Archive for the ‘BIAB’ Category

You brew your own beer? -BIAB (brew in a bag) water volume calculations

I’ve seen some increasing traffic drawn to my BIAB methodology post and I imagine most are those with a new interest in BIAB. My water calculations comes from my experience in doing a number of brews. I thought it might be useful to go over how one might go about their first attempt at BIAB without the benefit of previous attempts. We need a few things here.

First-Kettle Volumes
You need a way to know how much water you have in your kettle. The easiest way is to use a metal ruler and some math. First measure across the top of the pot from inside edge to inside edge. Look at your kettle, the bottom and top may be different widths but if the difference isn’t drastic, don’t worry about it. We want the area of a circle first. The formula is:
Area=(π)(d^2) / 4

()() means multiply
/ means divide
π = pi = 3.142
d = kettle diameter in feet = kettle diameter in inches divided by 12
^2 means squared or simply a number multiplied by itself so it could be (d)(d)

Easiest way is take the measurement across middle of the top of your pot in inches. Divide that number by 12. Multiply this number by itself. Multiply this number b 3.142. Divide this number by 4. Now we have the area of your pot cross section in square feet. Now on to volume. It will be easiest to know how many gallons are in 1 inch depth of your pot. So first we need cubic feet. We have square feet with the cross section area so we only need depth in feet to get cubic feet. Here we go:

Volume = (Area)(Depth)(7.48)

Area = our answer from above
Depth = 1/12 = 0.0833
7.48 = gallons per cubic foot

So take your number from Area and multiply it by 0.0833. Take this number and multiply b 7.48. Now you know how many gallons are in an inch of water in your pot. Check it by pouring a known quantity of water into the pot and measure the depth.

For example, say we found out a pot has .68 gallons per inch. I pour 2 gallons of water in. 2/.68=2.94 inches.
I keep my ruler in the entire boil and cooling so I can measure depth at the end.

Now you can measure volumes of water in your kettle.

Second-Boil off
To figure out boil off, fill your kettle up to brewing volumes like 5 or 6 gallons. Bring it to a boil, keep it boiling for 60 minutes, cool it and measure how much water you have left. My boil off is pretty consistent at all depths so I use gallons per hour, but you may want to try larger and smaller volumes to boil to come up with a percentage.

For volume per hour it is simply preboil volume minus postboil volume. For example, I start with 5.25 gallons preboil and I boil for 60 minues, chill, and measure to find I have 3.25 gallons. My boiloff rate is 5.25-3.25=2 gallons per hour.

For percentage start with the volume per hour calculation above. Take that number and divide it by the original volume and you have percent boil off. For example with the above numbers, 2/5.25=0.38 (multiply by 100 to call it percent, ie 38%). If you run a bunch of trials at various volumes, average them.

Wort will boil off slightly different than water, so keep track of all your volumes when brewing and you can fine tune your estimates if you really want. The truth is, we are making beer, not building a bridge. Close is good enough, just be consistent so you can be predictable.

Last-Mash Volumes….for now

For your first BIAB, you have done enough. Take your desired final volume (usually 5 or 5.25 gallons) and add in your boil off volume. Make note of this volume. Don’t worry about absorption for now. Nobody said you HAVE to use all your water. Do your mash. Wring, squeeze, hang your bag….whatever you choose. Make a note of your drain method. Measure how much wort you have. Absorption is just the amount of water you started with minus how much wort you have after mash. Top up your kettle with fresh water to your original premash volume and you should end up with a postboil volume you wanted.

Do a few brews and take notes. Each time take your absorption volume and divide it by the weight of your grains. This will be gallons per pound. Average a few batches and fine tune as you get more brews under your belt. You may find trends like over 12 pounds of grains absorbs more than 8-10 pounds of grains, so you may have different absorptions based on the amount of grains. But I bet the numbers won’t be significantly different.

Later-Mash Volumes

Once you done a few brews and taken notes you can mash with all your water. The formula is simply:

Mash volume = final wort volume + boil off + absorption

How’s that? Clear enough? Message me with errors/typos, I read what is in my head sometimes and not what I actually wrote.

You make your own beer? – Plans canceled.

I forgot that I have my SMaSH hanging out in my Better Bottle until early next week dry hopping. So that means I can’t brew my Red Lager Sunday. Stay tuned for a reschedule.

You make your own beer? – Clementine Wit bottled

Finally bottled my Clementine Wit. I’m still on m wife’s computer until I get a replacement for mine, so a label will have to wait. Even green, this beer tasted great! Hoping for another commercial level brew! (Yes it is cloudy…it is a wit, it is supposed to be cloud)

Another happy Newcastle bottle

You make your own beer? – Looks like Sunday may be BIAB Lager Day!

Wife and kids going to a play so I might be able to squeeze in the Red Lager! Starter Thursday night should work fine. In a bind because I don’t have a replacement computer yet so no access to my software. Luckily I did most of my brew day plans already so it is just a few decoction calculations to do.

You make your own beer-watch me go!

Don’t tell Miller, but I just dry hopped my Centennial SMaSH beer and guess what that means?

Quadruple hopped!

Bottle soon! Did I tell you how much I love the smell of Centennial hops?

You brew your own beer? – Interesting

My Clementine Wit has been in primary for two weeks and secondary for two weeks with macerated clementines soaked in vodka. The clementines settled out over the two weeks and the top surface of the beer was clear. I brought it upstairs yesterday and the clementine pieces started to come up and a foam formed. It doesn’t look like krausen to me. I am guessing it is just the gases trapped in the beer coming up. This is my first fruit beer so I am not 100% sure. Anyone else see anything like this? I plan on bottling this tomorrow. I haven’t taken a gravity, I usually don’t get too hung up on that with 4 weeks in a fermenter. I haven’t noticed any airlock activity. What do you think? Here are some pictures:

Oh My Darlin’ Clementine Wit

Transferred my Wit to secondary on top of clementines chopped up and soaked in vodka for over a month. Nice and cloudy still, I think the flour and the yeast did its job properly. HUGE clementine aroma! Maybe bottle in a week, maybe two. Stay tuned for the label….

SMaSH Brew #1 -BIAB Centennial

I finally did a SMaSH brew. What is SMaSH? It stands for Single Malt and Single Hop. This allows you to explore the flavors of one malt and one hop instead of most recipes which use multiple hops and/or hops to combine flavors. For this SMaSH I chose Vienna malt and Centennial Hops with a clean fermenting US-05 yeast.

Vienna Malt:Vienna Malt is a kiln-dried barley malt darker than pale ale malt, but not as dark as Munich Malt. It imparts a golden to orange color and a distinctive toast or biscuit malt aroma to the beer.

Centennial Hops:Centennial imparts a pungent, citrus-like flavor and aroma. This particular “C” hop, however, is good when you are not looking to impart quite the floral aromas that you might find in Cascade.

US-05:This yeast strain was developed from a strain of the ‘Chico’ ale yeast – presumably the same critters in White Labs California Ale (WLP001) and/or Wyeast 1056 American Ale yeast. The Fermentis website says that this is “The most famous Ale yeast strain found across America, now available as a ready to pitch dry yeast. Produces well balanced beers with low diacetyl and a very clean, crisp end palate.”

I cheated a little bit, I used some acidulated malt to adjust my mash pH down because I know my water needs it. I also did an acid rest and added gypsum. Don’t tell the BIAB purists, but to do this I used two vessels. I heated 2.5 gallons of water up to 100F and mixed it into the grains for an acid rest 30-40 minutes. I didn’t time it, I just waited around 15 minutes then began heating my remaining water up for the main mash.

Recipe time:
9.5# Vienna
0.25# Acidulated Malt
4-1/8 tsp CaSO4 (~113 ppm Ca)
0.5 oz Centennial First Wort Hop
1 oz Centennial 30 minutes
2.5 oz Centennial 20 minutes
1 tsp Irish Moss 15 minutes
1 oz Centennial Dry Hop for 7 days

This wort smelled great!

What is brew in a bag? aka BIAB

What is brew in a bag (BIAB)? I’m not about to go deep into the science and chemistry here, I just want to touch the surface, get to the basic concept of BIAB. Define it. The way I see it, there is only one true definition for BIAB:

Brew in a Bag is a brewing method that uses a porous “bag” for lautering (separating wort from grains).

That’s it. There are so many variations that can fit under this definition and each and every one of them is still BIAB. Any further restrictions on this definition and you leave out a process somewhere that should be BIAB. This will get a lot of 10th level BIABers riled up, but it is the truth. They’ll want to box BIAB in to using only 1 vessel and require you to use all your water in the mash amongst other things. That simply isn’t true. Think of the parallels to BIAB: fly sparge, no-sparge, batch sparge…what is the common denominator? Separating your wort from the grains. Some are slow, some are fast, some use all the water for the batch, some use some of the water for the batch, some use two vessels sometimes, some use three vessels sometimes, etc. Lots of different ways to lauter even within the same method. As an exclusive BIABer for just short of two years now, I vary my brew day process all the time either out of necessity, or just to try something different. Yes, there is a basic method that I use most of the time, but I do not fret about deviating from it. Why box yourself into a tight definition?

Did you notice that mashing is missing from the definition? The bag isn’t important to the mash, it’s just there waiting for the lauter. You put the grains into the bag then mash because you couldn’t mash then put the grains into the bag…..or could you? Ahah, now you see why mash isn’t in the definition. There’s no reason why you couldn’t do your mash in a whole bunch of small pots and pans in your oven to keep them warm then dump them into your boil kettle that has your bag in it, right? Or maybe you’d like to use a super insulated cooler to hold your mash temps then dump the whole thing into your bag in the kettle, why not? If you think about it, the BIAB parallels equipment aren’t important to the mash either. Some brewers use a separate mash tun and lauter tun but could still be a fly sparge, no? False bottom, or under drain in a cooler, still a batch sparge, right? See? We’re really talking about lautering here.

Vessel 1..2..3
You hear that using more than one vessel complicates the process so it isn’t real BIAB because it has to be kept simple at all costs! Many BIAB purists go nutty about the number of vessels thing, more than one and it is too complicated. Hogwash, use whatever number of vessels you want or need to. One is the minimum required, that’s it. Sometimes I use one, sometimes I use two, or go really off my rocker and use three! Who cares?

You hear that if you sparge your bag by trickling water over it or dunking it in mashout temperature water you’ve complicated it too much and are wasting your time. Many BIAB purists insist you must use all the water required for your brew in the mash. Phooey, use as much of your brew water as you want or equipment restricts you to. Full water volume mashing is indeed the easiest method, but it really isn’t hard to reserve some of your water for later processes…just watch out, you might have to use an extra vessel! (the HORROR)

Whatever you do, don’t point out that BIAB is like No-Sparge brewing, that will get you kicked out of most BIAB purist clubs for sure. Never mind that at the simplest form with full volume of water used in both methods, the only difference is the lautering. With BIAB it is accomplished by removing the grains from the pot and letting the wort flow back into the boil pot. With No-Sparge it is accomplished by draining (usually rapidly) the wort from the grain through a bottom drain into the boil pot. One advantage of BIAB (and a difference) is that by pulling your bag up, the grains get a bit of a squeeze while it drains, so by just doing the basics, BIAB should get a few more points of efficiency than No-sparge. But I bet if you emulated the squeeze of a BIAB in a No-Sparge mash tun by pushing down the grain bed slightly, you could easily get the same efficiency. Remember above where I said you don’t have to use all your water in the BIAB mash…sounds just like No-Sparge where some people do and some people don’t doesn’t it?

Mash out
Mash out or not? Another fork in the road, follow many BIAB purists and they’ll tell you that a mash out is a waste of time. Others will tell you a mash out is really worth it. Who is right? Both and neither! Do what you want to, the differences are small and the effort is too.

Squeeze or no squeeze is another topic that can get many BIAB purists wound up. For some people it is worth it, for others it isn’t. For me, it is about consistency. I press my grain bag against a colander in an extra kettle, and twist the bag to get as much as sensibly possible and this gives me pretty predicable results. That’s what really matters isn’t it? I mean predicting your results and meeting them should be held higher than worrying that you may be “complicating” things too much by adding a step to your process.

Why is bag in quotes? Some people use metal buckets with holes or cylindrical screens in place of bags. Why not something like a zapap ala Papazian? Nobody said it had to be fabric.

What about volumes? I do 5 and 10 gallon batches outside on my turkey fryer burner with my setup. I could shrink things down and brew 3 gallons on my kitchen stove using a small pot. I could mash a lot thicker and get a concentrated wort that I dilute down or even add extract to like a partial mash (like? wouldn’t it actually be a partial mash? Remember, the lauter is what matters!) I could use my setup to get a wort concentrated enough to dilute down to 20 gallons or more. You could do all grain partial boil on the kitchen stove with a small pot. Like everything else so far, there are many possibilities.

Don’t restrict yourself with a tight definition, keep it basic. Think of BIAB as a lauter method.

Agree or disagree? I’d like to hear it. Maybe we can all learn something or see something from a different viewpoint.

Stay tuned for more informational posts. I learn something when I start thinking and writing about these things.

Oh My Darlin’ Ale – BIAB Clementine Wit

Ambitious brew day yesterday. I did a clementine witbier using BIAB and a lot of Doc’s (The Brewing Network) ecipe and techniques.

Main mash @122F while cereal/decoction mashing:
3.5# Belgian Pale
0.25# Acidulated malt
6.52g CaCL

First Step @ 113F decoction/cereal mash for 15 minutes:
3.19# Raw Wheat ground to powder
2.5# American 6 Row
1.05# Quick Oats ground to powder
5.78g CaCL

Next step 152F for 15 minutes.
Next step boil for 15 minutes.
Add to main mash for 155F for 45 minutes.
Raise to 160F for 15 minutes.

90 Minute Boil:
First wort hops 0.5 oz Northern Brewer while draining/squeezing bag and raising to boil.
30 minute hops 0.3 oz Saaz
15 minute 1 tablespoon flour
10 minute zest of 1 grapefruit, 2 clementines, several baby food jars of dried clementine peel de-pithed
5 minute hops 0.3 oz Saaz
Flameout 0.50 oz freshly ground coriander, 0.50 oz chamomile (a mix of teabag contents and dried flowers from our garden)

Hoses frozen, hose bib frozen so slow chilled in a snow bank. 1.5 hours got down below 80F.

Ferment at 70F with White Labs WLP400 Belgian Wit Ale yeast 1 L starter used
Shot of O2 for 20 seconds pre-ferment

All the gear ready to go!

Lots of additions!

Main mash in acid rest, water heating for decoction/cereal


Lots of lagging going on.

A rare moment's rest

Temperature step in progress.

Gavin came out to inspect the process.

Boiling the decoction/cereal mash...lots of foam!

I boiled in the dark

Slow chilling in a snow bank.

Tucked into the ferementation chamber.

Woke up to a nice puffy pillow...we have lift off!