Home brewing…simply

At first glance of all my brewing stuff the first thought that comes to mind certainly is not “simple” or “minimalist”. While I admittedly tend to over-engineer things I’m building my ultimate goal is simplifying my brewing process and along with that minimizing the brewing equipment I have.

A few years ago I realized I had a lot of stuff, stuff I didn’t use any longer and thus didn’t need. That began the process of simplifying and downsizing my life. But wait, I have a hobby that could probably be classified as an obsession and it involves a fair amount of different equipment and “stuff”. Like a lot of home brewers I’ve accumulated a collection of fermenters, mash paddles, long brewing spoons, kettles, corny kegs etc. Not sure how it happens to us since, let’s face it, everything you need to brew a batch of beer comes in one of those home brewing starter kits. When I decided to downsize and simplify my life it was about the same time I made the switch to small batch brewing. Small batch brewing fit my drinking style and desire to brew less each time but to brew more often. Small batch brewing itself goes well with the simple lifestyle and the minimalist idea. The problem for me is that overwhelming need to over-engineer everything like I mentioned before. Always a couple brewing equipment projects in the works, parts for those projects laying around. But I have found that trait is now beneficial, over-engineering is getting me to my ultimate goal of simplifying my brewing process. I have focused on creating a small compact, space saving brewing system that fits my own needs. Something that is versatile and efficient. Stay tuned for progress on that build!

While I’m brewing I usually take notes, well okay I always take notes. Often it is a recipe idea for the next batch but just as often it is a collection of ideas to improve my brewing process whether it’s temperature control or how to simplify the cleanup process. Regardless what my thought or idea is I now blend in the requirement of reusing things I already have and making it compact and space saving. A few brew sessions ago I was hanging out in my small brewing space/kitchen during the mash and looking at my accumulation of brewing equipment and started thinking…I use the same few pieces of equipment every brew day so I started boxing up stuff I thought I had to have but never really used. Going to sell it and that will fund ingredients for several future recipes.

Some of my simplifying and downsizing has given me new tools to help improve my beers like using a small dorm refrigerator as a fermentation chamber that I store my 3 gallon Better Bottle fermenters in between brewing batches. Some of the ideas have had multiple benefits like cleaning my brewing system in place with the pump I use to recirculate wort during the mash. Using my immersion wort chiller as HERMS coil. Adding valves to my Better Bottle PET carboys thus eliminating having to have siphoning equipment. Making my electric brewing controller small enough to store inside the brew kettle. Consolidating equipment onto one shelving rack and a small tool cart I can also use as a brewing stand. I use a clear, tight sealing tote for storing some less frequently used items such as extra silicone tubing, spare hydrometer, bottle capper etc so I can easily see what is in the tote without having to dig through it to find stuff.

Whether you are a 1 gallon small batch brewer in a tiny studio apartment or have a large dedicated brewing space and brew 10+ gallon batches you can simplify and still improve your brewing. Simplifying home brewing makes home brewing even more enjoyable.


9 thoughts on “Home brewing…simply

  1. Hi, I’m new to brewing thanks to getting a couple kits last christmas and finally using them. Yesterday I took the big all grain step and made a 1 gallon porter batch with just grains and mashing etc. I found that I need a better way to strain the grains. I just read most of your articles and loved seeing how you have progressed since I too live in a tiny apartment with no storage space. I’d be interested in seeing a list of all your current equipment. Also, in one article you added an immersion chiller to a self heating 6 gallon pot but I wasn’t sure why you needed to modify the control panels.

    • Daniel thanks for checking out my blog and welcome to small space all-grain brewing. For one gallon all-grain mashing you could try a paint strain bag available at home improvement stores, they are nylon mesh and available in one gallon and five gallon size. The five gallon size fits most smaller stock pots really well. A colander that fits on top of your stock pot can be used to let the grains drain and lets you sparge the grains.
      My current list of equipment is the same stuff you’ll have in your kit. Capper and bottle filling wand in case I decide to bottle, I keg most of my batches in 1.75 gallon kegs. An assortment of silicone tubing, couple hydrometers, a quick read probe thermometer, an assortment of drilled and solid stoppers, my grain mill, a 3 gallon and 5 gallon bucket for milling grain into and sanitizing in, a couple 3 gallon Better Bottle plastic fermenters and an immersion chiller. My actual brewing system is now a converted 20 quart stock pot with a basket and 2000W 120V element (I’ll be posting details to the blog soon). I also have a two vessel 120V electric Blichmann 7.5 gallon system in the works for more traditional all-grain brewing. I like to bounce back and forth between brewing methods depending on batch size, grain bill and my mood at the time but key factor for it all is small footprint. Other than my fermentation chamber and kegerator (both dorm size refrigerators) my brewing stuff takes up only 4-5 square feet so a closet is used for storage of it all. Your question regarding the controllers is a good one. Simple answer is I’m looking for the best, simple yet versatile controller for a small space/small batch home brewer. I enjoy tinkering with developing what I think will be best for me and in the process I will share my experiences so those thinking about building a controller can pick and choose ideas that might suit their needs or at least encourage a thought process about what they want.

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