Normally I only like to post items on my blog that I actually get to use or to test, but this one I am making an exception for. I took a look at this product and thought based on the price and it’s uses it may come in handy for those brewers using carboys. Unfortunately, I don’t have carboys to purchase and test this out on and I don’t want to purchase carboys simply for testing. The FermentArmor is more than just a carboy carrier, it’s also a light shield, and a temperature insulator from ambient swings. But take a look below at the information provided by the creator and their kickstarter page. I will also mention that I am not being compensated for posting this, this is honestly just something I thought many of you would find useful, and it’s nice to get on the front side of a kickstarter sometimes.
Check out the FermentArmour by Clicking the image above!
Anyone who brews naturally has a creative side. It shows up not only in the unique recipes they create, but also in the equipment they use. But the one thing every brewer has in common is that they’ll do anything they can to keep light away from their beer, but they don’t always do it effectively. I myself used cardboard boxes for a long time, which just wasn’t that great to look at and didn’t keep my brew in total darkness.
So I created the FermentArmour Brewing Sleeve, a product now being sold on Kickstarter. FermentArmour will protect your carboy from harmful light in a way that makes you look more like a professional brewmaster than a mad scientist. It’s made of the same quality fabric as wetsuits, and its two short handles make it easy to carry around when needed. It also looks damn sexy — well, as sexy as a glass carboy can get. The fabric itself helps regulate the temperature of your beer, making sure that it never gets too hot or too cold as the temperature of the room changes.
If you like what you’re hearing, please support my Kickstarter campaign by purchasing a FermentArmour. If you have any comments or feedback, I would be happy to discuss them with you, just message me at FermentArmour@gmail.com.
To view the Kickstarter campaign, click on the link HERE.
This is pretty much most of what you need for a small batch recipe. This is 3 pounds of grain, a small fermentation bucket, yeast, an ounce of hops, and aside from the kettle, that’s it. Total investment $20-$30 to get started in All Grain, including ingredients.
While the concept of brewing in batches smaller than 5 gallons is nothing new, it is becoming more popular and I wanted to give it try to see why someone would want to brew on such a small scale. I had some theories on it having to do with the economy, and if it could be the quickness and ease of the small batch. But no matter what the reason small batch brewing is gaining in popularity, it is still brewing so I thought I would take another look at brewing in small batches. We have a guy in our homebrew club who brews mostly in small batches. I never really saw the appeal because I generally went though a 5 gallon batch fast enough and felt brewing 1 or 2 gallons was hardly worth the time and effort. But after really examining why a person would want to brew small batches, I can see several benefits of small batch brewing.
The first is if you enjoy brewing, and you enjoy drinking good beer, but don’t really drink very often. Maybe you enjoy one or two beers week. After all, many craft beer lovers are not drinking to get drunk, but rather the enjoyment of good beer. If you have a hard time going through a full 5 gallon batch beer yourself, going through 1 or 2 gallons is not as intimidating.
The second reason is that the cost is considerably less. To get a 2 gallon fermentation bucket, will run you between $3 and $5. A one gallon glass jug can run you about $15 and a 3 gallon better bottle will run you about $25. You can also generally even brew an all grain batch (See below for my small batch brewing demonstration) on your kitchen stove with equipment you already own. You do not need a huge 7+ gallon pot. The average cost for ingredients on a 5 gallon batch will run you anywhere from $22 to upwards of $60 or more. The cost of ingredients for a small batch should not exceed $15 in most cases and not over $25 for really big beers. So if you are finding money tight, and you still love to brew. Moving to small batches can keep your passion alive.
The third major advantage is that it is a great way to experiment with new batches, varieties of hops, and differences in grain. With brewing software making it easier to scale between batches, you can design a 5 gallon recipe, scale it back to 1 or 2 gallons and brew it for less money. If it turns out as you expect, you can scale it back up to 5 gallons and brew it in full. That way your experimentation stage is costing you at least half as much.
Another advantage comes with brewing big beers. One complaint I hear from time to time is when brewing beers like barleywines or other really big beers. While many of them do get better, or at least change with age. Some people just are not into cellaring their beer and the thought of having 2 cases of barleywine taking up space for such a long time is not that appealing. With small batch you can brew a big old barleywine (for much less than full batch mind you) and only have 12 or so bottles of beer to age.
A disadvantage in average gravity beers can be an advantage in bigger beers. Since you cannot open vial or package of yeast and save it for your next batch (but you could brew 2 small batches and split the yeast between them), you are limited to adding the whole package or vial for only that small batch. The good news is that if you are making a beer of 1.060 or larger, there is no need for a starter. Most of the vials and packages are designed to be pitched without a starter in beers of about 1.050 and smaller. Since you are making about half the volume, the pitching of a whole vial into the small batch on those high gravity beers will be just fine. However, it is a waste of money in regular sized beers. You could use the small batch as an advanced starter, and just re-pitch the yeast into a 5 gallon or larger batch. Of course, if you are using dry yeast (which is my old standby for regular beers. I am a big fan of US-05), the cost is not as painful as dropping $7 or more on a vial for a 2 gallon batch. Again, you can just re-pitch the yeast with some planning.
There are other advantages, but these are the major ones I came up with. So with all that being said, let’s look at brewing a small all grain batch. This is an experimentation recipe making a Belgian Spiced Pale Ale. The hardest part is measuring out the hops, you use considerably less hops. I found it easier to measure in grams, then convert to ounces to use in beersmith.
The recipe (this is a first run experimental recipe)
Pale Half One Fifth- Spiced Belgian Pale Ale (2 gallon batch)
1lb brewers malt 6 row (1.8L)
1lb Breiss Munich 10L
8oz Caramel 40L
2oz of Carafa I ( just because I had some, you can leave it out if you wish)
8oz Brewer’s malt 2 row (1.8L)
4oz turbinado sugar
3.5 grams (.123 oz) of Newport Hops (13.5AA) – First Wort Hops
3.5 grams (.123 oz) of Newport Hops (13.5AA) -15 minutes
3.5 grams (.123 oz) of Newport Hops (13.5AA) -5 minutes
1 scale capable of measuring down to hundredths of an ounce. This is the scale I have and it does the trick.
After crushing the grains, heat the water to 159 degrees. Add the grain to heated water and allow it to equalize to 152 degrees. I figured the best and easiest way to brew this small batch as all grain, would be the brew in a bag method.
If your numbers are off by a degree or two, don’t sweat it. It’s all good.
You will need a scale capable of measuring to tenths of a gram which the scale pictured can do. Or you need to be able to measure to hundredths of an ounce (.01 ounces). This scale can do this. Pictured is 3.5 grams of hops which is about .12 ounces. I chose some of my home grown newport hops. The average alpha acid is 13.5% but I have no way of knowing my actual acid percentages. Right after the mash, as you are bringing the wort to a boil, you add the first charge of hops. I chose to first wort hop this recipe instead of going with the traditional 60 minute addition.
Bring the beer to a boil (I used a hop bag which is visible in this picture) and add the rest of the ingredients according to the recipe.
With 10 minutes left in the boil, add the peeled zest from 1 minneola or medium sized orange. This is the spice addition for the spiced Belgian Pale Ale.
The batch is so small that an ice bath is more than sufficient to cool the wort in 15 minutes or less. You could use an immersion chiller, counterflow chiller, or plate chiller if you choose. But I cooled this 2 gallon batch in about 10 minutes.
Just siphoning the wort from the cooled pot into a 2 gallon fermentation bucket.
If you have a means to aerate the wort, you still should do so even with a small batch. Just be sure to reduce your time accordingly if you have a pure Oxygen system.
It’s a little blurry, but I am running the pure O2 system here before pitching.
Another blurry one, but the pitching of the yeast (fermentis T-58). There is a lot of yeast here, and I actually saw solid fermentation in about 3 hours.
The little 2 gallon bucket tucks away easily anywhere you want. This fit right under the cabinets. Small batch brewing would be perfect for those in small apartment buildings or other spaces with limited to no outdoor space for brewing.
So in the end how much beer do you end up with? I ended up with 10 of the twelve ounce bottles and 4 of the sixteen ounce bottles, plus a glass to taste. So after trub loss and my glass to drink I had about 1.5 gallons of finished product. Was it worth it? Absolutely.
Here is the finished batch of beer.
My final verdict? While you will not fill a keg (unless you go with the smaller 3 gallon kegging systems), and you do not produce as much beer. There is a lot of value in small batch brewing. If you are a brewer, or potential brewer, who has very limited space and you want to go all grain, small batch is the perfect answer. You can brew all grain right on your stove-top, and you will still end up with just shy of one case of beer. The time it took for the brewday from start to finish, including cleanup was just shy of 3 hours. Heating and bringing that small volume of wort to a boil was fairly quick. The cost of ingredients will cost you $8-$15 per batch and that is still well below the cost of good craft beer per bottle. The final cost is under $1 per bottle. The startup cost is also minimal. If you have no equipment at all, it will run about $30 to get everything, if you already are a brewer, it will only cost you the amount of the bucket or small carboy. So while brewing 5 gallon batches in the summer will be my main brewing process, in winter when I have my brewhouse closed up, I can still brew in my kitchen in small batches and keep my brewing fire roaring. I can also brew big beers very easily without a starter. My eyes have been opened and I now see great value in small batch brewing. I still don’t like the idea of just 1 gallon, but 2 gallons seems about right. Below you will find all the equipment you need to get started in small batch brewing, except for 5/16″ vinyl tubing.
Let’s get honest when it comes to water and brewing. For years and years we are told not to concern ourselves with water, and if it’s good for drinking the water will be good for brewing. While essentially this is true, it was because of this that I avoided even concerning myself with water until recently, and what I have discovered thus far is that was makes a much bigger impact than what we are lead to believe. While the effects of water are not always in the negative, it does make an impact and answers a lot of questions to certain aspects of my beer that have puzzled me from time time. Ware also told when brewing with extract to not concern ourselves with water, I have also found this to be false as well. While the impact of water on your brewing in extract is limited to perceptions of flavors, it does play a very important role in the flavor of your beer, much more so than we are lead to believe.
I don’t want to mislead you, this article is not going to be about water chemistry or any advanced water concepts, I would be doing you a disservice to even try. I am just learning the intricacies of water myself, but as I explore this last frontier in my brewing process, I am dismayed that I waited so long to tackle this portion of my brewing after I have a batches under my belt where I am focusing on water chemistry. I feel the importance is downplayed a lot more than it should be and while granted it probably should be the last part of your process you start to tweak, the impact of water should be understood early on, even if you don’t want to start making water changes. You should understand the impact very well. Let me explain how to get started in getting this basic grasp of water.
First, I have found that you have to get a water report, otherwise you will have no clue what you’re working with. The good news is that they are very inexpensive. You can get a test from Ward Labs for only $16.50 ( I went with W-6). This is money well spent and will give you valuable insight into your beer. You can also request a water report from your local municipality, but if your’s is like mine they don’t include all the information you are looking for. Here they just want to include water quality more so than things like sulfate levels or alkalinity. So get a water report in some way. It’s important
So now let’s say you have a friend who lives in a different county, you have had his beer and absolutely love it so you ask him for his recipe. You replicate it exactly, following his directions and it’s just too bitter. So you try again thinking perhaps something in your process was screwed up, still….it’s too bitter. Or Perhaps you are purchasing a beer kit online based on some excellent reviews, it’s a nice Hoppy IPA so you purchase it, brew it, and are less than happy with the results. It seems a little malt forward which is not what you have been reading. If you eliminate your process as the culprit and you are confident in the recipe, your results may be affected by the water. If you know your water report, you can pinpoint if your beers will come out with a higher perception of bitterness, or a higher perception of maltiness. If you can see if you water is heavy in Chloride, your beer will appear to be more malty and you will have difficulty getting a good crisp bitterness in your beer. However, if your water is high is sulfate the opposite will be true, your hops could appear to be providing more bitterness than what you are looking for. Can you see now, why at least understanding your water would be important even in extract beers? For some people, this knowledge could explain a lot.
Now like I said, I will not focus on water chemistry and the mash because there are a lot more people out there with a lot greater understanding of water than I have. I will provide those links to you a bit later. I would also consider buying John Palmer and Colin Kaminski’s Book, Water: A comprehensive guide for brewers. It’s coming out in spring of 2013 but you can pre-order it on Amazon. For only $11, I’m sure it will be worth the price. You can pre-order the book at the end of this article.
I asked around on some forums about my water results from a local spring here, and the best advice I got for understanding water is to play around with some solid spreadsheets and see how my water stacks up and reacts to being cut with distilled water, or the addition of acids and brewing salts. In all honesty, this was the best way for me to start to grasp the effects of water on the mash, and final flavor of the beer. I will link you to 3 of my favorite spreadsheets to start messing with. I think when you start looking at these, plug in your water data, and mess with additions or diluting the water you will gain that basic understanding of how your water may be affecting your mash and the efficiency you may be getting or some other minor water related issues.
EZ Water Calculator– My personal favorite, it’s easy to understand and doesn’t have a lot of complex information. This is just the basics.
Bru’n Water- This spreadsheet has some great water information on the first page and contains a link to this guys water knowledge page. You can learn a lot here. It’s also more complex than the EZ Water Calculator.
BrauKaiser Water Calculator– probably the most advanced water calculator out there. Lots of great data, and the ability to tweak every aspect of your water profile. I actually started with this one before I found EZ Water.
Here are a few links to some general water information