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My first BIAB batch, The Good, Bad and Ugly

I brewed a batch of Irish Red on Sunday.

The Good: I love the mash process. It’s so easy. Did a 90 minuter mash at 152º with a mashout at the end raising temp up to 170º for 10 minutes.

The Bad: Pulling out the bag is a little weird. Not that heavy but for my 11 gallon batches I will need to rig up a little hook/pulley in the garage over the brew pot to hold the bag while it drains. I also used the no-squeeze method. I started with 11.75 lbs of double crushed grains and 9 gallons of strike water. My absorption rate calculation was a bit off so at start of boil I still had 8 gallons for a 5.5 gallon batch.

The Ugly: On to the boil…so now I got 8 gallons ready to boil and I’m wondering how long it’s going to take. I usually boil off about 1.5 gal in a 60 minute vigorous boil. So I cranked up the burner and went to work. At 45 minutes in I was going to add second hop addition and Irish Moss, but I stopped boil for a second to see exactly how much wort there was. There was still 6.5 gallons so i fired back up and let it go for another 15 added in the hops and moss and then another 20. Finally got to about 5.5 gallons after an almost 90 minute boil. I cooled to 73º took a gravity reading and WOW!!! It was 1.058 well I didn’t really want a high gravity Irish Red…but we’ll see what it tastes like in a few weeks.

If I brew this same batch again I think I will use less grain and a gallon less water. Maybe investing in a brew program like Beersmith?

I am a dedicated BIAB’er, and I will say, liquor/wort volumes take a few go-rounds to get right (with any method).

As far as lifting the bag out, I am a squeezer. I have 4 handles on my bag that I bought from bagbrewer.com. My method:

-Bring all four handles together while bag/mash is in kettle
-Lift them slowly
-begin twisting bag (like you do in the grocery store with produce bags)
-have a rubber band on my wrist, slip rubber over twisted portion. Loop rubber band around itself until its tight.
-If is sparge, and I usually do, put the whole thing in a spare ale pail, pour sparge water over it
-let sit for 10 min
-remove bag slowly
-continue twisting (it actually works for me to hold the bag steady and rotate the ale pail around it to ‘wring’ wort out of mash bag. I usually don’t even need to squeeze all that much after doing this, but sometimes I will place the bag on a canning rack over the kettle and get more wort out.
-add to main kettle (that I’ve usually started boiling) and brew on!
-remember, you can always add liquor to the boil if you have too much gravity. Its useful to think it terms of ‘gravity points’ in the kettle, which don’t change. Example:

-target post-boil OG of 1.050, volume of 6 gallons (6 x 50 = 300 total gravity points)
-preboil gravity of 1.046, volume of 8 gallons (8 x 46 = 368 gravity points)
-your boil off is usually 1.5 gallons per hour, so you know with a 90 minute boil you will have 6.5 gallons. With 368 total gravity points (remember the gravity in the kettle can’t change, as sugar doesn’t boil off), you will have 368 / 6.5 = 56 or original gravity of 1.056
-your options are to throw some wort out (aka alcohol abuse), add water, make more beer, or make a higher gravity beer
-to hit your target, just divide the gravity points by your target post boil OG (368 / 50 = 7.36), so you need to wind up with 7.36 gallons. Change boil or water volume accordingly

I did my first one too yesterday, a 3 gallon batch of blonde ale. I wanted to do a smaller batch and my small mash tun has developed a leak so I thought I’d give it a shot.

I had pretty much the same results. I didn’t absorb as much as I thought and I used a pot that I’d never boiled in so I had no idea what the boil off rate was. Once the hot break was tamed I cranked the burner up to a very vigorous boil and finished with just a little over 3 gallons. I ended up with 76% efficiency.

The wort wasn’t as clear as when I vorlauf but that was expected.

Thanks guys. Yea I’m hooked on BIAB. I think it’s a matter of trial and error at least more so than extract brewing. I went on Beersmith and it seems to me to be a bit overly complicated. Really the only mistake I made (and it’s a pretty big one) was my miscalculation on the grain absorption rate. The question I have is how can you accurately tell what it will be?

I have a suggestion that may help you, I found another forum
BIABrewer.info
And it has helped so much. It is home to some of the people that invented BIAB and they actually have a spreadsheet that helps predict how much water you need as well as converting you recipe to whatever size boil you want. There are a few guys on there that will bend over backwards to help you out.

Also they’ll explain that sparging is completed in the mash and is not really required when brewing but it doesn’t hurt. It also stresses the importance of a 90 min mash as well as a 90 min boil however that can be adjusted in the spreadsheet to fit your style.
The spreadsheet is called BIABacus
It has helped tremendously with me learning AG brewing.

I tried using BeerSmith and learning how to use it and I gave up as soon as I found BIABacus. It’s designed for BIAB and it makes things easy.

I too am a dedicated BIAB brewer. One thing I do suggest is that once the bag has been withdrawn from the boiler and is sitting in a spare pail, I then open it up and sparge directly over the grain, I find this helps get more wart out of the grain as you are sparging the whole of the grain bed. Also its worth upending a colander in the pail before dumping in the grain bag, this gets the recovered wart clear of the bag.

@ Scalded dog,
I have rigged up a pulley in the garage and it makes a huge difference to pulling the bag, it also opens up the possibility of making some “Big Beers” where the grain bill is enormous and the ABV is at the top end of the scale.

One I recently did was a Robinson’s Old Tom at 8.5% very nice

Well worth the effort!!

[quote=“Pietro”]I am a dedicated BIAB’er, and I will say, liquor/wort volumes take a few go-rounds to get right (with any method).

As far as lifting the bag out, I am a squeezer. I have 4 handles on my bag that I bought from bagbrewer.com. My method:

-Bring all four handles together while bag/mash is in kettle
-Lift them slowly
-begin twisting bag (like you do in the grocery store with produce bags)
-have a rubber band on my wrist, slip rubber over twisted portion. Loop rubber band around itself until its tight.
-If is sparge, and I usually do, put the whole thing in a spare ale pail, pour sparge water over it
-let sit for 10 min
-remove bag slowly
-continue twisting (it actually works for me to hold the bag steady and rotate the ale pail around it to ‘wring’ wort out of mash bag. I usually don’t even need to squeeze all that much after doing this, but sometimes I will place the bag on a canning rack over the kettle and get more wort out.
-add to main kettle (that I’ve usually started boiling) and brew on!
-remember, you can always add liquor to the boil if you have too much gravity. Its useful to think it terms of ‘gravity points’ in the kettle, which don’t change. Example:

-target post-boil OG of 1.050, volume of 6 gallons (6 x 50 = 300 total gravity points)
-preboil gravity of 1.046, volume of 8 gallons (8 x 46 = 368 gravity points)
-your boil off is usually 1.5 gallons per hour, so you know with a 90 minute boil you will have 6.5 gallons. With 368 total gravity points (remember the gravity in the kettle can’t change, as sugar doesn’t boil off), you will have 368 / 6.5 = 56 or original gravity of 1.056
-your options are to throw some wort out (aka alcohol abuse), add water, make more beer, or make a higher gravity beer
-to hit your target, just divide the gravity points by your target post boil OG (368 / 50 = 7.36), so you need to wind up with 7.36 gallons. Change boil or water volume accordingly[/quote]

Pietro, thanks for that Gravity point calc primer! Good info!

I BIAB, I sparge every time and get great efficiency numbers.

Also don’t get why they’d claim BIAB requires a 90 minute mash or boil any more so than a “traditional” mash in a cooler.

Having said that do what works for you! :cheers:

[quote=“dannyboy58”][quote=“Pietro”]I am a dedicated BIAB’er, and I will say, liquor/wort volumes take a few go-rounds to get right (with any method).

As far as lifting the bag out, I am a squeezer. I have 4 handles on my bag that I bought from bagbrewer.com. My method:

-Bring all four handles together while bag/mash is in kettle
-Lift them slowly
-begin twisting bag (like you do in the grocery store with produce bags)
-have a rubber band on my wrist, slip rubber over twisted portion. Loop rubber band around itself until its tight.
-If is sparge, and I usually do, put the whole thing in a spare ale pail, pour sparge water over it
-let sit for 10 min
-remove bag slowly
-continue twisting (it actually works for me to hold the bag steady and rotate the ale pail around it to ‘wring’ wort out of mash bag. I usually don’t even need to squeeze all that much after doing this, but sometimes I will place the bag on a canning rack over the kettle and get more wort out.
-add to main kettle (that I’ve usually started boiling) and brew on!
-remember, you can always add liquor to the boil if you have too much gravity. Its useful to think it terms of ‘gravity points’ in the kettle, which don’t change. Example:

-target post-boil OG of 1.050, volume of 6 gallons (6 x 50 = 300 total gravity points)
-preboil gravity of 1.046, volume of 8 gallons (8 x 46 = 368 gravity points)
-your boil off is usually 1.5 gallons per hour, so you know with a 90 minute boil you will have 6.5 gallons. With 368 total gravity points (remember the gravity in the kettle can’t change, as sugar doesn’t boil off), you will have 368 / 6.5 = 56 or original gravity of 1.056
-your options are to throw some wort out (aka alcohol abuse), add water, make more beer, or make a higher gravity beer
-to hit your target, just divide the gravity points by your target post boil OG (368 / 50 = 7.36), so you need to wind up with 7.36 gallons. Change boil or water volume accordingly[/quote]

Pietro, thanks for that Gravity point calc primer! Good info!

I BIAB, I sparge every time and get great efficiency numbers.

Also don’t get why they’d claim BIAB requires a 90 minute mash or boil any more so than a “traditional” mash in a cooler.

Having said that do what works for you! :cheers: [/quote]

I believe from what I can remember, the 90 min boil gets rid of more off flavours and proteins in the wort. But don’t quote me on that, I’m still fairly new to the chemistry of AG.

I would take a look at BIABrewer.info as they answer all of these questions. Also, the BIABacus spreadsheet they have on the site is more helpful for BIABer’s than any other I’ve found (BeerSmith, brewmate) as it was designed for that style of brewing and it takes a lot of the guess work out of the process. As well the spreadsheet does most of the math for you.

I agree that if you want to sparge that’s completely up to you and your own preference, I just know I was able to get 83% efficiency on my last brew with just lifting and squeezing the bag and that seems to be close to what traditional 3 vessel brewers are getting with sparge.

All I can say is check out the site and make of it what you will, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

Thanks for all the great info. I will join that other forum as well. I got right at 74% efficiency and didn’t squeeze bag. I have a friend who is a true master brewer and he said do not squeeze because of the tannins. I know a lot of the BIAB folks don’t sparge as well. That Irish Red is happily bubbling away in my fermentation chamber…I plan to sample it in about 3 weeks…can’t believe I won’t have it for St Paddy’s day…I do have two kegs of Upper English Brown that will be ready…would it be sacrilege to drink English beer on St Paddys day ? :lol:

3yr BIAB’er here. Just chiming in to share what I’ve learned/do. I’ve tried regular mash w/sparge, full volume mash w/no sparge, etc. For me, the best option in terms of efficiency and time is a slightly thinner mash with a quick 5-10min dunk/sparge. I usually mash around 1.75-2qt/gal and sparge with however much extra water I need, which is usually around 40% of the total water used. With this method my efficiency is consistently between 75-85%. Since getting a grain mill and crushing my own grain, I’m actually closer to 80-85%.

I do squeeze the bag some. You can’t really squeeze tannins from a grain sack. Tannins are released when you have pH issues and elevated mash or sparge temps. Because I do squeeze the bag (I don’t go nuts trying to get every last drop) I still struggle with post boil volumes. I’ve kinda learned to accept getting anywhere from 5-6 gallons when I shoot for 5.25, but I’m working on dialing that in better. I’ve always made pretty detailed recipes with process notes, but I was always bad at taking notes on brewday. Anyway, I plan on marking my pot with volumes and started taking better notes on brew day to really nail down my volumes.

I’ll add when I didn’t sparge and tried full volume mashing my efficiency suffered. I was getting between around 60-70% eff and 75% on a good day. Now that I crush my own and batch sparge again, I’m much happier with 80-85% efficiency. I just brewed a Black Rye Saison this past weekend and hit 88%!

I also don’t think you mush do a 90min mash and boil. I don’t see why BIAB would justify these longer times. I always do a 60min mash and boil with no issues. If using a lot of pils I’ll do a 90min boil because of DMS, but that isn’t a BIAB issue. That’s just a brewing issue. Same for the mash. If am brewing a big beer and have to cut down my grain/water ratio, I may mash longer, but generally, 60min is just fine.

These are just my experiences. Of course others have their own system and practices that work fine for them. To me the advantage to BIAB is the minimalist nature to it and the reduced time spent on brew days. I enjoy brewing, but have no intention of spending 6,7,8 hrs to make 5 gallons of beer. From pulling my equipment out to putting it away is about 4hrs and perfect for me.

I just started 2.05gal BIAB test batches. How are you guys sparging? Walk me through it please…

Batch/Dunk sparge in a second pot. For example, assume 12lbs of grain:

  • Mash with 5gal water in a 10gal pot.
  • Sparge with 3gal water around 190F which will level off around 165-168F after the grain sack is added. For this I use a 7.5gal pot.
  • I give it a good stir and let it sit for 5-10min. I’ve read leaving it sit accomplishes nothing, but since I’m busy getting my boil going anyway, I just let it sit.
  • While the main mash wort is coming to a boil, dunk the grain sack a few times in the second pot.
  • Pull the grain sack, place a strainer over the sparge pot and let the grain sack strain for a few minutes. You can even push down on the sack and NO it won’t release tannins.
  • Then add the sparge water to the boil pot and continue bringing to boil.

This is worth the read

http://www.biabrewer.info/viewtopic.php?t=194

[quote=“DigB”]This is worth the read

http://www.biabrewer.info/viewtopic.php?t=194[/quote]

Yes, but that isn’t the ONLY way to BIAB. I personally know from experience that full volume mashing which they are talking about is less efficient than sparging. Of course their way is easier and even more minimal, but I like the added efficiency of sparging.

Lots of ways to skin a cat.

I do 5 gallon batches BIAB in a 9 gallon kettle. I use pretty traditional water to grain ratios for the mash.

I first boil my sparge water and save it in a cooler, after mash is complete I pull the bag and rest it on an oven rack on top of the kettle, twist the bag up and let it drain, squeeze it pretty good, then open the top of the bag and slowly pour sparge water over it with a pyrex 2qt pitcher allowing it to drain into the kettle until I get to my desired pre-boil volume.

This process obviously takes a few minutes longer to first boil and save the water and then to later perform the sparge itself but I’ve found it to be well worth it in terms of efficiency. More importantly, it allows me to make bigger beers in my kettle than a full volume BIAB mash would.

Dobe and Danny thanks for the ideas eespecially the cooling rack to hold the grain. How do you treat your water? Add enough salts to hit pH and also add to your mini sparge? Add just enough to mash and nothing to sparge? Add everything to mash? Add to mash and remainder to kettle?

Oh and in case if you were wondering why 2.05 gal… I usually do 10.25 gal batches so its easy multiplication.

I haven’t gotten into water additions yet, but it’s one of my goals for 2014. I need to get a water report first.

I use brunwater and I add required salts and/or acid to both mash and sparge water at room temp then heat.

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