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Old 09-18-2008, 06:54 AM   #1
goodbyebluesky82
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Default brewing small batches....

Hey guys. I'm fermenting my second batch at the moment, while my first is bottled and mellowing out for the last couple weeks in a dark closet.

What do you guys have to say about brewing small batches of beer, like in the 1-2 gallon range? I realize that might seem really small, but I would love the freedom to brew small batches to try out recipes and learn faster w/o as much financial payout or having more than I can responsibly drink. (example- I want to make a pumpkin ale for the fall but not sure I want to drink 5 gal of it myself etc, and my wife likes irish stout and I don't touch it so 5 gal is over the top)

Plus every batch I brew is like 50 friggin bottles I gotta scrounge up as well which is a pain. I just this week finally stored up enough to bottle up my newest batch.

My local brewstore has 1 gallon carboys for like 6 bucks! Plus I have a 2 gal plastic keg left over from my horrible Mr. Beer trial test. How hard would it be to get the ingredients appropriated for such small batches? Do I still pitch the full amount of yeast? Can't I just have my local brewstore weigh the hops for me into smaller quantities so I don't have to fool with a scale yet? I'm sure I have more questions but can't think at the moment. Give me you guys' opinions if you will please.

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Old 09-18-2008, 07:02 AM   #2
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oh, one more question:

If I use my 7 gal plastic fermenter to brew smaller batches (like say 2 or 2.5 gal) do I have to worry about having so much headspace? Could that be a problem?

I've been told its better not to have excessive headroom in the secondary so I'm just wondering.

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Old 09-18-2008, 01:42 PM   #3
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Years ago I used to brew 3 gallon batches. I used a 5 gallon carboy as the primary, and a 3 gallon carboy as a secondary. (15 years ago using a secondary was accepted as mandatory, not so much today.) I know what you're saying about fermenting 2 or 3 gallons in a 6.5 gallon bucket though. Seems like a lot of headspace. If you can find a 3 gallon carboy that might be perfect for you.

If you've never watched any of the Basic Brewing Video podcasts, check out the ones about brewing a six-pack. They literally brew a six-pack's worth of IPA. Might be worth watching for small batch tips.

Basic Brewingâ„¢ : Home Brewing Beer Podcast and DVD - Basic Brewing Radioâ„¢

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Old 09-18-2008, 02:02 PM   #4
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I'm a noob so I could be totally wrong(don't think so though).
If you noly do a primary fermentation you so should be fine
if it starts fast enough and it ferments vigorusly enough so the
CO2 pushes the head space air through the air lock, then you
are home free as long as you don't do a secondary fermentation
without the proper size container as the fermentaion at that stage
is much more passive and the CO2 will notlikely push out the
head space air and risk spoilage. This may be one time you may
want to repitch yeast if some activity not seen early on, say,
after 24 hours from initial pitching. As a noob, I'm not 100% sure.

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Old 09-18-2008, 02:12 PM   #5
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Other than having so few beers per batch, not a problem. Makes experimenting with all grain very easy, too.

For the hops, check the house to see if you already have a postal scale, and if not, pick up a cheap one. Given that a part of your motivation is "saving money" I feel a need to point out that buying in bulk and measuring out your own stuff makes a big difference in overall cost per batch.

For primary fermentation, 5 gallons of headspace will not be a problem - it will soon enough be 5 gallons of carbon dioxide above your 2 gallons of beer. Putting 2 gallons of beer into a 7 gallon secondary would be quite dubious, however. If you brew a touch over 3 gallons 3 gallon carboys are a common size and make good secondaries (or primaries for 2 gallons) - but you can also not bother with a secondary.

Gallon glass jugs (good for secondary at this batch size) may be available cheaper/free if you go looking places other than the LHBS.

As for the Irish stout your wife likes, brew 5 gallons, bottle it, and you won't have to brew it as often - plus it definitely gets better with age, for quite a long time (up to several years, IMPE). If she has one every other week it will only last 2 years...

Bottle scrounging is only a problem at the start - eventually you'll have bottles coming out of your ears. US champagne bottles take a standard crown cap and hold two+ standard beers - less handling, fewer caps, often available by the case after weddings and new year. Use them for beers you both like and share the bottle.

Of course, you can also buy bottles from the LHBS or on-line if scrounging really bothers you, but you probably already know someone that drinks from bottles you'd be happy with. You just have to make the connection and the bottles will come.

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Old 09-18-2008, 02:16 PM   #6
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I'm brewing 2.5 gal batches right now. I use a fermentation bucket then rack to a 6 gal secondary. I like the half batches for experimenting. Everything is easier to deal with. I also like the idea of only having a case of beer that I kinda like.

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Old 09-18-2008, 03:27 PM   #7
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Thanks for the advice so far.

I had a bit of a falling out with the buddy I brewed the first batch with and split the cost of ingredients. So I'm kinda on my own now. This early on in brewing for me, 5 gallons is a lot unless I'm SURE its something I like. I'm excited to have 5 gallons of Sierra Nevada on hand, but not so much willing to take risks with such large quantities on things I don't know if I'll like.

As far as buying in bulk, my LHBS sells kits in the 26.00-36.00 range. My sierra nevada clone ran me like 32 bucks for example, whereas the a la carte price for all the individual ingredients would have been well over 40 bucks.

So I'm thinking..... I purchase a kit: A belgian wheat ale for example, split it into 3 gallon batch to brew normally, a 1 gallon batch to turn into a blueberry wheat, and another 1 gallon batch with cherries, bitter orange, or honey to make a honey wheat. For the price of a single kit from my LHBS, I have 3 similarly based but distinctive beers and I have some variety to choose from when the weekend comes and I throw a 6-pack in the fridge.

as far as headroom goes, if I get a couple 1 gal carboys at $6 apiece I should be alright then.

One more question, my supplier always includes whirlflock tablets with every kit. Could I just buy additional tablets and throw a whole one into a much smaller batch, or would it be too much. It seems like it wouldnt hurt but just wondering. Thanks

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