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Can someone critique my plan before I start?

I am a new brewer but I am hoping to get started with all grain brewing after I finish a couple of extract kits. As I brought up in an earlier thread I am planning on doing small batches only (a final volume of 1.5 - 2.0 gallons into bottles would be perfect).

I like the idea of BIAB but I would like to change the plan a little bit, so my idea is this:

  • Use an unmodified 3g or 5g rubbermaid cooler
  • Pour the grains in a bag, bag into the cooler with half of volume of water needed
  • normal mash for 60 minutes
  • pull the bag
  • pour the wort from the cooler into my pot
  • grains back into the cooler
  • sparge water into cooler (the other half of my boil volume)
  • sparge for 10 minutes, pull bag, pour wort into pot
  • the rest is normal brewing

Does this sound like a reasonable plan? My reason for doing this is mainly because I have an electric stove and doing more than a few gallons at a time is a major pain. I could also use a burner in the garage and using a cooler rather than traditional BIAB will be easier in the winter months (can move the cooler inside while mashing). I realize I need to calculate the total water needed taking grain loss into account, but I am more curious if my 1/1 mash/sparge ratio will work.

Thanks in advance.

Yep that will work. I would still consider this to be BIAB.

Thanks Dave.

Does it make sense to do the sparge step or should I forget about it? Some people say to skip it with the BIAB method while others say to do it.

[quote=“DaveSt”]Thanks Dave.

Does it make sense to do the sparge step or should I forget about it? Some people say to skip it with the BIAB method while others say to do it.[/quote]

I think the idea of skipping the sparge with BIAB is mainly to save on time and effort. If you don’t have a problem with taking some extra time, don’t see why you couldn’t.

I would try to rig up a drain of some sorts to avoid pulling the bag out of the cooler. You would not need a brass/SS ball valve. Still using the bag as your filter. Something real rudimentary like Denny’s would be “cheap and easy”. :wink:

http://hbd.org/cascade/dennybrew/

You can even skip the plastic valve and just keep the drain hose above the cooler. But if it drops below, you will loose the liquid.

I sparge when I BIAB (which is most of the time). It improves efficiency. You don’t have to do a fancy job with it. Just quickly dunking the bag in the sparge water for a minute or two then pulling out, is worth the small effort.

I’m not sure if this is the right place or if it helps anyone, but I picked up a 5g cooler, made by Rubbermaid, this morning at Menard’s for $16. It appears to be the same as the orange Rubbermaid model (this one is green) but the price is somewhat better.

Not sure if I understand your rationale regarding the electric stove. How are you going to boil all the wort?

I think another limitation you may have with a small cooler, especially with the BIAB method, is the size grain bill that you can mash to do higher gravity beers. I do cheap-n-easy batch sparge with a rectangular cooler, 8 gallon pot, and propane burner.

You are right, I still need to boil the wort. I was just trying to keep the water volumes a little lower for the mash and sparge steps so I’m not spending all day heating water. For sure I still have to get the final boil going which will take some time, but having fairly small mash and sparge volumes will hopefully be somewhat quick to get to temperature.

I’m sure in the end I will be looking at burners.

In regards to the smaller cooler, I am only doing small (1.5 - 2 gallon) batches. I assumed since people tend to use 10 gallon coolers for 5 gallon batches, and 5 gallon cooler would suffice for batches less than half the size. I’m sure I have miscalculated somewhere, but it should be a fun learning experience.

http://www.rackers.org/calcs.shtml

There is a nice calculator on the above site that will tell you how much space Xlb’s of grains and Y quarts of water will take up.

Thanks for the link Nighthawk. I went ahead and put a few test recipes through Beersmith to get my grains scaled and I think the 5g cooler should work fine for the beers I am planning on brewing.

Do you have to worry about HSA from pouring the wort from the cooler to the brew kettle?

Nope. Experiments by Basic Brewing Radio and others have essentially debunked the HSA arguments, at least on a homebrewing scale. Splash away. Zero consequences.

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