Fun with Small Batch Brewing

A few weeks ago I decided to try and make a 1 gallon all grain batch using the BIAB (Brew In A Bag) method.  I had a Blackberry Wheat beer recipe that I wanted to try out but not invest in a full 5 gallon batch.  I ran into several issues which have led me to think that I should have just done a 5 gallon batch. 🙂

First, do not try to brew on an electric stove!  It took close to an hour to get my strike and sparge water to temperature (each time). Getting to the boil was also that long as well.

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I ended up finding a 2 gallon Igloo cooler which worked well for a 1 gallon batch.  However, I forgot to pre-heat the mash tun and I had to add more hot water then I wanted to.

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I mashed in the Igloo cooler for 60 minutes.  My thermometer told me I lost about 2 degrees which isn’t too bad. It doesn’t look like a lot but I did get some nice wort out of the first runnings.

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Small batch calculations get crazy when converting a 5 gallon recipe to a 1 gallon.  I used Brewsmith to do this automatically but it was still a pain because my digital scale only has a graduation .05 oz which means I can get close but not exact. This is a problem with measuring hops to an exact amount. Thanks to my wife Jill for helping me out with this since I’m not as patient as her. The picture below shows the grain bag soaking in the sparge water.  I soaked the bag like a tea bag for about 15 minutes, dipping it in and out and rinsing the grains as much as possible.  Once done sparging I combined the wort from the Igloo cooler with the wort in the boil pot and started the boil.

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Again, getting to the boil took forever on an electric stove.  I won’t be doing that again…next time I’ll head outside and use the propane burner, even if it’s 12 degrees outside. 🙂  The last issue encountered was that I used White Labs American Hefeweizen (WLP320) yeast (about a half a tube) and this is a very slow yeast to get started without a yeast starter.  However, after about 12 hours I finally started to see a head of foamy krausen start which is a good sign that my yeast is happy.  I fermented in a 5 gallon carboy.  During primary fermentation its OK to use a larger carboy since all the headspace will be filled with CO2.  Headspace only becomes an issue in secondary if you rack to a secondary for dry hopping or clearing.

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About a week later I racked to a 1 gallon jug and added about 5 oz of de-thawed frozen Blackberries (Giant Eagle brand).  You can see in the picture below that the beer has a nice purple tint to it from the Blackberries.  I’ll bottle in about a week or so and savor the results a few weeks after that.  One other thing to note is that I’ll probably increase the grains so I don’t have to sparge.  Grain is cheap, why not? For this recipe I ended up with about 50% efficiency.  Not great.

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2 thoughts on “Fun with Small Batch Brewing

  1. Hi Tom. I understand your frustration with the stovetop. I have the same problem. You may want to try a double crush on your BiaB to improve efficiency. More grain would work too, as you said.

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