Any Tips for Small Batch all Grain Brewing?

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dn151864

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Hey Everyone!

I'm going to be starting my first batch of all grain beer in the next week or 2. I bought a box of ingredients off the internet. I'll be doing small batch brewing, so roughly 1 gallon of beer, 6 bottles worth.

I was hoping to collect some tips and tricks for when it comes to all grain brewing in small batches. It would be great to hear from you and i think this would also help others, in the future.

You don't need to go into too much detail, unless you want, small tips or links to articles or books are welcome! Recipes you like would be great. Just some things that have helped you, things you learned from, etc.

Sure, I'm asking this because I need help but I also think it'd just be good for people in general. So what worked for you? What were some things that failed?

My first batch will be a Chocolate Oatmeal Stout. I bought the kit from http://www.boxbrewkits.com/ only the ingredients though. I have a gallon jug and bottles, didn't need them to be blue or sit in a wooden box.
 

kh54s10

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For starters I would brew those kits as intended. Then you can take those recipes and make some tweaks to suit your tastes. Start with small steps, a substitution or small addition. If you make big changes you risk making something awful, unless you have an understanding of recipe building.

Small batch brewing is a great way to learn about the tastes of different malts and hops. SMaSH brewing or single malt and single hop will allow you to try a hop or malt to see if you like it before committing to buying a lot or brewing a large batch.

I just bought 5 pounds of hops, 1 pound each, 4 are new to me. I will take some 2 row and one of the hop varieties and brew a small batch to test. For me that is about 3 gallons though. Or maybe I'll mash for 5 gallons and hop 5 different I gallon beers from that mash. Though boiling 5 batches at a time or in a row seems daunting.....
 
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dn151864

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Thanks! How important is it that I buy a digital scale? I feel like it is probably very important to have one. However if you have a packet of 1oz hops and you need a fraction of that, can eyeing it be a really bad idea since we are working with such small quantities?
 

kh54s10

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Thanks! How important is it that I buy a digital scale? I feel like it is probably very important to have one. However if you have a packet of 1oz hops and you need a fraction of that, can eyeing it be a really bad idea since we are working with such small quantities?
It depends on how accurate you want/need to be. For hops you could just divide the pack into roughly equal amounts and use 1/4, 1/2, 3/4 etc. If one of those amounts works in your recipe.

If you buy grains in bulk it is indispensable. You will have a very hard time telling the difference between 3 pounds and 4.25 pounds. And in certain cases a quarter pound difference will make a drastic difference in the beer.

A decent digital scale is available at Walmart, Harbor Freight, Target, etc for about $20. My Harbor Freight one was $20. I checked the calibration and it seems quite accurate. I weigh things like nutrients in grams, hops in ounces and grains in pounds. I hit my numbers and the hop profile seems right so I am happy with it.
 

bucfan1234

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Thanks! How important is it that I buy a digital scale? I feel like it is probably very important to have one. However if you have a packet of 1oz hops and you need a fraction of that, can eyeing it be a really bad idea since we are working with such small quantities?
You can eyeball it and get decent results, but if you really want to be certain about your measurements, you can also get a small digital scale from Harbor Freight for about $6.

In my experience, small adjustments or mis-measurements have a much larger impact when brewing a 1 gallon batch.
 
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dn151864

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I'll definitely be picking up a digital scale!

Are hot liquor tanks recommended for small batch brewing or since it's such small amounts of liquid it's easier to control the temperature on the stove top? What about other equipment, aside from fermentation bucket, hydrometer, bottles, capper, and siphon?
 

bucfan1234

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dOne gallon batches I have done were Brew in a Bag, and I just mashed on the stove top while minding the temperature.

I have also hit strike temp and mashed BIAB in the brew kettle wrapped in a comforter. Only lost two degrees in an hour and I didn't have to babysit it.

BIAB saves time (no vorlauf, no waiting for the mash tun to drain, no additional waiting for the sparge to drain), and you still get nice result without a mash tun, hot liquor tanks, etc.
 

wilserbrewer

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To control mash temps, I would suggest placing the kettle w/ mash in a warm oven. This will keep a steady temp better than trying to add heat on the stove. Typical 1 gallon process would be to heat strike water approx 1.5-2 gallon to 160 degrees, add grain and let stabilize at say 152, then place kettle in warm oven and turn off oven for mash period,
 

bransona

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Small batch, BIAB only here. I mash in my kettle and throw it in the oven (warmed up and turned off, so probably sitting ambient 100-120). Always have great mash temps. Also, one gallon typically yields 10 bottles final product for me (which is why I upped to 1.5 gallons, since my 9qt kettle can handle that). I always sparge/squeeze and have about 80-90% efficiency. As far as the scale, yes, definitely helpful since we deal with such tiny amounts. Sometimes you'll need as little as a few grams of some grains, and almost always that small of an amount of hops. Even my DIPA only uses 2oz.

Hope you enjoy the AG brewing! It's definitely the way to go, ime. :mug:
 
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dn151864

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Man, using an oven is such a great idea! I would have never thought of that!

I need to start doing some research into BIAB, seems a lot easier and cleaner. Here is a link I just quickly read through. http://homebrewmanual.com/brew-in-a-bag/
 

bransona

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Protip: Go to Lowe's, get 5 gallon paint strainer bags. 2 for $5. They're amazing.
 
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dn151864

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Man, using an oven is such a great idea! I wouldn't have ever thought of that, great tip!

I just started looking into BIAB brewing. I think this will be the way I go with this, at least at first. No need for a Hot Liquor tank or straining our the grains since everything is contained in the bag. I just read this quick article on it since I didn't know anything about it. http://homebrewmanual.com/brew-in-a-bag/ Thanks for the idea.

Are bags reusable, or is it a one time shot per bag?
 

bransona

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Bags are totally reusable! Just rinse em, shake em out, rinse, and if it's still particularly dirty boil it. Then reuse. They'll last for quite a while if you take good care of them. I can fit upwards of 5lbs of grain in one with no problem.
 

m00ps

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when i did biab on my stovetop, i used 5gal paint strainer bags. they would last 4-5 batches before i swapped for a new one
 

pricelessbrewing

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https://www.homebrewtalk.com/showthread.php?t=311884 is a 1 gal brewing thread. It's rather large, and it is in the beginners forum so there's a lot of basics and kit discussions in there.

I've been brewing for a bit and knew a lot already before stepping down in volume. I have a blog post written up, just need to edit and throw some images in there then I'll post it so I don't want to go through everything I have written down.

My tips are mostly for consistency, as small batches are very easy to be off slightly in yoir measurements and have a large impact in the final product. get a high precision scale (0.01g) for hop and specialty grains, and a medium precision scale (0.1g) for base malts if you don't already have one for the kitchen. Get a star less rules for measuring water and wort volumes, and figure out an easy way to sparge and Bottle before attempting it on brew day. Having a plan in place will be so much easier.

Regarding bags, get a proper biab bag. I love my wilserbrewer bag and recommend the grand slam package. I doubt I'll ever need to replace it unless I miss treat it or get a bigger kettle that it doesn't fit around.
 
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dn151864

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Thanks Pricelessbrewing for the thread. I have never done any all-grain brewing so I figured small batch would be an easier transition from extract than going straight to 5-gallon batches of brewing. Plus, I feel like the overhead will be much lower since I won't need to buy a ton of equipment.
 

bucfan1234

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I actually did the one gallon all grain BIAB before I did 5 gallon extract batches, then went back to 3 gallon BIAB (mainly because, in my case, I thought the one gallon grain batches were better beers than the extracts) and now 5 gallon MT/HLT batches.

What I learned is that it takes the about the same amount of time and effort to make a 3 gallon BIAB batch as it does to make a 1 gallon BIAB batch, and I was able to brew the 3 gallon batches in the same kettle in which I boiled my 5 gallon extract batches, bought no additional equipment.
 

Johow

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Small batch BIAB on the stove is great! I would up the recipe just a tad to allow for your losses though, 1.25-1.5 will give you a bottled gallon. But trust me, it'll be gone quick so brew often!!!
 

jwalk4

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Plus, I feel like the overhead will be much lower since I won't need to buy a ton of equipment.
If you intend on upgrading to 5 gallon batches anytime soon, just go ahead and buy the equipment to do 5gallon batches. You'll spend wayyy less in the long run.

I started with one gallon brews, then 3 gallon, then 5.5. As a result I've bought twice the amount of equipment than if I bought what I wanted in the first place.

Dont get me wrong, I love small batch brewing. But don't justify that decision based on "overhead" or "less space." Get what you really want instead and you'll be happier for it.
 

bransona

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For me, small batch is what I really want. I can always wind up with 10+ bottles, but if something goes wrong, I'm never out more than $10. For example, I have a smoky brown ale fermenting right now that smells like sour feet. If it turns out to be garbage, I'm out ~$8
 

bucfan1234

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If you intend on upgrading to 5 gallon batches anytime soon, just go ahead and buy the equipment to do 5gallon batches. You'll spend wayyy less in the long run.

I started with one gallon brews, then 3 gallon, then 5.5. As a result I've bought twice the amount of equipment than if I bought what I wanted in the first place.

Dont get me wrong, I love small batch brewing. But don't justify that decision based on "overhead" or "less space." Get what you really want instead and you'll be happier for it.
Good advice. I made this mistake too.
 

danthebugman

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If you intend on upgrading to 5 gallon batches anytime soon, just go ahead and buy the equipment to do 5gallon batches. You'll spend wayyy less in the long run.

I started with one gallon brews, then 3 gallon, then 5.5. As a result I've bought twice the amount of equipment than if I bought what I wanted in the first place.

Dont get me wrong, I love small batch brewing. But don't justify that decision based on "overhead" or "less space." Get what you really want instead and you'll be happier for it.
I find this to be a common misconception of sorts. It is certainly possible to brew an all grain batch of beer on your stove top with the same equipment you're brewing smaller batches with now...with a few caveats. You essentially make a concentrated wort and dilute it down to 5 gallons (or whatever volume you fancy)...a process anyone who has brewed an extract batch will be familiar with. A more detailed explanation can be found in an article online, just Google "SWIG Brewing".
 

slym2none

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If you intend on upgrading to 5 gallon batches anytime soon, just go ahead and buy the equipment to do 5gallon batches. You'll spend wayyy less in the long run.

I started with one gallon brews, then 3 gallon, then 5.5. As a result I've bought twice the amount of equipment than if I bought what I wanted in the first place.

Dont get me wrong, I love small batch brewing. But don't justify that decision based on "overhead" or "less space." Get what you really want instead and you'll be happier for it.
I can't agree there. Where I am, I can only do 2.5, maybe 3 gallon batches. I literally don't have the room to make 5 gallon batches or larger. It's just not possible. If I bought equipment to make a 5-gallon batch, I couldn't brew - and I'd rather brew small batches than not brew at all.

:)
 

didinho

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I did a couple of small batches in the past: I used a colander on top of a pot to sparge grains.
 

Big Monk

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There are plenty of nice 2 gal coolers out there just begging to be a 1 gal batch mash tun.

Mine is the Coleman 2 gal stacker.
 

jwalk4

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You essentially make a concentrated wort and dilute it down to 5 gallons (or whatever volume you fancy).
True, but after reliable fermentation control, committing to full boils is probably the next most common piece of advice brewers give towards making better beer. Scorched wort, less hop utilization, watery flavor are reported flaws with the SWIG style of brewing. I'm no SWIG expert, and I understand the temptation, but I'm not sure I recommend settling for 5 gallons of "meh" beer over shooting for 1-2 gallons of quality all grain.

But who knows, I just bought a 2 gallon cooler the other day, so maybe I'll give the SWIG brew a shot and keep you posted. :mug:

I can't agree there. Where I am, I can only do 2.5, maybe 3 gallon batches. I literally don't have the room to make 5 gallon batches or larger. It's just not possible.

:)
I hear you, but let me clarify: I am not saying "5 gallons or bust," however I am saying that if a person has the desire and means to brew 5 gallons of beer (the standard HBT batch size for some reason), then they should not be swayed by the temptation to settle with reduced batch sizes on the premise that they will save space. They won't. Likely because, as was my case, that they will eventually cave in and buy the equipment for the batch sizes that they truly want to make (again, if they have the desire and means). As a consequence, they have more equipment and less space than they originally anticipated.

But that was just my experience, and I am not knocking small batch brewing. In fact, I would advocate for small batch all grain as a path to better beer than I would say for "topping up."
 

emarsh

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Love this thread! I'm moving from extract to a zazap in a 5 gallon bucket for now, but I can't boil 5+gallons on my electric stovetop. I'm shooting for a 3 gallon batch. I'll use the oven technique for mash and the zazap (bucket with holes inside bottling bucket) for LT.

My question may be a stupid one, but...where do I find 3 gallon recipes? Just punch a 5-gallon into one of those calculators? Is it that simple, or am I missing something?
 

wilserbrewer

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Love this thread! I'm moving from extract to a zazap in a 5 gallon bucket for now, but I can't boil 5+gallons on my electric stovetop. I'm shooting for a 3 gallon batch. I'll use the oven technique for mash and the zazap (bucket with holes inside bottling bucket) for LT.

My question may be a stupid one, but...where do I find 3 gallon recipes? Just punch a 5-gallon into one of those calculators? Is it that simple, or am I missing something?
I would either mash in the oven in a metal pot with a bag, or just mash in a zapap with a blanket wrapped around it. Mashing in a pot, then transferring to a zapap bucket lauter tun sounds like a PITA!!!

trivia....zapap was coined by Charlie Papazian using the first two syllables of his last name spelled backwards lol

You can scale a recipe at 3/5 or 60% to go from 3-5 gallons.
 
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