The Rise Of One Gallon Beer Making

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A new trend has emerged in the world of home brewing, the rise of the “One Gallon Brewer”.

It had to happen sooner or later, it is obvious to see that not everyone is going to want 5 gallons of beer at a time. It’s a large barrier of entry to invest both the time and money in producing 5 gallon batches in a hobby that should be easy to get started in.

one gallon beer making kits

Why The Small Batches?

I am a fan of making smaller batches, I’ve written a fair bit about why, here and here. I am pretty sure that if I started home brewing again today I would be looking at brewing one gallon brews or at least smaller batches than 5 gallons. To start with there is a lot less space and cost in getting all the equipment you need together. I am a fairly cost conscious person and to see that you can get started brewing small one gallon batches for less than £100 including the cost of the ingredients for your first batch is much more desirable than spending, say, £300 up to £600 or more to brew 5 gallon batches.

I believe it is also due to the way modern craft beer is marketed that has drawn home brewers to one gallon beer making. A lot of the marketing and branding of craft brewers focusses on the fact that small batch is better than macro brewing. Small breweries put more care, craft and thought behind producing their beers than big brewing corporations. It might not necessarily be true but it does emphasise the point that smaller is better somehow.

This is also reflected in the kind of people who choose to start with one gallon beer kits. Like craft beer, which has a younger, more mixed audience than more traditional real ales and beers one gallon brewers seem to be younger with more women getting involved. There is a lot more coverage by sites like The Kitchn whose audience is more mixed than one of the many home brew forums. This is great for home brewing as a hobby. A YouGov poll shows around 75% of people in the UK, interested in home brewing are male and I have to say I thought this percentage was going to be close to 90%.

One gallon brewing seems to be attracting a new demographic to home brewing. You don’t have to be exiled in the shed, garage or even just outside to make a one gallon beer. You brew in the kitchen standing by the hob just like you would if you were cooking a meal or baking a cake.

Baking is a hobby that seems to get increasingly popular every time “The Great British Bake Off” come on television. I’ve seen comments on social media asking for a home brewing equivalent, the problem is though, watching someone brew a beer is a lot less interesting than watching people make cakes. The point is, though, by making brewing more like cooking it will appeal to much wider range of people. One gallon beer making has the power to do that because it is exactly like cooking.

Start One Gallon Beer Making

Now that I’ve just gone on about one gallon brewing and how accessible it is I guess I should explain the best way to get started. What is the best method to go from knowing nothing about brewing to knocking out your first one gallon batch?

One of these beer making kits.

Brewing Starter Kit

I know I may have a vested interest in this but I created these beer recipe kits to make them as easy as possible and use a minimal amount of equipment. Technically they are not one gallon kits they actually make 1.75 gallons of beer. This is because they are malt extract you can squeeze out a little extra beer from the same size brew pot as you would need to make one gallon of all grain beer. The 0.75 extra gallons of beer is a bonus.

All of the beer kits you see here are based on recipes I have brewed many times, tweaked and perfected so I can guarantee they make great tasting beer. This is the perfect way to go from knowing nothing about brewing to brewing a beer that will be much better than any tinned beer kit you can get at the home brew shop.

If you do want to dabble with a one gallon all grain batch though I have luckily written a few guides to show you what can be done with only a tiny amount of equipment.

This beginner guide will tell you everything you need to make a one gallon batch or even a two gallon beer recipe. It is especially useful if you don’t know the first thing about malts, hops or fermentation and mashing.

This shorter guide shows the process I use to knock out small one gallon beer recipes on the stove, it does assume you know a little more about brewing.

Take a look at one of the guides above and you can see just how simple brewing small batch beers can be. It can be the foundation you need to get started home brewing and then progress onwards to making larger batches. A lot of new brewers will skip straight to 5 gallon batches immediately and then find actually perfecting the process of brewing is a little trickier when you end up with 40 bottles of home brew to store and eventually drink after each batch.

One Gallon Beer Recipes

The great thing about beer recipes is they are easy to modify to your needs. Pretty much all beer recipes published on the internet are formulated to make somewhere around 5 gallons. I have written a guide on scaling beer recipes here but it pretty simple so to scale a beer recipe just do the following:

Scaling a beer recipe by volume is easy. Take all of the ingredients in the recipe, this will include each type of grain, hop, yeast, spice, fruit or other flavourings listed. Divide by the volume listed for the recipe and then multiply by the volume you intend to brew. It’s that simple.
As an example If a 21 litre recipe calls for 3.5kg of Maris Otter and you intend to brew 15 litres simply do the following:

 

3.5 / 21 * 15 = 2.5 – so you would need 2.5kg of Maris Otter for the recipe.

 

You then work through each type of grain listed in the recipe to get the amounts used for each type and do exactly the same for each addition of hops as well as the amount of yeast to pitch and any other ingredients.

If you want to scale a 5 gallon beer recipe to brew a one gallon beer recipe take each of the ingredients and divide by 5. That is all you need to do to get the amount of each ingredient in your one gallon beer.

One Gallon At A Time

There may be some of you reading this who think brewing one gallon at a time is not enough. I usually make small batches when experimenting with something new. I don’t want to devote a whole keg or bottle 21 litres of experimental beer. If I like something enough after a small batch I can use it as a pilot and then scale up to a bigger batch so I know I’ll have some beer that is just how I want it ready to go.

Is one gallon brewing or one gallon beer kits going to make home brewing more popular? I hope so. It seems people are generally losing interest in home brewing compared to a few years ago, anything to rejuvenate the hobby is welcome in my book.

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Minimum Amount of Equipment For An All Grain Brew

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The Minimum All Grain Brewing Setup

I spent last weekend brewing an all grain beer in the kitchen, using the minimum of equipment and I can tell you, it was the most relaxed brewday I think I ever had. It wasn’t by any means a demanding beer to brew, just a small batch of easy drinking German wheat beer. Rather than spending a day in the shed or outside (it was raining) I brewed in the kitchen on the stove watching the rain run down the window.

All the equipment I used would have fit into a space smaller than the cupboard under your kitchen sink. The batch size was a modest 9 litres, around 18 bottles. The ingredients cost £7.00 for everything, malt, hops and yeast. This has got to be the easiest way to get into all grain brewing, right?

When you first start all grain brewing you follow the advice of buying a 30 litre boiler or brewpot and burner, a mash tun that can hold up to 8 kilos of grain plus 20 litres of water, immersion chillers, sanitary valves and fittings. It’s quite a big barrier of entry and probably the reason why most brewers never start brewing all grain beers from the first batch.

I mentioned this quite recently, brewing can be as complicated or as simple as you want to make it. I like to try and simplify as much of the brewing process as possible because I find there is less to worry about when making a beer. I don’t want to be rushing around trying to deal with lots of stuff happening at the same time, I prefer to relax and concentrate on making the best beer I can with the minimum steps necessary for that particular type of beer.

Smaller Can Be Better

It’s clear if you want to minimise the amount of equipment you have, or the amount of space you want to dedicate to brewing then you will be limited to making smaller batches. If the amount of space you have is limited, for example, if you live in a small flat/apartment then the setup we will go into below is a great place to start.

The other great thing about smaller batches is you can brew more often without having lots of beer piling up. If you are brewing 20 – 25 litres at a time you are going to have a big surplus of beer if you are brewing more than a few times a month, even if you are giving your beer away. A smaller batch around 8 – 10 litres means you could brew every week and have multiple beer styles ready to drink at all times without having a cases of beer all over the house.

Brewing more often gives you that practice that we all need in order to improve. The more often you do anything the better you get at it. The same principle applies brewing beer, smaller batches more often means you hone your skills and develop your craft. I have written about smaller batches before so check out that article for more of the virtues of small batch beers.

The Basic Brewing Gear You’ll Need

To brew all grain beers you’ll need to have the ability to mash your grains, sparge, boil wort, cool it and ferment the beer. In larger batches it makes sense to have separate vessels and chillers to do these things, and these are largest and costliest pieces of equipment to get started all grain brewing.

Brewing smaller batches means you can get away with a small brewpot of around 12 -15 litres which you will be able to heat on the stove, a mashing bag and a fermenter. This is what I use to make small batch beers and everything fits in a kitchen cupboard. I put the fermenter inside the brew pot and tuck it away.

So, you’ll need the following equipment for small batch all grain brewing:

  • 12 litre Brew Pot
  • 12 litre Fermenter
  • Mashing Bag

You will of course need items like a thermometer, hydrometer and airlock but all these items are inexpensive and take up hardly any space.

Small Batch All Grain Brewing Process

Mashing

Step 1: Put 6 litres of water in your stock pot and begin heating to strike temperature of 72°C. Put your grain bag in the pot and fold the opening over rim of the pot.

Step 2: Ensuring you are at 72°C turn off the heat. Pour the grain into pot and stir thoroughly to ensure there are no dry spots in the grain and everything is well soaked. Take the temperature again it should be around 65°C

Step 3: Put the lid on and leave for an hour. Make a cup of tea, watch TV, read a book all you need to do is maintain the temperature between 62°C and 69°C. Check every now and again and apply heat if necessary.

Step 4: Towards the end of the hour, heat another 6 litres of water to 80°C and put in the fermenting bucket. If you don’t have another pot big enough use a big pan and the kettle and add 4 litres of boiling water to 2 litres of cold water this will give you a temperature around 70-80°C.

Sparging

Sparging

Step 1: After the hour has elapsed carefully lift up the grain bag from the stock pot and allow as much as possible to drain back into the pot. Once you have drained thoroughly without squeezing the bag gently lower the bag into the fermenting bucket full of water. Again tuck the opening around the rim and stir the grains thoroughly again.

Step 2: Leave for 15 minutes.

Step 3: Lift the grain bag once more and allow to drain as much as possible. Put this to one side I would suggest in a bowl to catch any extra drips. Now carefully pour the contents of the fermenting bucket into the stock pot. Begin bringing to the boil slowly.

Boiling

Step 1: Now that it is boiling it’s time to add the hops. Again be careful the hops will add to the foaming so make sure it’s under control before putting them in.

Step 2: Keep boiling for 60 minutes adding hops when indicated on your beer recipe.

Step 4: Remove from the heat and begin cooling. The easiest ways to do this is place the pot in a cold water bath in the sink and replenish the cold water as the heat transfers.

Step 5: This cooling should take 30 or 40 minutes to get to around 20°C. It is now time to pour the beer into your sterilised fermenting bucket. Make sure you’re on the correct temperature ready to pitch the yeast. This will be written on the tube or packet. Pour it straight in the beer.

Step 6: Fit the lid on the fermenting bucket and fit the airlock in the hole with a small amount of water in.

Fermenting

Step 1: Leave for 2 weeks.

Step 2: All activity in the fermenting vessel should have finished. There should be no bubbles emerging from the airlock. If there is still activity then stay patient and wait a few more days.

Step 3: Package or bottle as normal.

The Cheapest & Simplest Way To Start All Grain Brewing

As you can see the process is pretty simple. I find that making small batches like this takes around 3 hours and then however long it takes to let the beer chill for. It’s a lot quicker than brewing 20 litres batches.

The beauty of brewing small batches like this is you can make pretty much any recipe you find. As you are all grain brewing there are no grains you cannot use and you can even do step mashes if you wish because the mash tun can be heated directly.

All you need to do is scale down any recipe you want to brew. This guide will show you how to scale down a recipe and adjust it for your needs.

How To Make Beer In The 1800’s

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Brewing In The 1800s

One of the fascinating things about beer is the history behind it, brewing techniques are often still the same in principle as used by brewers over 200 years ago. Most of the language used to describe the brewing process is the same as what we would use today.

It’s nice that beer has been around such a long time because it makes the subject something that you can seemingly never stop learning something new about. One of the joys of being a brewer, however, is the chance to make and drink a beer that is not possible to get anywhere else in the world.

Yeah, that’s right, if you think about it the beers you are able to brew are beers that nobody has been able to go into a shop and pub and buy in hundreds and hundreds of years. Think of another example of where history has been so accessible to the average person.

Brewers and beer makers like to document a lot of the stuff they did. This means that brewers today can see what was happening in the brewing industry in 1736 for example. I have always been intrigued by this sort of stuff and one of the best things about historical texts is that they are available for free on the web. What I have done is supply a few links to some of the ones I thought were pretty interesting. There are loads of books available online so if you find some then let me know.

The London and Country Brewer (1736)

The many Inhabitants of Cities and Towns, as well as Travellers, that have for a long time suffered great Prejudices from unwholsome and unpleasant Beers and Ales, by the badness of Malts, underboiling the Worts, mixing injurious Ingredients, the unskilfulness of the Brewer, and the great Expense that Families have been at in buying them clogg’d with a heavy Excise, has moved me to undertake the writing of this Treatise on Brewing, Wherein I have endeavour’d to set in sight the many advantages of Body and Purse that may arise from a due Knowledge and Management in Brewing Malt Liquors, which are of the greatest Importance, as they are in a considerable degree our Nourishment and the common Diluters of our Food; so that on their goodness depends very much the Health and Longevity of the Body.

London & Country Brewer

The Theory and Practice of Brewing (1804)

The intent of every brewer, when he forms his drink, is to extract the fermentable parts of the malt, in the most perfect manner ; to add hops, in such proportion as experience teaches him will preserve and ameliorate the beer ; and to employ just so much yeast as is sufficient to obtain a complete fermentation.

The Theory & Practice of Brewing

The Microscope In The Brewery And Malt-House (1889)

At various stages in the Brewing process we can, by the aid of the microscope, determine the presence of organisms of various kinds

The Microscope In The Brewery & The Malt House

A Practical Treatise on Brewing (1835)

The chief art in mashing, is to produce from the malt the greatest quantity of matter which is capable of adding to the flavour and strength of the beer; and this depends principally on the temperature of the liquor employed in making the first mash liquor being the technical word used by brewers to de-note water. The old rule used to be, to let the liquor cool until you could see your face reflected from the surface; this, however, is a very uncertain guide. The thermometer removes all doubt.

A Practical Treatise on Brewing

As you can see brewing a couple of hundred years ago isn’t that much different to brewing today. It still requires the same ingredients, the same basic equipment and a little bit of time and practice. If you want to check out a more recent guide to home brewing however then read through some of the home brewing guides here.

Brewing Doesn’t Have To Be Complicated

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I have been home brewing now in one form or another for around 7-8 years. I have settled into a way of making beer that I can now do on autopilot, it’s a process that I’m happy with and I consistently brew a beer that I enjoy. It wasn’t always like this. When I started I was constantly worrying that I had done something wrong, stressing over technique and being so overly thorough about things that my brew days would be several hours longer than they needed to be.

Information Overload When You Start Brewing

Brewing Complicated

When you first start home brewing everything is a challenge or unknown to a certain extent. I didn’t read a whole lot about brewing beer before I made my first batch. It was an extract beer with a little crystal malt steeped for half an hour and a combination of English Hops thrown in. I didn’t know anything about what malt extract was, what crystal malt was or how either were made (I just found a recipe, got the ingredients and made the beer). It turned out to taste exactly like beer, not particularly spectacular beer but still beer.

Brewing Is Not All About The Details, It’s Also An Art

One thing I find amazing about home brewers is their appetite to learn and understand every single detail about the beer making process. Past the point of being able to brew a beer a lot of information that brewers learn can be pretty technical and scientific and often not really necessary because, after all, you are making beer for yourself, it’s not a commercial brewery.

A lot of the information someone new to homebrewing reads online is over complicated because those already good at home brewing include all the technicalities and data relating to a recipe or brewing process they are talking about. This makes it pretty difficult for someone new to brewing to know where to start

When compared to other home based food production such as bread making you don’t really see so much focus on technical detail and minutiae. I bake my own bread a couple of times a month and I’m sure a lot of other people do as well with not much idea about the scientific principles that are happening. OK, so I know a bit about what the yeast in my bread dough is doing but only because of my beer making background. I’m not entirely sure how gluten works or why steam in the oven affects the crust. I’m also not really that bothered because the bread taste good and the texture is great.

The point I’m trying to make is that for hundreds and hundred of years people knew very little or nothing about things like yeast, enzymes, proteins and the various compounds in beer. All the knowledge that went into making beer was found through trial, error and repeated brewing of beers over many, many years. All of this was often on a commercial scale let a alone on a home brew scale.

Practice Brewing Rather Than Dwelling On The Details

It seems today however people can’t make a beer without performing hundred of calculations using software, home brewers aren’t happy knowing a beer will be blonde, ruby coloured or pitch black we need to know the exact SRM to a decimal point.

Let me give you an example, the first loaf of bread I made turned out more like a brick than a light and fluffy loaf. I did the recipe, again and again, altering the amount of time I spent kneading and the time and temperature I left it to prove. Soon enough I was able to make a loaf that was on par with one from a bakery. All of this was with trial and error

Some of the best beers I’ve made have come from recipes I’ve brewed again and again with minor tweaks until I got it just right. After a few times of brewing the same recipe, I ended up forgetting the technical details about it and started focussing on the beer as a whole. I relied more on handwritten notes from the previous beer and trying out new things and run no additional calculations at all. I made the beer on autopilot and adjusted a few minor things.

Think of beers like traditional farmhouse style beers and how they would have been made hundreds of years ago. They rely mainly on craft and making the best use of what’s available in terms of ingredients with little need to understand the technical processes. The same type of beer is made every year and after all those years it becomes a unique beer all of its own.

I think this is something more home brewers should try and incorporate into their beer making.

Asking a first-time brewer to understand all the enzymatic activities that occur in the mash or various flavour compounds that are found in beer and it soon becomes too much. Give them a recipe though and give them options on malts, hops and flavours and it’s much more of a creative process.

Knowledge Is Good, Practice Is Better

I’m not saying that all this extra understanding is a bad thing, it is most certainly not. It obviously helps a brewer to make more informed decisions and when you understand the principles behind something you ultimately have more control. It is also necessary to progress from those early stages of beer making into more advanced areas and understanding how you can get a beer tasting a certain way.

What if however you didn’t rely so heavily on software, calculators and reference guides and rely more on experience and practice. As I mentioned before home brewers aren’t the same as commercial brewers, there are no financial constraints on the beer a home brewer makes, plus, there is only one person to please.

Take one of your beer recipes you’ve brewed previously and make it again or find a recipe online that has plenty of positive feedback, tweak a few things you think will make the beer better and note it down so you can repeat it next time. It’s this kind of thing that will make your beers truly unique. Inject a bit more art into your brewing and learn a bit about the process through actually brewing.

Just Released: Home Brew Answers Kindle Book – A Free Download For Christmas

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Home Brew Answers Book

It has been just over a year since I started Home Brew Answers. The whole idea behind it was to share all my experiences of brewing beer. The site has now grown to see a few thousand visitors a week so I wanted to create something to give back to all of you who take the time to read the articles each week.

Home Brew Answers Book

I have compiled the most viewed and comprehensive guides here and added a little more content to create a Kindle book which is available through Amazon. As you are reading this here I want to give it to you for free.

For the next 5 days, up to and including Christmas day, the book will be free to download to your kindle, tablet, phone or computer as a thank you for following along with me as I share my home brewing journey.

The book is called: Home Brew Answers: A Foundation In Making Beer From Beginner To Advanced.

Please go and download it whilst it is free, tell your friends and, if you want, drop a review on Amazon. After 5 days I cannot offer the book for free anymore so go and get it now. The price will go up as £3.40 which is the price of a pint at my local pub.

Thanks for reading, here is an introduction to the book to get you started.

There are so many craft breweries in the UK, it seems there is a new one opening every week. The sheer variety of beers available to the consumer has never been better. Why then would you want to brew your own beer?

 

It’s not an easy question to answer. You really must give brewing a go before you realise just how compelling it can be. I know from personal experience that brewing beer can become an obsession. I started making beer when I was around 19 years old and now I’m 30, ever since that very first batch I’ve been hooked. Along the way, I have documented my journey right here.

 

I’ve brewed more styles of beer than I can name off the top of my head and have never stopped learning with each batch. The obsession that started me brewing led to me transferring a hobby into a career. I now brew professionally but still find the time to knock up a beer that’s a little more unique when I am brewing at home.

 

Brewing beer for yourself gives you no restrictions. Whatever you feel like can go into the recipe, you want it to be strong and high in alcohol then go ahead, there are no taxes to pay. Maybe you want to add fruit or a flavouring like vanilla, you must only please yourself not hundreds of thirsty customers.

 

I wrote this book to help you get started. To give you a solid foundation in what goes into beer, the processes involved and to get your first beer made. This book isn’t full of beer recipes, although there are a few. What it is full of though, is the what’s, why’s and how’s of making beer.

 

After reading this book you should have a thorough understanding of brewing to build from. You’ll find just like me, you never stop learning something new.

If you have any questions about the book or home brewing in general please contact me here. Have a Merry Christmas!

What Are The Best Home Brewing Books?

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Home Brewing Books

Home brewing books are a secret vice of mine, I seem to accumulate them and it doesn’t really matter what area they cover I will read them cover to cover. If you want to be a better brewer, understand what is going on in the fermenter and really push up your home brew beer to the next level will want to pick up a few home brewing books. You don’t have to be like me and spend a fortune on a home brewing library because I am going to recommend the best home brewing books I have read.

My Picks For Best Home Brewing Books

If you have followed the blog at all you will know that I am a big fan of reading, refining and then practicing what you have learned. Where to start, though? There are so many home brew books available and depending on your level of skill you might want to choose a more advanced one or a complete beginners book. I will start this list though with the first home brewing book I ever bought.

Brew Your Own British Real Ale

 

Out of all the home brewing books I have on the bookshelf, this one, in particular, has by far the most recipes. This is I guess part of the reason for it’s popularity, all of the recipes in Brew Your Own are clones of commercial British Ales. For many brewers being able to duplicate something you can buy in the shops or be able to replicate your favourite beer is a great goal. If you are brewing to save money then being able to obtain the same tasting end result for a fraction of the cost is a huge benefit.

As well as the extensive list of recipes you have an introduction to brewing which details equipment, procedures and ingredients. They are concise and pretty good introductions and ultimately will cover everything you will need to know but in the end, if you really want to get into the nitty gritty and finer points, then you might need to do some further reading. I am sure many other brewers will use this as the foundation of all their brewing knowledge before becoming more interested and developing their skills.

One thing I particularly like is that the recipes are formulated for all grain but also for partial and all malt extract versions where possible. Each of the brewing methods is detailed in the first section of the book then the recipes are marked in the index for which brewing methods you can use. This really opens out the book to all levels of home brewers so a beginner, as well as a more advanced brewer, will benefit from the book.

Ultimately I would say if I didn’t have this book I would not be brewing today because I was brewing something that I could go out and buy and I knew what the finished beer was going to taste like. If you are starting to brew I recommend this book whole-heartedly

How To Brew

 

I guess this is probably the most recommended of any home brew book and there is a reason why. Maybe you have got a couple of brews under your belt and you think, hey these are pretty good, but they aren’t great on top of this you are maybe you aren’t entirely sure why you need to hold a set temperature for x amount of time and add hops for the last 5 minutes. If this is you (I can definitely say it was me) then How to Brew by John Palmer is the best book you can buy.

Content wise this is one of the most comprehensive books you can find on the actual practicalities of home brewing. So comprehensive that for the first time brewer a lot of the content may seem overwhelming. Don’t let this put you off however the book is broken down into clear sections from “Brewing With Malt Extract” to “Brewing With Extract and Speciality Grain” to “All Grain Brewing” and “Recipes, Experimenting and Troubleshooting”. Within each of these section Palmer covers everything in great depth from water profiles, the technical aspects of mashing, malt and hop profiles and calculations like efficiency and bitterness.

If you’re a beginner or advanced brewer, I would recommend this book to either of you because it really does set the foundations you need to properly understand the brewing process. If you are already brewing good beer then it may open your eyes to things you hadn’t thought about before such as mash pH or even metallurgy.

The great thing about this book is the linear fashion it presents the information to the reader. As I said before the depth of knowledge on offer is unrivalled in most home brewing books I have encountered however, you start from the basics of malt extract brewing and are given all the information to understand how it works and the processes involved then as you progress you are presented with grain brewing and the information is being built upon that foundation that has been set earlier. This is really why this book is so good. It can turn you into an expert on home brewing in no time giving you the broadest scope of knowledge all whilst brewing beer for the first time.

Radical Brewing

 

Radical Brewing by Randy Mosher comes a close second for the sheer amount of beer recipes outlined in the book. However, it is a whole lot more than just a recipe book, this is the book that got me thinking differently about home brewing and beer in general and it contains a lot of the philosophy that goes into making different beers.

There is a fairly comprehensive overview of how to make beer but I wouldn’t suggest Radical Brewing as a beginners book, you would be much better off reading How To Brew if you are just starting out. I would recommend Radical Brewing if you want to discover a whole world and history of beer styles and how you go about brewing them. This is one of those books that will really broaden your horizons and give you a taste of what is really possible as a home brewer, including making some of the most obscure beers in the world, beer recipes that you will find no commercial brewery making.

A large section of the book is dedicated to ingredients, not the base ingredients in beer, although, these sections are covered thoroughly. It’s the sections on adding fruit, spices and other flavourings to your beer that is covered in much more depth than any other book I have read. If you are interested in adding something different to your beer recipes then Radical Brewing is the place to look. Randy Mosher covers how fruits, spices and other ingredients interact with the beer with full tasting notes.

History and culture are covered as well, not in a dull or boring way, these sections I found particularly interesting. Randy Mosher has a knack for storytelling and you will soon find yourself wanting to brew a Kvass beer with old rye bread or a beer made with pine needles. That is where this book really shines.

Brewing Elements Series

 

This next selection is actually four books in a series. Each of the four books covers a different brewing element; Malt, Hops Yeast and Water. A whole book is dedicated to each of these ingredients so you can imagine the depth of material each cover.

I wouldn’t recommend these to a new brewer, they are a perfect choice for the more advanced home brewer wanting to push their knowledge up to the next level. Some of the details the book covers are going to be overboard for the home brewer and more relevant to a professional brewer in a microbrewery setting. However, that doesn’t mean the information is irrelevant for a home brewer.

The writing is accessible but does get a little technical in places, anyone with a basic understanding of chemistry and biology should have no problems understanding the content. Each of the books is really a mini-textbook on each of the subjects. I did find some more enjoyable than others, in particular, the Hops book which is a more entertaining read than the water book for example.

The Brewing Elements series is good for any home brewer that wants to get their head around the complexities of beer, granted some of the information laid out is overkill for the home brewer who will have no practical use for it, however, there is a lot more content that will have you making better beer and understanding the brewing process in a lot more depth.

Classic Beer Style Book Series

 

I guess this is cheating because it’s a whole series of books with each book focusing on a different style of beer. There are hundreds of home brewing books that focus on the general aspects of brewing but not many that drill down into the details.

The Classic Beer Style series of books covers around 17 beer styles;

  • Altbier: History, Brewing Techniques, Recipes
  • Barley Wine: History, Brewing Techniques, Recipes
  • Bavarian Helles: History, Brewing Techniques, Recipes
  • Belgian Ale
  • Bock
  • Brown Ale: History, Brewing Techniques, Recipes
  • Continental Pilsener
  • German Wheat Beer
  • Kolsch: History, Brewing Techniques, Recipes
  • Lambic
  • Mild Ale: History, Brewing Techniques, Recipes
  • Pale Ale: History, Brewing Techniques, Recipes
  • Porter
  • Scotch Ale
  • Smoked Beers: History, Brewing Techniques, Recipes
  • Stout,
  • Vienna, Marzen, Oktoberfest

These aren’t just brewing book, they cover the history, origins and commercial examples as well as the brewing process, recipes and ingredients of the beers.

Each book of the series is written by different authors and are thoroughly researched because they were published a little while ago now hard copies are difficult to come by but the whole series has been released as ebooks now so there is no reason not to pick one or two up.

Delving into the details is what really sets apart those good at making beer to those great at making beer if you have an interest in a beer style I thoroughly recommend you pick up one of the titles in the Classic Beer Style series.

What Is The Best Way To Start Home Brewing?

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Starting any new pursuit is hard, starting home brewing, however, can be especially tricky with the sheer amount of technical jargon and intricacies. It doesn’t have to be especially hard however and that is what I want to discuss in the article. What is the best way to start home brewing.

Believe me, home brewing isn’t really that hard, it takes a short time to learn the basics. When you get into the hobby and you read a little bit about different processes and ingredients it all starts to make sense. You get to that point and take it for granted that most people know hardly anything, about how to even get started home brewing. The whole purpose of this website is to help me, as well as you, understand brewing in a greater depth. I started home brewing around 10 years ago, if I was to begin again, though, what would best way to start home brewing?

Start Home Brewing

How To Start Home Brewing?

Reading or doing, people like to learn in different ways. The problem with making beer, however, is there’s a lot of things you can be unfamiliar with. You can easily make a beer kit without any knowledge of what goes into beer. The next part is progressing from making that beer kit to brewing your own beer which requires you to read up a little bit about ingredients, the brewing process, and recipe formulation.

You can start the other way around reading as much as you can, I know some people who read and read and read but keep putting off actually brewing a beer thinking they need to know more. There is a worry when you start reading that there are multiple things that can go wrong, the language around brewing; lauter, wort, adjunct, trub, krausen. It’s easy to get information overload.

I think the ideal path is to take the best of both worlds, familiarise yourself with the basics and brew a beer following the information that was laid out in your small amount of reading. This is exactly how I have laid out the extract brewing guide. When I wrote it, I assumed the reader has only a small amount of knowledge on beer, the article lays out all the basic information you need and gives you exact step by step process to brew your own beer with a couple of recipes to choose from.

This extract brewing guide also forms the basis of the beer recipe kits available in the shop on Home Brew Answers. Starting home brewing by using malt extract, steeped grains, and boiling hops gives you a feel for ingredients without having to learn all the technical aspects you need to all grain brew.

Starting with Beer Kits, Extract Brewing Or All Grain Brewing

I think the vast majority of people start home brewing by using beer kits. They are an ideal way to get started but the quality of the beer kit is really important. The thing with beer kits is the cost has a big affect on the quality.

As a general rule the more you pay the better the beer, I have seen a lot of budget beer kits that have a really high percentage of sugar as the fermentable alongside malt extract. The issue with using large portions of sugar in a beer is it add no flavour only alcohol. It can lead to a dry beer with not much going on in terms of flavour.

Spending a bit more on a beer kit will mean you end up with a better quality beer and you are going to be more inclined to brew more beers in future. If your first ever beer doesn’t taste great you may decide brewing isn’t really for you.

Beer kits can be a little bit boring, though, most kits in the UK are hopped malt extract, you dilute these down with water and then ferment. This is fine but you don’t really get a feel for the brewing process, only fermentation. Beer Kits are obviously the simplest way to make a beer and generally require the least amount of equipment, the barrier to entry is a lot lower to getting your first beer brewed.

Starting All Grain Brewing?

All grain brewing, on the other hand, is at the other end of the spectrum, the barrier of entry is high, you need a fair amount of equipment and the initial cost of the equipment is higher. Along with this, the technical knowledge you need is higher, you can read a lot about all grain brewing and it’s still going to be difficult if you have never brewed before.

Although it’s entirely possible to start out by brewing all grain it’s not a route I would recommend. My second beer I’d ever brewed was an all grain beer and it was a really difficult day, the mash stuck and it was terribly frustrating. The beer ended up being good but the next beer I brewed after that was a malt extract brew. It wasn’t until a little while after that I fully adopted all grain brewing.

Malt Extract Brewing

Extract brewing is my pick for the best method to start out your brewing hobby with. It has the best of both worlds, you get to know individual ingredients. You steep grains and get a feel for what different malts can do to a beer, for example, you boil hops and make different timed additions as well as getting to know how fermentation works. At the same time, you eliminate the need to mash grain so the most technical aspects of all grain brewing are eliminated as well as a lot of more costly equipment.

Home Brew Answers Beer Kit

This is what I have tried to do with the beer kits on sale here. They are developed to make interesting and unique beers without being difficult or require a lot of equipment to actually make. They come with enough instructions that someone who has never brewed before could make the beer but not get bogged down reading. They also make smaller batches of around 16 bottles of beer per brew. This means you get a fair amount of beer but you can brew more often without beer piling up, this helps speed up the learning process because you brew more often.

If I were to recommend the best way to start home brewing it would definitely be extract brewing. If you want to read further on the subject check out the extended guide here. You’ll be up and brewing in no time at all.

Illustrated Guide To Home Brewing

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In this post, I want to run through my typical brew day. I hope I can convince those new to brewing that brewing all grain beer does not only produce a delicious beer but is actually a simple process. If you are new to brewing check out some of these relevant brewing guides.

If you’re new to home brewing you may have read numerous books and articles on brewing your first beer, however, you still might not be able to visualise a complete brew day. This post will hopefully change that as it is made up almost entirely of photos from my a brew day for an Elderflower Kolsch recipe based on this base recipe I made a while ago. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed making it and it inspires those new to home brewing to get started.

Illustrated Guide To All Grain Home Brewing

First Things First ↓ Almost all my brew days begin by measuring and heating the strike water ready for the mash. This will be a 3 gallon batch

Measuring Strike Water

 

Mash Tun and Boiler ↓ Below is my cool box mash tun all clean and ready to go.

Mash Tun & Boiler

Heating Mash Liquor ↓ For those of you in America reading this then yes, this is a plastic boiler which does the job admirably, not everything needs to be stainless steel. I do have a pot that I use on the stove on most occasions but to be honest, this boiler is quicker and has a thermostat to easily control the temperature or boil. On this particular brew day, I’m raising the mash liquor temperature to 77°C (171°F)

Heating Mash Liquor

Mash Tun Manifold ↓ The copper manifold is fitted and allows the wort to be separated from the grains after the mash is over. This particular manifold has slotted grooves in the underside and comes apart for cleaning.

Mash Tun Manifold

Malt, Ready ↓ The grain bill was all measured and combined the night before and stored in a sealed bag, I also added brewing salts and mixed through the grain thoroughly. This saves a huge amount of time compared to weighing grain on the brewday and saves having to clean up when there are other things that need doing.

All Grain

Dough-In ↓ The grain is then added to the mash tun with the strike water in and stirred thoroughly to ensure there are no dry spots. If you’re brewing inside you’ll have a lovely malty smell all over the house in no time.

Mashing In

Checking The Temperature ↓ This was previously at 77°C (171°F) but the combination of adding the water to the mash tun and then adding the grain cools the strike water to achieve the desired mash temperature at around 66°C (152°F). The amount of cooling that takes place will depend on a variety of factors like your equipment and the temperature of your mash tun and grain. If you don’t hit the correct temperature straight away then add boiling or cold water to adjust. Make sure you’re on target then leave it alone constant stirring and peeking will only help you to lose temperature quicker.

Mash Temperature

60 Minute Mash ↓ After an hour, or however long you’re mash is, you need to be ready to run off and sparge. I would suggest that 35-40 minutes into the mash you begin preparing the sparge water and bringing it up to around 80°C (176°F). I’m batch sparging and bringing the sparge water to temperature on the stove. The boiler is set up with a copper hop filter ready for the first runnings.

Sparge Water

Run Off and Batch Sparge ↓ When I batch sparge I’ll begin running off very slow and recirculating the wort by pouring it back into the mash tun very gently to avoid disturbing the grain. This will help filter a lot of the debris out of the wort. After a few minutes I will then let the mash tun run off completely. Once all the wort is out the tap’s shut off and the mash tun recharged with the sparge water. Stir the grains thoroughly with the new sparge liquor and leave it for 15 minutes or so, then repeat the run off process with the second runnings.

First Runnings

Back On The Heat ↓ As soon as the element in the boiler is covered I slowly begin bringing the wort to the boil and measure out the first lot of hops ready to throw in for the boil.

Weighing Hops

Bittering Hops ↓ As soon as you hit a boil in go the hops. There is a lot of hot break in this picture and the boil is beginning to come through the surface of that. It’s important to keep a rolling boil to isomerize the hops.

Boiling Hops

Hydrometer Reading ↓ I took a sample before bringing to the boil so I can make sure I hit my target gravity pre-boil. This must be one of the clearest worts I’ve ever made. Make sure you adjust for temperature if you’re taking a gravity reading in hot wort.

Hydrometer Reading

Getting The Flavours Ready ↓ This particular beer had elderflowers as well as aroma hops added a few minutes before the end of the boil. Using a fork to remove the flowers is the only advice I can give you on this.

Elderflower Kolsch

Cooling The Wort ↓ Just like heating the wort to boiling creates break material, cooling it down quickly does a similar thing, precipitating out proteins giving you a clearer, cleaner beer. We also want to cool quickly to pitch the yeast as soon as possible so no other nasties can get a foothold. As you can see my chiller isn’t completely submerged so it took slightly longer to cool.

Cooling The Wort

Into The Fermenter ↓ The wort is cooled to yeast pitching temperature and is drained from the boiler into the prepared fermenter. The hop filter in the boiler catches the whole hops which in turn act as a filter to keep a lot of the other bits and pieces out of the wort. The wort needs aerating, in this picture I drop it down a fair distance then use a sanitised jug to pour it back and forth. The yeast can then be pitched.

Into the Fermenter

There we have it, my Elderflower Kolsch was ready after a month or so. All in all the brew day took just under 4 hours which I think is pretty good for a 3 gallon batch. If you know someone interested in brewing or getting into all grain brewing then please share this post with them and get them involved in this awesome craft.

Why You Should Start Small Batch Home Brewing

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I’ll let you in on a secret of mine, a secret that has made me a better brewer sped up my understanding of ingredients, equipment and techniques of home brewing.

Brewing Smaller Batches Of Beer

Small Batch Home Brewing

I would say the most common brew length for a home brewer is 5 gallons, take a look at forums and recipes online and it seems everyone is brewing around 5 gallons consistently. I do brew around this amount most frequently but on occasion, I drop my brew length down to closer to 11 litres (3 gallons). In fact these smaller brew lengths are where I test a lot of the ideas about recipes I am formulating before making larger batches.

Let me give you a few of the reasons why I brew smaller quantities

Small Batch Experimentation – Brewing unique beers. I don’t want to brew 30 odd pints of a mint choc stout and find out after opening the first bottle it is an acquired taste (it was pretty good though). In the end, I brewed 9 litres or around 2 gallons and I enjoyed the brew day, it was quicker than usual and I was brewing something I wouldn’t have done otherwise. Since then I have been brewing more outlandish beers, using spices and flavours I wouldn’t have done otherwise. This brings me onto my next point.

Brewing More Often – This may just be me on this point. I found the brew day was a lot smoother and was slightly shorter, bottling didn’t take as long and was less of a chore and because of this I plan more recipes and look forward to the next brew day more and more. Some may argue that I need to brew more because I don’t have enough beer, however, my stock of beer is bigger than it ever has been.   

It Takes Up Less Space – I do have all the equipment to brew up to 5 gallons at a time but that equipment takes up a lot of room and is kept in the shed. Brewing smaller batches enables me to stand around in the kitchen and boil on the stove in a large stock pot. I have a cool box mash tun that sits on the side and moving stuff around is so much easier. I live in a small place and in Cornwall it rains quite a lot, not having to brew outside means I can brew when I want, not when the weather permits.

Small Batch Brewing Equipment

This is where I see some major benefits to brewing smaller batches and a lot of equipment you might already have. Some people new to brewing may be put off having to get together the equipment to brew larger quantities so utilising a smaller brew length can have considerable savings.

Stock Pot – Most people have a stock pot right? Along with your basics (thermometer, spoon, colander, fermenting bucket/carboy) the only thing you really need to brew is a large pan. If you have a 6 litre/1.5 gallon pan brew a gallon batch. Work out your recipe for whatever size pan you have available. If you don’t have anything suitable a smaller stock pot is going to be a lot cheaper than a larger one.

With this one stock pot you can brew extract beers and steep grains as well as do full length boils with whatever hops you want, you can make most kinds of beer with nothing else.

Mash Tun – If you want to brew all grain then you need to mash your grains. Brewing smaller batches makes mashing easier and you can utilise methods that become more difficult the higher you grain bill is. Ever since I have started brewing I have used mash tuns in the following configurations:

  • One fermenting bucket with lots holes drilled in the bottom inside another fermenting bucket with a tap to make a kind of false bottom.
  • A mashing and sparging bag inside an insulated fermenting bin
  • A mashing and sparging bag inside a stockpot, with this method you can do a multi-step mash with water infusions by sticking the pot on the stove. Be careful not to scorch anything, though.
  • A cool box with a copper manifold or steel braid.

A few notes on brewing smaller quantities are that you will lose heat much quicker during a mash than in a 5 gallon batch so you need to think carefully about maintaining temperature. Also, you will want precise digital scales to weigh stuff like hops, spices and flavourings because in a small batch a little addition of ingredients can make a bigger difference.

If I were to recommend to someone who has never brewed all grain before a method to try, it would be to try a mashing/sparging bag (basically a nylon bag with coarse mesh on the bottom and extremely fine on the sides). I don’t know if these particular ones are available in the US but I have heard of people using paint straining bags to a similar purpose. The great thing about this method is it costs extremely little compared to buying or making a full-size mash tun and after a few batches you can then progress to a bigger or better mash tun. The idea of these grain bags is almost the same as BIAB (Brew in a Bag)

The Small Batch Home Brew Process

I have dedicated a whole article to the process of the small batch all grain beers. It’s a pretty long post but suitable for even the newest brewer who has never made a beer before. I strongly recommend you take a look even if you are familiar with all grain brewing. Check it out here.

This type of small batch mashing with a grain bag can also be very easy, especially when it comes to sparging, here is how I use a mashing bag to brew smaller beers. These instructions are for when I brew 9 litre/9.5 quart beers

Small batch brewing mashing

  • Take my 12 litre/12.5 US quart stock pot, fill it with my mash water (for my small brew length it’s usually 7 litres) and begin raising the temperature to 72°C/162°F.
  • Once I hit strike temp turn off the heat and put the mashing bag into the stock pot and secure it around the top.
  • Dough in my malt and stir thoroughly, take the temp which should be around 67°C/152°F and cover.
  • Leave it for a 60 minute mash and take the temperature every now and again, if necessary you can turn the burner on low to keep a consistent temperature, just keep stirring though to avoid hot spots.
  • After the 45 minutes, if you have another pot big enough begin heating sparge water if not don’t worry.
  • After your mash, If you have heated sparge water in a separate pan, pull out the grain bag and let it drain thoroughly then dunk it in your sparge water and stir thoroughly (don’t squeeze it). This can be left for 15 minutes
  • If you haven’t used another pan then once the mash is done pull out the mashing bag and let it drain thoroughly, place this in a bowl or tray to one side and pour the wort into a clean fermenting bucket. Recharge your stock pot with sparge water and heat to sparge temperature. Do the same as before, just dunk it in, stir around and leave for 15 minutes.
  • Combine the first running and sparge wort in your stock pot and proceed with the boil. Empty your grain bag in the compost heap, no mash tun to clean.
  • I want to point out that I do have a cool box mash tun but can’t always be bothered to use it. I have thought about converting a smaller cool box to use as a mash tun but I currently hit 74% efficiency using the mashing bag and end up beers of equal clarity to using my cool box (if you use a bag don’t squeeze all the wort out of it, you’ll end up with much cloudier beer).
  • Some of you may scoff at this technique but if you haven’t brewed an all grain batch before I would suggest this method wholeheartedly, you can always upgrade to a mash tun for your second batch.

Brewing small batches like this is a great way to get started all grain brewing especially if you are short on space and equipment. The concepts and process are exactly the same as brewing larger batches so if you want to make the jump check out the All Grain Brewing Guide.

I do like the process of smaller batches, it feels like a lot less work and gives you a lot more freedom to try different things because you won’t end up with 5 gallons of experimental beer. Even if you are an advanced all grain brewer I would recommend you give a small batch of beer a go every know and then just to change things up.

 

 

Why I’m Creating My Own Beer Kits

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I’m a big fan of beer kits as a way to get into home brewing. I’ve written quite a bit about using beer kits and how to get the best out of them, however, I think they do have some shortcomings.

This is why I have decided to create my own beer recipe kits which will be available to buy here on Home Brew Answers soon.

Beer Kit

Why Make Beer Kits?

A vast majority of the beer kits available to brewers here in the UK are pre-hopped malt extract beer kits. These are great for beginners, however, the actual process of brewing is mainly centered around fermentation. You dilute the syrup down with water and then add yeast. After a few weeks of fermentation, the beer can be bottled and then wait another few weeks before drinking it.

This process is fine of course, you end up with a perfectly reasonable beer that you made in your own home. You do miss out on a lot of the process of brewing, though. Part of the fun, the excitement and curiosity is in combining ingredients. It’s similar to cooking a ready meal compared to cooking a meal from scratch, in both instances you end up with something to eat but the meal you prepare from individual ingredients and take your time over is much more satisfying.

Malt Extract, Steeping Grains and Boiling Hops

I believe the best way to start brewing is with malt extract, steeped grains using a full boil. I think this method gives the brewer a better understanding of what goes into beer and produces far superior beer to the kind of beer kits that are mostly available in the UK.

The method of brewing with extract and steeping grains I have covered in quite a bit of detail here and it’s where I suggest all brewers who visit this site should start. You can make beer comparable in quality to the far more involved all grain process given enough practice.

Brewing with extract, grains and boiling hops isn’t really marketed to home brewers that well. There is always the encouragement to progress straight to all grain brewing and I don’t think that is always necessary for a lot of home brewers.

You Don’t Need A Lot Of Equipment To Make Great Beer

As an example, some people just want to make beer a couple of times a year, they like the process and it’s fun to drink something you’ve made yourself. I wouldn’t suggest they go and buy all the equipment to brew all grain, most of the time it will be sitting in the cupboard or garage gathering dust.

In fact, I would suggest the opposite, invest in only the most basic equipment you need.

For a long time, I’ve been a big fan of small batch brewing. It is a lot less hassle compared to brewing a bigger batch and you need a lot less equipment. Take a look at this video where I brewed a Milk Stout you can see the few pieces of equipment I used. The beer turned out great too.

If you want to brew beer in this way, just a small 8 litre batch on the hob is a lot more accessible than acquiring all the gear needed to brew a 20-litre batch.

Small batches like this tend to get me brewing more often than if I had brewed a large batch of beer. If I know I’ve got 40 bottles of beer from a large batch I’ve just made I’m reluctant to brew again until I’ve at least gotten through some of that.

A small batch of 8 litres produces around 16 x 500ml bottles. When I’ve finished brewing that beer a week or two later I’m thinking of what to brew next. I can knock out a few batches and have several different styles of beer around so there is a choice about what I drink.

This is particularly relevant when you first start brewing, often your early attempts aren’t the best quality beer you’ll make. If you’ve got 40 pints of beer that is just ok, you are going to be less inclined to brew again until some of that beer is finished. A small batch means you can brew more often and get better at brewing in a much quicker timeframe as well as the fact that using the right ingredients will make a better beer.

Home Brew Answers Beer Recipe Kits

This is why I have decided to start putting together some beer recipe kits. I’ve been having a lot of fun brewing small batch, malt extract beers I decided to make it easier for other brewers to get involved too.

Designing these beer kits, I intended to make them as simple as possible to make without requiring a ton of equipment. You can make a beer in your kitchen, on the cooker and unlike most pre-hopped beer kits you are integral to the process. A beer will take a couple of hours to brew and 2 – 3 weeks to ferment.

All the ingredients are listed so you know what goes into the beer and get an understanding of what each ingredient adds to the flavour and taste. They make around 14 pints of beer per batch and new recipe will be added constantly to give an ever changing selection of beer to brew.

Check out the shop and drop your email below to be notified when these beer recipe kits are ready to ship throughout the UK. Thanks