Friday, February 20, 2009

5 Time Saving Ideas

As much as I enjoy the brewing process and want to brew as often as I can, I only have a certain amount of time in which to spend in the brewery. I think this is a common dilema in the homebrewing community. My normal all-grain brewing day has typically been around six to eight hours from set-up to clean-up. But, over the years I have come up with a few tried and true ways to cut down on the amount of time I need for brew day, allowing me to do other important things on my weekend.
I have cut my brew day time down to about five hours. The following ideas are probably pretty obvious to anyone who has brewed more than a few beers but for those that are new or new to all-grain brewing, they may prove valuable.
1.) The first thing that I started doing to improve on my time was to formulate and prepare a written schedule of the recipe for the beer that I would be brewing. I'm 'old school' when it comes to formulating new recipes for the style of beer I will brew. I calculate by hand the amount of grain needed for the original gravity that I want and I figure the international bittering units that I want to achieve. I use a journal with the recipe and hop schedule to follow which is written in an easy to follow step by step format. This schedule can be written anytime prior to brew day. I usually have this prepared several days in advance. Having this in front of me while brewing takes any guess work out of my process and assures that I will have the ingredients ready to go when the time calls for them.
2.) The second thing I started to do that reduces my time and that has made for a much more comfortable brew day was to pre-mill my grains. This simple step, along with pre-measuring and bagging my hops is one less element to worry about, giving me ample time to focus on hitting the proper strike temperature for my mash or other tasks that can be problematic if overlooked. I will mill the grain the night before and store in sealed 5 gallon buckets. At the same time I will measure and bag the hops and toss them in the buckets along with the grain and secure a lid. When this is done in the evening before it doesn't seem to take to much time, but the time saving effect on brew day is remarkable.

3.) The third thing I do when brewing a ten gallon, all-grain batch is to start heating the wort as soon as I have accumulated about five gallons in the boil pot during the sparge. I set the burner on a low heat being cautious not to scorch the concentrated wort. Increasing the heat as the extractions accumulate I bring the liquid slowly up to boiling temperatures just as the sparge is complete. Thus, I have my pre-boil volume at boiling temperatures right when the sparge has ended, no lag time.

4.) The fourth thing is to clean as you go. Once I have my boil going and I have added my first addition of hops, I have time to empty the spent grains and clean out my mash tun. I also use this time to sanitize any fermenting and transfer equipment that will be used when the boiling is complete and to stow unnecessary equipment like the mash tun and HLT.

5.) The fifth thing and final time saving technique, is to build a pre-chiller to use in conjunction with your emersion or counterflow chiller. This simple addition to your equipment can save many minutes on the time it take to cool the wort to pitching temperatures.
Mine is an old emersion chiller that I used when I first started brewing five gallon extract batches on the stove top. It is a coil of 25' of 3/8" copper tubing. I submerge it in a bucket of ice water and then run my chilling water throught it first in line with my counterflow chiller. It lowers the temperature of my chilling water several degrees before it reaches my counterflow chiller. In the end I am saving time and water.

Hopefully these ideas were useful to you. Leave a comment below with you ideas.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

All great suggestions! Especially the clean as you go, that one works well for me. I like to start early, early in the morning and get done by noontime so I can sit back with a stogie and enjoy my efforts! Happy Brewing, my friend...

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