Revenge of the All-in-One BIAB Brewing Systems

by Brad Smith on June 7, 2022 · 3 comments

This week I take a look at the rapid rise of all-in-one BIAB style brewing systems for all grain brewing. These affordable, compact systems have quickly become the favorite of beginner and experienced brewers alike.

All-in-One Brewing Systems

Only a few years ago, most serious homebrewers had full-size three tier brewing systems for their all grain brewing. They would scoff at the idea of a Brew-in-a-Bag system, and loved their separate mash tun and hot liquor tank.

With the COVID pandemic and entry of very affordable stainless steel single vessel systems, there has been rapid growth in the sales of all-in-one systems based on the Brew-in-a-bag model. This has been driven by several factors including the desire by many brewers to make smaller batches as well as the direct entry of many brewers into all grain, bypassing extract brewing entirely.

I’ve done a few podcasts and articles on these systems including this video overview of new systems with Chris Graham, and my article on using all-in-one systems with BeerSmith. These include systems such as the Brewzilla, Mash & Boil, Digimash, Anvil Foundry and Grainfather.

The basic concept behind all of these systems is a single vessel Brew-in-a-bag type of system where you mash and boil in the same pot before chilling and transferring the beer to a fermenter.

Advantages of the All-in-One Brewing System

Some of the advantages of a compact all-in-one brewing system include:

  • Compact Size: Because the entire system is in a single vessel, these systems are small and easier to store than something like a three tier or even two vessel traditional all grain system.
  • Affordability: Many of these small all-in-one systems start in the $300 range and can be typically purchased under for $500 with extras like a pump and controller (5 gal or 19 L size). For a complete all grain stainless brewing system, the cost is far below a traditional stainless three tier system which can run into the thousands of dollars.
  • Simplicity: These BIAB systems are fairly simple to operate and relatively easy to clean. Most are available with pump and controller options that let you set and hold a precise temperature for mashing and boiling. Instead of sparging, you simply lift the grain basket out. It is easier than managing three different vessels with multiple pumps.
  • Time Saving: Brewing on a full three tier system is an all-day experience. Between cleaning, brewing, transferring, chilling and then cleaning up at the end it is time consuming. That’s not bad if you enjoy brewing, but there are times when you may not have the entire day to make beer and that’s where these compact systems shine.
  • Batch Size: For several years now, the trend in the hobby has been that brewers have been brewing less often, or smaller sizes. The pandemic drove many brewers to brew smaller batches since there were few social gatherings or in-person meetings. While society has been returning to normal, many brewers have moved to experimenting with small batches instead of making 10-20 gal (40-80 liters) at a time. All-in-one systems around the 5 gal/19 liter size seem to hit the sweet spot for many brewers.
  • Quality: While most of these systems are targeted at a low price point and made in China, they are typically made from stainless steel which is not bad for a low priced home system. The stainless vessel will likely last a lifetime for many brewers. While some pumps or fittings may not last forever, the replacement parts are cheap as well.

So will all-in-one systems take over the home brewing world? I don’t know, but I do know that many of the suppliers I talk to say they are selling very well. Many experienced brewers I know have been picking one up to experiment with, even though they already own a large three-tier brewing system. Why? Simply because they like having a small compact system to create experimental brews on, or to make a quick batch when you don’t have all day to brew.

I hope you enjoyed this article on all-in-one systems. Thanks for joining me on the BeerSmith Home Brewing Blog. Be sure to sign up for my newsletter or my podcast (also on itunes…and youtube) for more great tips on homebrewing.

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Kevin June 7, 2022 at 6:20 pm

I bought an all-in-one so that I could brew indoors in the winter time. I live in Michigan where it gets very cold in the winter and I have to put away my big, three vessel electric HERMS system from late October until sometime in May. So far my all-in-one has filled the bill perfectly. I am now able to brew year round and as an added benefit I discovered that my basement temperature is perfect for making lagers.

Jim June 10, 2022 at 9:11 am

Thanks for the summary of pros for single vessel brewing, but what are some of the disadvantages you’ve noticed? I like to brew outside, but most of these are electric and I’m not sure I could get an outside connection for a 240V system?

Finn Berger June 17, 2022 at 2:39 pm

While I fully agree with most of what you write here, it seems to me these systems aren’t necessarily very simple. I write this on the basis of what people ask about on the forum I’m moderating, the forum og the Norwegian Homebrewers’ Association (Norbrygg).

Most of the problems are related to the sparging process, and are caused by the fact that you cannot control the flow speed when sparging on the fly the way you can with an ordinary set-up. The result of that is that efficiency is a lot below what you ought to get.

I do ordinary old-fashioned batch sparging in an ordinary kettle with a false bottom, and with no gadgets of any kind, and I get +/- 85% when brewing beers with an OG of around 1.050. I can’t see any reason why you should get less than that, but my impression is that mostly people get low 70’s with these all in one-systems. Some get better, though, so the problem can be solved. (Some turn to batch aparging, which works better for them than fly sparging.)

The crush also seems to be more critical with these systems; too fine and you easily get a stuck mash, and if too coarse your efficiency suffers very quickly.

Now I’m not saying you can’t get these systems to work well. Much of the trouble people experience may simply stem from poor knowledge of the brewing process. That’s not so strange when people buy such a machine with the impression that buying the machine is all you need to do to be able to brew beer easily and well. And they do. I know, because I’ve been sitting on the forum answering questions from people who very obviously haven’t got a clue. (I don’t tell them they’ve been stupid. I answer their questions – and tell them to buy How to Brew:).)

Now, to sum up: I see all the good reasons for having an all in one-system. But people should not be told that they may not experience problems with them. An automated brewing process isn’t necessarily automatically the easiest way to brew.

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