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General Category => General Homebrew Discussion => Topic started by: gwilkosz on January 24, 2010, 02:06:28 PM

Title: Brewing less than 5 gallon batches
Post by: gwilkosz on January 24, 2010, 02:06:28 PM
Has anyone ever brewed in quantities less than 5 gallons?  If so, any preferred equipment/methods?
Title: Re: Brewing less than 5 gallon batches
Post by: The Professor on January 24, 2010, 03:40:21 PM
Early on in my brewing when I was an avid extract brewer (we're talking more than 35 years ago)  I would often experiment with small batches.
But frankly, since going all grain many years ago there isn't really any point to doing less than 5gal batches because of the time factor involved  with all-grain. 

But if I were to once again do a smaller batch with extracts, I'd just use the equipment already on hand.  Aside from my regular fermentors, secondaries, etc., I have a couple 3 gal carboys and an assortment of 1 gal wine and juice jugs that would serve.
Title: Re: Brewing less than 5 gallon batches
Post by: dontblake on January 24, 2010, 04:08:35 PM
Yeah, as the prof mentions, making anything less than 5 gal isn't really worth the time.   Nothing really special needed - your 'beginning' 2.5 - 3 gal brewpot would be perfect.  You could ferment anywhere from 1-5 gal in your plastic fermenter, however the 1 gal wine / apple juice jugs would work just fine.
I use those for making small batches of fruit mead (steeping ~1 lb of fruit of choice in finished mead).  The one thing that really sucks about making 1 gal is, well, it's 1 gal!   If it turns out really good, you only have a couple of bottles.
Title: Re: Brewing less than 5 gallon batches
Post by: seajellie on January 24, 2010, 05:20:12 PM
Hey gwilkosz, I brew all-grain, and at least two-thirds of my batches are 3 - 4 gallons in size. I often brew two 3.5 gallon batches in a day, rather than doing one larger batch. I've even done three-in-a-day, but one must be psyched to pull that off.

The obvious downside is time; it takes very little difference in time to brew 3.5 vs. 5.5. But with two-brews-in-a-day, and with organization and preparation, I really doubt that I spend more time per gallon than when I brew five gallon batches.

The advantages (for the dubious) are variety in your available beer, rather than sheer quantity; cleanup may be easier as your mash tun, kettle, etc., can be smaller in size; easier storage given that your gear can be smaller; easier to brew indoors (kitchen stove, although I usually go outside); less weight to muscle brew around (assuming you don't have all the pumps); and best of all, it's cheap to go stainless steel the whole way (I ferment in kegs and transfer with CO2). I was very happy to say bye-bye to buckets and glass. I didn't have to spend a grand on a conical, and I have something that fits easily in a fridge for fermentation. Also, it's easy to run side-by-side tests as a normal matter of your brewing technique, and easier to store your final product (although 3 gallon kegs are pricey, so mostly I use larger ones).

One big disadvantage is the percent loss of wort increases with smaller batches. That is, due to equipment and methods, you may be used to loosing (for example) a quart or two of wort in the kettle and primary and secondary, etc. Obviously, loosing a quart of three gallons hurts more than loosing a quart of five gallons. I routinely use whirlfloc, and man that can hurt to see a cooled kettle filled with "fluff." I do suggest using just half a whirlfloc on a smaller batch.

There are ways to deal with this loss, and I now lose almost nothing from the kettle (this is likely controversial and will take more words and pictures, will try to update later. Basically, cold filtration works, no HSA problems, and you can always use filtered wort as yeast starters or gyle if you are concerned about flavor impacts).

Recently, as I have more free time in the evenings than during the day, I've started experimenting with mashing in the evening, then brewing the next day. In three beers, one of which is now six months old, I've seen no ill effects. Of course, keeping the wort cold overnight can be an issue (not in MIchigan in January, however). Net result is that by noon the next day, I'm done brewing and doing something else!

Sometimes, my second batch will be a partial mash to save a bit of effort, but with a five gallon cooler, a zapap, and a large rectangular cooler, I can easily do two mashes at once. You can even manage doing a double double-decoction, but that is again, something to be psyched for. I suggest not drinking home brew while attempting this! Sometimes, I'll do a big mash in the large cooler, with a smaller mash in one of the other coolers, and do one wort straight from the large cooler, and the second wort as a blend.

I don't have to worry about the storage space issues, but I did brew something like 15 lagers last winter and it was cool to experiment with all those styles. I'm still drinking six of them. There's no way I would've done all that with five gallon batch sizes.
Title: Re: Brewing less than 5 gallon batches
Post by: BrewingRover on January 24, 2010, 07:17:59 PM
I brew 2.5 or 3 gallon batches regularly. There are styles that my wife doesn't like and I don't want to drink 5 on my own. It's also a way to experiment with methods and ingredients and to brew more often.

I started doing my small batches in a three gallon cooler that I got for mini-mashes. I didn't modify it at all and used a grain bag and a veggie strainer as a false bottom. My efficiency was horrible and looking back, it would have been just as easy to jump right in and get a bigger cooler. but I was intimidated by the AG process and I wanted to try things first.
Title: Re: Brewing less than 5 gallon batches
Post by: beerrat on January 24, 2010, 08:54:59 PM
Has anyone ever brewed in quantities less than 5 gallons?  If so, any preferred equipment/methods?

I've only done small batches for extract or partial mash recipes - mostly to experiment - usually 3 gallon batches.
Equipment is generally just smaller versions of the standard equipment: stoppers, pot, and fermentation containers.  I use either 3gal carboys or a few 1 gallon wine jugs.
Title: Re: Brewing less than 5 gallon batches
Post by: enso on January 25, 2010, 01:11:35 PM
I have FERMENTED batches smaller than 5 gallons.  I have mashed  a full 5 gallons, or perhaps 2.5-3, of wort and then either divided in the boil or in the fermenter to try techniques and additions with the same wort.  I use 4 L wine jugs for this as they have a bit more volume capacity than a 1 gallon glass jug.
Title: Re: Brewing less than 5 gallon batches
Post by: seajellie on January 25, 2010, 08:04:54 PM
A benefit with the kegs in this regard is that you don't have to bother hitting your volume exactly right in order to make the secondary vessel work out, nor collect a variety of different sized vessels (unless you want too), worry about ending up with excess, etc. Before going to kegs, there was always some time spent getting the volumes right to minimize head space in the secondary and accomodate the vessels I had available. I did use the mini CO2 cartridges to purge, but it was always a slightly awkward process.

With kegs and this batch size, it's very relaxing as I know it's always going to fit, and have great confidence in not experiencing oxidation problems given plenty of CO2. So I can focus on hitting the target gravity rather than worrying about volume too much (as I still experiment with methods, it's not always easy to predict my mash efficiency with great accuracy).

The slight variations in volume rarely affect the calculated IBUs by more than +/- 5 IBU, which is the human taste threshold.

I guess we're all always tweaking and modifying our practices along the way, but so far, I think this batch size with kegs has a lot to offer!
Title: Re: Brewing less than 5 gallon batches
Post by: gwilkosz on January 25, 2010, 11:37:58 PM
Thanks for all of the responses.  The main reason I'd like to make smaller batches is to vary ingredients without taking as much time to consume the results between batches.
Title: Re: Brewing less than 5 gallon batches
Post by: babalu87 on January 27, 2010, 02:31:57 PM
Thanks for all of the responses.  The main reason I'd like to make smaller batches is to vary ingredients without taking as much time to consume the results between batches.

Perfect reason
Title: Re: Brewing less than 5 gallon batches
Post by: Hokerer on January 27, 2010, 03:15:05 PM
Thanks for all of the responses.  The main reason I'd like to make smaller batches is to vary ingredients without taking as much time to consume the results between batches.

Perfect reason


I don't know.  I'm kinda partial to the "consume more faster" solution :)
Title: Re: Brewing less than 5 gallon batches
Post by: Thirsty_Monk on January 27, 2010, 03:54:29 PM
Thanks for all of the responses.  The main reason I'd like to make smaller batches is to vary ingredients without taking as much time to consume the results between batches.

Perfect reason


I also have an issue consuming all the beer I make.
So I have to find neighbors and friends to give it away.
Only if they keg  ;)