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.