I routinely do open fermentations in my buckets and my basement is roughly 124,363.636 gallons. No way is my fermentation producing enough CO2 to purge that space so I think your 2.5 gallons of head space is ok.
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Gravity, it's automatic. I deal with severe automation on various professional and not so professional levels..... The LAST thing I want to hear myself say when brewing is: "What's it doing?"
Simple, organic: Heat water, soak grains, boil....done. Ooooohm.
I like that. My life used to be uber complicated. Brewing was the release from that nonsense.
Slow down a bit in my brewing and concentrate on process control. I made a crap ton of beer that was good in 2010. I want to make 15 beers in 2011 that are fantastic.
Government regulations exist to keep idiots and people of bad intention from hurting those who can't fend for themselves...
I pull my decoctions with a picture and just pull of the surface liquid. I pull the liquid that is between the grains.
Does it matter who's on the picture?
... but I'm still wondering how too much wood taste?