Home > Uncategorized > >An introduction to Small Batch Brewing.

>An introduction to Small Batch Brewing.

>I like brewing in small batches. It’s kinda what I do.

If you brew as frequently as I do (about once a week), and you brew 5 gallon batches, you either have to have lots of friends who live nearby (mine are a fair distance away), have a lot of beer take up a lot of room and go stale (wasteful), or be drunk all the time (Seemingly fun, yet unfortunately impractical).
About two years into my homebrewing journey, I was faced with this problem, and decided that in order to have a wide variety of great, fresh beer all the time, a 2.5 gallon batch size would be the best way to go. It’s worked well so far.
Pros:
1. Frequency: A brewer only improves his brewing by brewing. The more one brews, the better one’s beer gets. Small batches allow me to brew more frequently without worrying about waste.
2. Experimentation: When brewing small batches more consistently, one is less afraid to try something new. I feel far less guilty throwing away 2.5 gallons of overspiced or too bitter beer than 5 gallons.
3. Indoor all-grain brewing: My heat source is my stovetop. Smaller volumes mean a huge jet burner is unnecessary, which means when outdoor all-grain brewers are cursing the wind or rain, I’m thinking brewing is exactly what I should be doing when it’s ugly outside.
4. Cost: This is probably the most obvious advantage. Half the batch size means half the ingredients, which means half the cost. Throw in bulk ingredient purchasing and yeast reuse, and you can have a case of tasty homebrewed craft beer for as little as $12-$15.
5. Pitching rates: Don’t have time to build a starter? No problem. With small batches a single vial of White Labs or smack pack of Wyeast yeast is often enough cells right out of the package.
Of course, as with any brewing system, there are disadvantages.
Cons:
1. Thermal Mass: The less volume you have, both in the mash tun and in the fermenter, the less easily temperatures are held. I can usually expect a drop of 3-5 degrees F in the mash tun during a 60 minute mash, and my fermentations are unfortunately far too dependent on ambient temperature (that is, until I build my cellar.)
2. Precision: One has to be very precise with measurements when brewing small batches, particularly if, like me, you’re formulating recipes that are intended to be scaled up eventually. I’ve found that having separate scales for grain (pounds and ounces) and hops (grams) helps with this.
3. Sanitation: All brewers, even beginners, know the importance of cleaning and sanitization. With small batches it’s even more critical. Because you’re often dealing with vessels that are made for 5 gallon batches, you are working with the same amount of potential bacteria, and it takes far less time for that bacteria to spoil 2.5 gallons that 5.
4. Time: It takes almost as much time to brew a 2.5 gallon batch as a 5 gallon batch. Folks with a high-output burner on their stove won’t quite have the same issue, but waiting for your strike water to heat up is boring, no matter what size batch you’re brewing.
5. Friends: I don’t know about your friends, but mine can kill a case of beer in a night without hesitation. Especially when your beer is exceptionally tasty or sessionable (or worst of all, both) it can disappear quickly when in good company.
I credit brewing in small batches for the vast improvement in my beers over the last couple of years. I hope this blog can both inform and inspire my fellow homebrewers into doing the same.
Cheers!
Matt
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