So you are looking to up your home brewing game eh?
Then I have good news for you my friend, you have come to the right place to learn how to get into all grain brewing and especially my favorite
BIAB is in my opinion by far the best all grain brewing system you can use. I say that for a ton of reasons… the most important being that it makes damn good beer, as good or better in many cases as the 2 vessel and 3 vessel brewing systems on the market…
… but with a lot less expensive startup cost for your equipment… and a lot less time and work required on brew day!
I first got my start into all grain brewing using the BIAB method I am going to explain in this article.
In fact, I still brew most of my beer using this method… yes I have definitely upgraded my system a few times, but the basic premise I use for brewing beer is the exact same as the day I brewed my first batch of all grain beer.
I have brewed on my of the systems out there and actually owned the blichmann two vessel system at my microbrewery and still prefer the 1 vessel with a brew bag we are going to look at in this post…
Do You Brew Bro?
Before we get started here I would like to point out that I am assuming that you have some home brewing experience and have made a few brews.
Whether that is with a kit or partial mash of maybe even on a more advanced system like a 2 or 3 vessel system…
… I say this because in this post I am not going to get into the basics. Meaning I am not going to cover how to ferment, carbonate, or the importance of sanitation, etc…
… This page is going to be focused on the steps involved in getting you started with what I consider the best all grain brewing system.
So if you are brand spanking new to this great hobby I recommend you check out some of the other posts and videos on this blog first and get your feet wet with some of the more basic methods before diving into what I am about to explain.
Then once you get your feet wet come back here and get down and dirty with the BIAB brew!
Here are a few posts that will guide you through some of the basics you need to understand first:
What Do I Need to Brew a Beer?
How to Sanitize Beer Making Equipment
OK… so what is this method of all grain brewing that I love so much all about?
The basic premise is that you do all of your brew day activities… the hot side of brewing in 1 vessel instead of 2 or 3 vessels.
And you accomplish this with the aid of a mesh bag!
Before I explain exactly how that works… let’s take a quick look into how the basics of a traditional all grain system…
The Basics of a Traditional System
A traditional system would be what is called a 3 vessel system. There are also 2 vessel systems like the one I mentioned I used in my microbrewery… but for the sake of this article we will look at the more popular 3 vessel.
In this system you have 3 vessels… hence the name… brilliant eh?
- Hot Liquor Tank (HLT)
- Mash Tun (MT)
- Boil Kettle (BK)
=> In the Hot Liquor Tank… you heat the water up to temperature to be able to be used for the mash and sparging. You than transfer the water to the Mash Tun…
=> In the Mash Tun… you soak the grains in the hot water in order to get the sweet goodness out of them… the mash tun has what is referred to as a false bottom… so that when you transfer the wort (sugars from the grains mixed with the hot water) over to the boil kettle you leave the used grains behind…
=> In the Boil Kettle… And of course the boil kettle is where you boil the wort and add the hops, etc.
Although this type of system has been around for a long time and obviously makes a great brew, in my opinion it has major disadvantages for a homebrewer…
Disadvantages of a 3 Vessel System
Now I realize there are numerous home brewers who will argue how great this system is and I cannot (nor would I) argue that it does work
This is a great hobby and by all means I recommend everyone research what method will work best for them in the space, time and budget they have for brewing…
To me using all of these vessels would have caused me major problems due to the following disadvantages I perceive these systems as having:
=> Cost… the cost for a 3 vessel system is obviously much higher than a single vessel. Some of these systems can get really high in cost especially if you start getting into using control panels, etc.
=> Space… we are not talking about the New Frontier when I say space… what I mean is where are you brewing? How much space do you have? This was a real consideration for myself. Where was I going to have the room to place 3 vessels during brew day?
=> Space… umm what? I thought you just talked about the space problem Big Robb? I did… but this is a separate space problem. When brew day is over… where are you going to store all of this equipment? Again having to store 3 vessels is not easy and takes up space in your home.
=> Time… Brew day simply takes longer with a system like this as there are more steps involved.
=> Clean Up… the worst part of making beer for most brewers is the cleanup. And obviously there is more clean up required with a 3 vessel system than a single.
=> Complicated… more steps means more is involved in the process which means it is more complicated and it also means there is more that can go wrong on brew day. And nothing is worse than something going wrong on brew day.
And again I stress none of this is to bash the other systems or those who use it… these were just the things I came to see as issues I did not want to deal with…
Now let’s take a look at how it works with BIAB system…
The BIAB System Explained
As previously indicated with the Brew in a bag system you do all of the above in one vessel or kettle with the help of the bag!
Here is what a typical brew day with this system looks like…
You start off by first filling your kettle up with water…
… You than bring that water up to the strike temperature (temperature you will dough in at aka add the grains)…
… Once the strike temperature has been reached you turn the heat off… and put the bag into the kettle…
… You than slowly add the grains into the bag, stirring as you go to ensure that the grains do not form into clumps.
… Once the grains are all in your kettle, you put the cover on and the mash begins.
Once the mash is done… pull the bag out of the kettle and hold it over the kettle letting it drain all of the wort back into the kettle.
There are different ways of doing this… the easiest is to get a strainer that will sit across the top of the kettle and lay the bag of grains in it… letting the liquid drain into kettle.
You can pour some sparge water over the top of the grain bill (bag) in order to rinse the rest of the sugars out of the grains and to bring the water level up to the correct pre boil level as per the recipe…
Now simply remove the grain bag… put the kettle back on the heat source and crank it up to Boil baby… and carry on with your recipe
How to Maintain Temperature During the Mash
One of the minor challenges for people just starting out with this method is temperature control… maintaining the correct mash temperature that the recipe calls for…
This is easily remedied by insulating the outside of the kettle… I used to do this by wrapping the kettle in towels, blankets or even a sleeping bag and putting pillows on top of the kettle.
Yes this is a bit ghetto, but an inexpensive method of maintaining the temperature and it works just great.
Another simple and inexpensive means to insulate your kettle is to do what Friends of mine have done, which is wrap the kettle in hot water tank insulation… this has worked really well for them.
And don’t get to worried if the temperature starts dropping over time, it’s ok… just insulate the kettle as best as you can and let it ride, it will be fine! Remember this is make beer easy!
And that my friend is the basics of a BIAB brew day!!
Easy peasy… quick and dirty… a lot less effort, time, energy and Cost… with the same results… i.e. great tasting beer!
Now I realize this was a high elevated overview of what I consider the best all grain brewing system…
If you want more information on how to brew beer in this method here are more posts where I go into much greater detail:
BIAB Homebrew – All You Need to Know
How to BIAB – Step by Step
All Grain Brewing Instructions – Make Great Beer Every Time
And if you have any questions on how to get going with this method simply drop a comment in the comment section below and I will definitely help you out.
Cheers Big Robb is out!