Friday, April 24, 2009

How long does your average brew day take?

Extract Batch

Over 2.5 hours 7 - 14.5%
Under 2.5 hours 41 - 85.5%

All-Grain Batch

Under 4 hours 10 - 5.2%
4-5 hours 66 - 34.6%
5-6 hours 71 - 37.2%
6-7 hours 34 - 17.8%
Over 7 hours 10 - 5.2%

That is a pretty interesting spread of results for both categories. I’m surprised that more extract brewers aren’t under the 2.5 hour threshold, without a mash/sparge and often with a partial boil I assumed that more brewers would be down in that zone.

Most of the variation probably comes down to equipment (hotter burners and better chillers help cut time off), and choices (longer boils, complex mashes, sparging rate/technique, and lower pitching temperatures would all add time). The "choices" are partially more a result of the sorts of beers people like to brew, but there are still many choices to be made for any type of beer.

I am pretty deliberate with my brewing so it often takes me pretty close to 6 hours from grinding the grains to pitching the yeast. I pretty much always do a 60+ minute mash and a 90+ minute boil, and neither my stove nor my chiller are particularly effective. Taking that much time doesn’t bother me much as I generally enjoy the leisurely breaks during the process to relax and have a beer.

As much as I enjoy my long weekend brew days sometimes I need to get a beer brewed faster. When I need to cut time I will shorten my mash a bit (although I have yet to try anything under 45 minutes), shorten my boil closer to 60 minutes, and speed up my sparge a bit at the expense of some efficiency.

If anyone else has tips on how they shorten their brew day I’m sure people would like to hear them.


Taylor-MadeAK said...

When I first started all-grain brewing, I had pretty good equipment to begin with: converted cooler mash tun, propane burner, converted keg brewpot, and counterflow chiller. At the beginning an average brewing session - including cleanup - would take me about eight hours. As I gained more and more experience with all-grain brewing, my brew day got shorter and shorter; finally leveling off at around six to six and a half hours.

Two equipment upgrades significantly shortened my brewing sessions after that: upgrading to a plate chiller from a counterflow model, and combining it with a WortWizard venturi pump. This upgrade allowed me to shorten my kettle knockout time from an average of 45 minutes to 5 minutes. Total brewing time is now five to six hours, depending on the style of beer I'm making.

So, that's my advice for shortening your brew day: practice, and decent equipment.

Anonymous said...

Something I've been wanting to try is a really quick brew. A 20-30 minute mash (simple pils grist), no sparge, 20 min boil with continous hop charging and thats it. I think it could work with a low mash temp and simple beer. Hopefully I'll be trying it soon. I'll let you know if I do.

Anonymous said...

I implement some key kitchen techniques when brewing and I've shaved quite a bit of time this way.

Mise En Place: Since I'm in a small apartment, and my equipment is basically scattered all over, I find it necessary to gather all of the things I will need and stage them by my patio door.

I generally brew early in the morning, so the night before is critical for me. I like to crush my grain, measure out my hops, get a pot of water on the stove, and get some coffee ready. The minute I wake up, I heat up my strike water and start my coffee.

Clean as you go: By the time I kill the flame, the only things I have left to clean are my kettle, my wort chiller and some silicone tubing.

Without any fancy equipment, my actual "brew day" is under 5 hours.


Taylor-MadeAK said...

How long are your average mash, sparge, and boil times, Anonymous? I probably should have mentioned those in my first comment.

Mash: My mash time is locked in at 90 minutes, never shorter. Sometimes it gets extended, but that's on the rare occasion that I do something stupid like leave my sparging arm in the car, which my wife has at work. Sending somebody to fetch it added another half hour to the mash time.

Sparging: I fly sparge, also, and for mash efficiency's sake I go as slowly as possible - never less than 45 minutes. I learned over the years that this is one of the great secrets to getting a decent mash efficiency (besides malt crush, which I have no control over), so I never skimp here. At two bucks a pound now for grain, nobody is going to talk me into batch sparging...ever.

Boil: For most brews I use a 60 minute boil, but that's one place that I'm pretty flexible on. Some beer styles I make require a 90 minute or longer boil (Imperial stout: 2.5 hours).

I never brew unless I have a whole day that I can use to do it, because I like to take my time. With those times, it's pretty much required hehe! Process alone is 3.3 hours at the shortest and 4.3+ hours at the longest. That doesn't include, by the way, the time spent heating the strike water and bringing the wort to a boil - those items together add another hour.

The mise en place and clean-as-you-go things make sense, however, and I'm glad you brought it up because those are two of the biggest time savers there are for an all-grain brewer. These basic kitchen methods and being able to multitask while brewing - weighing out hops while heating sparge water and filling the sink with sanitizer, for example - are the sort of things that I meant when I said that experience and practice will shorten your brew day.

It also helps a lot that I have a wife who is willing to clean out the mash tun while I get the boil started. =)

swizzlenuts said...

I use a stove to heat my strike water/sparge water/boil.

It used to take me about 7 to 8 hours for entire day because of my inexperience and not having a wort chiller, but now it takes me just about five and half hours.

I wake up, measure and throw on my water. Clean up the place and get all of my equipment ready. This takes about 30 to 40 minutes.

Then the usually of mashing for about 60 minutes while boiling up my sparge water because I batch sparge. Since I batch sparge, I found that if I take the first runnings and boil/heat it up, it cuts a 1/2 hr to and hour off my brew day.

I then boil for 90 minutes. Cooling takes about 25-35 minutes depending on how much I stir. I think I could cut down my brew day to about 4 hour if I had a propane burner, but like other have said, I enjoy making the brew day an entire day. Relax, drink, watch a movie, do homework, etc.

I love bottling during the boil and cooling, as well. I think I'm pretty effective with my time.

Anonymous said...

I was one who voted EXtract batch over 2.5 hours b/c while I use extract, I also do a partial mash. So since that wasnt an option, I went with Extract. My partial mash usually takes around 2 hours or so, then I add the extract and get to the boil, etc. Possibly others that voted in the extract catagory are partial mashers as well? thx

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

Totally forgot about partial mash

Lot of good tips here already, thanks guys. One of the biggest time sinks for me is brewing with other people because I end up talking with them instead of cleaning up during the boil.

Unknown said...

I do all grain BIAB and average 3 hours from start to finish. I had two brew days that were 1 hour, 47 minutes.

details here: