Hey guys, ive been asked by Mike at brewers coop to write up a beginners guide to BIAB, if anyone has the time I would really appreciate any feedback as to how this reads from a beginners point of view?? Cheers!
Beginners guide to Brewing in a bag, or BIAB.
Hi there, I have tried to make this guide as simple and beginner friendly as possible, however a basic knowledge of All Grain brewing would definitely be an advantage, and I highly recommend combining this guide with the book “How to brew” by John Palmer, as well as the online guide for BIAB found at www.BIABrewer.info - Alternatively a wealth of information can be found online in forums such as www.forum.realbeer.co.nz or www.aussiehomebrewer.com
All Grain brewing is simple and easy, but does require a bit of equipment to get yourself going, I will assume that readers have dabbled in kit brewing before and already have a fermentation vessel of some kind, but in addition to this you will need
- A big Stainless Steel or Aluminium Kettle, minimum for 20 litre batches would be 30 litres!
- A Gas burner and LPG bottle, 2 ring burner minimum for a 30 litre kettle, 3 ring minimum for anything bigger.
- Some swiss Voile material and someone with sewing skills or know how – This can be purchased at a local Spotlight for cheap as!
- Ingredients for your first All Grain brew, I will supply a suggested simple recipe below but remember this process can be used for any recipe!
- A thermometer
- A Cake tin or something to keep your bag off the bottom of the kettle
- A wort chiller is optional however highly recommended
- Brewing software so that you can eventually calculate your own recipes, there is plenty of options out there, some are free and some aren’t.
Find a recipe that you would like to brew, any recipe can be brewed using BIAB but for your first brew try to pick something that is relatively simple without many ingredients or hop additions, so if something goes wrong it will be easier to pinpoint what it was. I recommend a Pale Ale with just pale and crystal malt, one type of hop, and a clean fermenting yeast like US-05.
Ok, so you have your ingredients ready, you’ve got your equipment, so lets get brewing!! My calculations are based on a 30litre pot volume wise, so if you are using anything bigger you will need to adjust your volumes. You will also need to sew a bag out of the swiss voile that is big enough to not only line your kettle, but your kettle should be able to fit inside the bag to ensure there is enough room.
- Bring about 26 litres of water up to 2 or 3 degrees above your desired mash temperature, this will ensure that when you add the room temperature grain it will drop to your desired mash temperature (or close enough depending on your system), basically the malted grain is full of enzymes that when activated convert the starch into sugars which is what the yeast feeds on to give us alcohol, a process called “mashing”. The enzymes require a certain temperature to activate which is between 63-70*c, the lower the temperature, the more fermentable sugars you will have, and the thinner your beer will be, the higher the temperature the less fermentable sugars you will have and your beer will have more body and mouth-feel as a result! It all depends on what type of beer you’re brewing as to what kind of mash temperature you should use.
- In this example well say that the desired mash temperature is 66*c, a good starting point for your first beer, so bring up 26 litres of water to 68*c, when it hits the desired temperature, turn off your burner, line the kettle with your grain bag (made out of swiss voile). Make sure the bag doesn’t touch the bottom of the kettle or it will melt, you can use a cake tray, or roll the bag up and tie it to the side of the kettle, both ways work!
- With your water up to temperature and your grain bag lining the kettle its time to start the mash, so add your crushed malted grains into the kettle, ensuring that you stir really really well to avoid dough balls, once all the grain is swimming around in the kettle, put the lid on, cover up the kettle with a camping mat or warm blanket to keep as much heat in as possible, then proceed to let the mash do its thing for 60-90 minutes. Some people check the temperature half way through and if nessecary bring it back up to the desired temperature, I personally do not do this and leave it for the full mash. A word of warning if you do decide to apply heat to the mash, ensure that you stir really well to ensure even heat distribution!
- Ok, so the mash has done its thing over the last 60-90 minutes and now you will have some semi-brown liquid we know as wort (unfermented beer), so start to apply heat to the kettle while stirring, with a desire to get your temperature up to about 76/78*c, called the ‘mash out temp’, this makes the sugars in the solution more soluble and ensures you don’t leave anything behind in the grain, once you are up to mash out temp, give the grain one last really good stir, then proceed to lift the bag out (with all the grain) and place it into a bucket or hang it over a drip bucket, any liquid that collects at the bottom of the bucket can be added back to the kettle up until the last 15 minutes of the boil.
- Now that you have separated the grain from the wort, its time to boil, so crank your burner, put the lid on the kettle and bring the wort up to boil, keep a close eye on it as it could easily boil over if you walk away.
- Once the wort starts to boil start the timer, some brewers boil for 90 minutes and some only boil for 60 minutes, personally I always boil for 90 minutes but this is entirely up to you. The boil is the time where we add our hops, hops are added at various stages in the boil for bitterness, flavour, and aroma, the longer the hop is boiled for the more bitterness you get and the less flavour you get, so generally the hops added with 60 minutes to go are for bitterness, 20-15 minutes to go for flavour, and at 0 minutes for aroma. You can also add kettle finings at 10 minutes to go, but if you can’t get ahold of any I wouldn’t worry about it too much, however your beer will be cloudy without it!
- Half way through the boil, if you are intending to use a chiller, put this into the wort now to ensure the boil sanitises it, if you are chilling in some other way just ignore this step.
- So now we’ve done the boil, added our hops and you’re now looking at 20 odd litres of boiling hot wort, if you are using a chiller, start this now, if you aren’t you need to figure out a way to get this liquid down to around 20*c as quick as possible, some don’t chill the wort and let it cool naturally in the fermenting vessel, however if you do this I highly recommend making sure you get it into the fermenter ASAP, and seal it up good and proper to avoid getting any nasty bugs into your beer. When the wort is at the pitching temp of 20*c (for ales) pitch your yeast, and wait patiently for the beer to ferment.
- Congratulations you’ve just made All Grain beer, now wasn’t that easy?