Brewing Your First All Grain BIAB Beer With Sous Vide (Immersion) Cooker
This step-by-step guide walks through brewing a 5 gallon (19 liters) batch of Cream Ale using the Brew In A Bag (BIAB) and Sous Vide method.
While extract brewing is faster and easier, there is a certain level of fun and pride that comes from brewing a great batch of beer from scratch. And by automatically maintaining kettle temperature for you the Sous Vide takes a lot of the stress out of it, allowing you to enjoy the process even more.
If you are not yet familiar with this method, check out our getting started with sous vide brewing guide first.
For this brew we chose a simple Cream Ale recipe from Erik Beer, which is featured as a MoreBeer recipe kit. The recipe has an estimated OG of 1.051–55, ABV around 5.2%, and an IBU range of 16-20. If you order the kit, make sure you add a grain bag (if you don’t have one), a recommended yeast, the corn sugar, and a clarifier to your order. Campden tablets are optional, and we’ll talk more about that later.
Your local homebrew supply store will likely have everything you need for this recipe as well and they are wonderful at answering any questions you may have. To get started, here is what you’ll need:
Ingredient List for Cream Ale
- 5 lbs (2.25kg) 2-Row Pale Malt (Milled)
- 5 lbs (2.25kg) Pilsner Malt (Milled)
- 1 lb (0.45kg) Flaked Corn
- 1.5 (40 grams) oz Czech Saaz (60min)
- 0.5 oz (15 grams) Hallertau Hersbrucker (60min)
- 0.5 oz (15 grams) Czech Saaz (20min)
- 8 oz (225 grams) Corn Sugar (10min)
- Clarifier (Like Whirlfloc Tablets or Irish Moss flakes) (5min)
- White labs: WLP001 California
- Wyeast: 1056 American
- GigaYeast: NorCal Ale #1
- Imperial: A07 Flagship
- Fermentis Dry: US-05 American
- Campden Tablets (Optional)
- 2 large bags of ice
If you are unfamiliar with beer brewing recipes, you may be wondering why there are minutes after some of the ingredients. We’ll explain that in a bit.
Otherwise buy some good craft beer, invite some friends over and let’s get started!
Sanitize Your Brewing Equipment
To prevent contamination in your beer it is critical to sanitize all of your equipment before you begin. Follow the directions on your sanitizing solution and make sure you sanitize everything that will come into contact with your beer, including brewing spoons, mash paddles, your BIAB, kettle, fermenter, bucket, etc. Any kind of microbe (germ, bacteria, etc...) can affect the fermentation process and has the ability to ruin your batch. But don’t stress too much - just follow the directions and you should be fine.
How to Prepare Water for Brewing
There are literally giant textbooks on preparing water for brewing. You do not need these. For pretty much all casual homebrewers standard faucet water will be just fine. If you are concerned about your water or would like to learn more, have a look at this article. If you have city water, it is a good idea to reduce the chlorine in it before brewing. If you can remember to do it, the easiest way is to just fill your sanitized kettle or bucket the night before and let it sit overnight which will let the chlorine dissipate out. Otherwise you can use a campden tablet on brew day. Also, most 5 gallon(19 liters) recipes require 6-7 total gallons (22 - 26 liters) of water since quite a bit will boil off and get absorbed into the grains, so prepare the right amount (not the batch size) accordingly.
Note: One of the first things you’ll want to do is to prepare your yeast or remove it from the fridge so that it has plenty of time to fall into the right temperature range for pitching. This can take a few hours so make sure you leave plenty of time.
Preparing Strike Water
To begin, gather all of your equipment in your kitchen and around your stove, so that when you are ready to move the kettle to chill it down, you do not have to go far.
For this recipe, fill your 7.5 gallon (30 liters) (or larger) kettle with about 6.5 gallons (25 liters) of water, place the Sous Vide (Immersion cooker) onto the kettle and set the temperature to 150°F degrees (65°C). (If you have a larger kettle or the Sous Vide isn’t falling into the right water line range, check out this post in Tips and Tricks)
Depending on the water and ambient air temperature, this may take 1-2 hours. If you want to speed it up, you can use your stove to boost it up to around 140°F (60°C) and then let the Sous Vide (Immersion Cooker) take over.
How to Mash (Sous Vide For The Win!!)
Once the strike water is at 150°F (65.5°C), place the brew bag into the kettle and secure in place, making sure the Sous Vide is outside of the bag. It helps to use a couple of binder clips to secure the bag around the Sous Vide. Slowly pour all of your milled malts and flaked corn into the brew bag, stirring them in to avoid clumping. Set a timer for 60 minutes.
Normally at this point you’d be constantly checking a thermometer, adjusting your heat source, and stressing out as you watch the temperature go above and below the right temperature the whole time. Not today! The Sous Vide takes care of it for you. So go ahead - mow the lawn, watch the game, or hang out with your friends. Just make sure to give the kettle an occasional stir.
Once the 60 minute mash is complete, gather the top of the brew bag (pull the drawstring if it has one) and slowly and carefully remove the bag from the kettle. Let as much water drip out of the bag into the kettle as you can and then set aside. What is left in the kettle is now called “wort” and it is time to boil and add the hops.
Now increase the heat on the Sous Vide to its maximum temperature. You’ll want to use your stove to help bring it to a full boil, and then you can reduce the heat or turn off the stove completely.
Once it has reached a boil, add in the first 1.5 oz (42 grams) of Czech Saaz and 0.5 oz (15 grams) Hallertau Hersbrucker hops and give it a stir. (This is typically where you will boil over as the hops react to the heat, so be ready to stir and lower the temperature if needed!) Set a timer for 40 minutes and prepare the rest of the hops to go in.
When the 40min timer goes off, add in the last 0.5 oz (15 grams) of Czech Saaz hops. Give it a stir, set your timer for 10min, and prepare the corn sugar.
Note: Now is also a good time to prepare your bucket, trash can, or sink with the first bag of ice and some water. This will be used after the boil to cool your kettle and bring the temperature of your wort down to the yeast pitching temperature. Just make sure it is nearby your stove and you have a strategy to safely move the kettle when ready.
When the 10min timer goes off, add the 8 oz (225 grams) of corn sugar, stir, set your timer for 5 minutes and prepare the clarifier.
When the 5min timer goes off, add the clarifier, stir, and set your timer for the last 5 minutes.
Note that you just boiled for a total of 60 minutes and while we provided the timer settings in-between additions, most recipes will provide the information similar to the ingredients list above, like this:
- Hops 1 - 60min
- Hops 2 - 20min
- Addition 1 - 10min
- Addition 2 - 5min
As a beginner I found that a bit confusing, but it essentially is telling you the total time that each ingredient should be in the boiling wort (the total duration being set by the first ingredient) and lets you figure out the timing or watch the countdown clock yourself.
Chill Your Wort
Once the boil is complete, carefully set the kettle into the ice bath (making sure none gets into your wort) and stir occasionally as it cools. Once the first batch of ice water has melted and warmed up, drain and use the second bag of ice and water to continue chilling the wort. Repeat as needed to bring the wort temperature down to the yeast pitching temperature, which for this recipe is between 68°F - 72°F degrees (20°C - 22°C) .
Note: You can either leave the Sous Vide in the kettle to occasionally check the temperature, or you can remove it and use a thermometer instead. If your Sous Vide has an option to just run the circulator, this will also help speed up the cooling.
Transfer and Pitch Yeast
Once the temperature of your wort is around 70°F degrees (21°C), transfer it to your sanitized fermentation vessel. If your kettle has a bottom spout, simply drain it into the fermenter. Otherwise you can use a large funnel and a friend to help pour it in. Following the directions on your selected yeast, add it now into the fermenter and gently agitate or rock the fermenter to help mix it in.
Seal your fermenter with the bung, fill your airlock with sanitizing solution, and store it in a cool dark place, ideally between 66-68°F degrees (19-20°C). At this point, just keep an eye on it, test occasionally for specific gravity to tell when it is done, and then transfer to bottles or a keg!
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