Basic Setup for Small-batch Homebrewing

Basic Setup for Small-batch Homebrewing

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I haven’t brewed in a little over a year, and it took being confined to home (and yes, running out of beer) to fall in love with my basic setup for small-batch homebrewing again. Turns out my current kitchen, and a few non-brewing bits and bops we acquired over the last year, has made brewing considerably easier than I remember.

If you’re new to brewing, the basic flow of brewing all grain beer is fairly simple: Grain Mash Lauter Boil Ferment Bottle. The devil (but also the fun) is in the details. And, depending on what you’re brewing, you could well get away with less – you don’t need all this stuff for pineapple beer, for instance.

My homebrew setup is geared for nano-batches of all grain brewing to fit my 4.5? , glass demijohn fermenter. It’s not much, but it does simplify certain things, like cooling the wort after boil, for one.

Brew Kettle / Mash Tun

Brew kettle slash mash tun slash stew pot.
Brew kettle as a mash-tun, mashing Chocolate Oatmeal Stout

My brew kettle is a 10? (I think) stainless steel pot from Woolies. It’s primarily for general use in the kitchen, but with its heavy base that’s burn-on (and boil-over) resistant, it’s just too good not to use for brewing too. I use this same pot for mashing, because I like a step mash, which requires raising the temperature.

Wonderbag

Wonderbag - keep those mash temps severely on point
Wonderbag keep the mash temp on point

Obviously an optional extra, but… Ms. Love got this extremely unexpected, low-tech South African invention for slow-cooking. It looks like a pouffe or a pillow, but it’s a highly efficient heat/cold retention device. The kitchen pot brew kettle fits in it just so, begging for it to be used to keep the mash warm; and it’s incredible – my mash temps have never been so on point.

Often the simple solution is the best solution: bring your mash to temperature, pop the pot in the Wonderbag, walk away and pay not attention, knowing that even an hour later the temperature will still be the same. Of course, it works for slow cooking too; up to 12 hours!

Lauter Tun

PP Bucket Lauter Tun (not that kind of pp)
Lauter tun, but also a bucket

In some of my previous setups my brewing kit included a converted cooler box (HowTo link below), which served as both mash and lauter tun. Because I now use my brew kettle for the mash, my lauter tun is significantly simplified. It’s just a 25? food-grade bucket with a tap.

The filter is the same type of bathroom hose (as detailed in my HowTo build a mashtun for homebrewing), except I found one with a bigger connection nut that happens to fit my bucket’s plastic tap like a glove.

The downside of these buckets is that being fairly thin, they don’t retain heat so well. My sparge water ends up being a tad cooler than what is optimal for rinsing off those mash sugars. Room for improvement here, but otherwise very effective.

Cooling

Easy cooling small-batch brewing

Upside of small-batch brewing is that it’s fairly easy to cool after the boil. My kitchen sink is slightly bigger than my pot, so filling it about a 1/3rd of the way creates a very efficient heat exchange. I stir the wort clockwise, the cold water in the sink anti-clockwise, and in about 20 minutes it’s pitching temp.

Depending on the temp outside, which affects how cold the cold water is, the water in the sink needs changing 2 or 3 times. I save the water in a bucket for a nice hot water cleanup afterwards.

Fermenting

Sure, it’s a 4.5? fermenter, but if you fill it to the 4.5? mark, your yeast will help you expel anywhere between 100 – 500ml when the fermentation kicks off (and make a lovely mess too).

With this basic setup, you can brew all the things. Assuming, of course, you have all the ingredients. I still have enough grain for 1 more small batch, and then I’m going to see what else in my cupboards I can ferment…

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