Thursday, December 29, 2016

How Long Does It Take to Make a Batch of Beer?

As a home brewer, there is one question that almost every non-brewer asks me: "How long does it take to make a batch of beer?" This question might mean any of the following, or all of them:

  • How much time and effort goes into brewing and bottling a batch of beer?
  • How long does it take to go from grain, water, yeast, and hops to a finished glass of beer?
  • How long does the brewing and bottling process take, end-to-end?
They might even be asking a combination of these questions.

The unfortunate part is that you can't give a single answer to the question. Brewing effort is affected by:

  • The brewer's experience and skill level
  • The brewer's equipment
  • Whether the recipe is an extract brew, all-grain brew, mini-mash, or extract with steeping grains
  • The temperature in the brewing area (e.g, if it's cold, it takes longer to heat water)
  • The recipe being made
  • The yeast strain being used
  • The availability of temperature control during fermentation
What I usually tell people is that "for me, for a typical beer, with a typical recipe, using my usual equipment and processes, it will take me about 5-7 hours of effort and 2-4 weeks of elapsed time to produce a 5-gallon batch of beer. This varies a bit depending on the style, the complexity of the recipe, and so on."

If you have a friend or family member who brews, they may give you a very different answer. Don't make the mistake of thinking that they are lying to you. Someone with an automated brewing system like the Picobrew Zymatic might only have a couple of hours of effort involved in a brew and be able to go from grain to bottle in 2-3 weeks. Someone else, with a heavily manual setup, a low-wattage electric heating element, and a complex all-grain recipe might tell you it's an 8-12 hour process and takes months of elapsed time to produce a single beer.

I think the fastest I've produced an unfermented beer with my current setup was about 5 hours. That beer took a week to ferment and a week to bottle condition before it was drinkable.

The slowest a batch has taken was a 6-7 hour brewing process, followed by two weeks of fermentation, a month of secondary fermentation, 90 minutes of bottling, and a full year of bottle conditioning. (That beer won't be ready until April 2017.)




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