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Making All Grain Beer with BIAB (Brew in a Bag)

BIAB (Brew in a Bag) is a relatively cheap entry point for making beer from the rudimentary elements of grain, hops and yeast. Why do that? I can see a lot of people look at the home brewers out there like we’re all crazy – a whole day making booze? No way!

Why do BIAB Brewing?

Well, imagine the difference in taste and quality between a cake you make from a packet (or buy in the supermarket) and a cake you make from carefully sourced fresh quality ingredients at home in an oven where you control the variables of cooking. That’s a large part of the answer right there. Quality.

Another part of the answer is cost. No, it’s not ever going to be cheap to make all grain beer because equipment costs serious money. But BIAB is a way of doing all the things relatively cheaply in one pot. So it’s really not that expensive. Once the equipment arrives it’s going to cost you a few bucks a 700ml bottle. That’s not bad.

Then there’s choice. You can make beers you would probably never afford to buy or might never see in local stores or bars. What beer do you want to try? You can go a little crazy. And, no, I’m not into bog standard tasteless commercial beer so that choice is something that I enjoy making. Choice makes life interesting.

Finally, it’s a challenge. It’s easy to make good enough beer; it’s a little harder to make pretty good beer; and it’s a challenge to make really great beer. There you go, that’s why I’m doing BIAB brewing nowdays.

What is BIAB?

The idea with BIAB brewing is simple. The boil kettle gets filled with a calculated volume of strike water dependent on the grains used in your recipe. When that water reaches a calculated strike temperature, a fine meshed lining bag is placed inside the pot and the crushed recipe grains are added and mashed in (mixed with the water) so there are no dry centred dough balls. In it’s simplest form, the recipe will determine that this mash rest for one hour at a specific temperature. The pot is covered in that hour to retain heat.

The mash is where beer is made. It’s where the sugars are extracted to make your wort. At the end of the hour you can remove the bag and top the kettle to a determined volume of water that accounts for the lost water to grain absorption (you removed wet grain) and evaporation from the upcoming boil.

A standard boil will be 60 minutes. During this time hops and other additions may be added into that same pot and a whole bunch of chemistry goes to work – drawing oils from the hops and adding character to that recipe-dependent sugar mix you spent an hour extracting in the mash.

At the end, the wort is cooled, aerated and put into a sanitised fermenter with added yeast. Several weeks later you bottle some beer. Simple.

BIAB is as Simple as a Pot & Some Other Stuff

To get started with BIAB you just need the basic equipment:

  • boil pot large enough to mash and boil your desired volume of wort
  • BIAB bag or large piece of voile you can line and peg inside your kettle
  • mash paddle to work out any dough balls as you pour in the crushed grain
  • hop bags / hop balls for additions in the boil
  • thermometer to properly assess temperature during mash and cooling
  • fermenter to put your wort into after it’s been cooled
  • a grain mill is handy, but some brew shops pre-crush grain if you request

There are plenty of BIAB videos on YouTube and no shortage of places to purchase the equipment and ingredients. You can buy a lot of other gear that will make your brewing day easier, but at the beginning you could get by with the bare essentials. You do need to make choices – ie. size of the pot you want to brew in depending on your needs, whether you want a gas or electric solution, and where you set up your equipment for an easier brew day. The BIAB process takes around 4 hours if all goes well… but account for things not always being perfect.

That, my friends, is how I cook my beer at present. In a single pot out in the garden. And it’s kind of fun.

My BIAB setup of a pot & bag with added optional features

Rye IPA made with the BIAB equipment

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About the Author

Steven Clark Steven Clark - the stand up guy on this site

My name is Steven Clark (aka nortypig) and I live in Southern Tasmania. I have an MBA (Specialisation) and a Bachelor of Computing from the University of Tasmania. I'm a photographer making pictures with film. A web developer for money. A business consultant for fun. A journalist on paper. Dreams of owning the World. Idea champion. Paradox. Life partner to Megan.

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