Start All Grain Brewing – For Four Dollars + Water Calculation Spreadsheet

For fun and sport, I’ve been brewing small (1-3 gallon) batches of all grain on my stove top.  It’s a simple, quick and economical way to brew all grain.  It’s been a blast!

What kind of gear is needed to accomplish this amazing feat?  A comprehensive list follows.

1.  A Bag.
That’s about it.  You kind of just need a bag.

My total investment was about four dollars for two bags.  This assumes you already have a reasonably sized kettle that you’ve used for extract and a thermometer.  My extract kettle is 6 gallons.

What is All Grain Brewing?
In a (very small) nutshell…
  • Soaking malted grains at a set temp using a set amount of water.  This triggers enzymes that convert complex carbohydrates to simple, fermentable sugars.
  • Separating those grains from the sugary wort.
  • Rinsing to retrieve some of the additional sugar that remains on the grains.

Small Batch Brew in a Bag (BIAB) Step By Step:
  1. Decide on a recipe and a batch size and gather your ingredients.  Buy your grain pre-crushed if you don’t have a mill.  More info on recipe sizing below.
  2. Heat the right amount of water to the correct temperature.  How do you figure that out?  Use the spreadsheet below.
  3. Put an appropriate fine mesh bag in your kettle.  Make sure the bag is large enough to hold your grain.  I’ve found with my 6 gallon kettle, doing one to three gallon batches, that a 5 gallon nylon paint strainer bag is perfect.  It’s plenty large enough to hold the grain and it’s not so large that it sits on the bottom of the kettle.  This helps to avoid scorching the bag.
  4. Put your crushed grain in the bag inside of the kettle.  Mix everything well and take a temperature.  The mash should settle out around your target temperature.  If it’s a little low, add some direct heat and stir.  If it’s a little high, add some ice and stir.  Your temperature does not need to be exact.
  5. Put the lid on your kettle and wait, usually 60 minutes, depending on the recipe.  Your grains are mashing.  Because there is no insulation, I usually take a temperature measurement half way through and add a bit of heat to bring it back up to the right temp.  Again, stir when you are adding heat.
  6. When the mash time is up, grab the bag and lift it out of your kettle.  I give it a spin or two to close up the bag.  Let it drip for several seconds.  I also give it a few light squeezes.  Have a large bowl nearby ready to receive your bag of spent grain.  When you have the time, discard the grains and rinse out the bag.  It’s ready for another use!
  7. Start boiling!

You will notice, there was no rinsing of grains.  The technique that I’ve outlined, is a no sparge method.  You’re just losing a little efficiency.  No big deal in my book.

The Spreadsheet

This is a simplified version of my regular brew day spreadsheet.

(Click the graphic to enlarge)

Green cells are to fill in as necessary.  Blue cells are calculated values.  The directions section is calculated as well and puts all the numbers into sentence form.  

Plug in your numbers under “Beer Info” and go.  You can adjust grain absorption rate and boil off rate, in the constants section, if you know your numbers or just leave the default values in place. 

Microsoft Excel Version

Open Office Version
Google Docs Version (Thanks to Google+ friend Daniel for this!)

How do you get an appropriately sized recipe?

  1. Use a free unlimited duration Brewer’s Friend Trial Account – Here.  Brewer’s Friend allows you to easily scale recipes up and down.
  2. Divide a 5 gallon ingredient kit or recipe down to whatever size you need.  Want to brew a 1.25 gallon batch?  Divide your 5 gallon recipe in quarters.  If you’re physically doing this with a recipe kit, make sure the grain is mixed up thoroughly to evenly disperse specialty grains.  You are losing a bit of accuracy in hop utilization by simply dividing a recipe.  Again… not a big deal in my book.
  3. I’m coming at this from a small batch perspective, but there’s nothing saying you couldn’t do this with a 5 or 10 gallon batch.  You just need get the right sized kettle and bag.

Important Note
However you end up with ingredients and a recipe, pay special note to the “Total Mash Volume” cell in the spreadsheet.  After you plug in your numbers in the “Beer Info” section, this estimates the total volume of your mash.  This should be less than the size of your kettle!  Special thanks to the Green Bay Rackers.  The Total Mash Volume calculation is an adaptation of the excellent “Can I mash it” online calculator.


The Bag:

Thanks to tipster Todd for this!  By the way, Todd is the guy behind Grog Tag.

These are elastic top nylon paint straining bags.

The elastic helps keep the bag from falling into the kettle when filled with grain.

5 Gallon Paint Straining Bags


If you don’t have a large enough kettle to do the batches you’re interested in, check out the kettles tag.

If you’re looking to replicate this 1-3 gallon procedure.  Consider the 6 Gallon Winware Kettle.

Winware Professional Aluminum Kettle 6 Gallon

These do not sell with lids, so add one on if you’d like.

Larger Batch Sizes…
If you want room to do larger BIAB batches, full boil extract batches and all grain batches.  Consider this 10 gallon kettle and lid.  This doesn’t cost much more vs the 6 gallon size.  As far as a bag for larger batch sizes… More Beer makes a larger bag that works well for full 5 gallon batches.  Some pictures of that bag in action are in our Brewing Pliny the Elder post.


If need a thermometer, I’ll point you some Top Finds:

Waterproof, Instant Read Digital Thermometer from CDN.  Check out my hands on review here

CDN DTQ450X ProAccurate Quick-Read Thermometer

Manufactured by ThermoWorks.  Super fast response time (5-6 seconds), Dishwasher safe & Min/Max Function.


For the price, this is a great thermometer.  Waterproof, instant read, commercial quality. 

Taylor 9842 Commercial Waterproof Digital Thermometer


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