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Old 07-19-2010, 07:38 PM   #1
robertbartsch
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Default Ways to reduce your brew day

OK, so after about a 10 year absence, I began to brew again. So far, I have 6 five gallon batches under my belt and I am now using soda kegs and a kegerator. This eliminates a lot of mess, time and bother that caused me to stop brewing in the past.

I do enjoy the brewing process and this weekend I brewed two PM batches but it took a long time (about 8 hours - store runs, steeping, boils, cooling).

Since I have a busted ankle and cannot play golf now, this is OK but I would like to take steps to reduce the brew day to a more resonable time period.

My two-batch brew day using a 3.0 gallon and 5.5 gallon SS pot started like this:

* Buy supplies at the local brew shop
* Sanitize equipment including plastic fermentors
* boil several gallons of water for top-off and toss them in the fermentors
* Steep specialty grains - two batches - for 45 minutes each
* Boil water, add wort, extracts, hops, etc.
* Cool wort in sink using ice baths.
* Transfer to fermentors and wait until fully cool
* Pitch yeast

So I have a few things that I can think of to reduce total time including:

* Buy more pots so I can do two or more specalty grain steeps at the same time
* Use two pots to make two boils (2 five gallon batches) at the same time
* Use multiple grain bags for multiple steep batching
* Use a wort chiller

Did I miss anything obvious? Is it practicle to brew four batches in a single day and avoid the two batch every other week? My kitchen is average sized with a 4 burner gas stove.

What other things should be considered?

Thx.

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Old 07-19-2010, 08:40 PM   #2
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Originally Posted by robertbartsch View Post
OK, so after about a 10 year absence, I began to brew again. So far, I have 6 five gallon batches under my belt and I am now using soda kegs and a kegerator. This eliminates a lot of mess, time and bother that caused me to stop brewing in the past.

I do enjoy the brewing process and this weekend I brewed two PM batches but it took a long time (about 8 hours - store runs, steeping, boils, cooling).
No way should you do multiple store runs. Have your entire brew day mapped out the night before, with a list of everything you are going to need, and make just one run (if any).
  • Buy 2.5 gallon jugs of spring water to use as top-off; keep in the fridge. That saves you all the time of boiling that water, and speeds up the cooling--if 2 gallons of top-off water is at 34F, then you only need to chill down 3 gallons of wort to 85F and the combined mix will be 65F.
  • The idea of getting another brew kettle is a good one if you really want to do 4 brews in a day. If you're doing 2 at once, keep very close track of the ingredients for each as it's easy to make mistakes--I'd isolate a separate space on the counter for "stuff that goes in the left kettle" from "stuff that goes in the right kettle" and double-check everything before adding it.
  • Overlap any tasks you can, as much as possible, using dead time to the fullest.
The latter is key--there's a lot of sitting around and waiting time during a brew day. Do everything you can to shift prep work into that time--for instance, heating water takes a while. So the first thing I do is get that going, then while that's happening I start rounding up all my ingredients, measuring grain, etc. I only _have_ to get the thermometer, grain, and grain bag ready by the time the water's at the right temp--I'll have 45 minutes of steep time to do the rest.

And any time I'm heating water, 2 burners are faster than one--put half the strike water in the brew kettle and half in the sparge pot. Combine them only when you're close to the final temp.

Heat the sparge water during the last 20 minutes of the steep. Start heating the brew kettle as soon as you pull the grain out of it (while you're draining the bag and sparging). Start heating the sparge kettle toward boiling as soon as you pull the bag out of it, and because 2 burners are faster than one don't combine that water until you get near boiling.

If you're good about stirring to avoid burning, you can add the malt extract while you're heating; on some electric burners this is too risky. Do your main boil as normal, but in the last 10 minutes make sure the ice bath is drawn up and ready to go. If you're doing another brew after this one, start heating water for that in a sparge kettle while you're cooling this wort.
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Old 07-19-2010, 09:07 PM   #3
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I think one of the biggest time reducers for me in the begining was the wort chiller! I can now cool 10 gallons of wort in 16-18 minutes. When I did extract and ice water bath it would take over an hour to cool 3 gallon boils.

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Old 07-19-2010, 09:26 PM   #4
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How much hastle is it to use a wort chiller? It seams to me it is just another piece of equipment that must be very clean and sanitized each time.

So you save time chilling the wort but don't you add that same amount of time you saved cleaning the chiller after every use? Do you chuck the chiller in the dishwasher? Only the outside touches the wort; right?

So if you use a wort chiller do your boils increase in size to a full 5 gallons?

Thx...

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Old 07-19-2010, 09:47 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by robertbartsch View Post
How much hastle is it to use a wort chiller? It seams to me it is just another piece of equipment that must be very clean and sanitized each time.

So you save time chilling the wort but don't you add that same amount of time you saved cleaning the chiller after every use? Do you chuck the chiller in the dishwasher? Only the outside touches the wort; right?
..
You sanitize the chiller buy putting it into the boil during the last 15 minutes. When the brew day is finished, I typically just hose my chiller down and give it a quick once over with the kitchen dish scrubber to knock any junk off it and get it clean. I have never spent more than 5 minutes cleaning my immersion chiller...ever.
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Old 07-19-2010, 09:48 PM   #6
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I don't think it is much hassle at all! I still did 3 gallon partial boils when I built my first chiller. I used an adapter I have to connect a hose to the sink and it worked like a charm.
To clean it I just rinse it off when I am done using it. Just rinse the hop gunk off. To sanitize, just throw it in the boil kettle with 15-20 minutes left. That's it.

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Old 07-19-2010, 09:50 PM   #7
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[*]Overlap any tasks you can, as much as possible, using dead time to the fullest.

The latter is key--there's a lot of sitting around and waiting time during a brew day. Do everything you can to shift prep work into that time--for instance, heating water takes a while.
This. There's a lot of down time, and once you start figuring out where that is in the process, things can get pretty streamlined. Just to add to Sumner's advice, you don't, for example, need to sanitize fermenters before the process starts - you can do that during the steeping period, or even during the boil. Buying top-off water and putting it in the fridge the night before is also really helpful. Oh, also, CLEAN AS YOU GO. The more you can do that, the easier the day gets.

I'd really recommend writing down the whole process, so you can actually see where the dead time is. Then you can move tasks around in that process and have the whole day mapped out before you even start.

I'm at the point now where if I'm on my game, I can do a full 5G AG batch and bottle a full batch in 4.5 hrs total, including clean-up. Makes for kind of a hectic day, since there's almost no down-time, but leaves me more time to do other stuff.


Oh, and, honestly, I wouldn't go wort chiller right now (other people may disagree). If you're doing a full boil you absolutely need one, but if you're only doing a partial boil you won't save that much time, given that you have to hook it up and clean it and what not. The one thing that does help a lot is to stir the wort while it's chilling. Also stir the water bath it's sitting in. Just keeping the wort moving can shave 20 minutes off of the chilling time.
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Old 07-20-2010, 03:21 PM   #8
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As it was said, you shouldn't go to the store on brew day. It's best to get an idea of everything you need before hand, especially if it's an original recipe. Get everything in advance so when brew day comes you're ready to go.

I'm just at doing partial mashes right now and found it an invaluable step to grind my grain in advance also. I just store it in a bunch of coffee cans til brew day.

While things are boiling and steeping and you're just watching the clock. That's a perfect time to do cleaning for things you'll be needing at the end of your brewing, and cleaning the things you may be done with.

Clean as you go, is one of the most important things I've learned so far.

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Old 07-20-2010, 04:27 PM   #9
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Definitely clean as you go, but when using the wort chiller you should collect the first 5-6 gallons in another primary bucket. The water will be nice and hot for cleaning left over gear.

There has been some debate over whether or not the wort chiller needs sanitizing or the copper leeches into the brew. If you are concerned about it then boil another pot of water while the grains are steeping and place it in there for 15-20 mins to clean off.

You can use that water for cleaning (equipment) as you go...the smaller stuff...

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Old 07-20-2010, 05:07 PM   #10
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Ask yourself if your stove or burner can handle two 5 gallon batches. I don't know your equipment, but lots of people put a 5 gallon kettle on the stove and then find out it wasn't made for that much weight.

My biggest timesaver, besides using downtime, is to have all ingredients and equipment and plans ready ahead of time. also RDWHAHB helps, even if it doesn't save time.

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