5 gallon vs 10 gallon batch size

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-CHRIS-

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I am very new to brewing and have a few extract kits under my belt.

I am falling hard and want to build an eHERMs system.

Problem is, I am struggling with 3 x 10 gallon kettles for 5 gallon batches versus 3 x 20 gallon kettles for 10 gallon batches. Right now I am experimenting and want to try as many different beer types as possible. I have a FastFerment which has 5 gallon capacity and I have bought a few ball lock kegs for serving/storage.

In my research, it seems that it is less than ideal to brew 5 gallon batches in a 10 gallon system so it seems I am stuck.

Why brew 10 gallons over 5, is it only for scale or are other advantages of the larger batch sizes?

Does anyone make narrow but tall 20 gallon kettles that are the same diameter as 10 gallon kettles which would reduce the challenge of the reduced batch size?

Chris
 

processhead

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I'm not sure why anyone would be handicapped trying to do 5 gallon batches in a 10 gallon kettle (system)?

As I see it, the extra head space of a larger system just gives some additional protection against boil-over.

For point of reference, I use keggles (15.5 G) for 10 gallon batches, and they work just fine.

As far as the reason behind why brew 10 over 5, it's just that much less work in the long run. Half the prep, half the process, half the cleanup.
 

TungstenBeer

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I'm not sure why anyone would be handicapped trying to do 5 gallon batches in a 10 gallon kettle (system)?
Well the question is not about a 10 gallon kettle, it's a 10 gallon system (which he mentioned he was sizing as 3x 20 gallon pots).

There should be no problem brewing 5 gallons in the larger pots. Many have done it, I plan to do it, it should be fine. The only thing you want to be careful with is the positioning of the heating element, assuming that is your plan. If you place it too high it may be exposed to the air on smaller batches. However, if you be careful about it, you'll be fine.
 

30Bones

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I'd go with 15 gallon kettles and you can do 5 or 10 gallon batches. I had the flexibility when I had my 3 keggle system and found I liked saying I did a 10 gallon batch, but that is a lot of beer for me. Hell I still have probably a half of a corny in my keezer still and that was June of 2013. All told I did 3 10 gallon batches out of the 75 gallons I brewed over 14 brew sessions last year. (I do small ~2 gallon batches to experiments also)

For me, 10 gallons was fun for 1.045-1055 pale ales, wheat, blondes. Lawnmower type beers. I just don't think I personally need that capabilities at the moment.
 

processhead

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The choice to do a larger batch size should ultimately be driven by how fast you, and your co-drinkers consume that particular style of beer.

I don't think anyone should brew 10 gallon batches just because they can.
 

TungstenBeer

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I'd go with 15 gallon kettles and you can do 5 or 10 gallon batches.
Respectfully, I disagree. A lot of people have systems that require 14 gallons of wort for a 10 gallon batch, meaning 15 is just not enough space. See: https://www.homebrewtalk.com/f11/first-brew-kettle-515858/index2.html#post6696083

The choice to do a larger batch size should ultimately be driven by how fast you, and your co-drinkers consume that particular style of beer.

I don't think anyone should brew 10 gallon batches just because they can.
Definitely!
 

bprichar

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I got a friend hooked on brewing, so when I upgraded to a 10 gallon system, it made brew days a ton easier. (Now we just do one batch instead of 2). I was careful about assembling it to make sure it would still work for 5 gallon batches though. (careful placement of thermometers). Your losses to trub, cooling, etc. are a slightly larger fraction of your batch when doing 5 gallons, but there is no reason you can't build a 10 gallon system that works for 5 gallon batches.

Ultimately it comes down to how much you're willing to spend, how often you want to brew, and how quickly you can drink it.
 

kombat

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Respectfully, I disagree. A lot of people have systems that require 14 gallons of wort for a 10 gallon batch, meaning 15 is just not enough space.
I disagree with your disagreement. :) You can boil 14 gallons in a 15 gallon kettle - just have your Fermcap S nearby and don't turn your back on it! Also, why couldn't you only collect 12-13 gallons, and add another gallon or two of water during the boil, as the volume decreases? And finally, what kind of things would require 14 gallons pre-boil for a 10 gallon batch, unless you're boiling for several hours, or expect to lose several quarts to kettle dead space and chiller loss (both of which can be reduced to almost zero anyway)?
 

LandoLincoln

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I disagree with your disagreement. :) You can boil 14 gallons in a 15 gallon kettle - just have your Fermcap S nearby and don't turn your back on it! Also, why couldn't you only collect 12-13 gallons, and add another gallon or two of water during the boil, as the volume decreases? And finally, what kind of things would require 14 gallons pre-boil for a 10 gallon batch, unless you're boiling for several hours, or expect to lose several quarts to kettle dead space and chiller loss (both of which can be reduced to almost zero anyway)?
If you're looking for 10 finished gallons of beer then your batch size is going to be more than 10 gallons. I do 11 gallon batches for 10 actual gallons of beer.

My pre-boil volume target is 14.75 gallons for a 60 minute boil. But if I had smaller pots then I'd probably have a smaller boil-off rate since the pots would have less surface area most likely.
 

kombat

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But that's still a difference of 3.75 gallons between pre-boil and racking to the fermenters. Where is all that wort going? Some of it will be boil off, but that's only about 1.5 gallons/hour on my system. You specifically said a 60 minute boil, so I can't believe your boiling off more than twice as much wort as me during your boil, are you? Where is the rest of that wort going? Why are you losing so much precious wort somewhere in your system?
 
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-CHRIS-

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It looks like the real decision is between 10 gallon and 20 gallon kettles. It sounds like a 15 gallon kettle is too much of a compromise unless you are using keggles. I have one keggle that I use when making maple syrup, and I have had a hell of a time finding more kegs from recyclers at a reasonable cost. The inches per gallon really aren't much different between the 15 gallon and 20 gallon kettles as I calculated below.

Since all my fermenting and kegging equipment today is sized for 5 gallon batches, it probably makes the most sense to build with 10 gallon kettles. I would also like to be able to still use extract kits which means I need to be able to boil as little at 2-3 gallons unless I can do full volume boils with extract kits.

Am I thinking the right way? Anyone want to buy the 20 gallon pot I bought from ebay last week?

Chris



 

kombat

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It looks like the real decision is between 10 gallon and 20 gallon kettles. It sounds like a 15 gallon kettle is too much of a compromise unless you are using keggles.
Suit yourself, but I brew 10 gallon batches all the time with my 15 gallon kettle. A 10 gallon kettle would limit you to 5 gallon batches, and a 20 gallon kettle would limit you to 10 -15 gallon batches (it would be too big for 5 gallon batches, the wort wouldn't reach the temperature probe). In my opinion, 15 gallon is the only size that gives you the flexibility to choose whether to brew a 5 or 10 gallon batch with the same equipment on any given weekend.
 

LandoLincoln

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But that's still a difference of 3.75 gallons between pre-boil and racking to the fermenters. Where is all that wort going? Some of it will be boil off, but that's only about 1.5 gallons/hour on my system. You specifically said a 60 minute boil, so I can't believe your boiling off more than twice as much wort as me during your boil, are you? Where is the rest of that wort going? Why are you losing so much precious wort somewhere in your system?
Well, if you really must know...for my 25 gallon / 19.5" wide BK:

14.75 gallons pre-boil
2.5 gallons lost due to evaporation
.5 gallons lost due to cooling shrinkage
.5 gallons lost due to BK deadspace / hop retention
.25 gallons lost due to pump / chiller / tubing
 

kombat

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Well, if you really must know...for my 25 gallon / 19.5" wide BK:

14.75 gallons pre-boil
2.5 gallons lost due to evaporation
.5 gallons lost due to cooling shrinkage
.5 gallons lost due to BK deadspace / hop retention
.25 gallons lost due to pump / chiller / tubing
Interesting - I think you can probably get that down considerably. For one thing, losing 2.5 gallons to boil-off in just 60 minutes seems like a lot. Granted, your kettle is larger than mine so you'd have marginally more surface area, but even still, I wonder if maybe you're boiling a little more vigorously than you need to. I always blast the heat to get a big, rolling boil until the hot break subsides, but then I dial the throttle way back to maintain just a gentle boil for the rest of the boil. After the hot break, what's the point of boiling more aggressively? That should get your boil-off loss down to at most 2 gallons.

Secondly, the hop retention. I use a hop screen (from Chad at Arbor Fabricating, found him through HBT) to contain my hops during the boil, so I lose almost no wort at all to the hops. As the wort level drops (as I drain the kettle), the hops stay in the screen and the wort drains out.

Thirdly, BK dead space. 2 quarts seems like a lot to me. I guess if you're worried about break material making it to your fermenter, you could deliberately leave behind the last little bit of wort, but a pitcher's worth seems like a little much to me. Besides, don't they say the break material is good for the yeast? Maybe it's less of an issue for me because, as I said, my hops are contained elsewhere in the process so I don't need to worry about them making it into the fermenter.

Lastly, the pump/tubing/chiller. Even though you're only losing a quart here, I don't think you have to lose any at all. I chill with a Chugger pump and a plate chiller, and once my wort has reached the desired temperature, I begin racking it from my kettle into a carboy with an autosiphon (which allows me to get every last drop of wort from the BK, should I so choose). Once the siphon is started, I begin disassembling my chiller hardware, starting from the outlet port on my kettle. By raising the tubing (then the pump, then the chiller) above the level of the kettle, while leaving the return tubing clamped to the kettle, I can drain virtually all of the wort from these components into the BK.

The magic number for me, for a 5 gallon batch and a 60 minute boil, is 26 quarts (6.5 gallons). That's what I look for pre-boil, and that gets me 5 gallons in the carboy. That means I'm only losing 6 quarts (1.5 gallons) during the boil, and that's entirely accounted for by my boil-off. I lose nothing to any other aspect of the boil/chill process.

I don't mean to tell you your business, of course you should do whatever works for you, and it sounds like you've already got your process pretty finely tuned. I only meant to possibly suggest ways to optimize it, which would allow you to mash with less grain and ultimately save you money.
 

LandoLincoln

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The thing that really kills my brewhouse efficiency is the really wide pot. That extra surface area screws me over in a couple of ways. Nothing I can do about that other than buy a taller narrower pot, and I really don't feel like doing that at this point in time.

There's only about a 3/16" gap between the bottom of my pot and the dip tube, but that 3/16" gap is a lot of wort when you're dealing with about 300 square inches of surface area.

I wouldn't call my boil a very vigorous one at all. It's pretty mild, compared to a lot of other boils I've seen. I dial my power down to 90% during the boil. I have a 5500w heating element.

The quart loss to the pump/chiller/hoses is small potatoes.

I still get about an 80% efficiency with my setup and I'm not all that concerned about the losses.
 

TungstenBeer

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I disagree with your disagreement. :) You can boil 14 gallons in a 15 gallon kettle - just have your Fermcap S nearby and don't turn your back on it! Also, why couldn't you only collect 12-13 gallons, and add another gallon or two of water during the boil, as the volume decreases? And finally, what kind of things would require 14 gallons pre-boil for a 10 gallon batch, unless you're boiling for several hours, or expect to lose several quarts to kettle dead space and chiller loss (both of which can be reduced to almost zero anyway)?
That's fair, and it obviously works for you and it works for others as well - but it's not gospel and it doesn't work for everyone. Here are some reasons you might not want to go with 15 gallons for a 10 gallon batch:

For me, to end up with a full 2 kegs of cornies at the end of the day, I'm brewing to get to 11 if not 12 gallons of cooled wort at the end of brewday.

A boil-off rate of 2 gallons or more per hour happens on some systems, and many people don't want to settle for a "gentle boil" because boiling vigorously drives off DMS.

Boiling for 90 minutes is my standard, but if I'm doing a barleywine, I might want the option to brew for 180 minutes (clarification: I definitely would).

Fermcap isn't FDA approved. Personally, I don't care about that and I use it in all my starters, but some people may want to steer clear.

I don't want to add water during the boil because that affects things like the boil itself, hop extraction, and it has a minor negative effect on efficiency.

I know a lot of this has already been mentioned by others - just wanted to sum up my thoughts on it. Personally, for the extra $50 or whatever, I'm going with a 20 gallon pot - at least for the BK - so I don't have to worry about any of that stuff listed above. You could probably get away with 15/15gal pots for the HLT & MT, but those would come with their own restrictions (ex. "can this hold the grain I need for 10 gallons of a Russian imperial stout").
 

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