Over our first 100 episodes of Come and Brew It Radio, we have yet to take a serious look at one of the simplest all-grain brewing methods available to brewers—Brew in a Bag. None of us at Texas Brewing Inc. have had much experience with the method and we have very few local brewers who have tried it more than once or twice on a whim. Whether it be a member of the Cap and Hare Homebrew Club or one of our wonderful customers. So, I thought it was definitely time for us to take a little time and give this deceptively simple method a shot.
But where to start? My thought was by using what i had available. But while doing so, I also wanted to test a theory. So, why not take my existing three vessel Texas Brewing Inc 15 gallon kettle setup, pick up three BiaB bags from the store, and then brew three different recipes for refilling my sadly empty cooler. Not only would I be able to test out the method, I’d be doing it three times AND I would find out if I could produce three times the amount of wort in the same time it often takes to make one batch. Plan made, goal set. And maybe with a little development, we could eventually incorporate some of it in our all grain brewing starter kits. It’d make for a helluva way to keep your home beer brewing equipment limited when you need it to stay that way.
What to brew
First, I chose three fairly simple recipes that would not overburden the begs I chose to use. A saison and two double IPAs.
Note: Consider all these recipes developed between 70-75% efficiency.
Saison (5.5 Gal)
13 lbs — Ireks Pilsener
0.5 lbs — Ireks Vienna
0.5 lbs — Ireks Wheat
.25 lbs — Ireks Munich
1.75 oz — East Kent Golding @ 60
1.00 oz — Styrian Golding @ 5
NEIPA (5.5 gal)
13 lbs - British Pale Ale
.25 lbs - Caravienne
1 lb - Corn Sugar (or Turbinado)
1.5 oz - Simcoe @ 30
1 oz - Apollo @ steep/whirlpool
1 oz - Cascade @ steep/whirlpool
1 oz - Centennial @ steep/whirlpool
2 oz - Simcoe @ steep/whirlpool
2.5 oz - Simcoe @ dry hop (7 days)
1 oz - Centennial @ dry hop (7 days)
1 oz - Chinook @ dry hop (7 days)
1 oz - Citra @ dry hop (7 Days)
Wyeast London Ale III
West Coast DIPA (5.5 gal)
13.25 lbs - 2-row/Pale Ale
.75 lb - Carapils
.75 lb - C-40
1 lb - Corn Sugar
3.5 oz - Columbus @ 90
.75 oz - Columbus @ 45
1 oz - Simcoe @ 30
2.5 oz - Simcoe @ 0
1 oz - Centennial @ 0
1 oz - Centennial @ dry hop (7 days)
1 oz - Columbus @ dry hop (7 days)
1 oz - Simcoe @ dry hop (7 days)
White Labs WLP001 California Ale
Time in Total:
5 hrs 30 mins (from heating first strike water to beers in cooler to finish chilling prior to pitching). This does not include the time it took to transfer and set up all the beer brewing equipment, fill water, lay out other tools, etc. I did all of that the night before.
The Brew Day:
I was feeling some trepidation going into the day simply because I wasn’t completely confident about having the right water volume and grain poundage to hit my numbers. I’d reviewed multiple sources for No Sparge BiaB and come as close as possible to the various recommendations. I’d also decided to take a first shot at building my water for my DIPAs. Certainly not the best time to be experimenting, but I wanted to try to get the best out of the recipes or at least see if there’d be a major flavor difference.
That morning I rolled out of bed and lit the fire. Soon after I was at strike temp and so i put in my bag and mixed in my grain. Towards the end of the mash, I lifted the bag so it wouldn't be touching the bottom of the kettle and I took the batch to mash out temps while recirculating with my pump (since I had it). Next up, I lifted the bag out, put it in my brewing colander and let it drain while I brought the wort temp up to boiling. I even squeezed the bag with high-temp gloves. I was right on the volume I thought I would be while losing a gallon or so to the grain and needing another gallon or so extra for boil-off. Then I added de-foamer and waited for the boil to start.
Note: I chose the No-Sparge BiaB approach because it just made more sense for getting more out of the 3-brew day.
During that time, I waited for around 30 minutes of mash time for the first batch before I started the heat for my second batch. Then I basically rinsed and repeated the same steps. For the third batch I waited until another 30 or so minutes passed before starting the heat. This made it much easier to accomplish multiple things without overcomplicating my day. For example, doughing-in, working with the grain bags, hop additions, and chilling the wort to a decent temperature for putting in the cooler to finish chilling.
The process definitely kept me busy enough that I really didn’t have the time to wash a set of kegs like I’d planned, but it was in no way overwhelming.
What Did I Learn:
It’s a great method! I found it very easy to work with and I definitely appreciated the end result of having three brews done in the time it normally takes to finish one 5-10 gallon batch of the same recipe. My prime takeaway points were:
- Continue researching to determine the most appropriate amount of water for No-Sparge BiaB to get the highest efficiency with the same amount of grains (without needing to add more grain).
- A finer mesh bag would allow for cleaner wort. I did find that I had more overall debris and sediment from the grain than I normally would with a regular 3 vessel fly-sparge. I usually tend to have some of the smaller grain pieces and dust come through in some form on those batches, but end up with nice clear wort that ends with only the hot break and hop powder that escaped the hop spider bag. For these, the initial wort was far more murky than usual. This leads up to question whether the extra protein could possibly affect the flavor of the beer after time.
Add-On Detail: A few days later I brewed up a 5 gal batch of Drew Beechum’s “Crushable Pale Ale” (I can’t remember the source, sorry Drew! Maybe Beer magazine?) because I wanted to try the BiaB timing for brewing a single batch, test another finer mesh bag I had, and fill up the last of the 4 empty kegs I had waiting around. Using the finer micron mesh bag with the BiaB handled bag, i had much cleaner and clearer wort. At least as clear as any regular batch I brew on my system.
Drew's Crushable Pale (5.5 gal)
10 lbs - Pale Ale
2 lbs - Flaked Oats
.5 lb - C-60
.75 Warrior @ 60
1 oz Centennial @ steep/whirlpool
1 oz Citra @ steep/whirlpool
.5 oz Centennial @ dry hop (7 days)
.5 oz Citra @ dry hop (7 days)
Wyeast London Ale III
After time for fermentation, the end result was four tasty beverages! I cold crashed and fined the DIPA and pale ale for a day before kegging and they came out brilliantly clear. Meanwhile, the NEIPA seems to be just right with the polyphenol haze and the quality it brings to the beer with a silky smooth tropical punch. The Dupont style saison was at room temp when transferred, so I pulled more yeast into the keg. But it still pours well and tastes great. I can immediately say that I notice no off flavors from the murky wort. I can also say that building my own water from RO for the hoppy beers improved their quality over the last time I brewed those beers on my home system.
So, great tasting beer? Check. Had the Come and Brew It guys try them and they were satisified (tough crowd). Fast way to brew multiple batches at once? Check. Easy for various levels of brewers? Check. Though, obviously your experience counts and it would take several vessels to brew three batches at once. But it’s worth a shot if you’re looking to squeeze more brews into the same time it’d take to knock out a single batch. So be sure to keep the Brew in a Bag method of brewing and multiple vessels in mind when you are considering home beer brewing equipment! Just try it for yourself. I'm happy. If you like it, give us a shot for all your home brewing and wine making supplies and be sure to check out Come and Brew It Radio.