The Tiny Kitchen Brewer's Guide

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The Tiny Kitchen Brewer's Guide

Postby calumscott » Mon Apr 07, 2014 10:08

"I don't have space for homebrewing!!!"

Wanna bet?

I had a lovely but little new build maisonette when I started brewing.

When I originally wrote this, kit number eight (a Coopers Irish Stout) in FV. 300 pints brewed and a good hundred and something drunk in the last few months. I didn't have the space for all that homebrew stuff?


My Kitchen
Walkable floor area: 8' x 3' 6"
Useable worktop area: c. 12 sq ft

My Brewing Kit List
Two 5 Gallon Youngs FV's. One with a little bottler tap. One lid with airlock. Both with sticky-on thermometers.
Plastic Brewing Paddle.
Little Bottler
Emily Capper
Syphon tube
Trial Jar
80 branch Bottle Tree
A host of everyday kitchen stuff, most notably, a stainless steel ladle, decent can opener, plastic jug, pots and pans and a big balloon whisk.

The Concept
You don't have a brewery, you don't have a lot of space and you don't have a lot of kit. Make your entire kitchen and eveything in it your brewery just for a couple of hours, then make it all go away again. Be organised and tidy and you won't make mistakes.

Storage - use bottles
Bottles are easier to store than barrels. I'm fortunate in that my mother in law has plenty of space for storing full crates of beer but with a little creativity you can find room. Proper stackable crates are superb as they have very little footprint and if you have conditioning storage elsewhere (shed or garage or something) then your produce is neatly packaged and ready to go once the second, in-bottle fermentation is done.

Stick your brew in a barrel on your worktop and there goes a significant part of your preparation area for however long it takes to condition and for you to get through 40 pints. Bottle it and you can squirrel it away in nooks and crannies and it's not in your way.

Empty bottles, either due for recycling from bought beer or ones already in brewing use get chucked in the second FV. It holds (with some careful stacking and piling on top) about enough for 2/3 of a brew. The rest tend to hang around in boxes or get put back in the crate if I'm drinking my own beer.

Why kits?
I'm not saying you can't brew All Grain in a tiny kitchen, in fact I'm just getting round to the idea of simplistic BIAB. But that’s for another post.

I've brewed some cheap ones and I'm currently conditioning some more expensive short-brewed single can kits and a couple of "premium" two can kits. They are super fast to get going and frankly for the price they represent excellent value for money. Setting aside the cost of the kit to get started you can be making very palatable real beer for 30p a pint or less. That's in the price territory for really horrid supermarket lager but in the taste territory of a freshly pulled pub pint.

Brewing up
This is pretty much my standard procedure for brewing up a can. It's not a "thou must brew this way" but I hope there are some tips in here to help those of you with similar space limitations.

First and foremost, blitz your kitchen. Get the dishes done, dried and put away, clear what little work surface you have and clean it all well, use a disinfectant spray if you are the type to have such a thing.

Clean your sink and draining board - these are part of your brewing equipment.

Get rid of your washing up bowl and drainer.

Sterilise your FV.


For me this is just a case of two tablespoons of VWP and fill to nearly the brim with warm water. At this point you need to consider how you are going to bottle, either batch or bottle priming. If you are just priming with sugar or spray malt, bottle priming is by far your best bet for a tiny kitchen. If you are using something sticky you'll need to batch prime. Have a quick read of the bottling bit below. If you are going to bottle prime, your FV will be the one with the tap that fits the little bottler. If you are going to batch prime then it'll have to be the other one.

Get your kit together. All of mine with the exception of the bottle tree lives in a single plastic "underbed box" from a pound shop. That’s how little you actually need!

Sterilise the stuff you're going to use. Just lob it in the FV. So your paddle or long spoon, ladle, airlock, airlock bung, jug, can opener if you are hyper-paranoid (I don't bother) and both FV lids. I also chuck in a big saucepan as it's far quicker than the jug for filling up the FV later.

Get your ingredients together. Normally this will be your can(s), yeast and extra fermentables.


Get the kettle on. Get your biggest pan of water on the hob to boil. I've got a nice big stock pot which does the job nicely. Most kits say you want around 6 pints of boiling water. You should try to develop a feel for this though, you'll see why later.

Do you have one of those one-and-a-half-bowl sinks? If you do you have a handy extra bit of kit. Stick your can(s) in here and pour over the newly boiled kettleful of water. That's going to make your extract nice and runny.

Next, start fishing the bits out of the steriliser and rinse them well under the cold tap. Be sure to do the actual FV lid (with the airlock hole) first then put it upside down on your worktop - you then have a sterile surface to put all the rest of your stuff on:


Next, grab a freshly laundered tea-towel and dry your can(s). Open it(them) up and pour the contents into the FV.


Use your paddle (and this is where the straight sides of the paddle are better than a long spoon) to scrape out as much as you can. Leave the paddle in the FV. Grab your ladle and (very carefully or sore hands will follow), holding the can over your big pot of water start to rinse the extract from the lid into the can. Some will inevitably end up in the pot. Who cares, that's going to get chucked into the FV later. Leave the ladle in the pot.

Hold your third to half full can over your FV and give it a good swirl, careful not to splash the hot water up your arms! Grab the paddle out and use it to get all the good stuff from the side of the can dissolved in. Repeat as necessary to get the majority of the extract from the can(s).

Lay the second FV lid on top to keep out any airborne nasties while you do the next bit.

Chuck your extra fermentables (if, of course, you are using any) into the remaining hot water. Use your balloon whisk to make sure it's all dissolved. Sugars, syrups, honeys and treacles shouldn't be a problem but spraymalts can clump and take a bit of a beating to get into solution. Also be on guard for the curse of pre-weighed spraymalt. You might have got super organised and weighed out your spraymalt where the recipe calls for part of a bag. Chances are that it will have absorbed some of the steam from the kettle and your big pot. Not to worry, rinse it into the pot with ladlefuls of the liquor.


Once it's all dissolved nicely, empty the pot into the fv (making sure to put the FV lid down upside down) and get that balloon whisk in there to do two things. Firstly to get the contents of the can(s) dissolved into the liquor from the pot and secondly to get a good lot of air in there too.


When you are happy that you have no extract still adhering to the bottom of the FV, start filling with cold water. I'm fortunate in that my tap water seems to be pretty good for brewing, I've never used a camden tablet or any other addition and so far so good - your mileage may, of course, vary - check out the "how to's" for advice on finding out your water composition and conditioning it.

In winter, a full pot of hot to the rest cold (for a 5 Gallon brew) gets my temperature just right for pitching the yeast. I need to reduce the amount of hot (or how hot I let it get) to compensate for the warmer water from the cold tap.

Pour from a good height too, that'll get you more air in the wort. You'll end up with a nice big foamy head on your FV. Check the temperature as you approach your brew-length and adjust with the last couple of jug/panfuls, I find the sticky-on thermometers are best, you don't have to worry about sterilising them for a start!


Again, I'm fortunate in that I have one of these mains-pressure electric immersion hot water systems which means no stagnant hot tank header - I can use the hot water directly from the tap for brewing. You may have to have had that kettle on again!

So you have your wort up to the brew length and down to pitching temperature. Give it a right good final stir to make sure the whole wort has the same concentration of fermentables, grab your jug and take a sample, fill your trial jar and pour the rest back in.

Different kits call for different yeast pitching methods. Some just expect it sprinkled on top others prefer it to be started in a little warm water then that stirred in. If the latter, put the lid back on the FV and prepare your yeast mixture.


Pitch your yeast, either by sprinkling or mixing in the starter with your paddle, fit the airlock bung to the actual lid and clip it on. Add a little water to the lock and wet the stem to make it easier to get it into the bung. With a little twist and a lot of care not to push the bung through and into your beer, fit the airlock and put your FV somewhere.

Now, carefully pop your hydrometer into the trial jar and take a note of the Original Gravity (O.G.). Most kits are usually in the 1.040 - 1.050 range to start but some do go well outside this.


So now you have brewed a bucketful of beer without actually moving from one spot!!

Siting your FV
I have some shelves on an interior kitchen wall and my FV fits underneath just perfectly. Where yours goes will depend on a number of things, not least how much space you have. My advice is to get it somewhere towards the middle of your house as fluctuations in temperature will be smallest and it will be away from direct sunlight. Our house is pretty warm as we have a little one so I haven't needed any form of beer heater or insulation. Just keep an eye on your sticky-on thermometer.

Leave it the hell alone!!!
All too tempting to have a peek and see what's happening isn't it? Don't.

You'll know that it's working because you'll maybe see the airlock start to bubble. You might not but you might see the lid start to bulge with a bit of pressure. This will start after a day or two.

If you get to day three or four and haven't seen either sign, very carefully unsnap a little bit of lid and take a look inside. Chances are you'll see little bubbles rising. Now snap that lid back on and leave it the hell alone! If after that sort of time you are still seeing no activity, the initial foamy head from brewing up has gone and you just have a millpond in there, check out the "stuck brew how to".

Don't be tempted to think that when the airlock stops bubbling and the bulge in the lid has gone that fermentation is finished. It won't be. Continue to leave it the hell alone for at the very least a week after the first flush of fermentation and then take a peek. If it's looking pretty still in there it's time to move the FV back to the kitchen worktop. Once it's there, use the tap to take a sample into your trial jar. Test the gravity with the hydrometer. Take a note of the reading.

Leave it where it is for a couple of days and take another sample and another reading. If it is the same then fermentation is done. If it is within the range prescribed by the kit (you did keep the instructions somewhere didn't you?) and it's been the same for your two readings then its time to bottle. If it's not in the bottling range then refer to the "stuck brew how to".

Sort your Bottles
While your beer is fermenting, use the time wisely and get your bottles all ready for when it's done. You'll likely have labels to soak off so sort the bottles into those that do and those that don't. Pick out the ones with plastic labels and peel them and add them to the "ones that do" group. Fill your second FV with soapy water and submerge the ones with labels (and the peeled ones) and leave them for a day or so.

After soaking, fill a sink with water and dig the bottles out one by one and get the lables and glue off. First try just peeling the label. If that doesn't work get the back of a knife and scrape them, it takes no time at all. Put them to one side.

Once you've done them all, empty the sink and scrape out all the label gunge - one of those plug hole strainers is a good idea! Fill a nice new sink of soapy water and give the bottles a good scrub to get the last of the residue off. Rinse inside and out with fresh water and put with your already de-labelled ones.

Bottle your beer
Armed with a bucketful of fresh beer and a pile of de-labelled bottles (I find I need 45 x 500ml bottles for a 5 Gallon Brew) you can now finish off the production of your brew.

There are two ways to go about this. Bottle Priming or Batch Priming. You will have already decided which you are doing and will have chosen your FV accordingly. Either way, getting ready is the same as for brewing, sort out your kitchen and clean everything properly.

Make up a bucketful of steriliser and submerge some bottles. You can, if you really try, get 24 bottles submerged in a 5 Gallon FV which means you only have two batches to do.

While they're soaking, make up your bottle tree, if it's the same as mine you'll need 5 tiers. Also count out 50 caps. And find your little bottler. Get a bowl and tip out some sugar or malt. Find a half teaspoon measure and a funnel - choose a nice big one where its spouty bit is just narrower than the bottle, the wider the less likely to clog.

Take the bottles out one by one and tip the steriliser back into the bucket. Rinse outside and fill with fresh water. Turn up side down and shake the water out vigorously, this will be plenty enough of a rinse to get all the steriliser out. Stick it on the tree working from the bottom up. Repeat until you've done the bucketful then submerge the second half.

Chuck the caps in with the second batch of bottles, along with the little bottler.

Get a couple of empty crates and keep them handy.

Rinse the second batch of bottles and stick them on the tree. Scoop the caps from the bottom and pop them in a jug. Rinse well in cold water and drain.

The process differs here for batch and bottle priming.

Bottle Priming
Dunk a bit of kitchen roll in the steriliser and roll it into a sausage that will fit up the tap on the FV. Use it to clean the inside of the tap. Do the same with another piece with fresh water to rinse the steriliser out. Rinse the little bottler inside and out and attach to the tap.

Put your washing up bowl on the floor under the tap. Fold up a towel and put that on the floor for your poor old knees.

Line up your bottles on your work surface and go to work priming them. Set the funnel in the first bottle. Scoop a 1/2 teaspoon measure level it off with the back of a knife (I use the missus' diddy palette knife that she uses for cupcake decorating, it's perfect) and bung it in the funnel. The way I do this is to have the sugar to the right of the bottles, scoop in left hand, knife in right. Scoop, level, dump in funnel, move funnel with same (left) hand to next bottle working front to back, across one then back to front. Takes no time at all.

You are ready to fill.

Batch Priming
Get your priming fermentables prepared, there are too numerous methods to this to go into here, have a search. But basically you should end up with small quantity of very high gravity liquor which will mix with your beer rather than say just chucking a pile of treacle at the bottom of your bottling bucket which would likely just stay there and not dissolve fully.

Empty the FV, use the tap for a good amount to sterilise the inside of it.

Rinse well, again use the tap for a bit to ensure it's rinsed properly.

Make sure the tap's closed.

Add the priming liquor to the FV and syphon (if you don't have a tap on the other one or drain through a length of tubing if it does) the beer into the second FV. The end of the tube must be at the bottom of the bucket so as not to splash and incorporate any oxygen into the beer.

Stick a lid on the FV.

Lift it onto the work surface and fit the little bottler.

You are ready to fill.

This is where an assistant is handy as they can pass you the bottles and line up the full ones. Failing that, take two rows of bottles from the work surface and line them up on the floor beside the washing up bowl.

Fill one row's worth putting each one when filled on the work surface next to the FV. When full line them up again where they were. Now you see why you took two rows to start with, you've got a row's worth of space to put the full ones back and take the next ones out.

Keep going until you run out of beer. If you bottle primed you want to end up with at least the last dozen bottles beside you at the end. When you start to tilt the bucket off the edge of the work surface you have to keep going until you're done, there is no tilting back or you will stir up a hell of a lot of yeast!

Add the last bottles to the neat rows.

You will be capping to the right of your pile of full bottles (although if you are left handed this might be easier the other way round). Set a cork mat on the work surface for grip. Put the jug of caps in front of you and it goes like this. Bottle on mat, cap in capper, cap on and squeeze down handles. Capper off, bottle in crate. Repeat.

Again, this is easier with an assistant but really doesn't take long at all even without.

The end!
Well, it will be once you clean everything down and pack everything away.

And back to the start for the next beer!

Actually there's another little dodge if you are bottle priming because you will have a nice handy FV-full of steriliser. Clean out your other FV if you are bottle priming the next beer and transfer the steriliser to that or just leave it where it is if you'll be batch priming, saves you a couple of pennies in steriliser and a few minutes on the next brew.
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Re: The Tiny Kitchen Brewer's Guide

Postby MonsieurBadgerCheese » Tue Oct 20, 2015 12:12

Great guide. Much appreciated as a Newbie. Very encouraging to see what can be achieved with basic equipment and limited space. Mentally 'redesigning' the kitchen already!

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Re: The Tiny Kitchen Brewer's Guide

Postby aamcle » Wed Oct 21, 2015 15:33

You have just about all you need to go AG.

Just add an urn and a sheet of net curtain an your good to go AG. Mmm well, an extra bucket for dunking would a nice luxury.
Cooling the wort, "no chill" works fine and you don't need a cube/drum/barrel if use a hop sock/hop spider and your going to ferment next day.

Either :-

Cool in the urn with the lid on and a Starsan soaked towel over the top and a bungee around the sides.
In a sanitised FV with the lid on, no trap and a towel as above.

Go you know you want to .........

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Re: The Tiny Kitchen Brewer's Guide

Postby MrBoy » Fri Oct 23, 2015 11:24

Nicely put together. This is almost word for word my setup! It would be great to link this to the "your first kit brew" thread possibly too?

Only comment - a note to take temperature into account when measuring your OG might be worthwhile, a first-time-brewer might not think of that.

One tip - I can't be bothered with jugs/pans of cold water so I use a 2m length of clear plastic tube with a funnel rammed in one end and just put one end in my FV and the other under the tap (basically it works like a syphon).
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