Is patience really a virtue?
Although I've been brewing for close to 5 years now, I like to read through the beginners forum in the hopes that I can give something back to the HBT community which has helped me out greatly over much of that time. However, I think there is a cadre of very vocal members who are giving misleading advice regarding the "aging" of average gravity ales.
Now, I understand that some errors common to new brewers (underpitching, warm fermentations, etc.) can be "cleaned up" by spending a little more time in the primary. That's helpful advice for someone who has an off-flavor, but I repeatedly see simple questions of "how long does it take?" answered with "at least three weeks in primary, but the longer the better." While that advice won't hurt the beer (much), I think it has the potential to turn off some new brewers, not to mention giving some a crutch to lean on while their process could be improved.
Furthermore, if someone - even a well respected member like Yooper - gives a more realistic answer, it's usually followed by a chorus of "why risk it?", "what's the rush?", or "patience is a virtue". So as some food for thought, I figured I'd supply some rationale for the counter-question of "why wait?"
We can brew faster; we have the technology
It seems that many of the folks who advocate extended fermentations are really just talking about waiting for the beer to clear. While that may take several weeks at normal fermentation temps, you can reduce that to a couple of days - or even overnight - if you cold crash and / or use finings. You can usually find someone unloading an old fridge for free on craigslist, so unless you live in a tiny apartment, there's really no excuse for not having the ability to cold crash. Add in the fact that once you scrounge $40 - $70 for a temperature controller, you have yourself a fermentation chamber that allows you to brew far better beer than in your closet, this is kind of a no-brainer.
Finings are a little trickier subject. Gelatin is cheap, easy to use, and will clear a cold-crashed beer in a matter of hours. But I can understand if one (or one's friends/family) doesn't want animal products used in the production of their beer. There are also vegan alternatives, but I don't know how well they work. If they do their job even half as well as gelatin / isinglass, I don't see any reason not to use them. And before anyone says "Reinheitsgebot", keep in mind that the original didn't even include yeast, so maybe we shouldn't be using 15th century provincial laws to influence our brewing.
Reducing cycle time means that you can brew more often
What's going to help a new brewer more: looking at a fermenter in their basement, or brewing another batch? There's a recent book that posits that it takes about 10,000 hours of practice to become truly great at something. But I don't think you can count the time it took Calloway to make your golf clubs or Baldwin to make your piano. Once you pitch your yeast, it's their beer and you might as well move on to something else.
You need less equipment to maintain a pipeline
Depending on the beer and number of other beers I have on tap, it usually takes me about three weeks to kick a keg. Luckily, it takes about three weeks to get a batch ready to serve, so it all kind of works out. If I were to subscribe to the month long primary club, I'd need more kegs and probably more fermenters. And more fermentation chambers. And a place to store more kegs and more fermenters. And god help you if you choose to bottle.
You can drink "seasonally" with less planning
Despite what that glorified rat from Punxsutawney said, we had an early spring this year. I'd hate to be stuck with six more weeks of stouts when what I'm really in the mood for is a cream ale.
You might never get to sample your beer at its peak
While the word is filtering down that Hefes and IPAs are best when they're fresh, the truth is that it's true for most other beer styles as well. Unless you're talking a really big beer, it's going to be at its prime about 3 to 6 weeks after brew day. A good example is a basic Irish dry stout. I've seen folks say that any stout needs several months of conditioning, but that's just ridiculous for a 1.038 Guinness clone. My dry stouts clock in at about 1.042 and exhibit a fantastic silky, malty character that's completely gone if I let one go as far as two months after brew day.
I wanna be like Mike
I'm still one of the many who harbors delusions of going pro. Any brewer who stuck to the schedules advocated by many on this site would go broke in less than a year. Chances are that whatever your dream commercial beer is - the one that makes you say "if I could only brew like that" - it was packaged within three weeks of being brewed. There's no reason you can't do the same thing. And if you do want to turn this hobby into a living, you're going to have to figure out how.
I hope that at least some of these concepts make sense to some folks. I know that I won't be able to change the minds of the most vocal members of the month long primary club, but I hope that the more moderate members of the site might see how there might be valid reasons for sticking to a timely brewing schedule. I'm interested to know how y'all feel.
I'm with you.
I really think that people hear or read something on this site and regurgitate it as gospel.
I don't think all the rules are as hard and fast as some beginners (and exp brewers) make out.
I was recently looking up some info about some yeast I was using and came across the pro brewers site. On it they were talking about the yeast being great in that it was done fermenting in four days. It made me think, if these guys can get it done in four days, why do I need to wait three to four weeks to package.
I get the conditioning off, off flavours, but if you have done it properly from the start then you shouldn't need to.
So, I'm with you. If you brew and ferment properly you can package when fermentation has finished without long conditioning.
I absolutely agree. I usually take hydrometer readings after as little as 6 days, and if FG is reached, it gets cold crashed and kegged or bottled. The yeast do clean up after themselves, but it doesn't always take a month, especially for a 1.042-1.050 beers.
A prime example is: I brewed a Hefeweizen that went to bottles after 1 week in the primary, followed by 2 weeks conditioning. It was great beer, and took 3 weeks from brew day to glass. Same thing with my batch of Amber Ale. Bigger beers benefit from longer primary time, but I don't brew big beers all that often.
I've had a batch of IPA brewed, fermented, cleared, bottle conditioned, and stomach conditioned in 2.5 weeks if you can believe it. It was great.
So, a question from a new brewer re: recipe being brewed tomorrow:
I'm making a blonde/cream type (it straddles the definitions, basically a touch too dark to qualify as cream, otherwise spot on), with a last-minute yeast change due to dead yeast beasties (yes, I did a started in advance, it's showing no signs of activity).
6.6 lbs Breiss Pilsen Light LME
12 oz Honey malt
4 oz Victory malt (there was no biscuit, was told this was a good substitute, basically the American biscuit)
1oz Cluster hops, 60 min
Nottingham yeast (since the Amer. Ale is dead, bar a late night awakening)
Partial boil extract w/ grains, but almost full boil (4.5 gallons).
Perfect clarity isn't a concern, I'm making this one to contrast with the stout I made. That one is benefitting from some time, but it also had a long drive in the fermentor. I just want a lightly sweet, slightly malty summer beer, eh? The OG is forecast for 1.050, again, with Nottingham (so will be slightly more dry than I was planning, which may be for the best).
ANYWAY--Of course dependent on hydrometer readings, can less than 3 weeks ferment be expected? Should I start testing at one week (If obvious signs are down)?
Sorry for rambling and any spelling/grammar errors--nasty migraine has me on my ass. /forgiveplease
I know I'll prob get shot by some for this but....
If you have pitched good yeast and held ferm temps well and it's done after a week. Then you can bottle or keg, depending on your system.
I'd say once you have stable hydrometer readings over a few days, go ahead and package.
I've done both short fermentation/short bottle conditioning and long fermentation and bottle conditioning and I prefer the flavor I get from longer fermentation, especially the darker beers. You go ahead and do your short ferment, I'll just buy a couple more fermenters so I can have a good rotation schedule and have a beer to bottle/keg each weekend if I choose.
Some beers do benefit from sitting on the yeast for an extended amount of time, such as strong Belgians, or at least in my experience they do. While I did beat the drum of extended primaries back when I started brewing, I've come to realize for lower gravity ales it isn't really helping anything. Once I got my temperature control down, I usually only leave them in primary for 2 weeks max, then 5-7 days in secondary if I'm dry hopping. No cold crashing or fining agents for me though, and I'd say I produce fairly clear beer. On average I have beer brewed and packaged in a time span of 12-18 days.
Big beers all follow their own unique schedule though, but IMO, a beginner brewer shouldn't be tackling a 1.100 RIS for their first beer.
Patience is more of a virtue when bottle conditioning in my experience.
I think this is what the OP is saying. Big beers will benefit from extended fermentation and conditioning time.
OP and me are not arguing against that. But for 105x beers you can crank them out in a couple of weeks with kegging.
You don't always have to leave a beer on the cake for three to four weeks.
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