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dwhite60

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I started off doing five gallon batches because, well, that's just the way it was done. I have a 7 gallon fermenter. Four weeks ago I did my first five gallon batch in probably fifteen years. I usually do 2.5 to 3 gallons. I have three five gallon fermenters. That seven gallon bucket usually holds the water for my regular batches.

Smaller batches are easier to manage. I consume them faster which means I have to brew more often, the fun part, to keep the pipeline full.

Also, five gallons of something "less than perfect" is a lot more painful to drink than 2.5 gallons of the same.

Keep your options open.
 

mongoose33

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Yes researching and learning plays a big part in all my hobbies... but I can be a bit obsessive at times haha!

And yes... I want beer. I don't know if its just me... but going out for a beer can be a pain in azz. Waiting on poor service... and it's not cheap... CA expensive. I figured once I am set up and learned on a particular method using all grain... my costs will be lower and much more satisfying drinking my own brew.
Yeah, just keep telling yourself that. This statement: "Yes researching and learning plays a big part in all my hobbies... but I can be a bit obsessive at times haha!" belies that sentiment. :)

Now, if you ignore capital costs, your cost-per-beer *will* be lower. I'm at less than 50 cents per beer in basic costs even if I include PBW cleaner, the electricity consumed, the water consumed in chilling, etc.

But if I have to amortize the cost of equipment...I figure I'll break even in the year 2037. :)

********

Your source of ingredients is everything when it comes to costs. I'm fortunate in that RiteBrew is in Wisconsin, where I live, and I buy grain in 50# or 55# sacks. That brings the per-pound cost down to $1.02/pound for Maris Otter (my favorite base grain), 74 cents/pound for 2-row, and 95 cents/pound for Munich. Hops are generally under $2/ounce and sometimes much less. Yeast typically is about $7 for liquid, around $3-4 for dry yeast.

So nominal ingredient costs are....for a 5-gallon batch with 12# of 2-row, dry yeast, 3 ounces hops.....maybe $19? Divide that by 48 beers and it's well under 50 cents.

But you'll also buy stuff like PBW (Powdered Brewery Wash), Star San (sanitizer), water adjuncts and additions, Fermcap-S, and a few other things, so that'll add to the costs.

I store my grain in 5-gallon buckets, so there was that cost too.

*********

I'm at a time in my life--early retirement, empty-nester--where money for brewing is not so hard to come by. But 15 years ago? Different story. Kids still in school, and devoting the capital I have to brewing back then would have been, as they say, contraindicated. So I would have stayed with a much more modest system.

But saving money was never my main reason for doing this. I love complicated hobbies, lots of learning, lots of options, lots of control over outcomes. It keeps me alive! And there's a feeling of accomplishment and self-satisfaction in having mastered, or nearly so, a very complicated and interesting subject.

BTW, just started taking flight lessons in May. Talk about a rabbit hole! :)
 
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mygar

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I’m with you - I used to have the math written down as to how many beers what size container was. There’s 128 ounces in a gallon so if we round off then a gallon is about (10) x 12 oz bottles. A 5 gallon batch is 50 bottles. 10 gallons is 100 bottles. 3 gallons is 30 bottles. A 5L mini keg is 169 oz which is about (14) x 12 oz. Multiple batches add up quickly.

It goes back to the joke “If you measure beer in gallons and you don’t think 40 gallons is alot of beer, you might be a homebrewer.”

I am also the lone brewer/beer drinker in my house. The wife likes stouts and dark beers, but she will only drink one or two. Not many. And not all the time.

I started out brewing 5 gallon batches like everybody else because thats the “norm” and what so many recipes were based on. I bought a kegging setup with several 5 gallon kegs. And quickly realized its just too much beer. I didn’t go through it, all my containers were always full, one batch lasted a long time, I didn’t have much variety and I couldn’t brew frequently or when I wanted something different.

I now brew 3 gallon batches. I do have the Anvil 5 gallon pot. Its solid, quality. My only gripe with it was the thermometer, which got in the way of my immersion wort chiller because there just isn’t that kind of space in a pot that size. I bought the hole plug from Blichmann and now I just don’t use the thermometer. I think a 5 gallon pot is big enough to do 3 gallon biab. I also have the Anvil Foundry 6.5 and while it’s a cool piece of hardware its not a whole lot different functionally than just doing biab in a pot on your stove.

I use a 5 gallon carboy as a primary fermenter and a 3 gallon carboy for secondary or settling. 3 gallons yields a case plus a 6 pack. With 5 or 6 cases of bottles and a couple 3 gallon kegs I can have plenty of variety without having a ton of beer on hand. I don’t do many parties or keggers either.

I also find the smaller containers easier to work with, move around, etc.

Ray Daniels’ book Designing Great Beers is well worth owning too. When I look at my beer brewing books most of them look brand new. My copy of Designing Great Beers is folded, bent, stained, dog eared and has pages falling out of the spine. You can tell which book I actually use.
Well it seems you are in the same place as me with consumption. Unless I become a fantastic brewer and a fan base develops. :) I will write that book down, thanks for the suggestion.
 

bracconiere

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Lol no you have not scared me a bit! This is exactly the advice I am looking for. I was originally thinking doing small batch... brew more often.. to learn. And i have a gas stove in house with power boil burner that should handle 3 or 4 gal. But 5+ gal ... would need to buy a burner and be outside. Will think about this
i boil 15 gallons on my stove with my pot spanning over two burners.....(and i still use the same pot, and MT i bought back in 2002)

as far as cheap....people don't like to hear about it from me.....i'll just say my $1,500 a year is better then the ~$7,000 i'd have to spend on store bought....
 

Gozie Boy

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That's a crazy amount of beer … do you guys brew every weekend... or do you have keggar parties all the time? Man... I need to become friends with one of you guys! Anyone located near Sacramento CA? :)

I initially plan on 2.5 gal … but maybe couple years down the road you can point me back to this thread and we will laugh!!
If you read a lot on this site, you may get a misperception that many people have big rigs (e.g. 3v x 20+ gals.) and are brewing at least once a week, if not every other day! It seems that they always have just finished brewing one beer and are already milling grains for the next creation. This of course is not actually true (for most), but you may get that sense! I typically brew once every c. 4 wks (10 gal. batches) and maintain my pipeline for my wife and me (plus a couple friends coming over from time to time) if I don't have a large event. This works well for me, as I don't have the time to brew every week, or even (on average) every other week. If I could brew more frequently, then obviously I could get by with a smaller batch capacity rig.

I am working on brewing a little more often to build up some inventory so I can entertain on a little larger scale (as COVID conditions allow), not just drink more and increase my girth!). So including amortized capital cost, this will never be "economic" compared with buying a 6-pack of anything, but that has never been the goal (ref. "The $64 Tomato").

As you are new to your area, I might suggest that you set as one of your goals to refine your capabilities on a couple of popular styles, e.g. IPA and a lager (if you can chill), and then build up some stock to have a (safe) get together of your neighbors. There are few better ways to make a lot of new friends and quickly become a highly esteemed member of your community!
 

Paul Lowe

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I mostly do three gallon batches because its quicker, easier to clean and allows me to brew more often but i maintain capacity for larger batches to brew with friends or share. Im not a hig drinker. For me that simply means having a big pot and a small one.
 

BarkingSpider

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I've found 2 gallon batches to be my happy spot. I just found that I don't drink enough (or share enough perhaps?) to justify brewing more than that. I of course had to learn the hard way what my sweet spot was... I have quite a bit of little used equipment at this point that I'm gonna have to cut loose. I just use a 5.5 Anvil kettle which does the job. I have a couple of 1.75 gallon corny kegs I drop to or I just bottle. I've found that I'm able to brew more often, takes less time, and the cleanup is much easier. Good luck on your brewing journey! :)
 

Jonakr

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Although I use most of the equipment I have, there are some things that I've stopped for one reason or another. I started with a 4 gallon stockpot. That meant I could only boil about 3 gallons at a time, so I'd do a 5 gallon kit, and add 2 gallons to my fermentation bucket. I got a 15 gallon stockpot that I use almost all the time now, and the 4 gallon serves other duties.

I watched how much water my chiller used, and felt bad about it, so I switched to No Chill.

I used to ferment in a plastic bin in my closet with a towel and blocks of ice. I upgraded that to a freezer with an InkBird controller on it.

I had 3 kegs in my kegerator with picnic taps that I used for over 2 years until I could upgrade to InterTap faucets.

I had a swing arm bottle capper but replaced that with a bench mounted capper. I mostly don't bottle anymore, though.

I've broken about 5 hydrometers, but now also have a refractometer that gets used every batch.

Without knowing your other equipment and workflow, it's really hard to say what you should or shouldn't start with.
 
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mygar

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If you read a lot on this site, you may get a misperception that many people have big rigs (e.g. 3v x 20+ gals.) and are brewing at least once a week, if not every other day! It seems that they always have just finished brewing one beer and are already milling grains for the next creation. This of course is not actually true (for most), but you may get that sense! I typically brew once every c. 4 wks (10 gal. batches) and maintain my pipeline for my wife and me (plus a couple friends coming over from time to time) if I don't have a large event. This works well for me, as I don't have the time to brew every week, or even (on average) every other week. If I could brew more frequently, then obviously I could get by with a smaller batch capacity rig.

I am working on brewing a little more often to build up some inventory so I can entertain on a little larger scale (as COVID conditions allow), not just drink more and increase my girth!). So including amortized capital cost, this will never be "economic" compared with buying a 6-pack of anything, but that has never been the goal (ref. "The $64 Tomato").

As you are new to your area, I might suggest that you set as one of your goals to refine your capabilities on a couple of popular styles, e.g. IPA and a lager (if you can chill), and then build up some stock to have a (safe) get together of your neighbors. There are few better ways to make a lot of new friends and quickly become a highly esteemed member of your community!
Yes, great post! Thanks for that... i do get a sense folks are brewing a lot! My palate does not do well to lots of hop. Lagers are more my style. Although I can see doing experimental batches to grow as an enthusiast!
 
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mygar

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I've found 2 gallon batches to be my happy spot. I just found that I don't drink enough (or share enough perhaps?) to justify brewing more than that. I of course had to learn the hard way what my sweet spot was... I have quite a bit of little used equipment at this point that I'm gonna have to cut loose. I just use a 5.5 Anvil kettle which does the job. I have a couple of 1.75 gallon corny kegs I drop to or I just bottle. I've found that I'm able to brew more often, takes less time, and the cleanup is much easier. Good luck on your brewing journey! :)
Kinda what I was thinking. Batches that fit my anticipated consumption. Now I can see having 5 gal on hand for my "go to" ... and smaller exploratory batches ... can't wait lol
 
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mygar

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Although I use most of the equipment I have, there are some things that I've stopped for one reason or another. I started with a 4 gallon stockpot. That meant I could only boil about 3 gallons at a time, so I'd do a 5 gallon kit, and add 2 gallons to my fermentation bucket. I got a 15 gallon stockpot that I use almost all the time now, and the 4 gallon serves other duties.

I watched how much water my chiller used, and felt bad about it, so I switched to No Chill.

I used to ferment in a plastic bin in my closet with a towel and blocks of ice. I upgraded that to a freezer with an InkBird controller on it.

I had 3 kegs in my kegerator with picnic taps that I used for over 2 years until I could upgrade to InterTap faucets.

I had a swing arm bottle capper but replaced that with a bench mounted capper. I mostly don't bottle anymore, though.

I've broken about 5 hydrometers, but now also have a refractometer that gets used every batch.

Without knowing your other equipment and workflow, it's really hard to say what you should or shouldn't start with.
I dont know what my work flow will look like either. Once I get this free equipment.. see what I have. But i have decided to do small batch first for learning. So hope to have basic equipment on hand to do that and just use my gas stove to accomplish that. And start the journey you know? See where it takes me
 

brewswithshoes

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Ray Daniels’ book Designing Great Beers is well worth owning too. When I look at my beer brewing books most of them look brand new. My copy of Designing Great Beers is folded, bent, stained, dog eared and has pages falling out of the spine. You can tell which book I actually use.
Yes to this. Once you get a few batches under your belt get a copy of this book. This is probably the only book that I still pull out frequently to reread certain pieces.
 

Snuffy

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I bought one of these as a fermenter for short batches. it has a locking lid, concave bottom, spigot and airlock for 20 bucks. Perfect fit for 2.5 and 3 gal batches. I have a 4 gal black IPA going in one now just to see if it can handle it and the tall lid design contained the foam very well.
 

beernutz

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Moving all my brewing activities outside the kitchen and outside the house altogether reduced a lot of brewing-inspired relationship stress even though my wife has always been a supporter of the hobby.

Kitchen boilovers are one of the worst (but not THE worst) results we've suffered through. Getting everything out of our kitchen was a big relief for both of us and I actually prefer brewing outside.

She was the instigator, but not the party at fault which was me, of my most recent and probably worst inside-the-house brewing-related disaster when she turned on the dryer in our laundry room on which I had a 5L starter in an Erlenmeyer flask. Vibrations being what they are the result was predictable.

I also think every new brewer should have Brewing Classic Styles by Zainasheff & Palmer. How to Brew is good but BCS has excellent go-to recipes with good context provided.
 
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Hwk-I-St8

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Yes researching and learning plays a big part in all my hobbies... but I can be a bit obsessive at times haha!

And yes... I want beer. I don't know if its just me... but going out for a beer can be a pain in azz. Waiting on poor service... and it's not cheap... CA expensive. I figured once I am set up and learned on a particular method using all grain... my costs will be lower and much more satisfying drinking my own brew.
I started brewing in the 90's because craft beer was not easy to find and imports were expensive. Then I got out of it because I had kids and it was a huge pain to brew while dealing with them. then I got back into it because NEIPAs were hard to find and expensive. They're everywhere now of course, but I love brewing too much to stop.
 

tellyho

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No way I'd do 3 gallon batches. Same amount of work for less beer? 5 gallons is where it's at.
 

Snuffy

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No way I'd do 3 gallon batches. Same amount of work for less beer? 5 gallons is where it's at.
Sometimes 3 gals is a good thing. First attempt at a new recipe, it's nice to cut it back a bit til you know it's a keeper. Also the mash for a 3 gal batch is a relative cinch.
 
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