Monday, February 24, 2014

Chinook IPA - BIAB Debut/Disaster

Up until this point, all my brews had been extract.  In order to get the sugars out of the grains, you need to mash them in water for an extended period of time.  With extract brewing someone has already done that for you - the extracted malt is provided in either dry or syrup form.  Extract brewing is easier and quicker but the extract itself is more expensive.  All-grain brewing takes more time and requires more equipment but the grains are considerably cheaper.  After learning about the Brew in a Bag (BIAB) method of doing all-grain, I decided to give it a shot.  BIAB simplifies the amount of equipment/time needed to do all-grain and since I was planning to do a 2.5 gallon batch, no additional equipment was necessary (save for a five gallon paint strainer bag.)

I decided to revisit the first extract recipe I did on my own, a Chinook IPA.  My IPA stores are empty and I had a lot of Chinook Hops in my freezer so this was the perfect recipe.  

Clean prep area


Five pounds of grains

I'm supposed to calculate how much water I'll need for a full boil (including water absorbed by the grain as well as lost to evaporation.)  I didn't do that of course and just started with 3 gallons in my pot.  I wasn't sure how much the grains would displace and I sure didn't want an overflow.  Better safe than sorry.

Three gallons of water - would the grains fit?

The five gallon paint strainer bag was kept in place with binder clips.

Too early for beer so let the coffee flow!

I had to heat the water to 160 degrees (called the Strike temp) which took probably 15 minutes or so.  Once the strike temp was reached, I slowly added the grains while stirring to prevent clumps.

Turns out that there was "plenty" of room in the pot after the grains were added.

Adding the grain to the pot should have lowered the temp to the resting temp of 152 that I would need to maintain for the next hour.  And did!  I turned off the burner and covered the top with a towel to keep in the heat.

After stirring in all the grains the temp was spot on

A towel to retain heat

Soon though the temp began to drop.  I turned the burner back on and once it hit 153 I'd turn it off again.  I did this a couple times to keep the temps in the 151-154 range.  I turned off the burner after about 15 minutes of this back and forth and went down to the basement to help Ezri with something for a minute.  I came back to this!


170 degrees!  Way way way too high!  At such a high temperature the sugars stop extracting from the grains and the starting gravity might not be nearly as high as it should be.  As to how this happened, my guess is that the thermometer I was using was only measuring the temperature near the top of the pot.  I'm thinking that the water at the bottom was much hotter than I had thought.

I did my best to lower the heat, leaving it uncovered and adding 1/4 gallon of cold water.  Eventually I got it down but the damage had been done.  The rest of the mash (60 minutes total) was in the 151-155 range but it was too late.

After the mash, the grains are left in a colander to drain

The wort is ready to boil

I took a gravity reading once the mash was done and it came out at 1.022.  Dreadfully low.  I've since read that I should've let the wort cool before taking the gravity reading - because it was so hot that 1.022 wasn't accurate.  At the time though I was pretty depressed that it was so low.  Nothing to do but soldier on.  From this point the process was the same as an extract recipe.   I began a 60 minute boil and began the hop additions.

1 gallon paint strainer bag keeps the hops
separate during the boil (less gunk afterwards)

After the boil was done I cooled off the wort with a combination of sticking the pot outside in the snow and in the sink with some ice.  Once it was cooler I took another gravity reading - 1.034.  Better but still much lower than the 1.053 that I was shooting for.  At this point I threw good procedures out the window and just went for it.  They recommend having DME (dry malt extract) on hand for situations like this where the gravity comes out low.  Naturally I had no DME to use but I did have corn sugar.  I quickly measured out 1/2 pound of sugar in an (unsanitzed) bowl and dumped it into the cooling wort.  This is very much not the way to up your gravity but I was a bit panicked/scatterbrained and decided that something had to be done.

Enough is enough.  Fill that carboy!

I poured the cooled wort into the carboy, plugged it up and shook the hell out of it.  One last gravity reading - 1.043.  Better.  The corn sugar may end up giving the beer a cidery taste (to say nothing of my unsanitary practices just before the finish line) but it can't be helped now.  I had rehydrated the Safale S-05 yeast and poured the slurry into the carboy.  Slapped the airlock on the puppy and my first BIAB session was complete.

Disappointed but it will still make beer

Fermentation kicked off quickly and within six hours the airlock was bubbling away.  The plan is to leave it for three weeks, dry hop with more Chinook hops for one week and then bottle.  While things did not go as planned it was still a very good learning experience.  I'm glad I got my first BIAB session under my belt and I'll be doing it again.  The funny thing is that in my last beer post I swore off one gallon brewing but I think that might be the direction I go with my next BIAB batch.  The smaller size would make the whole process a easier and more forgiving.  Stay tuned!


  1. I just got a home brew kit for my birthday and am looking forward to following you and Muddy's trials and errors in my own attempts. Thanks for the info! By the way, "too early for beer"? Sacrilege!

  2. Excellent man. I've never tried that. I can make my beer just as shitty with LME or DME as I probably would the grain way. Kudos and, of course, save me one.