A-Team's Hannibal

The Homebrewer’s Corner – Make a Plan

“I love it when a plan comes together.”
John “Hannibal” Smith, The A-Team

When I was not yet married and brewing was my plan for the day, I could spend 10 or more hours in my garage piddling around, drinking beer, and making even more beer.  Now, though, I don’t have as much liberty with my time and am compelled to shorten the time I spend “goofing off” in the garage.  Over time, my brew days have gotten significantly shorter, and I am always looking for good ways to shorten them without sacrificing the quality of the brew.

Whether you have to shorten your brew day out of necessity or you want to squeeze a brew day into a smaller window so you can brew more often, the best way to shorten your brew day is through proper planning. Not only will planning shorten your brew day, it will also help you to make better and more consistent beer.

Here are a few tips for shortening (and improving) your brew day through effective planning:

Write it down. My first step in making a plan was to write down all of the processes I do during a brew day.  From heating the water to the final cleanup, I wrote it down as minutely as possible without being ridiculous.  “Clean mash tun” is great.  “Put soap on sponge and apply water” is excessive.  Include when you start each step and when you finish (or about how long it took to do it).

Take out unnecessary steps. Think about all of the steps you are doing, and whether you can save yourself a little time by combining tasks or eliminating steps.  For instance, if you’re making multiple trips into the house to get equipment, ingredients, or water, try to combine the trips and get everything you will need for your whole brew day ahead of time.

Eliminate idleness. One of my biggest time-savers was arranging to do things as early as possible in the process, eliminating “slack” time. While your mash is going, start sanitizing your fermenters, measure out your hop additions, or locate equipment.  Make sure your sparge water is heating while your grains are steeping.  Once you’ve sparged and your wort is in the kettle, get started cleaning your mash tun immediately.  Not only will it save you time, but it will also make your final cleanup at the end of your brew day that much easier.

Heat your wort while you are still sparging. I used to wait until my sparge was completely finished to fire up the burner under my kettle. When it dawned on me that I was wasting a significant amount of time doing this, I felt pretty stupid.  As soon as I have enough wort in my kettle to keep from scorching, I fire up my burner and continue to add the wort until I hit my target volume.  It boils that much faster, meaning my boil clock can start sooner, too.

Be creative. My brother has, in the past, mashed at night and then boiled the next day.  Breaking up his brew day allowed him to spend a few hours each day rather than one solid chunk of time.  I know a couple of brewers who use electricity and thermostats to hold their HLT at a specific temperature so they can turn it on a few hours before they plan on boiling and then it’s ready and hot for them when they are ready to brew.  I also know a air of guys who brew together and do back-to-back batches when they brew so one can be managing the boil and wort chilling while the other is starting a mash.

Overall, the most important part of making your brew day more efficient is in planning.  Being prepared when you start your brewing process will make your brew day shorter and your beer tastier.

Do you have any tips to offer for how to shorten brew days?  Leave them in the comments section below.

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