I’m new to all-grain brewing and I still consider myself an amateur homebrewer after two years of brewing. I’ve brewed about a dozen batches of beer and I’m still learning new techniques every time I do it. I was scrolling through my Twitter feed one day and stumbled upon a link posted by E.C. Kraus about small batch brewing. It inspired me and made me realize I should be brewing single gallon batches of beer when venturing into new territories. A lot of my brewing up to this date has come from recipe kits by Northern Brewer, and as great as they are, it makes me want to make my own. The only hesitation I have is that if I brew a regular 5-gallon batch of beer and it doesn’t come out that great, then I’m stuck with a lot of beer that’s not even that good. Single-gallon batches enable me to cook them on my glass stove-top range and would yield about 9 or 10 beers. That’s enough to decide whether or not the recipe is a success or a failure and would ultimately help me decide on whether or not the beer is keg-worthy. It’s also a good way to experiment with different levels of ingredients. So, what the hell – I gave it a go.
Yesterday, I made my first experimental batch of Lavender IPA. You’re probably reading this and thinking ‘Lavender? Gross…’. My response to that is to try something new. Ever have pickles and peanut butter? Sounds gross but it’s down-right delicious, so don’t be such a hard-head because that’s what homebrewing is all about. My recipe included a base grain of Maris Otter along with Caramel 40L for some color and complexity. I used a single variety of hops, Centennial, and introduced the lavender late in the boil, around the 2-minute mark. My thinking with the lavender is that it would enhance the floral notes of the Centennial hops and deliver an IPA that would confuse the hell out of a craft beer enthusiast.
Learned Something New
I like to share my success stories just as much as my failures, so first and foremost – evaporation rate (and this is strictly inexperience). I’ve been doing 5 gallon batches since I started brewing. I never scaled it down to a smaller batch. My ingredients were easy. I simply scaled everything down to 20% of the normal recipe. The thing I didn’t realize, or even think about, is that your evaporation rate will merely be the same amount regardless of the size of your initial volume. This is assuming the surface area of the wort and the temperature of your boil is roughly the same. So, long story short, if you’re boiling 7 gallons, 2 gallons, or 15 gallons, you can count on a fixed number (roughly) of loss regardless of the batch’s size.
As far as the approach I took for making a small batch, I went with mashing in a fine roslin bag directly in the brew kettle. After a 60-minute mash rest, I removed the bag with the grain and let it drip through a strainer/colander that sat nicely on top of my stainless pot. I then poured the 170 degree strike water slowly over the grain, then poured all the wort over the grain again. This worked great and accomplished 2 things for me:
1) It rinsed the grain thoroughly to get all the sugar out of the grain that I could.
2) It filtered out the wort and I was left with a very clean pot of wort.
I started heating the wort as the grain dripped through the strainer and the process was very familiar from there. I was forced to add some water to the fermentor to get to the proper gravity after too much evaporation. It’s a mistake I can live with and will definitely learn from. Be sure to comment on any tips you have with small batch all-grain methods.
Follow-up post will follow after fermentation/bottling. Follow-up post along with the recipe is here.