p1000517.jpgWhy brew on a small scale? Surely more beer is better?

Well there are many reasons to try it out. Many people have small kitchens and don’t have the space for a full brew. Five gallons is a lot of beer if you don’t have people to drink it all. Also for experiments you can’t beat brewing up a small batch. If something goes wrong you don’t have to chuck so much beer which is good when you start brewing. It’s good for trying out lots of different beer styles. It’s not great brewing up 5 gallons of Belgium Wit only to discover you don’t like it. If you’re like me and not strong it saves you lifting heavy pots full of hot wort!

I decided to give it a go.

The equipment you need is pretty much the same as standard brewing except you can use smaller versions of some of it. A big enough stock pot is needed for the boil but most kitchens have one of these. One thing you may have to get is a weighing scales that can measure 1g increments. You will be using small amounts of hops and so need to weigh them accurately. I use a glass 1 gallon (5 litre) demijohn with airlock for fermenting which if you’re short of space takes up much less than room than a big plastic bucket.

In this example with pictures I was brewing an orange honey ale. For a small scale batch you can use any recipe and just scale the amounts. This is done by multiplying the amount of each ingredient by your volume then dividing by the volume in the original recipe.
In the original recipe 2.27kg of dried malt extract is required for a 25 litre batch.
So in this 5 litre recipe we need (2.27x5)/25 = 454g which I round up to 450g.


450g dried malt extract
270g honey
11g coriander
6g orange rind
11g Hallertau hops
60min 5g
30 min 3g
5 min 3g
1 sachet Danstar Windsor Yeast

Get all the ingredients together before you start, it makes things easier. I get all the equipment cleaned sterilised and ready before I start.

Weighing honey is a sticky business.

A smaller volume of water comes to a boil more quickly on the cooker. The extract and the hops are added at the start of the sixty minute boil.


Adding the spices. With a smaller volume you have to watch that there isn’t too much evaporation from the boil.


The wort can be chilled in the sink using ice if you don’t have a wort chiller. It won’t take too long to cool since the volume is smaller. A small pot fits in the sink, my large pot would never fit and takes a while to cool. Take care not to let any of the cooling water get in the wort.

The wort is then poured into a sanitised glass demijohn using a funnel lined with santised cloth. 

Rehydrated yeast is added. For a small batch you don’t need to make a yeast starter as there are enough yeast cells in the yeast sachet to ferment a small batch. An airlock is added and a prayer said to the gods of fermentation… only kidding. I use an aquarium temperature sticker on the demijohn to keep an eye on the temperature.
So there you go. I find that using extract and a small brew volume you can put a brew up in about 2 hours.

So why brew in small batches?
•    If you live in a small house or have limited kitchen space you can brew without as much large equipment taking up room.
•    I’d recommend it to new brewers. My first few batches were large twenty litre batches and the first one went wrong and it was so disappointing to pour it all away. I also made a porter that went well but I found I ended up with too much beer and bottling it all was a pain.
•    With a smaller batch size you can bottle it all into about eight to ten 500ml swing top bottles.
•    If the beer turns out badly you don’t have to throw as much away.
•    I think anyone who wants to try out a new recipe will find this technique useful. You can check a recipe works out well before scaling up to a full batch. Also if you want to check what effect using a different ingredient will have on a brew you can use this technique to make comparison brews. Perhaps you could ferment the same wort with two different yeasts.
•    Making strange brews. I want to brew using various herbs like bog myrtle, meadowsweet and nettles. It’s much easier to try this out in a small size brew to get the quantities right before scaling up.

Now for problems I’ve noticed.
•    With a batch this small using a hydrometer isn’t an option as you need to use too much wort when measuring the gravity. A solution to this is to get a refractometer which uses only a few drops to measure the gravity. I don’t have one yet so was just guessing and hoping the gravity came out ok.
•    On the flipside when the beer does come out well you only have a small amount of it. I usually mix brewing small with the odd big volume brew so that I have a large barrel of beer on the go.
•    I don’t brew all grain but and I can’t see anyone doing a small scale all grain brew. It takes a long time so you might as well get a lot of beer out of it. However I have seen
articles on partial mashing which would work on the small scale.  This will be the next thing that I try out so I’ll report back on how that goes.

Brew Your Own Magazine - July 2007

Bog Myrtle

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