Many of us are faced with home brewing in small spaces whether it be a small apartment, loft, condo or just a small house. I am in the same boat as many others out there and while dreams of a dedicated brewing room are great one must face the reality of what we have to work with.
Does one need a bunch of space to brew? Absolutely not! If you search the brewing forums and blogs you will find folks brewing in kitchens or spaces not much bigger than a walk-in closet. How much space do you need? Well extract brewers require the least, basically their stove top and a place to keep their fermenter that is relatively consistent temperature wise. All-grain brewers really don’t need much more than that. If you brew all-grain in the classic three-vessel style you can place a cooler/HLT atop your refrigerator and mash tun on countertop below it and your boil kettle on a chair below the counter top and you have a three-vessel gravity flow setup. If you favor BIAB then you really can simply use your stove top.
What seems to be the biggest dilemma is storage of all the brewing bits and pieces. Your brew kettle and mash tun can store hoses, pumps, grains etc. Plastic totes can be used to store all the odds and ends and everything can be stacked in a closet and takes up very little space. To make life easier when using totes you can organize your stuff by pre-boil items and post-boil items. Long gift wrap totes can store a lot of stuff and are easily slipped under most beds. If you bottle you can store your bottled brews in a kitchen cupboard, pantry, closet shelf etc. One thing to keep in mind when storing plastic bucket fermenters and bottling buckets is they can scratch easily so don’t place anything inside them or nest them inside each other.
I like to brew often and bounce back and forth between my single vessel electric BIAB and my Brutus style electric two-vessel setup so I wanted to have a storage and brewing stand solution that is small, versatile and still basically aesthetically pleasing if it stays out in plain sight. After throwing around a lot ideas, looking at rolling kitchen carts, stainless tool carts and various custom built stands I decided that I will not find the perfect pre-made stand for brewing on and storing all my stuff so I figured I’ll split it up. For storing larger stuff like buckets of grain, kettles, grain mill, cooler mash tun etc I’m going to get a five shelf wire shelving rack that is 3 feet wide by 18″ deep and 6ft tall. It takes up relatively little floor space and by sewing a cart cover out of nice upholstery fabric it can even live in a corner of a room without looking that bad.
Now the harder part, finding a brew stand to actually brew on. Well like many other things in brewing it came down to repurposing something else and I decided on repurposing a small wooden hobby/craft cart. I kept noticing the wooden craft cart at a craft/fabric store for months and while it was priced for quick sale, attractive and sturdy I never put two and two together that this is something I could use. One day I was at the store for supplies to sew up another BIAB bag and the cart was still there and it hit me…with some fairly simple and inexpensive modifications it was my new brew stand for my electric brewing setup. I spoke with the manager, who also realized it had been marked down for months and no one had shown any interest in it, and made a great deal on the stand. It measures approximately 2 feet square and 34″ tall and is constructed entirely of cabinet-grade plywood with casters, five drawers on full extension drawer slides and little cubbies on the side for odds and ends.
After getting it home I was staring at it and thinking “now what?” I kept looking at the lower cubby on the left side and I thought “that would be a great spot for my pump!” The pump attached easily and securely to the bottom of the cubby. Out of the way, lower than everything else for easy priming and it even looked like it was supposed to be there.
Now the next step, my plan was to have my mash tun sitting on the top and the boil kettle sitting lower off the side so I could just drain into it at the end of the mash. I needed a folding or drop down shelf of some sort to accommodate my boil kettle. After doing a little online research I found a few different folding shelf brackets that would support 300 lbs or more, more than enough for my 10 gallon Blichmann with 5-7 gallons of wort. So I did a little shopping around and scored two stainless steel folding brackets for $40. Now a little planning was in order, where to mount the folding shelf? Well after some measuring I decided on a position on the right side of the cart that placed the boil kettle lower than the top shelf where the mash tun would be and high enough that I could just run straight into any of my fermenters after chilling the wort in the kettle. Thankfully it placed the boil kettle shelf lower than half the overall height of the cart thus preventing tipping and if needed I’ll attach a folding leg under the shelf for added stability if needed while brewing. The brackets were bolted through the side of the cart and they are very secure. Now I’ll need to fashion and attach an actual shelf to the brackets, something that looks nice and withstands a little heat and moisture.
When done brewing the mash tun and kettle can be stored away on the wire shelving, side shelf folded down and the cart can remain in the kitchen looking right at home.
I’ll update my progress and it comes along.