Sous Vide Beer Brewing 101 - Getting Started

March 4, 2020
Getting Started

So maybe you’ve heard of sous vide brewing and even checked out some articles online. Maybe you have sous vide for cooking but have never homebrewed before... In both cases, sous vide is a great way to get started! 

There is a lot of information out there, but we wanted to create a simple outline for what you should know, what you will need, and how you can get started with Sous Vide Brewing. 

Why does temperature matter? 

During the process of brewing, maintaining a proper temperature is critical to the success of the recipe. The first heated part of the process is mashing, where a variety of grains (typically malted barley with additions of corn, sorghum, rye or wheat) are combined and heated to a specific temperature with water in the kettle or mash tun.

This process allows the enzymes in the malts to break down the starch in the grain into sugars to create a malty liquid called wort. Because each recipe contains a different variety of grains which require different temperatures to mash properly, controlling the specified temperature is really important to get the most out of your grains. 

Why should you use Sous Vide for Homebrewing Beer? 

Homebrewing can be either a really inexpensive hobby or a really expensive hobby, depending on how much you want to brew and how much control and precision you desire in order to perfect your craft. Historically, controlling the temperature extremely accurately has required complex and expensive control systems and brewing set-ups that are probably overkill for most casual or beginner homebrewers. One of the most common batch sizes for homebrewers is a 5-gallon batch, which requires a 7-10 gallon kettle to produce.

The good news- this is a size that even entry-level sous vide devices can control. This means that now instead of spending hundreds or even thousands of dollars to maintain an exact mashing temperature, or struggling constantly with your propane or electric burner, you can spend under $100 for an intuitive device that attaches to your existing kettle and does the job remarkably well. 

What equipment you will need to get started?

There are many different ways that you can brew beer, from traditional all-grain methods where the wort is created by mashing milled grains from scratch, to extract brewing which saves time by using pre-made extract, and a variety of methods in between, called partial mashes. A popular all-grain or partial mash method, especially with Sous Vide, is the Brew In A Bag (BIAB) method.

sous vide homebrewing typical garage setup
Typical Sous Vide Homebrewing Setup

This is mainly due to the fact that sous vide devices do not inherently have filters and can get destroyed if they were to be used directly in contact with the grains during a mash. It also eliminates the need for a second kettle and the laborious process of racking (moving the liquid from one container to another). We’ll expand greatly on different methods in upcoming posts, but for now here is the list of the basic equipment you’ll want to brew your first batch: 

  1. Sanitizing solution like One Step or Star San
  2. 7+ gallon kettle (or turkey fryer kit which comes with the kettle) 
  3. A Sous Vide Device (any wattage 700 or above)
  4. A Brew Bag or Hops Bag
  5. 6+ gallon carboy or fermentor

If you feel like you are ready to try it out, check out this great time-saving partial mash recipe for a Sous Vide Belgian Pale Ale, from our friends at beerandbrewing.com. 


Cheers!

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