After my post on BIAB a few weeks ago, I received comments from a few folks regarding the type of bag I had been using. It was explained to me the mesh was not tightly woven enough and allows more grain material to get into the wort, which could ultimately increase astringency in the resultant beer. Perhaps there are other good reasons to use a tighter weaved bag, but potential astringency in my beer was impetus enough to get me looking for a good alternative option to my $6 grain bag. I like to support the “little guy,” particularly when they’re bringing something at least relatively novel to the market at a good value. Not long after starting my search for better BIAB bags, I stumbled upon the website for WilserBrewer BIAB Bags and did some comparison shopping with other sites offering similar products. A few things kept bringing me back to WilserBrewer, namely the price, the inclusion of a ratchet pulley with most orders, and the fact his bags are custom made to fit your mash tun (kettle or otherwise). One of the more annoying things about the bag I’d been using is that it didn’t quite fit around the lip of my kettle, requiring the use of clips to hold it in place. In the spirit of full disclosure, I contacted WilserBrewer to ask about their products and after some conversation, the owner offered to send me the bags in exchange for an honest review on my website. Something worthy of consideration is the fact he was so quick to seek such a deal- who in their right mind would ship a shitty product to a guy like me seeking an honest review? This impressed me. And besides, I’m not receiving any compensation other than the products he sent me to review. I received the package within a week of sending in my kettle dimensions, it included a large grain bag, a smaller hop sock, the ratchet pulley, and a smaller grain bag I plan to use later with my 4 gallon kettle (not pictured). I was again impressed to see just how beautifully the bag fit my 14 gallon kettle. I had an extra bike hook lying around, so I screwed it into a stud in my garage ceiling to use with the ratchet pulley.
My initial concern had to do with the length of the pulley rope and what to do with it so it didn’t get doused in boiling wort or burnt by my relatively powerful KAB4 burner. The simplest solution, which worked great, was to loosely tie it up above the kettle. Problem solved. I brewed my first batch the following Sunday, 8 gallons of Belgian Golden Strong made up of 85% Pils and 15% table sugar. Perhaps helped out by the volume in the kettle and the current warm weather, I was only losing about 2°F every 20 minutes or so. This was very easily fixed by turning my burner on very low and stirring for about 30 seconds. The time finally came to remove the grains from the wort. In the past, this was the part I hated most due to having to lift the bag out of the kettle by hand. On this day, that wasn’t an issue at all.
It took about 10 seconds of thinking to figure out the best way to attach the pulley to the bag*. While a couple handles might make this process a tad easier, simply tightening the cord on the bag and tying a loose knot worked just fine. I didn’t expect the wort to flow out of the bag as cleanly and quickly as it did. I tend to approach bag squeezing with a light touch, basically doing it until I reach my target pre-boil volume. With the WilserBrewer bag, this took only about 1 minute, at which point I swung the bag over an orange bucket and lowered it in- no mess, no fuss. Not only was the wort just as clear as the wort I make using my typical batch sparge method, but I nailed my pre-boil OG! I did figure a slight decrease in efficiency using this method and designed this beer expecting 70% rather than my usual 78%. Try as I might, I couldn’t find any trace of grain particles in the wort. This was the point I realized those who had contacted me about using a tighter mesh bag were on to something, as my other bag certainly didn’t produce wort this clear. I was very happy with how things were progressing. While I don’t usually worry much about hop filtration, I decided to use the WilserBrewer hop sock in a Pale Ale I was making at the same time. I’ve used muslin socks and paint strainer bags in the past, this bag blew those away for myriad reasons. Like the grain bag, it was designed for my kettle depth, so the hops were fully submersed in the boiling wort. I believe the material WilserBrewer uses (polyester voile) is also more heat resistant than nylon, which I’ve previously had melt on me. Removing the hops from the wort was a piece of cake. The wort drained out just as quickly and clean as it did the grain bag. The rest of the brew day proceeded mostly as usual. Compared to the Pale Ale I batch sparged at the same time, this BIAB Golden Strong took nearly an hour less time to make, clocking in at 3 hours 40 minutes start to finish. And that was with a 90 minute boil.
These bags are a fantastic value considering their quality and the fact they are individually customized to each customer’s setup. The ratchet pulley made easy work of removing a bag filled with about 15 lbs of saturated grain, a task I’d be hesitant to attempt without a pulley system. The only potential negative is the absence of handles or some other form of hanging the bag to the pulley, but this is nothing I’d let hold me back from purchasing these bags. The seams are solid, the quality is obvious, they fit my system like a glove, and the customer service is far above par. A+ WilserBrewer!
If you’re an extract brewer looking to jump into all-grain or an advanced brewer desiring a simpler and more time-saving approach, BIAB is a fantastic option and WilserBrewer offers a high quality product that will get you brewing delicious all grain beer in no time. Please consider checking out WilserBrewer’s online shop and supporting this great small business, after all, he is just another one of us trying to do his part for this rad community.
PS – moving a BIAB bag with bare hands isn’t fun, something like silicone heat resistant gloves make the task a whole lot easier. Be safe!
*After sharing the post with Mike from WilserBrewer, he suggested this HBT post about easily attaching the pulley to the bag and further stated:
I find that attaching the pulley down low at the bag with a short loop of cord works very well, also this cinches the bag well and is quite secure and spreads the load out over the entire bag rather than just stressing on a stitched handle. With a bit of practice, this is easy and effective.