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Home Beer Brewing--good or bad idea?

First question: is it completely insane to attempt home brewing in a one bedroom apartment? I tend to think the answer is yes, but maybe it's been done?

Second question: where do I get the supplies? Are there beer brewing stores, or do I go to a restaurant supply store?

Third question: what kind of quantities am I looking at? 12 bottles? 24 bottles?

Final question: what's the typical up front cost? I know it's going to cost me more than going to the store for some beer, but how much more?

I found these very basic instructions on line, but was wondering if anyone had had particularly positive/negative experiences with home brewing.

http://www.wyrdwords.vispa.com/heathe...

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  1. I've done it in a studio apartment. Now that I'm renting a house, I much prefer brewing outside with a propane cooker and a seven gallon brewpot. But you can brew in a small apartment. You'll want to wipe down the walls afterwards.

    Yes, go to a beer brewing store, or find a place on-line. You'll find equipment, supplies, and (variable) expertise. Get the book "The Complete Joy of Homebrewing". A brewing store will usually have a package deal on that book, a few small pieces of equipment, and maybe a starter pack for one brew, for $50-100. It's not a bad deal. Restaurant supply stores can sell you pots, though.

    A five gallon batch (the 'ordinary' home-brewer's batch) yields about 30 bottles. So the up-front cost is obviously a lot more than you will recover in one batch, if you get the kit. Your per-bottle cost after you have your basic equipment will run around $0.50, plus fuel for boiling, and time. You may develop an equipment-buying addiction if you ever find yourself in a more spacious house. You save a little money home-brewing, but not a lot.

    More equipment and knowledge will allow you to perform more complicated brews at a much lower price. But by the time you get that deeply into it, you will be too much of a beer snob to worry about price.

    If nothing else, get the book, read it, and figure out the smallest, cheapest, most space-saving brew you can do in your apartment. Do it just once, just to know that you can. Don't forget to drink the beer.

    1 Reply
    1. re: noahbirnel

      5 gallons yields about two cases (48 12oz bottles).

      Homebrewing will teach you a lot about beer; that's what's great about it to me. You can save perhaps a small amount, but that's not the payoff.

    2. Great reply -- you should totally do it! We have modified our operation a bit...and bought a turkey fryer for the huge pot and hopefully some outside brewing sometime. it does take some space, but it's worth it...

      Google "homebrew supplies" and your town/state...there are lots out there. And next time you are at your local brewery, pick up a Brewing News (http://www.brewingnews.com).

      1. Brewing is a fantastic hobby. I started brewing in my college dorm on Long Island, NY. I cooked up the wort in the dorm kitchen and then stored the fermenters under my desk and in odd corners of my room. I only bottled the brew a few times since it is such a hassle. I got hold of a few soda kegs, called cornelius kegs, which are tall and thin and hold five gallons. Those plus a CO2 tank and I was kegging my beer, which made brewing and drinking much easier and more fun.

        In grad school in Seattle I got into it big time and got a job as assistant brewer at an excellent brewpub. At my next grad school in Georgia I had 12 five gallon batches of home brew going at a time, by then I was renting a house. I paid the rent and made money by having $10 a head, all you can drink and eat parties every two weeks. (The food was usually fried catfish and snapping turtle soup since I lived on a cove off a lake and had large fishtraps that provided 5-6, 3-4ft long fish and 2-3 turtles a week.)

        Nowadays I only brew a few times a year and go for unique and interesting brews that I can cellar, such as barleywines and Belgian styles. You can get started for under $100 and spend $25-45 per five gallon batch. Have fun!

        1. I brewed while living in a one-room apt with no problem.

          That link you have in your post outlines some non-standard procedures & ingredients. You will be much better off starting with info from this site:
          www.beertown.org/homebrewing/beginnin...

          This is the home site of the American Homebrewers Assoc. & has the most up-to-date recommendations for ingredients & equipment.

          morebeer.com is one of many online brew supply stores. They have everything you'd need & you can get a good idea of upfront costs by checking out their complete kits (after you learn more about what you want to brew & at what scale).

          1 Reply
          1. re: liegey

            pei, I agree with liegey that the site you linked to has non-standard procedures and ingredients and the link liegey provided to the AHA is the way to go. That site is great and very informative, it's like having someone be there and talk you through the whole process.

            Also on the AHA site you can look up local homebrewing clubs and you will find folks who love brewing and will help you learn everything you need to know.

          2. Thanks everyone! It sounds really exciting, I just don't know if I have room in my life for so many large containers...I love things that "grow" in the kitchen (yogurt, bread starters, kombucha, mushroom plants, herb gardens) but I might need to hold off on the beer.

            1. Its a good idea if you don't mind the work. As long as you have enough space for a few buckets and a resonably cool (60-70F)place for fermentation, you can make beer.

              Equipment kits go for $60-100, ingredient kits can range from $25-35 depending on style for each batch. Batches are usually 5 gallons and you yield about two cases of 12 oz bottles. You will need a pot to boil the wort, but you can do a concentrated boil with a pot that holds 2 or more gallons and add water to the fermenter to get up to 5 gals.

              You can make beer at home cheaper than you can buy it - for microbrews anyway. And with some practice and adhearence to some basic principles, you can make really good beer. My first attempts were poor, but with practice, and research, I now make beer that is on par with some of the best microbreweries in the US. I would suggest reading/buying How to Brew by John Palmer. You can read it for free on the internet here: http://www.howtobrew.com/intro.html

              You may want to read what it takes and the time involved to make beer before you go out and buy some equipment. Or contact a local homebrew club and attend a meeting and meet someone who can show you what it takes. Brewing the beer itself should take you 2-3 hours for extract batches, it will take a week to ferment, then another week or two to condition, then it takes 2-3 hours to bottle it, then you wait 2-4 weeks for it to carbonate and condition in the bottle. At the very least it will take 4 weeks to make beer.

              If you decide to make the plunge, search for a local homebrew shop, and if one is within a half hour or so of your house, go there, buy your equipment, and start building a relationship with them, because you may need their help starting out. Plenty of homebrew shops on the internet also - I use http://www.austinhomebrew.com/ for ingredients I can't find at my lhbs - you can't beat the flat fee shipping rate of $6.

              It is a very rewarding hobby when you start making good beer.

              5 Replies
              1. re: LStaff

                Aha, you sealed the nail in my beer coffin. I don't have anywhere in the apartment that stays below 70 degrees for even a few hours out of the day.

                So this will have to wait until winter...or beyond.

                But thanks for all the responses, everyone! Very enlightening, and great pointers to bookmark for the future (thank goodness for that new feature--thanks Chowhound Team!)

                1. re: Pei

                  When I lived down south I brewed ales all the time and my home averaged around 75 degrees. You get different flavors when you brew at warm temps but those flavors go well with the amber, medium, darker, and brown ales. Also a good hopping level works well with warmer fermenting temps.

                  1. re: Pei

                    No, do it whenever you have the capital to start running. Hot fermenting will never yield good lager, but ales are fine... just expect more fruity flavors. Remember that boozy things have been brewed all over the world without fridges or cellars. Go to it and learn in the process.

                    1. re: Pei

                      I got into home brewing to make a Belgian style white beer, and quickly ended up doing all-grain brewing. I don't suggest going quite that far yet- it's a big investment in gear, time, and space. But the Wyeast witbier strain, in my experience, actually did best with a temp in the low 70's. Below that and it would glug along forever (weeks) to finish fermenting. You could emulate a white beer w/ a kit or extracts and get good results while it's still warm.

                      1. re: Pei

                        There are lots of people who brew in hot temps.. all you need to do is keep an eye on the brews temp and cover the kit with a wet towel, this helps keep the temps down!

                        Also, just store it in a shady spot of the apartment

                    2. I started brewing with one of those Mr. Beer kits. I'd have to say, skip that and fork over the money for a decent kit. The beer I made from the kit was OK, but I'd probably still prefer a Bud Light over it.

                      Talking with people from work, I found several guys who had brewed at home for years. I'm now trying to use some of their experience to try recipes they enjoyed and had good luck with. Here is a shop that is local to me that also ships their products, however, I'm sure there is a similar store in the LA area closer to you. Good Luck.

                      http://www.beer-wine.com/

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Ali G

                        IIRC Mr Beer does not utilize a boil, an essential step in wort production.

                      2. Brew, you will learn much about beer by brewing. Use malt extract, but try to get cans or bags that are unhopped. Find recipes calling for unhopped malt extract. Put the hops in yourself. Ferment in glass. Taste everything. Drink beer while you brew.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Captain

                          I've always found it useful to maintain lucid thinking by enjoying beer after I'm through, not while brewing.

                        2. I think you can brew in your apartment as I did years ago in a one BR, just don't transfer the hot wort directly to a glass carboy like I did or you risk having gallons of hot wort all over the floor if the carboy cracks. The real question is do you like the home brew taste? If you like the import/microbrew beers with yeast on the bottom you are getting an idea about what they generally taste like. I'm not a big fan of that yeast taste, and in my experience no one else will appreciate your beer but another home brewer. It is an interesting hobby, but there is a significant amount of work to it and the initial investment adds up, I concur with skipping the Mr Brew type all in one plastic brew kits. As you might gather I have gotten rid of my homew brew and wine making supplies. Look around for someone who still has supplies left in their basement and buy or borrow those if you are still interested.

                          Doug

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: dijon

                            With the quality of modern yeast there isn't really any reason to have that taste in the finished beer.

                            1. re: rockfish42

                              My son's first attempt at brewing, a stout, tastes pretty darn good, he had some help from another home brewer. I'll have to try another bottle.

                          2. I just started brewing myself. I have a few friends that are very serious, so I was able to get some higher end supplies for brewing, and most of the supplies for kegging. I have had great success with my beers so far. You just have to make sure you have everything prepared and sanitized, and take your time when you are moving your beer - it's not a race!

                            I get most of my kits and supplies from the web. Start out small and work your way up. Your first beer will not win awards. And pretty soon you will be able to create flavors and styles that you've always wanted to try or make up out of the blue.

                            Enjoy.

                            1. You most definitely can make your own beer at home. I've been doing so for years.
                              #1. See if you can find any local brew supply stores. I have one about 4 miles from where I live, so I'm lucky. Otherwise, the great thing about the internet is that you can buy all of your supplies online. I started for about $150 and that included all of the supplies and the beer kit. You will typically be making around 40-50 bottles at a time when you are making your own beer.

                              Pretty much what you will need is the following:
                              Drinking water (usually about 5 gallons)
                              Pot to boil the ingredients (around 20 quarts)
                              Plastic bucket that seals well and has a hole in it for an airlock
                              Airlock
                              Carboy
                              Auto Siphon
                              Large mixing spoon
                              Bottles. About 48-55 is a good start but do not buy the screw top kind. Brown are best.
                              Caps for bottles
                              Sanitizer (some use bleach but I prefer C-Brite or B-Brite.
                              Hydrometer
                              Beer kit.

                              Without going into too much detail, the beer kit will give you all the instructions you will need. Of course with anything, there are beginner kits, intermediate kits, and at some point if you really gets into this, you can buy individual ingredients either at your beer supply store or off the internet.. If you started today, you could be drinking your first homemade beer in about one month. I could layout all the particulars of how I make my own beer at home but instead, I'd recommend that you check out this website for more details... http://howtomakeyourownbeerathome.info/

                              1. theres lots of good reasons for home brewing. you learn a lot about the process, you learn to respect beer more, it's not that expensive and you can make new friends. but for me it comes down to, can i make better beer than i can buy in a good beer store?

                                15 Replies
                                1. re: chuckl

                                  With some experience/knowledge, yes you can. Mostly because it will be fresher, brewed to your taste preferences, and you won't have any commercial restraints (cost/sales).

                                  1. re: chuckl

                                    You absolutely can make beer at home that is better than the beer you buy.
                                    And if you stay with it and eventually transition to brewing from all grain, you can also save a ton of money versus what you pay in the stores.

                                    Two weeks ago I celebrated my 39th year of home brewing. I rarely buy commercial beer other than single bottles I occasionally pick up to try the newer things out there. Sometimes they can inspire, but by and large there are few if any commercial beers (big or small) that I would choose over the home made stuff.
                                    Once you understand the processes involved and master them, microbrewery beer loses quite a lot of it's mystique especially when you realize just how inexpensively you can make beer of equal and often better quality.

                                    1. re: The Professor

                                      congratulations, Professor, on your anniversary, and I have no doubt you make some fine beers. You are correct in saying that the process is relatively simple. However, the devil is in the details and often in the unique characteristics of the locale. With all due respect, however, I doubt you can make anything that approaches a Saison Dupont, a Gulden Draak, a Weihenstaphener Korbinian or Vitus, Orval, a Chimay Reserve, an Allagash White, a Russian River Damnation or Consecration, or an Ayinger Celebrator, which are the types of beers that I like to drink.

                                      1. re: chuckl

                                        @chuckl
                                        "With all due respect, however, I doubt you can make anything that approaches a Saison Dupont, a Gulden Draak, a Weihenstaphener Korbinian or Vitus, Orval, a Chimay Reserve, an Allagash White, a Russian River Damnation or Consecration, or an Ayinger Celebrator, which are the types of beers that I like to drink."
                                        That's the thing, a good homebrewer can make beers very simalar to those beer if they use the correct malts, with the correct water, ferment at the correct temps and use the right yeast. And you have a lot of fun experimenting trying to reach your goal;-)

                                        1. re: niquejim

                                          I agree that home brewing is a lot of fun and very educational. And that good brewers like the professor can make fine beer. Some of my friends make award winning home brew, and one of them recently opened a home brewing store. All I'm saying is that when I drink the beers I mentioned, I'm looking for specific flavors that are unique to those beers. You can use the same recipes, but because you are in a different place and the ingredients will be different, however slightly, the results just won't be the same. Belgian beers in particular are very dependent upon the yeast strains, and those conditions are not easy to replicate somewhere else. I would be the last person to criticize the art of home brewing. If it wasn't for home brewing we would not have the craft beer we have today. But for me, I like being able to go to a good beer store and bring home an assortment of Belgian ales, German lagers and weissebiers, etc. for the variety of flavors I can use to drink by themselves or to pair with food. Brewing up 5 gallons of one particular style just isn't for me. The process is far less interesting to me than the end result

                                          1. re: chuckl

                                            chuckl-That just means home brewing isn't for you. For a great majority of home brewers the process is even more fun than the final result. Most home brewers I know are perfectionists who can recreate, after a time of trial and error, any beer on the market. Back in the early 90's when I was big into the scene, the club I belonged to had competitions with blind tastings to recreate many of the beers you list above. Several of the folks from that group went on to become professional brewers, including myself.

                                            1. re: JMF

                                              I wouldn't disagree with any of this. I have the greatest respect for home brewers and what they can accomplish. Thanks Jimmy Carter and Sen. Alan Cranston, who helped with home brew legislation in 1978. For me, it's more about convenience and variety, but I tip my hat to all of you who have the skill and the patience to do it right. What's unique about our microbrew culture is that individuals are free to use trial and error to create something that's different from what's already out there. To me, it's the essence of American ingenuity, taking something that people are already familiar with and making something new. If it wasn't for you guys and gals we would never have the variety we have today and we'd all be hunting for imports or stuck drinking fizzy yellow water.

                                              1. re: chuckl

                                                You should see what the American distillers are doing. It's shaking up the old fuddy duddy distilling world. The old Scottish whiskey guys are taking a keen look at the way and types of things we are doing. American ingenuity is all about finding new ways of doing things, and of the highest quality. I have a young Scottish distiller who sits me down for hours whenever he is in the country to stay on top of all the wild things that are going on in the artisanal US distilling biz.

                                                1. re: JMF

                                                  I'd like to know more about what you guys are up to, I think that both beer and spirits are going through an evolutionary period right now, particularly when it comes to food pairings. I'm writing a blog about beer/food here in San Francisco and the creativity is astounding. allbrews.blogspot.com

                                        2. re: chuckl

                                          why would you doubt it?

                                          if you have the right malts hops yeasts and spices......

                                          1. re: chuckl

                                            And some homebrewers would say - why would you want to make something that someone else already makes? I got into homebrewing because I wanted to make some cheap clones of beers I liked. But what keeps me interested in homebrewing 10 years later is that I can make beer you just can't buy. When you drink only commercial beer, you are bound to the flavors that commercial operations make, when you learn to brew, you are only bound by your imagination and willingness to put in the effort.

                                            To turn your statement around, would Orval be able to brew a beer that comes close to Celebrator? Probably not, because they aren't Ayinger.

                                            1. re: LStaff

                                              This has been an interesting discussion. I used to home brew quite frequently but eventually gave it up, primarily because I like to drink a variety of different beers and taste new beers. Brewing several cases was limiting in that regard.

                                              The one thing about homebrewing, IMHO, that can not be replicated by commercial beers is the taste of 'freshness'. I'm not sure I can adequately describe it but homebrews have a fresh taste. Kinda like fresh bread coming out of the oven at home. You can buy great bread in stores but it lacks the freshness of bread out of the oven at home. Anyone else have this opinion?

                                            2. re: chuckl

                                              You can very easily clone most beers, and in the case of imports they often will taste better than the bottles that had to be sent by container ship and sat on a shelf for god knows how long.
                                              Most of the process differences are known, and the yeast strains are or were available.
                                              The problem for most people is fermentation temperature control and water chemistry.

                                            3. re: The Professor

                                              Professor, congrats on 39 years of brewing. Last month was the 18th anniversary of my first home brewing back in the summer before my last year of undergrad. I went from not drinking at all for several years, straight into brewing, because I thought it would be a fun hobby. This summer is also the 17th anniversary of my first professional brewing, from when I worked at a brew pub in Seattle in grad school.

                                          2. Yes. You should definitely start brewing. I just did my first batch and am about to try it within a week. As someone who just started and is fresh to brewing here are some tips:

                                            1. Read. Read. And read some more. Learn about hop profiles. Malt profiles. Yeast profiles. Learn about the process of brewing and go over it in your head before you do it. This will give you a solid plan of attack.

                                            2. Midwest brewing supplies has everything you need. Letting you know though, it is FAR from cheap for all of the stuff. First of all, order a starter kit.Once you get the process down, go through it and write down all the misc. stuff you need. Make a list and then order from that list.

                                            3. Some tips when brewing that I screwed up on. When you boil your wort, you will boil then add top off water to dilute it and reach the 5 gallon mark. MAKE SURE you have more than enough. We didn't boil enough and lost a ton of water to evaporation. Our 5 gallon batch of pale ale went to a 3 gallon batch of India Pale Ale. Luckily it still tasted good.

                                            Practice with your auto-siphon! We decided to wing it and got plenty of oxygen in our beer, which is bad. Although we didn't do this, MAKE SURE to add the right amount of priming sugar to your beer. If you add too much you will create exploding bottles.

                                            Some additional tips: Go with malt extract as opposed to all grain at first. Also, I highly recommend Wyeast Liquid Activator Yeast. They are bags you slap at least 3 hours before using it. Once the bag swells all you have to do is dump it in your wort. A lot of people will tell you to make a starter for it but we still got an awesome fermentation and the beer tasted great.

                                            I definitely recommend brewing. Even though we screwed up with getting oxygen in our beer and it might not be the best now, it still was a total blast brewing our own beer. It's so much fun to watch it through the process and there are so many styles to pick from. Don't let screwing up get you discouraged either. We screwed up royally and we're still pumped to try our finished product and can't wait to start the next batch! Good luck!

                                            1. if you're in Oregon, they're clamping down on sharing, apparently. total bs

                                              http://www.oregonlive.com/politics/in...

                                              1. No, it's not insane to brew in a small apartment. But, you do need at least a kitchen and a space out of the way for fermentation phases.

                                                The supplies you need, you can get from a hardware store. A few pots from a department store, some containers for the fermentation stages and then a few extra gadgets to get everything just right.

                                                As far as quantities are concerned, just start boiling and going through the stages. When you get to the primary fermentation stage, you'll have a good idea of how many bottles you need. Take the quantity you have and divide by 12 oz bottles.

                                                As far as cost is concerned, a sufficient kit can cost anywhere from $50 to $100. If you want a more elaborate setup, you'll be able to save some money if you get the supplies like I talked about earlier. But if you are thinking about getting into brewing, a few batches will save you money. All you need now is the barley, hops and yeast.

                                                1. Aha, questions that I had when I started. Just offering my perspective for people searching now. No, it is not insane to brew in a one bedroom apartment, unless you brew batches over 5 gallons (I'm assuming an extract kit that actually boils three gallons with 2 to 2.5 gallons of water added to make 5 gallons), I'm not sure if the typical stove can handle more than that.

                                                  For the initial brewing equipment, http://morebeer.com/ has the best set up for a low price, good prices on ingredient kits too.

                                                  Your first set up will most likely be a 5 gallon deal, which is roughly 2 cases of 12 oz bottles. For space and time saving reasons, I recommend using 22 oz bottles (you'll need around 24 of these).

                                                  My upfront cost for the first batch was probably $150 give or take $15. But after that one purchase I was buying all grain kits for around $30 (for 2 cases). Now I rarely pay over $25 for 2 cases of home brew.

                                                  Some equipment places give out a free DVD when you order stuff. I've brewed 38 batches with no skunky beer, and no bottle bombs, so I've never had to wipe anything down.

                                                  2 Replies
                                                  1. re: HeBrew

                                                    Good points, although if you buy right, your ingredients cost per batch can even be much less than quoted here.

                                                    I routinely brew 5 gal (2 cases) of beer for well under $12 per batch.
                                                    Until grain prices went through the roof, I could make 2 cases of excellent Pale Ale for less than $6 per batch, and even a hefty, Burton style Barleywine for around $10! I've continued to brew at home all these years because I enjoy the process (and the fact that the beer is measurably better than pretty much anything in the stores)...but the massive savings sure is a sweet perk.

                                                    1. re: The Professor

                                                      Agree completely with you Professor. I was brewing significantly cheaper then my quoted prices when I lived at my house and had the full all-grain setup going. But, alas, I had to move into a 2br apartment and have been brewing B3 extract kits, but I usually buy the under $25 kits. It's a matter of convenience to continue brewing in a small area until I figure out how to start AG brewing again.
                                                      But still, for the beginner, a $25 5 gallon kit is better than the $16 SN 12 pack, it's a respectable start from which to make better/cheaper. And as you note, the process is enjoyable.

                                                  2. It is not completely insane, I've done it in a small one bedroom apartment, granted there wasn't much space to do it, but I was still able to do it.

                                                    Supplies you can get online or find a local homebrew store. Check out the American Homebrewer's Association and Brewing News, both usually have location directories for your local brew shop.

                                                    For a 5 gallon batch, you can pretty much count on yielding 2 cases. If you don't want to dish out $14 for a case of bottles, contact a local brewery or go to pubs and bars and ask if you can have their empties. I have people come by my brewery to pick up empties all the time.

                                                    You can get a beginner kit for around $50 and up. Usually a beginner kit will have a book on basic homebrewing.

                                                    A good resource site is beercalculus.com you can find recipes here and then when you get to the point where you are developing your own recipes, it has a recipe calculator.

                                                    The other alternative, which will take up next to no space is, go to a brew on premise shop or find some homebrewing friends and find a collective place you can all brew in.

                                                    2 Replies
                                                    1. re: BayingHoundAleworks

                                                      Paul, good to see you here. Hows your IPA coming along?

                                                      1. re: Insidious Rex

                                                        The India Style Brown Ale is coming along, should be ready for release in late February. I have a test batch of an IPA which should be ready in early February. We'll have a mild coming out soon.

                                                    2. Something people overlook in considering whether to get into homebrewing is that you don't need to brew in 5 gallon batches. I have a one gallon setup and have brewed with good results. Admittedly, I don't drink a lot of beer and was not looking to save money, I just wanted to do something interesting with a tasty payoff. I think the cost of equipment for 1 gallon production would be about $50 but that presumes you already have some basic kitchen pots/pans/bowls/thermometer. It's also easier and quicker to deal with one gallon of liquid than 5 gallons.

                                                      10 Replies
                                                      1. re: OldSchool

                                                        $50? For one gallon? Try $40-$60 for a 5 gallon batch. If you're paying $50 to make 1 gallon then someone is over charging you.

                                                        1. re: BayingHoundAleworks

                                                          He's talking about the initial equipment cost, not material cost per batch.

                                                          1. re: rockfish42

                                                            Ok that makes more sense. The Ale Pale is only about $50 and that's 5 gallons. 1 gallon just through me off.

                                                            1. re: BayingHoundAleworks

                                                              Yeah, there's been a sudden upsurge in people asking about 1 gallon batches. Brooklyn Brew Shop is selling 1 gallon all-grain kits in the eastern US.

                                                              1. re: rockfish42

                                                                Wow, I don't think I've ever done a 1 gallon batch, seems like too much effort for such a small amount of beer. Yikes. I'm a little spoiled, I'm doing things in barrels these days.

                                                                1. re: BayingHoundAleworks

                                                                  i like the idea. i live in an apt in NYC, i've wanted to get into homebrewing - but 5 gallons and all the bottles take up too much room in an apartment. a gallon or 2 at a time seems more doable to me

                                                                  1. re: thew

                                                                    I just brewed an Imperial Nut Brown night before last. It started bubbling yesterday afternoon. All that 5 gallons requires is a brewing bucket (carboy if you are going to do secondary fermentation), a big brewing stainless steel pot, a thermometer and of course the beer bottles and caps. For me, the brewing bucket stays in the bathroom and then I have 2 cases of beer bottles stacked on top of each other. Not much room.

                                                                    1. re: thew

                                                                      < but 5 gallons and all the bottles take up too much room in an apartment>

                                                                      We started bottling mainly in 22oz bottles to help deal with the space issue.

                                                                    2. re: BayingHoundAleworks

                                                                      We are thinking about cutting down to 1gallon batches. We don't have a lot of space, and we would like to have a larger variety of beer available to drink. Also, we have been brewing tested recipes (from magazines and the brew store) and would like to start experimenting and developing our own recipes. It would be nice to be able to do this and not spend the time and $ on multiple 5 gallon batches.

                                                                      1. re: viperlush

                                                                        Could always keg. Okay I get it if one doesn't drink enough beer to warrant that. There are 3 gallon kegs. I guess one could also use the party pig.

                                                          2. if you're in a small apt, you probably have access to things like the SCA, where people get together to brew. as in -- yes to fun, experimentation, no to need to store in your apt.

                                                            1. if i want to start w/ one gallon brewing which kit do you think has better equipment:

                                                              http://www.benshomebrew.com/1-Gallon-...

                                                              or

                                                              http://brooklynbrewshop.com/store/1-g...
                                                              ?

                                                              or any other kits you might recommend or thoughts......

                                                              15 Replies
                                                              1. re: thew

                                                                It's been a long time since I brewed (so maybe more recent brewers can add/subtract):

                                                                I think you need a primary fermentation vessel (a food grade bucket) and then you need a
                                                                secondary vessel to age the wort (the raw beer)--it should be a glass carboy and that's what you put the air lock onto. If you use real grain, then you need to crack it...of the two sites, one is specific in listing real grain but to start, good quality malt extract will do nicely. You will need some kind of sterilizing powder (metabisulphate is what I used to use and one of the links lists it as an extra.)

                                                                Note that after you mash your grain ( that is, let is steep at the correct temperature for the right amount of time), you need to cool it down as soon as possible. With one gallon, this can be done by immersing the primary vessel into a larger bucket filled with cold water...but you will be tempted to purchase a wort chiller which does it quickly...and then you will need to really clean that wort chiller with potassium metabisulfate otherwise all sorts of rot takes over and you will ruin your next batch.

                                                                The message: it's never as easy as they say...but it is fun and the stuff gets better as you read more, experiment and get a better sense of the techniques.

                                                                  1. re: thew

                                                                    Sorry about that--number one looks like it has more items you'll need but I do think you have to spend an extra $5 for a 1 gallon glass carboy (listed on the site.) What's not explained in either is exactly what kind of grains/hops they are supplying.

                                                                    1. re: penthouse pup

                                                                      the grains are less critical as i can get various grains, yeasts, hops, etc in a variety of places...

                                                                      it was the hardware i was more concerned about

                                                                      but thanks for both answers

                                                                      1. re: thew

                                                                        You do not need a glass carboy if you are doing ales. I only use food grade buckets and I've never had a problem. Also, metabisulphate is for wine...don't use it for beer

                                                                        1. re: niquejim

                                                                          Sorry but I disagree--ales should sit after primary fermentation--the amount of time depends on your taste, and it is best done in a carboy with a proper airlock. Metabisulphate is an old but still acceptable sanitizer...I am sure there are new items out there...NB--I started brewing thirty years ago but do admit to having knocked off for quite a while.

                                                                          1. re: niquejim

                                                                            I use the 1-2-3 method. One week in the bucket, two weeks in the carboy, and three weeks in the bottles. If it is a rather high gravity beer, I'll give it twice the amount of time in the bottles.

                                                                            1. re: pauly99

                                                                              My brewing partner and I opened several bottles of stout we brewed in 1984--in 2008: the head was right, the taste was fine (still had the roasted chocolate of the malt and not tired in the least)...So, you'd be surprised by what some of your home brews can do if you leave them in a cool cellar...

                                                                    2. re: penthouse pup

                                                                      There's a modern movement away from secondaries. For most beers they're viewed as unecessary (and potentially bad). Unless you're going to be aging something for months or adding fruit or something along those lines there's not much need. Let your beer sit in the primary for 2-5 weeks and it'll be fine.

                                                                      1. re: jgg13

                                                                        jgg, not in the circles that I hang around in. A secondary is seen as one more way to filter the beer before it will be bottled and my local brew store still teaches this method to beginners.

                                                                        1. re: pauly99

                                                                          My experience is that LHBS keep holding onto this practice, the cynic would say to sell more product.

                                                                          IMO the only valid argument for using a secondary on a standard beer is one of clarity, and even that is shaky - a lot depends on how carefully you transfer the beer out of the primary, not to mention things like fining agents and such can help. The old notions of autolysis have been largely debunked.

                                                                          It's worth noting that both JZ and Palmer have come around on this topic and also support the extended primary in place of secondaries.

                                                                          1. re: pauly99

                                                                            I'll second the move away from using a secondary, I routinely primary my beers for a month and have clearer beer with fewer off flavors than when I used the old 1-2-3 week method.

                                                                            1. re: rockfish42

                                                                              I am interested in hearing about the revisionist approach (as I wrote earlier, for me it's been a while but I was doing some serious brewing for a long time.) The question for me is whether the primary vessel they sell these days is better than the plastic barrel of the past--even with a lid and airlock, I still feel a glass carboy would be more secure from air...I never had problems with clarity or off flavors as a result of transference.

                                                                              1. re: penthouse pup

                                                                                I can't speak to the buckets, I use a better bottle - essentially a PET carboy. The longest I've kept something in there has been 5 weeks, usually 3-4 weeks, and have never noticed any oxidation or anything like that. I think that if I were to go much beyond that I'd probably switch to a secondary, but it hasn't happened since I've done this method.

                                                                                A lot of the problem is that people keep dragging up earlier statements by guys like Palmer, who have later recanted and said that their original bits were incorrect.

                                                                                FWIW, I've followed a variety of blind tastes tests regarding this whole matter. My conclusion of the meta-blind taste test results (ie just paying aggregating what I've seen) is that it's all a jumble and there's really too much noise in the data to make any definitive statements about any of this stuff. Taking that to heart, and because just leaving it in the primary is easier, that's what I do. :)

                                                                      2. re: thew

                                                                        I bought my kit from Brooklyn Brew Shop. It's a good, basic setup. However, I've supplemented it over time. In particular, I bought a hydrometer, a mini auto siphon, and an instant read thermometer (when you do all grain batches, you need to monitor the temp and an instant read lets you do that w/o letting too much heat out of the steeping vessel).

                                                                        I live close to a couple of home brew shops, so I probably could have come up with my own kit for less $.

                                                                        If you do start brewing, I suggest you read Palmer's online beer brewing guide. Lots of good info. Brooklyn Brew's instructions were decent but I liked Palmer's more detailed instruction. I have also gotten good advice by looking through http://www.homebrewtalk.com/

                                                                        Good luck

                                                                      3. Nothing to add that hasn't been said.

                                                                        Homebrewing is awesome!

                                                                        1. I've been home brewing, off and on, for 40 years. During my 10 years in Norway and Finland, I found home brewing a necessity due to sinfully high beer prices. I purchased 2 Boot's Chemist (Pharmacy) brown plastic home brew kegs in !980. I lived in small apts. and made copious amounts of beer. Two keg allow one to keep the operation going nonstop.
                                                                          The Boots kegs no longer exist, but I have found a different keg as an example. No fuss no muss w/ bottles and kegs stacked, takes up little space.
                                                                          Today our eldest son has one keg in Seoul and the youngest one at the U of Maine. Money well spent. We are all competent beer brewers and what a fun father/son bonding topic: home brewing.
                                                                          My keg, is unfortunately is between my crotch and nipples.
                                                                          Beer is proof that God...

                                                                          "Hey bartender Passadumkeg"!

                                                                          1. Bump.

                                                                            After years of successfully making hard cider, and occasional wine making success, I'm a gunna give home brewin' a try !

                                                                            Here is a pretty good summary of various recipes :

                                                                            http://www.popularmechanics.com/home/...

                                                                            Anyone care to share your favorite recipe ?

                                                                            11 Replies
                                                                            1. re: PoppiYYZ

                                                                              We just started 2 -6 gallon batches of cyser. I know it is not beer and do not mean to hijack but here they are.
                                                                              6 gallons UV treated sweet cider SG 1.054
                                                                              4 pounds honey
                                                                              6t yeast nutrient
                                                                              1t wine tannin
                                                                              2 different yeasts,, Lalvin-71B-1122 and D47
                                                                              BG.1.068 expected ABV 9.7
                                                                              We have been experimenting with different yeasts.

                                                                              1. re: Raffles

                                                                                Thanks,

                                                                                I have bees, love honey, a friend makes mead, but I haven't developed a taste for the stuff. His tastes like soaked sweat sock water. Foul nasty stuff, but maybe it is my friends fault...

                                                                                Been meaning to try making it myself, since the thought of hosting a tankard of mead appeals to me somehow !

                                                                                BTW, I heard adding a touch of herbs or other flavorings is a good addition to mead.

                                                                                1. re: PoppiYYZ

                                                                                  Sounds like your friends sanitation and brewing hygiene is somewhat lacking.

                                                                                  If I kept bees I would be making mead like crazy.

                                                                                  Mead takes longer than beer to make a great product. Six months or so, but you can make some fantastic stuff.

                                                                                  I first made mead around 20 years ago, and the second batch a made, a sweet pineapple mead, won best of show and had the judges asking to buy bottles. They compared it to Chateau d'yquem Sauternes desert wine.

                                                                                  Get few books on the subject. There are sweet meads, dry meads, cyser (apple cider/mead), melomel (fruit/honey), metheglin (spices/honey), and so many more.

                                                                                  http://www.stormthecastle.com/mead/ar...

                                                                                  http://www.gotmead.com/forum/index.ph...

                                                                              2. re: PoppiYYZ

                                                                                I suggest Charlie Papazian's Joy of Home Brewing, and any other books by him. A classic book on the subject with lots of recipes.

                                                                                He just about personally spearheaded the homebrewing movement in the US and the craft brewing industry.

                                                                                I wrote him a letter 5-6 years ago thanking him for his inspiration and we ended up writing back and forth a lot, and became friends on FB. Met in person several times a couple of years ago.

                                                                                1. re: JMF

                                                                                  Thanks JMF,

                                                                                  I always imagined mead to be somewhere between beer and wine (like a cider), but with a dry slightly carbonated subtle honey flavor profile. Dunno since I have never tasted one that didn't have the sweat sock thing going.

                                                                                  Guess I need to try making some.

                                                                                  BTW, the bees are struggling in my part of the world. Most hives are dying off like crazy each winter. Mead may be a difficult thing to make in the future...

                                                                                  1. re: PoppiYYZ

                                                                                    Mead is honey wine. Mead can be still, or sparkling. The great majority of real, traditional mead tends to be dry, and still, the honey flavor can be mild, or pronounced. Depending upon the type of honey, and the amount used.

                                                                                    Hard cider is apple wine, made with no additional sugars so the alcohol level is relatively low for a wine. Traditional hard cider has little or no carbonation. It may be 'frizzante', but that's about it, unless it was bottled prior to the finish of fermentation, or with additional sugar added to the bottle, or force carbonated.

                                                                                2. re: PoppiYYZ

                                                                                  Here is my basic house IPA recipe. You can derive your own volumes based on your system to acheive the starting gravity.

                                                                                  85% English pale 2-row
                                                                                  13% carapils
                                                                                  2% 40L cyrstal

                                                                                  Mash at 152F - 154F for 45-60mins.

                                                                                  ~85 ibus worth of high alpha hops (I use Nugget or columbus) for 60 mins

                                                                                  1/2 oz/gal. of Centennial (or whatever citrusy US variety you can get) for 10 minutes.

                                                                                  1/2 oz/gal (or more) of Citra, Amarillo, Simcoe, Centennial, Mosaic, Galaxy, etc. or any combo thereof post flameout (at 180 degrees F).

                                                                                  OG 1.058 - 1.060

                                                                                  Pitch 1.5 packs (per 5.5 gals) US-O5 directly in wort.
                                                                                  Leave in primary for 7-10 days at 66F, then keg or secondary.

                                                                                  FG 1.010 - 1.012
                                                                                  SRM ~5
                                                                                  ABV ~ 6%
                                                                                  IBU's 100 (calculated - reality is probably somewhere in the 60-80 range)

                                                                                  Dryhop with 1/2 oz per gal (or more) for 7 days with same varieties/ratio as post flameout additions. Take these out, add the same again for 3-5 days. Use your absolute freshest smelling hops for dryhopping - I prefer pellets.

                                                                                  1. re: LStaff

                                                                                    LStaff- Do you think that an advanced home brewing recipe is appropriate for a beginning home brew thread?

                                                                                    Basic home brewing: using liquid and/or powdered malt extract, hopped or unhopped; plus hops.

                                                                                    Intermediate: using both liquid/powder malt extract, plus hops, plus flavoring grains and malts.

                                                                                    Advanced: using malted grains an dlavoring grains, mashing at calculated temps., plus hops at various times during the boil.

                                                                                    1. re: JMF

                                                                                      >LStaff- Do you think that an advanced home brewing recipe is appropriate for a beginning home brew thread?

                                                                                      If Sam Caligione can write an advanced homebrewing book for beginning homebrewers, why not me? ;-)

                                                                                      To convert to extract, replace the two row english pale malt with 6.5 lbs of light dried malt extract (for 5.5 gal. batch) and steep the carapils and crystal.

                                                                                      1. re: LStaff

                                                                                        Thanks all,

                                                                                        I planted my own hops last year, so I for one am ready to go. Lets open up the kimonos and show how really good home brew can be made !

                                                                                        It is understood that it will take trials and determination to reach brewing excellence, but if people who are extremely competent don't share, the rest of us are lost in the dark.

                                                                                        Thanks LStaff, I'm taking your recipe along with my other notes to a self proclaimed local home brew master (if such a thing exists), for a joint brewing session this week. I'm really looking forward to it.

                                                                                        Thanks again for sharing.

                                                                                        BTW, my second rack of apfelwein (hard cider) is done and the prospects taste very good. Long live the Bembel.

                                                                                3. Definitely a good idea. I don't do it, but I encourage anyone with the space and time and interest to try it.

                                                                                  A friend of mine is quite talented, has the time and space... and sometimes produces a knock-out drink, and sometimes something not so good...

                                                                                  .... but you definitely can produce the equivalent of some of the best microbrews you ever had. He's brewed a super-imperial scotch ale that knocked all of us out... and to top that a cherry mead made with fresh-picked tart cherries. It's been aging for 2 years and is just about the best thing I've ever drank.

                                                                                  .... but then there have been fails too.... vinegary meads, a "cream ale" I didn't like, a "wee heavy" that wasn't interesting... All brewers have a fail from time to time, didn't Goose Island have to lose an entire year's production of Bourbon Stout one year? On the Dogfish show I saw them lose an entire vat of a beer ("$50,000 down the drain").

                                                                                  3 Replies
                                                                                  1. re: TombstoneShadow

                                                                                    Homebrewing teaches you a lot about beer. I haven't brewed beer in 25 years but I retain knowledge from when I did. Nothing puts you in touch with beer like knowing how to make it.

                                                                                    1. re: Jim Dorsch

                                                                                      After starting to write about beer, I home brewed for about 10 years. Very educational and really gets you in touch with the essence of beer -- Jim Dorsch is certainly right about this. My last batch was in 2008.

                                                                                      1. re: Tripeler

                                                                                        I also brewed for a decade, 1979 (the year it was legalized) to 1989.