So, I’ve been enjoying brewing very much, and have been happy with 1 gallon brews. Now that I actually have space however, I can afford to scale things up a tad bit. There don’t seem to be many options between 1 and 5 gallons, so is 5 gallon batches the next step? Also, having seen so many complaints about carboys (glass or otherwise), I’m curious if scaling up mean a stainless steel fermenter. Knowing what you know now, what do you think the optimal initial upgrade would be? I say initial just because more parts would likely be needed over time. Two key pieces of info: I bottle, and I’m not a lager type, more IPA, ale, stout type, so less of a temperature control burden.
Personally, the first thing I would invest in would be a kettle that can handle full volume boils. Topping off is an acceptable option for starting out but if you really want to do 5 gallon batches, you should look first at a 10 gallon kettle. Personally, I have always fermented in glass carboys, I have a standar 6.5 gallon and a BMB 6.5 gallon that I use. Loads of people have had good success with buckets, I can only dream about a Stainless conical at this point. That’s on my dream list for once the kids are grown up.
You can really scale to any volume you want. However if your brewing kits and extract 5 gallons is your next step up.
I would agree with 10 gallon kettle for 5 gallon batch. You’ll need a propane burner and something to chill the wort. Ice baths won’t cut it anymore.
I’m using extract (and probably will for the foreseeable future), but I haven’t used a kit apart from the first time I brewed. I wasn’t expecting to need a 10 gallon, but makes sense. However, the whole propane and brew outside thing makes me nervous as there is less environmental control and thereby more contamination risk. I guess I’ll have to read up a bit on how to mitigate that.
I would estimate that 90% of homebrewed beer is brewed outside. It’s really not that much of a risk from that perspective. Makes clean up easier too.
If you’re formulating your own recipes you can brew whatever volume you want, 2,3 or 5 gallon. With extract you can also stay with partial volume boils but more than a couple gallons could be hard to boil on a stovetop.
If you’re trying to sell your wife on a stainless fermenter then yes I’ll support your decision…otherwise buckets work just fine. I stopped using glass carboys a few years ago when I very slightly bumped one into a granite counter top and it came apart in a few huge sharp scary pieces. I only use buckets now and they’re cheap. There are also lots of other type of fermenters that are cheaper than stainless ones. For my puiposes buckets are also easy to handle and chill.
I’ve been brewing in my garage on a propane burner for years with zero issues. I swapped to the propane burner out there after my first boilover on the stove. Thankfully I got it all cleaned up before my wife woke up from her nap but man, what a mess!! Now if I have a boilover, no worries, just hose down the garage floor and squeegee it to the drain. I did extract kits for two years before swapping over to AG, it’s a good place to start.
The other thing you will need to consider is how you will chill a larger volume of wort. The simplest way is to get a giant tupperware bucket Like This to put your fermentation vessel in and then swap out ice until it gets down to temp. I use a counterflow chiller or an immersion chiller depending on the recipe I’m brewing, but the bucket setup will work for starters.
I would do a larger boil kettle… Then, go look at the Stainless Steel fermenting buckets… I’ve got 2. I wouldn’t change anything now… Conicals are nice looking gizmo’s… But the SS bucket, well, just works great. For a lot less too. Sneezles61
Indeed a full boil in a 10 gal kettle. And a nice burner. Me use. Glass carboys. For. fermenting. A big mouth bubbler. Or. Speidel fermentor. For secondary. Fermenting use my glass 6.5 gal carboys. Got a plastic conical fermentor. As well. Must say dont like this one so much.
If you’re not into the outdoors cooking then 4 gallons is about the biggest you boil go stovetop. That’s good for a 5-gallon extract batch with top-off or a 3 gallon BIAB.
It’s nice to have options, what ever way you go. If it rains, instead of cancelling, you just do a smaller batch.
I do 20 gallon all grain at our northern home and 5 gallon extract at our winter condo retreat. It is nice to do a full volume boil but due to space restrictions at the condo, I do about 3 gallons and top it up. Got to go with what ya got sometimes. It keeps me in homebrew that is good. Maybe not as much control as with AG but still made it myself.
As to boiling it outside. I have been doing that for over 20 years with no problems. With a little common sense precaution you will have no contamination problems. In the event of a boil over a garden hose solves the clean up mess problem. Even at our condo I use an electric hot plate sometimes outdoors. It’s painfully slow but gets the job done and no fear of wort running down the side of the electric range. Keeps the wife happy and you know the old saying about happy wife.
To cool the wort I still use the ice bath method for extract. There are coin operated ice machines down here that dispense 20lb bags of ice for a good price. That about fills a large sink with the kettle in it.
Consider how far you will go brewing. most of us started small and bout equipment for the next step then did it again. I went from a Mr Beer to 5 gallon extract to 5 gallon AG to 10 gallon AG to 20 gallon AG with a seasonal side of 5 gallon extract. There was a lot of equipment change from the beginning to now. Could have saved a lot if I started with the big stuff.
You will enjoy going larger. More beer in about the same amount of time. Good luck.
Use the rain to make up for using less water from the tap? Sneezles61
I have no complaints about my Big Mouth Bubblers. I agree with poster that 8 gallon pot is one of the best investments I made for my BIAB setup. After you settle on a pot. Temperature control is easier for larger volume fermenters you just have to decide how you are going to do it.
Echoing what others have put out here. Brewing outside is not a big deal. I brew on our screened in porch and have yet to have any issue 80 batches or so in. If I had to do it over again, I’d start out with at least a 10 but in all likelihood a 15 gallon pot. I started with an 8.5 and pretty much only use it for sparge water now. My mash tun is a 15.5 stainless soup kettle and I boil in a 15.5 Megapot for 5 gallon batches or my 20.5 Megapot for 10 gallon batches. BMBs work very well as long as you have a system to keep the lids on. I use duct tape but have seen some other great methods as well. I did buy one glass BMB which I hate for the weight and fear of breakage factors. It has become my last in the game fermenter. In hindsight I might go with Speidel or SS buckets. Something else to consider up front is how you intend to cool your wort post-boil. Lot’s of options with their various plusses and minuses. You’ll find supporters and naysayers for each one. Do your research and figure out what is going to work for you. Happy brewing and don’t be afraid to ask questions and search the threads here for help! Lot’s of super knowledgeable people on here.
I have 3 glass carboys for wine and sours. They are awkward . You cand beat a bucket. The buckets are free when I buy 6gallons of grape juice. The lids have a blowout bung that I leave in for airtight grain storage. Knock it out and stuff an airlock in or just leave the lid loose. Instant fermenter. If I bought a fermenter it would be one of those boil/fermenter deals to do kettle sours in