The question, BIAB vs Brewzilla, is a question many people have in their minds when starting homebrewing. Should I go with a simple BIAB or all-grain electrical all-in-one system like Brewzilla?
The majority of homebrewers will recommend an all-in-one system like Brewzilla. The cost difference is small when all components needed for a full BIAB setup is added. It only time BIAB is preferred as a starting point for a new homebrewer is if the person already has a 35L pot at home. Else the ease of use and features outweigh the cost.
Starting homebrewing as a student in 2012 my budget wasn’t that great. Moving straight to all-grain brewing with a boil in bag system of 30L. It was a bit messy and the kitchen was like a Finnish sauna after a brewing session, but it was worth it. We did brew everything from lagers, IPA to sour beers fermenting for over 2 years before serving it at my friend’s wedding! Without BIAB I would not be into home-brewing.
Fast-forwarding to 2020, after planning for years and bought components to buy my own electric homebrew kettle I decided that’s better to buy one from Amazon the Robobrew Brewzilla35L, and start brewing again. Having a sauna was no longer an option and the messy bag a thing of the past.
With the Brewzilla the possibility to brew outside became a possibility and the time and effort reduced.
Should you buy a BIAB or Brewzilla?
I would say it comes down to two things. How much time do you want to spend? How much money do you want to start with?
With BIAB is not set and forget, you will have to keep track of the grain temperature and stir the mash during the process. It will take some time until you get the hang of your system. It’s the most simple all-grain system you can get, but not the easiest.
A BIAB system is not cheap, there is a lot of things you need and some will become obsolete when deiced to move past and upgrade down the line. The good things are that home-brewing growing more than ever and recouping some of the investment listing your equipment on Facebook market or Forums will be possible. Most people only recommend a BIAB system if you already have a suitable pot, 30-35L, already at home.
What do you need for a BIAB system
- Stainless steel kettle (30-35 l)
- Mashing bag for the kettle usually 30 x 30 x 35 cm
- Thermometer 0 – 100 °C
- Paddle to stir the mash
Adding all these components the cost will be in the range of 180USD, where the kettle stands for the majority of the cost. If you don’t want to stand in the kitchen with all the boiloff you also will need to add a portable cooktop adding an additional 70USD. This can be compared to a Brewzilla system that can be found for around $275 on craigslist or check the current price on Amazon.
Why you should get a Brewzilla
In the Brewzilla all this comes built-in. The system has two heating elements, 2000W 500W, and they will give a much better heat efficiency than a cooktop. I have burned one cheaper coil-based cooktop and another one I had to remove the overheating protection on one to get it to work during a full boil (I’m not recommending you to remove safety features).
Temperature management with a Brewzilla
The pump will help with recirculation and temperature management reducing the need to stir. The PID control is really nice compared to trying to dial in your cooktop to compensate for the heat dissipation of your system. The temperature management from the PID and pump makes a lot of difference when you want to start brewing more complex beer styles with step mashing. It can be done with the BIAB system, I highly would recommend starting with simpler styles like IPAs.
Cleaning BIAB vs Brewzilla
The downside of the Brewzilla is the cleanup of the system. With the kettle, a rinse-out, some scrubbing, wash the bag and hang it overnight to dry out. It’s extremely important to let the bag dry completely, else mould will form.
With the Brewzilla there’s not only the boiler but there’s also the screen hand malt pipe to hose down and clean. The malt pipe is usually clean during the boil, the rest of the system is quite easy when you get the hang of it. In my mind, it’s a small inconvenience to pay for the ease of use and portability of the system.
Brewzilla 35L or 65L
When it comes to size the brewing community are split. There are two main drawbacks of the 65L system. First, it needs 220V and the second, it cost almost 50% more. From a brewing standpoint, it’s totally possible to brew 5-gallon batches on the 65 litres and the bigger volume is nice if you plan to do heavy grain bills or if you are brewing with a friend. In my current system, the typical beer output after fermenting is around 22Liters to the kegs when I split the batch with my buddy. If I brew for myself I usually plan to fill my 5-gallon keg so for my brewing a 35L system is perfect.
My recommendation is to get an all-in-one system like the Robobrew Brewzilla35L (Amazon) I’m using. It has really help me to be able to start brewing again.
If you get a Brewzilla and want to brew outside I highly recommend checking out my post on improving the Brewzilla and brewing in the cold outside.
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