Author Topic: Expensive to restart from scratch  (Read 698 times)

Offline kgs

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Re: Expensive to restart from scratch
« Reply #30 on: October 16, 2020, 01:32:50 PM »
When I started this hobby almost 12 years ago I observed that the de facto unit size was 5 gallons. I wondered how that came to be, and still do, but the answer is probably lost to time. (The size of a typical corny?) Anyway, a hobby designed around that much fluid weight is going to be more expensive than, say, if the default unit size was half that. Smaller batches have become more popular -- I'd almost go so far as to say "acceptable," since when I started there was a lot of emphasis on going bigger when you could -- but I wonder how gear would have evolved and what the demographics of homebrewing would look like if the implicit unit of production had been smaller.
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Offline majorvices

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Re: Expensive to restart from scratch
« Reply #31 on: October 16, 2020, 02:04:42 PM »
When I started this hobby almost 12 years ago I observed that the de facto unit size was 5 gallons. I wondered how that came to be, and still do, but the answer is probably lost to time. (The size of a typical corny?) Anyway, a hobby designed around that much fluid weight is going to be more expensive than, say, if the default unit size was half that. Smaller batches have become more popular -- I'd almost go so far as to say "acceptable," since when I started there was a lot of emphasis on going bigger when you could -- but I wonder how gear would have evolved and what the demographics of homebrewing would look like if the implicit unit of production had been smaller.

I think the size had to do with a number of things - typical size of a glass carboy (at the time) and the typical size of standard paint buckets, close to 2 cases of bottled beer (back in the days when cases of beer were probably more popular than six packs, at least where I grew up).

I did 1 gallon sizes solid for about 6 months and had a blast doing it. So easy to tote everything around. I could easily brew on my kitchen stove and chill quickly in my kitchen sink. Everything came up to temp so quickly and chilled so quickly. It was pretty funny because I have a MM 3.0 three roller grain mill with a hopper big enough to hold a low gravity 5 gallon batch (or close). So I basically pull the drill trigger for a second and the batch was ground.

If I hadn't gotten the BrewZilla I'd probably still be brewing 1-2 gallon batches.

Also, for years I was one of the guys stressing to go "bigger" and that 10-12 gallon batches were the way to go. Course I was a lot younger and still had friends. lol

Offline BrewBama

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Expensive to restart from scratch
« Reply #32 on: October 16, 2020, 02:22:42 PM »
The five gallon batch is about right for me because, even though I am retired, I have to carve out time to brew. At five gallons that’s ~every three weeks which seems to be manageable.

Of course, that means I am drinking the same batch of beer for three weeks which is sometimes better than others.

If I brewed smaller batches I’d either have to brew more often (which I would enjoy — but would be difficult to manage) or drink less (I drink 1-3 beers per day now — which I enjoy).

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« Last Edit: October 16, 2020, 03:04:56 PM by BrewBama »
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Offline fredthecat

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Re: Expensive to restart from scratch
« Reply #33 on: October 16, 2020, 05:05:40 PM »
The five gallon batch is about right for me because, even though I am retired, I have to carve out time to brew. At five gallons that’s ~every three weeks which seems to be manageable.

Of course, that means I am drinking the same batch of beer for three weeks which is sometimes better than others.

If I brewed smaller batches I’d either have to brew more often (which I would enjoy — but would be difficult to manage) or drink less (I drink 1-3 beers per day now — which I enjoy).

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i always try to brew a whole bunch in succession so i can pick and choose from what i have.




just remembered another reason why i went smaller. my SWMBO hated my brewing for ridiculous reasons, so i was trying anything i could to shorten the process down as much as possible. meaning if she was gone for 2 or 3 hours i could brew and clean up in that time.





Offline Saccharomyces

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Re: Expensive to restart from scratch
« Reply #34 on: October 17, 2020, 11:20:59 AM »
The last brew house I built was a 3-gallon brew house (4.25 gallons at the beginning of the boil).  It was built around the reality that I would need to brew at least one time every month if I was going to manage to keep a yeast bank on agar slants alive while piggybacking subculturing on top making new starter from slant.  My kettle was 100% custom.  I started with a Vollrath Optio 27-quart induction-ready stock pot.  I had a local sanitary welder weld a stainless coupling for a ball 3/8" stainless ball valve.  A lot people do not realize that 3/8" used to be a very common ball valve size in the early days. Now, even a non-full-port 1/2" ball valve is not big enough for a lot of brewers and 10 gallons is the old 5 gallons.  I am building this brew house as a 3/5-gallon brew house. It uses 5 and 10-gallon Igloo coolers for mash/lauter tuns. The 5-gallon cooler will probably see most the most use. The 5-gallon industrial igloo cooler is much more compact than the 10-gallon industrial cooler.  It just limits the grain bill to no more than 13lbs (it is a tight 13lbs).

Speaking of coming to my senses, I scaled back my electrical install.  While I ruled out a full-on electric brewery, I really started to enjoy brewing with a 240V portable induction range at the end of my last pass through the hobby.  I had been using a 1800W portable induction range, so that I could keep the garage door shut in the winter.  It was barely enough to bring my starting volume of 4.25 gallons from mashout temperature up to boiling temperature with the lid on and it could only maintain a weak boil with the lid off, even with insulation. Now, a 3500W 240V portable induction range was a completely different animal.  It could bring 7 gallons up to a strong boil from mashout temperate in about 20 minutes and keep it there on reduced power with the lid off.  Brewing with a 240V induction range after brewing with an 1800W induction range was an eye-opening experience. 

Anyway, brewing with 240V was made possible due to the fact that the gremlins my ex-wife and I had been fighting with our double oven were due to the fact that the electrician who wired our house installed a 30A 4-wire circuit instead of a 40A 4-wire circuit.  It never dawned on me that a double oven required 40A service until my ex decided to get a new double oven and the guys who came out to take the pre-install measurements told us that we needed to have a 40A circuit installed.  I had local electrician that I had previously used to install a transfer switch install a new 40A circuit for the oven and reroute the existing 4-wire 30A circuit the to garage (I had him come back and upgrade the breaker to a 30 GFCI breaker).  The problem with a 30A 4-wire circuit is the huge NEMA 14-30R receptacle, which requires a 2-gang box and cover plate.   The receptacle is so big that it almost looks like a caricature.  Anyone who has ever plugged a dryer with a 4-prong plug in has seen how stupid big a NEMA 14-30R receptacle is compared to normal household receptacle (A 6-30R receptacle is huge as well).  Anyway, I had to fashion a NEMA 14-30P to NEMA 6-20R extension cord, so that I could use the 3500W induction range. I used a 2-gang weatherproof metal box, which allowed me use a simplex NEMA 6-20R receptacle and a switched NEMA 5-15R receptacle for my March pump (I needed to use the neutral wire for something :) ).  That experience drove home the huge cost and size increase going from 240V 20A to 240 30A.  A NEMA 6-20R receptacle is the same size as a standard household NEMA 5-15R or 5-20R receptacle and 12/2 NM cable (a.k.a. Romex) is almost half the cost of 10/2 NM cable.  Plugs and receptacles are also much cheaper.  One can run up to a 4500W element on a 20A circuit (not to exceed 3 hours continuous use at full current draw), so if one already has 120V 15 or 20A service in the area one wants to brew and one brews 10-gallon or smaller batches, one does need to install a 240V 4-wire circuit with a big honking NEMA 14-30R receptacle.
« Last Edit: October 17, 2020, 01:52:16 PM by Saccharomyces »

Offline BrewBama

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Re: Expensive to restart from scratch
« Reply #35 on: October 17, 2020, 01:04:51 PM »
+1. I enjoy brewing on a 3.5kW induction cooktop.


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Offline erockrph

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Re: Expensive to restart from scratch
« Reply #36 on: October 17, 2020, 06:03:14 PM »
When I started this hobby almost 12 years ago I observed that the de facto unit size was 5 gallons. I wondered how that came to be, and still do, but the answer is probably lost to time. (The size of a typical corny?) Anyway, a hobby designed around that much fluid weight is going to be more expensive than, say, if the default unit size was half that. Smaller batches have become more popular -- I'd almost go so far as to say "acceptable," since when I started there was a lot of emphasis on going bigger when you could -- but I wonder how gear would have evolved and what the demographics of homebrewing would look like if the implicit unit of production had been smaller.
I always assumed it was because corny kegs are 5 gallons, but I started about 10 years ago myself - well after this seemed to be standardized.
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Offline Saccharomyces

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Re: Expensive to restart from scratch
« Reply #37 on: October 17, 2020, 08:41:36 PM »
I always assumed it was because corny kegs are 5 gallons, but I started about 10 years ago myself - well after this seemed to be standardized.

Kegging was still in its infancy in early 1993 when I started to brew.  As a community, I suspect that the 5-gallon batch can be attributed to Charlie P's use of 5-gallon glass carboys while formulating the recipes in The Complete Joy of Homebrewing, which used to be text with which most people started out.   Charlie taught an entire generation of amateur brewers how to brew.  Who, in turn, taught the next generation of brewers how to brew.  Without Charlie's book, this hobby would not be were it is today because brewing at the amateur level was very much a mad monk squad kind of thing. Sure, there were brewing clubs that were way ahead of the curve like the Falcons, but outside of those groups, brewing knowledge was very sparse.

Offline denny

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Re: Expensive to restart from scratch
« Reply #38 on: October 17, 2020, 09:03:45 PM »
I always assumed it was because corny kegs are 5 gallons, but I started about 10 years ago myself - well after this seemed to be standardized.

Kegging was still in its infancy in early 1993 when I started to brew.  As a community, I suspect that the 5-gallon batch can be attributed to Charlie P's use of 5-gallon glass carboys while formulating the recipes in The Complete Joy of Homebrewing, which used to be text with which most people started out.   Charlie taught an entire generation of amateur brewers how to brew.  Who, in turn, taught the next generation of brewers how to brew.  Without Charlie's book, this hobby would not be were it is today because brewing at the amateur level was very much a mad monk squad kind of thing. Sure, there were brewing clubs that were way ahead of the curve like the Falcons, but outside of those groups, brewing knowledge was very sparse.

Don't forget, Charlie learned homebrewing from Fred Eckhart's book.  So maybe Fred was the genesis of carboy use.
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Offline Saccharomyces

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Re: Expensive to restart from scratch
« Reply #39 on: October 18, 2020, 12:29:23 AM »
After weeks of measuring and remeasuring, scanning the wall with a nice stud finder and as well as a Walabot (a very cool device), I finally mustered the courage to drill a 5/8" hole through the band joist into the garage for mounting a surface mount 240V receptacle.  In a normal house, this task would have been trivial.  However this wall is a 6" plumbing wall that is loaded with plumbing and electrical runs.  To make matters worse, the builder decided to bump the wall out on the garage side of the wall 2" instead of making the laundry room on the other side of the wall 2" smaller.  What this design decision meant is that the wall studs do not stop at the floor.  Instead they go all of the way to bottom of the band joist were they meet a 2" x 1.5" bottom plate.  To increase the complexity of the job, where I drilled the hole is very close to two 200A load centers, so there are ton of wire runs coming together on the basement side of the hole. In essence, I had to miss a stud, a floor joist, plumbing, and several wires.  I wanted to drill from the basement side, but decided that drilling from the garage side was less risky.  I carefully drilled a 5/8" hole through the drywall, stuck a sharpie into the hole, and moved it around to see if I missed an obstacles during my scan of the wall.  Finding nothing, I decided to push forward and drill through the band joist, praying that I would miss the floor joist on the other side.  When I went downstairs to see where the bit came out, I was shocked to see that it was exactly where I wanted to be.  I showed it to my girlfriend. Her response, "How in the world did you do that?  That was like threading the eye of a needle."  The feeling of accomplishment quickly dissipated when she followed up with, "If had known what you were doing, I would have stopped you."  That is women for you. :) 

Offline reverseapachemaster

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Re: Expensive to restart from scratch
« Reply #40 on: October 20, 2020, 03:20:40 AM »
This thread made me think about how much I've spent on brewing. I have a fairly rudimentary setup but I'm probably around $1000-1500 over eleven years on equipment which I don't think is too extravagant. In the next year or so I plan to convert part of the basement to a bar which will have a beer engine, several taps and plumbed for a sink which will probably be several times what I've spent on homebrewing.

If I was jumping into the hobby with the knowledge I have and planning to brew the beers I brew I'd strongly consider one of the newer all-in-one systems although I'd probably need a large back up kettle for turbid mashes. I still do a fair number of one gallon batches so not sure if any of those systems reliably produce batches that small.
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