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I'm thinking about making the switch to BIAB, primarily as a result of a growing family and increased time constraints. I have a few questions before I make the jump.

  1. How long is a typical BIAB brew day?
  2. What (if any) are the major drawbacks to using this method of brewing?
  3. How large a volume kettle am I look at to brew 5 gallon batches?
  4. Any tips or tricks to getting the best efficiency out of your BIAB setup?
  5. Are there any changes that need to be made to the recipe in order to make the recipes "work"?
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This is a good question, but rather than asking multiple questions in a single SO question, please post each question separately. This will allow people to contribute when they only know answers to some of your questions, and this allows answers to each question to be voted independently. –  mdma Apr 1 '13 at 6:44
    
If you want to dabble in the world of Bagging, then i suggest doing a bagged-mash: a 5gal paint strainer (from the hardware store) will line a 5gal round cooler perfectly. Conduct your mash in that, using traditional water volumes, then pull the grain bag up and out, drain, then put it back in and add your sparge water for 10min. You get the ease of the bag (no Vorlaufing or stuck sparges, ever), and the benefit of "normal" mash volumes, so you can copy traditionally mashed recipes exactly. This, plus No Chill, puts my brew day at about 3.5hrs. –  Graham Apr 4 '13 at 13:44
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4 Answers

up vote 8 down vote accepted

I have been BIAB for some time for similar reasons.

How long is a typical BIAB brew day?

My setup is an large kettle with a spigot, an immersion chiller and a bag that fits well with a drawstring around the top of my pot. I use an electric stovetop and usually get my water up to temp in 15-20mins for mashing, mash for an hour, squeeze out the bag 5 minutes, bring to boil 15-20mins, boil 1 hour, use immersion cooler to cool wort ~15mins, transfer to carboy 5 mins, cleanup 30-45mins. So in total around 4 hours. Doing a normal setup you would have sparging an additional 30-45mins and longer perhaps depending on your setup, mash or alternative approach. So you save maybe an hour.

What (if any) are the major drawbacks to using this method of brewing?

I haven't really found an drawbacks. One possible drawback would be efficiency but I haven't had a problem with that yet and have brewed big beers. I love this approach to brewing.

How large a volume kettle am I look at to brew 5 gallon batches?

I usually don't have much loss because I squeeze as much of the liquid out of the grains in the bag. This means for 5 gallon batches a normal 10 gallon or 8 gallon should do fine and I would suggest starting with 6.5 or 6 gallons of water.

Any tips or tricks to getting the best efficiency out of your BIAB setup?

Firstly, strip often when mashing. I stir vigorously every 15 minutes. This goes against what some people do for mashing because they worry about disturbing the grain bed.

Second, for a while I didn't squeeze out the bag and then tried tried squeezing the liquid out of my bag using my bare hands. Wort is hot in case you don't know and that can be painful. Get some gloves. But also there really didn't seem to be a big difference in the amount of tannins of tannin like quality to the beers where I squeezed out the bag.

Also I tried running 150 degree F water over the grains and it didn't really help much either in terms of efficiency so I don't bother. I have been setting my efficiency at 65% when I plan beers and have been getting something more like 70% efficiency which is quite good.

Are there any changes that need to be made to the recipe in order to make the recipes "work"?

I have been able to use recipes directly the only thing I usually do is lower the efficiency to 65%, but that may not be necessary you might be able to test that out. I don't mind my beers having a little bit more alcohol.

Hope you try it an like it. I know I have been.

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I believe that tannin extraction is a matter of improper pH, and that the old theory about squeezing grains is now debunked. Squeeze away! –  Graham Mar 27 '13 at 12:10
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Thanks Graham looked it up and here is a thread talking about how squeezing is not going to add extra tannins: homebrewtalk.com/f39/squeezing-grain-bag-bad-175179/… –  Chris Plaisier Mar 27 '13 at 17:32
    
Great information! did either of you guys purchase your bags or did you make them? –  Jared Meyering Mar 27 '13 at 19:26
    
First I made a bag of swiss voile with nylon thread and a nylon rope drawstring. It works and still does work great after ~10 batches. Although I loaned it to a friend who ripped the top. So thinking about making a new one. If you have a sewing maching it is easy. Just make sure the seams are on the outside. Because I wanted to brew and didn't have my bag back I also bought one, but I don't like it as the mesh was less fine and let a lot of crud through that I had to clean out. The swiss voile is very fine mesh and works wonders for BIAB. –  Chris Plaisier Mar 28 '13 at 20:08
    
Oh and swiss voile is can be found in most fabric shops. It is curtain backing material made of nylon so it won't decay. Just make sure not to use anything with cotton or other natural fibers or you will be making a new bag each time. –  Chris Plaisier Mar 28 '13 at 20:09
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1. How long is a typical BIAB brew day?

The time spent on a typical brew day has way too many variables to accurately gauge. But the most typical is going to be around 4-5 hours.

2. What (if any) are the major drawbacks to using this method of brewing?

As far as I can tell there are no drawbacks to BIAB. It is a great way to brew beer with limited space or resources. I average about 82-86% efficiency on my BIAB batches.

Also don't let anyone tell you that brewing BIAB is the wrong way. BIAB is not working up to traditional 3 vessel all-grain brewing, it is just a newer different technique for all-grain brewing.

Remember to just do what works best for you!

3. How large a volume kettle am I look at to brew 5 gallon batches?

Kettle volume is going to be very dependent on the types of beers you like to make. There is a big difference in a 10.5 lb grain bill, 1.050ish beer and a 18 lb grain bill imperial recipe as far as volume needed. There is also the decision that needs to be made on if you want to do full volume BIAB mashing or partial volume with a sparge or just adding top up water after the mash.

To give an example my last 5.5 gallon (into the fermenter) batch was 10.5 lbs of grain and my full volume mash water was 8.3 gallons. With displacement of water by the grains I needed a mash tun volume of 9.1 gallons to hold the water and grain. This was a 1.060 Stout recipe.

4. Any tips or tricks to getting the best efficiency out of your BIAB setup?

The best advice I can give you for better efficiency is to make sure if you are buying your grain pre-crushed from the LHBS then ask them to double crush the grain. This will allow you to get the best sugar extraction from your grain. Stir your grain during the mash often, every 15 to 20 minutes. Also make sure you have a well made bag to keep the flour and other particles out of your wort. As previously mentioned, Swiss Voile is the best material I have found. There are many people that sell pre-made custom sized bags on the HomebrewTalk forums. Do not fear squeezing the bag like it owes you money! Get every bit of sweet wort out of it you can!

5. Are there any changes that need to be made to the recipe in order to make the recipes "work"?

The only change you need to make to your basic All-Grain recipe kits that you find online or at your LHBS is to account for your efficiency. If you constantly hit 70% then adjust your grain bill up to hit your gravity. For the most part you should be able to get any kit online and just use it as is, just keep some DME on hand to up your gravity if you don't hit your numbers.

There is lots of good info on both the HomebrewTalk forums and the BIABrewer.info forums. Check them out.

Enjoy the hobby/obsession! RDWHAHB!

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I started brewing in January using BIAB. My timeline coincides with what Chris Plaisier reported, although I don't have a wort chiller at this point so it takes longer to get down to pitching temperature. I do sparge with 165 degree F water and that usually requires about 30-45 minutes as he said. With sparging I've been staying very close to 70% efficiency, which doesn't seem worth the time and effort given what Chris said he's getting.

My biggest problem with my early batches (on an electric stove top using an 8 gallon aluminum pot) was controlling the mash temperature. It would fall to 145 degrees within a half hour and I'd have to figure out how to lift out the grain bag long enough to get the heat back to my target temp, and then my brew day was extended and mash time was always a little bit of a guessing game for me. I solved this finally by wrapping my pot in insulation (which I reclaimed from a replaced dishwasher). Now I start at 165, mash in the grain, cover and wrap the pot in insulation, and amazingly, my mash is at precisely 153 degrees for an hour.

Timing things that shortened my brew day when sparging (sorry if these are really obvious, but I'm really new to brewing and had to learn them the hard way).

  1. Heat the sparge water while you're waiting on the mash.
  2. Start bringing up the wort temp as you're sparging to get to a boil faster. Usually by the time I'm done sparging my wort is up to ~180. I take a sample with a pyrex measuring cup and throw it in the fridge/freezer so I can cool it enough to get the pre-boil gravity.

I have been targeting 5 or 5.5 gallon batches using standard recipes and haven't had any issues so far.

Best of luck!

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For smaller batches, I've also set my oven at a low temperature and used that to keep the mash temp stabilized, but that only works if you can get your pot in the oven. –  Eric H Mar 26 '13 at 23:20
    
Glad to hear you have had good luck with BIAB too. I have had issues with temperature control during mash. Just took a couple of beers to figure it out. But I don't bother to take the grain bag out while heating. I am fairly certain that with the liquid in there it shouldn't melt until it gets very hot, much hotter than it will get raising it ten or so degrees. Haven't had any issues anyway. –  Chris Plaisier Mar 27 '13 at 4:33
    
Also good to see that the BIAB sparging gives you about the same efficiency. Neither of the efficiencies will hit what you can get really sparging, but good enough to get great beer. ;-) –  Chris Plaisier Mar 27 '13 at 4:36
    
For temperature control, On the podcast mentioned in the comments below they mentioned heating your water to 2-4 degrees above mash temp, adding grains, covering your pot and then removing the pot from heat source for the duration of the mash. According to them you don't end up losing much heat unless its winter, when you would need to insulate your pot. any experience with this method? –  Jared Meyering Mar 28 '13 at 13:19
    
Yeah, that's exactly what I was doing when I was losing heat like crazy. Also, I'm aiming for 153 and starting at 165 with 3-4 gallons of water (depending on recipe factors), so from my experience I think you'd have some temp issues if you only went a few degrees above your target. That said, I've only done this in winter, and only with my equipment. Your experience may differ, but minimally I'd have a plan to insulate if necessary. The first time I insulated the pot I just used a blanket, but I like the insulation because I know it can handle the heat. –  Eric H Mar 28 '13 at 13:36
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My two cents:

According that question I asked some time ago, the volume you will need should be around 40L (10.5 US gallons).

BIAB mashes will have a lower efficiency when compared to batch or fly sparging, the wort on the other hand may be of better quality. You can remediate the lower efficiency by adding more grains, which will in turn demand a bigger kettle...

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"the wort on the other hand may be of better quality" - Better quality how? Please be specific, I am not familiar with this assertion. –  Galapagos Jim Mar 26 '13 at 20:59
    
@GalapagosJim I believe the main reason is the diminished risk of tannin extraction. Heard that here: thebrewingnetwork.com/shows/670 –  Cleber Goncalves Mar 27 '13 at 13:51
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They do say that, on the other hand, neither Jamil or Palmer had much hands on experience with BIAB. I would try it and draw my own conclusions. On the sinle batch I did so far I couldn't see much difference. –  Cleber Goncalves Mar 27 '13 at 19:52
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This just isn't true. It's completely dependent on how much grain you use, so saying "10.5 gallons" makes no sense. You can get by with about 1.25 quarts of water per pound of grain is generally fine in my experience. You don't even need to do a full boil. Using more water can increase your efficiency, but it's not necessary. You can always add some DME if you miss your target OG. You can easily brew a small style like Mild or Bitter with 3-4 gallons of water. Bigger beers need more water. –  paul Mar 28 '13 at 16:05
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Sorry, I still think this is a bad answer. The question does not specify a style - yours does - but you're not answering your question, so your answer to this question should not be within the boundaries of your earlier question. This question asks how big of a pot you need and you do not need a 10 gallon pot to brew a 5 gallon batch of beer. I've brewed great, all grain BIAB beer in a 6 gallon pot - and I only boiled about 3.5 gallons and added water later, so I really only needed a 5 gallon pot! –  paul Mar 28 '13 at 23:31
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