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Test Batches

Discussion in 'Homebrewing' started by goodonezach, Aug 12, 2012.

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  1. goodonezach

    goodonezach Mar 24, 2011 New York

    Hi all,

    My dad and I are basically the only two people who drink our homebrew, so we don't go through it very quickly. Since we're on somewhat of a budget, we typically brew one batch as we finish up the one before it, so we don't have a pipeline of different beers constantly fermenting/conditioning. However, there are SO many recipes we want to try out, that at our pace, it would take years to get to them. I was considering doing 1-2 gallon test batches before we brew our next five-gallon one, so we can give ourselves an opportunity to decide either "wow this is awesome, let's make more" or "nah, i wouldn't want five gallons of this," aside from just having a method to work out kinks in recipes. Has anyone tried anything like this before? I was thinking of doing BIAB on the kitchen stove, then getting either a mr. beer bucket or splitting the batch between growlers for fermentation before bottling as usual...
  2. cmmcdonn

    cmmcdonn Jun 21, 2009 Virginia

    Being nothing more than my own personal opinion, I dislike the idea of such small batches. I believe in working smart, not hard. Since 2 gals takes the same amount of attention and effort as 5, I don't see a real benefit in making such a small amt.

    If you post a recipe here before brewing, you will get some honest and experienced feedback.
  3. dgs

    dgs Jul 18, 2005 Pennsylvania

    The MrBeer fermenter works well for smaller size batches. Since you mentioned budget, you may be able to pick up a free or cheap 3.5 gallon empty icing bucket from a supermarket bakery dept. These also work well.
  4. Ilanko

    Ilanko Aug 3, 2012 New York

    I will defiantly split the 5 gals in to two or three carboys, using different yeast or additives in a "test way"
    Recycled yeast vs. fresh one
    Oak chips vs. none
    Secondary vs. none
    maybe variety of fermentation temperature and terms
    if you do something like that you will get different beer from the same batch and you will learn a lot.
  5. Homebrew42

    Homebrew42 Dec 20, 2006 New York

    People make 1-2 gallon batches all the time, it's not at all unheard of. It does suck though when something comes out awesome and basically all you have is a 6-pack.
    inchrisin and goodonezach like this.
  6. goodonezach

    goodonezach Mar 24, 2011 New York

    well the idea was to do a few batches at a time so they ferment together. for the sake of ease, i wasn't planning on playing around with fermentation temps too much just yet, so we'd have three or four batches in the same swamp cooler. i don't mind the extra work if i get to experiment more.
  7. HerbMeowing

    HerbMeowing Nov 10, 2010 Virginia

    MrB's little brown keg can ferment batch sizes up to 9-L (2.45G).
    Perfect for low consumption brewers.
    - Ten bucks each.
    - They fit easily inside a chest cooler along with two...22-oz bottles of frozen water for controlled fermentation temperature.
    - Easy to clean.
    AlCaponeJunior and goodonezach like this.
  8. PangaeaBeerFood

    PangaeaBeerFood Nov 30, 2008 New York

    I agree with the Mr. Beer fermenter. It's great for test batches and so many people buy them, then either hate brewing and never use it again or love it and upgrade to better equipment. I find them basically for free on Craigslist all the time.
  9. Riccymon

    Riccymon Jan 15, 2007 Texas

    I've been brewing a few one-gallon batches for the sake of experimentation. Grapefruit zest and grains of paradise in an IPA. My first Belgian styles. Mint stout. Might mess around with juniper berries somewhere down the line. I use a glass jug like this one to ferment: http://www.austinhomebrew.com/product_info.php?products_id=1688. I've played around with the idea of making 3 gallons of wort and dividing it among 3 of those jugs and toying with different variables.

    The amount of work required for just 8-9 12 oz. bottles of brew isn't awesome, but like you say, it's better than having 5 gallons of something undrinkable. I can do my mashes on the kitchen stove, so that's a little more convenient than outside on a burner. I have had some headaches adjusting my process, though--things like finding the right amount of priming sugar (.3 oz vs .4? In such a small volume of beer, there's not much room for error). Also, boil-off becomes a bigger concern, as I want to take advantage of every bit of space in that little jug. The first couple batches, I boiled off too much and added water. The third batch, I sparged a little extra and ended up with too much wort.

    I've also brewed quite a few 2.5 gallon batches, and I prefer that route if I'm reasonably comfortable with my recipe. Almost the exact same equipment and process as for a 5-gallon batch, just less to drink up in case of poor results. I use the same 5 or 6 gallon carboys for primary (though 3 gallon carboys are available), and I just boil in a smaller kettle.

    You definitely have options!
  10. goodonezach

    goodonezach Mar 24, 2011 New York

    thanks for the suggestions everyone. i've done 17 five-gallon batches now and the 18th is bottle conditioning. while they've certainly gotten better, i've found myself on more than one occasion thinking "the first half of this batch was great but i'm starting to wish i had brewed ____ instead." i have a bunch of growlers lying around the house but i think i'll go with one of the mr. beer kits instead, just so i don't have to split a test batch four ways...
  11. meatballj626j

    meatballj626j May 7, 2009 Georgia

    any special mods required to the mr. beer fermenters? I did a google search and saw where some had added an airlock. Also some have mention using this to lager in regular fridges (for kolsch, alts etc.). If I used one of these for that would the plastic top be ok? Thanks,
  12. LeeryLeprechaun

    LeeryLeprechaun Jan 30, 2011 Colorado

    I have some 1 gallon jugs that I make small test batches in. They work very well and you get about 8-9 bottles of beer out of each test batch. I do this so that I can have an excuse to brew every other weekend. I would rather be creating a new beer all the time than having a large store of any one thing.
  13. dgs

    dgs Jul 18, 2005 Pennsylvania

    No need for modifications. No airlock is needed.
  14. azorie

    azorie Mar 18, 2006 Florida

  15. AlCaponeJunior

    AlCaponeJunior May 21, 2010 Texas

    I messed with juniper berries and it came out great. :D

    I'm just depressed that I've only got a few bottles of it left.
  16. inchrisin

    inchrisin Sep 25, 2008 Indiana

    If you're working with healthy yeast you won't need growlers or a Mr. Beer. bucket. Oxygen is good for beer when it starts fermenting. Just make 2 gal of a test batch and put it in your 5+gal fermenter. the yeast will blow out the air and the head space will be filled with CO2. You'll have about 18 beers when you're done.
  17. pweis909

    pweis909 Aug 13, 2005 Wisconsin

    Small batches is a reasonable idea. Brew only as much as you want to drink and share. If you get burned out on 5 gallons of the same beer, brewing smaller batches is one possibility.

    Another possibility worth exploring is splitting full batches in half and tinkering with each half so they are dinstinct and then you have two different beers. Split the wort in half and ferment each half with a different yeast. Brew partigyle or variations on that theme. Mash the same base malt recipe but steep two batches of specialty malts that get added to each half of wort. Hop the two halves of wort in different ways.
    afrokaze likes this.
  18. RickS95

    RickS95 Mar 19, 2004 Indiana

    I haven't homebrewed in almost 15 years. For whatever reason, I received a homebrew catalog the other day in the mail and now I'm dying to start up again as many things have changed. Like the original poster, it's just my stepdad and me that will be drinking the stuff, so I'm not interested in a five gallon job. I typically like to try lots of new things and I was hoping for 2-3 gallon batches.

    My question involves scaling down the ingredients. Is cutting the batch in half as simple as taking a recipe and using half of each ingredient? This would mostly eliminate using an ingredient kit and I was hoping to get my toes wet with a kit. Thoughts?
  19. VikeMan

    VikeMan Jul 12, 2009 Pennsylvania
    Beer Trader

    For ingredients other than water, you can just cut everything in half. The reason you can't just cut the water in half is that you'll get about the same amount boiling off regardless of the total volume.

    Someone will probably mention that hop utilization changes with batch size, but that's really only important when going from homebrew sized bathces to commercial sized batches or vice versa.
  20. menkros

    menkros Dec 11, 2010 Illinois

    So you still use the 5 gallon carboys even when you split it? Also, does having all that extra room cause bad flavor due to extra oxygen? Lastly, do you split the experimental batches as soon as your wort cools or at the secondary fermentation ?
  21. menkros

    menkros Dec 11, 2010 Illinois

    The older mr beers have the airlock, my new version doesn't.
  22. Elatowski

    Elatowski Nov 23, 2009 Michigan

    I'd like to know the answer to this as well.
  23. ShawDeuce22

    ShawDeuce22 Mar 17, 2009 Massachusetts
    Beer Trader

    Also, does having all that extra room cause bad flavor due to extra oxygen?
    -No, I've been doing "half batches" for quite a while, absolutely zero oxidation concerns...no off-flavors. The CO2 produced from fermentation pushes out most if not all O2. CO2 is heavier than O2, therefore, it "blankets" the beer to prevent oxidation.

    Lastly, do you split the experimental batches as soon as your wort cools or at the secondary fermentation ?
    -This (personally) depends on what I'm doing. But, in menkros' case, I believe he is putting his cooled wort into multiple primary fermentation vessels and pitching different types of yeast.
    -In another case, you can split a fermented batch into muiltiple secondary vessels to experiment with different ingredients. Maybe dry hop with 2(+) different hops, aged a RIS on 2(+) different types of wood, bourbon, whiskey, rum, one with wood one without, etc......etc,etc.
    Elatowski likes this.
  24. AlCaponeJunior

    AlCaponeJunior May 21, 2010 Texas

    MrOH and I did a juniper pale ale project together and traded the results. I think they're interesting and worth experimenting with.
  25. VikeMan

    VikeMan Jul 12, 2009 Pennsylvania
    Beer Trader

    As long as the beer is still actively fermenting (or CO2 is being introduced under pressure some other way), this is largely true. After that, we're dependent on airlocks (or whatever) to help keep O2 away from the beer.
  26. SFACRKnight

    SFACRKnight Jan 20, 2012 Colorado
    Beer Trader

    Late to the party, but northern brewer has a kit they advertised in their mailers last month that comes with 5x 1 gallon jugs with airlocks and bungs to split your batches. As I recall they were pretty cheap, but I can't find it on their website for the life of me.
  27. Applecrew135

    Applecrew135 Jul 18, 2012 Pennsylvania

    +1 on small batches. It gives me the chance to try things out with my limited equipment, like ironing out my process. I just did a 2.5 gallon dunkel weizen, and while it is OK, drinkable, and really not too bad, it has some flaws and I am glad I don't have 5 gallons of it. Like you, I'm using a 6.5 gallon fermenter to ferment the batch in - I think it's too early to say if that is the source of my issues.I have some good ideas what might have gone wrong, and I will adjust my process to try to solve the problems.

    More than anything, I don't care if I can make 5 or 10 gallons using the same effort. 2.5 gallons is good for experimenting, and when I do nail a beer or style, I can scale it up the next time I want to brew it.
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