If it takes a similar amount of time and effort to brew 1-2 gallons of beer as it does to brew 5 gallons, why would anyone want to brew in small batches?
Brewers have the tendency to go bigger with equipment and batch size, as if bigger batches mean that you’re a better or more professional brewer. This scale often intimidates people who might be interested in homebrew. Why brew 5 gallons when you can do 10? Why do 10 gallons when you can easily do 15, and so on down the rabbit hole.
Small batch brewing is not only a smaller, less intimidating, and more affordable option, but it’s also a much easier and enjoyable process.
Which brings me to my first point.
For the Love of the Brew
Once I had to brew 15 gallons of beer to fill a whiskey barrel and it was a total of 8 hours of brewing to get it all done. I burned my hand, spilled a bunch of grain, broke a hydrometer and had to work by flashlight after the sun went down. I was angry, tired and very frustrated, so much so that I didn’t brew again for a while.
Which means I can concentrate on my process, take better notes and experiment more.
I love the brewing process as much as I enjoy drinking the finished product, and with small batch brewing my quality has increased, my stress lowered and it doesn’t feel like work anymore.
Our Favorite Small Batch Brewing Equipment
Small Batch Brewing Takes Up Less Space
Brewing takes up space. Whether it be the fermentation buckets, glass carboys, bottles, chilling coils or the brew pots, they all need a place to go and be stored. In our tiny little apartment, space is at a premium. Over the years we’ve gotten very creative and store 5 gallon carboys under the desk and in the closet, we store bottles above the kitchen cabinets, on our bookshelves, dressers or anywhere else we can find a smidgen of space. It’s not ideal, but it works.
However, when we move into an RV we won’t have that tiny amount of extra space.
Every 5 Gallon batch makes 48 bottles of beer that need to be stored and then eventually consumed. If we’re going to try and brew often, we’re going to end up with a lot of extra beer to haul around.
Each 1 gallon batch makes about 10 bottles, which should be plenty for us to enjoy and share with others.
Small Batch Brewing Takes Less Time
As mentioned above, it takes about the same amount of time to brew 1 gallon as it does 5 gallons, but there are tons of places where we end up saving time:
- Bringing water to a boil is super quick
- Cooling the finished wort is even faster
- Transferring and aerating finished wort is a snap
- Clean up time is almost non-existent
- No need to create yeast starters
- Bottling can be done in 10 minutes
All these things add up to about 45 to 90 minutes saved on brew day and 30 minutes or more on bottling day.
There's Lower Risk When Brewing 1 Gallon Batches
I love brewing funky, experimental beers using local ingredients and seasonal items, and trying new recipes. I’m pretty excited about all the different styles, rare ingredients and crazy brews we can try on the road.
However, it’s unlikely every batch will be amazing and some might be downright undrinkable. Like the time I made a brew with chanterelle mushrooms and I had such high hopes for the beer that I actually made extra.
With smaller batches, a lot of that fear is gone if something doesn’t turn out ideal. We can experiment, brew more often, and try new things. Worst case scenario, it’s only 1 gallon of homebrew and about $15 worth of ingredients.
This is also great for home brewers who want to try all-grain, but are hesitant to make the full investment.
You Save Money Brewing Smaller Batches
As I mentioned before, home brewers love their toys and brewing bigger and bigger batches. I love beer as much as the next guy but I can only drink so much.
Here are some of the areas that you can save money by going small batch:
- Ingredient costs are lower for each batch
- No big pots, which means no big burners
- Energy costs are much less (gas or electric)
- No need for an immersion/plate chiller
- Lower water costs
- No need to buy additional bottles
- No need for a fancy mash-tun with a false bottom
- No crazy exhaust system
- No expensive glass carboys or stainless fermentors
The risk, stress, cost, space, and time of brewing have all been reduced to a much more manageable size for RV life. And if we ever come up with a recipe that we love, we can always team up with another homebrewer and make a larger batch.
We hope that our reasoning for switching to small batch brewing will diminish any fears you may have and maybe inspire you to give it a try.
I’m always open to any questions you might have in your homebrewing journey, and hope to share a beer with you someday!
Recommended Equipment for Brewing Small
Sous Vide Device
We’ve had an Anova Sous Vide stick for a couple years now, using it for mainly cooking, and absolutely love it. A sous vide device not only heats water to a precise temperature, but also circulates the water.
It wasn’t until I started brewing smaller batches that I thought of using it for mashing my grains. So simple and easy to use, and I know my mash temp is dead on every time. The new Anova Nano is even smaller with the same power. Perfect for 1-3 gallon batches, anything larger and I would go with at least 1000W sous vide device.
While any sous vide device will work, I like that the Anova has both manual controls and bluetooth connectivity.
Little Big Mouth Bubbler
This is probably our favorite glass carboy we’ve ever owned. It’s perfect for 1 Gallon batches of wine, beer, kombucha, etc. and doesn’t take up much space. It holds 1.4 gallons of liquid, has a big top opening which makes it easy to clean and add fruit, hops or anything else you want to add to your brew.
If we had more space I’d have about a dozen of these fermenting everything from beer and wine to vinegar and koji.
Kitchenaid Flour Mill
Having a grain mill means that you can store uncrushed grains for longer and mill them just before brewing. Downside is that most grain mills are big, bulky, and don’t really have any other uses.
Enter the Kitchenaid Flour Mill. I love dual use devices so this little attachment makes our mixer even more useful. Set on the coarsest setting, this Kitchenaid attachment is perfect for crushing a small amount of malt. Breaks it up just enough without completely pulverizing it. And also makes great flour whenever we want to bake up a loaf of sourdough.
I wouldn’t use it for larger grain bills though, after milling 6 or so lbs of grain the kitchenaid starts to get really hot and could damage the motor. however if you’re patient you could mill in batches after the motor cools down.