How To Measure Water For Brewing (With & Without Equipment)


You start your first ever brewing quest and you suddenly realize you don’t have a measuring cup anywhere in the house! It’s a common enough phenomenon, especially if you are a bachelor or live in a family who eat a lot of take-out.

We all know that in brewing we have to be as accurate as we can with the quantities of ingredients we use, and that includes water. So, if you are reading this you are in that exact situation, so don’t fret I’m here to save your beer!

So, how can you measure water for brewing without a measuring cup? There are several ways to measure water quantity without a dedicated measuring cup including calculating proportions using bottles or cans, a carboy or tablespoons. Weighing the mass of the water is also very accurate as is working out the volume of your pot based on the surface level of the water.

I’ve racked my brain for every conceivable way that you could measure water without a measuring cup. It really depends on what you have in the house right now, so read through the suggestions below for the one which fits your current situation. Don’t worry, I have at least one method for you to try that will work

Measure by proportions

All a measuring cup really does is give you a measurement of volume. It’s useful because it shows you different measurements along the side, but there are plenty of other things about the kitchen which give you at least one measurement of volume. So, let’s go through a few options starting with the most convenient.

Quarts – Liters – Gallons

Quarts
Liters
Gallons
2
1.89
0.5
4
3.78
1
6
5.6
1.5
8
7.57
2
10
9.46
2.5
12
11.35
3
14
13.24
3.5
16
15.14
4
18
17.03
4.5
20
18.92
5

Use a plastic drinking bottle

If you have a fairly large plastic water bottle, you can use this to measure different quantities of water for your mash, boil and to top up your fermenter if necessary.

If we imagine that you have a 50.7 fl oz bottle (1.5 l) then we can figure out the following quantities using different proportions of that bottle.

Drinking bottle
(50.7 fl oz/1.5l)
Quarts
Liters
Gallons
1
1.58
1.5
0.39
2
3.17
3
0.79
3
4.75
4.5
1.18
4
6.34
6
1.58
5
7.92
7.5
1.98
6
9.51
9
2.37
7
11.09
10.5
2.77
8
12.68
12
3.17
9
14.26
13.5
3.56
10
15.85
15
3.96
11
17.43
16.5
4.35
12
19.02
18
4.75
13
20.6
19.5
5.15

So 1 quart of water (0.96 l) is approximately 64% of a bottle or just under three quarts.

1 gallon of water (3.78 l) is just over two and a half bottles (252%).

Use your beer bottle

If for some reason you don’t have a plastic water bottle handy, you more than likely have some beer bottles kicking around if for nothing else than for bottling your beer in the future. So, we can use beer bottles in the same way.

The most common beer bottle in the US is a 12 fl oz long neck bottle which has about an inch of headspace at the top, so remember this is your calculations. In Europe, a 330 ml bottle is more common.

USA

Long neck beer bottle
12 fl oz
Quarts
Gallons
1
0.36
0.09
2
0.72
0.18
3
1.08
0.27
4
1.44
0.36
5
1.80
0.45
10
3.60
0.90
15
5.40
1.35
20
7.20
1.80
25
9.00
2.25
30
10.80
2.70
35
12.61
3.15
40
14.4
3.60
45
16.21
4.05
50
18.01
4.50
55
19.81
4.95

So, 5 gallons of water is the same as just over 55 and a half 12 fl oz bottles. 1 gallon is the same as 10 and 3/4 bottles and 1 quart of water is around 2 and 3/4 bottles.

Europe

Beer bottle
330 ml
Liters
Gallons
1
0.33
0.08
2
0.66
0.17
3
0.99
0.26
4
1.32
0.34
5
1.65
0.43
10
3.3
0.87
15
4.95
1.30
20
6.6
1.74
25
8.25
2.17
30
9.9
2.61
35
11.55
3.05
40
13.2
3.48
45
14.85
3.92
50
16.5
4.35
55
18.15
4.79
60
19.8
5.23

So, 1 gallon is the same as around 11 and a half 330 ml bottles. 1 quart is the same as 2 bottles and 43/50 (let’s just say almost three 330ml bottles)

Using a can

You can use the same principle for measuring water for brewing with a can (as long as you rinse it out). Most cans in the US are also 12 fl oz, so you can use the same principle of proportional measurement as for a long neck beer bottle.

For Europe and other parts of the world, cans can be 330 ml (see chart above) or 500 ml.

Beer can
500 ml
Liters
Gallons
1
0.5
0.13
2
1
0.26
3
1.5
0.39
4
2
0.52
5
2.5
0.66
10
5
1.32
15
7.5
1.98
20
10
2.6
25
12.5
3.30
30
15
3.96
35
17.5
4.62
40
20
5.28

With a 500 ml beer can, 1 gallon of water is almost the same as 7 and a half cans, 1 quart of water would be nearly 2 cans (189%)

Using a pot

If you don’t happen to have any bottles or cans at all, then you could still use your cooking pot. Many pots nowadays come with a measurement of volume on the inside. Often it’s in gallons or liters.

You can use this to measure out approximate measurements before you brew and then pour them into other vessels for storage until you need each amount. Most recipes, especially in starter kits, will tell you exactly how much water you need for each phase of brewing, so you can get it all prepared beforehand if you have to use that pot for mashing or boiling wort.

You can use Google as an instant conversion tool if you type ” 2 Quarts to gallon” into the search bar of any Google internet browser.

Use your carboy/ fermenter

If you have purchased a kit that comes with a bucket fermenter or carboy there is often a measurement on the side to tell you the maximum amount of wort you can pour in.

For example, if you are brewing the Brooklyn BrewShop Bruxelles Blonde (Amazon link) which comes with a 1-gallon fermenter, you can use this to measure out different quantities of water. You may not be able to get as accurate a measurement as with a can or bottles, but you will be pretty darn close!

Use a tablespoon

I know what you are thinking, this guy is crazy! I’m not going to measure out 5 gallons of beer with a tablespoon!

Well, I’m not suggesting that you use a tablespoon to measure out the full complement of your brewing water, which would be 1,282.05 US tablespoons (5 gallons) and 1,086.95 Imperial tablespoons (5 gallons). Instead, you can use this universal measurement to work out the volume of a larger measuring tool and so and so on.

So, here are some basic ratios that you could use to work out the total capacity of any vessel you have.

US
Cup
Quart
Gallon
Tablespoon
16
64
256
Cup
4
16
Quart
4

So, 1.5 gallons would be the same as 24 cups which is 384 tablespoons.

Imperial
(US) Cup
Liter
(US) Gallon
Tablespoon
13.3
56.3
213.1
Cup
4.22
16
Liter
3.78

So, 10 liters would be 42.2 US cups and that’s the same as 561.26 Imperial tablespoons (I know, I know, who has the time!)

Measure by weight

If you have some kitchen scales or even scales for weighing yourself to hand, then you can work out the volume of water you have by its mass.

Just make sure that you TAR the scales back to zero once you have placed the pot onto it, then fill it up with water until you hit the correct mass. Below is a quick reference chart, but 1 pound (453g) is the same as 0.4793 quarts (0.453 l) and 1 gallon of water (3.78 l) has a mass of 8.35 pounds (3.78 kg).

Pound
Gallon
Kilogram
Liter
8.35
1
3.78
3.78
16.7
2
7.57
7.57
25.05
3
11.35
11.35
33.4
4
15.14
15.14
41.75
5
18.92
18.92

Measure by volume

For the reader who doesn’t have anything to buy a pot, then you can try and figure out the quantity of your water by measuring the volume of your pot (and the liquid inside).

The formula you need is:

cylinder volume = π * cylinder radius² * cylinder height

So, a pot with a radius of 18 cm and a height of 30 cm has a volume of 3,391.2 cm3 or 206.94 in3 (18*2 = 36 * 30 =1,080 * 3.14 = 3,391.2). That means that we have 3.39 liters or about 0.89 gallons of water if we fill the pot to the brim.

1 liter = 1,000 cm3

1 quart = 57.75 in3

1 gallon = 231 in3

Once you know the diameter of the pot or vessel you are using, you can use a tape measure to work out the height of the water surface from the bottom. So if the same pot was filled up until 11 cm from the bottom, we’d have only (18*2=36*11=396*3.14 = 1,243.44) 1.24 liters or 0.32 gallons. If you are trying to do this before heating water or after you have boiled your wort to top up your fermenter, just make sure you sanitize any measuring equipment that you use!

Summary

So, there are several ways that you can work out the quantity of water that you need for your current brew if you use what you have available to you, however, by far the best method is to measure the mass of your liquid. This is going to give you the most accurate information.

After that, using a large mineral water bottle which you have previously marked out different volumes of water on the side will be very useful for your subsequent brews. Alternatively, you can just buy new bottles each time and work out the proportions as you go.

I hope this was helpful and that it saved your brew day.

Happy brewing!

Phil - BeerCreation

Hey, I'm Phil. I'm passionate about all things beer. I love making it, drinking it and best all, learning about it!

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