View Full Version : Batch Size

06-03-2010, 01:39 AM
Many moons ago I became accustomed to the 'traditional' homebrew batch size of 5 gallons, and stretching this to 6-7 gallons. For beer, beer quaffing homebrewers, and a quicker aging cycle, this is all good. I probably wouldn't start homebrewing again in less than 10 gallon batche sizes.

But I'm getting the impression that many home mead batches are done on a smaller scale, perhaps multiple smaller (1 gallon?) batches in parallel. I have a few 5-6 gallon carboys, and am thinking I might need to consider investing in some smaller 1-3 gallon size carboys/jugs.

I've had to drain pour 5 gallon batches before and am thinking I should start smaller. For example, I did a buckwheat honey Cyser once where I didn't taste the honey first and it came out as a dead ringer for cough syrup)

Any thoughts or experience to share here before I overdo my first batch?

Any reasons why I shouldn't attempt a smaller batch in a 5 gallon carboy? For the primary fermentation I see no issue, for secondary I would need to consider oxidation potential (I still have CO2/kegging gear so I could manage this).

I know I am sort of talking to myself here, but I appreciate any insights.

06-03-2010, 02:05 AM
Smaller batches are nice from a cost/space/experimenting perspective. If any of those apply, you could consider going with batches in the one or two gallon range. The downside of course is you end up with less at the end, and any racking/sampling/etc losses get greatly magnified.

Gallon jugs can often be found, though usually with other liquids in them already (juice or wine). If you have CO2 to flush out the headspace, you "should" be fine using a larger vessel.

As for cough syrup mead, how old was it? Sometimes you can just wait out some flaws. If you know the details of the batch, we might be able to figure out the cause of that problem (it might not be the honey, and I'd guess it wasn't).

06-03-2010, 02:38 AM
That batch was many years ago, and my processes were pretty crisp back then. From memory, 5 gals cold pressed cider, 2-4 lbs buckwheat honey,
Used a full 5 gal boil, counterflow wort chiller, pure wyeast strain, usually a yeast starter. I had done nearly the same recipe but with other honeys successfully once or twice before- they came out something like a dry Chardonnay.

Medsen Fey
06-03-2010, 09:59 AM
With good-quality, tasty, fresh honey I don't think you'll be wasting any honey if you take the time to read the NewBee Guide to get comfortable with the differences compared with beer brewing. Right off the bat, I'd leave the boiling pot out of the process - no need to chase off delicate floral aromas. With proper management of temperature, nutrients and pH, you will almost always get something that will fall somewhere between good and outstanding. Since you have enough honey to give away, there's very little cost in risking 14-18 pounds of it for a 5 gallon batch.

That's my thinking anyway. I almost hate 1-gallon batches. If you make something really good, it is frustrating as can be to realize that you only have 4 bottles.

06-03-2010, 10:42 AM
As for cough syrup mead, how old was it? Sometimes you can just wait out some flaws. If you know the details of the batch, we might be able to figure out the cause of that problem (it might not be the honey, and I'd guess it wasn't).

This. If you have the bottles and storage space, let it sit. These were all 1-gallon batches, but I had 1 that came out very much like cough syrup (it was even a pyment with red grapes!) and after a year, it's approaching drinkable. I also had 2 that were so awful for other reasons I almost threw them out. After a year, one is pretty good and the other shows real promise.

I think it's a good point that 1 gallon batches can be frustrating because you get so little, but I think they're worth starting with. I started out using a recipe I found online called hangover cyser, and had really nice results with that.

Chevette Girl
06-03-2010, 11:18 AM
that 1 gallon batches can be frustrating because you get so little

I usually go for the 350 ml dessert wine bottles when I have a small batch that I know turned out really well... my standard for any 1 gal batch is 3 750 ml and 3-4 350 ml bottles... that way I've got a few small bottles to sample and make sure it's worth cracking open a bigger bottle.

06-03-2010, 11:32 AM
I've been a beer brewer for over 15 years and did the 5 gallon batches most all of that time, but the last few years, I dropped back to 2.5 gal batches because I like variety and 5 gallons got to be a pain to store in the mean time.

Now with the addition of mead to my brewing, I love doing 1 and 2 gallon batches because it's much less labor and equipment intensive and just plain old FUN!!!!

Right now I have 1 2.5 gallon batch of cider and 3 1 gallon batches of mead going and getting ready to do 2 more 2.5 gallons of beer and mead.

Just have fun.

06-03-2010, 12:39 PM
I do a LOT of 1 gallon batches, and while it was good for learning, and trying out "risky" recipes, I wouldn't recommend doing too many. They become a pain to manage, remembering to rack 25 of them at the right times is hard, and waiting 6-12 months before even bottling, and then having only a tiny amount to drink is a little dis-heartening!

I use them now for very expensive recipe experiments, for side-by-side experiments (9 right now identical other than yeast used), etc.

06-03-2010, 10:54 PM
Wow, these were exactly the type of insights I was looking for!

I read the NewBee guide and am trying to get my head around the part where I map to my existing equipment remains, past experience and lots of goodies I have on order into new processes.

The 2-3 gal size sounds right for initial experimenting for me, I can always go to a larger size once I get my confidence up and find recipes that are winners for me.

I'm all for going without the boil or pasteurization if I can get away with it, and it appears that I can. I'm assuming a clean starter will help quite a bit with a no-boil process. I used use a pressure cooker to 'autoclave/can' a bunch of 2 oz (in 10 oz cone top juice bottles) and quart (mason jar) batches of wort. It would be easy enough to convert this to a honey mead-must and re-size the starter (a quart may be an awful lot for a 1-3 gal batch!). I had always used pure Wyeast cultures, but when considering smaller batches I finally see why the $1/package dry yeasts may make more economic sense.

On the aging, that makes sense. At the time and coming from a beer context, the idea of typing up a carboy or even a keg (I had mostly given up on bottling) for 1 year of aging in the hopes of converting cough syrup to something drinkable just wasn't happening.

I had totally overlooked to 350ml bottles and ordered 750's - definitely something to reconsider in the future.

06-04-2010, 07:29 AM
Once the concept of smaller batches takes root, a whole new world practically opens up.

Since I started the small scale brewing, I can my starter wort in 1/2 pint jars. I think these are the best size for the 2-3 gallon runs.

If you really like the liquid yeast strains, try your hand at yeast banking these. You buy 1 tube or smack pack and set aside several slants for future use. This can help save funds. But dry yeast is so inexpensive, theres really no need to banck those, but I do anyway cause I like playing the "Mad Scientist". lol

06-04-2010, 10:21 PM
I started out doing 5 gal batches. If I want to experiment with flavors then what I do is a 5 gal primary and I have glass jugs from apple juice that I have kept washed out. Just a word of caution, make sure the mouth of the jug is large enough to put your stopper for your airlock in it. Works out just fine. Ofcourse what I do with flavors is I don't add fruit, I render it down to a juice and then add that with some peal or zest if neccessary. I find that this can make a 5 gal batch strech to 6 gallons of containers. Most of the loss is done on the first racking anyway. Most of the mead makers that I have talked to and read the posts of say that the best way to keep the aromatics and flavors of fruit is to put it in the secondary. Also if you are doing spices, this makes it so you can put your spices in say a tossable hops bag or use tea bags. I like keeping my carboy easy to clean. Also, if you rack the one gal to a tetriary then you can top up with juice. Works great.

06-04-2010, 11:31 PM
Matrix4B: I like that idea quite a bit as well. My Darling Wife and I aren't always seeing eye-to-eye on our plans for batches and that way one batch could be split into quite a few sub-batches with different fruits/spices/juices/whatever.

BadKarma: Yea, I used to do a lot of yeast culturing stuff, dishes and slants and whatever. I'll wait a bit before I fire that back up again. I remember that one of my best batches (Oatmeal and Honey Imperial Stout - Breakfast of Champions) used the yeast from a bottle of Chimay.

I got an education from one of my old brew buddies who was a yeast researcher working at NIH. He would go to homebrew tasting parties, locate beers he liked and snatch the yeast.

You should have seen the look on someone's face. It went like this: Will you crack a new bottle for me? Uhh Sure. Crack. Friend whips out sealed Petri dish, then whips our sterile pack sampling wand. Courtesy of the US Gov't I'm sure. Dips wand in beer. Unseals and streaks wand across medium in Petry dish. Reseals and pockets dish. Repeat several times a night.

I asked how that worked out in an environment with a bazillion strains of yeast from years of homebrew club meetings and spilled beer floating around. He said isolating the dominant culture and growing pure samples from the dominant strain was child's play for him, and he had a -80C 'immortality chamber' to store the good ones in.

Nice, eh?

Medsen Fey
06-05-2010, 08:01 AM
Is he still working? I've got some Tokay yeast I want to preserve.

Chevette Girl
06-05-2010, 11:29 AM
The 2-3 gal size sounds right for initial experimenting for me, I can always go to a larger size once I get my confidence up and find recipes that are winners for me.

Once I've ironed the kinks out of a recipe, I prefer the 3-gallon batches, I don't run out of room in the fermentation buckets for my fruit bags (probably less of a problem if you stick to straight meads or only use fruit in secondary), I can actually lift the 3-gal carboys without calling in my husband (bad elbows, don't want to risk dropping 5 gal on the kitchen floor!), and it doesn't take me three days to wash and scrape labels off enough bottles when I ultimately bottle it...

When the fruit supply is less than bountiful, I'll do smaller batches, and if the pear and crabapple trees go nuts again, I'll do batches of five, but three gallons is the perfect size for me.

06-06-2010, 11:36 PM
Is he still working? I've got some Tokay yeast I want to preserve.

In case you couldn't tell, I don't think Medsen's asking this in jest. Tokay is one of those "heritage" European strains of yeast that does very well with warm ferments, and given the steambath that he inhabits, I'm sure he'd like to do everything he can to culture and preserve Tokay yeast for future batches. For reasons unknown, it is difficult to impossible to find Tokay wine yeast in North America any more.

06-08-2010, 09:34 AM
I didn't think Medsen was joking, but unfortunately I lost track of this individual some 13+ years ago and now can't even remember his name. Names just aren't my long suit. His 'unusual' skill set made an impression on me.

He was associated with some NIH yeast research lab that I'm pretty sure was located in Bethesda, MD.