How to Shave Time Off Your Brew Day
One of the challenges with brewing is the time commitment. For many, it's an all day adventure for which we must plan ahead and allocate time away from family, chores and other hobbies. My Pintwell partner, Jeremy, actually finds that the only way he can brew these days is to take a day off of work!
It is one of of the compelling reasons to go BIAB or back to extract brewing. Back when I did the latter I used to knock out a batch of beer in about 3 hours from beginning to end. Sweet.
Nowadays, my brew day is still quite a bit shorter than that of most, as I'm guessing the average all grain brew day is well over 6 hours including set up and cleaning. That's crazy - with a day like that you'll be hard pressed to accomplish anything else with your day. I'd argue that you should be able to get your brew day down to about 4.5 hours without sacrificing the quality of your beer.
Here are a few tips and tricks for shaving time off your brew day:
- Batch sparge: OK, so this is not for everyone, but time saving is one of the biggest reasons why both of us at Pintwell like to batch sparge. Batch sparging can save you an hour over fly sparging without a significant decrease in efficiency and no reduction in quality. You might spend 5% more on grain, but your time is likely worth more than that.
- Multi-task: there are certain parts of the brew day where you might find yourself standing around picking your nose, such as while heating your liquor or during your mash rest. Capitalize on these times by doing something productive! I recommend heating your liquor before anything else in your brew day. I fire up my HLT burner with my starting volume of water before I start setting up the rest of my rig, cleaning other vessels, etc. I'll also take the time while my liquor is heating to mill my grain. I don't heat all my liquor at once, so I heat my lautering liquor when I've got about 15 minutes remaining in my mash. Speaking of mashing, that's a great time to clean and sanitize your BK, fermenting equipment, chiller, etc. And while boiling, you can clean up your MLT. Don't leave anything that can be done earlier until the end, and don't try to multi-task during cooling or you'll be in for a world of pain.
- Incorporate electricity: you don't have to go all electric, but adding a simple heatstick can save you a lot of time on brew day. In fact, a gas/electric hybrid is likely the fastest way to heat your liquids. Our set-up of a heating element in addition to a propane burner allows us to heat our wort from mash temp to boiling in just a few minutes.
- Use a plate chiller: this is another capital investment but one that's very worthwhile. With a good plate chiller, you should be able to chill your wort from boiling to pitching temps in under 5 minutes, saving water to boot!
- Make a friend: a friend can make a brew day more entertaining, but they can also help you shave off some of the time required to produce your award winning beer. Multitasking is way easier with multiple people! Take advantage of down times to brief your buddy on what to do during upcoming activities, and brew with the same person as often as possible to improve your flow together. Cleaning can be especially beneficial if you brew with two. If you don't have any friends, I recommend making better beer. Friends will follow.
Whatever you do, don't break up your brew session up over multiple days, especially on the back-end. Some people will do their brew on one day, then save all the cleaning for the next day. This spells trouble. Not only will you have the cleaning hanging over your head and find excuses to push it back (looking at YOU, Procrastinator!), but the cleaning will be doubly difficult if liquids have had time to cake on overnight.
What tricks have you found to save time on brew day?