Category Archives: Guest Posts

Epoxy Flooring for Your Home Brewery – Tips and Tricks – Choosing, Installing and Repairing

This is a How To Guest Post by Brew Floors. Brew Floors offers a wide variety of epoxy floor coating systems for virtually any budget or application. All epoxy products come with necessary installation accessories, non skid additive, and complete instructions. All systems are easy to apply, and require NO special skills. Simply follow the included instructions. We also offer free, unlimited phone or email support if you have questions.


As of this posting, coupon code hbf gets 7% off your entire order.  This bundles with any existing sales or promos and there is no limit on order size.  Check site for up to the minute availability.

Save on Brew Floors – remember promo code hbf


Factors to Consider When Choosing Epoxy Flooring For Your Brewery

Choosing the right flooring system can be hard. However, it doesn’t need to be! When you are in the planning phases of building your brewery you need to take in these factors when deciding on an epoxy flooring system.

Usage: Every brewery, whether home or commercial has different levels of usage. If you are building a home brewery in your garage, basement, or outdoor house we recommend using a 2 layer coating system which is ideal for smaller home breweries. Home breweries may face less harsh chemical in the brewing process. If you’re building a commercial brewery you should consider using a 2 or 3 layer coating system that has a chemical resistant top coat.

Budget: Depending on what your budget is this can big a factor when deciding what type of flooring system you want to purchase. It is always recommended that you invest heavily in this part of the project so you don’t have floor issue down the road. Brew Floors flooring system start at $0.99 per square foot and go up to $5.50 square foot.

Current Floor Condition: There are many different types of floor conditions. There are new or unpainted/unsealed concrete, sealed floors, oily/greasy floors, painted concrete, and drains and open areas. All of these floor conditions require different levels of floor preparation.

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How To: Step by Step Making a Magnetic Drip Tray

Pictured: Update International DTS-419 Rectangular Stainless Steel Drip Tray, 19 by 4-Inch – via Amazon

Step by Step instructions for making a magnetic drip try for your Kegerator or Keezer

By: HBF Reader Andrew Cunje

Materials:

  • 19″ Drip Tray – via Amazon
  • 4′ of 6x.5 Poplar Wood (actual width is 5.5″)
  • 1’4″ of  6×1 Poplar Wood (actual width is 5.5″) Note: A thicker wood will suffice for this…remember the longer the wood extends down from the joint, the less likely the magnetic bond will break from the leverage applied to the edge of the drip tray.)
  • 4-5ft of Decorative Trim of your choice (Sold in lengths of 8′)
  • MUST BE 1.25-1.5 inch trim. I used 1.5 which I highly recommend.
  • 3/4″ mounting screws (for magnets) or Epoxy/Gorilla Glue
  • 1″ wood screws
  • Brad/Finishing Nails
  • 1 large old skewl hard drive magnets (Bigger with Mounting Holes than newer drives) (Alternative: rare earth neodymium magnets that are .5″ thick (Approximately 8); these can be stacked if you can only find .25″ magnets)
  • Wood Glue
  • Wood Putty (Optional)
  • Wood Stain (Optional)
  • Tennis Racket Grip Tap (Or an old yellow rubber glove). Anything rubbery and tacky to increase friction against the fridge.

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Toasting your own Wood Chips by Matt Del Fiacco

Special Thanks to Matt Del Fiacco for this special Guest Post!  Find a link to Matt’s website at the end of this article.

Home Toasting DIY Wood Homebrewing

Toasting your own Wood Chips

by Matt Del Fiacco

Like many new brewers, when I first started brewing I was eager to find interesting ingredients I could use, from Sriracha (bad idea) to vanilla beans (used 2 beans per gallon, terrible plan). Around this time, I tried my first bourbon-barrel stout, and feel in love with the wood characters of the beer. Wood-aged beer quickly became a passion, but the desire to experiment was still there. I noticed early on that at my local homebrew shop, all of my options were Oak of some kind, but what about Maple? What about Mesquite?

This article is about toasting your own wood so you can use it in your homebrew, no matter the source or the type. Not all wood is suitable for brewing (soft-woods, chemically treated wood, etc.), so be sure to do your research. For this article, let’s stick to commercially available smoking-wood, which is often untreated and is safe for use in cooking. In addition, this article is about chips primarily, simply because (as smoking chips) they are widely commercially available.

The point of this short article isn’t to be comprehensive or absolute, but to help you get started on dialing in your wood additions so you can adjust to your system and palate. I’m happy to hear any criticisms or ideas you may have!

Toasts of Wood
Before we go into the different types of woods, their toasts, and the flavors that can develop, we need to understand the varying toasts of wood and how toasting temperatures develop different characteristics.

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Feeding Glass Rinser w/Carbonated Star San

Drip tray glass rinser assembly via Adventures in Homebrewing.  Stainless construction.  Rinsing the glass chills it and helps your beer pour better.  Compare at Micromatic – similar, although I’m not sure it’s identical.

Tip from HBF Reader [8 Ways to Connect with HBF] Timur:

“I just added the AIH Drip Tray Glass Rinser to my jockey box cover and fed carbonated starsan through it at a beer festival and it was a smashing success…

I included a picture of it before we went out to the festival. I just wish I had gotten that price”

This is an ingenious idea.  It addresses the basic problem of installing this, getting water to it.  Thanks Timur!

Glass Rinser Assembly for Drip Tray

Also: Kegerator Tips & Gear | Keg Repair Part #s | Recent Keg Finds

Our Top Draft Resources

 

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Guest Post: Brew In a Bag – Bag Material – Does it Matter? by Rex Slagel + 10% Off

Brew in a Bag Homebrew Bag MaterialSpecial Thanks to Rex Slagel for this Guest Post!  Read more about Rex below

So you’re either itching to move to all grain but either don’t have the budget, space, or you just don’t want to spend $750 to $1,500 on three vessel (3V) set up. Maybe you just brewed with a buddy on your 3V system while he brewed using a fabric filter aka – brew in a bag – and he was having a homebrew while you were adding your first hop additions, or you used to brew and then life happened so those six hour brew days are just not possible anymore…but you still want to brew! Using a fabric filter solves all those issues. But, can it really be that simple, is the beer worth drinking, and what type of bag should I use?

I’ll first say that there have been many brewing competitions won using a fabric filter. In fact the 2014 AHA home brewer of the year Robert Helferding now brews exclusively using this method. Here’s what he said about it:

“I started BIAB about a year ago and am a huge fan and advocate of the brewing method. The only weak spot I found was the bag itself. The Brew Bag® is my fifth purchased bag in less than a year — others were not fine enough, didn’t last past a few brews or were cheaply made and fell apart. My wife had made a bag that was pretty darn good… but did not have webbing handles and had to be lifted with a strainer from the brew kettle. She said a new sewing machine would help… I brewed a batch of Porter using the same recipe I have used for BIAB before. I milled the grain at .30 instead of .37 to test if the bag was going to work for me. At the end of the brew my OG was .06 points higher! Good clean wort and easy as a breeze to lift it out. I use a block and tackle suspended over the pot to remove the bag. If you are just getting into all-grain I urge you to start with Brew in a Bag. If you are already brewing in a 2 or 3-vessel system, give BIAB a try. Less work, less cleanup, and less time in the brew day.”

Because it impacts efficiency, clarity, draining properties, and longevity, let’s talk about the fabric used by BIAB brewers. You’ve heard of guys using paint strainers, panty hose, and muslin bags like you get in the extract kits. While these do strain the mash, they each have a major flaw that is based on the fiber used – but using them to strain wort still results in beer.

Paint strainers are made of nylon, which is fine except that the threads per inch (TPI) is only 35 or so, and that lets a lot of husk pass through to the wort. They are also very easy to tear and are not made to fit every kettle so the bag can constrict the grain and impede the water to grain (WTGR) contact and thus conversion time.

Brew in a Bag Homebrew Bag Material

Panty hose – well just panty hose. Made of nylon and spandex the material stretches, is easily torn and just can’t hold much grain. That’s all I have to say.

Muslin is cotton and will work a few times, but because cotton is “hairy” (see photo) it absorbs and retains the grain bits, cannot be cleaned well and is prone to bacterial growth. It also degrades when exposed to moisture and cannot be used as a hop bag.

Brew in a Bag Homebrew Bag Material

So what material is food safe, woven fine enough to strain grain husk, can withstand boiling, is very strong, “slick” so it cleans easily and does not harbor bacteria, does not absorb water, and can be used over and over? It’s called Voile – a multi or monofilament polyester used in all manner of applications. It is commonly found in fabric stores and is generally less than $5 per yard. Many home brewers buy Voile curtains to make bags…and it works!

The photo below is Voile magnified so you can compare cotton fibers to polyester fibers. Notice the lack of loose fibers on the Voile and how uniform the openings are. Nylon, like polyester is also an extruded fiber and would look similar under a microscope, but because it is more elastic than Voile it is not a good choice for a brew bag, particularly for heavy grain bills.

Brew in a Bag Homebrew Bag Material

This is a close-up of Voile as used in a brew bag. The strapping is added to aid lifting and transfer part of the weight of the grain off the material.

Brew in a Bag Homebrew Bag Material

So why does fabric composition matter? When mashing the primary objective is to move the wort from the mash tun to the boil kettle, so when the flow rate out of the tun is high the wort (sugar water) moves with less friction across the grain and out of the bag. And a bag provides more surface area for filtering. Using a fabric that not only filters well but also allows sufficient drainage to carry the sugar is of great benefit.

This “less friction” logic is the primary reason for the 170º mash out / sparge, but some folk’s say its primary purpose is to set the sugar profile by denaturing the enzymes – and it does that. But high-temp sparging or mashing out occurs AFTER the majority of conversion has taken place, so in the thirty to sixty minutes it typically takes to sparge, there are not enough enzymes left, or starch to act on that could change the sugar profile to any noticeable degree. And because of the highly controlled modification (malting) process of the grains we use today, except in cases of raw or non-modified grain, this eliminates the need for a step-mash or a mash out.

When using a fabric filter and full mash volume, the pre-boil sugar profile (gravity) can easily be confirmed with a refractometer, but that won’t work for a 3V sparge brewer because the pre-boil gravity is not determined until the diluted volume in the kettle is reached. 3V mash tun gravity can be measured and conversion confirmed complete, but because the tun gravity measurement is different than the kettle gravity, the process is not controlled and thus confirmation of the sugar profile is inaccurate.

So if the above information is true, why the 170º mash out? Lot’s of 3V brewers do it to raise the viscosity of the wort so it moves through the grain bed with less restriction – hotter = thinner.

This brings us back to bag composition and out-flow rate. Just like a thin mash and typical 3V pick up and a wide open ball valve, a bag that has too few TPI will not filter the grain husks out of the wort, so clarity is affected. This can cure itself via time and temperature, but if you can eliminate the husk, why not?

And like a thick 3V mash, a bag that has too many TPI will restrict flow, impact efficiency, and take a long time to drain. We’re looking for the Goldilocks of brew bag material – and that’s Voile. The fabric has fairly uniform openings (as in the photo) of ~210 micron = to  #70 wire mesh and is very durable.  Most grain mills are set between .030” and .045” while the holes in the bag are 210 micron or.0083”, so the grain husks and chunks are left behind in the bag as the wort flows through the holes in the fabric. We can conclude that choice of fabric for filtering wort does matter.

So when you’re thinking you’d like to get back into brewing, or save some time and money, do a bit of research on using a fabric filter. It’s just not for BIAB anymore!

10% Off Site-Wide.  Rex is offering 10% Off Site-Wide for readers of this article.  That includes the full lineup of ready made Brew Bags, custom made Brew Bags, Pulleys and accessories.  Use promo code FET8AD1SDR4S to get the discount – visit brewinabag.com

About the author: Rex Slagel is the founding member of Brew In A Bag Supplies LLC. in Plainfield, IL which manufactures The Brew Bag®. He has brewed over one hundred batches, including over fifty using a fabric filter. As of this writing The Brew Bag® is being used by brewers in seventeen countries and is also used by the nation’s largest cold-brewed coffee brewer. He can be reached at rex@brewinabag.com

The Brew Bag is a Made in the USA, purpose designed BIAB bag.  It has four loops for lifting the bag out of your kettle, every seam is reinforced for long life and it is available in a number of sizes for kettles, keggles and coolers.  If they don’t carry the size you want, The Brew Bag will custom make it for you.

I use The Brew Bag myself and it works very well. Check out my Hands on Review.

AlsoAll Grain Tips & Gear

Third Party Resource: This resource is part of our selection of top Third Party homebrewing resources.  Check out the entire list of resources Third Party Homebrew Resources

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Making a Fermentation Heater w/Heat Tape

Thanks to HBF Reader Charles for this guest post!  [8 Ways to Connect with HBF]

You often have posts about deals on Fermwrap style heaters. I’d like to alert your readers about an option that is lower cost and I believe superior to any deals I have ever seen posted. Most Fermwraps are made with Flexwatt heater tape. Another brand of heat tape is THG Heat Tape, which I have seen people post on both reptile and brewing forums as being superior to Flexwatt; I have both and find it to be more durable. Regardless, Pangea Reptile sells the 12″ tape for $3/foot. They also sell the cord and connecting clips and will install it for only $4.99 more. They offer flat-rate shipping of only $4.99, so even if you order only one 12×24 wrap, it’s only $15.98 shipped. If you order more, or make one from smaller width tape, available in 3, 4, 6, or 12″, then the savings are even more. For instance, I ordered 5′ of tape and had them make two 30″ wraps, which gives more uniform coverage around a typical fermenter. Of course, you can DIY the cord if absolute lowest cost is important.

Note: This is a DIY project.  Make sure you choose appropriate materials for your application.  Contact manufacturer with questions.  Prices are deemed accurate as of this posting, check Pangea Reptile for up to the minute price, availability and description.

Also Consider:

Third Party Resource: This resource is part of our selection of top Third Party homebrewing resources.  Check out the entire list of resources Third Party Homebrew Resources

Recent Great Deals [view more]:


Inkbird ITC-308 – Dual Stage Digital Temperature Controller | Review | Inkbird Deals

Hands on Review: Bouncer Inline Beer Filter

Special Thanks to Jerry at AdventuresInHomebrewing.Beer for this Hands on Review

by Jerry at AdventuresInHomebrewing.Beer:

Have you ever paid attention to any of those” suggested posts” on Facebook? More often than not, I just swing right by. One did catch my attention though, it was for the Bouncer. I am glad I took the time to really check it out, and contact Tim and Doug about what looked to be a really cool product. Homebrewing is filled with gadgets, and guys find really cool ways to to fix problems we run into. The Bouncer and the Bouncer MD solve all sorts of floating issues! It is two different beer inline filters that accomplish great things! So here is my product review of the Bouncer and Bouncer MD home brew beer inline filters. If you want the cliff notes, the answer is yes….go buy it….you won’t be disappointed. Oh wait, you want more details? Read those below.
In order to use the Bouncer or the Bouncer MD, you do need to put them inline with your tubing. For the regular Bouncer, it needs to be between your bottling bucket and the bottling wand.

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Guest Post: A Galaxy of Hops – Galaxy Hopped IPA

galaxy hopped ipa

Many thanks to Wes via Great Fermentations for this special Guest Post!  Read more about Wes below.

This month, our focus is going to be on a hop variety from the South Pacific. Even though there are a handful of hop varietals from down under and beyond, one of these has risen above others: Galaxy! Known for the fruity flavors and aromas it imparts to beer, Galaxy is a hop that you may or may not have used, but one you have most likely heard about!

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Guest Post: Dispelling Brew in a Bag Misconceptions

biab brewing

by Rex Slagel – from www.brewinabag.com – read more about Rex below

Because the brew in a bag process is still fairly new in the USA, there is still some confusion about how to use a fabric filter in the brewing process. Some folks still call it a “method”, as if the resulting product is different than when employing a sparge to wash sugar from grain, and they also suggest its use for only single kettle BIAB, but it is currently being used by sparge brewer’s as well.

Essentially, the fabric replaces the grain bed as the filter and that alone allows many steps of the process to be modified – with the same (or better) results as traditional three vessel sparge set ups. The filter also eliminates the need for a manifold, false bottom, or braided cord. When we acknowledge the capability and apply it to filtering wort, it’s easy to understand the operational advantages of using a fabric filter.

Most writers explain that the advantages us using a bag include lower equipment expense and time savings, but that the drawbacks are lower efficiency, cloudier wort, a messy bag of grain, and the need for a larger kettle or mash tun. They also say “if you’re on a tight budget, you can still make good beer with minimal equipment”, which implies that in order to “really brew” you need to spend additional money for more equipment.

But in most of these articles, what is not generally conveyed, relative to conversion, extraction, and transfer of wort, is that there are some significant advantages compared to three vessel sparge home brewing, but that topic is another article.

This article is aimed at the sources of authority in the industry that, through lack of understanding or perhaps time to edit existing information, perpetuate misconceptions associated with using a fabric filter.

If you do some light research on the subject of “brew in a bag” and “efficiency” you can find plenty of websites that contain false statements. I’ll say in advance that I believe these articles were written using information understood to be accurate and that no one purposely set out to mislead the reader.

However, now that we have a greater understanding of how to use the bag, and proven results that contradict these writings, simple modifications to these articles should be administered. I’ll also say that I’m in favor of brewer’s doing things their way – that’s one of the inherent philosophies of home brewing! But, for those just getting into brewing, having bad information at the start is frustrating and wasteful, and bad information does not allow accurate comparison of pertinent factors.

There is inaccurate information in a number of articles on the internet, but for the sake of concise responses, and because the AHA article has more information than others, it also contains the most contradictions in one piece, I’ll use it as a reference when stating the facts we now know about using a fabric filter (or brew in a bag). The numbers beginning each point are indicative of the placement in the AHA article.

Just to be clear, this article is not meant to be derogatory and is is not aimed at the AHA. I’m a big fan of the organization. They have helped advance homebrewing in a professional consistent manner and lead the way as an information resource.

The following bold text is directly from the AHA’s pdf article on BIAB. My comments follow.

1. “Because of the simplicity of the process and equipment, BIAB has become a popular means of all-grain brewing for homebrewers new to mashing, living in small confines, pinching pennies, or brewing small batches.” ( true – but there are brewers using a fabric filter in fifty-five gallon barrels as well. Better stated “…for homebrewers of nearly any batch volume.”

2.“The ideal BIAB bag will be able to fit around the circumference of the boil kettle ***while not resting on the bottom to prevent scorching and will retain most of the grain sediment so as not to have too many solids left for the boil.” ( Sizing statement regarding circumference is correct, but “not resting on the bottom to prevent scorching” is not correct using confirmed procedures. There is a myth that maintaining exact mash temp for the entirety of the mash is critical for the homebrewer and the language “scorching” implies the need to fire up with the bag in the kettle to maintain temperature.

When properly insulated the kettle mash temperature will only drop about 2º over 60 minutes – which equates to about half a degree every fifteen minutes – and we all know that the majority of conversion occurs inside of thirty minutes, and if the mash is within conversion temp range this loss is inconsequential. Secondly, the bag will not melt [HBF editorial note – Rex is speaking specifically of The Brew Bag] or scorch at boiling temps – however, when firing up with the bag full of grain in place, the space between the bag and the bottom superheats and causes the sugars and the material to burn. You can watch a short video here of the material being held to the bottom of a pan while it’s on the flame boiling. Thirdly, the openings in Voile (the most commonly used material for bags) are ~ .0083” – while grain mills are set between .020 and .045 – so grain sediment in the boil is null.

3. “Squeezing is not recommended.” ( actually totally not true. Another myth is that squeezing the mash bag will extract tannins and also make the wort cloudy. Squeezing the bag of grain and tannins are not synonymous. Excerpted and paraphrased from the books “Water – A Comprehensive Guide for Brewers” and “Malt – A Practical Guide From Field to Brewhouse”: Tannins, a subset of polyphenols, are present in grain husks and cell walls. They are released at mash temps and bind with proteins to form haze. In conjunction with a pH above 6, excess tannins are extracted and impart an astringent flavor – they cannot be produced by pressure.

4. “One of the biggest downsides to brew in a bag is the efficiency compared to fly or batch sparging in a mash tun. It is not uncommon to have efficiencies in the 50-60 percentile.” ( again, totally not true, although, not mashing at proper WTGR (Water to Grain Ratio) or over-sparging will produce low numbers, but that’s the case with any method. They do offer offer some hope for other brewer’s following the above sentence. “That being said, many BIABers are achieving efficiencies comparable to the traditional forms of mashing in the 70-80 percentile.”

5. “Run your grains through the mill twice.” ( of little value unless the mill is adjusted down, and if the mill is adjustable, why not just lower the setting and run once. You can confirm this information by listening to or reading from a presentation at the AHA in 2014 by Jennifer Helber here.

6. “Increase mash rest duration. Some homebrewers have found longer mash durations allow for more conversion and ultimately higher efficiency.” ( conversion is a finite process, and as stated the same logic applies to any mash not just BIAB. Duration of the mash does impact conversion – but only to the degree that there is available starch to convert. Regarding higher efficiency, what generally happens is the brewer does not test conversion at regular intervals and does not control the results. So they may have a low reading on a brew and then the next brew using different grains, WTGR, and temperature – they rest longer, see an improvement and then state that a longer mash time produced higher conversion. For more infomation on this subject you can go to Braukaiser.com

7. “Sparge. Sparging is one of the best ways to ensure all the sugars have been rinsed out of the mashed grains.” ( not true, normal sparging techniques are not going to “ensure all the sugars have been rinsed out of the grains”. Even if that were the case due to possible excess tannin extractions, we would not want to achieve 100% efficiency. The fact of the matter is sparging is not necessary to achieve good efficiency. BIAB brewers can achieve as good or better efficiency vs brewers that sparge.

Remember that when using the grain bed as the filter and any other type of pick up or manifold the opportunity for a stuck sparge exists. When using a fabric filter – you’re using a true filter, so there is no need to “set the bed” with a coarse grind and there is no thought of a stuck sparge. Before the fabric filter, brewing processes were built around the avoidance of the stuck sparge and could not be optimized for efficiency!

8. “Calculate recipes with a lower expected efficiency. This will allow an increased grain bill to make up for any shortcomings due to low efficiency.” ( not true, in fact the opposite is true, but your processes will determine the outcome for your system. But you can count on a finer grist aiding conversion and efficiency. I have personally experienced lower grain bills and higher efficiencies, many in the upper 80’s and one in the low 90’s.

Also from RexBrew In a Bag – Bag Material – Does it Matter?

About the author: Rex Slagel is the founding member of Brew In A Bag Supplies LLC. in Plainfield, IL which manufactures The Brew Bag®. He has brewed over one hundred batches, including over sixty using a fabric filter. He can be reached at rex@brewinabag.com

Third Party Resource: This resource is part of our selection of top Third Party homebrewing resources.  Check out the entire list of resources Third Party Homebrew Resources

Recent Great Deals [view more]:

Guest Post: Brew In a Bag – Bag Material – Does it Matter? by Rex Slagel + 10% Off

Brew in a Bag Homebrew Bag MaterialSpecial Thanks to Rex Slagel for this Guest Post!  Read more about Rex below

So you’re either itching to move to all grain but either don’t have the budget, space, or you just don’t want to spend $750 to $1,500 on three vessel (3V) set up. Maybe you just brewed with a buddy on your 3V system while he brewed using a fabric filter aka – brew in a bag – and he was having a homebrew while you were adding your first hop additions, or you used to brew and then life happened so those six hour brew days are just not possible anymore…but you still want to brew! Using a fabric filter solves all those issues. But, can it really be that simple, is the beer worth drinking, and what type of bag should I use?

I’ll first say that there have been many brewing competitions won using a fabric filter. In fact the 2014 AHA home brewer of the year Robert Helferding now brews exclusively using this method. Here’s what he said about it:

“I started BIAB about a year ago and am a huge fan and advocate of the brewing method. The only weak spot I found was the bag itself. The Brew Bag® is my fifth purchased bag in less than a year — others were not fine enough, didn’t last past a few brews or were cheaply made and fell apart. My wife had made a bag that was pretty darn good… but did not have webbing handles and had to be lifted with a strainer from the brew kettle. She said a new sewing machine would help… I brewed a batch of Porter using the same recipe I have used for BIAB before. I milled the grain at .30 instead of .37 to test if the bag was going to work for me. At the end of the brew my OG was .06 points higher! Good clean wort and easy as a breeze to lift it out. I use a block and tackle suspended over the pot to remove the bag. If you are just getting into all-grain I urge you to start with Brew in a Bag. If you are already brewing in a 2 or 3-vessel system, give BIAB a try. Less work, less cleanup, and less time in the brew day.”

Because it impacts efficiency, clarity, draining properties, and longevity, let’s talk about the fabric used by BIAB brewers. You’ve heard of guys using paint strainers, panty hose, and muslin bags like you get in the extract kits. While these do strain the mash, they each have a major flaw that is based on the fiber used – but using them to strain wort still results in beer.

Paint strainers are made of nylon, which is fine except that the threads per inch (TPI) is only 35 or so, and that lets a lot of husk pass through to the wort. They are also very easy to tear and are not made to fit every kettle so the bag can constrict the grain and impede the water to grain (WTGR) contact and thus conversion time.

Brew in a Bag Homebrew Bag Material

Panty hose – well just panty hose. Made of nylon and spandex the material stretches, is easily torn and just can’t hold much grain. That’s all I have to say.

Muslin is cotton and will work a few times, but because cotton is “hairy” (see photo) it absorbs and retains the grain bits, cannot be cleaned well and is prone to bacterial growth. It also degrades when exposed to moisture and cannot be used as a hop bag.

Brew in a Bag Homebrew Bag Material

So what material is food safe, woven fine enough to strain grain husk, can withstand boiling, is very strong, “slick” so it cleans easily and does not harbor bacteria, does not absorb water, and can be used over and over? It’s called Voile – a multi or monofilament polyester used in all manner of applications. It is commonly found in fabric stores and is generally less than $5 per yard. Many home brewers buy Voile curtains to make bags…and it works!

The photo below is Voile magnified so you can compare cotton fibers to polyester fibers. Notice the lack of loose fibers on the Voile and how uniform the openings are. Nylon, like polyester is also an extruded fiber and would look similar under a microscope, but because it is more elastic than Voile it is not a good choice for a brew bag, particularly for heavy grain bills.

Brew in a Bag Homebrew Bag Material

This is a close-up of Voile as used in a brew bag. The strapping is added to aid lifting and transfer part of the weight of the grain off the material.

Brew in a Bag Homebrew Bag Material

So why does fabric composition matter? When mashing the primary objective is to move the wort from the mash tun to the boil kettle, so when the flow rate out of the tun is high the wort (sugar water) moves with less friction across the grain and out of the bag. And a bag provides more surface area for filtering. Using a fabric that not only filters well but also allows sufficient drainage to carry the sugar is of great benefit.

This “less friction” logic is the primary reason for the 170º mash out / sparge, but some folk’s say its primary purpose is to set the sugar profile by denaturing the enzymes – and it does that. But high-temp sparging or mashing out occurs AFTER the majority of conversion has taken place, so in the thirty to sixty minutes it typically takes to sparge, there are not enough enzymes left, or starch to act on that could change the sugar profile to any noticeable degree. And because of the highly controlled modification (malting) process of the grains we use today, except in cases of raw or non-modified grain, this eliminates the need for a step-mash or a mash out.

When using a fabric filter and full mash volume, the pre-boil sugar profile (gravity) can easily be confirmed with a refractometer, but that won’t work for a 3V sparge brewer because the pre-boil gravity is not determined until the diluted volume in the kettle is reached. 3V mash tun gravity can be measured and conversion confirmed complete, but because the tun gravity measurement is different than the kettle gravity, the process is not controlled and thus confirmation of the sugar profile is inaccurate.

So if the above information is true, why the 170º mash out? Lot’s of 3V brewers do it to raise the viscosity of the wort so it moves through the grain bed with less restriction – hotter = thinner.

This brings us back to bag composition and out-flow rate. Just like a thin mash and typical 3V pick up and a wide open ball valve, a bag that has too few TPI will not filter the grain husks out of the wort, so clarity is affected. This can cure itself via time and temperature, but if you can eliminate the husk, why not?

And like a thick 3V mash, a bag that has too many TPI will restrict flow, impact efficiency, and take a long time to drain. We’re looking for the Goldilocks of brew bag material – and that’s Voile. The fabric has fairly uniform openings (as in the photo) of ~210 micron = to  #70 wire mesh and is very durable.  Most grain mills are set between .030” and .045” while the holes in the bag are 210 micron or.0083”, so the grain husks and chunks are left behind in the bag as the wort flows through the holes in the fabric. We can conclude that choice of fabric for filtering wort does matter.

So when you’re thinking you’d like to get back into brewing, or save some time and money, do a bit of research on using a fabric filter. It’s just not for BIAB anymore!

10% Off Site-Wide.  Rex is offering 10% Off Site-Wide for readers of this article.  That includes the full lineup of ready made Brew Bags, custom made Brew Bags, Pulleys and accessories.  Use promo code FET8AD1SDR4S to get the discount – visit brewinabag.com

About the author: Rex Slagel is the founding member of Brew In A Bag Supplies LLC. in Plainfield, IL which manufactures The Brew Bag®. He has brewed over one hundred batches, including over fifty using a fabric filter. As of this writing The Brew Bag® is being used by brewers in seventeen countries and is also used by the nation’s largest cold-brewed coffee brewer. He can be reached at rex@brewinabag.com

The Brew Bag is a Made in the USA, purpose designed BIAB bag.  It has four loops for lifting the bag out of your kettle, every seam is reinforced for long life and it is available in a number of sizes for kettles, keggles and coolers.  If they don’t carry the size you want, The Brew Bag will custom make it for you.

I use The Brew Bag myself and it works very well. Check out my Hands on Review.

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