Small (2 or 3 gallon) batch brewing (2017)

tl;dr: if you typically brew two or three gallon batches, what do you use for equipment to brew partial-mash and/or BIAB?

I’m looking at “right-sizing” (for me anyway :slight_smile: ) my brewing process to something in the two to three gallon range. There are a number of great posts in the forum (see below), but they are a from 2012-2014. Things don’t change much, until they do.

So if you typically brew two - three gallon batches, what suggestions do you have? What equipment do you use? What do you use for fermentation? for temperature control?

For those who what to read more, here are some previous posts that I found on the topic:

So maybe a paradigm to yer query, I’ve gone from 5 up to 10 gallons. And I can still go to smaller if I choose to experiment or develop. You could easily git a 8 gallon kettle and a bag for it and be able to BIAB. This would keep it so simple, they do make 3 gallon fermenters, use a swamp cooler, heck, you can find 3 gallon kegs. The point is this, just decide what it is you want to brew and set yourself up for that. Over size yer kettle, by 2X’s, boil over prevention. Sneezles61

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BIAB is very suitable for 3 gallon batches. I heat my mash water in a 2gallon electric coffee pot the water is heated to the right temperature so I don’t have to monitor it. While the grain mashes I do another batch of sparge water. 5gal pot my be tight for 3gallon batches unless you plan to top up which is fine. I have an 8gal. As far as fermenting a 5gal fermentation vessel would work.

Follow up on temperature control. Ice bath for chilling that size batch. As far as fermenting swamp cooler works fine for small scale brewing.

3 gallon frosting buckets from the grocery store… I used these for small batch secondary fermentors last year. If you’re not doing small batches, you can store a few pounds of specialty grain…

I typically do 3-gallon AG. My equipment purchases were driven by upgrading from my starting point which was 5-gallon extract batches, so I’m not sure if my set up would what I’d use if we’re making a “right sized” 3-gallon system from the start.

  1. Brew pot. I have a 20-quart pot; a Hamilton Beach stock pot, IIRC. This can be a bit scary at the start of a boil; I’d go jut a little bigger if I could, but I have a microwave oven mounted over my stove so clearance is an issue. As it is, I spend a LOT of the brew wiping condensation off the bottom of the microwave. Still it’s better than freezing my @$$ off in the winter, or sweating like a pig in summer.

  2. Mash tun. I use a round 7 gallon cooler. The wife and I go for an exercise walk during the mash, and it holds mash temps within a degree for the 80-90 minutes we typically leaving it. I use a BIAB bag in the cooler versus a false bottom, but I did invest in a ball valve because that thumb squeeze thingy was just terrible. False bottoms are available for the round coolers, and bazookas can be fabricated. My opinion, is that the BIAB makes for easier cleanup. A larger pot would be a substitute, but I think the cooler wins on price and convenience for me.

  3. Fermenters. I have a couple 5-gallon BMBs that were purchased as secondaries for 5-gallon batches. A bit smaller would be fine, but I have zero blow-off concern. I added a couple 3-gallon better bottles for those times I still want to have a secondary. I would not recommend using anything less than 4-gallons as a primary for a 3-gallon batch.

  4. Wort chilling. I use an immersion chiller. I don’t think there’s much difference between 3- and 5-gallon batches in terms of chilling equipment, but 3-gallons can be chilled easier than 5. I suppose an ice bath in the sink is still practical for 3-gallons, but I don’t do that.

  5. Fermentation temp control. I have 7.1 cu ft freezer, that can hold 2 buckets, it still only holds 2 of my 5-gallon bottles, I’m not sure if a smaller size freezer would do for smaller batches, but the price jump between the 5 and 7 cu ft freezers is minimal. The square 3-gallon better bottles, fit side-by-side, so I could have at least 4 in there, maybe 6. To control the freezer, I went super nerdy and built my own controller from scratch, using a Raspberry Pi. I wouldn’t recommend the PI as a controller platform, as it dies every time the SD card wears out. 2-stage controllers can be purchased with much less aggravation.

Currently I am making 1.7 to 2-gallon batches (1/3 of a standard 5-gallon recipe), BIAB, in my kitchen on the stove. I do not own a propane burner setup and probably never will. I also do not own a chiller and won’t buy one, opting instead to just chill in the kettle in a cold water bath. I have a 4-gallon kettle that works great for both mash and boil, and also a smaller 2(?)-gallon kettle that I use on the side for heating sparge water, etc. Yes, I rinse-sparge my bag – I never squeeze it. I set a colander over a plastic bucket to drain the mash, then dunk the bag again, then pour the dunk-sparge over the colander. Then I transfer the whole lot back into the kettle. This reduces particulate in the boil. I ferment in 3-gallon glass carboys.

About once per year I make a full 5 or 6-gallon batch, which this year is happening TODAY. On these occasions, I do have a Dennybrew-style cooler mash tun that I use instead of BIAB. I bring out 4 of the largest kitchen pots and kettles that I have and I use all 4 burners for the sparge water and boil. It might sound crazy but I can tell you, it works just dandy.

I used plastic bucket fermenters for many years. However, I experienced so many oxidized or contaminated batches that I now advocate the use of glass. If I can find some 2-gallon glass carboys, I’ll get some eventually. However the 3-gallon ones do work just great.

For temperature control, again, I’m a cheapskate. I use mother nature. Right now for my porter I think I will ferment in the basement with a blanket. Basement is about 56 F or thereabouts, and with a blanket to hold some heat in, I’m sure I can get into the low 60s. Perfect. There is always a good natural solution around my house. If I wanted to make lagers, I could use a wet t-shirt and fan to bring the temperature down to about 52 F or so. I suppose I am very “lucky” to have a poorly insulated home in Wisconsin!

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Here’s that 6-gallon batch, and pictures of my equipment/process.

(Please don’t be offended if I don’t accept a friend request. Usually I only “friend” people I know in real life.)

Thank you (@sneezles61, @brew_cat, @uberculture, @jmck, and @dmtaylo2) for your replies!

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It would be pretty easy to go to all-grain for small batches like that. I did it via BIAB for awhile, and now I’ve moved outdoors and up to 11 gallon batches. If I go back to small batches, I’d probably make a mini mash tun and do all grain that way with a 5-gallon stainless kettle on the stove.

BIAB is all grain :slight_smile: .

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I’m thinking of brewing 3 gallons as well.
Is there an agreed upon ratio for converting 1-gallon or 5 gallon recipes down to 3?

When I scale-down 5 gallon batches, I divide everything by two & generally pitch a 1/2 packet of yeast. If the OG is over 1.065-ish, I’ll pitch a full [11 gram] packet. This keeps the math simple and the brewing process analog (no recipe software :slight_smile: ) and results in roughly a case (24 bottles) of beer - which stores nicely in the brewing area that I have in my house.

For a 3 gal batch, I would multiply everything by 0.6 and double-check the yeast pitch rate with mrmalty.

Do you multiply the brew & sparge volume by 0.6 as well?

When I Biab I mash with the full volume or a bit less and sparge with whatever I need to make up the volume from absorption. Keep it simple. You want ,3 gallons. Divide by 5 and multiply by 3 then round off.