Switching to a smaller batch size?

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worlddivides

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So I've always brewed 5 gallon / 5.5 gallon batches and the only times I've ever gone below that has been for things that aren't beer, but even then, almost all of my batches were 5 or 5.5 gallons (cider, mead, etc.). And in starting a switch to kegging (which I'm very glad someone in another thread convinced me to do) and getting the equipment, I had been planning on just doing things the same way. Same 5 gallon size batches. But thinking about it more, I'm really thinking a smaller size would be better. In the past, when I'd make a 5 gallon batch, although I'd be the main person drinking it, I'd also give quite a few bottles to friends and family. So maybe I drank 2.5 gallons and friends and family drank 2.5 gallons. But with the switch to kegging, pretty much my house would be the only place to drink it, and that'd mean I'd have a ton of beer to go through myself (and my girlfriend, who also likes beer). And with it in a keg instead of bottles, I'd probably want to switch out the keg sooner since it's taking up space in the fridge and I can't just leave a stout or brown ale in bottles for 6-12 months without drinking it.

Switching to a smaller batch size seems to have a lot of advantages:
1. Smaller volume of liquid means it's easier and faster to both raise and lower the temperature for the mash and boil and for chilling the wort.
2. A smaller fermenter with less volume in it is lighter and easier to carry.
3. A smaller batch size means less grain, which is less heavy to lift and also less grain to throw away
4. A smaller size means more kegs can fit into a refrigerator, which also means it's easier to have more different kinds of beers on hand at once
5. A smaller batch means it won't take forever to go through, and that's especially a good thing when it's a keg taking up fridge space as opposed to bottles that I might store in the closet.

One thing I've noticed is that most people who go below 5 gallons tend to either do 2.5 gallon or 1 gallon batches. Before I looked into kegging, that made sense to me because for 2.5 gallons, you could just half everything in the recipe (for example, 30 grams of a hop just becomes 15 grams of that hop, 8 pounds of grain just becomes 4 pounds of grain, etc.). But when I looked at kegging, the size of corny keg that's available right below 5 gallons is 3 gallons, not 2.5 gallons. So why aren't people making 3 and 3.5 gallon batches instead of 2.5 gallon batches? The main thing I can think of is that the main fermenter sizes are either 5 gallons or 2.5 gallons. For example, looking at fermenter sizes below 5 gallons, they're usually 10 liters, which is about 2.6 gallons. In other words, just enough for 2.5 gallons with a tiny bit of headroom. If that's the case, a 3 gallon batch would be best fermented in a 5 gallon fermenter, much like how I used to ferment 5 or 5.5 gallon batches in a 30 liter (7.9 gallon) fermenter. I'm still thinking of getting the 35L Brewzilla system, but it does seem like, even with the extra water for being driven off or soaked up by the grain, there would probably be a lot of headroom in the mash and boil. Probably not an issue, but it does make me wonder since the system seems more designed for 20-22 liter batches.

Anyway, just putting my thoughts out there and hoping to get some feedback from much more experienced and knowledgeable homebrewers.
 
I do 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 gallon batches and ferment them in a 6 1/2 gallon bucket or a 5 gallon bucket. I'd guess that people do 2 1/2 gallon batches because of the math. It is easier to calculate 1/2 than to figure other ratios but....unless you are trying to get an exact clone of someone else's recipe, changing the amount of grains to match your brewhouse efficiency and the flavor you want is pretty easy or just a guess.
 
I do stovetop biab and the grain bills for 2.5G batches fit comfortably in my kettle. I sometimes do 3G with certain grain bills that will fit. So for me I guess kettle size is the main factor. Also that’s a good size for drinking since it’s mostly me drinking it. I do sometimes bottle from the keg a couple in flip tops to give to a friend and fellow brewer.
 
Over the years I went from 5 gallons to 3 to 2.5 to 1.67 to 1.25 then back up to about 2 gallons average. I have several 1-gallon uKeg Go's if I want to keg any but normally I just bottle all of it. Bottling 14 or 16 or 18 bottles or whatever is not as huge of a chore as 50 bottles. Regarding fermenters, I tend to split every batch to try out different yeasts so I have many different types of 1-gallon pickle jars, 1-gallon carboys, and glass vases to choose from to ferment in, as well as a couple of 3-gallon carboys for somewhat bigger batches. It's all good. I could invest in some 2.5-gallon kegs someday but so far have not bothered, as I love the small size and transportability of the uKeg Go, and the bottles of course. I currently have about 10 cases of bottles in the cellar since I'm pretty much the only one who drinks it and I love to brew, so that's a little bit of a problem but I'll drink it all up eventually, I always do, the amount isn't growing anymore so I'm keeping up with drinking either whatever's great or whatever's old, or anything in between at my heart's desire. I have like 50 different beers to choose from at any given moment, kind of cool. So anyway... if you love variety, consider bottling instead of kegging. If you hate bottling, look into uKeg Go. And as for fermentation vessels... scrounge up whatever glass or stainless vessels you can find. There's a zillion options out there for small fermenters, if you are open-minded.
 
I have gone to 3 to 3.5 gal batches down from 5 still using my 5 gal kegs. I have not had any issues with the smaller batches when using purged kegs with a closed transfer.
I don't have as much help drinking the beer and don't drink as much as I used to.
My fermenter is a SS bucket type 7-gal size and don't have a problem when it is about half full.
For those who wish to do the 3-gal batches instead of the 2.5- gal to replace 5-gal the math is,
take your regular amount of malt and times it by .60. example: 10 pounds of base malt X .6 equals 6 pounds. Or .5 pounds of Crystal X .6 equals .3 pounds.
I do 3.5 gal batches to account for loses and use .7 as the multiplier. ex: 10 pounds base malt X .7 equals 7 pounds. Math fan here, math never lies.
 
All good points above. But as a friend said to me it is just as much work to make 10 gallon batches as a 5 gallon batch. He has the room to store the kegs. You can always bottle from a keg to share also.
I used to agree with this but I'm not so sure anymore. Since I've been doing 2.5 gallon BIAB on the stovetop I find the process much easier and quicker cleanup wise. My brew day is much easier. Of course the mash and boil still take the same amount of time.

Plus I get to brew more and a bigger variety.
 
All good points above. But as a friend said to me it is just as much work to make 10 gallon batches as a 5 gallon batch. He has the room to store the kegs. You can always bottle from a keg to share also.
I used to think similar to this as a reasoning why not to do batches smaller than 5 gallons. I never considered 10 gallons because, even with me sharing lots of my beers with friends and family, it still took a while for me to go through a single batch of beer. The batch I went through the fastest was of a 3.3% ABV Berliner Weisse that was very refreshing, tart, and addictive. But even then, I gave quite a bit of it away (and it was enjoyed by people who normally don't care for sour beers).

So, just reflecting back on all the 5 or 5.5 gallon batches I've made, I can imagine that I might want to make another 5 gallon batch of that Berliner Weisse, but even that one, I wouldn't want 10 gallons of it. And, while I used to think of how much work brew day, fermentation, and bottling was justifying a larger batch, a 3 gallon batch is plenty big enough too. And even if I did go through it more quickly than I'm expecting, that'd just allow me to brew more and try more styles and variations. Say, a SMaSH followed by a stout followed by a brown ale followed by an APA followed by a Rauchbier followed by a Sour IPA, and so on.
 
All good points above. But as a friend said to me it is just as much work to make 10 gallon batches as a 5 gallon batch. He has the room to store the kegs. You can always bottle from a keg to share also.
I used to agree with this but I'm not so sure anymore. Since I've been doing 2.5 gallon BIAB on the stovetop I find the process much easier and quicker cleanup wise. My brew day is much easier. Of course the mash and boil still take the same amount of time.

Plus I get to brew more and a bigger variety.


Great points, but have to agree with hout17. Yes, the mash and boil times are the same, but heating up and cooling 2.5 gallons vs 5 or 10 is where it comes into play. Then if you're like me and your drinking has slowed down over the years (and you're the lone drinker in the house), then 10 gallons starts becoming too much for one person.
 
Before I looked into kegging, that made sense to me because for 2.5 gallons, you could just half everything in the recipe (for example, 30 grams of a hop just becomes 15 grams of that hop, 8 pounds of grain just becomes 4 pounds of grain, etc.). But when I looked at kegging, the size of corny keg that's available right below 5 gallons is 3 gallons, not 2.5 gallons. So why aren't people making 3 and 3.5 gallon batches instead of 2.5 gallon batches? The main thing I can think of is that the main fermenter sizes are either 5 gallons or 2.5 gallons. For example, looking at fermenter sizes below 5 gallons, they're usually 10 liters, which is about 2.6 gallons.
I am a huge fan of mid-sized batches. While equipment for mid-sized batches is limited, there are a number of options for different sizes. Personally, I have four of the 10L / 2.6 gal Torpedo kegs. I have seen mini-kegs that range from 1.5 gal to 3 gal. Also, if you have room in your kegerator for several kegs and don't mind using a little extra CO2, you can use a 5 gal keg for smaller batches. My primary fermenters are a pair of 3 gal Fermonsters and I also have a 3.5 gal Ss Brewtech stainless bucket. There are a few other options as well, including food grade 5 gal buckets.

I also might suggest you look into filling bottles from the keg. This can be with a picnic tap vis the "need no stinkin beer gun" approach, or with a beer gun or counter pressure filler. This is something I tell myself I should do more.

I also recently spend some money on a 1 gallon mini-keg (one of the growler setups with a ball lock adaptor and mini-regulator). This has worked well for me to fill and take along to an event. It is easier to fill the mini-keg than 10 bottles, and I don't have half filled growlers of stale, flat beer to dump.
 
Relevant discussion for me because for the past year or so I've been kicking around the idea of brewing smaller batches. I mostly keg so I typically brew 5 gallon batches, biab. I'm thinking of what it would take to switch to 2.5 to 3 gallon batches while still using as much of my current equipment as possible. I have a 15 gallon Spike kettle and a Blichmann nat gas burner, neither of which were inexpensive so I'd hate to just turn my back on them. My initial thought is to still use both, hot-side, and ferment approximately 3 gallons in 5 gallon corny kegs, then pressure transfer to 2.5 gallon serving kegs.

One caveat - I currently monitor fermentation and temperature with Rapt Pills. Thinking I'd want to buy a Rapt temperature controller, but I'm not sure if the bluetooth signal would be sufficient to communicate between the Pill in a keg which would be in a fridge/chamber, (which I also don't currently own), and the controller sitting outside the fermentation fridge.

Advantages
Lifting and maneuvering lighter containers
Designing/brewing more often
Brewing beers that I wouldn't necessarily want 5 gallons of
Potentially having more beers on tap at one time

Disadvantages
Having obsolete equipment
Having to buy yet more equipment
 
I am a huge fan of mid-sized batches. While equipment for mid-sized batches is limited, there are a number of options for different sizes. Personally, I have four of the 10L / 2.6 gal Torpedo kegs. I have seen mini-kegs that range from 1.5 gal to 3 gal. Also, if you have room in your kegerator for several kegs and don't mind using a little extra CO2, you can use a 5 gal keg for smaller batches. My primary fermenters are a pair of 3 gal Fermonsters and I also have a 3.5 gal Ss Brewtech stainless bucket. There are a few other options as well, including food grade 5 gal buckets.

I also might suggest you look into filling bottles from the keg. This can be with a picnic tap vis the "need no stinkin beer gun" approach, or with a beer gun or counter pressure filler. This is something I tell myself I should do more.

I also recently spend some money on a 1 gallon mini-keg (one of the growler setups with a ball lock adaptor and mini-regulator). This has worked well for me to fill and take along to an event. It is easier to fill the mini-keg than 10 bottles, and I don't have half filled growlers of stale, flat beer to dump.

To add. I be those 3 gallon Megamouth Torpedo kegs would be perfect for 2.5 gallon batches. A great option for pressure fermentations. With the oversized lid/opening, can get in with your hands to clean them easier than standard 3 gallon kegs. Another option, with the lid being oversized you can add accessories like a triclamp port, thermowell, etc. Add a floating dip tube, and it's the perfect all in one for small batches.

Only downside I see is the price and maybe the width for smaller footprint kegerators like mine.
 
My wife was diagnosed with breast cancer almost 5 years ago. She is fully recovered but the medications she must take daily prevent her from consuming alcohol. That makes me the sole beer drinker and suddenly 5 gallons of beer is too much. So I bought a 4 gallon fermenter and picked up a used Anvil Foundry 6.5 and make 2.5 gallon batches and its working out perfectly. At the moment I am kegging in my 5 gallon corny's but I have two 3 gallon ball lock kegs coming in the next week or two.
 
Relevant discussion for me because for the past year or so I've been kicking around the idea of brewing smaller batches. I mostly keg so I typically brew 5 gallon batches, biab. I'm thinking of what it would take to switch to 2.5 to 3 gallon batches while still using as much of my current equipment as possible. I have a 15 gallon Spike kettle and a Blichmann nat gas burner, neither of which were inexpensive so I'd hate to just turn my back on them. My initial thought is to still use both, hot-side, and ferment approximately 3 gallons in 5 gallon corny kegs, then pressure transfer to 2.5 gallon serving kegs.

One caveat - I currently monitor fermentation and temperature with Rapt Pills. Thinking I'd want to buy a Rapt temperature controller, but I'm not sure if the bluetooth signal would be sufficient to communicate between the Pill in a keg which would be in a fridge/chamber, (which I also don't currently own), and the controller sitting outside the fermentation fridge.

Advantages
Lifting and maneuvering lighter containers
Designing/brewing more often
Brewing beers that I wouldn't necessarily want 5 gallons of
Potentially having more beers on tap at one time

Disadvantages
Having obsolete equipment
Having to buy yet more equipment


Since you're going to do smaller batches, what about buying another kegerator to use as a temp controlled fermentation chamber? A lot of them have an opening or two in the back for a gas line, so I'd imagine running a temp sensor cable to a temp probe on the fermenting vessel should be no problem. Unless you have to have the bluetooth capability, that would be the way I'd go.
 
I still do 5 gal batches, mainly as an economy of scale thing. It takes some time to haul out and set up the gear, then put it away (I don't have a dedicated brewing space where I can leave it all set up). So brewing a full batch takes the same amount of time as brewing a smaller one. Same for bottling--the overall time to package 48 bottles is not much more than to do 24.
 
Since you're going to do smaller batches, what about buying another kegerator to use as a temp controlled fermentation chamber? A lot of them have an opening or two in the back for a gas line, so I'd imagine running a temp sensor cable to a temp probe on the fermenting vessel should be no problem. Unless you have to have the bluetooth capability, that would be the way I'd go.
Thanks, certainly something to think about. Ideally I'd like to find a very small fridge, like an over-sized dorm room fridge, that will fit one corny keg without modifying the fridge. Because space is limited I'd like a small footprint. I suppose a small kegerator might work, if I can find one used. Trying to imagine doing this without spending a lot.

The nice thing about the Rapt Pill/Controller setup is you don't need a temperature probe. Plus I already own two Pills.
 
I have gone to 3 to 3.5 gal batches down from 5 still using my 5 gal kegs. I have not had any issues with the smaller batches when using purged kegs with a closed transfer.
I don't have as much help drinking the beer and don't drink as much as I used to.
My fermenter is a SS bucket type 7-gal size and don't have a problem when it is about half full.
For those who wish to do the 3-gal batches instead of the 2.5- gal to replace 5-gal the math is,
take your regular amount of malt and times it by .60. example: 10 pounds of base malt X .6 equals 6 pounds. Or .5 pounds of Crystal X .6 equals .3 pounds.
I do 3.5 gal batches to account for loses and use .7 as the multiplier. ex: 10 pounds base malt X .7 equals 7 pounds. Math fan here, math never lies.
This 0.6 advice is extremely helpful. I just went through and converted 5 recipes I made that were for 5.5 gallons and changed them to 3.4 gallons (13 liters). I tried multiplying each of the ingredients by 0.6 and it was amazing how, even though it wasn't the exact same conversion, it was almost exactly the same. For example, 46 IBUs became 45 IBUs. 4.66% ABV was exactly that at 4.66% ABV. SRM went from 39 to 38.5.

Extremely useful tip.

It was kind of funny, though, just changing the volume and seeing the IBU, SRM, and ABV skyrocket, though.
 
This 0.6 advice is extremely helpful. I just went through and converted 5 recipes I made that were for 5.5 gallons and changed them to 3.4 gallons (13 liters). I tried multiplying each of the ingredients by 0.6 and it was amazing how, even though it wasn't the exact same conversion, it was almost exactly the same. For example, 46 IBUs became 45 IBUs. 4.66% ABV was exactly that at 4.66% ABV. SRM went from 39 to 38.5.

Extremely useful tip.

It was kind of funny, though, just changing the volume and seeing the IBU, SRM, and ABV skyrocket, though.
Since you are going with a 3.4-gal recipe try my 0.7 multiplier that I use for 3.5 gal batches. It might be a little closer. I've compared the percentage of malts and they come out very close.
 
I went from 5 gallons to 3.5 as well. The points about reduced heating and cooling times are very true. That alone cuts 45 min to an hour. One other benefit for me is I use the grocery store 5 gallon RO machine. All I need is one 5 gallon bottle to make 3.5 gallons with BIAB. Best part of moving to 3.5 gallons included moving to using kegs with floating dip tubes. Game changer for oxygen elimination with all closed transfers, fermentation purging, dry hop in second keg.
 
Smaller batches means more brewing and more learning. Even better, brew medium and split it between multiple fermenters to learn about cold side split variables. The only downside I can think of is margin for error. You have to be more precise with ingredient measurements or you're further away from the recipe than you think.
 
ABV will be linear when you scale down, but some of the others won't be.
This can be especially true when we're talking about hops with a massive amount of alpha acids. But in those, the numbers were still close. I just did a few adjustments to get the numbers to match for those. The ABV generally matched with the 0.6 calculation, though to scrap iron, for a lot of them, it was probably closer to 0.65 since I would round up awkward numbers to make the measurements easier.

As for Bobby_M's comment, that's definitely an issue I can already see. Again, with the example of hops with high alpha acids. Just 1 or 2 extra grams for 60 minutes can have a much more significant effect on IBU when you almost half the volume.
 
I'm thinking I'll probably want to start these smaller batch sizes with just BIAB, probably in a 29L (7.6 gallon) kettle, using something like a cookie sheet to drain and squeeze out the wort after the mash since I've heard a lot of people saying lately that it's unnecessary to do a sparge with BIAB (when I did BIAB, I sparged, but it really does seem like most people agree that it's unnecessary with BIAB nowadays).

When I first started brewing, I did ice baths to cool my wort, but I found those took forever, so I bought an immersion chiller and found that to chill wort a lot fast. But if I'm going from 5.5 gallons to 3.4/3.5 gallons, I wonder if an ice bath might actually be more effective with the smaller volume.
 
I have brewed 10 gallon batches for the last 7 years and all my friends love my beers. That being said, I keep 3-4 beers on tap and since retiring , moved about an hour away, to the country. Now when friends stop over, it’s overnight, so I have to reserve time for the weekend, we have a great time, but my wife is the boss. When she says it’s bedtime , it’s no argument, lights out.
 
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