Simple Brew Day

One thing about homebrewing that should be obvious: it should be fun.  And it usually is, although cleaning up at the end of a long brew day can can sometimes call this basic tenet into question.  So I am always looking for ways to keep things simple and keep things easy.  I have the capacity to brew up to 6 or 7 gallons of finished wort, but I don’t always want that much.  I love to experiment, so often I want make only 2 or 3 gallons to see if I like the results.

In an effort to KISS (keep it simple, stupid) I have added a couple of new toys to my brewing arsenal.  The first is a heatstick:

I have been interested in one of these since I first heard about them on Basic Brewing Radio.  It is an electric heating element on the end of a water proof stick.  There are several how-to-build-it resources on the web, so Google that if you want, but so far I really like mine.  Since I use insulated coolers as mash tuns, this now gives me the ability to more effectively manage the mash temperature .

The second new toy is simply a 5 gallon round beverage cooler:

Why a 5 gallon cooler?  Well, I am trying to brew slightly smaller batches (3 gallons or so) and this is the perfect size.  Why? Well especially when trying to brew 3 gallons of a smaller beer, the volume of the mash is only a gallon or so in size.  Trying to hold the mash temperature for such a small volume can be difficult, especially in a large cooler.  So with the heatstick and the 5 gallon cooler I can put my mash water in the cooler and have enough water depth that I can simply heat it with the heatstick:

I found the water heated quickly, and after the grain addition the 5 gallon cooler did a great job maintaining the mash temperature.  I started at about 154° F and about halfway through the mash it had dropped a couple of degrees, so I simply put my heatstick in the mash and voila, we were back at temperature.

And while the mash was mashing, the heatstick was bringing my sparge and rinse water up to temperature.  After that it was a pretty standard brew day.   The results of my effort:

Simple English Bitter

Volume: 3 gallons
OG: 9.5 °P / 1.038 sg

  • 90% Marris Otter
  • 10% dark English Crystal Malt (160 °L)


  • 0.9 ounce East Kent Goldings (45 minutes)
  • 0.25 ounce East Kent Goldings (5 minutes)

Yeast: Wyeast 1469, West Yorkshire

How much more simple can it be?

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