So ya – I’ve been a wuss this winter, giving into the convenience of beer kits made from liquid malt extract and other forms… which allowed me to brew indoors. Cause well, we all know how cold it’s been this past winter. And it continues into March with minus temperatures in the double digits.
So, the forecast for this weekend looks kind of okay (zero degrees for Saturday), so I’ll be back to all-grain brewing outdoors on my deck. But possibly with a twist.
BIAB/Single Vessel Brewing
I may or may not get to it this weekend, but I’m looking to enhance my brewing set-up. Currently, I use a single vessel brewing method called “brew-in-a-bag” (BIAB), which is a simple and inexpensive means of making beer from scratch. Also, many serious home brewers use a three vessel system employing a mash tun, hot liquor tank, and boil kettle. There are a few advantages of such a system, such as temperature control, and two steps called “vorlauf”, and “sparge”, neither of which happen in the simpler BIAG method. Not that the BIAB method is inferior; it just uses less water… so it’s understandable that this process was invented in Australia where water can be very scarce.
Here’s an example of a commercial three vessel system. It happens to be the same rig that Whitewater Brewing use, some lads I know who run a successful brewery out of Forester Falls.
I’m going to try a hybrid between the two methods by introducing a separate mash tun. In this vessel, hot water and crushed grain are mixed and let to sit for 90 minutes. During this step, complex sugars (starches) are converted to simple sugars by the enzymes in the grain, resulting in wort. This sweet wort is then transferred to a boil kettle, where hop additions and other things are added as the last step before cooling and fermenting.
Vorlaufing and Sparging… Huh?
These are extra steps done in the mash tun, which in my case is going to be a picnic cooler. After the sugar conversion has happened, I’ll first drain off the sweet wort from the bottom drain plug and dump it back on top. Doing this repeatedly will clear the wort of all the floaties, as the grain bed acts as a filter. That’s “vorlaufing”. Then I will pour hot water onto the grain bed to rinse out all those sugars… that’s called “sparging”.
I’ll still use a nylon bag in the mash tun (picnic cooler) to lift out the spent grain, and I also need to construct a pipe system to drain all that wort from below the grain bed… see my plans below. Those pipes will have holes in them to gather and route the wort to the drain hole, where it will then go into my boil kettle.
Why do all this you ask? Well, it reflects – to a closer degree – the commercial process of beer making, with the major advantage being clearer wort. The vorlaufing will filter out much of the floating particles that normally make it to the boil kettle in the BIAB method, which eventually may cloud up one’s beer. Craft beer is often known to be cloudy, as they aren’t filtered like commercial beers – I still may have slightly cloudy beer, but it won’t be caused by any particulates from the mashing process. I’m very curious to see what difference – if any – these extra steps will make in my final product. Stay tuned; I’ll keep you posted!
Cheers for beers,