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Sematary

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So, I've been using my 5 gallon kit for a couple or three years now and I am considering stepping up my game a little - nothing crazy, just you know, maybe some more "professional" type equipment. So what would be my next step up from this 5 gallon kit?
 

_HH_

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What have you currently got and what does it not allow you to do that you would like to achieve? Do you have any particular budget in mind?
 
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Sematary

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What have you currently got and what does it not allow you to do that you would like to achieve? Do you have any particular budget in mind?
All I have right now is a 5 gallon kit that I bought a few years ago. It's very basic, of course. I'm just looking to learn more I guess. I remember a local brewer who when he first opened up had these smallish fermenters (3 of them if I remember correctly) that couldn't have been more than 50 gallons. I'm not looking to become that - but being able to do more than 5 gallons at a time would be nice. lol
 

_HH_

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So it’s a propane system? Do you want to continue with propane or switch to electric? Do you want a single vessel or three vessels? If you just want to brew bigger batches I’d probably suggest sticking with what you have and buying a bigger kettle/mash tun unless there are specific problems with the system you have, or it is stopping you from doing something you would like - for example brewing indoors.
 
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Sematary

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So it’s a propane system? Do you want to continue with propane or switch to electric? Do you want a single vessel or three vessels? If you just want to brew bigger batches I’d probably suggest sticking with what you have and buying a bigger kettle/mash tun unless there are specific problems with the system you have, or it is stopping you from doing something you would like - for example brewing indoors.
My setup is much more basic than that - 5 gallon basic setup. I cook on a stove, ferment in a 5 gallon plastic buck. I don't do secondary in the carboy any more. I just let it stay in the primary for 10-14 days then bottle it. So no, I don't want 3 vessels. Just one, and larger batches. yes.

Edit. I think what i'm looking for is to learn more so something a little more complex than the simple process I use now.
 
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dawn_kiebawls

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Are you brewing all grain, extract, partial mash? If you're doing extract/partial mash and want to switch to AG the upgrades (new purchases) are endless and can fit any budget. You will want (unless you plan to go electric) a propane burner, 10 gallon kettle, HLT (or your current kettle to batch sparge with), mash tun, etc.

The two best things I did in my brewing 'career' was to start kegging and throw away all my bottles and build a fermentation chamber. Being able to control fermentation temperatures was the best thing I did for the quality of my beer, kegging was the best thing I did for quality of life (well, in my 'brewing life').

I'm still not entirely sure what you were asking or looking to solve so I hope this helps!
 

IslandLizard

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I echo what @dawn_kiebawls said. ^

Equipment doesn't brew beer, but it can help achieving your brewing goals. ;)

How many batches have you brewed so far?
What is your current of process, extract, partial mash, or all grain?

5 gallon batches are a very good medium to perfect your brewing techniques. If it doesn't come out quite as you envisioned, you only have 40-some bottles or a keg to finish. For more experimental brews, I usually split a 5-6 gallon batch into 2 or 3 and finish each with a different process or ingredients.

What volume do you have in mind to brew?
Once you brew batches larger than 5 gallons, bottling can become a chore. You'd definitely want to look into kegging for those.
 

ChiknNutz

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As a relative newbie, I can offer what I've done recently. So far have only done 5G extract batches with plastic buckets. My next steps are to go all-grain via the BIAB process and to ditch bottling and move on to kegging. I've also built a fermentation chamber to maintain steady fermentation temps. I also decided to go with a kegmenter for my main fermenter as it is durable being SS and also can apply pressure (for pressure fermentation and pressure transfers). For me, this has been a fairly sizable investment to acquire all the various bits and pieces to make it happen.
 

jrgtr42

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when you said no to 3-vessel, that is referring to your process - specifically all-grain.
Are you bring with extract, or grain? If still extract, the next step is to move to all-grain.
This would require some equipment upgrades, the first to decide if you want to use a brew-in-a-bag (BIAB) process or separate mash tun and so forth. There's plusses and minuses to each.
Also, do you want to stick with (approx) 5 gallons? More? Less? Keep in mind that unless you're giving it away, 10 gallons is a lot of beer.
 
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Sematary

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I echo what @dawn_kiebawls said. ^

Equipment doesn't brew beer, but it can help achieving your brewing goals. ;)

How many batches have you brewed so far?
What is your current of process, extract, partial mash, or all grain?

5 gallon batches are a very good medium to perfect your brewing techniques. If it doesn't come out quite as you envisioned, you only have 40-some bottles or a keg to finish. For more experimental brews, I usually split a 5-6 gallon batch into 2 or 3 and finish each with a different process or ingredients.

What volume do you have in mind to brew?
Once you brew batches larger than 5 gallons, bottling can become a chore. You'd definitely want to look into kegging for those.
I have honestly lost track of how many batches I've done. I've done extract, extract and grain and full grain brews. I generally try to do a combo because a full grain brew in a 5 gallon pot is a massive pita. I was thinking 10 gallons would be good honestly.
 
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Sematary

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when you said no to 3-vessel, that is referring to your process - specifically all-grain.
Are you bring with extract, or grain? If still extract, the next step is to move to all-grain.
This would require some equipment upgrades, the first to decide if you want to use a brew-in-a-bag (BIAB) process or separate mash tun and so forth. There's plusses and minuses to each.
Also, do you want to stick with (approx) 5 gallons? More? Less? Keep in mind that unless you're giving it away, 10 gallons is a lot of beer.
I've done all grain (several times). I actually like it but it's more difficult in a 5 gallon pot but I like the process. I've also considered mash tun but haven't really deeply looked into the process. when I have done full grain it's been biab. I'm thinking 10 gallons would be a good next step.
 

jrgtr42

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I've done all grain (several times). I actually like it but it's more difficult in a 5 gallon pot but I like the process. I've also considered mash tun but haven't really deeply looked into the process. when I have done full grain it's been biab. I'm thinking 10 gallons would be a good next step.
Yeah, 5-gallon pot isn't enough for an all-grain no matter what - you want minimum half again the batch size, though for 5 gallon batch, 8 gallon pot is really minimum, 10-gallon pot is better. If you want to up to 10 gallon batches, at least 15 gallon pot is needed. Plus you'll need something to heat it - a kitchen stove won't have the gumption for that much. Mash tuns are't that difficult - they sell them ready-made, or you can take a cooler and convert it. There's kits for the 10-gallon Igloo round drink coolers, it's pretty easy to do. I took a 48-quart rectangular and built a manifold for the bottom, it's worked great so far.
With this type, you'll need a second pot to heat you strike or sparge water with (why they call it 3 vessel.)
A BIAB setup needs a bigger kettle, but you don't need the mash tun or 2nd pot.
 

IslandLizard

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I generally try to do a combo because a full grain brew in a 5 gallon pot is a massive pita. I was thinking 10 gallons would be good honestly.
If you're adding extract as part of your fermentables in addition to mashing grain, it's considered a partial mash or mini-mash.

For a 5-5.5 gallon all grain BIAB batch you'd need at least a 10 gallon kettle, since it got to hold the full mash volume including the bag with grain.

Incorporating a sparge in a separate vessel (large bucket) after you lift the bag out, can help with managing the volume in a kettle that's a little too small, while adding a few points to your mash efficiency. Topping up during the hour-long boil with some leftover wort from the sparge, can also help to keep a comfortable headspace and prevent boil overs.

Is that what you actually want to achieve, a larger kettle, not necessarily larger batches?

I often brew two 5.5 gallon batches back to back. One prep and one clean up. ;) Since they can be entirely different beers that way, it's the most flexible.

I don't brew many 10 gallon batches anymore, I prefer to have the luxury of variety.
Now when I do decoctions, I haul out the big 15 gallon kettle. 3 1/2 hour mashes aren't worth it for only 5 gallons, IMO. ;)
 
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Sematary

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If you're adding extract as part of your fermentables in addition to mashing grain, it's considered a partial mash or mini-mash.

For a 5-5.5 gallon all grain BIAB batch you'd need at least a 10 gallon kettle, since it got to hold the full mash volume including the bag with grain.

Incorporating a sparge in a separate vessel (large bucket) after you lift the bag out, can help with managing the volume in a kettle that's a little too small, while adding a few points to your mash efficiency. Topping up during the hour-long boil with some leftover wort from the sparge, can also help to keep a comfortable headspace and prevent boil overs.

Is that what you actually want to achieve, a larger kettle, not necessarily larger batches?

I often brew two 5.5 gallon batches back to back. One prep and one clean up. ;) Since they can be entirely different beers that way, it's the most flexible.

I don't brew many 10 gallon batches anymore, I prefer to have the luxury of variety.
Now when I do decoctions, I haul out the big 15 gallon kettle. 3 1/2 hour mashes aren't worth it for only 5 gallons, IMO. ;)
Like I said, I pretty much want to learn more. There is SO MUCH to this hobby. I like the variety as well. I've done everything from stouts to coors clones to ipa's and even a gluten free that I made once. So many different ways to make so many different beers.
 

RePete

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When I started doing all grain, I only had a 5 gallon brew pot and a stove top. I used an old cooler as a mash tun. At first I did smaller batches. My solution to step up to 5 gallon batches, for a while, was to get a second 5 gallon kettle. I would boil 2 5 gallon kettles on the stove top. Then combine them when done. It worked. The nice thing was that they both fit in the sink, to cool with an ice bath. I eventually end up buying a Robobrew.
 

Bassman2003

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My input would be to stay with five gallon batches while you are still learning your craft. Not only is 10 gallons a lot of finished beer, it requires a lot more yeast and other materials. 5 gallons allows you to brew more often, keg more often and notice things with less financial penalty. The last area is budget. If you only want to spend a little, then I would focus on your mash tun. Get a 10 gallon pot and do BIAB. That is the most economical route while still allowing great beer to be made. You can find these pots at Brewhardware or Adventures in Brewing. You will need a better way to heat them than your stove, but it is still possible on your stove.

If you are in Texas, I am selling my 10 gallon pot and induction heater. Otherwise, pick up an Anvil Foundry or Mash & Boil all in one system. for ~$400-$500 you will have everything you need.
 

Jim R

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I think what i'm looking for is to learn more so something a little more complex than the simple process I use now.
Before you throw more money on equipment that you are not sure about, I think you should take some time and learn more about different aspects of brewing. Get John Palmer's How to Brew book as a good place to start. Study it and take notes. Once you completely understand things like All Grain Brewing, BIAB, fermentation temperature control, kegging, water adjustments, dry hopping, etc. it will become much easier to decide what the next step is for you. Then you can spend your money wisely so you can make better beer and have more fun doing it.
 
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IslandLizard

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My setup is much more basic than that - 5 gallon basic setup. I cook on a stove, ferment in a 5 gallon plastic buck. I don't do secondary in the carboy any more. I just let it stay in the primary for 10-14 days then bottle it. So no, I don't want 3 vessels. Just one, and larger batches. yes.
You are already doing 5 gallon batches. They're just not full boils, they're partial boils with top up in the fermenter. There are advantages to doing full mashes and a full volume boils, sure.

Depending on your stove top, heating and boiling larger volumes (5-8 gallons) may or may not work. For my full 7 gallon boils on a glass top electric stove, I could retain a simmer keeping the lid on part ways. That's fine, you're still boiling off enough volume as well as any DMS that formed. The sheer weight of that full kettle on the glass always scared me, so I went for a 3500W 240V induction plate. Simply love it, and still brew in the kitchen. I'm the chef, so I have that privilege, and my wife doesn't care, she loves the beer. ;)

Remember, brewing good beer is mostly process, not the equipment. Although it surely helps having a large enough kettle and heat source, a temp controlled fermentation chamber (fridge), and good brewing water.

+1 to @Jim R's suggestion for reading How to Brew.
In a pinch, here's an old online edition of How to Brew.
The book, in its 4th edition now, is much modernized with tons more information on brewing, processes, and techniques. Indispensable knowledge and reference, IMO. The best $15 you'd ever spend in brewing.
 

PberBob

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Lots of good advice here, for sure. +1 Temperature control is definitely critical.

I ramped up my game last year by getting a 7 gallon FastFerment conical fermenter. Traub drops into a bulb in the bottom, so racking is just dumping the bulb. (which also lets you harvest yeast) It has a large opening so you can use a mesh bag for easier dry hopping. There’s a tubing adapter so bottle directly from the bottom - less oxygen exposure.

I also love the mashing magic. After a couple of BIAB batches, I got a used Igloo upright cooler and a flower-style vegetable steamer and put the bag in it.

Good luck!
 

Transamguy77

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When I started thinking of moving to AG I went brew in a bag with a turkey fryer, I used that set up for about a year then I built a new stand and moved to 10 gallon batches.

I like the bigger batches for multiple reasons, one is the obvious it’s more beer. 2 is you can make 2 different beers, you can split it and add either a adjunct, different hops or yeast and have 2 different beers with 1 mash.

If you think you will move up in batch size then I would buy the equipment that can handle that now, and remember you will need to chill that much liquid, it would suck to finish your first 10 gallon batch and realize you don’t know how your going to chill it down, ask me how I know......

And as others have said fermentation temp control and yeast health are some ways to step up your game. It’s not necessarily the equipment you have but more the practices you learn.
 

PberBob

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I like the bigger batches for multiple reasons, one is the obvious it’s more beer. 2 is you can make 2 different beers, you can split it and add either a adjunct, different hops or yeast and have 2 different beers with 1 mash.

If you think you will move up in batch size then I would buy the equipment that can handle that now, and remember you will need to chill that much liquid, it would suck to finish your first 10 gallon batch and realize you don’t know how your going to chill it down, ask me how I know......
“ ask me how I know..”. I’m game. How?

Chilling the wort was a big challenge for me in the beginning. Slowly evolved from sink full of ice to overflow tub (higher on kettle), finally got copper tube wort chiller for Christmas.

I’ve wanted to split a batch and test dry hops, but I had a bad experience with a gallon jug that went bad.
 

Transamguy77

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“ ask me how I know..”. I’m game. How?

Chilling the wort was a big challenge for me in the beginning. Slowly evolved from sink full of ice to overflow tub (higher on kettle), finally got copper tube wort chiller for Christmas.

I’ve wanted to split a batch and test dry hops, but I had a bad experience with a gallon jug that went bad.
Sooooooo I finished my new 3 tier stand and it was later in the evening, and thankfully it was colder out so maybe October and I realized that all I had to cool down 11 gallons of wort was a 25ft 3/8 copper immersion chiller! I panicked for a second and then I put on my Relax don’t worry and have a homebrew hat on and just put the lid on and let it sit over night. In the morning it was down to about 65, so I drained it into my fermenters and pitched my yeast, the beer turned out just fine and I ordered a DIY 1/2”x50’ copper chiller later that week. Sometimes your not as prepared as you think 😁

I haven’t split as many batches as I initially thought I would but enough to try different yeasts and different dry hops to see what I like better. I did do a stout and a pale ale once, I think that is the direction I’ll be doing more of.
 

PberBob

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I'll bet the 25 footer would have gotten the job done...eventually. It's the last 5 degrees or so that take the longest.
 

madscientist451

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I'm thinking 10 gallons would be a good next step.
I have a 15 gallon keggle and can do 10 gallon batches, but I rarely use it.
I just don't need that much beer and since I mostly brew in the winter, brewing outside doesn't work for me.
My 2 cents to the OP: Downsize your batches to 4 gallons and ferment in a corny keg with a shortened dip tube. You can then do closed transfers to another keg for serving.
You'll need a small freezer w/temperature control or an extra refrigerator for your serving kegs.
Having a temperature control freezer for fermenting AND a fridge for serving is ideal, but you can ferment ales at ambient temperatures if its not too hot where you are located.
Switching to kegging and doing closed transfers will make a noticeable improvement in your beer.
 
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Sematary

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I have a 15 gallon keggle and can do 10 gallon batches, but I rarely use it.
I just don't need that much beer and since I mostly brew in the winter, brewing outside doesn't work for me.
My 2 cents to the OP: Downsize your batches to 4 gallons and ferment in a corny keg with a shortened dip tube. You can then do closed transfers to another keg for serving.
You'll need a small freezer w/temperature control or an extra refrigerator for your serving kegs.
Having a temperature control freezer for fermenting AND a fridge for serving is ideal, but you can ferment ales at ambient temperatures if its not too hot where you are located.
Switching to kegging and doing closed transfers will make a noticeable improvement in your beer.
Def. something to think about.
 

Transamguy77

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I'll bet the 25 footer would have gotten the job done...eventually. It's the last 5 degrees or so that take the longest.
Maybe it would have but when I dropped it in it was completely covered and half of the silicone hoses and I was concerned that they would slide off due to the heat and fill the kettle with water.
 

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