Brewing beer at home. Now there’s an idea with merit! And if you want to be able to brew the full range of beer styles (around 200+ or so), you’ll need to go all-grain. But there’s a catch: A lot of times, converting to all-grain brewing from extract can be pricey and technically daunting.

So, if you’re not feeling the costs of conversion, don’t want to get too technical, and want to get started with all-grain brewing right away, there’s only one way to go: Brew-in-a-Bag.

In today’s article, I’ll give you a quick and easy three-step roadmap to getting started with BIAB.

Step 1: Get a Bag

It’s right there in the name, right? For brewing in a bag, you’ll definitely need a bag (and a pot to put it in!).

The best brewing bags are made from voile, a fabric used in making curtains. Get good, quality, 100% cotton voile and avoid the polyester types, because they will not resist heat well at all.

A close second to voile is muslin, which is somewhat less robust than voile, but will do.

The bag itself should be double stitched for strength, and make sure it’s big enough to hold your brewing pot comfortably (note that you won’t be putting your pot in the bag when you brew, but it’s a good test to see if it will be the right size).

Other than that, the bag is a simple device. No drawstrings, neon lights, or GPS required!

Step 2: Get your Ingredients

For this brew to be all-grain, you’ll need those grains! For this quick start to BIAB, I’ll recommend a super-simple recipe that tastes great.

Here are a few notes before I give you the recipe:

Milled grains. Don’t worry if you don’t have a grain mill. They’re tricky and expensive. The alternative? Order your grains pre-milled. Don’t order too much, since pre-milled grains don’t have as long a shelf life.

Hops. Buy pelleted hops, don’t bother with the whole cone stuff. Again, they are tricky to work with and flavors can be variable. Store your hops pellets in the freezer in a sealed container. Store different hop varieties separate from each other.

Water. Water’s kinda important, so don’t neglect it. For this brew, make sure you have (a) enough, see the recipe below, (b) it’s filtered with a carbon filter or use bottled mineral water and finally (c) it’s at the right temperature (we’ll need it to be at around 72 degrees Celsius (161 F).

And that’s it! Isn’t beer marvelous?

Step 3: Follow the recipe

Unlike other recipes on this site, I’ll walk you through this one step-by-step, so don’t worry. Relax. Have a beer, and let’s get started!

3.1 Get all your ingredients and equipment ready before starting.

It will avoid frustration later on. You will need:

  • Your brewing pot. Depending on the batch size, but let’s assume we’re making 19 liters (5 Gallons) of beer, you’ll need a pot big enough to take at least 35 liters of liquid (7-8 Gallons).
  • Your bag. Make sure your bag is big enough to hold the pot – that’s a good bet that the bag will hold up. Rinse it properly in the same kind of water you’ll use for brewing.
  • A fermenter. Use the standard plastic bucket with bubbler combo. They’re cheap and work well. Just don’t use one that is very scratched inside.
  • Your sanitizer. Prefer a no-rinse sanitizer like Perisan or Starsan. Mix up enough to fill your fermenter and stick the bubbler, gasket, and anything else that will touch the cooled wort into the sanitizer (in the fermenter) now.
  • Your thermometer. Clean it and get it ready. Don’t break it. If you have a hydrometer or refractometer, get that ready too. Don’t sweat it if you don’t, but try get one for next time.
  • Heat the brewing water. Tap 26.5 liters (7 Gallons) of brewing water into the kettle and heat it to 71 degrees Celsius (160 F). Put the bag into the pot and secure it with a few clips. Put the lid of the kettle back on and turn off the heat.
  • Get an ice bath ready. You’ll need a container/bath big enough to hold your kettle and enough ice to chill it properly. Pro tip: Add some salt to the water. That’ll help to chill things out rapidly.

We are almost ready to brew!

Here’s the ingredient list for our BIAB beer. It’s a simple, tasty blond ale I’m calling One-horse Town Ale (but feel free to name it anything you like!).

  • 4 kgs (9 lbs) of milled Pale Malt (almost any good pale, 2-row malt will do)
  • 110 grams (4 oz) of crushed Crystal or Caramel Malt (I used Caramunich II from Weyerman’s, but any caramel malt will do)
  • 30 grams (1.1 oz) of Amarillo, or Centennial, or any other citrussy hop varietal (as long as it’s bitterness is around 9-11% Alpha acid – check the packet or you supplier for details. If you can only find Cascade, double the quantities in the recipe).
  • 1 x sachet US-05 American Ale Dry yeast or US-04 British Ale yeast or 1.1 liters (.25 Gallons) of liquid yeast starter (use a clean, American ale strain).

3.2 Time to brew! Now we’ll mash the grains and extract the sugars that will eventually become beer.

This is what the bag’s for in BIAB. It serves as a mash tun.

Now, follow the following procedure:

  1. Heat your water (with the bag suspended inside) to 71 degrees Celsius (160 F).
  2. Mix the grains together and slowly add them to the water, inside the bag. Use a wooden spoon to mix them in thoroughly (but gently – don’t whisk!) and break up any dough balls that form.

    Bag in the kettle, ready for the grains. Note the handy binder clips. Btw, The wire leads to a digital thermometer.

  3. Once the grains are mixed in properly, your average temperature reading should be around 67 degrees Celsius (152 F).
  4. Close the lid and let the mixture (called the mash) stand for 85 minutes. You can stir the mix through once about halfway through, but otherwise, just leave it be.
  5. At the end of 85 minutes, pull the bag slowly and carefully from the kettle. Let it drip for a while and then place the bag on top of a colander, inside a second bucket. Have the bag drain for a few minutes and then add the drained wort to the kettle.
  6. If you have a hydrometer or refractometer, now’s the time to measure the wort for your pre-boil gravity. The number you’re aiming for is: 1.039. Don’t be dismayed if it’s a bit off. A few points (i.e. between 1.035 and 1.043) won’t make a big difference. If it’s way lower than that, you can add dried malt extract (DME) to boost the gravity (around 500 grams [18 oz] per 10 points). If it’s more, you can dilute with water (3 liters [0.8 Gallons] of water per 5 points).

3.3. The mash is complete, it’s time to light those fires and get the wort to a good, rolling boil.

A rolling boil is vigorous, so don’t settle for a simmer. Once the wort is boiling, remove the lid. You won’t need it until after the boil is done.

As soon as you’ve got a good, rolling boil going, start your 60 minute timer. For timing, we’ll always be counting backwards.

So, if you’re directed to add an ingredient at 50 minutes, it literally means that your timer is reading “50”, in other words, 10 minutes into the boil. Got that?

Here’s the step-by-step:

  • At 45 minutes, add 10g (0.35 oz) of hops
  • At 15 minutes, add 10g (0.35 oz) of hops
  • At 1 minute, add the remaining 10g (0.35 oz) of hops

3.4. At the end, you’re going to turn off the flame and stir the wort (the fancy name for the hot liquid you’ve just created) to form a whirlpool.

Do this for a few minutes to allow the hop residue and other bits and pieces to collect in the middle of the kettle.

That will help when you decant the wort into the fermenter. Watch out for steam! That stuff can burn you.

3.5. Now, replace the lid, and put the kettle in your ice bath.

At this point, you can measure your post-boil, or original gravity. It should be around 1.045. As before, you can correct with some DME or water if the numbers are way off. But 3-4 points, either way, shouldn’t concern you.

3.6. While you wait for the wort to cool, re-hydrate the dry yeast in 100ml (3.4 fl.oz ) of room-temperature brewing water in a sanitized mason jar or glass.

Make sure the fermenter, bubbler, and anything else that will touch the cooled wort is sterilized. That’s where your fermenter-full of sanitizer will come in handy. Good thing you’ve already prepared that!

3.7. After about 20 minutes of cooling, sterilize your thermometer and measure the wort temperature.

You’re aiming for around 25 degrees C (77 F). If it’s still above that, give it more time and add some ice to the ice bath.

3.8. Once your wort is chilled to 25 C (77 F), it’s time to add the wort to the fermenter.

Just splash in the cooled wort straight into your sterilized fermenter (of course, first pour out all the sterilizer!). Don’t worry if it foams a lot, that’s a good thing because you need to introduce some oxygen into the wort at this stage. Stop short of the bits and pieces (called trub) that’s left from the whirlpool: That can go down the drain!

3.9. Finally, it’s time to pitch your yeast.

Pour in the yeast (rehydrated or starter). No need to mix, the yeast will do its thing. Now, close the lid, fill your bubbler with some sanitizer or vodka, and fit it into the lid.

Time for a post-brew beer: Congratulations, you have just made a BIAB beer!

Step 3 and a bit

I know, I know. I said this was a three-step process, but I’d be remiss if I don’t tell you what to do now. After all, you haven’t quite finished the beer yet.

At this stage, it’s important to place the fermenter in a dark, cool place. Ideally, you want the ambient temperature to be between 16-18 Degrees Celsius (61-64 F) with as little variation in temperature as possible.

The other thing to remember is this: Don’t mess with your beer!

Yes, there’s a lot written online and in books about secondary fermentation, a process that can take place in another vessel (e.g. a glass carboy).

However, this decanting and moving of the beer introduces two massive risks to your finished brew: contamination and oxygenation. So, my advice would be: don’t decant your beer until you’re ready to bottle. The advantages of secondary fermentation in another vessel are greatly, massively over-estimated.

Trust me on this one.

Leave the beer to happily ferment for 2 weeks. Then, measure the gravity. You’re aiming for somewhere close to 1.010.

Once you’ve finished the fermentation, it’s time to bottle your beer. Check out my article on bottling for some pro tips.

And now, you are truly done.

Cheers, and let me know how your brew turns out. If you have any questions, post them in the comments below and I’ll try and help!


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