Author Topic: Small batch equipment questions  (Read 1318 times)

Offline crynski

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Small batch equipment questions
« on: September 23, 2014, 03:23:33 PM »
I bought a 5 gallon kit to start brewing, but for a variety of reasons I am planning to scale down to smaller batches.  I like variety and want to experiment/learn on a smaller scale, but I don't want to fill my pantry with big and little everything equipment.  My question then is how much room in the fermenter is too much?  I have an extra food grade 5 gallon bucket I can modify the lid for an airlock or blow off, but if I am only doing 1-3 gallons is that too much room? If I get a 3 gallon secondary will that be too much room for a one gallon batch?  I do want a good secondary for mead, fruit beer experiments, and ciders. 

Offline morticaixavier

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Re: Small batch equipment questions
« Reply #1 on: September 23, 2014, 03:41:10 PM »
the 5 gallon primary is fine. you might get slightly different ester profiles with the lower depth to width ratio on the beer but I doubt that would be hugely noticeable on the homebrew scale.

The secondary would be more of a problem as you really want to try to exclude o2 on ciders and meads. for the most part you can skip the secondary for beer so don't worry about that.

If you are planning one gallon batches on the ciders and meads I would 'invest' in a couple gallon jugs of apple juice. the kind that come in glass jugs. then you've got a couple 1 gallon secondaries AND a couple of one gallon batches of cider to start experimenting with. I would still aim for say 1.5 gallons into the primary so you can fill the 1 gallon secondary right up.
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Offline erockrph

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Re: Small batch equipment questions
« Reply #2 on: September 23, 2014, 03:43:34 PM »
Primaries can be any size. The extra volume will be filled with CO2 from fermentation. I brew 3-gallon batches in 6.5-gallon buckets all the time with no issues.

As far as secondaries go, you want as little headspace as possible to minimize oxygen contact over time. I don't think this is a huge deal for meads, as they aren't as susceptible to oxidation as beer, but for beer you really want to be careful. I use 1-gallon jugs a lot for fermenting my really small batches.
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Offline crynski

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Re: Small batch equipment questions
« Reply #3 on: September 23, 2014, 03:56:21 PM »
Good to know I can use the buckets on hand.  Now where are you guys finding apple juice or cider in glass? The store and my locals all seem to use plastic. 

Offline pete b

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Re: Small batch equipment questions
« Reply #4 on: September 23, 2014, 04:00:48 PM »
Primaries can be any size. The extra volume will be filled with CO2 from fermentation. I brew 3-gallon batches in 6.5-gallon buckets all the time with no issues.

As far as secondaries go, you want as little headspace as possible to minimize oxygen contact over time. I don't think this is a huge deal for meads, as they aren't as susceptible to oxidation as beer, but for beer you really want to be careful. I use 1-gallon jugs a lot for fermenting my really small batches.
Although mead might have less oxidation problems than beer, its going to be in secondary for a much longer time, so I always fill carboys and gallon jugs into the neck. I might even add a couple cups of water to a five gallon batch to get to that level if its just under.
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Offline erockrph

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Re: Small batch equipment questions
« Reply #5 on: September 23, 2014, 04:56:35 PM »
Good to know I can use the buckets on hand.  Now where are you guys finding apple juice or cider in glass? The store and my locals all seem to use plastic.
I buy 1-gallon jugs with the associated stoppers at my LHBS.
Eric B.

Finally got around to starting a homebrewing blog: The Hop Whisperer

Offline morticaixavier

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Re: Small batch equipment questions
« Reply #6 on: September 23, 2014, 07:23:22 PM »
Good to know I can use the buckets on hand.  Now where are you guys finding apple juice or cider in glass? The store and my locals all seem to use plastic.

I get mine at the local co-op. I imagine they have them at wholefoods as well but if you HAVE a local co-op I feel obliged to recommend shopping locally. any natural foods type store should have apple 'juice' in glass jugs. It's the shelf stable kind usually not the raw refrigerated kind.

course, I can't think of a reason that a plastic gallon jug wouldn't work either. Might be trickier to get the requisite stoppers for an airlock though.
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Offline crynski

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Re: Small batch equipment questions
« Reply #7 on: September 23, 2014, 07:36:14 PM »
We don't have a whole foods which is disappointing. I  am going to try a couple farm markets and bigger health food stores up toward the big city. 

Offline theDarkSide

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Re: Small batch equipment questions
« Reply #8 on: September 23, 2014, 07:39:45 PM »
They just opened a Whole Foods here in NH but I have yet to get there to see if they have the apple juice in glass jugs.  They do have the pub onsite, which makes it easier to go shopping!
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Offline jaftak22

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Re: Small batch equipment questions
« Reply #9 on: September 23, 2014, 11:00:58 PM »
I also just started doing litlle mini batch's. Its much different for me because I have only done 5-10 gallon batch's of beer. I have three 1 gallon batch's and one 2.5 gallon batch under my belt. I usually mashed in my cooler but I have been doing BIAB for these little guys.

Do you have a LHBS close to you? Mine sells the 1 gallon jugs that can fit a bung and airlock. They are only $5 bucks a pop so its pretty cheap. You can also get the 2 or 3 gallon buckets which aren't expensive either. The 1 gallon jugs at More Beer are 5.99 and ship for free if you spend like $50. So if you don't have a LHBS it might be worth ordering some random stuff you might need and you could pick up like three of those jugs.

Offline crynski

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Re: Small batch equipment questions
« Reply #10 on: September 23, 2014, 11:49:45 PM »
I do have a pretty good LHBS, so worst case  I can get a couple empties, but if I can find good juice in glass it will be a bonus.  I am looking into doing brew in a bag also.  I like variety and just don't drink beer fast enough to get a lot of practical experience with bigger batches, but if I find a recipe I like I can always do a bigger one to share.

Offline erockrph

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Re: Small batch equipment questions
« Reply #11 on: September 24, 2014, 01:29:30 AM »
  I like variety and just don't drink beer fast enough to get a lot of practical experience with bigger batches, but if I find a recipe I like I can always do a bigger one to share.
I'm the same way. Smaller batches means I get to brew more often.
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Offline jaftak22

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Re: Small batch equipment questions
« Reply #12 on: September 24, 2014, 01:57:21 AM »
+1 to brewing more often. I like being able to experiment for $5-$8 bucks vs making a 5 gallon batch that will take me a while to drink. Brewing more often is my main reason though. I think one of the reasons so many people quit home brewing is because it gets expensive buying ingredients 4-5 times a month. It adds up, especially if you don't make a lot of money

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Re: Small batch equipment questions
« Reply #13 on: September 24, 2014, 05:11:28 AM »
One of the reasons why I quit brewing after being a yeast bank maintaining all-grain brewer for ten years was due the fact that beer would sit for months.  I would find myself dumping perfectly good beer just to be able to brew my next batch.  My standard batch size is now 3-gallons kegged (most of my soda kegs are 3-gallon kegs).  My recipes are based on a loss of between 1/2th and 2/3rds of a gallon between the end of boil and kegging, which means that my end of boil kettle volume is between 3.5 and 3.66 gallons.   

The beauty of 3-gallon brewing is that it opens up a world of possibilities.  For example, I brewed my last two batches with induction ready kettles and an 1800W portable induction range.  An 1800W induction range would struggle with the 7 to 8 gallons of run-off that is typical of a 5.75-gallon end of boil volume 5-gallon batch.   


5 gallons of run-off at the beginning of the boil (which is about the upper limit for this induction range)







I own two commercial-grade sub-10-gallon induction-ready stockpots.  I purchased a Chinese-made 27-Quart Volltrath Optio 3506 after reententering the hobby (shown below).  Regretting that purchase, I recently purchased an American-made 24-quart Vollrath Tri-Ply 77620 (shown above).  While the Chinese-made stockpot has been transformed into a full-blown brewing kettle complete with welded fittings, a custom false bottom, and a stainless steel pick up tube, the difference in performance between the American-made stockpot and the Chinese-made stockpot is like the difference between night and day.  The Chinese stockpot is nowhere near as efficient as the American stockpot on the induction range, and its plys are nowhere near as well bonded.  My children cannot stand the high pitched squeal that the Chinese-made stock pot makes on the induction range. Luckily, I am too old to hear it, but I can hear the lower pitched squeal that it makes while heating up.









« Last Edit: September 24, 2014, 01:53:35 PM by S. cerevisiae »

Offline crynski

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Re: Small batch equipment questions
« Reply #14 on: September 24, 2014, 11:29:15 AM »
Nice setup. I will probably find one of those coolers and build an all grain system at some point, since it is an excuse to play with tools and then brew beer, but I am probably going to do a few BIAB batches first.