Sunday, December 23, 2007

Brewing One Gallon Batches

I've brewed a good number of one gallon batches (view the list...here) in my day, and I'd like to share some things to consider while trying it for yourself. Overall, its a great way to experiment, to get in a small batch of something simple, to brew a batch as a yeast starter, or to use the vessels for tertiary aging with added flavors.

Both my Mother and Grandma drink cheap bulk Carlo Rossi wines by the 3 & 4 liter jug. Not really sure why, nor how they get through the whole thing before it gets even nastier. But, somehow it makes them happy, and I get as many jugs as I need.

I outfit these jugs with a #6 drilled stopper with a 3-4 inch piece of used plastic racking cane, and a section of hose for blow-off (view it...here). Then as kraeusen subsides an airlock goes in. For bottling, I simply drilled another small hole into a drilled #6 stopper, so a racking cane and a breather hose are inserted. Just snug in the jug, I blow to get the siphon going, and then lower the cane tip into the bottom corner as the beer nears the end.

The simplest way to make a one gallon batch is the extract way. I've had good results inputing all the ingredients into a recipe calculator. Everything is pretty much proportional to a full batch, and you can easily run a full-wort boil. Using a quality yeast is essential. Just cause its a small batch, or its a simple recipe for a quick brew, I recommend NOT using cheap dry yeast. Unless you are testing out yeast strains, go with the liquid yeast strain that is recommended for the style of beer you are going for.

I've brewed all-grain one gallon batches before using my "mini-masher," and the results haven't been all that great. Recently, I brewed four 1-gallon herbal beers, but the wort came from one 6 gallon mash. This is the preferred method, cause there is standardization, great quality is assured, and I get four experimental beers going in one brewday. In this case, with a measuring cup, I stir and pour equal portions from a 1 pint starter.

I usually will decant larger yeast starters before pitching into a full batch wort. Stepping it up, and letting it settle sometimes takes as long as fermenting a full batch. So, why not make this a productive use of time? I brewed the Official NBA this way, and it turned out pretty darn good, plus it revealed many broader qualities of Northern Brewer hops.

Though I haven't gone totally nuts with my experimental 1-gallons, in time I will. I have plans to make the most sour of sours, biggest of barleywines, and funkiest of funky beers. These jugs are great for doing this sort of stuff.

Lastly, these vessels work extremely well as tertiary aging vessels for a 3-4 liter portion of full batches. Use them to add oak to a sweet stout or hoppy pale ale. Add some fruit/spices/herbs to ambers, wheats and old ales. If you want to make something taste even older or funkier, add a packet of Brett, Lambic and/or Belgian yeasts. You can also make a portion of a full batch stronger by adding more fermentables and more yeast. Also, a 3-4 liter jug can be used to hold onto a bold beer for blending with batches in the future.

In the end, I think of brewing these batches as a way to try something different. I measure everything proportionally, as if I were brewing a full batch. At this proportionate level, it is important to weigh everything carefully using an accurate scale. I don't use a secondary with these beers. One downside, is that in the end, I only get about ¾ gallon of beer. But very recently, I found a primary vessel that can handle 1.5-2 gallons, and after transferring to a Carlo Rossi jug, the end product will end up at a full 128 ounces.

19 comments:

Brian said...

Hey Ted,

I think I'm going to try to follow suit here and get experimental this winter season. If I recall correctly you were experimenting with splitting up a lager batch last year, any words of advice on that front?
Cheers!
Brian

Ted Danyluk said...

Hi Brian,

Sure as heck-fire I have some advice. Have fun and play around with any secondary flavoring you want! Just remember to keep it moderate in proportion, cause a little goes a long way in those 4 liter jugs.

For mine (post on Feb 1st, 2007), I went with a golden base lager recipe, using up some old flavor malts and hops. The flavorings had to pair with that base recipe. I also kept one w/o flavorings.

What color/flavor of base lager are you thinking of?

If I were going with a dark roasted lager, then I'd pick other flavors like re-hydrated dark fruits, hops and light spice, cocoa, herbs, oak, or sugar.

Brew up and ferment your base lager, and be careful with the finishing hops. Then think about what flavor additions will go in the secondaries. Age those in a very cold spot (windowsill, indoor fire escape, garage, etc...). Be careful and bottle them when they are ALL finished. Anything with extra sugars (fruits, honey, sugar, malt, etc...) will continue to ferment, and you may want to keep that jug in a warmer spot for a number of days before lagering.

Also, when planning the primary volume, plan for a good 1/2+ gallons above what you plan to put into the secondary jugs. You want to end up with as little airspace as possible, but also not come up too short.

I can easily give you some jugs if you like. It would give us a good excuse to get together again.

Hope this helps some. Any other specific questions, I'd be ready to help out with.

Kevin said...

Fantastic post. That is why I read this blog. Also it's about beer.

I had a few questions, but I forgot all but one. I was wondering about yeast. If you are brewing one of these as a drinkable batch, as opposed to a starter, do you pitch a normal amount of yeast? Meaning, do you pitch a whole packet or smack pack or whatever, or do you use a smaller amount somehow? I've heard that overpitching can cause off flavors. If you DO use a smaller amount, how do get a hold of that (i.e. from yeast washing etc)?

The Bearded Brewer said...

Ted- thanks for posting such indepth info. I think I'd like to try to some smaller batches and that sounds like the perfect way. Plus for doing some lagers or bocks, it would be easy to fit a smaller vessel in a fridge.
- As for your citrus lager, how did you use your rinds. I made a beer using a cheese grater and rinds in the secondary. I had a similar reaction that you did, the cirtus was nice but faded. I wonder if boiling it towards the end of the boil would be the way to go. Just a thought. Thanks for the great info. Cheers.

Ted Danyluk said...

Thanks Kevin. I appreciate it. Good question.

Tell you the truth, I have not worried about yeast volume. I simply pitch a pack of yeast (dry or liquid), or some slurry (1/4-1/2 cup). I've found much shorter lag times pitching starters or reusing yeast cakes into full batches.

Lets say you went with the recommended 2 packs/tubes of liquid yeast for 5.5 gallons of 1.048 OG wort. Then you could split a pack into 2 jugs, but 1 pack/tube in 1 gallon is still not adversely overpitching, and A OK.

There are lengthy arguments about over/under-pitching yeast, and the pros & cons on both sides. I guess the "off flavor" of over pitching is "less" flavor.

I just keep it simple, and pitch what ever is available and convenient. For my 4 herbal beers, I thought it would be easier to make a 1/2 pint starter, then pour it into a 2 cup pyrex measuring pitcher. It was extremely easy to pour off equal portions into each fermenter.

Ted Danyluk said...

the bearded brewer,

I think I could have written even more details, so I may revisit this topic later on. For now, I like the continuing dialog.

Unless the shelves in the frig are set very wide, the air-locked jugs are too tall. It could fit into the frig with a special hose/pipe going from a stopper, through the grill of the shelf, and then an airlock fitted.

For the Citrus Lager, I used a potato peeler and it scraped just the rind without any pith. A little bit of 2 types of oranges and grapefruit rinds. The batch was brewed and fermented in bulk, so I didn't have the possibility to boil the rinds here, but I think it would be nice. Plus, after racking, you can decide if you want a little bit more.

I'd like to try a dry hopping of floral/piny hops with a very small dose of orange to give it a Cascade effect. So many options!

Brian said...

I dont really have any specific plans per se so far, but am looking forward to experimenting with my first lager batch. Lets get together for it!

Let me know if you have a 1/2 day available at any point and we will certainly hook back up and brew!

Merry Christmas to you and your readers!

Salute!
Brian

Ted Danyluk said...

Brian,

Sounds pretty good. I'm planning to brew my first lager of the season on the 6th. It will be an attempt to recreate the base copper lager I made for all the secondary flavorings. I thought the base beer was very good, and I want a bunch of that for early Spring. You are more than welcome to join in.

I will email you regarding availability. Also, I'd like the chance to buy you a pint of Half Acre Lager, if you haven't already tried it. We could play a little catch up, and perhaps brainstorm your lager recipe. I'm really happy you are into the all-grain process. It's much easier (for me) to think on those terms.

Talk to you soon.

CarpetGuy said...

Hey Guys,

I have known several brewers that do the 1 gallon batches for tests, but as you stated, you get a better control from brewing a 5 gallon base, then steeping a few specialty grains to make different styles. I have only one problem with that, I like my homebrew too much and a 1 gallon batch would just make me mad, it woud run out too soon! Thats just my 2 cents.

Anyway, love your site, I am putting you in my blogroll so that I can find you again. Have a cold one! Cheers!

Ted Danyluk said...

Thanks for your input carpetguy,

I somewhat agree. While experimentation at this level can get very tedious and time consuming, if the project is designed well enough, the outcome is great for learning. When it comes to secondary flavor additions, I now know what to do with the ingredients (& similar ingredients) I've tried. And I'm getting a better handle on how other ingredients play a role in other stages of brewing.

It takes quite a long time, using various ingredients, at different stages, to really "know" how best to use them. Portioning main batches to experiment with flavors is quite valuable to do every now and then. And when it comes time to brew a full batch of fruit beer, I've got a kick-butt blueberry ale 2 (informed by 1 gal. test batch) to inform how it will be made.

I think some people are driven by experimentation and entering the unknown. And some tend to stick with what works for them, and use what has worked for others. I find myself nestled somewhere right in between.

Tom said...

I gotta say, your small batches look awesome. How do you go about priming before bottling?

Ted Danyluk said...

Tom,

Good question. In the past I just stirred in the right amount of priming sugar (around .5-1 oz. corn sugar), let it sit for a bit while I got all the bottles (around 10) ready.

Since I've gravitated towards making one gallon batches as yeast starters, I've also been turned on to carbing drops/tabs. I prefer Cooper's drops over Munton's carb tabs because they dissolve completely. Munton's tabs always seem to leave a few small undissolved pieces...not really a problem other than unsightly.

Using these drops makes the brewday go much easier, cause I need to bottle this one gallon batch before pitching the yeast into a full 5-6 gallon batch.

Stirring in corn sugar with your racking cane is really the best if its not a yeast starter. Also, those carbs/tabs are pricey.

Thanks for your question and interest. Some of these small batches have been great successes, and have informed future batches. I highly encourage experimentation at this volume/level.

Pablo said...

This is a great idea! I jumped on the wagon and brewed up 3 small galon size batches last night. I used gallon size jugs, rubber stoppers and a blurbler for each one. I woke up this morning and found they'd blown the stopper out and sprayed hop/yeast mess all over my bathroom closet. What a mess. I'd suggest using regular size buckets in the future.

Anonymous said...

Hey,
Is this still a method you use? I just found a large and growing stash of these bottles and am looking at getting some more left field beers going. Do you have any new tips not covered in the posts?
At this point I am thinking of brewing a simple 5 gal. all grain and then steeping in differet specialty grains and different yeasts for each.
I would realy like to find a way to let a gallon pick up some wild yeast and make my own lambuc style as this method seems ideal for that, but that may need to wait till summer.
In any case, great blog and thanks for the great idea!
Seth

Ted Danyluk said...

Seth, I do use this method. Getting one main wort and sectioning it off in one gallon boils is great. Just plan for more wort (almost double) cause you will need to boil each one gallon batch for as long as your longest bittering hops are in, which means close to an evaporated .5-1 gallon per mini-batch.

You can experiment in any way you like. I think a pale ale with a different crystal malt steeped could be interesting. In the future I see one gallon batches being yeast starters. But when I want to experiment with separate boils, different hops, and secondary flavoring, I'll definitely do it again.

Thanks for checking. I'm happy you like my site.

Pablo, sorry for the tardy reply. I do use blow-off hoses for one gallon batches. They are typically filled to completely, and there is no room for any foam to go but up and out. I use the drilled stopper, a short section of plastic racking cane in the hole, and then a hose into a collection tub/dish. When it settles I switch the hose for an airlock.

Anonymous said...

Well I am jumping in with 2 gal. I will be putting them together this afternoon or this evening I hope. I was planing to do it yesterday but my wife got sick so I was taking care of kids in stead. In any case, Ill let you know how it goes. Thanks for the very good details on how you do this. Quite helpful and inspiring.
Seth

Dowzer said...

Hey Ted,

Just a quick question regarding these small batches, do I need to have a smaller vessel for fermentation or would my normal bucket and carboy work? Just curious if you've done any one gallons in a larger bucket. Thanks!

Ted Danyluk said...

Good question Dowser. I haven't tried fermenting these small batches in larger vessels. I'd say it's probably just fine. Just like in any other brew, the reproduction/lag-time would pretty much be the same. And as it begins to ferment and CO2 is produced, the layer of oxygen would be pushed out anyways. Don't see why not, so go for it.

Bill G said...

Would 1 gallon of wort produce enough Co2 to clear the empty air space in a 5 or 6.5 gallon bucket?
I might suggest going to the bakery section of your local supermarket bakery and getting a few of their smaller food grade buckets that icing comes in. You can drill a 3/8 inch hole in the lid, fit it with a grommet and use an air lock and I think you might find you wont have the oxidation issues of a 5 or 6.5 gallon bucket.