Welcome! I'm pretty new to brewing, myself. :-)
I started out with extract but it didn't take me long to try out BIAB (brew in a bag), which is a pretty easy way to get started with all-grain. I've had some great results with BIAB so far. I'm starting to see some limits to it, but it depends on how advanced you want to get.
There's a ton of great posts here and I've been learning a lot, myself.
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I was going to try BIAB next! I’ve got an 8gal kettle so it shouldn’t be a problem. I get my kits from Northern Brewer and I should be able to do two batches with a 5gal kit I think. Do you do any kind of sparging with BIAB or do you just top off the fermenter? Also are you buying your grains pre milled or doing it yourself? Is there any benifit or downside to either?
I BIAB exclusively. Batches are 3 gallons into the fermenter, 2.5 gallons packaged. I use an 8 gallon kettle. I full volume mash (no top-up needed), and never sparge.
I mill my own grain (on my Kitchen Aid) and will say that for consistency, milling yourself is the way to go. But it isn't a requirement. If you have your grain pre-milled, you may want to let whoever is doing it that you will be brewing in a bag. Generally, BIAB benefits from a finer grain crush.
The biggest tricks with BIAB are 1) finding the perfect grain crush and 2) getting your volumes correct. That is, knowing what your losses will be. Grain absorption, boil off, kettle losses and fermenter losses all have to factored in when determining your batch size. As a quick example, a pretty standard beer for me will require approximately 5 gallons of mash water. By the time my losses add up, I have 3 gallons into the fermenter and 2.5 gallons in the keg.
I’ve got a 3 gal Fermonster that I’m using. How do you go about calculating your volumes or is it a trial and error thing? I’ve seen people state calculations for gallons per pound of grain, but what are you doing to calculate your losses in the fermenter or is the mash volume more important?
The numbers I have settled on have come from jotting down what happens during every brew. Eventually, once I got my crush where I wanted, all the numbers kind of fell in line and became easily repeatable.
Here's a recent beer I brewed and how it all adds up:
6.5 # Grain for a 1.047 OG beer
Grain absorption = .11 gallons/lb
Boil Off Rate - .67 gallons/hour
Kettle Loss - .625 gallons
Fermenter Loss - .5 gallon
2.5 gallons packaged
+ .5 gallon Fermenter Loss (yeast, hops, whatever that gets left in the fermenter)
+ .625 gallon Kettle Loss (gunk that gets left behind in the kettle during transfer to fermenter, a completely fungible number)
+ .67 gallon boil off (assuming a lazy, 1 hour boil)
+ .715 gallon grain absorption
Total Mash water = 5.01 gallons or 5 gallons for homebrewing purposes.
Grain absorption is going to be greatly influenced by exactly how long and how hard you decide to squeeze the bag after mashing. I squeeze only enough to hit my "Pre-Boil" volume and stop there. My "Pre-Boil" volume is ALWAYS 4.3 gallons (2.5 + .5 + .625 + .67).
Which leads to another point if you are using a standard kettle: Try and find a reliable way to measure your kettle volumes. There are a lot of ways to do this, but I ended up filling my kettle to different levels and measuring with a stainless steel ruler. So as an example, my typical strike volume of 5 gallons in my kettle = 7-1/4" on the ruler. My "Pre-Boil" volume (the volume to which I squeeze the bag) of 4.3 gallons = 6-1/4".
Hope this helps. Good luck.