Friday, May 31, 2013

Why I One Gallon Brew: An Unsolicited Rebuttal

Over the weekend someone showed me a blog post about one gallon brewing. ( I was excited to see that more and more people are accepting the fact that smaller batches are feasible.  That was until I was catching up on some reading online last night and stumbled onto the reddit post about this blog post. (

Let me preface this rant response by saying that I love reddit and I am always giving people suggestions and asking questions myself.  It is a great little community.  I love that it is a small place that is more restrained than some of the bigger forums that are just 10,000 people thinking their opinion is right.  Usually on the homebrewing subreddit people are open to discussion about why a particular method works or doesn't and what it best for that situation.  Now on to the fun part.

I will just post a response that article got and then my response to that.  If anyone wants to respond there is a comment section below and I will happily talk about why I like one gallon brewing.

  • The only problem is.. you end up with 8 pints.. for nearly the same amount of work.
The same can be said the other why around.  Why not brew 10 gal? 15? 20?  The reason that I homebrew is not so that I have a lot of beer.  Trust me, for a lot less work, time, and money I can go buy beer at the store down the street. (and I still do)  I am brewing to learn how to make the best beer possible, not the most.

  • Might work for some people, but at the end of the day, why brew if you don't have enough to share with family and friends? Also, there is less room for error in smaller batches, e.g. more fluctuation of mash temps, more exacting measuring is required, caramelization may make more as there is much more surface area per gallon of wort, etc....
I have plenty to share with family and friends.  The fact that I am brewing smaller batches doesn't mean that I am brewing less.  I make between 1-3 batches a week right now.  While I may not be able to give out a 6 pack of my brew to a friend, I can give them a 6 pack of 6 different batches.  Variety is the spice of life.  When I got into craft beer, once a week and I would spend the afternoon making a nice dinner and grab what ever sampler pack we hadn't tried yet. When we ran out of samplers, we moved to mix sixes.  I would rather have 6 different beers than 6 of the same.  So variety is nice when you can brew this many different batches at a time.
There are some things that you have to take into consideration when brewing one gallon batches.  More precise measurements is one of them.  Measure carefully, but you don't have to pull out the microscope to do it.  For water I use a 1 quart measuring cup.  I use a simple analog scale for my grain that I use at work for every other customer buying grain.  I have a jeweler's scale (or a dealer's scale if you ask Amazon's "User's also bought:" list) for my hops.  My oven's warm setting is at 160F and if I am mashing even as low as 148F, I don't see a significant rise in temps over 90 minutes (less than 0.5F).  If you are using your 5-10 gallon kettle to boil your one gallon batch, then yes your boil off will be insane and you will caramelize the wort much quicker.  As with anything though, the right tool for the job is required.  I use a 3 gallon stainless kettle I bought from Walmart for under $10.  The height to width ratio is comparable to my 7.5 gallon kettle (yes I still do 5 gallon batches from time to time, but most do 1 gallon).

  • This article is insane. What type of crazy person spends that long brewing beer in such a small yield... AND THEN CAN'T GET RID OF IT?!
Can't speak for the original author here.  Only going to say that if you brew often enough to have a variety of beer, it is quite easy to accidentally start a stockpile and have too much just sitting around.

  • I brew at least once a week and still cannot keep up with home much beer I drink. This is ridiculous. 
Then 5 or 10 gallons works better for you.  That doesn't mean the idea is ridiculous.  Some people a dozen cookies when they bake, others make 200.  It all depends on your needs.  Just because someone else's needs are different doesn't make it a bad idea, just not something for you.

  • I can only laugh after reading this. I'm in the process of going towards 10 gallon batches instead of 5.
As said before, then 1 gallon batches aren't for you.  Many one gallon brewers would laugh at you for making 10 gallons of IPA that will most likely fade before you are done drinking it.  I still brew 5 gallons and am working on my 10 gallon system right now.  However that is only used for long term aging beers such as Imperial Stouts, Barleywines, and sours.  I still even brew 1 gallon test batches first to make sure that it is a sound recipe for me (except the sours).

  • When you make a great beer you only have 1 gallon of it! Possibly less if tested gravity. You spend nearly the same amount of time making 1 gallon as you would making 5 gallons.
Yes, you do only have 1 gallon of it, however you should be able to replicate that process and make more.  If you can't rebrew a beer and have it come on with some semblance of consistency then you really need to take a look at how you are brewing and make some changes. That way you also get fresh beer.
Yes it is nearly the same amount of time, what difference does that make?  It takes nearly the same amount of time to brew 30bbl of beer also.  Still doing a mash and boil.  I really don't understand this argument at all.  I brew because I like to brew.  If I get to do it twice a week I could spend $30 a batch to make 5 gallons at a time, or $5 to brew one gallon.  I'm not going to drink 10 gallons in a week, but I want to brew more than once.  So I drop my batch size.  The time spent doing it isn't wasted, its spent doing a hobby that I love and am passionate about.  If people want to clock themselves into their homebrewery and work while brewing and make a big deal about how much they are getting for the time, go ahead.  I, on the other had, will just brew to brew and I don't need stacks of cases lining my house to still enjoy the hobby.

  • So, how exactly does one all-grain at that scale? BIAB? Just mash in the boil kettle and remove the bag before boiling? A side note, for those worried about yeast costs: starters! You could do a bunch of small batches from one packet of yeast.
THANK YOU!  A smart question about it that isn't just berating the idea.  And an intelligent thought about how to do it!  Now to actually answer the question.  I do a BIAB, but have seen people convert 1-3 gallon drink coolers to be little mash tuns.  Just because it is small doesn't mean anything has to be different.

That is enough of a rant for this post.  So the moral of the story is: brew to brew, whether it be 1 gallon or 1 bbl.  I do highly suggest that people try out 1 gallon brewing if only for your craziest ideas.  I could never have afforded my IIPA braggot recipes at a 5 gallon scale do to the massive amount of hops and honey.  However, at 1 gallon I could do them and rebrew them when the time came and I wanted more.  It also gives you a chance to play around with new ingredients.  Any time when get something new to the store that I want to play with, I can without worrying about making 5 gallons of weird beer.  My smoked porter, honestly tastes like I'm licking a fire pit and I have dumped both bottles I have opened.  I will probably end up dumping most of the batch.  Had that been 5 gallons it would have sucked.  So go brew a 1 gallon test batch.  Do some single hop IPA's with new hops to see what they taste like.  Do a sahti, do a mead, do whatever sounds good.  Want to put a bunch of juniper berries in an Irish Red, go for it.

We are in this hobby because we have fun doing it.  So go have fun.


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