I got a message from a friend the other day asking me about homebrewing. She wanted to buy a gift for her boyfriend and knew he liked beer.
She had a lot of questions, but the most pressing one for her busy boyfriend was the amount of time he had to spend brewing his first beer.
You need 4 weeks for a regular homebrew, but for various beer styles it can take 2 to 3 times as long. Your actual brew day may only be 1 or 2 hours, with additional time spent transferring and bottling/kegging the beer. But many factors can determine the total brew time.
No two beer styles are exactly the same, and your choice of brewing technique as well as your own brewery will determine how long the beer takes to brew.
I know that time is a major factor in fully enjoying this hobby, and I've experienced all the things that will increase or decrease the time needed to brew the perfect beer. Please read on for more information.
While the process of brewing beer can be measured in weeks, the actual involvement of a home brewer can be measured in hours. Depending on your brewing method, your actual brewing time may be as short as 2 hours or as long as a typical work day. In most cases, brewing is not labor-intensive.
So, let's discuss how long it takes to brew a beer from start to glass and how much time it takes.
The main factors are as follows.
► Brew day - brewing technique
► Fermentation time
► Bottling and kegging
► Brewery establishment
Beer can be largely divided into two general styles, ale and lager. Not only that, but for our purposes, let's keep it simple.
A beer takes an average of 4 weeks from start to finish, while a lager takes at least 6 weeks and usually longer. The main difference between the two is not the actual brew day, but the fermentation and maturation period, both in the bottle and in the keg.
Ales and lagers are typically brewed with different yeast strains, one that is top-fermented and another that is bottom-fermented.
Not only do some yeast strains need extra time to dilute (eat all the lovely sugars in the beer), but they also need extra time to start cleaning up the other by-products produced during fermentation.
On top of that, storing the beer (from Germany for storage) is a complex process that involves lowering the temperature of the fermented beer over a period of weeks.
Therefore, if you want to brew your beer quickly in order to restock your fridge, malt liquor is always the best choice.
You don't even have to be in the same position as a brewer for most of the brewing process, but on brew day you are the star.
That being said, this will be your busiest time and there are many things that will affect how much time you spend brewing beer.
You will need to clean the entire area, your equipment and systems. An average kitchen space will take 1-2 hours.
Double that if you are in a garage or a harder to clean area. If this step is rushed, it can lead to distorted flavors and infections, so be thorough and take the extra time.
A great tip to save time on the actual brew day and not have to get up is to clean your equipment the day before and use your sanitizer before you need to brew.
There are 3 main methods of brewing beer at home, all-grain, extract, and beer in a bag (BIAB).
Both all-grain brewing and BIAB involve mashing the grain to extract the sugar. However, with BIAB, you can usually reduce the time it takes to strain the grains after mashing.
If you are doing extract brewing, it takes about an hour to boil the wort, plus cleaning time before and after.
For all-grain brewing, it takes about an hour to mash the grains, possibly another hour to rinse them (strain), and another hour to boil the wort (3-4 hours).
Finally, if you are using the BIAB method, you will also need about 2 hours and possibly 3 hours for extensive cleaning.
The main difference between extract and all-grain brewing is that you don't need to use an extract kit for the saccharification process, so you don't have to spend time heating and de-watering to filter the grains. BIAB also reduces much of the time required for traditional all-grain brewing.
If you have a wort chiller, it can take 10-60 minutes to bring boiling wort down to yeast fermentation temperature. If you are cooling overnight, it can take up to 24 hours.
Pitching yeast - When using dry yeast, it only takes about a minute to open it up and sprinkle it on the cooled wort.
When using yeast fermenters, you must calculate the time needed to prepare the basic wort (yeast food) and allow the fermenters to build up over a few days. This is all done before your actual brew day.
Bottling can be very tedious if you don't have the right setup. You will need about 5-10 minutes to prepare your sugar.
Expect to take 1-2 hours to wash used bottles by hand, or less if using a dishwasher. If you have a good bottling and capping line, the actual bottling process may only take 30-90 minutes.
If you have a small keg, it's like filling a large bottle. Expect to clean, transfer the beer (10-20 minutes) in about 30-60 minutes, and it can be ready to drink in as little as 2-3 days, but home brewers usually allow one to two weeks for this process.
As we said, what you have to do on your actual brew day as a brewer can be determined by the many choices you make.
To speed up your brew day, you need to focus on streamlining the process by better preparing and organizing your equipment and ingredients. Investing in certain equipment can also reduce the time spent on critical tasks. In addition, the brewing techniques you choose to follow will reduce brewing time.
Some things to consider are.
► Pre-clean the equipment and your brewery
►Prepare your ingredients the night before
►Use a non-rinse sanitizer
►Upgrade your wort chiller
►Shorten your mash and boil
►Choose extracts for brewing
There are two main ways to significantly reduce the amount of time you need to spend at the brewery on brew day; your recipes and your brewing equipment.
Choose a lazy recipe
We've already mentioned that extract brewing will significantly reduce your brewing time because it eliminates the need to do mashing. But there are boil points to consider.
If you choose a beer style with fewer hops added, then you can avoid the need to stand on boiling wort every 10 or 15 minutes to add hops. Most recipes really only require two hop additions, one at 60 minutes and the other at flameout.
In addition to the recipe of your choice, another very simple (but expensive) way to reduce your time in the saccharification plant is to automate the entire process.
All-in-one brewing systems, of which there are many on the market today, allow you to mash and boil in the same vessel. Many also have pumps that allow you to easily filter the grains in the same vessel.
You can also find models that allow you to pre-program each stage of the brewing process, meaning you can push to start and return when it's all done (but don't forget those hop additions!)