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Old 05-03-2011, 08:01 PM   #1
stanley1271
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Default For my next trick...

I am planning on moving on to AG soon, but I do not want to go to 10 gallon or even 5 gallon rigs. I am looking at doing 3 gallon batches to start and if need be I can always save up for a nice single tier build. Right now I am doing 5 gallon extract and mini-mash batches and that is great for something like a house ale or something I know I will drink the hell out of.

So I figured I would start this thread to ask my many questions on AG equipment on the smaller scale. I found a cooler on Walmart.com that is 5 gallons. so my first question is about head space. How much is to much head space? And how much space would a 3 gallon batch (just a rough average since each recipe may be different due to grain(s) and thickness) take?

I already know that my stove can boil 3 gallons of water with out much of an issue and can even boil a second pot of 2 gallons at the same time, so I have no real worries about my stove. And I am looking at maybe getting a turkey fryer for free. I have no clue what condition or if it is one of the flimsy ones at this point, so I am just going with the idea of doing this on the stove.

At this point I have pretty much hit, or am getting close to, my space limitations for brewing gear, at least according to SWMBO. So I am looking to keep the gear purchases to a minimum, hence the smaller batches. So assuming I have all the gear needed for extract (5 gal pot, hydrometer, auto-siphon, IC, scale) is there something else that I am missing that would be needed for AG?

EDIT: I am also planning on only doing SMaSH to begin with just to simplify things. I have a habit of jumping in with both feet, so I am setting my self a limit/goal. Basically I want to be able to learn more about the malts and hops one at a time.

-Stanley

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Old 05-03-2011, 08:17 PM   #2
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I use a 5 gallon cooler for 3 gallon batches. I have only done a few, but its usually a little over half-full and temperature control isn't too bad. You will probably be fine just making a mash tun and using your extract gear. And a 5-gallon cooler will work for 5 gallon batches too when you decide to expand later. I use a 2 gallon pot for heating sparge water and it sounds like you have an extra pot that will work for that.

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Old 05-03-2011, 09:26 PM   #3
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Congratulations on going to AG! I hope you'll be able to maintain your goals of sticking with smaller batches...once you nail your recipe and process, if you're like me, you'll instantly start thinking about larger batches. I just bought two 6 gallon glass carboys!

I've been doing 3 gallon batches for a year or so now. I made a 10g MLT (sized for future use) and I can say that it's usually less than half full. Temperature control is something I'm still working on...usually with good preheating I only end up loosing maybe 3 degrees over an hour, but I've been thinking of other ways to help that by cutting down on the headspace.

Another thing to keep in mind...I'm not sure what your evaporation rate is in FL being more humid, but in AZ mine is pretty high so I usually collect about 4.5 gallons to make sure I end up with 3 gallons of wort in the end. Keep that in mind for your boil...I couldn't get that much going on my stove so that's when I bought the propane burner. I batch sparge and don't have to worry about splitting it up based on the capacity of my MLT. I plan for .5gallons of dead space at the bottom and .1gal/lb grain absorbtion, so it is possible that I end up with pretty near 5 gallons in my cooler but I think you'll be OK by planning appropriately.

Grain bills usually end up between 5 and 6lbs for normal gravity beers.

Regarding other equipment, I like the 3gallon Better Bottles, they seem to be pretty space efficient due to their square shape.

Good Luck!

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Old 05-03-2011, 11:16 PM   #4
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If space for gear is a large issue, look into brew-in-a-bag method. (biab). Instead of another cooler, you'd only be looking at picking up a mesh bag. There are other considerations, like pot size, but a grain bag fits into a drawer easier.

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Old 05-03-2011, 11:26 PM   #5
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I would say go big because someday you might want to make 5 or 10 gallon batches. This happened to me and I ended up spending a little more money than I wanted too. You could also do all-grain in a muslin bag depending on the size of your brew pot which might be perfect for your 3 gallon size, and you can get comfortable with AG before you move on to a larger size.

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Old 05-04-2011, 01:14 PM   #6
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Thanks all for the replies. So it seems my math worked out for once I guess. I have not actually applied it yet, but from what you guys are saying I should be good to go get the cooler and get started. As for BIAB method I plan to give that a try as well, if for anything, a learning experience.

So next I need a recipe to start with. Any suggestions on a good base malt to start with? I'm thinking of just using 2-Row and then doing a hop, probably just pick one at random. I might do a couple of batches with the same malt/hop combo just to do a low IBU and then a medium to high IBU version.

@AJC16 - I would love to go out and pick up all the gear to do 10 gallon batches, but space is an issue. I live in a townhome and have multiple hobbies that take up a good bit of room. SWMBO is getting a little agitated with my hobbies. Paintbal, Brewing and Computers.

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Old 05-04-2011, 01:32 PM   #7
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Get a 10 Gallon cooler. It really doesn't take much more space than the 5 gallon AND you won't have to buy a new one when you want to do a bigger beer in the future. I guarantee you will eventually find that the 5 gallon is not big enough.

My buddy and I were helping two new brewers we had met, told them this and they didn't listen. Less than a year later they both ended up having to buy another cooler cause the 5 gallon wasn't enough.

Other than that, you don't NEED anything else to go from extract to AG. Just the tun. There are lots of little extras, but not all of it is neccessary, just preferrable.

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Old 05-04-2011, 02:38 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by stanley1271 View Post
I am planning on moving on to AG soon, but I do not want to go to 10 gallon or even 5 gallon rigs. I am looking at doing 3 gallon batches to start and if need be I can always save up for a nice single tier build. Right now I am doing 5 gallon extract and mini-mash batches and that is great for something like a house ale or something I know I will drink the hell out of.

So I figured I would start this thread to ask my many questions on AG equipment on the smaller scale. I found a cooler on Walmart.com that is 5 gallons. so my first question is about head space. How much is to much head space? And how much space would a 3 gallon batch (just a rough average since each recipe may be different due to grain(s) and thickness) take?
I got the same cooler at my local Wal Mart in orange and it works fine. I got some spray insulation from the local home improvement store and filled the lid. It loses less than 2 degrees over 60 minutes with between 4 and 5 gallons of grist. I usually strike with about about 3 gallons and batch sparge with about 2. I aim for about 4.25 gallons to start the boil and end up with about 3.25 gallons in the fermenter.



I built a CPVC manifold for less than $10. The most expensive part was the valve.



I didn't even need to modify the cooler or any of its parts. I partially took apart the cooler valve assembly and can slide the CPVC rod through it to connect to my manifold. I don't use any glue and have not had any leaks in the 6 batches I have done so far. If you want more details on how I set it up let me know and I can add a description to the DYI section.

I pretty much only do 3 gallon batches since I am the only one drinking and like to have a variety. I keg my batches in 2 of the "Tap-A-Draft" bottles that I recycle after emptying a Coors Light "Home Draft". I even built a "Mini Kegerator" complete with 5 lb CO2 setup.



Quote:
Originally Posted by stanley1271 View Post
I already know that my stove can boil 3 gallons of water with out much of an issue and can even boil a second pot of 2 gallons at the same time, so I have no real worries about my stove. And I am looking at maybe getting a turkey fryer for free. I have no clue what condition or if it is one of the flimsy ones at this point, so I am just going with the idea of doing this on the stove.

At this point I have pretty much hit, or am getting close to, my space limitations for brewing gear, at least according to SWMBO. So I am looking to keep the gear purchases to a minimum, hence the smaller batches. So assuming I have all the gear needed for extract (5 gal pot, hydrometer, auto-siphon, IC, scale) is there something else that I am missing that would be needed for AG?

EDIT: I am also planning on only doing SMaSH to begin with just to simplify things. I have a habit of jumping in with both feet, so I am setting my self a limit/goal. Basically I want to be able to learn more about the malts and hops one at a time.

-Stanley
I have done 3 SMaSH batches. I just use 6 lbs of base pale (I use Colorado Base Pale) along with whatever hop schedule I want to try out. This usually gives me ~1.055 initial gravity at ~75% efficiency. This recipe really gives you a good idea what the hops are like because there is very little flavor or mouth feel to the base grain. I actually don't care for the drinkability because of this, but I now know exactly what the hops will give as far as flavor.

Don't let anyone convince you to get a larger cooler right away. I actually have a 12 gallon cooler but the grain bed is far too thin for the small batches we are doing. For standard batches I am usually around 6-8 lbs of grain and in my large cooler the grain bed is less than 3 inches thick. John Palmer recommends the bed be at LEAST 4 inches thick and thicker is better. Keep an eye out for a great deal on a larger cooler (I got my 12 gallon cooler for $13 at Wal Mart a while back) but stick with the smaller cooler for now. I use the same core parts for my 12 gallon mash tun as my 5 gallon mash tun.

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Old 05-04-2011, 03:09 PM   #9
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@Dahoov - Nice setup. That is pretty much what I am planning to do for the cooler. Thanks for the pics it will make buying the parts that much easier.

Since I am the only person in my house that drinks beer, doing 5 gallon batches will be reserved for things like a house ale or the Hefe I have in the keg now. Those I can do with mini-mash for now. The idea of the 3 gallon batches is for a learning experience. I do not want to make 5 or 10 gallons of something I will not drink. 3 gallon batches will allow me to go buy something like 2-Row or some other base malt in bulk and then start playing around with flavors till I find something I like. In the beginning the batches will be SMaSH batches, but later I will bring down the amount of the base malt and add in a specialty malt or two. This should keep me learning for the next year or so. If after a year I decide that I want to move to larger batches I will just buy larger stuff. It's not really a big deal to me as I am always finding uses for my old stuff.

-Stanley

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I'm telling ya, she's nuttier than a squirrel turd.
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Old 05-04-2011, 05:33 PM   #10
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Just because you have a 10 gal cooler doesn't mean you have to brew 5 or 10 gallons...I've done 3 gallon batches using my 10 gal tun, worked just like the 5 gallon batches. Krrazy supported this too. Either way, it's your choice. I am a cheap bastard and prefer not to buy things twice when i can just buy it right the first time. Just trying to look out for another homebrewer here.

Quote:
If after a year I decide that I want to move to larger batches I will just buy larger stuff. It's not really a big deal to me as I am always finding uses for my old stuff.
Says the guy who is trying to be space conscious? I imagine this is contradictory of your goal lol
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