So Im looking in to starting some one gallon recipes. 5 gallons is just way too much for me. Is it absolutely necessary to get a 1 gal jug or can I just use my 5 gal? I suspect the fermentation process needs the pressure presented for a similarly sized jug but just wanted to check. Im on a tight budget and I would rather be buying ingredients instead of jugs.

Also, should I look for 1 gallon buckets as well for racking in to my secondary or is it just more common to stay in one jug through the whole process when dealing with 1 gal?

Thanks in advance!

Edit: This is for beer brewing but none the less you answered my questions.

3 Answers 3


A smaller container is a good idea in this application for a couple reasons:

  1. The liquid in a one gallon container will have a smaller surface to depth ratio than one gallon in a 5 gallon container. This slows the oxidation concerns to some extent.
  2. A smaller container requires less cleaning and sanitizing reagents than the 5 gallon container. You still need to clean the whole container etc etc.
  3. Moving a 5 gallon container with just 1 gallon of liquid in it will slosh around the entire contents too much. You'll mix up the yeast and trub if you have to move the container prior to racking or something. When moving a smaller container the liquid moves less at the surface when in a taller tighter column (relative to the 1 gallon in 5 gallon bucket).
  4. Less waste. If you lose a pint in a 5 gallon batch when racking to avoid the trub, you'll still lose that much when doing the one gallon batch. One pint in 5 gallons isn't a bug deal but it could be ~10-15% of a one gallon batch.

There are no back pressure issues to be concerned with at either a 1 or 5 gallon scale. And you shouldn't be worrying about a secondary container at either volume size unless you want to do a fruit or sugar addition post the primary ferment.

A cheap way to source a smaller container is to look for large juice formats at the mega-marts. Lastly, purchasing a 1.25 gallon jug isn't that expensive from your LHBS.


I wouldn't ferment 1 gallon in a 5 gallon carboy/jug. While head space is needed this will be too much and open the possibility of aerobic bacteria.

For small batch definitely get some 1 gallon glass jugs. Buy some cheap wines that's in glass 1 gallon jugs and make some sangria or something and keep the bottles.

It's possible to use one jug for fermentation and serving if you can catch it at the right gravity before sealing for carbonation or add sugar when it's at terminal gravity. Serving does stir up the trub though. A little better process that's cheap is to just put the fermented beer from the 1 gallon into two 2-liter plastic soda bottles for conditioning and serving. For that matter you can do 1 gallon batch with four 2-liter bottles. Two for fermenting, two for conditioning. I would only use the plastic bottles for fermenting once as they are hard to clean and basically free.


Is the question about beer or wine (or another ferment)?

It is perfectly possible to brew 1 gallon of liquor in a 5 gallon container. The main concern is the air over the brew which, some might say, causes "oxidation" and thus produce off flavours in the brew. If the fermentation was started vigorously (active yeast made into a starter solution) then the CO2 being produced should quickly blanket the surface of the fermenting liquid and that would act as an reasonably effective oxygen barrier. I personally ferment beer in a 50lt pastic tub with the lid clipped on but just lifted in one place to allow pressure to escape. There must be 8-10 litres of air over the brew (and no airlock) but I have experienced no bad effects so far.

As far as I know fermentation does not need any "back pressure" - most fermentation is carried out at or just above atmospheric pressure (via a bubble trap). Allowing pressure to build up during primary fermentation is usually regarded as a bad or even dangerous thing.

Racking wine or beer off the trub/yeast/detritus is a reasonable thing to do and is said to improve the flavour (less yeasty taste, they say) and it may also help the brew clear down ("drop bright") but is done at the brewers discretion. There is no absolute need to rack the brew into a second container, it is done only to improve clarity and taste. If your brew is clear and tastes good in the primary vessel then there's no need to do it. If one decides to rack off the brew then a container than can be mostly filled may be a better option to one that can be partly filled or one that leaves a large air volume above the brew. IMHO as both beer and wine can be brewed "in air" the presence of air in itself need not be overly worrying in a closed container.

All of the above is, of course, opinion. The best thing to do is try a brew and see. Start with what you have and if that works - success \o/. If not then try the smaller jugs or scale up the production process.

good luck

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