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Moving on Down to Smaller and Smaller Batches

So, like most homebrewers, I started out with a few 5 gallon batches. But then I had 2 cases of the stuff from each batch, and I don’t drink all that much anyway and I don’t have any friends (I mean, how could I if I’m on here for 16 hours everyday!) and (especially looking back in retrospect) it was pretty mediocre beer in those early years. So, I cut back to a 3-gallon batch size, and stayed there pretty much for most of my 12 years of homebrewing experience.

Then last year I decided it was still too much and cut it back to 2.5 gallons per batch. But now, I’m thinking, there’s about 7 or 8 different recipes I want to try, but I still have 2 batches in fermenters to be bottled, and another 6 cases of beer sitting in my basement collecting dust from the last 7 or 8 experiments. What the hell is wrong with me!?!?

I’m sure there’s others out there who feel the same way. Yes?!?

So now I’m thinking of cutting back to 1.25 gallon batches!! Yes, I know, that seems really small! But that way, I’ll get a good 12-pack of beer per batch, and brew day will be even shorter (maybe 3.5 hours!), and I’ll be able to brew pretty much as often as I want. I’m also at that point in my life where I want to brew the same recipes repeatedly until I get them right, so this will help with tweaking recipes, and it will also be a good batch size for running experiments, such as the “does high efficiency adversely affect flavor?” experiment. If I can knock a batch out in 3.5 hours, heck, I could do that in my sleep, almost quite literally – BIAB on the stovetop makes it so easy (which kind of looks like a pillowcase).

Anyway… Not sure why, but just thought I’d share. I really do think I’ll start with 1.25-gallon batches, effective immediately.

Right now i brew 5g and 6g batches. But that’s because i share the beer and cost between me and two roommates. when i move out of this college town i will be forced to brew on my own. and 7 gallons of wort in my SS kettle is very heavy… Soon i will have to downsize my system or start drinking a whole lot more. what do you ferment in?

I’m not sure how your brew day will be shorter with 1.25 vs 3. I mean, you still need 60-90min mash and a 60-75 min boil, right? clean up is the same, set up is the same, both can be done on the kitchen stove. I guess you’d be saving time in cooling to pitching temp as 1.25 would probably cool faster, but not that much faster. I can cool 3 gallons to 60-65 in the sink with ice in about 45 minutes. so, I’m thinking maybe under 30 with 1.25 gallons.

i can see how you’d be saving time bottling, 12 vs 24-30, but that’s only 10-20 minutes or so.

bottom line, I don’t see much time savings but i definitely see the benefit to small batches as you get to brew and sample different styles quicker. I, like you, drink my brews slowly so 5 gallons last me months to over a year in many instances.

Recently, I’ve stopped doing 5 gallon batches and concentrate more on 2.5-3 gallon batches.


:roll: Its posts like these that make me feel like an alcoholic.
And to think that me and the wife have been looking at leasing a vineyard as well. :roll:

I’d go for whatever works best for you Dave, even if its 1.25gal batches.

BB, I do have 6 gallons of cider to bottle yet, and I’ll be able to go through that like nothing. Maybe I’ve just grown the tiniest bit tired of beer, and have moved on to cider now. I think that is a part of it.

As for time savings, try mashing for just 40 minutes sometime. You’ll get exactly the same results as for 60 minutes, and save yourself some time. I almost always mash for just 40 minutes. Milling the grain will take less time with a tiny batch. I can skip the sparge, which will also save a lot of time. Cooldown, yes, that will go quick, maybe 20 minutes or something like that. Cleanup will be a cinch – no cooler to clean out, just dump out the grain bag and rinse for a couple minutes. It all adds up, it really does.

I know how you feel, I love brewing and am always ahead of myself in inventory. Part of my problem comes from brewing lots of styles that I end up not liking that much or am just sick of. So I have a lot of beer but nothing to drink, kind of like cable tv.

Small batches like that is one option. The other is just to throw out beer when it doesn’t suit you for whatever reason. I know a competition brewer that does this. I just poured out some Ofest that had a slight fruity sweet stressed yeast character. I could’ve given it away but I hate to pass on stuff with flaws, and I needed the bottles.

I suppose you are ranching your yeast? Thats the one fixed cost item that increases with in smaller batch size. If I can get five or six batches out of a yeast, I feel like the price per unit is reasonable.

Sounds like I need to move. My neighbors are always cutting into my supply forcing me to brew more often. I used to do 10 gallon batches because it was just as easy as a 5 gallon batch and it was twice as much beer. I did cut back to 5 gallon batches though so I wouldn’t tie up 2 kegs of the same kind of beer with each batch. As it is now I have like 9 kegs and I try to keep a rotation going so that I always have 4 different kinds of beer on tap. The only thing I do 10 gallon batches with anymore is my house ESB recipe. When I do 5 gallons I drink it way too fast. :slight_smile:

I like Dave’s statement about perfecting a single type. I’ve started accumulating more beer than I think my palate appreciates anymore. And I’ll probably dump some out just for the bottles… I also have my “go to” beers that always seem to make me happy. But getting into a groove at whatever the volume and making something “your own” and actually perfecting it… if that’s even possible is what it’s all about to me.

I have a hard time perfecting a beer, it seems like I have a different impression of it every time I drink some. Usually it gets better and better as the supply diminishes too. Not sure if its aging, clarification or I’m just getting used to the new flavor combination.

I’m still brewing the same size batches, but am brewing smaller and smaller beers. My go-to beers for the past couple years have been ~1.037-1.042 saisons, belgian blondes, and sours. If you’re able to drink 2 at a time, you go through your supply much quicker.

So I am thinking about moving down to 3.5 or 4 gallon batches so I can do full boil all grain. Is it a problem to be fermenting in 6 gallon carboys?

Every time I read someone on this forum say “I just brewed this and it smells great, I can’t wait to try it”, makes me want to do small batches. I love trying new recipes.
But then when I brew one and it does taste great, I’m bummed when the keg kicks. A vicious circle, but an enjoyable one.

This is definitely something that piques my interest. I’m not a heavy drinker, and I really prefer to try a bunch of different things. I’m getting into homebrewing more for the creative side of things than anything else. I’ve already started designing a couple of recipes with 3-gallon batches in mind. Right now I’m still doing mainly 5-gallon extract/steep kits, but once i get another couple under my belt I was planning on moving to partial mashes in a 2-gallon igloo cooler.

Due to space and time constraints, I don’t see myself ever being able to swing a full 7+ gallon AG setup (unless until my toddler gets old enough to apprentice with me on brew days). But BIAB/No-sparge 1.25 gallon recipes really sound like something I could get into.

What are you using for a fermenter for recipes that are so small? A 3-gallon carboy? I’m wondering how tough it would be to dry-hop such a small batch with whole leaf hops if it’s in a bigger fermenter.

Not while its fermenting but I try not to let it sit too awful long after the fermentation stops. I just don’t trust the bungs to be super airtight. Usually three or four days after the feermentation activity subsides is enough for the yeast to clean up the fermentation byproducts. I’ll bottle most of my average strength ales between ten days and two weeks after pitching.

I have several 3gal Better Bottles, plus some 2gal and 3gal buckets from the bakery section of our local grocery store.

1.25 gallon batches, that’s pretty small. I brew 3-4 gallon batches, mash in a 5 gallon cooler, boil in a 6 or 6.5 gallon kettle on the stove top. Works pretty well. Lately I’ve been doing 4 gallon batches, but I might back it off to 3 again for a little quicker turn around. Besides, there’s less to lift, carry around, and less grain to mill. It’s the way to go for me.

So what’s the concensus? If you’re brewing 3 gal and under are most of you bottling? Or partially filling corny’s? Just curious.

I just started kegging and intend on continuing 5g’s. But I’d like to purchase a 3g corny in the near future for smaller or experimental batches. My assumption is that if any kegged beer gets boring, I’ll fill a few growlers and give them to my pals with the express understanding the growler must be returned. Or else…

If I brew 10 gal every weekend and I’m having trouble keeping all three taps flowing, does that mean my friends and I are all alkies then? I thought it just meant that the beer was tasty.

Maybe I’m the bigger alkie since I generally drink alone?

Maybe I’m the bigger alkie since I generally drink alone?[/quote]
With nobody else…?

I can usually go through a 5 gallon batch in three weeks without help. But I do have friends and a German girlfriend so we’re usually brewing once every other week.

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