Sunday night John Brindle gave a great talk on the Brew in a Bag technique at the Aurora City Brew Club (AC/BC) meeting. Brew in a Bag, really mash in a bag, involves the use of a mesh bag to contain your grains during mashing. Lautering then involves raising the bag up out of the wort and letting the bag drain. The original technique was no-sparge but now a “teabag” sparge is used to get conversion rates near or in some cases even above what you can get with a picnic cooler mash/lauter tun.
I’ve used BIAB for some of my small batches but in the conversation after the talk, we arrived at another great use: Developing recipes. Since I was in Poland this year, I have wanted to brew a Baltic Porter. It’s a really big beer, 8 to 8.5% ABV. It also provides a chance of making nineteen liters of very expensive swamp water, so I intend to use BIAB for very small batches (one gallon) to dial it in before scaling up. More great uses of the technique are testing malts, SMASH (Single Malt and Single Hop) batches or any other brew where you may not want 50 bottles of whatever it is you could be brewing.
BIAB requires minimal equipment above extract batches. The technique is described very well in many places on line so I won’t go into it here. Another advantage is a shorter brew day – I can turn out a batch in an evening as opposed to six to eight hours for my larger brews. It’s a weapon in the homebrewer’s arsenal, to be used when it’s appropriate. And I can testify to the quality of beers produced. John’s are excellent.