Thinking of skipping this post because you’re not a BIAB brewer?
Because I’m about to tell you why every all-grain brewer — even 3 vessel brewers — should own a BIAB bag.
The first time your mashtun cleanup consists of lifting and dumping a bag, you will wonder why you didn’t buy one long ago. I think we can all agree that shoveling grain out of a mashtun is one the worst parts of a brew day.
Nothing makes me happier than saving time and effort when I am brewing. Believe me, it is worth spending $10 to $35 to avoid that step. There are bag makers for almost any brewing equipment, including coolers.
Whether you are a traditional all-grain brewer or a BIAB enthusiast, I will fill you in what you need to know.
I beat the crap out of bags. If I am not ripping one of the flimsier bags by snagging my built-in thermometer, I am overloading them and destroying them by draining them for an hour from my pulley system.
After destroying a bag a brew session for a period of time, I moved to higher quality bags. They still received the same punishment, but lasted in spite of my abuse. The first quality bag I purchased was from Wilserbrewer BIAB Bags. I moved on after nearly a year, but it is still serviceable.
If you want to know more about BIAB in general, check out this previous Homebrew Academy post
Here are some things to consider when BIAB bag shopping:
- Fit: Standard vs Custom
- Weave density
- Draw strings or velcro to cinch around the kettle
- Straps for hanging the bag
You basically have two choices: Standard or custom fit. A standard bag will fit a range of kettles, some better than others. On the other hand, a custom bag is made to your specifications.
The standard bags are certainly cheaper, but the custom fit can satisfy unique needs. For instance, if you want to direct fire your kettle for step mashing, you can get a shorter bag to keep it from coming into contact with the bottom of your kettle.
Keep in mind that a correctly fitting bag saves you money on a false bottom or screen.
As far as I can tell, most bags are nylon, polyester or plastic. Just like anything else you get what you pay for, thicker more durable fabrics last longer and cost more. The weave also makes a difference as does double stitching.
I like the finer weave bags. They do better job of filtering out fine materials, especially if you like to double crush or fine crush your grains.
You will need to keep your bag securely in place while mashing. You can do this with clips, good fit, velcro or with draw strings. Straps will also serve the same purpose by fitting over kettle handles.
I personally have not found drawstrings that useful. I have seen the velcro bags in action and they work very well for securing the bag during your mash.
The straps are the best option for hanging your bag from a pulley system, ladder or even holding the bag with your arms. I don’t recommend using your arms unless you are trying to combine brewing with strength training (P-90X homebrewers edition, anyone?). To collect all of your wort, you want to let your bag drain for at least 10-15 minutes. Save your back and figure out a way to hang your bag.
Now that you know what to look for, here is a list of the bags I have owned:
Bag Brewer ($35)
This is the bag I am currently using. I have four batches under my belt and so far so good. This bag is custom made, so you can control the length. It has straps that hold the bag in place when you are mashing. My favorite thing about the bag is using the straps with my pulley system for draining.
My last two batches were very large, a barleywine and a double batch of saison (about 25 pounds of grain). Since brewing them, I noticed some wear on the bag, which is hopefully just cosmetic.
Wilserbrewer BIAB Bags ($22)
This is another custom fit bag. I used this bag for about a year before it started showing a lot of wear. It is still serviceable, but I really wanted a better way to hang the bag. I got the idea to use a pulley system from their site, but I didn’t find the drawstrings easy to use.
If you want to hang the bag from the drawstrings you need a lot of clearance. The drawstring fully extended measured 26-inches on my bag. For most brewers, this adds the unnecessary step of tying the drawstring in knots or using some other method for hanging the bag.
LD Carlson ($7)
This is a pretty standard non-custom fit bag. You can find it at any brew store. I went through several of these before moving to higher quality bags. For the record, the rips were caused by a thermometer installed in my kettle (now removed), not by a bag defect.
Here is a listing of bags that caught my eye, but I haven’t owned:
Paint strainer bags from a hardware store ($24 for 12 bags)
I include this option because there are many brewers that use these. I don’t recommend them.
While I am sure these bags will get the job done, I personally avoid equipment that is not intended to be used with food. These are not purpose built, so the the strength of the bag and weave are not intended to take the 10 to 20 pounds of stress and filter fine bits of grain.
Lastly, I prefer to support the vendors that are making innovative products for homebrewing.
The next two are very similar:
The Brew Bag ($30)
Mashed in Beer Gear ($35-$40)
These bag are in the same vein as the one I am currently using: custom fit, straps and high quality materials.
Utah Biodiesel ($80-$167)
This is by far the coolest and most expensive option I have seen. When I found this in my research, I immediately wanted one. This is not exactly a bag since it is made of steel, but is very interesting. Frankly, with the number of bags I have purchased, I could have bought one of these.
Best Starter Bag
If you want to try BIAB without a big investment go with LD Carlson bag. They are good enough to try BIAB and for about $7 you cannot go wrong.
If you are a more dedicated BIAB brewer and want durability with some features to make your brew day easier, the Bag Brewer Bag, the Mashed-in Bag or The Brew Bag are good options. They are durable, custom made and the straps make hanging the bag a breeze.
The high-end option
The Utah Biodiesel Supply bag is very cool. I want one. They have some combo buys that include the basket and the kettle. These run from about $80 up to $167.
Best Bag Overall
My recommendation overall is the Bag Brewer bag. I own and use this. I can vouch for the quality. The Mashed-in Bag may be just as good, but I don’t have first hand experience with it.
What BIAB bags have you had success with?