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sketchykg

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I've been home brewing for many years and on many different systems. A brew day used to mean dragging out my system, brewing a batch leisurely while drinking a beer or 4 and cleaning up into the night. An all grain brew day could easily take 8 hours from starting to take out the equipment to putting it all away clean.

But life changes, and my wife and I currently foster care small children so I never have a full day to brew any longer, so I came up with a bunch of changes in my process to allow me to still brew without having to abandon my wife alone with the kids for long periods of time.

Some things that I did and do:
  • Simplify your system. BIAB and single-vessel all-in-one systems are great for this. At one point I had a 3 vessel direct fired system with a RIMS tube. I spent more time setting-up, cleaning and tearing down the system than brewing. It was cool, but cleaning it all got old quick.
  • Have a dedicated location for brewing. I used to store my equipment in the basement and brew on my elevated deck.. so much wasted time carrying stuff up the stairs. Now I have a "brewery" in my basement and it's awesome.
  • Electric is awesome, but if you do electric, use 240v. Pretty obvious, but nothing worse than watching a brew kettle take 30 minutes or more to rise from 200 degrees to boil. One of my primary systems is a Grainfather. Adding a Hot Rod heat stick to my process was a huge time saver.
  • Automation is king. All sorts of ways to automate these days, but I'm pretty happy with just relying on a system maintain mash temp and doing automated step mashing so I don't have to constantly watch the mash. Pre-heating your strike and sparge water is a must too.
  • Clean as you go as much as possible. Obvious, but "if you have time to lean, you have time to clean". If something is dirty, don't stand there admiring the boil, clean-up.
  • Plan your brew day. Be as detailed as you can. This helps avoid last minute trips to the homebrew store or running around looking for your ingredients. Ensure you have your yeast and hops close at hand in the brewery. Always have a few packages of dry yeast on hand just in case.
  • Collect your grist and pre-crush your grain a day or two before. I keep a lot of grain on hand in vacuum sealed bags and in various bins. Collecting, weighing and crushing the grain takes a surprising amount of time. Do it during some free time before your brew day.
  • Collect your water in advance. Alluded to above, but collecting the water the night before, adding your salts/acid and getting it set to be preheated in the morning shaves a lot of time of the brew day. I like to work up my adjustments so that my sparge and mash water has the same addition schedule, collect it in one vessel and seperate the preheated sparge water just before mash in.
  • Use no Sparge. If I don't use my Grainfather, I use my 10 gallon BIAB system and do no sparge. This saves the sparge step, and I can usually be at the start of the boil while the last of the wort is getting squeezed from the bag. Also, this is an extremely quick system to brew on regardless.
  • Start early. Get up before the rest of the house and get the brew day going to avoid distractions. My most recent brew day I was mashing in at 5:30am and had pitched yeast and mostly cleaned up by 9:45.

Does anyone else have any good tips? I'm always looking for more tips and ideas.
 

RM-MN

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Buy a bottle of iodine and take samples to see when the starch is converted to sugar. Hint: with BIAB and a real fine milled grain it doesn't take an hour. Do not stop the mash when all the starch is converted unless you want flavorless beer. It takes more time to extract the flavor than to convert the starch.

I sparge while the wort heats to boil. I use cool tap water so that slows the boil a bit but the wort collected from that hot, wet mass of grains comes out pretty warm. I gain 10% or more efficiency doing that which seems like a good trade-off for the extra few minutes it takes to get the wort to boil
 

bkboiler

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Those are great tips! I guess this one is obvious, but crank the heat while your bag is draining, and use hop bursting rather than whirlpool if you're doing IPAs...not exactly the same result but it does save time!

Also, keeping things organized is a tremendous time saver. Have small bins to keep your brewing salts, shelves to keep cleaners, racks, pegboards, hooks, etc ...take time when not brewing to make labels and shadowboards...you will be amazed how much more pleasurable brewday is when things are easy to find and well kept.

Lastly, recirculation can help get all the conversion going more uniformly throughout the mash so could help a tiny bit with speed (but it's just more for consistency IMHO)...

I don't plan to do inline aeration, since in my view the time savings isn't worth it...but I am going to upgrade to pure O2 soon, since my aquarium pump takes nearly 25 minutes to saturate...compared to 20-30 seconds of pure O2...
 
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sketchykg

sketchykg

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I don't plan to do inline aeration, since in my view the time savings isn't worth it...but I am going to upgrade to pure O2 soon, since my aquarium pump takes nearly 25 minutes to saturate...compared to 20-30 seconds of pure O2...
Yes, I was there! I did the aquarium pump and quickly migrated to pure O2. However, not to wander into controversial territory, but I tend to favor dry yeast when I can use an appropriate strain, since dry doesn't require oxygenation by most accounts. I still splash the wort during the transfer, but feel ok not hitting it with O2 if my OG is around 1.050. Another thing to not clean.
 

bkboiler

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With the first kid I build a dedicated brew space in the garage...
with the second I built a better ferm chamber and keezer (side by side fridge freezer conversion) and switched to BIAB in the kitchen...
Now that we've had our third I'm back in the garage, but adding dedicated water supply to the brew area...one tap for washing one for brewing with...
And a gas line for faster heating....in so cal electricity is too expensive...
 

BrewnWKopperKat

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FWIW, Homebrew Con has a couple of presentations (2017, 2018) on the topic of brewing when one is short on time.
 

_HH_

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I no-chill. By splitting my brew day into ‘making wort’ and ‘fermenting wort’ I find I can make more wort than I can ferment, rack it into 10L cubes and ferment some beer whenever I want without having to mash/boil again. It’s brilliant and a huge time saver. The cubes can quite happily be stored for months without any perceivable degradation, and as I tend to basically brew a batch with boil additions only, then add all my late additions as dry hops* there isn’t any loss of flavour/aroma using this method. It also saves a huge amount of water as you don’t need to use it for cooling.
Lastly it’s also an incredibly cheap thing to try, as you just need a couple of 10L HPTE jerry cans. Win-win!

*I have also started making a hop tea and adding this instead of a dry hop addition. I prefer this to be honest as it gives more flavour than dry-hopping alone, and is very easy to do.
 
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3 Dawg Night

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Buy a bottle of iodine and take samples to see when the starch is converted to sugar. Hint: with BIAB and a real fine milled grain it doesn't take an hour. Do not stop the mash when all the starch is converted unless you want flavorless beer. It takes more time to extract the flavor than to convert the starch.
Trying to ensure I understand what you're saying. Are you saying that full conversion will happen in less than an hour, but keep mashing for the full hour to get best flavor, or are you saying that full flavor comes at an hour, but full conversion will take more than an hour?
 

RM-MN

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Trying to ensure I understand what you're saying. Are you saying that full conversion will happen in less than an hour, but keep mashing for the full hour to get best flavor, or are you saying that full flavor comes at an hour, but full conversion will take more than an hour?
Actually I was saying neither of those. Conversion happens quickly, much quicker than an hour but once conversion is complete you still have to wait a bit for the flavor to come. The reason I said to use iodine is for you to discover just how long conversion takes on your system, then decide how long flavor extraction takes. You may save a substantial amount of time if you can shorten the mash period. With my very fine milling (like cornmeal) I can have a 30 minute mash or even shorter. I rarely do less than 30 minutes though, the time saved isn't that much compared to the hour that most people mash.

If you started your brewing with extract and specialty grains, how long did you have to steep the grains for flavor? That will give you an idea of how long to use for a mash period.
 

Dland

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Does anyone else have any good tips? I'm always looking for more tips and ideas
Loose the kids, they are a waste of time and will only cause heartbreak in the end.

Seriously though, brew days for me go much better not combined with drinking. I'll often mash in before 9:00 AM and be cooled and pitched by 1:00PM. 10+gal all grain 3 vessel electric. I might take a break before doing "the dishes" and breaking down, which usually takes up another hour +.

Lots of other tips specific to my type of rig to save time, but probably most would not apply.
 

3 Dawg Night

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Actually I was saying neither of those. Conversion happens quickly, much quicker than an hour but once conversion is complete you still have to wait a bit for the flavor to come.
So, are you saying that maximum flavor extraction requires full starch conversion plus some constant-ish amount of time? Or, are flavor extraction time and starch conversion time independent?

The reason I said to use iodine is for you to discover just how long conversion takes on your system, then decide how long flavor extraction takes.
How do you figure out flavor extraction time? Is it simply a matter of brewing the same recipe with progressively longer mash times until you stop perceiving any additional flavor benefit? Is there a rule of thumb? I suspect it's 60 minutes.

If you started your brewing with extract and specialty grains, how long did you have to steep the grains for flavor? That will give you an idea of how long to use for a mash period.
I've never brewed with extract; I jumped straight into AG. Palmer calls for steeping specialty grains for 30 minutes. Does that indicate that 30 minutes is the point of diminishing returns for flavor extraction?
 

bkboiler

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Haha, I realized the other day that making cider, wine, mead, etc... do not require working with hot liquids so it's more likely my kids can help.
I absolutely will get rid of glass fermenters before allowing them anywhere near the brew area though...

I'm starting to think that's a time saver...although I'm not sure that during a liquid transfer I'll be able to run quickly with a kiddo to the potty...I suppose I could just shut the valve and come back in a minute ...
 

RM-MN

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So, are you saying that maximum flavor extraction requires full starch conversion plus some constant-ish amount of time? Or, are flavor extraction time and starch conversion time independent?


How do you figure out flavor extraction time? Is it simply a matter of brewing the same recipe with progressively longer mash times until you stop perceiving any additional flavor benefit? Is there a rule of thumb? I suspect it's 60 minutes.


I've never brewed with extract; I jumped straight into AG. Palmer calls for steeping specialty grains for 30 minutes. Does that indicate that 30 minutes is the point of diminishing returns for flavor extraction?
Conversion and flavor extraction time are related but not equal. Both amounts of time depend on the milling of the grain. You have to figure out the flavor extraction time based on the milling and you need to determine the conversion time. Both are happening together but one is quicker than the other. The 60 minutes is a "rule of thumb" in that most of the time the conversion and flavor extraction will be complete by then, often much before then but with a really bad milling it may take 90 to 120 minutes or more. I had to drink a couple batches of low flavor beer before I learned how long it took for the flavor to be extracted.
 

Novacor

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I do the opposite of a shorter mash. I do biab and mash overnight. Always done and cleaned up the next day well before lunch.
 

SirHC_

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I also do BIAB and overnight mash. I'll mash out in the morning w boiling water to get the wort runny again.
If not overnight, I'll let the mash do its thing while I run errands or do yard work or something. Not real picky on the timing. Likewise once the boil is rolling and stable I'll stay within eyesight of the kettle and do some yard work.
And I no chill.
 

SouthBounds

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1. I now brew bigger batches which cuts down days of brewing.
2. I also love my plate chiller, super fast.
3. Get help, I almost always have a friend over helping.
4. Keep 1 bucket full of PBW and one full of starsan to clean things as you brew.

It's very easy to hit a 3-4 hour brew day doing this.

Sincerely - Dude with lots o kids, pets and wifey.
 

Nate R

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I no-chill. By splitting my brew day into ‘making wort’ and ‘fermenting wort’ I find I can make more wort than I can ferment, rack it into 10L cubes and ferment some beer whenever I want without having to mash/boil again. It’s brilliant and a huge time saver. The cubes can quite happily be stored for months without any perceivable degradation, and as I tend to basically brew a batch with boil additions only, then add all my late additions as dry hops* there isn’t any loss of flavour/aroma using this method. It also saves a huge amount of water as you don’t need to use it for cooling.
Lastly it’s also an incredibly cheap thing to try, as you just need a couple of 10L HPTE jerry cans. Win-win!

*I have also started making a hop tea and adding this instead of a dry hop addition. I prefer this to be honest as it gives more flavour than dry-hopping alone, and is very easy to do.
Please elaborate on these "cubes"
-how do you store them? In a frdige or room temp?
-how long have you left them?
-any infection/mold issues?
Thanks
 

Novims

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You could also boil for less than 60 mins. I had good success with 30 minutes boils. Of course, you have to adjust your ibus and it’s not exactly the same as you also extract some flavors but it’s good enough. Evaporation has to be taken in account, but softwares like Beersmith take care of that.
 
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sketchykg

sketchykg

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Please elaborate on these "cubes"
-how do you store them? In a frdige or room temp?
-how long have you left them?
-any infection/mold issues?
Thanks
I've done no-chill on occasion, and can't believe I didn't mention it. I've got two of these that I would use: 5 Gallon Fortpack Container | U.S. Plastic Corp.

Basically the boiling wort is added directly to the cube to sanitize the container. ideally you adjust your hop addition times to avoid over isomerization of your hops. I.e. I would add a normal 20 minute addition directly to the can. And 0 minute additions would be held for a dry hop.

It becomes a bit of a controversial topic because there is a botulism risk if you store wort in the cube at room temperature longer than a week.. at least that is what my research said. If I hot cube, and don't plan on pitching in a day or two I refrigerate it, but I've seen plenty of folks say they just keep at room temperature. I've read suggestions that the wort could have the ph lowered to alleviate the botulism risk, but never tried messing with it in favor of quick usage or refrigeration.
 
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sketchykg

sketchykg

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You could also boil for less than 60 mins. I had good success with 30 minutes boils. Of course, you have to adjust your ibus and it’s not exactly the same as you also extract some flavors but it’s good enough. Evaporation has to be taken in account, but softwares like Beersmith take care of that.
True. I have done that on occasion with great results. Mashing times and schedules could be shortened too.
 
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sketchykg

sketchykg

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I do the opposite of a shorter mash. I do biab and mash overnight. Always done and cleaned up the next day well before lunch.
I also do BIAB and overnight mash. I'll mash out in the morning w boiling water to get the wort runny again.
If not overnight, I'll let the mash do its thing while I run errands or do yard work or something. Not real picky on the timing. Likewise once the boil is rolling and stable I'll stay within eyesight of the kettle and do some yard work.
And I no chill.
This is something I've heard of, but never tried. I think I need to give that a shot sometime.
 

3toes

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No tips aside from what's already been suggested...

But as someone who works in child welfare, thank you for fostering those kiddos. We appreciate our foster parents immensely :)
 
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sketchykg

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No tips aside from what's already been suggested...

But as someone who works in child welfare, thank you for fostering those kiddos. We appreciate our foster parents immensely :)
Thanks! It's been extra trying with us all at home full time, and swapping sending off kids for visits with video calls. We're getting thru it and mostly enjoying all the extra time with the little ones!
 

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Sometimes I think parents fall in the trap of thinking that children aren't old enough to do certain chores. We don't let them do the laundry, dishes, mopping, cooking, whatever it is. Hopefully you've learned as a parent that if you keep doing all those things for them, the little buggers will let you until they leave for college. There's some pretty good information on age appropriate chores out on the web. Since you've come to HBT, let me offer some adaptions for homebrewing.

Weighing grains is a great learning experience, particularly with all the homeschooling lately, it combines mathematics, science, and basic homemaking skills (recipe creation). Bonus that grinding grains is just like phys ed. Older children benefit immensely from the process of yeast cultivation, some biology skill building there. Proper bottling works on hand eye coordination and what kids don't like caps and capping. Look for the caps with the animals on them, they are found in most Early Learning Homebrew Shops. Tweens are particularly skilled with electronic devices and can be a real asset when programming electric panels, with panel assembly best handled by high schoolers (Voc Tech). Kids just love playing with hoses, so keep the happy by setting them up to clean pots outside. It's a wonderful winter activity as well.

OK just kidding about the homebrewing part, the chores thing though is important. I only solicit homebrewing help if I can't move something myself. On the other hand, I didn't have much time for myself until I had had enough and created a chore chart.
 

Nate R

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Sometimes I think parents fall in the trap of thinking that children aren't old enough to do certain chores. We don't let them do the laundry, dishes, mopping, cooking, whatever it is. Hopefully you've learned as a parent that if you keep doing all those things for them, the little buggers will let you until they leave for college. There's some pretty good information on age appropriate chores out on the web. Since you've come to HBT, let me offer some adaptions for homebrewing.

Weighing grains is a great learning experience, particularly with all the homeschooling lately, it combines mathematics, science, and basic homemaking skills (recipe creation). Bonus that grinding grains is just like phys ed. Older children benefit immensely from the process of yeast cultivation, some biology skill building there. Proper bottling works on hand eye coordination and what kids don't like caps and capping. Look for the caps with the animals on them, they are found in most Early Learning Homebrew Shops. Tweens are particularly skilled with electronic devices and can be a real asset when programming electric panels, with panel assembly best handled by high schoolers (Voc Tech). Kids just love playing with hoses, so keep the happy by setting them up to clean pots outside. It's a wonderful winter activity as well.

OK just kidding about the homebrewing part, the chores thing though is important. I only solicit homebrewing help if I can't move something myself. On the other hand, I didn't have much time for myself until I had had enough and created a chore chart.
Hey, i never learned Fractions as well as once i started buying products that came in quarters, eights, etc. I DO NOT reccomend that to anyone though- especially little ones! :ghostly:
 

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for me i split my brew day up as much as possible. I prep one day, next I brew and light clean as I brew. Then deep clean the following day. Having a space I can leave a huge mess helps.

I also work nights so I do it once everyone sleeps. I need to cut some hobbies down so I can not do it all at 4am.
 
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Sometimes I think parents fall in the trap of thinking that children aren't old enough to do certain chores. We don't let them do the laundry, dishes, mopping, cooking, whatever it is. Hopefully you've learned as a parent that if you keep doing all those things for them, the little buggers will let you until they leave for college. There's some pretty good information on age appropriate chores out on the web. Since you've come to HBT, let me offer some adaptions for homebrewing.

Weighing grains is a great learning experience, particularly with all the homeschooling lately, it combines mathematics, science, and basic homemaking skills (recipe creation). Bonus that grinding grains is just like phys ed. Older children benefit immensely from the process of yeast cultivation, some biology skill building there. Proper bottling works on hand eye coordination and what kids don't like caps and capping. Look for the caps with the animals on them, they are found in most Early Learning Homebrew Shops. Tweens are particularly skilled with electronic devices and can be a real asset when programming electric panels, with panel assembly best handled by high schoolers (Voc Tech). Kids just love playing with hoses, so keep the happy by setting them up to clean pots outside. It's a wonderful winter activity as well.

OK just kidding about the homebrewing part, the chores thing though is important. I only solicit homebrewing help if I can't move something myself. On the other hand, I didn't have much time for myself until I had had enough and created a chore chart.
This^^

And this is my 10 year old, helping me wax a barrel. He loves brewing with me, because, well, boys and tools and fire in a safe place.

Laz Waxing Barrel.JPG
 

DVCNick

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I'm not a parent, but also don't enjoy devoting an entire weekend day to one batch of beer and look for ways to cut down on the time.
I think OP's already mastered it better than I have. EBIB for full size batches is probably a nice help as far as cleaning up fewer vessels goes. I think you already hit on everything I would have said, but, for a weekend run:

I prep water and measure grains and assemble the mashtun, and get out all the other major equipment the night before.

Got an electric heating element that I can time to come on a little before I wake up. Get up "early" (no 5:30 for me, thanks, but whenever) grind grains, mash water is ready, and mash in almost right away. Clean up the mill and grain buckets during the mash.

Turn on the gas to start heating toward boil during the last sparge step.

Clean up the mashtun, HLT, hoses, anything else I can during the boil.

If I wake up at 8 I'm usually "done" by 12:30 or 1:30 depending on whether it was a 5 or 10 gallon batch. "Done" meaning the wort is in the fermenters in the ferm chamber chilling the rest of the way to pitch temp and the kettle is soaking in cleaning water. I'll finish cleaning the kettle and pitch yeast later that night.

From there... my biggest "time saver" was getting a bigger kettle and doing 10 gallon batches of proven recipes. That is still new to me this year and there was some tweaks to be made but I've got it going well now. For roughly an extra hour, I get double the beer. Big time saver.

I'm also going to try smaller batches for time savings. I'm setting up now to do 2gal BIAB on the stove. No mashtun, HLT, chiller, propane to drag out, clean, or put away, and since I'll be in the house the whole time, it will make multitasking easier and save additional time.

I'm sure it will take a few batches to get really dialed in, like the 10gal process did, but once that is done, I can almost foresee 5gal batches sort of going by the wayside for me. If I can perfect a recipe on quick 2gal, and convert straight to time-efficient 10 gal, why would I want to drag out all the big batch equipment just to get 5 gal? The exception would be "big beer" five gallon batches where my mashtun can't fit enough grain for a 10gal version.
 
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This^^

And this is my 10 year old, helping me wax a barrel. He loves brewing with me, because, well, boys and tools and fire in a safe place.

View attachment 682536
I'm hoping to get to that point.. But right now the ages are 1, 2 and 4. I'm looking to get my 4 year old involved soon, but while he'll sweep the floor, I'm nervous with him around water, heat and electricity.
 

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To me the best time saver is to have a dedicated area that you can keep things more or less set up, eliminating the set up / tear down, and schlepping everything up and down stairs. Hopefully fermentation and storage area is nearby as well, as well as water supply. Plus, having dedicated tools helps not having to run up to the kitchen all the time.
I still do 3-vessel, on a 3500 watt induction burner. It'll get from tap to strike in 20 minutes, mash-out to boil faster than I batch sparge. That is a huge time saver as well, compared to my old propane turkey fryer which was much slower.
 

_HH_

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Please elaborate on these "cubes"
-how do you store them? In a frdige or room temp?
-how long have you left them?
-any infection/mold issues?
Thanks
Hey Nate,
The cubes I use are made from HDPE, and can be bought either online or at most hardware stores. I like the 10L ones as they cool faster, but most brewers in NZ and Aus use 20L cubes.
I store them at room temperature, sometimes for months without issue.
Many breweries and home brew stores in NZ will sell a cube full or wort that you can ferment at home, it’s pretty common practice and I’m not aware of any people that have had any problems. I understand the theoretical risk of botulism, but can’t see any data that supports this ever having happened.
 

Nate R

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Hey Nate,
The cubes I use are made from HDPE, and can be bought either online or at most hardware stores. I like the 10L ones as they cool faster, but most brewers in NZ and Aus use 20L cubes.
I store them at room temperature, sometimes for months without issue.
Many breweries and home brew stores in NZ will sell a cube full or wort that you can ferment at home, it’s pretty common practice and I’m not aware of any people that have had any problems. I understand the theoretical risk of botulism, but can’t see any data that supports this ever having happened.
Wow... never heard of this. Thanks for elaborating. Isn't one of the reasons hops are added to the boil is as a preservative? I wonder if that helps prevent issues (assuming your cube is cleaned & sanitized).
 

_HH_

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There’s definitely a benefit from hopping the wort to reduce infection. The cube is cleaned and sanitised, and filled with near-boiling wort, so very little is likely to survive in the cube. It works really well for me and means I have a wort library on hand to chose from if I fancy fermenting up a new batch! Have a look on some of the Aussie forums, due to water restrictions it is a very common practice over there to conserve water.
 

jrgtr42

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No way a 3500 watt induction setup beats a good propane burner time-wise!!
Depends on the burner involved. Mine's a 60K BTU unit. It takes a while to get up to temps. The bigger ones, 100K or 200 K, obviously will be much faster. I was balancing BTUs with the authorized funding disbursement from SWMBO when I got it.
I do like the induction also because I can brew inside (I have a window fan over my brew area to help with vapor exhaust) versus outside, with no lighting, so I can brew in evenings if I want.
 

NewJersey

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Depends on the burner involved. Mine's a 60K BTU unit. It takes a while to get up to temps. The bigger ones, 100K or 200 K, obviously will be much faster. I was balancing BTUs with the authorized funding disbursement from SWMBO when I got it.
I do like the induction also because I can brew inside (I have a window fan over my brew area to help with vapor exhaust) versus outside, with no lighting, so I can brew in evenings if I want.
Your wife tells you what you're allowed to spend??
 
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