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Organization Tips For Homebrewers

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As we grow in the homebrewing hobby, so does our accumulation of stuff. I think I own enough spare keg parts to rebuild these things for another 10 years, but what good is that if I can't find where I put those silicone o-rings?
Today I am going to highlight a few useful organization tips and tricks that I use to keep all my homebrew gear in check and my supplies full. These tips boil down to:
1. Grouping
2. Labeling
3. Storage
4. Using Technology
Grouping:
My first all-grain batch of beer was an exercise in organizational chaos. I spent half the day running back and forth between the yard (where I was brewing) and my basement (where all my brew-gear is stored), grabbing every piece of equipment I could think of. Most of my stuff was scattered in separate storage bins, and it was a real time waster. Repeat all that for cleanup, and you have a very long day.

Grouping Items Together Helps Keep Them Organized
I currently alleviate this issue by having small bins full of supplies that I use only for certain purposes. For example, I have a my weighing bin which contains my brewing salts, small containers to hold hop additions, small scale, refractometer and thermometer. This is everything I need to start an all-grain mash all in one place.
I have a similar sized container which houses all of my post-boil and fermentation equipment: airlocks, stoppers, hydrometer, and turkey baster. A third container holds all of my bottling equipment: bottle filler, caps and capper. I keep kegging parts in one large gallon-size Ziploc bag.
You get the picture - group items that you use at the same time in one container or bag of your choice.
Labeling:
I can't even begin to count the number of times I thought I would remember something and failed to write it down. Prime example are two beers I bottled from a keg, failed to label, and then forgot what was in them. Can you say beer roulette?

Label Kegs To Avoid Cleaning Them Twice
Painter's or masking tape and a permanent marker may be my favorite brewing tool for staying organized. I use them to label kegs, mason jars of yeast, or for writing on the top of bottle caps (if I remember, see above). By labeling these items I can always know when I kegged a batch, what is in the keg, if it is dirty, or if it is full of sanitizer and ready to be filled.
Storage:
As a frugal brewer I try to buy grain and hops in bulk, and reuse yeast. For grain, you can use 5 gallon buckets from your local hardware store (stacks well), pet food containers, or other airtight plastic ware. Other useful items for storage are mason jars and Ziploc bags
The problem with some of these items is that the storage size can quickly become inconvenient in your brewing space. I recommend using a wire shelving rack with adjustable shelves for storing these items as you can customize them to your space.

Store Bulk Grain In Storage Containers
Whatever you choose, be sure to measure your items to make the most out of your brew space. Additionally, make sure you have followed the labeling procedures above.
Using Technology:
Don't you hate it when you are at the homebrew store and you know you need something, but can't remember what? Or when you purchase some ingredients that you already had on hand?
I like to keep tabs of when I run low on certain items in the brewery so I can be ready the next time I am at the homebrew store. Utilize one of the many note keeping apps (I use Google Keep) on your smartphone to keep a running list of items you need, which can then be accessed when you are on-the-go.
I use a digital spreadsheet to house all of my recipes and notes from a batch. It helps me keep recipes organized, and more importantly legible, since my handwriting is atrocious!

Search Online For Containers That Fit Your Needs
Last but not least, use Pinterest to track your brewing related ideas (yes, I said Pinterest!). I am subscribed to thousands of threads here on HomeBrewTalk, but sometimes having a picture associated with a link is a great way to save your ideas online. This can be really nice when you are planning for your future brewspace or a basement brewpub.//www.pinterest.com/pin/create/extension/
 

Comments

@bassclefbrewing I don't have that much! The second grain picture is actually @passedpawn setup here: https://www.homebrewtalk.com/showthread.php?t=195547&page=3
 
Im more surprised by the typed labels and nice containers. Ive got as much in the original photo (the one there is like cropped by 2/3) stuck in sharpied ziplocs shoved into like a 4x4 cubby shelf halfhazardly organized by grain type. If you bump the shelf, grain avalanche. I could use some stackable containers
 
@bassclefbrewing
That is not much grain. I have at least twice what is pictured. With between 10 and 20 pounds of grain in a batch (5 gallon all grain) it does not last that long. Some specialty grains sit for a while, but if stored well they remain good.
It is very nice to be able to design a recipe, measure out the grain, mill it and start brewing. No trip to the LHBS or wait for an online shipment.
My containers come from a local discount chain. I have various sized lock and lock style containers for differing amounts of grain. My labeling is like the top picture - Sharpie on a piece of masking tape.
My inventory listing is in Beersmith software.
 
Great article! At work I was introduced to 5s, which is the formal Japanese work space organization process. My brewery organization is a work in progress...
 
I keep my bulk grain in 5 gallon paint buckets and old 6.5G fermenters with new lids. Each 5G bucket holds rigth at 25lb so it's a convenient size.
I keep smaller grain portions in ziploc bags, inside of a 5 or 6.5G bucket. 1 bucket is enough to hold everything i'll realistically need for the next 3-4 brews.
My 2 chest freezers each came with 2 baskets (to hold food i guess?). I re-purposed those to be storage baskets. 1 for water adjustment and cleaning, 1 for starter equipment, 1 for racking equipment and 1 for misc pieces and tools.
One of my favorite organizational tools though is the brew cart: http://www.harborfreight.com/24-in-x-45-in-polypropylene-industrial-service-cart-69444.html
ALL brew day tools go on this cart.... power cords, temperature probe cords, hydrometer, refractometer, carboy caps, O2 wand, O2 tank, misc pipe fittings and the bottle of star san. When i brewed in the garage i had my pumps, plate chiller, and a power strip mounted to the lower part of the cart.
 
I do the same thing with my grain. I always have a sac of 2-Row and Marris Otter in rolling airtight bins (ones for dogfood). I keep at least 15 other types of grain in smaller airtight bins on a wire shelf (Lock'n'Lock containers). I HATE having to go to the brewshop just to get crystal malts, etc - it's on the other side of town - so this is a great compromise.
 
I use plastic liquid malt containers from the Extract kits to store specialty grains. They keep it fresh and small enough for the right amounts.
 
Great article! I find that organization leads to a much more enjoyable brew day. Brother P-touch label maker works wonders.
 
I totally agree. The closest home brew shop is 4 hour round trip so I have to keep stocked up and organized. I use 5 gallon buckets with gamma lids for base malts and smaller clear square airtight boxes from the dollar store for specialty malts so I can quickly see what I need to reorder. P touch labels help me keep them in order. I absolutely love Fast Rack for storing empty bottles in very small space.
 
For bulk grain storage Vittle Vaults work great and are stackable. You can easily fit a 55 lb bag of malt into the 50 lb model. I own two: one for base malt and one for 1 and 10 lb bags of specialty malt.
A couple of organizing tools I own are worth mentioning. A dyno label maker does a great job of creating more or less permanent labeling stickers. A few years ago I bought a $25 (it is more now) hot/cold laminator and probably not a month goes by without me using it for some brewing purpose. I have laminated CO2 force carbonation charts, inside keezer line labels, temp conversion charts for next to my STC-1000 because I don't speak Celsius and dozens of other uses.
 
I write directly on the side of the keg with a sharpie.
Beer, date, dirty, clean, whatever.
Doesn't smear and comes off easily with PBW soaked scrubby.
 
I get bus tubs from Webstaurant store which are heavy duty strong and very inexpensive - like starting less than four dollars each inexpensive. I keep buying more since there are many uses in the basement brewery. They might charge a bit for shipping, but keep adding to your order and the shipping rapidly goes down. Some you can get with lids.
 
@bassclefbrewing - My LHBS only sells specialty malts by the pound - so you end up with a lot of partial quantities of grain pretty quickly if you brew 5G or less. It becomes an organizational issue fast ;)
Another tech tip - I try to use Beersmith to keep track of what I have on hand. But you've GOT to stay on top of it or it's more trouble than it's worth. Be sure to confirm before heading out to the LHBS - if you forget to remove inventory in Beersmith, you may find yourself in a pickle.
 
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