in the oven which vents through one of the burners and holds the temp.
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Offline curtism1234

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Re: BIAB. Please share ideas, pros/cons, methods.
« Reply #11 on: November 02, 2015, 06:49:26 PM »
BIAB is all I do, but I have not made a batch larger than 3 1/2 gallons. As others said - it's an inexpensive way to get started, takes less time, makes less of a mess, can make it in the kitchen (small batches anyway)

As far as mash temp goes, I wrap a big beach towel around the pot and secure it with clothespins. Obviously make sure the burner is off.

Offline Philbrew

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Re: BIAB. Please share ideas, pros/cons, methods.
« Reply #12 on: November 02, 2015, 09:04:28 PM »
I tried BIAB for 5 gal. batches and found it to be a PITA!  Just not an easy, pleasant experience with a hot, wet, heavy bag of grain.  As to the purported benefits of no stuck runoff and higher efficiency, by batch sparging on a cooler I've never had a stuck runoff in 490 batches, and my efficiency averages about 83%.  So those "benefits" are of no value to me.  I encourage you to try it and decide for yourself, like I did.  My decision was that BIAB wasn't for me, except for maybe very small batches.
I'm confused.  I thought that BIAB was supposed to be LOWER efficiency than batch sparge.  I assume because you don't rinse out the residual sugars in the sparge step.

As for the hot, wet, heavy bag of grain, this old sailor can rig up a block and tackle to handle that.
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Offline Philbrew

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Re: BIAB. Please share ideas, pros/cons, methods.
« Reply #13 on: November 02, 2015, 09:07:01 PM »
just recently bought a finer bag.
Thanks for the input Brody.
Where did you get your finer bag?  What is the mesh?
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Offline BrodyR

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Re: BIAB. Please share ideas, pros/cons, methods.
« Reply #14 on: November 02, 2015, 11:33:41 PM »
brewday - Yea, I get what you mean if you get carried away with rigs it seems counter productive to the cheap simple brewday goal but I haven't experienced that. I use a 10gallon kettle for 5gallon batches which is what I was already using for batch sparging. A $12 bag lasted me a good while (and honestly still would if I stitched it up, but I like the look of 'The Brew Bag' ones so I went for it) so cost is minimal. My strainer was $10 (http://www.ikea.com/us/en/catalog/products/50103755/) and only takes a quick rinse. And I don't need a pully system since I'm only lifting 10lbs of wet grains for like 15 seconds so it's no hardship.

But again, I'm not insulting batch sparging at all, I still use it sometimes and it works great! I'm just of the opinion that BIAB is a slightly easier transition into all grain, results in a slightly quicker brewday, slightly less to clean up, and you may save money since a bag + strainer tend to cost less than a converted cooler. The trade off is you loose some efficiency and have to be able to handle the grain bag or rig something up. But both methods worked awesome for me.

Philbrew - My first bag (the $12 one) I just picked up at my local homebrew shop. The one I just bought was from http://www.brewinabag.com/. And yea, BIAB seems to result in a bit lower efficiency than Batch Sparge. Denny's quote of 83% batch sparge is more than the ~70% or so I seem to get with BIAB. Another middle ground is batch sparging but using a bag to lauter instead of converting a cooler.

Some more links:
This link has an overview of the process: http://brulosophy.com/2014/04/25/brew-in-a-bag-all-grain-brewing-made-very-easy/
This link has a discount code for my bag: http://brulosophy.com/2015/06/17/brew-in-a-bag-in-a-cooler-reviewing-the-brew-bags-mlt-filter/
And, again, that northern brewery video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o6WVul6IEKk) is a great overview too.

I don't think it's been references yet but Denny has a nice write up on Batch Sparging too. (http://www.dennybrew.com/)

I would watch/read some tutorials on both and see what sounds most convenient to you. I don't think theres really a right answer, it's all preference.

« Last Edit: November 03, 2015, 12:20:47 AM by BrodyR »