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BIAB: What's necessary and what's not?

I’m getting ready to buy a brew kettle for BIAB and want to separate what’s necessary from what’s for show. I’m a results-oriented guy that’s willing to pay for reasonable convenience, but don’t care about “one-upping” other home brewers.

I’m going to do mostly 3-gal batches with the occasional 5-gal batch. I’m planning on getting a 10-gal pot and if the OG goes too high for the 10-gal size for some particular recipe then I’ll simply scale it down to the 3-gal batch size for that brew.

My questions are:

Aluminum or stainless steel?

Spigot or not or should I just siphon the wort to the fermenter?

Kettle equipped with large thermometer or forgo that and dip a digital thermometer in occasionally?

Thanks in advance for your answers.

[quote=“lazy ant brewing”]I’m getting ready to buy a brew kettle for BIAB and want to separate what’s necessary from what’s for show. I’m a results-oriented guy that’s willing to pay for reasonable convenience, but don’t care about “one-upping” other home brewers.

I’m going to do mostly 3-gal batches with the occasional 5-gal batch. I’m planning on getting a 10-gal pot and if the OG goes too high for the 10-gal size for some particular recipe then I’ll simply scale it down to the 3-gal batch size for that brew.

My questions are:

Aluminum or stainless steel?

Spigot or not or should I just siphon the wort to the fermenter?

Kettle equipped with large thermometer or forgo that and dip a digital thermometer in occasionally?

Thanks in advance for your answers.[/quote]

If you want strictly what’s necessary then just a kettle. Your choice of aluminum or stainless.

Easy enough to siphon or pour wort to your fermenter. I’ve poured mine up until now. I just installed a weldless valve in my kettle so I could use a pump and plate chiller.

A kettle installed thermo could actually get in the way and maybe even damage your bag. I use a thermapen.

I’ve made some pretty big beers BIAB in my 9 gal kettle. You just have to adjust your strike volume then sparge to get your boil volume. Higher efficiency that way too.

Stainless steel with a spigot. A spigot isn’t necessary but is certainly convenient for draining after cooling/whirlpool.

Heavy gauge stainless with a nice sandwiched aluminum/copper bottom is definitely the way to go. Have to really try to dent or scratch it plus it can be cleaned with a green scrubby without worrying about removing the layer of oxidation.

The issue with thermometers is that stratification within the mash usually requires measuring at different heights.

My opinion is that a certified calibrated glass thermometer will help take measurements both shallow and deep within the mash.

Here is my answer again, copied and pasted from the AHA forum.

I brew in a bag most of the time, brew small batches, and have none of the fancy spigots or thermo probes or any of that garbage, and never will unless I receive it as a gift or prize. I’m perfectly happy with my ghetto brewing method. It’s very cheap and very effective.

  • whatever - a decent kettle is all you need. Go with 5-gallon nylon paint strainer bags, 5# grain per bag, and spare yourself having to lift and handle one big, heavy bag of grain (each 5-gal bag will weigh about 10 lbs wet).
  • whatever - a decent kettle is all you need. Go with 5-gallon nylon paint strainer bags, 5# grain per bag, and spare yourself having to lift and handle one big, heavy bag of grain (each 5-gal bag will weigh about 10 lbs wet).

What size batches are you brewing? You mention using two 5-gal bags for the same batch. How are you able to stir the grain when you’re using two bags?

And, are you reusing the bags or just buying them in quantity and discarding after one use?

Thanks for your advice.

I do 5 gallon BIAB, aluminum kettle, brewmometer, and valve. I would say that both the valve and brewmometer are unnecessary. Spend your money on a thermapen and a really really good burner. 3.5-hour brewdays here.

Also +1 to the brewmometer tearing your bag. Have had it happen…

[quote=“lazy ant brewing”]What size batches are you brewing? You mention using two 5-gal bags for the same batch. How are you able to stir the grain when you’re using two bags?

And, are you reusing the bags or just buying them in quantity and discarding after one use?[/quote]
A typical 5-gal batch uses ~15 lbs, so three bags, and they’re big enough to loosely hold five lbs of grain and allow stirring inside each bag with a long spoon. I use a c-clamp to hold the bags to the kettle handle when not stirring. Bags are good for many brews - one trick is to turn them inside out so the seam is on the outside and the grain just rinses out then air dry.

If I’m making more than five gallons, or need more than 15 lbs of grain, I go with a mashtun instead.

On 2-2.5 gal batches I put the bag in the strainer of a large pasta pot. I hold it open with binder clips. Very convenient. Virtually no cost since I already had the pasta pot.

I got into this on the cheap because someone said I couldn’t.

Colman Extreme 48qt cooler as my mash tun(had already but $40)
Bags sewn from mesh material bought at Jo Anne Fabrics($5)
5 gallon Buckets re-purposed from local grocery that were throwing out frosting buckets. ($0.00)
Simple air locks with tubing and old bottles ($2)
Hydrometer ($2.99)
Big Pot(had already, only a 8 gallon one)

That is it to brew. less than $50 to get started and I am now 50 batches in and my method isn’t that much different. Since I started malting my own grains, per batch Im down to about $10 for 5 gallons or so.

I don’t BIAB much because I already have mash tuns, several boilers, etc. but it is a big time saver. Bare minimum here’s what I’d suggest:

5 gallon paint strainer bags, $7
http://www.amazon.com/Trimaco-11523-Regular-Elastic-Strainer/dp/B000BPG5R6/ref=sr_1_7?ie=UTF8&qid=1408291089&sr=8-7&keywords=5+gallon+paint+strainer

Digital thermometer, $25
http://www.amazon.com/Cooper-Atkins-DPP800W-Digital-Thermometer-Temperature/dp/B009Z27WIC/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1408291219&sr=8-1&keywords=cooper+dpp800w

10 gallon pot, $39
http://www.ebay.com/itm/Thunder-Group-ALSKSP007-40-qt-Aluminum-Stock-Pot-/250756324335?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item3a623ddbef

Lid for pot, $8
http://www.ebay.com/itm/Thunder-Group-ALSKSP107-40-qt-Aluminum-Stock-Lid/370607720820?_trksid=p2047675.c100005.m1851&_trkparms=aid%3D222007%26algo%3DSIC.MBE%26ao%3D1%26asc%3D23490%26meid%3D2fed9b17c3bc4eeca9e6f37e6b568c16%26pid%3D100005%26prg%3D10073%26rk%3D2%26rkt%3D6%26sd%3D250756324335&rt=nc

My dream rig.

  1. 8 gallon pot (aluminum or SS; your choice). I rock aluminium. This size because it’s resizable should you decide to go to a double batched, 3 vessel system later. Also, serves as a fermentation water bath.

  2. No spigot, no plumbed kettle thermo. No shirt, no shoes, no problem.

  3. 6ft piece of 1/2 inch, thick walled, high temp thermoplastic hose. I’ve had mine for 4 years.

  4. 5 dollar piece of muslin that’s 5ft x 5ft. Acts like a BIAB bag but want also move towards a mash tun hybrid system I use for double batches. Hit up Joan Fabrics or its equivalent and pick up some remnants.

  5. Circular SS colander. Put it face down in your boil kettle to keep your bag off the floor of the pot. This way you can easily make mid mash temperature adjustments without burning your sack.

  6. A ratty blanket and a bungee cord. Wrap up your mash so you won’t lose temperature over the course of your mash.

Yep, I’m a classy dude.

[attachment=0]biab.jpg[/attachment]

Do yourself a big favor and bust out the tape measure before you buy the big brewpot. Make sure you have enough clearance between the top of the new brewpot and the hood above your stove. Not only does the pot have to fit, you have to have at least another foot or so clearance in order to account for the stirring spoon and the pouring of the grain into the pot.

Also measure the diameter of the new pot and figure out how that sucker is gonna fit on top of your stove. In my case, it fits nicely over two burners, so I can turn them both on when I need to bring it to a boil. But your stove may not be able to accommodate a wide diameter pot. It’s best to take measurements before you invest in the new gear.

Of course, none of this matters if you are brewing with a propane burner outside the confines of the kitchen. If that’s the case, then I envy you indeed.

I’m brewing outside with a propane burner because my electric stove hardly puts out enough heat to brew a 3 gal batch. With a bigger volume on water a propane burner is a necessity for me.

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