As a true northerner I’ve always embraced winter brewing outside/in the garage, however when your hoses to your immersion chiller freeze up and you’re forced to carry a 15 gallon kettle with 6.5 gallons of wort from the garage down to the basement to chill you start to think about what could be done differently.
As I was thinking about winter brewing I also thought about summer brewing in the garage – here in MN it gets fairly hot (90*+) and humid from June – August, which is more unappealing to me than brewing at 0* or below, but at least I can run water through my chiller. This basically means that with my unattached garage and no plumbing there I end up with about 5-6 months of decent outdoor brewing – not good enough.
It was clear to me at this point that I needed to figure out an indoor setup. I thought about trying to make a basement setup, but with no dedicated area and the prospect of ventilation and gas plumbing it just wasn’t feasible (for me). I thought about an electric setup, but opted not to risk killing myself since I know nothing about electrical engineering and it would still mean figuring out a dedicated space and ventilation. This left the stove-top, which luckily we had just replaced and happened to get a stove with a pretty powerful burner (what a coincidence, right?).
Knowing what I had to work with it was time to choose a batch size – shooting for 5 gallons of finished beer isn’t ideal on a stove top. I also want to branch out a bit and experiment with recipe formulation as I mostly stick to brewing established recipes – albeit with significant tweaks at times – so I wanted to keep the batch size around 2-3 gallons. Applying the KISS methodology the clear winner was 2.5 gallon batches since those scale pretty much linearly to my normal 5 gallon batch size.
In a typical 5 gallon batch I aim to produce 6.5 gallons of wort and leave 1.25 gallons of wort/trub in the kettle while transferring 5.25 gallons into the fermenter. For the 2.5 gallon batches I’m producing 3.25 gallons of wort and leaving .5 gallons in the kettle. Both batch sizes leave .25 gallons in the fermenter. I’ll have to increase batch size for beers that use a ton of hops or for beers I plan to secondary.
I really wanted my process to be as identical as possible between the 2 setups as I’ll still brew 5 gallon batches and want to be able to brew the same beer on either setup. I ferment in 6 gallon better bottles now so 3 gallon seemed like the logical choice for the half-sized batches, but I also hate dealing with blowoff tubes and losing beer to blowoff so I opted for the 5 gallon better bottles. I end up with a lot of headspace, but I do fairly short primaries anyway and don’t think I introduce much oxygen after pitching (I mostly rack to kegs with CO2 in a closed environment, etc.). I’ll probably secondary in 3 gallon better bottles (and up my batch size a bit) when I brew bigger beers unless I break them into 1 gallon jugs and maybe oak half or something.
For a kettle I ended up going with the Morebeer 8 gallon Heavy Duty Brew Kettle. I have the 15 gallon version and love it (welded fittings, retains heat well, solid) so that was an easy choice. There is also basically no chance of a boilover with if I leave the lid off and I am not about to risk that on our new stove (I would never hear the end of it and probably be kicked back out to the garage).
I plan to bottle a lot of these batches, but will also likely get a couple 2.5 gallon kegs. I’m sure 5 gallon kegs will work fine, but it’d be nice to have a couple 2.5 gallon kegs.
I’ll get a brew sesh post up soon – stay tuned.