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Cons to BIAB?

Having never done a BIAB before the pros to this seems pretty obvious, but before laying out a bunch of money on extra steps, what are the cons to doing everything in a bag boil?

You might want to invest in a small fine-meshed strainer depending how fine mesh the grain bag is. Sometimes little chunks of grain get through the bag and can cloud up the beer and might theoretically contribute to extraction of tannins and astringency (although I haven’t found this to be the case).

BIAB beers tend to be slightly more cloudy than your typical all-grain beer. Again this is more theoretical than a for-certain thing. But one of my friends who always does BIAB and has tried various clarifying agents has struggled with haze in his beers, so there might be some truth to this.

Beyond that, there’s no reason not to BIAB. Flavor, efficiency, etc. all seem to be unaffected, and you can make spectacular beer with this method. I will be doing BIAB 99% of the time from here on out as I make smaller batches so the conventional cooler method for sparging etc. makes no sense for me anymore.

I just brewed my first beer with the BIAB method this past weekend. I used too much water and the wort got lower in gravity than I would have liked OR my bag was too small and the grains were too tight together. Both of those issued can be corrected and I plan on making a larger bag before my next attempt at the method. I was very happy with the amount of time it saved me and plan to use this method whenever I make smaller batches or bathces with lots of flaked ingredients

Done correctly, there are no cons to MIAB - I have no issues with clarity and there should be no differences between a beer made with a “regular” mash and one made with a MIAB. And the only thing you have to buy is a pack of 5-gal nylon paint-strainer bags - if you’re going to use more than 10 lbs of grain, buy two packs (each bag holds 5lbs of grain with plenty of room to stir).

Does mashing in a cooler kind of defeat the purpose of BIAB? If so, how do you hold temps in the kettle? Just keep a close eye on it and apply heat periodically throughout the mashing process? Finally, does the increased mash water volume preclude the need for sparging while still ensuring maximum efficiency (i.e., due to ability to dissolve more sugar)? If so, why does anyone do all grain any other way? :wink:

[quote=“ickyfoot”]If so, why does anyone do all grain any other way?[/quote]For me, once the grain weighs more than 10 lbs, it’s easier to break out the 12-gal cooler.

You could still BIAB in a cooler as opposed to making a braid for filtering the wort, but I think part of the simplicity of BIAB is that you use the one pot and just pull your grain out when the mash is done. Yes you have to watch temps and add a little heat as necessary to keep your mash temp steady. That can be a little tricky, its easy to overshoot. The other minor con is that for a 5gal batch, you’re dealing with a fairly heavy bag. 10lb of grain plus another 10lb of water. Actually more until it drains out well. But its not a huge deal if you’re as muscular as me. Haha.

Otherwise it is a fine method. I’m not sure what you are talking about as far as cash outlay, all you really need is a paint strainer bag thats around $5. Thats probably the biggest advantage of BIAB.

That said, a cooler MLT is only a one-time investment of $30-50 and they are a sweet way to brew as well. Makes sparging a little simpler too, although you can sparge a BIAB in a bucket. A cooler holds mash temp nicely. I like it better than having to babysit the temp on a kettle.

Ah, that makes sense (weight being a limiting factor for BIAB).

Does BIAB make water/pH adjustments any easier or more difficult? I’m guessing easier since it’s just one adjustment (i.e., you don’t have to worry about sparge water profile).

I don’t have a kettle with a spigot yet, so if I go the ‘traditional’ route, I’ll initially have to use an autosiphon to sparge into my outfitted cooler. Can an NB autosiphon handle 170* temps? Or, can I dump sparge water into a bottling bucket without concerns about oxygenation?

[quote=“ickyfoot”]Does BIAB make water/pH adjustments any easier or more difficult?..I don’t have a kettle with a spigot yet, so if I go the ‘traditional’ route, I’ll initially have to use an autosiphon to sparge into my outfitted cooler.[/quote]pH control is easy with MIAB - you’re typically mashing thin and there’s no sparge. For moving water from a kettle to a cooler, a pitcher works to reduce the weight to the point where you can pick it up and pour it.

Sorry…not familiar with this phrase. Does this just mean you have a really high water : grain ratio?

Sorry…not familiar with this phrase. Does this just mean you have a really high water : grain ratio?[/quote]
Yes - a higher water:grain ratio is generally used in MIAB, especially if you’re not going to sparge. It also helps keep the grain a little “looser” in the bag which makes it easier to stir at mash-in.

I have a system on which I can brew 10-gallon batches outdoors, and use it most of the time for 5- and 10-gallon batches. However, I like MIAB as a one-pot method for small (2.5 or 3 gallons) batches on my stove indoors. It makes for easy setup and clean-up. As well, I think it’s fun to brew with different methods to understand how they work and to help keep discussion more interesting at club meetings.

Of course, you can also do no sparge in a cooler.

Yeah, but your site indicates that you’re looking at down around 50% efficiency going that route (no sparge). If I’m reading it correctly? If so, does BIAB mitigate this by having enough volume at mash temps to absorb converted sugars more completely?

At any rate, I think I’m just gonna go ahead with the mash tun. I have the cooler, and the braided SS ‘strainer’ conversion seems pretty easy. And, that way if I ever move up to larger batches, I’m set up for it on the mashing side.

My only question about batch sparging (as described on your site) is, do you have to worry about oxygenation when you dump sparge water into the tun after draining the sweet wort? Or, is it a non issue since the sweet wort is already out and the sparge water hasn’t absorbed anything yet (the concern arises from Palmer’s comments about oxygenation at mashing temps)?

[quote=“Denny”]Of course, you can also do no sparge in a cooler.[/quote]No-sparging is my preferred method, but going to have to get a 50-gal cooler to go with the new 26-gallon kettle.

I just did two this weekend. Although I did sparge and collect that for starters.

[quote=“tom sawyer”]
I just did two this weekend. Although I did sparge and collect that for starters.[/quote]

I did a no sparge last weekend on an RIS along with a partygyle. It never occured to me to use the 2nd runnings as starter wort. Great idea!

+1

Do you just store it in the fridge? Freeze it? If batch sparging, is it feasible that you could get enough SG from the grain bed once you’ve hit your boiling volume?

Thanks for all the replies guys, I’m sure this has been asked a million times, really wanted some input from people doing it. I have several mesh bags from doing specialty grains but my malt, but it’s time to upgrade and really thought this was interesting, and will probably try it a few times before adding more gear and pots, and this and that, etc etc, lol.

With it getting (actually still being) hot in Florida I imagine keeping the temp stable will be easy without the need for a cooler. The cloudiness for the beer is something I’ll have to experience I suppose. In the end all I care about is taste.

I’ve seen quite a few BIAB brewers claim efficiency isn’t a problem, so it if it becomes one it’ll be on me I guess.

+1

Do you just store it in the fridge? Freeze it? If batch sparging, is it feasible that you could get enough SG from the grain bed once you’ve hit your boiling volume?[/quote]
I usually boil it, cool and put it in a pitcher in the fridge overnight. At that point I decant off the trub and boil it again right before using since I don’t try to sanitize the pitcher. Freezing would work I suppose, I generally only do this when I am wanting to make another starter soon. I grow up my yeasts every so often just to keep them fresh. I keep yeast cake in 1cup canning jars in the fridge. I have around eight strains to choose from at any given time. I need to do this since I make small batches and a new yeast per batch would represent too high of a cost.

I’ve also canned wort in quart jars and stored them in the basement, that is handy to have wort ready to go. I still boil before using it though. I usually mash a batch just for canning so I have enough to make it worth the effort of digging out the canning pressure cooker. I think I can get about 8qts in it.

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