It wasn’t long ago that I had some family coming to visit and realized I didn’t have enough beer to give them, so I started to research how quickly can you actually brew beer?
Ordinarily, I’m not normally in a rush and am more than happy to let my beer ferment and carbonate at its own pace, but when beer emergencies happen I want to be able to pull a couple of pints out of the bag, or should I say keg.
So, what is the least amount of time in which you can brew a half decent beer?
It’s possible to brew a low ABV ale recipe in as little as a week when using highly animated yeast & force carbonation. Choosing a beer with a lot of character & one which is cloudy is necessary. Good preparation & more efficiency on brew day will also reduce the time it takes to brew a beer.
Now, before you go rushing off to your local brew store or raid your kitchen larder, there is a lot more to know if you want to brew in the least amount of time.
I’ve done a fair amount of research into this little conundrum and have recorded it all in this article so that you don’t have to scour the web for the right answers.
Why brew beer quickly?
I would bet that for the average homebrewer the speed at which they can brew their beer isn’t generally an issue. We all are into the craft enough that we recognize good things come to those who wait. However, there are many reasons that someone may want to brew a beer like yesterday.
A surprise event or party
If, like me, you were taken unawares by the arrival of an event or gathering where you wanted your beer to be the center of attention, then you may need to brew a batch very quickly.
Usually this isn’t going to be for a huge event like a wedding, as those things should be planned well in advance. Nevertheless, an old friend arranging to meet up in a few weeks or a retirement party you have only just heard of could call for some swift brewing.
Going out of town
Another scenario could be that you are going out of town and you want to lay down a few bottles or a keg before you leave for your return. That’s always a nice way to celebrate the return from a business trip or vacation.
On the other hand, you may be leaving sooner than you thought. I hate it when you’ve got all your ingredients ready to go, maybe even a yeast starter bubbling away, and you suddenly get called away.
In this situation, you may need to get your beer fermented and into your bottles or keg so as not to waste all those ingredients you won’t be able to store for later.
Another reason which comes to mind is simply because you want to push the envelope and see what is possible.
Perhaps you are experimenting with a beer recipe and want to brew several batches to quickly finalize your adjuncts and brew day schedule. Perhaps you just want to see how quickly you can go from grain to glass. Perhaps it’s just plain curiosity.
You’ve run out and can’t get beer anywhere else
Good god, the horror of it all!
Whatever you reason for wanting to brew beer as quickly as possible, you’ll get your answer in the rest of this article.
How long does brewing beer normally take on average?
There are perhaps three main stages involved when brewing beer, and all of them happen between cleaning and sanitizing your equipment. If you’ve never brewed beer before, that’s a very funny joke. FYI.
So, before I go into how you can brew beer more quickly, let’s just go over the average brewing schedule if you are doing some preliminary research before getting into or back into this fantastic hobby.
On the brew day, this is when you actually produce wort so that later on your yeast can convert it into lovely alcoholic beer.
You can make wort through two main processes, one involves mashing grains yourself and extracting the fermentable sugars ‘by hand’ the other just requires liquid or dry malt extract, basically wort in a can!
Depending on whether you are sparging your mash or using the BIAB method (see my article here for more information), all-grain brewing can take almost all your day whereas extract brewing will only take a couple of hours.
Another process which can lengthen your brew day is reducing the temperature of your wort down to the ideal pitching temperature for your yeast.
If you are using a wort chiller, check out my article here for my top recommendations, this can take a lot less time. However, using a wort chiller can waste a lot of water, so there are alternative methods you can use which I cover in this article here.
For even more information as to how you can rapidly reduce the time you have to spend on your brew day, please read my more in-depth article here.
Average time: 2 – 6 hours
Unlike your brew day, fermentation will take much longer than 24 hours. This is the process where your yeast feeds on the fermentable sugars in your beer (it’s called beer once you add yeast).
The speed at which this happens depends on the type of yeast you use and it’s viability, the target ABV of your beer, and the temperature of your brewing space.
Another important factor is the type of beer you are brewing, ales, for example, will take a lot less time to brew than a lager and are less intensive too.
However, there are sometimes issues that can delay fermentation such as stuck fermentation. Check out my articles below for more information about why your beer may have stopped fermenting.
What seems to have happened?
Average time: 2 – 4 weeks
The last major step of the brewing process once your beer has reached its target final gravity (FG) is carbonation.
You have two main options here, bottle conditioning or force carbonation in a keg. The former is more common among beginner homebrewers and the latter involves more equipment (see my article here about kegging equipment).
If you are bottle conditioning you need to prepare roughly 60 long-neck bottles, some priming sugar and fill them with your fermented beer. Then you have to allow the yeast to reactivate and produce enough CO2 while eating the priming sugar to give you enough fizz.
For most beer types this will take a couple of weeks, and leaving the beer for longer normally produces better results in my experience. Bottling itself can be a big job and take up to several hours unless you have clean bottles to start with.
Force carbonation is a little less intensive. Once your keg is cleaned and sanitized you simply transfer your beer and start forcing CO2 into it. After a few days, your beer will be carbonated and ready to go.
Average time: 3 days – 2 weeks
How to speed up your brew day
Now, I didn’t want to just assume that everyone was trying to reduce the time it took for the entire process of brewing. Sometimes brewers are just looking to reduce the time for a particular task or part of the process, I know I have been doing that.
Here are some tips which might help you shave a few hours off of your brew day:
- Tidy up your home brewery/ kitchen the night before
- Choose extract brewing over all-grain brewing (cut out mashing altogether)
- Choose BIAB over more traditional all-grain brewing (go for no sparging too!)
- Pre-crush all your grains beforehand if brewing an all-grain recipe
- Brew with a partner, split the tasks to finish sooner
- Opt for a counterflow or plate wort chiller over an immersion chiller
- Use super-chilled water to cool your wort (see here for details)
Bottle conditioning or kegging?
If time is a real factor here, then kegging is by far the quickest way to carbonate your beer. This being said, a keg is less convenient if you want to share your beer with several different people at different locations.
My main issue with bottle conditioning is that not only do you need to wait for the yeast to do the work, which can take 2 weeks or more, you also have to clean, sanitize and fill the bottles before capping them. It’s not a five minute job, believe me.
Going down the kegging route will reduce the cleaning, sanitizing, and racking tasks to less than an hour and have your beer ready for its first pouring in about 72 hours.
Things to consider for rapid brewing
If you need a beer brewed as soon as possible, then you will definitely have to turn your back on many excellent styles of beer. However, not all of them!
Hopefully, you are into your ales, because the lagering process is both complex for most homebrewers and lengthy. Also, you really should bottle condition a lager for longer, if you aren’t kegging obviously, at least 4-6 weeks.
Issues you need to solve, overcome or accept
The major issues that you will face when trying to brew a beer as quickly as possible are that you can’t use time to active a very subtlely balanced and clear beer.
What I mean is that you need to brew a beer which has a fairly large flavor to hide any off-flavors from overworked yeast as well as one which can be served fairly cloudy. You can also forget about dry-hopping and secondary fermentation if you want to cut your brewing time down to days instead of weeks.
It’s also important to realize that starting with a lower original gravity, which will have less fermentable sugars in it, makes the job of fermentation far easier for the yeast. This does mean that the beer will have a lower ABV though, which isn’t always the end of the world!
Which type of beer to brew?
As I mentioned before, opting for a fuller flavor and perhaps a beer which is supposed to be cloudy or can be served that way is best. So, you can consider the following styles:
- German Wheat beer
- American Wheat beer
- IPAs (not dry-hopped)
- Pale Ales
- English Ales
You can find an interesting pale ale recipe that you can brew in 7 days here.
Quick fermentation: Choosing your yeast
If you want to speed up your fermentation, then you need to be very careful in your choice of yeast and how you treat it.
Get it fermenting sooner
The best way to get your average strain of yeast fermenting much faster is to introduce it into your wort as part of a yeast starter.
Basically you will be providing your yeast with enough nutrients to have it fully awake and at its peak even before you pour it into your fermenting vessel with the waiting wort. However, this is a compromise as the yeast starter itself takes days to prepare but will save you time in the long run.
If you don’t want to or like to use yeast starters, then another way you can kick start fermentation is to opt for two packets of liquid yeast rather than a single packet or either dry or liquid yeast.
This should ensure that you have a healthy amount of yeast directly in your wort that isn’t going to take time to reanimate before starting the attenuation process.
Choose a beast of a yeast
Although you should really pair your yeast to your recipe for the best results, using Kveik yeast will, in most cases, reduce the fermentation period to a matter of days.
The best thing about this strain of yeast, if you can get some before you brew, is not only its high attenuation but also its resilience to temperature and high flocculation characteristics.
You can also try the following strains of yeast which are also well suited to quick brewing:
German wheat beers
- Wyeast 3068
- Wyeast 3638
- White Labs WLP300
- White Labs WLP380
American wheat beers
- White Labs WLP320
- Wyeast 1007
- Wyeast 1010
Low ABV ales
- Wyeast 1968
- Wyeast 1187
- Wyeast 1099
- Wyeast 1332
- White Labs WLP002
- White Labs WLP007
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Keep the temperature right
Another important factor for your fermentation is the ambient temperature of your brewing space. Depending on the strain of yeast you use, you’ll need to ensure that your home brewery and the fermentation vessel stays within a delicate temperature range for the fermentation period.
Yeast which is used for brewing ale will be able to deal with slightly higher temperatures than that usually used to brew lager, but generally you don’t want to go much about 72°F (22°C) in most cases.
If the temperature is too high or too long then your yeast will be less effective and may even ‘die’. Check out my article here for more information on getting the most out of your yeast, especially if it’s been stored for a while.
Fastest fermenting beer recipes
I’ve discovered a few recipes you can try which I’ve listed below. Alternatively, you can join a couple of forums or Facebook pages and ask there, people will be happy to help.
- batch size: 5 gallons (19 l)
- OG = 1.036
- FG = 1.007
- IBU = 24
- SRM = 31
- ABV = 3.6%
- 4.66 lbs. (2.11 kg) 2-row pale malt
- 0.97 lbs. (0.44 kg) crystal malt (55 °L)
- 0.40 lbs. (0.18 kg) chocolate malt
- 1.17 lbs. (0.53 kg) flaked corn
- 0.25 lbs. (0.11 kg) crystal malt (150 °L)
- 6.2 AAU Fuggles hops (60 mins)
- (1.55 oz./44 g of 4% alpha acid)
- Wyeast 1968 (London ESB) or
- White Labs WLP002 (English Ale) yeast
- 0.66 cups corn sugar (for priming)
- 152°F (67°C) for 45 minutes
- 1.33 quarts of water/pound of grain (total 2.48 gallons /9.4 l)
- 168°F (75°C)
- collect 6.5 gallons of wort
- 60 minutes (see hops bill for timing)
- Chill to 72°F (22°C) before pitching yeast
- 6 days in primary only
- Force carbonate to 2 volumes of Co2
Bonneville Flats Bitter
Extract with speciality grains
- batch size: 5 gallon (19l)
- OG = 1.040
- FG = 1.009
- IBU = 27
- SRM = 9
- ABV = 4.0%
- 0.5 lb. (0.23 kg) Briess Light dried malt extract
- 3.3 lbs. (1.5 kg) Alexander’s Pale liquid malt extract (late addition)
- 0.5 lbs. (0.23 kg) corn sugar
- 1.5 lbs. (0.68 kg) 2-row pale ale malt
- 0.25 lbs. (0.11 kg) crystal malt (30 °L)
- 0.25 lbs. (0.11 kg) crystal malt (40 °L)
- 1 tsp. Irish moss (15 mins)
- 1/8 tsp. yeast nutrients (15 mins)
- 6.4 AAU First Gold hops (45 mins)
- (0.8 oz./23 g of 8% alpha acids)
- 2.0 AAU First Gold hops (15 mins)
- (0.25 oz./7 g of 8% alpha acids)
- 0.75 oz. (21 g) First Gold hops (0 mins)
- 2 pkg. Nottingham dried yeast (rehydrated)
- 0.75 cups corn sugar (for priming)
- prepare 6 gallons (23 L) of soft, distilled or RO water with 1.5 tsp. gypsum
- steep grains in 2 quarts (1.9 l) of prepare water at 158°F (70°C) for 30 minutes
- rinse grain bag with 1 quart (0.94l) of water at 170)F (77°C)
- add the DME, corn sugar and water until you have 2 gallons of wort
- boil the wort and add bittering hops boiling for 45 minutes
- after 45 minutes, turn off the heat
- add the LME, Irish moss and flavor hops and stir
- resume boil, adding aroma hops at the end of the boil
- Cool the wort and pitch at 72°F (22°C)
- Ferment for 3 days
- rack the beer (assuming you don’t taste diacetyl)
- Force carbonate for 3 days at 3 PSI
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