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Getting back into brewing in a new way

Hey all

I have been out of brewing for a good several years. I’ve recently decided to get back into it, but in a slightly different way. I use to do 5 gallon extract or 5 gallon all-grain. What I want to brew now is 2-2.5 gallon partial mashes. Why? All grain ended up being so much work and equipment that it lost it’s appeal to me. Extract doesn’t give me quite enough flexibility to play with recipes. And 5 gallon batches are just a little more pricey than I really want to spend. Also, my last several batches had some problems, so spending all the time to do all-grain AND to end up with 5 gallons of unenjoyable product was not my favorite.

Anyway, now that the explanation is over, on to my problems.

  1. I have yet to find a way to buy ingredient kits online for 2.5 gallon batches (and I’m not willing to buy 5 gallon batches and store the excess). This means I’m likely going to have to come up with my own recipes. The problem is, I am very intimidated by this (especially since I’ve never done this particular batch size before). I have a copy of How To Brew as well as other sources, but I know that essentially everything I read is assuming one is brewing 5 gallon batches. Can someone please help me get started with either making some recipes, converting recipes, or at least pointing me in the right direction?

  2. As far as technique goes, I’m having the same concerns. I’ve never really done partial mashes, but the process seems pretty straight forward. But again, I assume this is all based on 5 gallon batch sizes. What will I need to do in order to brew this size batch? I know that’s a huge question, but I’m really feeling overwhelmed right now.

Thanks in advance

Scott

What I would do is go online look up the recipe for the 5 gallon kit you like then divide by 2. Now order or buy the ingredients ala carte. Then do brew in a bag method.

I would agree with the kits. Cut 5 gal batches in half and buy a la carte. As far as techniques and equipment. You have already done AG so you know the technique and prob have the equipment needed.

Northern Brewer has 3-gallon BIAB kits:

Why don’t you brew in a bag? I’ve been brewing in a bag (or more precisely, mashing in a bag) for many years, with batch sizes ranging from 1.7 gallons (one third of a standard 5-gallon) to 2.5 gallons (half size). Research BIAB. It is a cinch, with no fancy equipment or process required.

As for designing recipes, two excellent books on the topic are Designing Great Beers by Ray Daniels, and Radical Brewing by Randy Mosher. Of the two, I would say DGB is absolutely essential, and RB is a little more for intermediate level brewers but still excellent information for everyone.

Seems like price and mistakes seem to be the issues? Seems like a lot of effort to avoid the standard 5 gallon batches. Other than ingredients, the process is about the same amount of time and effort.

With price being an issue, stock up when NB has sales. That’s what I’ve been doing. Their prices are pretty reasonable. Great when on sale.

Label Peelers has Brewer’s Best kits and they generally have one kit on the cheap. I think I picked up some Belgian IPA a while back for $30 a kit.

As for the mistakes, probably best to have a friend help you. Messing up a 2.5-3 gallon batch is going to take about the same amount of time as a 5 gallon batch.

For flexibility or variety NB also has the 1 Gallon Kits. I’m just starting and will be doing 5G but thinking about the 1G option to try flavors. Would hate to make a 5G batch and dislike the taste completely.

My brother does 1 gallon all-grain batches with BIAB and it doesn’t really sound any harder or take any more equipment than doing an extract batch – you use the same pot for mashing and boiling, the volume is low enough that you can do it on the stove and it heats and cools quickly. I am not sure what advantage partial mash would have in this case. Partial mash seems more appropriate for doing larger batches where you don’t have big enough equipment to mash the full grain bill or to do a full volume boil.

Now I think my brother is crazy. That is still a fair bit of work to get less than 2 six-packs of beer. 2-2.5 gal sounds a bit more reasonable to me. It seems like you should still be able to do it with a 5 gal pot on the stove.

All grain also has a lot more kits available that partial mash, so I think that would be a pretty good bonus if you don’t want to formulate your own recipes. You can’t actually buy many pre-assembled kits for small batches, but that is no problem. For instance, all of our hosts recipe kits list the ingredients on the instructions page. Just download that, multiply by 1/2 or 40%, and order the ingredients ala carte. You are still going to end up with left over ingredients, especially hops, but not half a batch of grain.

It sounds like you primarily want two things: 1) ability to be creative and make the beers that are truly “yours”, and 2) minimize the risk if those experiments don’t work out.

I can suggest three things to help with that.

Read “Designing Great Beers” as suggested above. That gives a good idea of what works and what doesn’t, and by following those guidelines you should be able to avoid the worst mistakes.

Buy some brewing software. It makes the calculations that you need to do much easier so you are less likely to make unintended errors. And very importantly, it makes note taking easier so you have a good record of what works and what didn’t to refer to in the future.

Brew a lot. Brew the same recipe twice or three times in a row to ensure your process is under control. Brew the same recipe several times with only one change at a time to see how that affects the outcome. Make some SMASH beers to get an idea of what flavors a given base malt or hop will give you. I met a guy recently who brewed a couple times a week for several years, then poured the finished beer down the drain - not because the beer was bad, but because he wanted to master the process and was making way too much beer to drink. He recently turned pro, which I would guess is not your intention, but there is no doubt that simply brewing a lot is helpful to making better beer.

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