If you ever had the experience of getting stuck, or feeling trapped in a small and uncomfortable space, you most likely have recurring memories. Perhaps it happened as a kid, and you may have found yourself in a small dark room without being able to see the light switch anywhere. Or it might have been something that developed in your teen or young adult years, if you had to go for an MRI. Claustrophobia is certainly a troubling thing to deal with, and it can truly affect the quality of one’s life.
What if you are not so claustrophobic, but rather just uncomfortable in small spaces? If you are a brewer who operates in a very small space, you might feel cramped inside of your workspace. But rest assured that your choice in brewing equipment can complement the small space, and contribute to it feeling more comfortable. A small space can make brewing more challenging, but it’s important to remember that your equipment contributes to the available space. Learning to balance this will allow you to keep things in perspective, and take control of your brewing no matter how limited the space is.
When the Walls Start Closing In
Have you ever seen movies where a character was about to get crushed by closing walls? You probably sat on the edge of your seat, and your heart raced as you watched for the outcome in anticipation. If you find yourself in a situation where the space between the walls was next to zero, you probably felt like those characters. For brewing purposes, a medium-to-large space is ideal, since it’s easier to carry big, heavy buckets and pots around in these bigger spaces. But if you brew in a small space, which is most likely to be your home, then asking you to find a bigger home or brewing space might be too much to ask. What can you do?
Make Sure You Have the ‘Must-Haves’
To start off, make sure you start off the essential brewing equipment to ensure that homebrewing is possible. It doesn’t matter what size your workspace is, you have to make sure you have the basics in order to make palatable beer. The phrase “every little bit helps” applies here, and even the smallest brewing set can help you produce a quality brew that your friends and family enjoy. These include:
- Brew Pots – Of course, if you could get a big brew pot, it will serve you better in the long run. But brewing isn’t possible if you don’t have one to begin with! So use a small one if that’s all there is space for.
- Fermentation Bucket – Your yeast will be quite sad if they don’t have a home where they can comfortably turn your wort into alcohol. So make sure you have a fermentation bucket around, even if it’s a smaller one.
- Airlock – You want to make sure air is entering your fermentation bucket, or else you’ll be disappointed with the results.
- Bottles & Bottle Caps – Your beer has to sit somewhere, right?
Regardless of the size of your brewing space, make sure that you have these basic pieces of equipment in order to make the brewing process possible. You don’t need to have the floor space of a multibillion dollar brewery to make good quality beer. At this stage of the game, you should focus on the quality of your brew, rather than the quality.
A Bigger Scope on Smaller Spaces
The concept of space and size is for the most part a subjective one. A lot of it depends on your physical size – the bigger you are, the more likely you’ll find smaller spaces, small. It can also relate to prior environments in which you resided. Therefore, if you are accustomed to the openness of a large space, then a smaller will automatically feel smaller. But here are some examples of spaces that can make brewing seem cramped, no matter your size and past experience.
- Apartment – Unlike a home which usually has more than one floor and several rooms, apartments don’t have as many options in terms of available space. Many apartments are limited to two rooms, and the kitchen space may not be large enough to support big equipment. You might peer at your balcony with ambitious eyes, but for many apartments, there are limits to what you can use your balcony for, so make sure you know the rules. With that said, there are also limits to how you can use the facilities in your apartment, and you may not be able to take over them and install your brewery.
- Basement – If you live in a basement apartment, you will also face space limitations. Just like apartments, basement units may only have one or two rooms, and other spaces are usually smaller. You won’t be able to venture out into the backyard, since this would of course lead to contentions with you and your landlord.
If you live in a small or somewhat cramped space, you will have to make the best use of the available space. This means that you will have to be creative with how you use your space, but the right brewing equipment can help you achieve this. You might be surprised with what you can do by thinking outside the box!
Make Space Out of Unusual Places – If you are single, or married without kids, you may be able to use that extra room as your brewing den. You can clear out the usual items, such as beds, dressers, and clothing to fit larger brewing equipment. That bit of extra space can allow you to bring in those 20+ gallon brew kettles, and those larger fermentation buckets. But remember not to go overboard, since you want to leave enough room for you to walk around!
Go Vertical – Think of your apartment, or any tall building. How can a building house or facilitate so many people? It’s because of vertical floor space. If you have a limited amount of space, then consider using a vertical setup involving stands and mounts, so you can stack your equipment. This will create maximum economy for space, since it will give you plenty of room to move around while allowing you to stack bigger buckets and kettles.
Think Small – Remember those classic Volkswagen ads which were graced with this iconic slogan? You can apply this mentality to a tight brewing space. If there’s little you can do about your floor space, then you might have to accept this limitation for some time. But that’s where smaller equipment comes in! Five and ten gallon brew kettles will be your best friend in this situation, and you will have to opt for smaller fermentation buckets as well. You might have to store other pieces of equipment in separate rooms, but this shouldn’t be too problematic. The most important thing to remember when using smaller equipment is to think strategically so you can yield more with less.
Conquer the Dilemma of Cramped Brewing
Next time you enter your brewing space, and shake your head in frustration over cramped it is, remember that effective use of brewing equipment will solve your problems. In fact, you may come to realize that the amount of available space is not so much the problem, but rather your setup might be faulty. Also, don’t be afraid to turn unconventional spots into brewing sites where necessary, since they may in fact be the roomiest parts of your home. The most important aspect of cramped-space brewing, is learning how to maximize your space creatively, and also learning to accept your limits. Some of the world’s most successful brewers started in tiny rooms, but they eventually moved onto bigger ones due to their initial focus on the quality of their beer. By applying these principles, you will find that you will have command of your brewing efforts, even if you feel like there isn’t much room!