My failure to think outside the box has yet again led me down a path where I need to buy more equipment to fit my latest pursuit of homebrewing. My problem is I made the responsible decision at some point to scale down and commit to a 10-gallon kettle because I don’t drink my beer fast enough. I love beer, but I honestly love the brewing process more than anything. Famous last words “I only ever do 5-gallon batches.”
If you ask any homebrewer they will likely tell you to buy the biggest kettle you can afford. I heard this advice and ignored it. What in God’s name am I going to do with 10 gallons of beer? See also, my advice to new homebrewers.
Why Split Batch Brewing?
It wasn’t until I did my 5 yeast NEIPA split batch experiment that I fell in love with the idea of split batch brewing and pitching different yeasts into the same wort to see how the batches compared. While this can be done with ANY recipe, it’s especially fun with NEIPAs because you can both switch up the yeast and also the ever-important dry hop variety and technique. Well, this has led me to obsessive thoughts of scaling up to a 20-gallon BIAB kettle and splitting 10-gallon batches between two fermenters. Everyone knows the anticipation of tapping a fresh keg, but it’s literally doubled when you have two new beers at once.
Split batches can help answer some of those burning questions around biotransformation and if it actually does anything? Does active vs post-fermentation dry-hopping present a notable difference? How will a batch differ if I double the DH charge? Cryo Hops® vs standard T-90. These are all questions I want the answers to but can’t quite pull off with my equipment in the most efficient way.
The problem with brewing consecutive batches with subtle changes is you almost never get a true comparison. Whatever batch you’re currently drinking is always going to be a few weeks ahead of the next one. This is important to consider when taking beer maturity into account. Also, it’s harder to be 100% consistent from batch to batch. And what if you accidentally kick the keg of batch A? I can’t possibly rely on my brain to remember such subtle differences between batch B.
Lastly, you can knock out two batches in the time of one. Time savings and less cleaning is at the top of everyone’s list these days. With so many obligations, it’s hard not to appreciate that.
Go Big or Go Home
Since my system is eBIAB, scaling up at this point is really only a matter of buying a single new kettle. Plus, I can still toggle between my 10g kettle for whenever I feel the urge to brew a micro-batch. All of my components are tri-clover, along with my heating element, so it could be a lot worse in terms of upgrade cost. Depending on your system and config, a 20g kettle gives you a diverse range of batch sizes ranging from 5-15 gallons anyway. Another reason why BIAB is so appealing to me.
The only real downside is the need for extra fermenters. This is a non-issue if you like plastic buckets but if you’re like me and want pressure-capable fermenters, this can get incredibly expensive really fast. The good news is the Spike Flex units are a great value when you consider everything they can do (I’d love to play with one someday).
Sharing is Caring
If you have 3-4 friends over on a Saturday afternoon and you start crushing beers, you’re going to plow through a corny keg really fast. Then you’re kicking yourself because you only drank 4 pours after hours of work and weeks of patiently waiting. But that’s not my point. The point is I love giving my beer away for people to try. Friends, family, you name it. When I have a brand new batch I am always excited to run a growler next door or down the road. A 3-gallon batch doesn’t really give you a lot of wiggle room for this. I’m also looking to start canning my beers in the near future so this will make traveling with brews to the beach that much better.
I don’t want to feel like I have to hoard my beers!
Now, I’m not here advocating everyone reading this to go buy a 30-gallon kettle but I am hoping this makes you think a little before purchasing your next brewing kettle. I to was concerned about producing too much beer but at this point, I’ve built giving my beer away into my brewing strategy. After all, your homebrew is hours of precious work, and enjoying it with others makes it that much more satisfying.