How Can I Speed Up My Brew Day & Still Make Incredible Beer?


Don’t get me wrong, we all love making beer but sometimes when you think about setting up for another brew day it can be off-putting.

The major issue is that to do things properly, you need to dedicate at least a couple of hours if not a full day to brewing beer.

Due to a busy schedule of late, I’ve had the ingredients for two batches of beer sitting in my refrigerator for 2 weeks doing nothing. Meanwhile, my beer supply is drying up!

So, that got me to thinking, how could I shave hours off my brew day and how could home brewers do it in general?

There are several ways to spend less time working hard on your brew day. The key methods involve choosing a quicker brewing technique as well as brewing with the right equipment. Brewing ingredients can also determine the length of a brew day as can better preparation. Eliminating tasks is also key.

However, it’s not as simple as all that. There are many more details to take into consideration if you want to seriously streamline your brew day.

Luckily, I’ve shared everything I’ve learned and been researching below.

Choose the right method of brewing

Now, although beer has likely been brewed for thousands of years, modern homebrewers only really have three choices when it comes to brewing beer at home. These methods are largely dictated by the ingredients you use and also in some respects to the equipment too.

Due to certaIn circumstances, I’ve actually tried out all three and I can certainly see the difference in the time you need to spend on your actual brew day. So let’s just lay them out here in case you are fairly new to this fantastic pastime.

All-grain brewing

Average brew day: 4-6 hours

All-grain is perhaps the purest form of home brewing as it gives you so much control over every stage of the process. But it does mean that you have to go through EVERY stage of the process.

All-grain brewing involves mashing your grains yourself to extract fermentation sugars which the yeast needs to help you brew the best beer possible. After mashing, you need to sparge your mash to extract enough wort for your boil, this is yet another time-consuming process.

Only after these two phases can you start your boil and then, after 60 minutes, cool your wort down to the right temperature to pitch your yeast.

Most time-consuming processes:

  • preparing ingredients
  • mashing
  • sparging
  • racking the wort
  • cooling the wort

Extract brewing

Average brew day: 2-3 hours

This is perhaps the best entry-level brewing method and although it may be frowned upon by some homebrewers, using liquid or dry malt extract is a really quick way to make decent tasting beer.

Basically you skip the process of mashing where you have to extract fermentable sugars into your wort. This has already be done for you in the form of LME (or DME).

So, this means your brew day usually starts with steeping your specialty grains or even straight into the boil if making something like an American Cream Ale.

Of course after you boil any beer during the brewing process you’ll need to cool it down before adding your yeast.

Most time-consuming processes:

  • preparing ingredients
  • racking the wort
  • cooling the wort

BIAB brewing

Average brew day: 4-5 hours

Brew In A Bag (BIAB) is a form of all-grain brewing which removes some stages of the process by mashing grains in a brewer’s or muslin bag.

After you mash your grains you simply heave the bag out and almost immediately separate the spent grain from the remaining wort left in the mash tun.

Apart from the time it takes for some excess wort to drip back into the pot, you don’t need to go the different steps of setting up your grain bed and sparging the grains to extract wort into another vessel.

This is a great method for when you are stuck for time and also if you don’t have a lot of space to play with, which is generally my case!

Most time-consuming processes:

  • preparing ingredients
  • mashing
  • racking the wort
  • cooling the wort

How to shorten your brew day overall

Obviously, if you really want to have a shorter brew day, you should probably opt for an extract kit. However, for some of you reading this you’ll feel like throwing up in your mouth right now. So, let’s discuss some general ideas which can be applied to all home brewing processes.

Preparation

I’ve found that getting ahead of the game and being well prepared for my brew day has not only made it less stressful, but also much shorter.

Stay organized

If you are lucky enough to have a dedicated brewing space, this may be slightly easier for you. Nevertheless, make sure that you always keep your brewing equipment, especially the little stuff, exactly where you can find it at all times.

Cleaning up

Now, even if you have a dedicated brewing space that isn’t used for any other function, you still need to tidy it up and get it ready for your next brew day.

I still brew in my kitchen, so I tend to clean it up thoroughly the night before I plan to brew so that in the morning I can get straight into it.

Gather your ingredients

Before you even start brewing and even before you prepare your equipment, check you have all the ingredients you need.

If you are using an extract based kit, just have a quick look-see at your yeast, is it in date? Do you have some extra yeast just in case you drop the packet all over the floor?

If brewing all-grain, perhaps you can pre-crush your grains the night before just so that you can be ready to go straight away on your brew day.

Just lay everything out in the order that you’ll need it so that you don’t have to suddenly run to the local brew shop when you realize you’ve forgotten or run out of something.

Testing equipment

No matter what cool gadgets you have and even if you brew with very basic kit, make sure everything is working beforehand. If you are using propane, make sure you have enough for a full brew day.

Using a fancy thermometer? Make sure you have spare batteries on hand. How about your hydrometer, have you checked to see if it’s still calibrated lately?

Just walk yourself through your brew day mentally and check you have everything you need and it’s working as it should.

Read your recipe

Just like an experience airline pilot, a home brewer should always refer to their checklist. This is especially true if you are fairly new to the craft.

Read through your recipe thoroughly and even make notes of when you’ll need this piece of kit ready for any particular task. The more familiar you are with this particular brew the less faffing around will occur.

Choose less time-consuming ingredients

It may sound strange, but the very ingredients you use, or rather the recipe you follow, can add or subtract time from your brew day.

Grain bill

Simply by choosing a lighter grain bill, you will save yourself time, especially if you have to weigh and mill all that grain yourself.

Hops bill

By limiting when you add hops during the boil, and not necessarily how much, you can free up time when you can be doing something else. Look into employing the First Wort Hop (FWH) method and late addition hops.

This will mean that you don’t have to keep interrupting other tasks to keep up with your brew day schedule and hops additions.

Yeast

Although the yeast is usually something we need to worry about at the very end of the brew day and does much of its work in later stages of brewing, you can still save yourself time here.

When possible, choosing a yeast strain which is more resilient to higher temperatures can mean that you save time when cooling your wort. Kviek, for example, can be pitched at more than 50°F/10°C warmer than many other types of yeast

Cleaning & Sanitizing

Another sure way to speed up your brew day is to pre-clean all your brewing equipment the day or morning before making sure that you’ve removed all the organic material from your last brew day.

I usually clean after I’ve used the equipment and again before I use it, but always before I start the brew day. This means that all I need to do is sanitize the equipment.

The best way to do this is to use a non-rinse sanitizer such as Star San (check out Morebeer.com or here at Amazon to get yours).

Another way that you can cut down your brew day is to eliminate sanitizing when it’s just overkill. If you want to know more about what I mean, check out my article about sanitizing your brew kettle.

Brewing Equipment

Another sure way is to use equipment that will help you reduce the time it takes to brew. Also, remember that the less equipment you use the less cleaning you’ll have to do later, so that’s a bonus point for BIAB right there.

The Boil

There are two pieces of kit which can really help you out when it comes to reducing the time it takes you to boil up your wort. Although you probably aren’t going to boil for less than the usual 60 minutes, it’s the time before hand which counts.

Although I still brew up in my kitchen quite happily, the gas stove I use could still do with a boost. As soon as I move into a bigger space, and outdoors, I’m going to invest in a decent propane burner (Got my eye on something like this over at Morebeer.com.

Having a powerful flame below your brew kettle is going to get you up to the rolling boil much more quickly, which is more time you don’t need to waste.

Also, choosing the right size brew kettle and the best material is also going to reduce the time it takes to get your wort to the boil. I’ve gone into a lot of detail about the right size and which materials to consider in my article here.

All in one Brewing systems

After playing around with a Grainfather that my friend bought recently, I can see how these all-in-one systems can really streamline the brewing experience.

Compared to how I brew, he showed me that there was a lot less leg work involved and the fact that the mashing and boiling is done in the same unit has the same benefits as BIAB brewing.

If you are interested in taking the plunge, as I will when I can afford it, check out the Grainfather which you can get from MoreBeer.com or you can check its current availability on Amazon.

Wort chiller

For me personally, I found that the piece of equipment which helped reduce my brew day the most was the humble wort chiller.

The issue I had was that my original wort chiller was too small and didn’t come into contact with enough wort. This meant that what should take roughly 20 minutes still wasn’t completed after an hour.

For more details on which type of wort chiller you need, check out my in-depth article here.

Tips for Cooling your wort faster

There are three main things I can suggest, in addition to buying a better wort chiller, which will help you cool your wort down much more quickly.

Firstly, use the wort chiller with an ice bath. Although most brewers tend to forget about using the ice bath method the moment they unbox their first wort chiller, using both techniques really cools the liquid down fast. (see here for more details)

Second, use colder water. One of the issues I first faced when using my wort chiller was that the main water supply was hotter than my target pitching temperature. It was a physics nightmare.

So the answer is to cool the water you use for cooling before it gets into your wort chiller. There is a great system you can use which not only cools the water down but also saves a heck of a lot of water, see my article here for more details.

Thirdly, you need to agitate the wort as it cools. Stirring it with your mash paddle or even with a pain mixer will make sure that it circulates and comes into contact with the surface of your wort chiller; of course, you don’t need to do this if you are using a counterflow or plate chiller.

Less time racking your beer

Another time consuming process is transferring your beer from one container to the next. This has to happen between mashing and boiling for all-grain brewers, and from the brew kettle to the fermenter for all brewers.

The issue is that when you are using a siphon, the flow of gallons of wort from one place to another can take several minutes.

Choose a spigot

By far the best choice I could make when it came to choosing my brew kettle was having one with a spigot. Although it’s also a fairly narrow exit for the wort, it seems to be quicker than using an auto-siphon with a conventional stockpot.

When emptying your brew kettle after the boil you can just let the wort flow out directly into your fermenter positioned below. If you are cooling your wort overnight you don’t even need to use a wort chiller. Read here for more details as it will also shorten your brew day.

Just use a strainer

Another really quick method if you have a small initial batch or are strong enough is to physically pour your wort through a strainer.

When transferring wort from the mash tun to the brew kettle you probably won’t want to do this, unless you have followed the BIAB method. However, when racking your wort into your fermenter, this can be a really quick way to remove any of the floating organic material.

Mash less

Most recipes will tell you to mash for 60 minutes, however there is an argument that says this isn’t necessary. You can reach similar levels of efficiency with modern grains even with a 30 minute mash time.

Based on an experiment carried out by brulosophy.com several years ago, there isn’t much difference in a beer mashed for 60 minutes and one for half that time.

It’s something which you need to get your head around before you get started, but this could really shorten your brew day if you can get your figure right.

No sparge

Obviously this isn’t really an issue for extract and BIAB brewers, but all-grain brewers can take note. Although nowadays many home brewers like to fly sparge or batch sparge their mash, for perhaps centuries breweries didn’t do this. They simple filled up the mash tun to around the desired amount and let it drain through the grain bed.

The no-sparge method can really save you time, assuming that you are able to achieve the desired efficiency for your particular beer recipe. This is something that a handy app could help you to achieve.

Clean as you go

If you’ve been brewing for any amount of time you know that much of the job is cleaning up before and after yourself.

A great way to reduce the time you spend on brew day is to multi-task. Whenever possible, clean as you go and use the dead time between important tasks to clean the equipment from the previous task. If you can make your boil a little less intensive, then you can use this hour to leave most things from previous stages spick and span.

Brew partner

Another real time-saver is brewing with someone else. Not only does it make certain tasks less fiddly, such as adding sticky LME, it also means you have two sets of hands.

Getting a spouse or even your kids involved can lighten the load and mean that you can get out of the brewery much sooner to spend even more quality time with them.

Beer styles

In addition to beers which have less complex grain bills for you to measure out and those which have a slightly less demanding hop addition schedule, you may also want a beer which can generally be brewed in less time.

If you want to experiment with, say, a beer you can get fully brewed in just 7 days, then check out my fun article I wrote here.

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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