Single Gallon All-Grain – Attempt #1

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.

The Method

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.

3 thoughts on “Single Gallon All-Grain – Attempt #1

  1. This is something I am really interested in getting into in the new year. I want to brew more styles and not be tied down to waiting until huge amounts if beer are gone before I can brew again. Two questions.

    Do you find that it takes the same amount of time as full batches?

    How were your gravities after sparge? Was it easy to hit your target?

    Good article!

    1. Hey Alex – I’m actually doing two single-gallons tomorrow. I’ll be making a vanilla cream ale and an oaked porter. Small batches are great for experimenting with ingredients to test the waters before you make that big batch – and you’re right about waiting forever between 5-gallon batches. Sometimes it takes quite a while, especially when you have 3 sitting in kegs. The thing about working with smaller amount of wort is that there is far less room for error. If you have good attention to detail and measure your water correctly, you shouldn’t have much of a problem hitting your numbers before and after the boil. Just pay attention to that evaporation rate!

      It does take about the same amount of time, since your mash rest is for an hour and the boil is an hour. You save some time heating up your water and cooling the wort since your scale is so much smaller and cleaning up seems a lot easier too. I do my small batches indoors, so having everything right there in the kitchen is nice and convenient. I’m glad I did the small batch with my experimental lavender IPA. The lavender was overpowering and if I were to do it again, I’d probably only use about a third of the amount I did. Give it a shot and let me know how it goes. I love brewing and this allows you to do it more often. Cheers bud.

    2. Yeah brewing more often is for sure what I want to start doing, so this seems like the way to go. I have an electric canning boiler that I have been using as a HLT for my big brews. The other day I tested that it could get 10 liters to boil, and it did. So I think I am going to start doing some small batch electric brewing!

      Yeah I will have to get a good accurate evaporation rate for it, good thing I have a nice guide now. Looking forward to the review of those beers, and more brewing in the new year. Cheers man!

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