Even when I move into a house, hopefully within a year, I'll still be brewing small pilot batches, starters, experiments, etc. It's important to me to get my process down pat for this, and for my other brews so I can make the best beer every single time.
Step one: Sanitation
On my very first brew I learned something very important, clean then sanitize. I had only bought sanitizer and my friend came over and asked 'dude where's your cleaner?' I was left dumbfounded. For all batches this starts with cleaning(you can't sanitize large chunks of gunk). I mix a gallon of cleaner up right in my fermentor; 1 table spoon of cleaner to one gallon of water, it's perfect. after this has sat for a while I drain it into a bowl with the rest of my equipment to get that clean while I rinse my fermentor and refill it with water. Next after I've filled my fermentor most of the way up with water I put a pinch less than a 1/4 oz of Starsan in. The standard mix of Starsan is 1 oz to 5 gallons, so with a bit of math I know I need a touch less than 1/4 oz for 1 gallon. After about 20 minutes I drain the bowl where the equipment has been cleansing and dump about 3/4 of the sanitizer into the bowl. This sanitizer is reserved for later in my process.
(read more after the break)
With small batches I use brew in a bag because it's easy. The equipment involved is a large nylon bag that I dry in my shower. I heat all of the water for the batch in my 4 gallon pot; usually a gallon and a half. When it's the right temp I set the bag in the kettle, put the top on and let 1/4 of the mash time go by, at this point I temp the mash and turn the stove on extremely low if need be. When the mash is half over I turn off the heat and let the mash complete. It's far from scientific but so far it's working. After the mash time has expired I turn the burner back on and heat to my mash out temp. I let it sit at the mash out temp for 10 minutes them I lift the bag from the water and set it onto a rack to drain a bit. Like a grain bag in a partial mash you do not want to totally squeeze the liquid out of the bag, letting it gravity drain will be sufficent. I will post a more in depth summarization of brew in a bag in it's own post.
Step two and a half: Continue Cleaning/Prep for the Boil
During the mash I sanitize everything, measure my hop additions and get everything else ready for the boil; time used now is time saved later.
Step three: The Boil and Cooling
The boil works just like normal, boil, hot break, first hops addition, and so on. When the boil is at 15 minutes I put the wort chiller in to sanitize it. The boiling water and the steam will kill most anything living on it. When the boil is over(time runs out) I kill the gas and start the water. When the pot is cool to the touch on the outside I know it's ready to go (wait a bit to test it, like 10 minutes).
Step four: Moving the Wort, Adding the Yeast, and Clean-up
Once the wort is cool I take my sanitized siphon and fill my sanitized fermentor. After it's full I add about half of an 11g satchel of yeast to the wort; the remainder can be saved if care is taken to be sanitary for a week if brew days are close to each other. Then I plug with an airlock, and agitate.
Words to Live By:
Cleaning all of your equipment now that you are done will prevent mold and make your next brew day easier. Another plus is that it keeps the ladies happy.
Some people on the internet have asked, 'why bother with a small batch?'; they rightly contest it's all of the same effort, same clean up, and for only a 6 pack of beer. My reasons to do it are their reasons not to. I enjoy trying many recipes, I enjoy not having 5 gallons of something terrible, I enjoy everything being on a smaller scale. I live in a 0 bedroom apartment, I need my beer making to fit into the space I have.