Home brew all grain in small batches in an apartment….

Home brewing a 1 gallon batch of beer in an apartment using all grain. This is how I do it and I realise it might not be the best way but it works well for me and I can get the brew day done in around 3 hours and yield around 10-15 12oz bottles that cost between $10-15 in raw materials, apart from the raspberry lambic, which was $25 but considering they tend to go for $6-10 a bottle, that’s still not bad.

I get all my supplies from Strange Brews, a local brew shop. They’re awesome for getting supplies as well as helping out with ideas, recipes and what to do and they’re pretty quick about answer questions through Twitter too.

I usually have an idea of what I want to brew and they help refine a recipe, or scale a 5 gallon recipe I find online down to a 1 gallon recipe and get the grains, which they crack and all the hops, yeast and anything else you might need.

The gear. I’m guessing most folks will have most of it because of some kit you got, using syrups and now you want to try all grain and would only need a few more bits and pieces.

SwissArmy Knife App – Free Android app, really handy timer as you can set 5 count down timers which is useful for mash brew time as well as keeping track of the hops.

Home Brew Calculators – Free Android app that I use to calculate the strike temps needed for the mash tun water. You want the water to hit the grains at whatever temp the recipe says, around 154F but the volume of grain and ambient temp will affect how much that water cools so you can calculate how to take that into account by putting in the target temp, the room temp, the volume of water and weight of grain and it tells you the temp you want the mash water to be, usually 10-20F higher than the target temp.

-Glass carboy – Ideally you want two or three. Two allows you to transfer the brew into a secondary ferment which tends to make for a cleaner beer and a good point to add in extra ingredients like chocolate nibs of fruit depending on the beer. Having a third carboy means you can get another brew on the go in the middle and then have that brew go into secondary using the first carboy. They’re pretty cheap, around $5 or bucks but the jugs are also used by Whole Foods for their fresh pressed apple cider and also for Carlo Rossi wines.

-Drilled bung – For sticking in the carboy.

-Air lock – For sticking in the bung, so things don’t explode.

-Tubes – For syphoning but also for the initial fermenting stage and a smaller one for the mash tun. Couple bucks from a local hardware store.

-Thermometer  – Pretty obvious this.

-Funnel – For pouring your brew into carboy and bottles.

-Small strainer – Helps filter out hops and other lumps while you fill the carboy.

-Stirring rod – I use a slotted pasta spoon.

-Wire brush – Makes it easier to clean carboy of gunk around the bend of the neck.

-Kettle pots – I use a small spag pot and a larger 6-8Q spag pot.

-Sparging colander – This is to distribute the water evenly when you sparge. I use the one that came with one of the spag pots because it is flat, so the water spreads out nicely when you pour it in and it also fits perfectly on top of the cooler that’s the mash tun.

-Muslin bags – A large one for the grains, usually need 2 small ones for the hops and perhaps a third for anything else you might add to the boil.

-Large 2Q Pyrex measuring jug.

-Grolsch bottles – 3-4 15oz bottles for over flow brewing. It might not be advised but it works.

-Mash tun – Need this to hold the grains to get the wort and volume of liquid. Easily made for cheap.

This mash tun was made using a 2 gallon drinks cooler that was on sale for $10 and a square foot of aluminium window screen mesh that was a buck from a local hardware store, trimmed and folded to fit tightly around the inside of the cooler. It sits at the bottom to hold the grains in the grain bag to stop the grains from basically collapsing and bogging down at the bottom so that the liquid can drain through the spigot.

Now you’ve got all the gear together, it’s time to brew. Start by sterilising the stuff, which is pretty boring but necessary. I tend to do this the night before, before bed so everything has the chance to air dry on a towel and be ready to brew first thing in the morning.

That’s pretty much most of the gear ready to be sterilised. I start by taking off my rings so they don’t get stained and then chucking all the small things into the measuring jug with the cleaning solution, which can be bleach and water or something you buy. Give everything a few minutes before rinsing them off or whatever the instructions say and lay them out on a towel. Pour the solution into the mash tun/cooler and then plonk in the bigger pieces like the stirring rod. I then use the funnel to fill the carboy and move on to the spag pots afterwards.

Now it’s time to brew and follow the recipe you have. I fill the smaller of the two spag pots with the small amount of water for the mash which tends to be around 1.25Q per pound of grain, which works out to 2-3Q of water usually. Get the heat on and then fill the larger spag pot with the volume of water for the sparge, this is about a half gallon per pound of grain, so usually around 1-1.5G of water.

You only need to heat the mash water, in the smaller pot at this point and while that is going, which should take about 10-15 mins, you can fill the muslin sacks with the grain (don’t knot the end) and the smaller ones with the hops (do knot the ends) as you usually will use half at the boil for the bitterness and flavour and the second half for the aroma for the last 5-15 mins of the boil.

As I was brewing a chocolate orange porter, I had some chocolate nibs and orange peel in a third muslin bag for the last 5 mins of the boil.

Place the large grain bag into your mash tun and spread the bag over the top to keep it in place.

Once you’ve got your mash water up to temp, you want to evenly cover the grains in the water. I use the colander to help spread the water and after pouring half of it in, I use the stirrer to stir the grains to eliminate any dry patches and to get the best mash to wort conversion possible.

With all the mash water in the mash tun, put the lid on and start the first timer for an hour. The second spag pot with the main volume of water needs to be heated to 170F and while most of the brewing doesn’t have to be entirely exact, you don’t want this to be above 170F when you sparge or you’ll leach tannins which is the woody, bitter stuff from the grains. This will take 20-30 mins depending on how much water you have, so you can start this half way through waiting for the mash to convert the wort. If you’re doing a kit brew, this is probably where you’re at, with a small bit of grains in the bag for the wort and flavour and then about 15 mins in you’re adding the syrup. The next bit, where you sprage is what you do to create that syrup and volume of water, rather than adding water into the carboy at the end to get the desired volume.

So you’ve had your hour and now you collect the wort. The smaller tube connected to the mash tun spigot is helpful here as you pour the wort into the smaller spag pot. Once you’ve collected all the liquid, put the spag pot onto the cooker and get the heat on as you’ll add the sparged water wort as you go and this will save time getting to a boil.

You want to collect the wort slowly, for a gallon brew, this should be done over 20 mins as you are essentially washing the grains for the sugars and flavour.  Pour the 170F water slowly over the colander bit at a time and drain, I collect it into the Pyrex measuring jug. Once the jug is full I pour that into the small spag pot as it all heats up. When that pot gets close to full, I pour the remaining water from the large pot into the mash tun. Put that pot on the cooker and pour all the liquid you’ve been heating into it and then use that smaller pot to collect the rest of the wort.

Once you’ve got all the liquid, you want it to hit a rapid boil and you want to keep an eye on it because just like using the syrups, they can foam up and boil over pretty quickly, so adjust the heat down a little if that happens.

This brew has the pot pretty close to the top, but usually it won’t be, so you can collect the liquid that drains from your grains and pour it into the pot. I usually put the spag spoon into the small spag pot and the grain bag on top so that any liquid drips to the bottom of the pot and is easy to pour. You don’t want to squeeze the grains or you’ll release the tannins you’ve been trying to avoid.

Now that your collection of liquid is boiling though, it’s time to drop in one of the small bags of muslin with half of the hops and start the second timer and this will usually be 20-30 mins, then add the aroma hops and get the third timer going and this will usually be 10-20 or so mins.

While this is going, you can get the kitchen sink set for the cooling bath and clean up some of the gear. I half fill one sink with cold water and use a few large bottles of ice to make a cold bath to speed the cooling of the brew after it’s had the boil.

This gives you plenty of room to put the pot in the sink without making a mess.

The aim is to cool the brew down as quickly as possible to avoid contamination and air getting to the brew. I fill the sink with small bottles of frozen water and constantly move them around the sink to disperse the heat and keep the water cool. When the ice in the bottles start to melt, I replace them with new ones. I find this better than using bags of ice because I then don’t have to lift the pot to get to the plug and drain the water as our sink doesn’t have an over flow. This speeds the cooling up nicely and usually doesn’t take more than 20-30 mins. Take the temp every few mins and stir the brew at the same time. You want the temp to get down to at least 80F so you don’t kill the yeast but the exact temp will depend on the yeast you use.

Now the brew is down to temp, it’s ready to fill the carboy. I use the funnel with a small strainer on top and a piece of muslin cloth as this helps to filter out any thing you added to the boil, but mostly the hops which is quite a thick gunk at this point. I use the measuring jug to begin with, filling that from the pot of brew and pouring into the carboy as I find it easier than trying to pour directly. Also makes it easier to stop, so you can rinse the cloth as it tends to clog up and this will make it easier to pour.

When you’ve got to the curved neck of the carboy, you can judge if you have to much liquid still in the pot. Folks are meant to pitch the excess down the drain I guess, but I don’t. I put the yeast into the carboy, then the bung on top to cover it and make it easier for me to shake the thing about and let it sit a few minutes.

I then use the funnel to pour some of the brew from the carboy into those optional Grolsch bottles, up to the label as you don’t want to fill them up as much as you would when bottling. Some times I need 2-4 bottles. Pop the cap on and set a side and then get back to filling the carboy.

Once the carboy is full, put the bung in and then the syphon tube, which you put the other end into a glass that’s half full of water. This stops air getting into the brew but also allows the spuge (krausen) to bubble out of the carboy, which is something that’ll happen in the next day or two and it beats having to clean the air lock and worry about sanitation.

You want the carboy to sit in a dark area that’s got a consistent warm temp, so a large cooler is good. I wrap the thing in a large towel and have it resting on a box beside the bed as you want it off the floor so it doesn’t get the cold into it and you want it stable so that sediment can sink to the bottom. If you’re doing the Grolsch over flow above, you want to make sure you then unseal the metal bit so that the lids are only sitting on the bottle. This allows the gas to escape and any foam. If you don’t, they could explode which is why this isn’t recommended, nor safe but I’ve had good success with it and feel it’s such a waste other wise. You might need to replace the glass of water in the morning or the evening if it gets full, so keep an eye on it before bed and when you get up.

After a couple of days, when the foam as stopped, you remove the tube and use the airlock as usual, filling it with water and putting that into the bung. At this point, you can seal up the bottles too, but you want to unseal them in the evening and when you wake up to allow the gases from the fermentation to escape.

A week later, you syphon the carboy contents into another, sanitised carboy for secondary fermentation. This is when you can add any additives like fruit and the benefit of a one gallon brew is that you only need a small handful of cherries to do a cherry wheat for instance, so you can use fresh and get great flavours without needing to use syrups so you know exactly what goes into your beer. Also this secondary helps give you a clearer beer when it comes to bottling. If you have a third carboy and have already got a batch that is in secondary, this is then a good time to then bottle that batch.

I normally leave the secondary for a couple of weeks but it can be finished in a week. You know when there’s no more bubbles coming out of the airlock and it’s all clear. I really can’t be bothered with a hydrometer test which would be more specific and give you a chance to calculate alcohol content though. Anyway, this way, the batch that has been bottled has had two weeks to carb and can go into the fridge, freeing up room to move the secondary into it’s space and a fresh new brew to get going to keep the cycle going.

I might go into the syphoning and bottling another time with a couple of tips I’ve picked up, but they’re pretty standard and if you’ve used a kit, the instructions should be the same.

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