Apartment Home Brew Experiments

Any home brewer will tell you, no matter how much they love the hobby, that you have to make the effort and get motivated to keep the beers coming. After a week of work, being an attentive partner to your significant other, a parent, and making an effort to be social and hang with your friends... there doesn't always feel like there is a ton of time for brewing. On top of all that add living in the Bay Area of Northern California or other metropolitan area and chances are you will also run into space issues. No garage, no yard, no patio. So what do you do?

Improvise, experiment, and get used to small batches.

When I'm not convincing my buddies to let me brew on their pro systems or blend from their barrels (aka "The Easy Part") I am brewing 1-3 gallon batches on my little stove with a low power electric coil as my only heat source. This doesn't mean, however, that you cant have a lot of fun. I recommend hitting up your local homebrew shop and grabbing some specialty malts or adjunct ingredients you've never tried. Is there a hop variety in their fridge you haven't heard of? Fuck it! Go For it! Although it can suck to only have a couple bottles (I really like bottling in Champagne bottles but you can definitely grab 12oz bottles so you can get a few more to share) it's much less risky to experiment if you are risking only 1-3 gallons going bad.

If you are fortunate enough to have a mini-fridge or other space for temperature controlled fermentation than you are in good shape. But... if you are (like me) really tight on space and have limited ability to temp control I would suggest making beers using yeast varieties that are ok at a wider range of temps. I use saison yeast a lot and let it free-rise. If you really need temp control for the style beers you want to make there are options available or plenty of creative DIY projects you can find online.

For small batch apartment brewing I highly suggest you use the "Brew In A Bag" (BIAB) method. Using a cloth bag you can do your mash in the same vessel you do your boil in. Be sure to get your strike temperature dialed in (the water before you add the grain) and expect a few degree drop once the grain goes in. Click HERE for a handy calculator to help you determine the strike temp.

Invite your friends (who most likely haven't home brewed) over next time you start setting up. Ask your partner to weigh out some grains with you and show them how to use the mill. Making the time to home brew always feels good, and sharing a bottle of something you made in your modest home setup is one the best feelings in the world. Just don't forget the #1 rule of homebrewing... you have to be drinking a beer while you do it!