Sunday, September 26, 2010

One Gallon Batches

I've been a regular reader of BrewAdvice, a home brewing Q&A site. Home brewers of all levels of experience and expertise ask and answer questions about culturing yeast, choosing hops, krausening, and generally anything that piques their curiosity while brewing. I've asked a few questions about making mead, mixing yeast, and Sarsaparilla beer. A recent question about brewing small batches got me thinking that one gallon batch sizes might be a good way to develop a recipe. 

I've secured 5 one gallon jugs to brew small batches in. The scale on which I'm brewing allows for linear scaling of recipes, so to make my one gallon batch from a five gallon recipe, I simply need to divide the quantities of my ingredients by five. Likewise, when I perfect my one gallon recipe and want to brew a larger batch, I just multiply by five. Scaling up a five gallon to large commercial brewing capacities is a significant change and the linear approximations are no longer valid for all ingredients. (Hops in particular. Large scale brewers reduce the amount of hops in a big batch, or so I have been led to believe.)

A nice thing about this process is that all of the brewing will happen in the jug, and when it's done, I'll toss in a little corn sugar to carbonate and just screw on a cap to seal it. Fermenting, carbonation, and conditioning all in one vessel. Not bad.

The downside is that when it comes time to taste test, the entire gallon of beer needs to be enjoyed at once. The problem here isn't that I need to find testers whose thirst is sufficient to consume an entire gallon in one sitting, but that I won't be able to judge how the character of the beer changes over time. With small bottles, you can test them in one week intervals to track how the beer matures. My plan is to cap each gallon once the fermentation is complete and let each batch mature for the same period of time before opening. This way each recipe will be evaluated at the same stage of life.

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