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Universal Fermentation Schedule

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broni

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I have a goal of creating a universal fermentation schedule, or rather, a schedule that fits just about any ale, regardless of style or gravity. Ideally, I would be enjoying this hobby in my retirement, with little distractions from work or kids. Unfortunately, I'm years away, but still have a desire to brew beer regularly. A fermentation schedule would help me set aside the right amount of time each week to keep a steady cadence of beer brewing. Predictability would greatly help me juggle brewing with wife, kids, work, etc.

Some background - I started brewing about 10 years ago. I'm very happy with my process, and I'd like to brew every 2 weeks or so. If I had a predictable schedule, then I can purchase materials, brew, ferment, package, etc without too many unexpected disruptions. I realize that the best way to judge when beers are ready is to measure, test, sample, etc, but history has taught me that I can't seem to find many small amounts of time to do this. I'd much rather schedule blocks of time to handle the process.

My fermentation chamber is an old kegerator with a temperature controller. I use a Tilt to track gravity and typically hit final gravity in ~3-5 days. I keg, and serve out of an old freezer with another temperature controller.

My primary objective is to brew more regularly. To that end, I've simplified a few variables - I will only use WLP-001 which I overbuild each starter and store for the next brew. I also only brew ales, but the OGs vary quite a bit.

Another assumption is that I will always have an appropriately sized yeast starter, and I use an oxygen wand to saturate the wort, so I should have good, clean fermentation.

Here is my initial stab at schedule:
  • Day 0 to Day 12 = Brew and transfer to FV (4-7 days to reach final gravity and a few more days for any cleanup)
  • Day 13 = Transfer to keg
  • Day 13 (big beer) = Place keg at room temperature (72F) for another week to allow yeast more time to condition the beer
  • Day 13 (non-big beer) = Place keg in serving freezer to cold condition for 1 week
  • Day 14 = Brew next batch, restart schedule
  • Day 20 (big beer) = Move keg to freezer to cold condition for 1 week
  • Day 21 (non-big-beer) = Begin serving
  • Day 28 (big beer) = Begin serving
This should allow me to brew every 2 weeks, and always have something in the fermentation chamber.

Does this make sense? Will this satisfy most ale styles and gravities? Anything I'm missing? Thanks!
 

jrgtr42

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The problem is that beer (actually the yeast) are living things that don't always work on a schedule. This may work for many beers, but there's always exceptions, things that happen that the fermentation doesn't work as it should.
As you go through each generation of the yeast, its properties may change. Bigger beers need longer, obviously, to get to a point of completion.
I personally give mine 3 weeks between brew and bottling / kegging (checking gravity at about day 18) I know many may be ready before that, but I've found that 3 weeks seems to give me better results. It's not uncommon that a beer needs more time that that - but not often eno0ugh that I give them all a month.
 

RM-MN

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Most ales ferment out in 3-4 days. Once that fast part of the ferment is over you can take the ferment out of the controlled chamber and let it sit at room temp. Even a big beer should have had the fermentation slowed enough to be allowed to warm by the end of a week. That means that your fermentation chamber could be empty and ready for a new beer every week. There is no rush to move the beer out of the fermenter. I've gone as long as nine weeks before bottling. That gives you a lot of flexibility in your schedule.
 

Ridenour64

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My typical schedule is to ferment for 2 weeks, while raising temp for diacetyl rest, 1 week cold crash, keg. That has worked for all my beers up till this last.

My last beer was a saison that is still bubbling and it’s been in the fermenter for 2.5 weeks. Goes to show that there’s always an exception for the schedule. I personally can’t believe it’s still bubbling. Last I checked it was 1.002. Went to check again yesterday and I broke my hydrometer before I had the chance.
 
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broni

broni

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Most ales ferment out in 3-4 days. Once that fast part of the ferment is over you can take the ferment out of the controlled chamber and let it sit at room temp. Even a big beer should have had the fermentation slowed enough to be allowed to warm by the end of a week. That means that your fermentation chamber could be empty and ready for a new beer every week. There is no rush to move the beer out of the fermenter. I've gone as long as nine weeks before bottling. That gives you a lot of flexibility in your schedule.
Good point. I could just pull the FV out of the chamber after a week to allow me to brew at any point. Then just keep FV at room temperature till ready for kegging. Thanks
 

RM-MN

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My typical schedule is to ferment for 2 weeks, while raising temp for diacetyl rest, 1 week cold crash, keg. That has worked for all my beers up till this last.

My last beer was a saison that is still bubbling and it’s been in the fermenter for 2.5 weeks. Goes to show that there’s always an exception for the schedule. I personally can’t believe it’s still bubbling. Last I checked it was 1.002. Went to check again yesterday and I broke my hydrometer before I had the chance.
I don't know how your saison yeast reacts but the first I did with Belle Saison wouldn't finish until I raised the temperature to about 85F. Then it finished in about a day and ended at 0.997.
 

Ridenour64

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I’m using WLP590. I started my fermentation at 67* and then slowly ramped up to 75*. I’ve read of people going into mid and high 80’s but I wanted to stay within the shown optimum range which the high is 75*. When i checked it about a week ago it was 1.002 and I’m confident that when I check it again it’ll be at or below 1. I’ve heard they dry up well but this surprised me! Ive taken several samples and they all have been great. I’m hoping to put it in the keg this upcoming Sunday.
 

eric19312

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I have a pretty set schedule that works for weekend brewing every other or every third week. I am only using US-05. I do not make starters. I have a conical and reuse yeast batch to batch. I always have three fresh packs on hand in case I am not 100% confident in the current yeast generation.

2 week schedule
Day 0 pitch yeast at 65F, in chamber set to 68F
Day 2 dump trub and early dropping yeast
Day 6 drop temp to 55F
Day 7 harvest yeast in mason jar, dump remaining yeast, add dry hops to fermentor
Day 8 rouse dry hops with blast of CO2 in dump valve
Day 9 rouse dry hops again, start cold crash
Day 12 dump hops, start carbonation
Day 13 keg the beer during brew - kegs get cleaned, santitized and filled before boil starts and fermentor gets deep CIP during boil. When I get a dedicated CIP pump I will be able to be a bit more flexible on this.

I can extend this schedule to 3 weeks easy enough by adding a day or so to various steps. I can also just stop after the beer is carbed and take a couple pints right out of the unitank as desired. If I did a big beer again I'd do the 3 week schedule and make sure to add a few extra days before dropping temp for the yeast.

By reusing the yeast on this schedule my yeast is 7 days old when I pitch it so probably 90% viable. I always assess the beer I am packaging on brew day before pitching the harvested yeast. If attenuation was off or any off flavors I just use the back up packs from my fridge. I am really strict about this assessment. Any small yeast derived flaw and I will start with fresh packs.

Brew day is a hard working day without much downtime and I am quite tired by the end of the day but in a good way. I do make sure to get a decent night's sleep before brew day, stay hydrated, and hold off on drinking at least until the new batch is boiling. That is a good time to sample the just kegged batch and make a decision about whether the yeast is still going strong. While I get to putter in the brewery on several other days during the process none of those steps take more than 10 minutes and I was probably going in there for a beer anyway.
 

RM-MN

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I’m using WLP590. I started my fermentation at 67* and then slowly ramped up to 75*. I’ve read of people going into mid and high 80’s but I wanted to stay within the shown optimum range which the high is 75*. When i checked it about a week ago it was 1.002 and I’m confident that when I check it again it’ll be at or below 1. I’ve heard they dry up well but this surprised me! Ive taken several samples and they all have been great. I’m hoping to put it in the keg this upcoming Sunday.
That 75 that is listed as optimum is during the active part of the ferment and it is fermented that warm to get the characteristic flavor. Once the ferment slows down that limit doesn't apply. Warm that saison up.

Starting the saison at such a low temp will have your beer missing the flavor of the saison.
 
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