Many home brewers are put off by grain brewing, not by the intricacies of the brewing process itself, but by the cost of the equipment. However, there is a less expensive way to brew with grain, where you do not have to buy or build your own mash tank or additional boiler.
What are BIAB and the differences with All-grain?
BIAB is a method of grain brewing in which the use of a mash tank is not required and the entire brewing process takes place in one container.
For the mashing process, the malt is placed in a bag that is temporarily lowered into the boiler/pot. At the end of the mashing process the bag is removed from the boiler, the rest of the mash is allowed to drain off and the wort is boiled.
This method does not require an additional boiler, but the efficiency of this cooking will not be high. In order to extract the maximum amount of substances we need from the malt, it is necessary to rinse the mash.
Due to the simplicity of the process and the minimum of equipment brewing in a bag has become popular among beginner “all grain” brewers, as well as brewers who are constrained by conditions, or brew small batches of beer.
What kind of equipment will be needed?
If you brew in a bag and don’t rinse the pellets, you’ll need a minimum of equipment.
The most important piece of equipment is the boiler. Since the mashing of malt and the boiling of wort will take place in the same boiler, you need to be sure that the boiler can hold not only the volume of liquid for boiling, but also the volume of mashing water along with the grain. Also, keep in mind that the less space you have left in the boiler, the better it will retain heat during mashing.
For a batch of 23 liters, assuming 32-34 liters before boiling, a 45.5 liter boiler is recommended. If you are going to brew beer with a high initial wort density, you will need a larger boiler.
Also an important part of the equipment is the bag. Ideally, if the edges of the bag can be stretched over the edge of the boiler and the bag itself does not lie on the bottom of the boiler – this way it will not burn and will hold most of the sediment.
You can buy a ready-made bag or make one yourself. Home brewers often use veil as an inexpensive but effective material for bags.
In addition to the brew kettle and bag, you’ll need the equipment traditionally used by brewers: a thermometer, an areometer/hydrometer, and a spoon or spatula for stirring.
The brewing process in a bag
The process of brewing in a bag can be compared to brewing a huge bag of tea.
First, slip the bag over the edges of the pot and secure it. Some bags have a lanyard that needs to be tightened. If you don’t have a lanyard, you can use an elastic rope, for example.
Once the bag is in place, pour in the correct amount of water and heat to the calculated temperature. Some brewers are afraid of melting the bag when heated, so set it after it reaches the desired temperature.
When the water is hot, turn off the heat and pour the ground malt into the bag and stir. Make sure that all the malt is wetted and does not form lumps. Cover the cauldron with a lid for 60 minutes. Do not open the lid to reduce heat loss.
When mashing is complete, remove the bag and let the remaining wort drain. It is not recommended to squeeze the bag.
If you have received the calculated volume of wort, the further boiling of wort is the same as in normal brewing
One of the big disadvantages of mashing in a bag is the low efficiency compared to mashing followed by flushing the pellets. An efficiency of 50-60% is not uncommon. But many brewers with bag mashing get results comparable to traditional mashing methods 70-80% of the time.
Here are tips for increasing efficiency with bag mashing:
- Run the malt through the mill twice. This makes the sugars easier to extract from the grain. Since the grain will be removed from the boiler in a bag, you don’t have to worry about wort filtration problems that occur with conventional mashing of finely ground malt.
- Increase the duration of mashing. Some brewers believe that longer mashing times maximize the transfer of sugars from the grain to the wort and ultimately increase mashing efficiency. An iodine test or hydrometer/areometer measurements can help determine if the process is complete.
- Use a bag of suitable material. If you use a bag with large mesh holes, the mashing efficiency will be high, but you will also get a lot of malt sludge floating in the wort.
If the bag material has very fine holes, you will get a clean wort, but you will probably miss out on sugars – they will remain in the grain. Use a bag that allows the mash to flow easily inside and, at the same time, keeps the grains from floating out of the bag.
Washing the mash is the best way to extract as many sugars as possible from the grain. When boiling in a bag, it can be done in 2 ways.
- Method 1: Heat the desired amount of water to 77°C in a separate pot. Once the bag of pellets has been removed from the boiler, place it in a pot of rinse water for about 10-15 minutes. Stir the malt, remove the bag, let the water drain, and pour the rinse water into the first boiler.
- Method 2: Heat the washing water, lift the bag of malt over the mashing pot, and pour the bag of malt so that the washing water flows into the pot. This is easier to do with a colander.
When mashing with washing usually takes 3-4 times more water than malt (1 kg of grain – 4 liters of water), and the rest of the water is filled with washing.
Calculate the recipe with the lowest expected efficiency. A larger amount of grain will compensate for a possible low efficiency. Use online calculators or special programs to adjust recipes to the expected cooking efficiency.
What are the benefits over all-grain brewing methods?
What are the disadvantages of BIAB?
How do I choose the right method for me?
The best way to choose the right brewing method is to experiment with both methods and see which one you prefer. If you are new to brewing, you may want to start with BIAB, since it is simpler and requires less equipment. If you have more experience, you may want to try all-grain brewing, as it offers more control over the final product. Whichever method you choose, be sure to follow the instructions carefully and sanitize all of your equipment before use.
Some of the common mistakes people make when using BIAB are not heating the water to the correct temperature, not adding enough water to the grain, and not mashing for the correct amount of time. To avoid these mistakes, it is important to follow the instructions carefully and use a thermometer to ensure that your mash is at the correct temperature. Additionally, you should add enough water to cover the grain, and allow the mash to rest for at least 60 minutes.
Yes, you can use special equipment with BIAB, such as a wort chiller, hop back, or whirlpool. However, these items are not necessary and can be added later as you become more experienced with brewing.
BIAB is similar to extract brewing in that both methods use malt extract to brew beer. The main difference is that BIAB also uses whole grains, while extract brewing does not. Additionally, BIAB requires more equipment and time than extract brewing.
Yes, there are a few special considerations to keep in mind when brewing with malt extract in a BIAB system. First, it is important to add the malt extract to the water before adding the grains. This will help prevent the malt from clumping and making it difficult to stir. Additionally, you will need to simmer the malt extract for a few minutes before adding it to the mash, to help dissolve it completely. Finally, be sure to add enough water to the grain so that it is fully covered.
When brewing with BIAB, you will need to adjust your recipe to account for the fact that you are using less grain. This means that you will need to use more malt extract and/or hops. Additionally, you should boil the wort for a shorter period of time, since there is less water to evaporate. Be sure to closely monitor the wort while it is boiling, as it can boil over quickly.
Yes, you can bottle your beer if you’re brewing with BIAB. However, you may want to keg your beer instead, since it is easier and quicker. If you do decide to bottle your beer, be sure to use sanitized bottles and caps. Additionally, you will need to add priming sugar to the bottles before capping them. This will help create carbonation in the finished beer.
If you already have an all-grain brewing setup, you can use it with a BIAB bag. However, you may want to invest in a larger kettle, since you will need more water to brew with BIAB. Additionally, you will need to purchase a grain bag that is large enough to fit your kettle. These can be found at most homebrew shops.