15 Gallon BIAB System
My BIAB brewery setup is designed to make cleaning as easy and effortless as possible. More than 6 years experience and trials with simplifying brew systems went into it. Even when brewing with it today, i think about what could be improved.
Everything has to be easy to clean, you should be able to see it and reach it with a brush.
If you can’t see it you can’t control it. This is why you will not find a counter-flow chiller in my setup.
There are other advantages by using this rule, you can clean your brewery with little and less strong chemicals. Possible problems will be identified a lot quicker and you will spend a shorter time cleaning.
In this list, you can find every part of my brewery system. If anything is changed or improved, there will be an update.
My kettles are used from start to finish. I mash and ferment in the same vessel. This is a single vessel system, i have to clean the kettles only once and there is never the need to sanitize a fermentor.
The beers come out just as clear if not clearer than by separating all the trub before fermentation. People made various experiments where they compared separating the kettle trub vs keeping it for fermentation. There was either no difference or the beer with the trub was preferred at tastings.
I have 2 small 30l kettles and one big 100l kettle. It is possible to BIAB brew anything up to around 15 gallons (57l) with the big 100l pot or 2×5 gallons (2x19l) with the small 34l pots.
When brewing a double batch of 2×5 gallons (2x 19l), the whole brewing process can be done by just one person. When brewing 15 gallons, a buddy is needed to help lift the pot into the fermentation chamber.
With 100l pots, this system is already on the upper limit. The biggest pot for induction heating i found was 170l. I thought about upgrading but the pot has a huge price tag and lifting it into the fermentation chamber becomes impractical. Buying a second 100l pot and doing double batches is a better choice.
To separate the beer from the trub at the end of fermentation, i had to add valves to the kettles. It is necessary to take them apart and clean them. Because i use my kettles as fermentors, this happens just once per brew. I would have to do the same thing if i used a different kind of fermentor. The valves are 1/2 inch 3 piece valves, they are very easy to take apart.
The system works with induction heating. I use 2 stove tops with 3500w power each. Induction heating is very efficient (>90% with this system), the heat goes directly into the pot. Very little is wasted on heating up the environment.
When using the big 100l pot, both stove tops are used simultaneously which gives me a total of 7000w. If necessary, the whole system can work with propane or even wood by switching the heat source.
One downside i could think of, is that induction cooking pots are almost twice the price of normal ones. But i think its worth it and you get the money back by spending less on fuel. There is also no danger of carbon monoxide poisoning.
A normal home electric connection here in Europe has 3x25A fuses. This makes it possible to run 3 of these induction hubs at the same time (10500W).
Thanks to the induction heating, it is possible to add a thick layer of isolation to the pots without risk of burning. This makes the system even more efficient. I use cheap camping mats cut to the right size. The lids are also insulated. You can save a lot of energy like that and the heating cycles are a lot quicker.
The camping mats are also easy to clean. If they get wort on them, i scrub them with a brush and hang them to dry after every brew day. I plan to add thicker camping or yoga mats, that should boost the efficiency some more.
You can make your own BIAB Bag if you have some sewing skills or you can buy a pre fabricated one. After brewing you simply empty the bag and rinse it. If it is not clean enough, throw it into the washing machine.
I thought thoroughly about buying a stainless steel basket as a bag replacement. But that would make cleaning a lot more difficult. Also it would not be possible to do the squeeze anymore.
To mix the mash, i use a stainless paint mixer. I found that this is not ideal, there is no handle and if you are not careful you can damage the bag when mixing. This is why i have done some research and i think i have found the perfect solution. This thing is 100cm long and is used in professional kitchens. Made out of stainless steel and robust enough for the thickest mash.
I only got these gloves a year ago after reading about them on brulosophy. Before that i used normal dish washing gloves, but the heat went trough them really fast. Now i can squeeze the bag es long and as hard as i like and never burn my hands again. They are also very easy to clean.
This is a great thermometer. It is very fast and has a long probe. But please, don’t put it to far into the mash. The plastic part should never touch the liquid. I had to take apart a broken thermapen and clean it, there was some sugary residue in the joint. This clearly comes from putting it to far into the mash. I saw pictures and videos of people using the thermapen like that. This is disgusting. If you don’t get a stable reading, use your mixing tool to even out the temperature and get a correct reading.
Stainless steel immersion cooler. I would never buy a plate chiller for this small system. The immersion cooler is very easy to clean. You sanitize it by throwing it into the boiling wort a few minutes before cooling. The first hot 20l of cooling water are stored in a plastic bucket. When the wort has reached pitching temperature i just throw the whole immersion chiller into the bucket. To clean it i just give it a quick scrub with a brush and then hang it to dry.
Stainless steel ruler
With the help of a ruler, you always know how much liquid you got into your kettle. The ruler don’t even has to be put into the liquid. You can measure from the top. Just enter the numbers in the kettle volume calculator and you know exactly how much liquid you have in the kettle. Because it is made out of stainless steel you can put it into the dishwasher after brewing.
For a small batch, a simple pulley with a hook and rope is enough, but is impossible to lift a wet and hot bag from the 100l pot. This is why you have to have some kind of winch.
Your brewing table must be able to support ~200kg. I use an old office table. It is easy to clean and has a robust metal frame.
I normally use my kettle as a fermentor. There is no need to sanitize or clean it after a brew day. When the wort is cooled down, i pitch the yeast and put the whole kettle into the fermentation chamber. You only have to clean it after the transferring the beer to the serving kegs. To integrate the kettle with my brewpi system, there is a thermowell added to the lid.
You can use anything you like as a fermentor. If i have to make a lot of beer and 3 kettles are not enough, i use kegs as primary.
This is a professional Liebherr fridge. I use it because of its size, it is big enough for the 100l pot with its 50cm circumference (picture below). It has a brewpi controller built into it for precise wireless temperature control.
Very important piece of equipment. The Laptop is used as a timer and to make notes while brewing. There will be a post on brewing software in the near future.
The following things are not really necessary but they will make you life easier. It is absolutely possible to brew good beer without them.
I use it to check small samples of hot wort quickly. Even if it is not very accurate, it is a lot easier and faster than measuring with a hydrometer.
I always take a PH measurement to check if my calculation and salt/acid additions were correct. After mixing the mash a second time @45min i take a small sample and let it cool to >30C. This is important because measuring hot samples will destroy your Ph probe quickly.
2500w Heat Stick
If 7000w of heating power are not enough, you can add 2500w more with this nice piece of equipment. It costs only about 50$ and i like the extra power that this heat stick delivers. I thought about using 2 of them but that would very much push the limit of my electrical installation.
Brewing Salts and Acids
Because i have somewhat hard water where i brew (20dH), i use lactic acid to lower the mash PH. I don’t like phosphoric acid for brewing water treatment, i think it has a mineral bite to it. I prefer the mellow sourness of the lactic acid.
When brewing an IPA or other hop forward beer i add gypsum and a little bit of calcium chloride.
Hydrometer 7 – 14°P and 0 – 7°P [Amazon]
When starting out, i only used one hydrometer to measure gravity. It went from 0.980 – 1.120 in not so finely separated steps. It was very difficult to get a good reading, i hated it.
Then i found special brewing hydrometers at my homebrew shop. The scale is in plato but its easy to convert to OG. There is one hydrometer that goes from 0 – 7P (0.000 – 0.028) and the other from 7 – 14P (0.028 – 1.057). I still use the old hydrometer when brewing higher gravity beers.
Jewlery Scale [Amazon|Ebay]
I use this scale to measure hops and brewing salts. It can go up to 300g in 0.01g increments. For the small price it does its job very well.
Digital Kitchen Scale [Amazon|Ebay]
This was my kitchen scale, it is perfect for weighing malt. The scale measures up to 20kg by 1g increments. It has a big display and the weighing platform is spacious enough for a 30l plastic bucket.
Kegging System, Cleaning Products and Laboratory Equipment
I will write separate posts with details about the kegging system, cleaning products and lab equipment i use in my brewery.
2 thoughts on “15 Gallon BIAB System”
What is the max OG you can do for 15 gals in your 25 gal kettle?
For a 15 gal batch i would not go over 1.062. Like that i still have enough (~5cm) headspace when mashing.