On the road to becoming a great homebrewer, great beer is made by the small, consistent steps you take. Don’t be ashamed of starting small and dreaming big.
After all, that’s how all great homebrewers started!
If you want an inexpensive way to start homebrewing or don’t have the funds or living space to invest in large equipment, you can always start with small-batch brewing!
Here’s everything you need to know about brewing small batches, including a sample recipe for you to try.
What is Small Batch Brewing?
Small batch brewing refers to brewing smaller batches or batches less than 5 gallons.
Apart from the equipment and materials, you’ll need for small-batch brewing, you just need some patience, commitment, and effort to go hand-in-hand in making your small-batch brew. One small batch, for example, a gallon can produce 6 12 ounce bottles.
Finally, small-batch brewing also relies on two methods: all-grain and extract brewing.
How Does it Differ From Regular Brewing?
Regular brewing and small-batch brewing are more or less similar to one another. One difference between the two is the batches produced.
Small-batch brewing falls between 1 gallon to 5-gallon batches, while regular brewing produces more than 5-gallon batches.
The homebrewing process of small-batch is similar to regular brewing, only that the recipes and procedures are scaled down for smaller batches such as 1-gallon, 2-gallon, and so forth.
One of the biggest differences is the flexibility, and inexpensive quality small-batch brewing provides. You’ll have more flexibility when it comes to equipment and space.
Essentially, you’ll need fewer ingredients, smaller equipment, and a lower brew volume, making it easy to produce a batch of beer in less time than your typical brew day.
Benefits of Small Batch Brewing
Brewing in small batches comes with a wide range of benefits.
Whether you’re thinking of brewing a small batch of beer or just want to try out new out-of-this-world recipes, small-batch brewing is an avenue to help you spread those wings.
1. Cheaper Equipment & Ingredients
Brewing in small batches means scaling down the recipes as well. With this, you don’t need as many ingredients or large equipment to brew 3 gallons worth of beer compared to brewing 6 gallons.
At the very least, 5 gallons should be the limit for small-batch brewing; however, 2 gallons or 3 gallons are great starting points if you don’t feel you can commit financially to a more expensive brew batch.
2. Faster Brewing Time
It takes less time to bring a 2-gallon batch to a boil compared to a 10-gallon batch. Similarly, cooling your wort down is faster; thus, there’s less lag time between steps before adding your yeast.
3. Ideal for Trying Out New Recipes
Imagine having to brew a 10-gallon batch using sweet potato & buckwheat, pomegranate, or even chocolate mint.
Some of these recipes do sound appealing, but what happens if you brew this kind of beer and don’t like it? Not only will it become waste, but it also means you spent a lot of cash for something you’re not willing to keep in the end.
Although taking risks and experiments are elements that have produced award-winning homebrews, why not take that risk scaled down to just a few gallons?
A 1-gallon or 2-gallon batch is perfect for trying out new recipes or weird, strange ideas that pop in your head.
The best part is if you do love that drunk-crazy recipe you experimented with, you can always tweak it and scale it to fit larger batches.
4. More Variety
This is similar to having the advantage or benefit of trying new recipes.
If you enjoy drinking a variety of beer or you’re wildly curious to try out different homebrews, small batches are a better fit or accommodation for satisfying your curiosity.
5. Less Space Needed
This is perfect for those who want to get into homebrewing but feel like they can’t because they live in a small apartment.
A 3-gallon kettle is no problem for your stove, and even better, it’s easier to transport, store, and work with.
6. More Brewing Experience
In the world of small batches, experiments, and driving your curiosity is one of the biggest elements to opening opportunities to your homebrewing experience.
If you love to brew new recipes and are the daring type, sure that might mean more failures than success, but on top of that, you get a profound experience and learn a lot faster that way.
Also, using a variety of spices and ingredients for your next beer brew makes it easier to manage the amount of beer you have stored at home. In effect, you can be even more daring with your endeavors.
7. Easier Cleanup
Having smaller and fewer equipment means cleaning is a lot easier to do at the end of every brew day. Smaller carboys and kettles are far easier to lift and clean in your kitchen sink compared to a 15-gallon kettle.
8. Adding Yeast Isn’t An Issue
For one 5-gallon batch, a packet of yeast has just enough cells for wort with a gravity between 1.040 and 1.060.
For even smaller batches like 2 or 3 gallons, one packet of yeast should be plenty and more than adequate, even if you brew high-gravity wort.
As a bonus, you’ll worry less about yeast pitching rates and won’t have to go through the hassle of dealing with a yeast starter and stir plate.
Sample Recipe: Pale Ale (1 Gallon)
Now that we’ve talked about what small-batch brewing is and the benefits it provides for your homebrewing experience, let’s dive into a sample recipe and give you a closer glimpse.
If you love APA, this is the recipe for you! Here’s what you’ll need first:
- (1) US-05 Brewer’s yeast
- Either 1.5 lbs. of liquid malt extract or 2 lbs. of crushed pale malt
- 1 ounce of Cascade Hops
- Filtered spring water
- 3-gallon or 5-gallon kettle
- Brewer’s gloves
- Digital kitchen scale
- Digital thermometer
- Mash stirrer
- Food-grade bucket
- Primary fermentation bucket (2-gallon)
- Glass carboy (1-gallon – used for secondary fermentation)
- Mash stirrer
- 3-piece airlock
- Auto siphon
- Hydrometer or refractometer
- Beer bottles (12 oz.)
- Bottle Capper
- Beer bottle caps (unpressed)
- Brewing sanitizer
- Vinyl tubing (food-grade)
- Bottle filler
With all the ingredients and equipment ready, we’ll go through each step thoroughly. Let’s begin!
Preparing Your Mash
- Set 7 liters of water in your kettle to 170 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Slowly add your crushed pale malt. Once you’ve added your malt, stir thoroughly using your mash stirrer. Make sure all the malt extract dissolves properly.
A word of caution: Don’t add your malt extract when your water is already boiling. This will lead to an over-boil, leaving you with a huge mess to clean up after.
Adding Your Hops
- As your wort nears boiling temp., make sure to keep a close eye on your kettle. If you notice the wort rise quickly, you can lower the heat or remove the kettle from the stove to let it cool down for a while. Your wort should also boil for an hour, so you can use the timer on your phone or a digital timer.
- During the one-hour boil, you’ll be adding your hops in. We recommend adding your hops in three stages. First, divide the 1 ounce (28.35 grams) Cascade hops you bought into three measurements. This should result in 9.45 grams or 9.5 grams per hop.
As soon as your wort boils, set your timer to 60 minutes and follow these measurements:
- 60 minutes left – Add the first 9.5 grams of Cascade hops. This will help balance the sweet wort by giving your beer a bitter taste to it.
- 30 minutes left – Add the second 9.5 grams of Cascade hops. This will enhance both the hop flavor and bitterness of your beer.
- 15 minutes left – Add the final 9.5 grams of Cascade hops. This will provide your beer with a crisp and refreshing aroma.
Cool Your Wort
After one hour of allowing your wort to boil, submerge your kettle in an ice bath in the kitchen sink. Make sure to close the lid of your kettle when doing this.
To do this, simply plug a stopper in your sink drain and fill it with cold water and ice.
Note: The temperature of your wort should cool down to a temperature of 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Use your thermometer to check the temperature regularly.
Clean Your Equipment & Workspace
While your wort is cooling down, you’ll have to sanitize all the apparatus you’ll use for the next steps.
You mustn’t allow bacteria or any other contaminants to infect your beer. If they do, your beer could turn out unpleasant in taste and aroma.
- Fill your food-grade bucket with the brewing sanitizer and water. Follow the proper directions when adding your sanitizer.
- Soak your auto-siphon, 3-piece airlock, 2-gallon fermentation bucket, and vinyl tubing in your food-grade bucket. Keep all this soaked for 5 minutes.
Aerate Your Wort and Pitch Your Yeast
- Grab your auto-siphon and vinyl tubing, transfer your cooled wort to your primary fermentation bucket.
- After you’ve transferred your cooled wort, you can finally aerate it.
- Snap the lid of your fermentation bucket, cover the hole on top with a piece of aluminum foil (make sure it’s sanitized), and shake well. This will keep your yeast happy and healthy.
- Shake the wort for 5 minutes.
- Once you’re done shaking your wort, add the yeast to your wort. Use only 1/4 of the package.
Word of caution: Don’t use the whole packet. Since you’re only making 1 gallon worth of wort, 1/4 should be sufficient. 1 package of yeast is ideal for 5 gallons of wort.
Once you’ve pitched your yeast, the fermentation process will start, which will occur for two weeks.
First Week: Primary Fermentation
- Grab your airlock and add it to your primary fermentation bucket.
- After placing the airlock, store the bucket in a cool, dark place for one week.
Note: If you notice any bubbles starting to form in the airlock after 12 hours, this is a good sign your yeast is eating the sugar and converting the wort into carbon dioxide and alcohol.
Second Week: Secondary Fermentation
- Sanitize your glass carboy first.
- Transfer the contents in your primary fermentation bucket into your glass carboy.
- At the bottom of your primary fermentation bucket, you’ll find a layer of trub (particles that settled out of your brew)
- When transferring from your primary fermentation bucket into the glass Corboy, make sure to leave the trub in the bucket. This will help keep your beer clear and pleasant to taste.
- Add the rubber stopper and airlock to your corboy, then store it in a cool, dark place for another week.
Bottle Your Beer
- Sanitize your vinyl tubing, auto-siphon, beer caps, beer bottles, and bottle filler.
- Attach one end of the vinyl tubing to the auto-siphon and the other end to your bottle filler. The bottle filler should help your beer from flowing until you want to begin the filling process.
- Set the auto-siphon in the beer and start filling. You’ll also want to place a baking sheet on your floor with your beer bottles on it. This will help catch any beer that spills while you’re filling.
- Add priming sugar, or you can use priming sugar tablets to be safe onto each bottle. 3 priming tables should be enough.
- Take your bottle filler and place it in the bottle, then press it down at the bottom. When it reaches the bottleneck, take your bottle filler out to stop the filling.
- Place one beer cap on the bottle you just filled and repeat the process for the remaining bottles.
- Using your bottle capper, lock all the beer caps in place.
- Store your finished beers in a cool, dark place away from anything breakable or fragile. Let these sit or condition for two weeks.
- After two weeks of conditioning, you can cool them in the fridge and drink them right up!
Not Just Your Average Ordinary Brew Day
If this was your first time making your first batch, congratulations!
One gallon is more than enough to call you a certified homebrewer. Now that you’ve learned all the steps there is to small-batch brewing, don’t be afraid to take leaps and upgrade from 1-gallon to 5-gallon batches.
Of course, 5 gallons might sound overwhelming right now, but later on, you might even feel it’s too small.
Finally, don’t be afraid to try different methods or use different malt extracts, spices, and sugars to add to your brew recipe. You can even try using a grain bag as a new method to try out.
After a couple of months of homebrewing, if you want to move into all-grain brewing, using a grain bag will help you get started quickly.
Who knows, this first experience might just make you open a small-batch brewery of your own someday. Until then, happy brewing!!