Sous-vide is the process of cooking food sealed in an airtight bag by submerging it in a bath of heated water.
The idea is that sous vide, a French technique that translates into “under vacuum,” allows food to be cooked at a precise temperature that is much lower than usual but for a longer period. When cooking steak, for example, the sous vide technique evenly cooks the meat throughout and retains moisture and aromas all without overcooking the outside.
So what does this have to do with making beer at home?
Sous Vide for Homebrewing
Sous vide requires a tool that can keep water at a precise temperature while recirculating it to make sure the temperature is even throughout the vessel holding the water. This is not much unlike automated mash tuns that are rigged to maintain precise mash temperatures.
There are lots of fancy sous vide appliances out there, but for the home cook there are affordable sous vide immersion heaters that can do the trick. Basically, it is wand-like apparatus with an electric heating element, a small propeller to circulate the water, and a temperature controller that is set by the user.
Believe it or not, the sous vide heaters can be quite useful when it comes to a homebrew mash*:
- Set the temperature of the sous vide immersion heater to the strike water temperature.
- Once the target strike temperature has been reached, mash in by adding the grains to the water.
- Lower the temperature of the sous vide heater to the target mash temperature.
- Now, just treat the mash like you would any old batch of beer. Stir occasionally, but not too often to prevent heat loss.
*These steps assumes a no-sparge brew in a bag styled mash, where the grains can be contained so as not to scorch against the immersion heater.
Take a look at this video from Hawaiian homebrewer Andrew Gross, who walks you through the process of brewing beer with a sous vide immersion heater using the brew in a bag (BIAB) homebrewing method. And make sure you aren’t too jealous of his brew day view…