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Upgrading from 1 to 5 Gallons?

Hi all! My husband and I are really new to home brewing, but we’re definitely enjoying it. We started by getting the 1 gallon kit, so that we could learn some together, and see how it went, before committing to a larger system/larger batches. Sure enough, we got hooked, and now we’re looking to upgrade. Bear with me, as we’ve only brewed three batches thus far - drank the first one over the weekend, next batch is in the fridge waiting until the 20th, and the batch after that we’ll probably be bottling this weekend (and brewing another batch, of course).

To be honest, we’ll probably be upgrading over the span of a couple of months - our first step is to get another refrigerator/chest freezer and hook up a thermostat so that we have a cool, dark, undisturbed place for fermenting. At the moment, our master bathroom has been sacrificed for fermentation, as it’s the coolest place in the house, and has no windows, but I’d really like to have it back…

My question is, aside from a new fermentor (or two?), and the aforementioned equipment for controlling fermentation temp, I’m really not sure what else we need to upgrade to 5 gallons. We have a kettle that’s large enough to suffice for now, I think. We’ve been cooking on an electric range, and I have a feeling that might not work well with larger batches, and am open to suggestions.

We’ve been cooling our wort in an ice bath in the kitchen sink, and I’ve completely confused myself looking at immersion chillers vs plate chillers, as I don’t relish the idea of buying several bags of ice per brew. We live in South Carolina, and our water temperature is around 75-80F, so I’m not completely certain what would be best for chilling the wort.

Any tips or suggestions would be hugely appreciated - we’re looking forward to upgrading, and I’m trying to put together a shopping list so we have an idea as to what our game plan is.

An electric range will work fine for partial boil extract kits. If you ever want to do full boils then you may consider a propane burner, however, I do full boils just fine with a MegaPot 1.2 on my electric stovetop.

Partial boil extract kits don’t require a huge pot, but if you want to do full boils from kits make sure you have at least an 8g preferable 10g pot.

Immersion chiller will work fine for you as long as you have a fermentation chamber (Freezer) to cool the rest of the way before pitching. If you don’t have a freezer then you can use ice in addition to the immersion chiller or use a bucket of ice and a pre-chiller.

Extract or all grain?

Currently we’re doing extract brews, but we’d like to move toward all grain in the future. We’ll probably start the all grain brews in the 1 gal, until we feel comfortable with them, and then move those over to 5 gal. We’ll still keep doing the 1 gal batches, we figure we’ll use those for experimentation.

Outdoor burners are great! Makes everything happen faster than waiting for water to heat on the stove. If you’re thinking of going to AG eventually, you’ll definitely want one. A pot that’s at least 10 gallons is handy, too. You can certainly start with an immersion chiller, and if you eventually switch to a counter-flow or plate chiller, you’ll find creative ways to use the immersion chiller, so it isn’t wasted.

There is a lot more to buy if going all grain. I would check out and start off using a cooler to mash in. Then there is water chemistry to learn. Don’t try to ignore this factor if going all grain.
My electric stove top was hardly up to the challenge of partial boils, let alone full boils. There are a number of propane burners out there. I purchased a Blichmann and I’m very satisfied.
Go with a 10 gallon pot vs an 8 gallon if doing full boils.
For fermentation I use a chest freezer. I will likely be purchasing a fridge to replace it though. Chest freezers cool VERY rapidly. If it kicks on to lower my beer temp just 1 degree, the ambient temp in the freezer could be in the 40s before the beer temp drops at all. Which means by the time the beer temp drops the ambient temps are low enough to cause the temp to keep dropping. This causes the ferm wrap heater to kick on and can put the yeast on a temperature roller coaster. Currently I have 2 temperature controllers controlling my freezer which is a bit ridiculous but it keeps my ambient temp from getting below 60 while still keeping my beer at a desired temp. I suspect I could avoid this with a fridge, but for now I have the problem solved.
For chilling I use an immersion chiller, a cooler and ice.

Welcome. I’m relatively new to 5 gallon batches myself. I used Mr. Beer for years with mixed results. I picked up a new copper immersion chiller on ebay with welded hose fittings for $50 delivered and it was one of the best investments above the basic necessities I’ve made. I brew partial mash, partial boil on my propane stovetop in a 5 gallon kettle. I usually end up with 3.5-3.8 gallons for the boil. To help get down to pitching temp, I buy a 2.5 gallon spring or distilled water container (~$2.50) and put it in the fridge or freezer on brew day to use for top up. I can get the wort to 80F in about 20 minutes (current tap temp is about 70F) with the IC and the cool top-up water takes it down into the 60’s. For full boils or all-grain, you might want to pick up a small water pump and use ice water in a cooler to circulate through the IC.

As far as additional equipment, if you don’t already have one, get a good hydrometer. I purchased a Brewery Essential Gravity kit

for under $15 when I bought the starter kit here and I would highly recommend it or something similar. It just takes a lot of guess work out of fermenting.

Happy brewing!

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