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Mash Tun vs. BIAB

I’ll post this to the General Discussion forum as well, but…

With Brew-in-a-Bag methods these days, is there any real “advantage” or “benefit” to doing more “traditional” all-grain brewing techniques for most beer recipes??? Can’t the same things be achieved via BIAB??? As a beginner, BIAB seems really easy, and I’m wondering why I “should” spend more money on buying/building mash tuns, and other equipment.

Thanks for the opinions/input.

I use a hybrid method. The equipment cost me about $100 new and I get the best of both worlds. I use the “Mash in a Bag” method using a 5-gallon round drink cooler ($12) fitted with a stainless steel ball valve ($20) with a large, course-mesh grain bag ($6) for my mash tun and a 7.5 gallon aluminum turkey fryer with 55,000 BTU propane burner ($60) for my boiling kettle/heat source. The advantage over traditional 3-tiered brewing is there is no such thing as a stuck sparge, I only needed to buy one cooler instead of two (I now use my 5-gallon extract boil kettle as my HLT) and cleanup is a breeze. The advantage over BIAB is that I can use a smaller, less expensive boil kettle (because I thick-mash and sparge vs. full volume mash), I can hold temperature within 2 degrees F over 90 minutes, and I don’t have to lift and suspend a heavy grain bag at the end of the mash. I mearly have to lift it above the valve opening, allow it to drain, squeeze and then drop it into a double mesh strainer set atop the opening of the cooler. I even use the kettle lid to further squeeze the bag, which gives me an efficiency of 80 - 93%. Plus all of the money I saved enabled me to buy a good, detachable-probe pH meter ($100), calibration buffers and storage solution ($20) and a Fluke digital thermocouple thermometer with stainless steel probe ($100 used).

I’ve tried BIAB and find it viable for small batches. For my average 5 gal. batch, though, it’s a PITA to deal with a hot, wet, heavy bag of grain. Some people say “build a hoist”. That’s a poor solution IMO. If I have to build something, why not build a mash tun?

I do 6 gallon batches BIAB in my 16 gallon BK. I mash at traditional water to grain ratios. I lift the bag out and put it on an oven rack over the BK, then sparge by running water over the grain to get my pre-boil volume.

I’m brewing 12 gallon batches in the near future and will probably suspend the bag from an overhead pulley since the bag will be much heavier. Very simple thing to do in my brew space.

I do have a cooler mash tun that I’ve used a handful of times. I may use it for lager batches…we’ll see. Nothing against that method. I just like BIAB right now.

[quote=“dannyboy58”]

I’m brewing 12 gallon batches in the near future and will probably suspend the bag from an overhead pulley since the bag will be much heavier. Very simple thing to do in my brew space. [/quote]

No doubt. But what’s the advantage over using a mash tun at that point? I’m not trying to be argumentative, I just don’t get it.

[quote=“Denny”][quote=“dannyboy58”]

I’m brewing 12 gallon batches in the near future and will probably suspend the bag from an overhead pulley since the bag will be much heavier. Very simple thing to do in my brew space. [/quote]

No doubt. But what’s the advantage over using a mash tun at that point? I’m not trying to be argumentative, I just don’t get it.[/quote]
Just my familiarity with my equipment and process I suppose.

When I’m done the spent grains have to get up out of the basement and dumped. I’m more comfortable carrying the bag than a cooler to do that.

I’ve just kind of built my system and process around it at this point. When I brew a bigger batch I may find it doesn’t work as well for me. To find out the only thing I’ll need to invest is the time it takes me to put a lag bolt in a beam and run a piece of rope through it. I can already foresee some issues with the bag on bigger batches so we’ll see.

I can’t thank you guys enough for the info and replies… I asked this question on a different site and was treated like a troll and shunned…

This was exactly the dialog I was looking for! …I have started out using the BIAB method, and found it to be super easy - being able to hit my OG and having pretty darn good efficiency on my very first brew (a hefe…). I asked my question because - as I move forward - I wanted to know if I SHOULD move toward using a mash-tun, of if it was just simply a “matter of preference” for some.

I completely understand the issues/concerns with BIAB when dealing with larger batches and/or heavier beers, but some of the suggestions to deal with those concerns are awesome! Thank you for those!

Also… me posting this into different “sub-forums” was due to my past experience in other forums where people with different passions and insight often parsed themselves out into different “communities,” seldom venturing into the topics of other “sub-forums” outside their areas of specific interest; posting in two different sub-forums was my attempt to get info from as many different people/interests as possible.

Thanks again, and by no means stop - please keep the info coming… I’m diving into this whole thing head first and am eager to learn!

Thanks again!

Denny, you wrote: “…That’s a poor solution IMO. If I have to build something, why not build a mash tun?”

In your opinion, what do you like about the MT? Isn’t it more of a PITA to clean, deal with stuck sparges, sanitize, etc.? Or is all of that not as bad as I perceive? Do you find that you get something better/more with a MT than with the bag, or is it just a “comfort with existing equipment” sort of thing?

Ken, would you happen to remember which parts you used for the valve? I’m doing the same thing, and worried a bit about NB’s valve sticking in too far, i.e. Snagging the bag. I’m still using the cooler’s original valve, and and by the time I collect enough for my 3-gal batch I have a long-lasting dent on my thumb. :lol:

No worries with the coupling snagging the bag. The one I originally purchased for $20 is now $35. Here is a link:

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00JHMRH2Q/ref=sr_ph?ie=UTF8&qid=1420556732&sr=1&keywords=stainless+steel+ball+valve+with+bulkhead

For that price, if I was buying it now, I’d just go to NB and buy theirs. Also, I needed an extra thick o-ring in order to get it to seal, and a 1-1/2" X 1/2" NPT nipple, as the 1" X 1/2" NPT nipple that came with the valve wasn’t long enough.

I just lift the bag out of the cooler, twist it to get it to stop actively dripping, and put it in a colander to collect as much as will run out as possible. Dump the contents of the cooler into the boil kettle. Do you guys see a benefit in using the valve as opposed to just dumping it? I want to make sure I’m not missing something obvious.

If you are one of those who subscribe to hot side aeration/oxydation issues then there may be an issue. I’ve never worried about it and I usually collect my second running into a bucket and dump it into my kettle since I don’t have a pump and my burner/kettle is too high to drain into.

True, but I can’t imagine anyone that uses BIAB techniques would be all that worried about HSA. It seems the process itself involves plenty of dripping and splashing with removing the grain bag from the wort.

[quote=“Chris Roe”]Denny, you wrote: “…That’s a poor solution IMO. If I have to build something, why not build a mash tun?”

In your opinion, what do you like about the MT? Isn’t it more of a PITA to clean, deal with stuck sparges, sanitize, etc.? Or is all of that not as bad as I perceive? Do you find that you get something better/more with a MT than with the bag, or is it just a “comfort with existing equipment” sort of thing?[/quote]

Cleaning means hosing out the mash tun after I use it. I’ve brewed 471 batches so far and have never had a stuck runoff. There’s nothing to sanitize because it’s all pre boil. I’ve tried both methods and find that the cooler is easier for me to use, makes it easier for me to dispose of spent grain, offers more options in mash style, and is easier to hit and hold temps.

Denny,

Fair enough! LOL - I confess a newbie brain-fart in not even thinking about pre-boil vs. post-boil; I’ve been sanitizing EVERYTHING as I was “told” to do! LOL!!!

Chris

[quote=“Chris Roe”]Denny,

Fair enough! LOL - I confess a newbie brain-fart in not even thinking about pre-boil vs. post-boil; I’ve been sanitizing EVERYTHING as I was “told” to do! LOL!!!

Chris[/quote]
Your not the only one. I had a buddy that started extract and would boil plain water for 15 mins, cool it, then add steeping grains because he was “sanatizing his brew kettle.” He enjoyed the hobby much more when I got him to stop that.

[quote=“Loopie Beer”]
Your not the only one. I had a buddy that started extract and would boil plain water for 15 mins, cool it, then add steeping grains because he was “sanatizing his brew kettle.” He enjoyed the hobby much more when I got him to stop that.[/quote]

I hear that you can get a “grainy” flavor from certain base malts if you don’t sanitize your kettle first… Can’t remember the brand off the top of my head. :mrgreen:

Runs for cover

LOL! …Hey - my motto is: “If it’s worth doing, it’s worth OVER-doing!” …my wife still contends that the chicken coop I built can double as a fall-out shelter should we ever need one. :lol:

just my opinion, but I don’t see much advantage to brew in a bag. You can find a cooler for under 30 dollars about the same price as a bag.

the cooler holds heat better than a metal kettle plus the cooler does not drip wort on the floor when carting the spent grains to be dumped.

The bag always drips when being moved. The one advantage the bag has is it takes less space for storage.

But in the end the method that is most comfortable to the user is usually the best choice.

[quote=“sonex”]just my opinion, but I don’t see much advantage to brew in a bag. You can find a cooler for under 30 dollars about the same price as a bag.

the cooler holds heat better than a metal kettle plus the cooler does not drip wort on the floor when carting the spent grains to be dumped.

The bag always drips when being moved. The one advantage the bag has is it takes less space for storage.

But in the end the method that is most comfortable to the user is usually the best choice.[/quote]
I see your point, Sonny, but there are ways around it. I wrap my kettle in a comforter and secure it with a bungie cord. Also, I remove the grains and put them in a bucket. It’s just a matter of how simple you want to make brewing. I see all these people with their pump and recirculation systems, blah blah blah, and I think, damn that’s great, but so unnecessary. That’s great about this hobby…you can be as simple or complex as you want.
I switch between using a cooler mashtun and brew in a bag…just kinda do whatever I’m feeling like. My cooler doesn’t hold heat very well, usually lose 4-5 degrees over an hour. I usually lose maybe 1-3 with a comforter insulation my kettle for brew in a bag.

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