After you have some home brewing experience behind you, you may start looking to get into all grain home brewing. Going all grain adds many new additions to the basic home brewing process and set up. There is additional equipment that you need to purchase, and water volume and temperature play an important role as well. There are also additional steps to take in the process. However, all grain home brewing offers you a wider variety of ingredients you can utilize, and it allows you to have more control over the final product.
Brewing from grains (as opposed to extracts) will produce better, more flavorful beer. The process involves some math, and it is very important to make sure that you use the proper amount of water for mashing and sparging, and that the temperatures of the water used for both processes are correct and accurate. All of this is done to ensure you maximize the efficiency, getting the maximum amount of sugars from the grains. The better your efficiency, the better your beer. Plus, the better efficiency you have, the better value you get from the money you spend on the grains.
Many all grain brewers have elaborate home brewing equipment set ups, building brewing stands and buying higher powered propane burners to speed up the brewing day. All grain requires additional equipment such as a mash tun, hot liquor tank, which along with the brew kettle are known as a three vessel set up. There are also additional pieces of equipment needed for all grain home brewing. All of this can be intimidating to the new brewer, and often poses to great an expense in order to make the leap.
Many home brewers live in an apartment and simply do not have the space for additional equipment. In addition, indoor stoves do not have the power to boil the larger volumes of liquid common to all grain brewing. However, as often is the case in home brewing, there is another way. There is a version of all grain home brewing called BIAB: Brew In A Bag. This is still all grain brewing, but it is a simplified version that offers many advantages to traditional all grain brewing.
The main difference is that all of the water for the brew (known as the liquor) is added all at once as opposed to in stages, and the entire brewing process happens in one pot. With the BIAB method, you do not need any additional equipment to all grain brew, other than the grain bag. You can purchase a material called voile, and make an extremely durable bag.
Alternatively, you can purchase one online. Or, go to the local hardware or home supply store and purchase paint strainer bags. You can also purchase the larger winemaking bags. Whichever way you choose, you are looking at a minimal expense to usher you into the world of all grain home brewing.
The BIAB home brewing method was created in Australia some years ago, and it has just started to recently catch on in the United States. There are some home brewing snobs that look down on BIAB as an inferior method to traditional all grain home brewing, but there are also many former traditional all grain brewers that have made the switch. I will explain the pros and cons of the BIAB method in greater detail in another article, but for this one I am focusing on the basic process.
There are many ways you can add on to the process, but for now, let’s focus on the basic BIAB process. The basic idea behind the BIAB method is to be able to brew an entire all grain batch in one pot. Having a second pot handy can be helpful, but is not necessary to the BIAB method. You can even choose to mash in a converted cooler mash tun if you like. But again, the basic BIAB process only requires one pot and nothing else besides a bag.
If you are home brewing indoors, then you will have certain limitations. If you have a propane tank and can brew outdoors, then the only limitation you will have is the size of your brew kettle. Higher gravity beers require larger grain bills, as do larger batches of beer. Typically with extract and partial mash beers you are brewing 5 gallon batches. With all grain, you may brew batches as large as 5.5 gallons, 7 gallons, 10 gallons or even larger. You have to account for the amount of grain, as well as the proper amount of water required. Obviously, if your kettle holds 6 gallons, you won’t be able to do 10 gallon batches.
However, you could split a 10 gallon batch into separate batches, but that will require a little math and a longer brew day, which is opposite to the theory behind BIAB brewing. But then again, the choice is yours. For now, let’s just stick to brewing in one pot with 5 gallon batches. The point of BIAB brewing is to KISS–Keep It Simple, Stupid).
The first step is to get the recipe you want to brew and to make sure that it is for the same size batch you intend to brew. If it isn’t, you will need to do some calculations and convert it to the size you will be brewing. In other words, if you have a 10 gallon recipe and will be making 5 gallons, you will need to convert the recipe accordingly.
You next need to determine how much water is needed for your batch. A simple formula is to take the amount of grains X.10 + the boil off (evaporation) + batch size + trub loss = the amount of water needed. A somewhat standard measure is to use 1.25 quarts of water per pound of grain for mashing.
You can find online calculators at sites like Beersmith or Green Bay Rackers to help you figure the amount of water you will need. This is important not only to maximize efficiency, but because with the BIAB method, you are doing the mashing and boil in the same pot. You need to make sure your pot is big enough to hold the complete volume. Keep in mind that you will be boiling this entire volume, so you have to account for some space in your pot so you do not have a boilover.