By: Jason Sanders, Blogger
Still On Tap Brewery and Distillery Equipment Company
Brew in a Bag How To (BiaB)
Using the BiaB style of brewing allows you to make a great all grain beer without having to pay an arm and a leg for equipment. This style requires less equipment, which means you can spend more money on beer! Or in my case more beer and upgraded equipment! Instead of having a three-vessel system, you can brew using a large mesh bag, a boil kettle, and a fermenter of some sort. I will go through each stage of the process using my equipment.
I am going to assume you have the basic knowledge of fermentation, but I will throw in any lessons I have learned. If you don’t, there are multiple sources on this subject on the internet.
The cool thing about BiaB brewing is you can mash and boil in the same vessel, which makes for an easier cleanup and saves a little money, and space. My setup is as follows:
30 Gallon Spike Brewing Kettle with dual 1.5” Tri Clamp fitting, one is setup as a valve, the other has a temperature probe. A custom sized mesh bag from The Brew Bag. www.brewinabag.com Kegco counterflow chiller. This is not totally necessary, but it’s a nice piece to have. https://www.kegco.com/kegcos-stainless-steel-counterflow-chiller/ Spike CF10 Stainless Steel Conical Fermenter. This is probably my favorite piece of equipment. It certainly beats using plastic buckets. www.spikebrewing.com Blichmann Riptide Pump. This makes the day just go by a bit quicker. No more sucking on the end of a siphon hose! Not always at least! https://www.blichmannengineering.com/riptide-brewing-pump.html
You, by no means need to buy this level of equipment. A standard 10-gallon kettle, a food safe brew bucket, and a standard Brew Bag will work just as well. I will walk you through a typical brew day using my equipment from start to finish.
First, I love technology! I design the beer using the BrewFather app. www.brewfather.app This app is awesome because you can input your recipe and BrewFather will spit out all the important details such at starting gravity, final gravity, and volumes. The app will track your beer from recipe creation, to brew day, to conditioning and bottling. There are also a bunch off add-ons, I could go on for paragraphs! Once I have a beer designed, I prep up for brew day!
Brew Day! I have my recipe, and I have my grains milled and ready to go. The first step is to heat my water. I usually heat to 160f in order to mash at 152f range. If you have set up BrewFather correctly, the app has calculated the absorption rate for your grain, and the rate at which the boil off will release steam. These two items are important with BiaB. Without the correct information you could either not have enough room in your kettle for all the grain, or not enough grain and too much water. Either of which will skew your final ABV either direction.
Once I have heated to 160f I turn the heat off, insert my mesh bag, and slowly stir in my grains making sure there are no clumps. It is helpful to have some spring clamps to hold your bag while mashing in. Make sure you turn off the heat, these bags are not flame proof. Once the grain is mashed in properly, I put a lid on my kettle and wrap it in a blanket for insulation.
There are a multitude of ways to insulate a kettle, I will let you research your favorite way. I generally mash for 90 minutes. BrewFather will time this for you if you need!
Alright, our mash timer is up. We are reasonably certain that we have achieved a full conversion of starch to sugar.
Now we need to lift the bag out of the kettle. I use a 30-gallon kettle, which means I can put about 60 pounds of grain in this kettle for a 13-gallon batch going into my fermenter. Grain soaks up on average about 2 pounds of water per pound of grain. That means if I have 60 pounds of grain, when I lift the bag, I will have around 180 pounds of water and grain in this bag! I threw together a pulley system with some block and tackle I found at the local hardware store and hung it from a beam in my garage. I can lift 180 pounds with one hand now. Science is the best!
Once I lift the bag from the kettle, I allow it to drain for a few minutes. There are two schools of thought on the next process. Some people say squeeze the bag with some heat safe gloves. Others say to just let it drain and discard the grain. There is a great website called Brulosophy that tries to prove/debunk some of these theories, check it out! Personally, I let it hang for a few, then drop the bag in a bucket for transport to the garden or trash.
Now we are going to kick our kettle on and boil this wort. If you are using GrainFather this is another place to take a gravity and PH reading to enter. I won’t get too deep into any of that, but the app is very detailed. We want to bring our wort up to a boil as quickly as we can, and once done cool it to a safe temperature quickly. Watch for the boil over that will happen right before you achieve a good rolling boil! I generally boil for 90 minutes with a few hop additions in that time. Using a hop sack, or a piece of cheesecloth is the easiest way to add hops at this point.
I have incorporated a DIY whirlpool arm that clamps onto the side of my boiler. Using my Riptide pump I recirculate the wort through the arm in order to create a whirlpool. When you use this technique, you can add your hops without using a hop bag. With the whirlpool arm most of the hops will stay suspended in the wort and eventually pile into the middle of your kettle.
When I setup my Riptide pump and whirlpool arm, I make sure to connect my counterflow chiller. Kettle>Riptide Pump>Counterflow Chiller>Whirlpool Arm. When you run your hot wort through the system it will help to sanitize the lines and reduces our risk of infection.
So, we are in the home stretch. We are already set up for the chilling step. Make sure the water is hooked up on the counterflow chiller and start running the riptide and your chilling water. The counterflow chiller is really quite efficient. On average I can chill 15-gallons of 212f wort to 70f in about 20 minutes using my local groundwater. I usually take this time to make sure my fermentation vessel is well sanitized and ready to go. You are better off chilling to a warmer temperature than overshooting it and being too cold. It is much easier to chill the wort a bit more than to try and heat it up.
Once we hit the correct temperature I go ahead and pump the wort into my fermenter. To make it really easy I just disconnect the arm on my DIY whirlpool arm and use the arm to whirlpool the wort into my fermenter. I use this arm for two reasons, first, the arm has already been sanitized so we aren’t introducing any new unsanitary equipment. Second, as the wort whirlpools into the fermenter it helps to aerate oxygen into the wort which is great for the yeast.
Assuming the temperature is ready, I go ahead and pitch my yeast into the wort. I usually use Imperial yeast. I really love how well it works and how available it is to get. Yeast is very important in ABV content, flavors, and finish of beer. There are many, many different yeasts out there. Do some research and experiment. On a few occasions I have pitched two different yeasts into one batch and the flavors were incredible.
From here on out it is a waiting game. I usually dump my trub around 4 days, but it is not necessary to do so. Dumping the trub helps to keep the flavors clean in your beer. I will also do any dry hop additions at this point.
On average I will ferment anywhere from 4-14 days. This timing is dependent on type of yeast I am using, temperature of my fermenter, and what final product if I am making. A Kveik yeast can ferment as fast as 3 days at a temperature as high as 90F. A Lager yeast can ferment for as long as 3 months at a temperature of 50F. Yeast plays a rather large part in the finish of your beer.
Once your beer is finished fermenting, you have a few options. You can leave it in a Brite tank if you have the option in order to condition the beer. You can keg it into a Cornelius keg. Or you can bottle it. Whatever you choose, make sure the vessel you are using is very clean and sanitized. I see more good beer go bad because of a dirty bottle, than an issue during mashing or boiling.
There is nothing left to do at this point other than sit back with a nice cold homebrew and enjoy the fruits of your labor! Remember, this is just brewing, it is not rocket science. We aren’t doing brain surgery, just making nice product to feed your friends and family! If and when you get stuck on a problem, Google it!!!! It also pays to have some friends in the local brewing community that are happy to answer questions.
Enjoy your beer and cheers!
Block and Tackle: A mechanism consisting of ropes and one or more pulley-blocks, used for lifting or pulling heavy objects.
Brite Tank: Often called a “brite” beer tank, serving tank or secondary tank, a bright tank is the vessel in which beer is placed after primary fermentation and filtering, so it can further mature, clarify and carbonate, as well as be stored for kegging, bottling, canning and packaging.
Conical Fermenter: One significant advantage is that a conical is a “uni-tank” which means that you can perform the primary fermentation as well as aging/storage in the same vessel. … Closely related to that is the ability to remove yeast and sediment from the beer easily, and at any point in the fermentation.
Cornelius Keg: A cornelius keg (also known as a Corney or soda keg) is a stainless steel canister (keg) originally used as containers by the soft drink industry. They can be used to store and dispense homemade sodas and home brewed beer. … In the keg, fully made soda is stored under pressure just like standard cans and bottles.
Counterflow Chiller: A counterflow chiller features a coil within a coil. The hot wort is pumped through the inner coil in one direction while cold water flows through the outer coil in the other direction to cool it. … The counterflow chiller’s efficiency does come at a higher initial cost, and most applications require a pump.
Whirlpool Arm: Whirlpooling is a common method used in commercial breweries to separate hop pellets and trub from wort after the wort boil. Essentially the wort is pumped into the whirlpool vessel at rapid velocity, usually about 15 feet per second, to cause the wort to start spinning like a whirlpool. Sometimes the kettle doubles as the whirlpool vessel and the wort is recirculated to the kettle.