Advice on how to move on from Mr Beer

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Wheelman

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So I've done a few batches on my Mr Beer kit, and I'm deciding that this hombrew thing is something I'd like to stick with - but am looking for a better quality refill that works at a 2 - 2 1/2 gallon size for the LBK fermenter. I'm holding off on purchasing any additional equipment like kettles or all grain equipment, as I'll have more room for 5 gallon equipment next year. Right now my biggest pot is 2 gallons - What are my options for continuing at this size?
 
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So I've done a few batches on my Mr Beer kit, and I'm deciding that this hombrew thing is something I'd like to stick with - but am looking for a better quality refill that works at a 2 - 2 1/2 gallon size for the LBK fermenter. I'm holding off on purchasing any additional equipment like kettles or all grain equipment, as I'll have more room for 5 gallon equipment next year. Right now my biggest pot is 2 gallons - What are my options for continuing at this size?
Assuming I read the description (above) correctly, the question is:

With a two gallon boil kettle and a two gallon fermenter (the LBK fermenter), what batch sizes can one brew?

1.25 gallons in the fermenter is a "12-pack" of beer. My boil-off rate for a 30 minute boil is around 0.25 gallons, so this batch size may fit in the kettle you have.

With extract (DME/LME) in a 1.25 gallon batch size, DME may be easier to work with (avoiding partial containers of LME).

You could also BIAB in this batch size. With BIAB/"all-grain" if you get a jewelry scale (with .001 gram measurements), it's practical to do simple brewing salt additions when starting with distilled (or RO) water.

For recipes, start with a five gallon recipe and "divide by four" for the ingredients to get to starting point for a 1.25 gallon batch size.

With extract (DME/LME), 15 minute boils are an interesting approach. http://beerandwinejournal.com/15-minute-pale-ale/ is a good overview.
 

TwistedGray

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You could also BIAB in this batch size. With BIAB/"all-grain" if you get a jewelry scale (with .001 gram measurements), it's practical to do simple brewing salt additions when starting with distilled (or RO) water.
I second the BIAB route. You only need to buy a bag, since you already have a pot.

The jewelry scale will also be used to weigh hops for hop additions and yeast if you intend to split dry packs.

This is what I do.
 

AZCoolerBrewer

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If it was me with the small pot, I would do DME and steeping grains. That way you can top off and get your full 2 gallons. If you want to do BIAB you’ll have to scale down your volume. You need at least a 3 gallon pot to make 2 gallons of wort.
 

STMF

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I would also do DME and steeping grains. I would save about half of the DME and add that at the very end of the boil.

You can make great beer this way.
 

madscientist451

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Get a cheapo 16 or 20 quart pot. Put a BIAB bag in and you are ready to brew. A bucket fermenter is also pretty cheap. Sometimes you can find used brewing gear on your local craigslist.
I bought a Mr Beer at Goodwill and I like those PET bottles, but flip top bottles also come in handy.
Go on you tube and watch brewing videos and listen to some brewing podcasts like Basic Brewing Radio. Look for the 15 minute pale ale recipe.
I just used the Brewer's friend Calculator, A 3.3 lb can of LME in a 2.25 gallon batch
makes a pretty easy 5% beer. A 4 gallon pot would work for that.
 
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davidabcd

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So your question is a better refill. I'm assuming here, that you mean higher quality.

Recipes with instructions can be found on the Brewer's Best and Northern Brewer websites. I've tried a number of them and they are quite good. There are many other options but these recipes are proven.
Doing this would mean going to the local home brew store (LHBS) to buy individual ingredients.

I use a four-gallon pot which gives sufficient room to make a five-gallon batch. Reasonably, your two-gallon pot should be large enough to make 2.5 gallons of beer. You'd just be cutting recipes in half.
This would give you about a case of beer.
 

myndflyte

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I brewed with Mr. Beer kegs for years before upgrading. Find any extract recipe that sounds good and scale it down.
 

Nagorg

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Sticking to extract with steeping grains probably makes the most sense due to you not wanting any more equipment right now. There are plenty of great recipes that you can use instead of limiting yourself to "refill kits". Software like BeerSmith can also help you scale these recipes down and even convert all-grain recipes to extract!

If you dont mind turning a ~3 gallon water cooler into a mash tun you could even dabble with all-grain. Going this route, you could mash enough grain for a high post boil SG and plan to dilute it in your LBK for the target OG. BeerSmith will help you with that too!
 

BigRobb

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So I've done a few batches on my Mr Beer kit, and I'm deciding that this hombrew thing is something I'd like to stick with - but am looking for a better quality refill that works at a 2 - 2 1/2 gallon size for the LBK fermenter. I'm holding off on purchasing any additional equipment like kettles or all grain equipment, as I'll have more room for 5 gallon equipment next year. Right now my biggest pot is 2 gallons - What are my options for continuing at this size?

No question BIAB Is the route to go, pretty much exactly what I did when I moved from kit to AG. Its easy, inexpensive and makes great beer. Cheers!
 

Oginme

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I started with a Mr. Beer kit and did two of their recipes before graduating to a couple of extract plus specialty grains, two partial mash and then to BIAB. All of these in the 2 gallon to 2.25 gallon range which fit nicely into the Mr Beer fermenter. I had a 3 gallon stock pot at the time and topped off the pot after boiling with chilled, boiled water to help bring the temperature down quickly. Two gallons in gave me about 17 to 19 12 oz bottles out.

Moved the next year up to 5-gallons with a mash tun, burner and 8.5 gallon kettle. Now, the majority of my brews are 10 liter (2.7 gal) BIAB and I typically end up with 26 to 28 bottles a batch. I still haul out the 5-gallon equipment at least twice a year when it is good weather.

Definitely agree with the others who said to go the BIAB route. Once you've gotten enough experience, you will know if you want to size up and how to do it economically.
 
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Wheelman

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Thanks for the replies everyone, and yes the reason for trying other recipes is hopefully to improve quality :)

I'll definitely look into the extract and biab approach, I think I'd like to end up with an eBIAB system in a year or so.

Being new here, I've heard people reference software like beersmith. Would that help me translate a recipe to/from AG and extact, and figure out brew size?

Lastly, partial mash seems like a good way to get a 2 gallon batch size with my current equipment - can you do a patial batch with BIAB?
 
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I've heard people reference software like beersmith. Would that help me translate a recipe to/from AG and extact, and figure out brew size?
Beersmith 3 has the ability to convert 'all grain' recipes to 'extract' recipes (http://beersmith.com/features/). Once one understands base malts and the composition of DME/LME, it's pretty easy to do the conversion without software.

@madscientist451 and @Oginme have given you good advice on the kettle size you need to do a full volume boil.

... partial mash seems like a good way to get a 2 gallon batch size with my current equipment
You would need to do a "partial boil" (rather than a partial mash) to get two gallons of wort into the fermenter using a two gallon kettle.

Partial boils have some limitations. Ideally, if you want to brew a batch that fills the fermenter, you want to have a kettle that allows you to do a full boil.

If you still want to do partial boils, ...

There are two current homebrewing books that cover this: How to Brew, 4e (John Palmer) and Methods of Modern Homebrewing (Chris Colby).

Chris Colby also writes at beerandwinejournal.com and many of those articles were revised and added to his book. For partial boil advice, you coud start here http://beerandwinejournal.com/extract-boil-volume/.
 

JohnSand

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You can partial mash with BIAB, and you can make a condensed wort and top off. My first "kettle" was a 20 quart canning pot I bought secondhand. I BIABed five gallon batches in it by topping off during the boil and in the fermenter. When I pulled the grain bag, I put it in a pasta pot and dunk sparged. After hot break, I added wort up to about 4.5 gallons and boiled carefully. As it boiled down, I kept adding. I topped off again when I chilled, and a little more in the fermenter. It's easier to do than it sounds.
 
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You can partial mash with BIAB, and you can make a condensed wort and top off. My first "kettle" was a 20 quart canning pot I bought secondhand. I BIABed five gallon batches in it by topping off during the boil and in the fermenter. When I pulled the grain bag, I put it in a pasta pot and dunk sparged. After hot break, I added wort up to about 4.5 gallons and boiled carefully. As it boiled down, I kept adding. I topped off again when I chilled, and a little more in the fermenter. It's easier to do than it sounds.
So with this approach, it looks like one would not make any recipe adjustments (like wort a/b from HtB, 4e) - just pay attention during the boil and know that one is cooling down a larger volume of wort.

If I'm following the volumes correctly, it's either a 10% (.5 gal added to 4.5 gal => 5.0 gal in fermenter) or a 20% (1.0 gal to get to 5.5 gal in fermenter) dillution. Which may be a meaningful difference vs a "traditional" partial boil (3 gal added to 2.5 gal => 5.5 gal in fermentor). So if really hoppy styles and high ABV styles don't work well with "traditional" partial boils, the approach you're suggesting may be a good way to brew these styles.
 

Cato1507

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So I've done a few batches on my Mr Beer kit, and I'm deciding that this hombrew thing is something I'd like to stick with - but am looking for a better quality refill that works at a 2 - 2 1/2 gallon size for the LBK fermenter. I'm holding off on purchasing any additional equipment like kettles or all grain equipment, as I'll have more room for 5 gallon equipment next year. Right now my biggest pot is 2 gallons - What are my options for continuing at this size?
 

Cato1507

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I have Mr Beer LBKs and still use them and though mostly have moved to slightly larger batches and ss fermenters, you have plenty of options with that 2 gallon pot.
Since many recipes are based on 5 gal, you can cut them in half and for most recipes that are say OG 1.064 and under you can do 2.25 gallon in the LBK. I do that quite often still and get a clean 24-12oz bottle yield.

Look on the Briess malts website under grain and extract recipes, and I think you'll find a great deal of partial mash and their LME's that will keep you in very good brews until you can upgrade your equipment.
You'll need some larger reusable grain bags with drawstring for your mashing but it's doable with that size pot.
Hope that helps.
 

OG-wan Kenobi

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Northern Brewer sells 2 gallon extract kits, 1 of which is a Zombie Dust clone this would be the better quality refill's your looking for I believe it's a limited selection but they have a few 2 gallon kits and Northern Brewer kits are good beer. With that said when you have the means moving to BIAB will get you better results you have a lot more control of your beer which results in better beer. Good luck
 

BigRobb

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Thanks for the replies everyone, and yes the reason for trying other recipes is hopefully to improve quality :)

I'll definitely look into the extract and biab approach, I think I'd like to end up with an eBIAB system in a year or so.

Being new here, I've heard people reference software like beersmith. Would that help me translate a recipe to/from AG and extact, and figure out brew size?

Lastly, partial mash seems like a good way to get a 2 gallon batch size with my current equipment - can you do a patial batch with BIAB?

Not sure I would bother translating a recipe from extract to AG, there are lots of great AG recipes out there for you. Brewers Friend is a good option for software and less expensive then beer smith, we use brewers friend at our brew pub and it works great. Cheers.
 
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Look on the Briess malts website under grain and extract recipes, and I think you'll find a great deal of partial mash and their LME's that will keep you in very good brews until you can upgrade your equipment.
Here's a direct link to their database. http://brewingwithbriess.com/Recipes/

IIRC, OP may need to resize these recipes to fit their system. So if the recipe calls for partial containers of Munich or Vienna liquid malt extract, Briess also has Munich and Vienna dry malt extracts. I find that it's easier to work with partial bags/containers of DME. But, as always, YMMV.
 
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Wheelman

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Again - Thanks for all the help everyone!

It looks like my plan is going to be to purchase a 1 gallon extract kit or two from Northern Brewer (Canada), and try out the extract thing. I'll do a little more research into BIAB at my scale for a followup batch. My 2 gallon pot is also my pasta pot, so I think my strainer insert might come in handy for the BIAB.
 

rodwha

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Brewer’s Friend is free unless you want to save more than 5 recipes and whatnot. I use it and like it (free version).

Easy to cut a 5 gal recipe in half. I often looked at MoreBeer’s recipe sheets for their kits when I was moving on to something unfamiliar.

LME is generally cheaper.
 

BigRobb

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Beersmith is $15/year and Brewers Friend is $25/year.
As rodwha said.. Brewer Friend is free if you keep it under 5 recipes... knew when I originally researched it that it was less then Beer Smith and why I went with it to start. But yes now I pay the $25 or whatever it is per year. Cheers
 
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