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Is bigger really better? - equipment sizing

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Brewpastor

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As many of you know, because I am an EAC and keep throwing it in your face, I have a fairly large brewing set-up.




The thing is that in many ways it is too big for regular brewing. It is great for large batches. The kettle on the right is 40 gallons, the one on the left is 60. When brewing with friends it is great, or when making a strong beer that can age for a long time it is ideal. But if I am just making a batch of plain old pale ale or even an Imperial IPA with a limited shelf life, the batch size is just too big. Anything under 15 gallons is not really so easy. (OK, I hear you about now, "What the hell you bitchin' about you EAC?") But there are times when I just want 5 gallons.

Fortunately I have a nice 20 gallon kettle that works very nicely for smaller batches:

http://i24.photobucket.com/albums/c37/Brewpastor/DecoctionCerealCooker.jpg


But not everybody has a garage full of steam kettles and so I wanted to open a discussion of practicle brewery sizing. 1/2 bbl kegs seem to be a great size and provide a realistic batch size of about 10 gallons or 2 cornies I know that Jamil has a 15 gallon set-up but appears to prefer to brew 6.5 gallon batches which ulitmately gets him a cornie full.

Maybe it is a question of intent. One answer would be consumption - how much do you drink related to how often you can brew. I don't drink enough to brew a bunch of 20 gallon batches. Another might be focus - do you brew simply to have beer around or do you also brew because you like the process. I love to brew and as soon as I have a batch made I am thinking about what is next. Part of my intent is social, so - do you brew alone or with others. There are different reasons for equipment sizing.

All of this is to say that bigger is not always better, IMEACO.

For a long time I am considering building a SMALL set-up that will utilize two 5 gallon kettles I have kicking around:




They are sweet little pots that were thrown in when I bought the big guys. They are steam kettles and pivot to dump but that may be just too small. They would be great for decoction brewing, or cereal cookers.

Any how, the floor is open. Does size matter?
 

TexLaw

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Yes, it certainly does matter, and you already hit the nail on the head. The ideal size setup (or setups) is the one that best fits your needs. I like a lot of variety, have few get-togethers, don't go through a whole heck of lot of beer at home, and tend to keep beer in the pipeline. My setup can easily brew 5-8 gallon batches, so I'm good. Anything larger, and I would probably have excess beer around with no place to store it.

If I ever need to expand, I'll just convert a shell to a keggle, and I'll be set to produce another 5 gallons per batch. Honestly, I cannot justify the expense of a larger system, even drunk. :)


TL
 

Beerthoven

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Yes, size matters. Like TexLaw said, the best size rig is the one that works for you.

My current rig maxes out at 5.5 gallon batches. I basically have a minimal sufficient setup for AG brewing: A 7 gallon cooler MLT, an 8 gallon pot, a 55k BTU burner, a 25' copper IC, and a Barley Crusher.



This capacity has worked well so far, but it is limiting in some ways. For one thing, I don't have the ability to do really big AG beers, like Barley Wine and RIS. Also, my wife and I quickly drink up batches that we really like, especially session ales and IPAs. Because I don't get to brew as often as I want to, only about once a month or so, there have been times when we've come close to running out of homebrew. :eek:

So I'm going to upgrade to 10 gallon batches. Hopefully by making larger batches of popular recipes I'll be able to keep the pipeline stocked with a greater variety of beers and they will get the time they need to age properly. Plus I'll be able to make full batches of big AG beers that require long boils. The only trick will be finding a place to store all this beer. Hmmm, maybe there's space under the kids beds!
 

tbulger

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When my new system is built ill ahve a 10 gallon batch capac and this is way too much for my needs because I cant find the time to drink beer for some reason. Im still living at home with my parents which means i dont have poeple over drinking with me. I would love to scale down to do 3.5 gallon batches, but truth be told the eqipment would bee too expensive for me to add on to what i already have (i dont have a kettle or mashtun to brew that small and i would also need to get a smaller set of carboys for secondaries because i secondary all my beers. BRewing is about the brewing for me and i wish i could find more time to drink so i could brew more than i do now( takes me more than a month to go through a corny).
 

PUGIDOGS

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My system is made up with odds and ends, HLT is a 7 gallon MLT is a 10 gallon cooler and I boil in either the 7 gallon or a keggle. For me to fill a 5 gallon corny is enough. If I want more I will just run another 5 gallon batch. I enjoy the process so doing another is not that big of a deal. I am starting to get a few things put together for my new system. I still have to buy pots and think I am going to use 10 gallon pots. Enough to hold all the water I need in the HLT and enough room to avoid boilovers for a 5 gallon batch....Pugi
 

Bobby_M

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I brew 10 gallons mostly because I can even though my consumption says I should brew 3. The most "expensive" part of my brewing is the 5-6 hour time commitment (and no I'm not going to debate that time brewing is or isn't a real cost). Since all grain brewing based on bulk ingredients is so cheap, it's not that big of an added cost to brew twice as much relative to the small time increase. I don't mind having a corny sitting in the basement for when I'm not tired of a certain IPA in 6 months.
 

5 Is Not Enough

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Bigger is ALWAYS Better!
Just kidding,
I've found I need both large and small capabilities.
In order to keep up with demand, I need to brew 15-25 gallon batches, at least every 2-3 weeks. (I brew with friends).
I'd also like to brew some 5-10 gallon batches in between, though 1st, because its not the best idea to do all your experimentation on large batches. 2nd, because it's nice to have some variety in there.
For now, since I haven't made the jump to AG, it's easy w/ my old 5 gallon kettle. I will however need a bigger kettle and 2 MLT's as I transition. Most of the other equipment, I've tried to keep as universal as possible...
 

GilaMinumBeer

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I don't really need to brew 10 Gallon batches. I don't drink that much so 5 gallons can last me on average nearly a month. Problem is that I like variety and tire easily of the same beer over and over. Usually I'll have a pint or two of this, then move on to that IF I still want more drink.

:off: Even tho' I homebrew and generally keep 4 on tap. I am still a lightweight drinker and get a buz after a couple moderate beers. I don't really care for that as I have a youngun in the house and I have to stay on my toes to keep him in one piece and breathing. So for the most part I am a beer at dinner drinker and a beer before bed drinker.

So, 10 gallon batches afford me the wort to brew a little variety and reduces the time investement to make that a reality. Which also means I tend to brew more moderate gravity beers so I don't risk them passing their peak before the keg gets kicked.

When looking to expand my brew system from 5 gallon extract I looked at really large kettles, up to 30 Gallon and I just didn't see myself brewing that much. And I still don't. However, an officer in my brew club has a 28 gallon sculpture and I know that if I needed to, he'd let me brew on it.
 

sirsloop

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Lets be realistic. How many single *responsible* guys drink enough by themselves to warrant more than like 10 gallon batches? Really... be honest. Unless you drink the same old beer every day of your life or throw parties where you have 10 guys sucking down your swill... 5-10 gallon batches are probably more than sufficient. It personally takes me A LONG TIME to kick a 5 gallon cornie when I have two on tap. It feels like the never ending keg sometimes...it feels empty but there's at least 10 brews left in there.

Bigger is better applies to your stash of cornie kegs. Whats better than 2 cornie kegs full of your young beer? 10 cornies full of aged beer!
 

Boerderij_Kabouter

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I do 10 gallon batches and wish I had a larger system. I cannot keep beer around. We have a lot of friends over and I consume beer like a Bavarian. I would like to step up to at least a 15g system but never see that happening. Really what I need is a set aside brewing time every other week.... ha pipe dreams are great.
 

ClutchDude

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Being somewhat new to brewing, we're (roommate has 1 1/2 years with 5-6 extract and first AG is in the keg and me 1 wine kit) not sure what our target capacity should be. We usually have friends over twice a week with a shindig every month or so. I'd say 10-15 gallons a month would be about the right consumption.

For now, we've been buying our kegs for the 2-4 keg capacity kegerator from the store. What I'd like to do is make a 10 gallon "staple" batch with 5 "experimental" batch to learn with and provide some variety.

From the newbie POV, equipment size and imagination is not as much as a limit as our inexperience is. This board has been great for getting us on our feet and moving forward with making the equipment, getting everything setup, and other ideas.


The equipment will only work as well as well as a who person can use it.
 

Yooper

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I'd like to be able to do 15 gallons of my "good" beers and smaller 5 gallon batches of the unproven stuff. I would love to do 15 gallons of maibock and pale ale for example, but I've found that 5 gallons of others are enough. I like the idea that you have the options to do either. That's awesome! :rockin:
 

cap46

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I do 10 gallon batches. I like to play so I always split into 2 different fermenters. I brewed a batch in Sept. and put cranberry in 1 and a lot of different spices in the other. I brewed in Jan. and made 5 gallon by the recipie and other 5 gallons I put bourbon and oak chips in. Great way to play. You never know what you will come up with. But I would either like to brew more often or go to bigger batches. I drink 3 to 4 every day but I usually drink all different because I split what I brew.:mug:
 
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