Saturday, September 10, 2016

Where we're heading. Recirculating BIAB

It's no secret... we do a lot of complicated mashing.  We make a lot of Belgian style beers, and a lot of lagers.  We believe in step mashing, and in all of it's benefits.   And to have success with the styles we brew, you have to step mash.  I don't care what you read on some forum.  A single infusion mash, will get you close, but it will not get you the exact mouth feel, spicy yeast character, and digestible wort (mout)  that you are trying to create. Can you make a tripel that is somehow light and effervescent, but still full bodied?  No, no you can't, not if you don't step mash.

Up till now we have had two approaches for a step mash.   Approach 1;  was to us the Cajun injector electric turkey fryer,  and use the heating element that comes with it.  We dough in low, and rise to each step, stirring like crazy while heating.  Now this approach has been very successful, but it is very labor intensive and we can only make 5 gallons at a time.   As you also know, we want to start making 10 gallon (11) batches exclusively as a team.

Approach 2 is to use the 100 quart Coleman Xtreme cooler and perform an infusion step mash.   The problems with this approach are; brew days take forever, brew days are very complicated, brew days require many processes and steps.  I spend most of one of those brew days on the computer doing calculations.   And as you all also know, the simpler you can make your brew day, the better chance you have at success.

So what do we do?   Time is now precious.  Two of our members are starting families, and as much as we all love home brew, we also value family above all else.  So, our time must be considered.  Here is the conundrum, we also want to perfect certain recipes and start competing next year.  We think some of what we are making would do very well locally, and possibly even nationally.   So we are in a quandary, a quagmire if you will.  But sports fans have no fear, thanks to John's birthday gift to the team, we have a solution.   We are  switching to recirculating brew in a bag in our keggle.   And here is what we know about our system,  Our keggle is not large enough to handle most 10 gallon batches with the no sparge method (full water volume method)  Especially since we brew lots of high gravity beers.   Our keggle is easily large enough to pull off almost any batch if we use the biab with sparge rinse method.  Our BDSA will take up 14.01 gallons of space while mashing.  The photo at the left is what we are building.  Of course we still need a few of the components, and we may be wrapping the keggle in reflect-ix insulation.   (alternatively, I may have it coated by a local insulation contractor with ceramic foam, and that will absolutely hold in the heat. It is also very expensive, so I will have to work out some kind of trade... free beer?)

The Great Brew Eh Pump has arrived!
Recirculating BIAB has some huge advantages over mash tun cooler brewing;
  • Easier - no complicated sparging routines or calculations, less water transfer.   Less risk of screwing up a sparge calculation
  • Safer - no risk of burning or scorching the wort. 
  • Easier Step mashing - re-circulation during heating creates consistent temperatures in the wort and allows you to heat the wort from one step to the next while recirculating.
  • Clearer Wort - Re-circulation - acts as a natural filter
  • Faster Brew day - Brew in a bag is just faster, and our 231,000 BTU burner is extremely fast at heating the wort.  I'm guessing that brew days will be under 4 hours from lighting the flame to final clean up.  Even with complicated mash schedules.
  • Familiar - My team learned all grain with the BIAB method.   They have learned 3 vessel oveer time, but they really know BIAB, their instincts are more focused on a BIAB brew day.   
  • Easy to nail your gravity -  don't believe me... Well let's think it through... so what if you screw up a calculation?  What if your efficiency is too low.   With BIAB with a Sparge rinse... you just adjust or shorten up your rinse.. checking gravity as you go with a refractometer... you can hit your numbers and adjust your hop additions before the boil.   Meaning you can make the beer you intended to make every single time.  You can't do that with batch sparge.  Sure you may end up with a gallon, or half a gallon less beer... who cares if it is the beer you wanted to make.  
Look round eye, brew how you want.   But for us, this is by far the best, most consistent way to brew beer, at least for us.   It allows you to make adjustments during your brew day... heck even during your sparge.   It allows you to recirculate while heating your mash from one step to the next, protecting your mash from burning.  It saves you valuable time.  It is far more efficient.  And most importantly,  for us,  it conserves precious time, allowing us to enjoy this hobby even when we are busy, and life pressures are closing in on us.



  1. I switched to a Brew Easy clone system and haven't looked back. Similar to full mash ebiab but I still have control over the mash thickness. Efficiency improved from the start

  2. I have been intrigued by the brew easy system, but the price tag is a little high for me. I definitely prefer the ease of full volume mash. I have not seen any drop in quality or character since I switched. Although we still use the mash tun and the 3 v system sometimes. We make so much Belgian inspired beer that we really need to be able to heat our mash as we brew...