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Old 07-09-2012, 06:20 PM   #1
iambeer
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Default The case for 3 gal batch brewing for apartment dwelling budget minded beginner

I know there are good reasons for 5 gallon kits. But for me, three gallons was the way to go. I am surprised that three gallon starter kits aren't made available.

When shopping for a 'starter' kit, I looked at many kits from various vendors. I didn't like them because they essentially are taylored to 5 gallon batches. So I broke the kits down and researched each item; read various sources about why each item is important. I think I read a chapter or two of Homebrewing for Dummies, this forum, and other sites. I watched youtube vids. I read blogs and online books.

I steered to 3 gallons organically. Because it's less expensive and uses less space. Also maybe because I started with a Mr Beer kit, which I thought was more than enough beer from 2.5 gallons.

I started with a pot. I needed a high quality pot that I could use in the kitchen for making food. So I bought a 5 gallon stainless steel pot. I can brew on my electric tempered glass stovetop and I can get 4.5 gallons to a roiling boil. Therefore, I didn't need to buy a gas tank, burner, etc.

A 3 gallon carboy fits perfectly in a two dollar Home Depot bucket, which keeps it safe from damage, makes it easy to carry, and as a bonus I use the bucket as a swamp/t-shirt cooler. One of my first batches required an aging process in secondary, so I had two carboys to start with (which meant I had an excuse for two beers going at the same time).

I converted to all grain brewing on my third batch by spending $30 on a 5 gallon cylindrical cooler and vinyl mesh bags--as simple as that.

With a little care for keep yeast healthy, I only have to spend about $10 for each 3 gallon batch for grains and hops for most beers. Which means I can brew more types of beer for less money. Which is great while I am learning.

I do have a plastic bottling bucket. It is indispensable but it's huge and it only gets used once in a while. Good for storing tubes, etc. But ideally this is a standout wart in my setup.

I don't need as many bottles lying around, full or empty.

If I ever go to kegs and decide to stick with three gallons, I'll just buy new 3 gallon kegs (yes, they are more expensive than used 5 gallon kegs, but that's a fraction of the total cost of converting to kegging).

As a newbie, I am happy with my three gallon setup. It is challenging to learn to make beer but for 3 gallons, more manageable. The exciting thing for me is to plan a brew and brewday itself. To drink is good too, but there's no shortage of good beer where I live.

Maybe one day I will decide three gallons isn't enough for my efforts. Maybe I will decide that I want to brew less and drink more. But right now I know I made the right choice, sticking with a budget, and getting everything I need to get the full 'brewing' experience. I can share a beer with friends, just less of it. I made this beer with care, so I wouldn't want to share it carelessly anyway.

Until I change my mind, I have everything I need without converting an entire room to devote to a new hobby. ... Well, until that happens.. as it most certainly will



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Old 07-09-2012, 06:28 PM   #2
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You can also go to your local grocery store and get 3.5 gallon buckets from the bakery. They make great fermenters.



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Old 07-09-2012, 07:14 PM   #3
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I agree completely with all of your points. My neighbor (who brews) and the guys at LHBS think I'm wasting my time with such small batches (I've been doing 2.5gals), but I'm loving it!

I've done a 2.5gal BIAB batch, and would like to try a traditional all-grain. Your "mash tun" sounds interesting. Can you post pics of your setup & maybe a recipe or two that have worked out for you?

-WTY

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Old 07-09-2012, 08:28 PM   #4
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HI I have not posted much to this forum. Sort of over-powered by the AG and 5 gal gang

I agree with the OP and the responses. I LIKE the small batch. Yes, 2.5 gal MRB LBK. I have made 52 recipes of assorted all extract beer. Most have been good some great. I get to make many different beers to drink. I do not drink much ( few a day) so a 5 gal batch is way too much of the same stuff for me to consume and enjoy. I like variety in the fridge.

I have no desire to go beyond extract brewing. I am now branching out to extract kits and DIY recipes with and without steeping grains.
If I want to brew a 5 gal recipe, I can cut it in half and store the balance for later.

Some recipe providers will split the kit into two 2.5 g kits. AHS and Brewmasters.
I can buy all the LME DME Hops and steep grains to brew more recipes then I can ever drink. I found many recipes on this forum.

I have quite a store of extracts in a can to brew. Once they are gone I will move to DIY recipes.
I might move to glass or plastic 3 gal fermenter later. I have 5 of the 2.5 LBK in use. I only bottle and use 3 of the tap a draft kegs with no problems.

I enjoy the hobby, just fininshed a bottle of modified ADIPA.
*R

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Old 07-09-2012, 08:32 PM   #5
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Maybe I should have also pointed out that another benefit to 3 gallon batches is you don't need to make a starter when buying new yeast. IMO 1 vial will get you started pretty well for normal gravity beers.

I have been converting all grain recipes from 5 gallons to 3. I haven't brewed enough beer to recommend two recipes. But here are some example of what I have brewed or what I plan on brewing.


-----

Dark Wheat w/ European Ale Yeast (Base for Fruit Beer) 3 Gallons
Although it's a fruit beer base, I tasted it before adding the fruit and I was intrigued.

Briess 2-Row 4 lbs
Weyermann Dark Wheat 2 lbs
Caramel Munich 2 oz
Hallertau Pellets .4 oz @ 60 mins
Williamette Pellets .4 oz @ 30 mins
European Ale Yeast

My efficiency was only about 60% so my OG was about 1.046, FG (before fruit addition) was 1.012. IBU 19; SRM 7.19

I added 4 lbs of blueberries. Which would have been better if I had hit a 75% efficiency. In retrospect with 60% efficiency I would have gone for 3 lbs of blueberries.

-----

Sierra Nevada Pale Ale Clone, 3 Gallons

This is a 3 gallon version derived from the BYO version and some simpler online recipe versions.

Briess 2-Row Brewer's Malt - 5 lbs 8 oz
Caramel Pils - 5 oz
Briess 2 Row Caramel 20 - 2.4 oz
Briess 2 Row Caramel 40 - 2.4 oz

Perle @ 45 - .9 oz
Cascade @ 5 - .6 oz
Cascade @ 0 - .6 oz
Cascade @ dry - .6 oz
American Ale Yeast

-----

Just for fun I converted the weights on the Dogfish Head Chateau Jiahu (my wife and I love it) clone from this source:
http://www.byo.com/stories/recipeindex/article/recipes/112-specialty-a-experimental-beer/450-dogfish-heads-chateau-jiahu-clone

The ingredients are hard to get, but some of the more rare stuff (orange honey, syrup, hawthorne berry) are available at a nearby health food store.

...and it looks like this (definitely something I'll try in kind of distant future)

Two-row pale malt - 6 lbs 13.2 oz
Orange blossom honey - 1 lbs 12.8 oz
Rice Syrup - 1 lbs 3.2 oz
Alexander’s Muscat conc - 9.6 oz
Hawthorne Berry Powder - 4.8 oz
Simcoe Hops @ 60 - 2.4 oz
Sake Yeast

-----

As for my setup...

All I have to say about the 5 gallon cylindrical cooler and paint strainer mesh bags is that they are made for each other. The bag is perfectly tall enough and the elastic fits the rim perfectly. I just had to learn that when mixing not to twist the bag (actually closing the lid and gently but firmly shaking the mash works even better since less heat is lost). When sparging wheat mash without hulls, I had to tug the bag a little here and there to get the sparge running. I haven't maximized my efficiency but I'm working on it. I don't think my equipment is keeping me back; I think it's more about the grain and the water.

I brew in the kitchen, so there's nothing special to see there. Here's a snapshot of my compact fermentation closet. It's very small but somehow it looks a bit bigger in this photo. The ambient temp is about 68-70 and under a wet shirt about 63-65 F. The top shelf has two or three gallons fermentation tests, and at the bottom there is room for three carboys. The shelves are used for bottles. Above the frame is a shelf with the 5 gallon cooler hanging upside down, and a Mr Beer Keg (can't fit the bottling bucket there unfortunately).

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Old 07-09-2012, 08:52 PM   #6
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What you discuss is exactly what I was planning to do this Fall when it cooled down in my apartment. I live in a fourth floor walk up in Brooklyn, and the lack of space makes having all the necessary equipment for a 5 gallon AG set up difficult and I've gotten good feedback from other NYC dwellers on 3 gallon AG batches.

And in terms of quantity, it takes me a good amount of time to kill 5 gallons of beer (in NYC you spend too much time drinking out instead of in), so 3 gallons will be ample.

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Old 07-09-2012, 10:03 PM   #7
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iambeer,

Thanks for the rundown! I agree completely with the direct pitch yeast vial (or smack pack).

On your cooler/bag set up -- do you run off from the cooler's push-button spigot, or did you install a ball-valve (or something different)?

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Old 07-09-2012, 10:48 PM   #8
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I started doing 3 gallon batches about a year ago when I switched to all grain and the need to do full boils, but didn't want to shell out for a 7+ gallon kettle. There are pros and cons, IMO. Pro: there's less at stake if an experimental recipe comes out wrong. Con: Having to convert "standard" 5 gallon recipes to 3 Gallon. Pro: Lower cost/batch. Con: half as much beer for the same amount of work.

Sooner or later (probably this summer), I'll get a big kettle and switch between 3 and 5 gallon batches.

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Old 07-09-2012, 11:07 PM   #9
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I'm working on my first 2.5 gallon BIAB AG batch right now. I want to do AG, but I know it'll be a while before I can make the investment to do bigger batches. I'm stuck with what my kitchen can handle right now. I can still do 5 gallon extract kits, and experiment with the BIAB batches for things I'm not quite sure of...

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Old 07-10-2012, 02:07 AM   #10
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I totally see the wisdom in 3, 5, and 10 gallon batches. They all have there place. Three gallon batches are great for learning, experimenting, brewing often, diversity, and apartment brewing. For me, 5 gallon batches are the right amount of output for the work. I'd love to be able to do 10 gallon batches for weddings or big parties or to be able to split the cost and beer with one or two other people. What's really needed is a book or website full of 3 gallon recipes aimed at new brewers. That way it would be really approachable.

That said, there should totally be an Apartment Brewer website that speciallizes in 3 gallon kits, small carboys, and vertical indoor brew sculpture/carts that you could use in your kitchen (either pumping to and from a kettle on the stove or with electric elements).



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