Author Topic: How many people "brew in a bag" and their thoughts?  (Read 6037 times)

Offline brewmonk

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How many people "brew in a bag" and their thoughts?
« on: October 01, 2011, 12:15:13 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?
Br. Francis
Birra Nursia

Offline dmtaylor

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Re: How many people "brew in a bag" and their thoughts?
« Reply #1 on: October 01, 2011, 06:44:02 AM »
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.
Dave

"This is grain, which any fool can eat, but for which the Lord intended a more divine means of consumption. Let us give praise to our Maker, and glory to His bounty, by learning about... BEER!" - Friar Tuck (Robin Hood - Prince of Thieves)

Offline skyler

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Re: How many people "brew in a bag" and their thoughts?
« Reply #2 on: October 01, 2011, 08:12:53 AM »
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).

Offline denny

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Re: How many people "brew in a bag" and their thoughts?
« Reply #3 on: October 01, 2011, 08:53:06 AM »
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...
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Offline dmtaylor

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Re: How many people "brew in a bag" and their thoughts?
« Reply #4 on: October 01, 2011, 09:08:39 AM »
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
Dave

"This is grain, which any fool can eat, but for which the Lord intended a more divine means of consumption. Let us give praise to our Maker, and glory to His bounty, by learning about... BEER!" - Friar Tuck (Robin Hood - Prince of Thieves)

Offline denny

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Re: How many people "brew in a bag" and their thoughts?
« Reply #5 on: October 01, 2011, 09:19:15 AM »
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!
Life begins at 60.....1.060, that is!

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Offline brewmonk

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Re: How many people "brew in a bag" and their thoughts?
« Reply #6 on: October 01, 2011, 10:41:13 PM »

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
Br. Francis
Birra Nursia

Offline tomsawyer

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Re: How many people "brew in a bag" and their thoughts?
« Reply #7 on: October 03, 2011, 07:26:36 AM »
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.
Lennie
Hannibal, MO

Offline Will's Swill

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Re: How many people "brew in a bag" and their thoughts?
« Reply #8 on: October 03, 2011, 07:33:15 AM »
mmmmmmmmmm.........  Dirty Underwear Lager    :o
Is that a counter-pressure bottle filler in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me?

Offline tomsawyer

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Re: How many people "brew in a bag" and their thoughts?
« Reply #9 on: October 03, 2011, 10:25:48 AM »
mmmmmmmmmm.........  Dirty Underwear Lager    :o

Nut brown ale.
« Last Edit: October 04, 2011, 05:12:55 AM by tomsawyer »
Lennie
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Offline DaveR

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Re: How many people "brew in a bag" and their thoughts?
« Reply #10 on: October 03, 2011, 12:20:42 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.   

Offline beerrat

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Re: How many people "brew in a bag" and their thoughts?
« Reply #11 on: October 03, 2011, 12:41:28 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.

Offline DaveR

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Re: How many people "brew in a bag" and their thoughts?
« Reply #12 on: October 04, 2011, 06:39:28 AM »
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.   

Offline scott

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Re: How many people "brew in a bag" and their thoughts?
« Reply #13 on: October 04, 2011, 07:35:42 AM »
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.
Scott

Offline weithman5

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Re: How many people "brew in a bag" and their thoughts?
« Reply #14 on: October 04, 2011, 10:18:37 AM »
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.
Don AHA member