First off, excellent advice -- thank you!
I'm probably opening another topic here, but I've never made a starter. When I've bought liquid yeast in the past, the instructions said to pitch the whole thing, so I did. Is that risky, and I've just been lucky so far?
That's very good news, thanks!
Now, this I had not considered. Are the bottles and kits for small-batch brewing sold by Northern Brewer not a good idea, then? I know I wouldn't get a huge amount of beer, but how much would be lost to krausen and yeast sludge? Space is really going to be a problem for me soon. I'll be heading back to college, and probably living in on-campus housing. It won't be as cramped as a dorm room, but the grad student apartments are still rather tiny. I'll probably have to put the fermenters in a plastic tub against a wall, and hope I don't trip over them too often. Given your experience with small-batch brewing and the space required, do you think the one- or three-gallon setup makes more sense?
The time and equipment required are two big reasons I'm leaning in this direction. I'll be rather busy soon, and won't be able to spend an entire day brewing. That an extract brew can be done in an hour or so is extraordinarily good news. I'm also curious now about how you handle all-grain brewing. I tried that a while back. I found instructions online for making a mash tun out of a cheap cooler (not the round cooler most people use, but a less expensive rectangular one), came up with a couple of recipes... and it didn't work out entirely well. Not a total loss, but not as good as I was hoping. I had trouble controlling the mash temperature, and it took forever to cool the wort, and it wasted an incredible amount of water. After that, I wrote off all-grain brewing until some future time at which I can afford better equipment.
I did think of this. But I think the positives outweigh the negatives, by far. I can't wait to start experimenting! And I won't have to fear the horror currently lurking in my folks' basement -- 44 bottles of undrinkable foulness that was supposed to be a spruce beer (it was 49 bottles, but I keep testing it as it ages in the vain hope that it will somehow stop being disgusting).
Again, thank you very much for the advice!