>> How to do small batch brewing

Monday, May 14, 2018
small batch brewing one gallon

Small Batch brewing - why do brewers even bother?

"Small Batch Brewing" sounds like one of those fancy brewing terms like 'attenuation', IBU or the line 'makes a great session beer'.

After all, when you're brewing 5 gallons of beer, that's just a small batch, right?

And that's kind of fair.

Some brewers like to go big with their batches or they go home.

When going in large (or even often) a key factor is that the brewer knows they have a tried and true recipe, one they themselves may have made many times before.

They might even have a sweet shed out the back where they can line up a row of conical fermenters, store their malt and condition their brewers. There might even be a keezer standing proudly in the corner.

And that's all good stuff as a dedicated beer maker - but if you want to experiment with your ingredients and hops and get some spice in your life as the Spice Girls suggested, then small batch brewing is a way to achieve that in terms of beer economy.

There's no point in spending plenty of your hard earned money to make 5 gallons of beer when you are only experimenting with some random chocolate raspberry stout with some random Yugoslavian yeast. If it turns out poor, who is going to drink it all?

So what level of volume are we talking here?

The common philosophy (brewlospophy?) of brewers is that a smaller batch of one or two gallons offers enough room to produce some good beers, that is worth the time and effort but also gives one the leeway to experiment by trying new ideas, timings and the like.

Small batches are also a great way to get some mastery over all grain brewing at a smaller scale.

For some beer makers, the cost of spices, fruits and fancy yeasts or hops can be out of reach or unjustified when brewing at scale, but at the smaller volume, it's worth it to try and see if the beer 's concept is worth pursuing.

Small batch brewing is also really useful for those without space.

Apartment dwellers across the world do not have sheds or garages they can pursue their hobby in. They are actually lucky if they have a dark wardrobe in which they can store their beer!

They also do not have space for 30 litre kettles, fermenters, mash tuns or wort chillers!

That way, that can get away with doing a wort boil in a small pot on the stove top or gas burner.

Things to think about when small batch brewing

Correct ingredient measurement

Correct measurements of your ingredients are extremely important. When brewing at scale, a little bit extra malt or a little less hops will not affect the beer too much but at the small scale, the differences can be quite notable which means that the beer you are intending to make, might not be the beer you produce.

You may wish to use a set of scales to measure out your ingredients and if you are converting from a larger 5-gallon recipe, make sure you get your conversion maths correct! E.g. if your 5-gallon recipe calls for 5kg of Gladfield Ale Malt but you are making one gallon, you need only one kilogram of the malt. 

Pot size

Small-scale mashing can easily be done in the typically small pots one has around the home. For every 1 gallon of space you have in your mashing vessel, you can mash 2.0 lbs of grain and collect about 1 gallon of precious wort.

A watched pot boils quicker

A smaller sized pot will get to the desired boiling temperature much quicker than normal, so to avoid boil overs, you'll need to be vigilant and eagle-eyed to catch it early.

You'll also want to make sure the wort doesn't get scorched or even evaporate too much!

If you are using a gas burner, we suggest you don't max out those BTU until you have a good feel for the timings of the wort coming to the boil.

Chilling the wort

You probably don't need to get your Copperhead out if you are doing a small brewing. You totally can of course if you kettle can accommodate the size of your chiller but you can also get away with an efficient ice bath. 

With a bag of ice in a sink or large bucket, you can reduce the wort temp pretty quickly - the smaller the wort size, the quicker it will be.

Pitch less yeast

Given the reduction in scale, it makes sense that you can pitch less yeast into the wort - same temperature rules apply though - only pitch when the wort is cooled to the appropriate temperature. 

We'd suggest that you actually use a yeast calculator to because that stuff can be expensive - if you can some yourself for the next brew, why not?

Another sweet benefit is that if you are a fan of liquid yeast, you may not need to use a yeast starter. 

What do I ferment the wort in if I'm doing a small batch?

You can totally use your standard sized carboy or plastic drum fermenter to do your micro batch.

A lot of brewers like to use 1 or 3 gallon glass carboys as well.

However, if you are microbrewing due to space restrictions, you can use anything smaller such as a bucket with a lid. I've even seen people use Coke bottles for small brews!

Whatever fermentation mechanism you use, you still need to apply standard cleaning and sanitization methods - bacteria doesn't give two hoots how big your unit is, they just want a space to do their thing. 

Small Batch Brewing is not Pico or Nano brewing

Pico is a little-used term is applied to breweries with systems 3bbls or smaller who produce less than 600 barrels of beer per annum. There is also a brand of beer brewing machine called a Pico, which frankly just seems like a waste of time as it reduces the brewing experience to effectively that of making filtered coffee.


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