Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Start your homebrewing adventures with 1 gallon batches

If you are interested in starting homebrewing as a hobby, but have no idea where to start or don't want to spend a lot of money initially, there are still ways to brew. The easiest way to setup shop is to try an easy recipe to make fruit juice wine. However, you'll need a container to make it with. It's good to start small; I recommend using a 1 gallon sized container.
Cider fermenting
Glass is optimal for 1 gallon fermentation containers
Nearly any kind of 1 gallon beverage container can be used to ferment with. Personally I recommend using a glass jug, like one from cheap wine or luxury apple juice. However you can use juice containers or even milk jugs if you have access to nothing else.

As I said above, glass containers are the best for 1 gallon fermenting because unlike the large carboys you would see for 5 gallon batches, the 1 gallon jug is lightweight and easy to carry. Compared to plastic containers, they prevent oxygen from diffusing into your brew, meaning it's a better container for longer term storage or fermenting. They aren't too hard to acquire; you'll likely find a beverage in a 1 gallon jug in any grocery store that you can empty the contents out of (I recommend drinking it, especially if it's some high quality apple juice). This will cost between $7-$10. If you don't want to bother with buying juice, you can always buy an empty container online.
Empty 1 gallon glass carboy
I think this used to be some organic apple juice, tasty stuff.
Plastic containers can work too. Plastic containers are better if the juice you bought for fermenting came in them. Most juices have been pasteurized before being placed on the shelf. If this is the case, then you'll save time cleaning on brew day, as you can just add your ingredients to the existing container. The last option to try is using an old milk jug. I've done this before for some sketchier stuff, but it's doable. Just be sure your milk carton is clean, as chunks of milk left in the container don't make for good tasting wine.
Fermenting in plastic
Plastic juice jugs are pretty good.
Fermenting in glass
But glass is more ideal at this size.
Now that you have your container, next is your airlock. This is to allow carbon dioxide produced during fermentation by the yeast to escape while simultaneously preventing oxygen or other airborne particles from entering your brew. The principle of an airlock is simple -- carbon dioxide travels through an exit (usually a tube) and bubbles through a sanitary solution (usually boiled water, but can be vodka). You can improvise one like I do for my beer using some tubing and a jar, but for small containers like this, it's easier to buy an airlock. Pictured below is a 3 piece airlock with some bungs.
3 piece airlock and bungs
If you thought I was going to show a milk jug, you were wrong.
For the standard 1 gallon glass jug, you'll need a size 6 bung. The first time I went shopping for an airlock, the bung I bought was too large, so I had to go back and buy the correct sized one. The airlock is incredibly easy to use. After you pitch your yeast, place the bung on the container and insert the airlock in the hole. Then fill the airlock with fluid to the fill line indicated on the side.
Empty 1 gallon glass carboy with airlock
How the airlock attaches to the vessel.
They are cheap too; an airlock and bung combo is less than $2 at almost any store or online retailer. It's well worth the investment and it won't break the bank.
Apple Raspberry wine fermenting
One of my latest creations using this type of container.
I bet you are ready to start brewing at home now! If you are in need of a recipe, I have a few the describe how to make wine from grape juiceapple juice and other fruit juice concentrate. Alternatively, if you want to step your wine game up, you can try Jack Keller's winemaking website. He has compiled hundreds of wine recipes -- all scaled for 1 gallon batch size.

Homebrewing doesn't have to be expensive at first. A small investment like this will tell you whether you want to pursue the hobby. I wish all new homebrewers good luck. If you have any questions, comments, or complaints, feel free to leave a comment below.

*Respect your region's local drinking laws

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