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Family Man Home Brewer

Ok,

Totally random question for all you guys and gals. I’ve been brewing since 2004. Not a ton; Few batches a year. Just about to take the step into all grain but having trouble finding the time. So here’s that question. For those of you parents out there – particularly those with young kids like myself-- what are your secrets for getting a brew day (or night or early morning) in?

Hey WR -

I’m just a perpetual batch-elor (pun intended), but I do have some advice if you want to hear it. I’ve been doing AG for 7 or 8 years, and I find that it really takes a lot of focus to nail everything at every step, and as I got more comfortable with the AG brewing process I have gotten better at multi-tasking in every possible way to shorten the brew day. Not including recipe development, it takes me edit: about 7 hours normally, from setup through cleanup and putting stuff back in its spot. Meaning, I have my sparge water heated by the time my mash runoff is done, I have my immersion chiller and hoses set up before I need them, I empty, clean, and put away my mash/lauter tun during the boil, I put things away after I’m done needing them so it isn’t a major chore at the day’s end to collect everything (I brew outside), buckets and other needed items are sanitized by the time the wort is chilled, etc., etc.

I’m thinking that as a dad and husband, to keep from slipping on your responsibilities when the family life demands it, after a bit of a learning curve, carve out what you’ve whittled down to the required timeframe, when SWMBO and the kids are involved elsewhere, or being cared for by someone other than you so you can focus on your brewday. Also, brew at least 10 gallon batches since they take approximately the same time as a 5-gallon batch, cutting down on your needed brewdays. Also consider kegging if you want, since it cuts way down on the time bottling takes.

Mt 2 cents. Best wishes for a happy family AG adventure!

Steve

With a 9-yr-old and 14-yr-old, plus a wife who likes to do things on the weekend, I have found that brewing larger batches (a little more time for a lot more beer), setting up the brewstand, milling grain, treating water, and generally getting organized the night before and using a bucket heater on a timer to have strike water ready at 7:00 AM, and not drinking until the beer is in the fermenters are the keys to a successful and less-stressful brew day. I’m usually completely done by 3:00, leaving plenty of time to do other things on a Sunday.

You might also consider using a high conduction hot liquor tank and kettle that have sandwiched layers at the base (rather than keggles), and high BTU propane burner, especially if doing big batches, to cut down on the time it takes to heat water and wort. I’ve been thining about making the kettle change, but I still love my keggle even if it is inefficient!

I have 3 kids (now 16, 19, 21) but what I did in the past was to brew 20 gallon batches. It only takes about 5-6 hours max and I do it on the weekends. When my kids were younger, they would find somethig to do or else help me out.

muller, just wondering how did you manage to move around those 20 gal fermentors you use? That is close to 200lbs, which is a good way of destroying ones back.

I’ve got three young kids, and by far the most important factor that allows me to keep brewing is a wife that will take the kids on her own for one day per month to allow me to brew. Other little things help also: prep work in the evenings before the brew day, kegging instead of bottling, etc. I haven’t gone to ten gallon batches, but I have tweeked my process so I can easily get in two different 5 gallon brews in one day.

The two methods that have worked best for me when I can’t brew on a day off while the kids are at school is to either (1) use a bucket heater and timer to have the strike water ready to go at 6 am and be done before lunch on a Saturday or (2) start at a time so that the beginning of the mash coincides with about 20 before bedtime. That way, I have a little break to help my wife get them ready for bed. Kids are 3 and 6.

[quote=“mppatriots”]muller, just wondering how did you manage to move around those 20 gal fermentors you use? That is close to 200lbs, which is a good way of destroying ones back.[/quote]Well, here is a video of how I used to do it Mullerbrau transporting Curtec Fermenters

but too many times I was unable to catch my breath after doing two of those back to back. Now I get my son to help me. We both grab a handle and carry them down stairs.

Batch-sparged ales shouldnt take much longer than 3.5 hours once you get your system figured out.

I started brewing when my first child was about 1 in 2006. I now have a 7 and 4 year old. Brewing with kids requires some negotiation with and support from your spouse. I give lots of advanced warning/make my request a good week in advance of a brew day. During the week leading up to the brew day I’ll do a lot of prep work like making my starter, gathering/preparing my water, milling grain, staging equipment, etc. By slowly doing prep work in advance of the brew session I’m able to hit the ground running on the day and my brew days usually take 4-5 hours tops. Sometimes I will plan to do my mash at a time where I can lend a hand with lunch or some other small childcare chore. Not always, but even offering a little help to SWMBO with the kids on a brew day is a gesture that goes a long way. Good luck.

I used to brew back in the 90’s before wife and kids. Brewing is the hobby that I decided to pick back up once my kids got old enough to not need constant supervision (4 and 6). The wife also sometimes offers to take them out on her errand runs. The other one that worked out great last year was that she’d take them to church on Sunday mornings and I’d stay home and brew.

I do extract brews and have found that I can complete a batch and a lot of the cleanup in about 3-1/2 hours. First thing is to get the water on the stove, then I drag out the rest of my equipment. While I’m boiling there is an hour to get the equipment lined up and sanitized. I’ve started batches at about 8am while everyone is still sitting in the dining room finishing up breakfast.

Cleaning bottles can be done any time along the way. For bottling I put the bottles in the oven at around 225 degrees for an hour the night before bottling, leave them in there to cool off, and then bottling goes really fast the next night after the kids are in bed. That only takes maybe an hour from start to finish.

I dont even have a wife and kids and I use a lot of these techniques.

I am going to highly recommend a bucket heater so that you can mash in as soon as you wake up. Saves tons of times. Also if you are going to be doing some beers that you want to mash low at you can mash overnight so that in the morning you just runoff and sparge and get your brew on.

I have a 6 month old at home and it does get tricky sometimes. I usuall schedule my brew days a couple weeks in advance. My wife is good about letting me brew, and with all grain you have some time to run inside and be a dad if need be. such as letting your mash sit for an hour. It also helps that my wife likes to hang out with her friends alot, so ill watch the kid and then that gives me an excuse to pawn the kid off on her and make beer!

Many thanks to the OP for starting this thread!

The bucket heater concept is completely new to me, and so I have a few questions:

  1. Could someone post a link to a bucket heater that would work well for heating to strike water temperatures (~170*)?
  2. How long could one expect it to take to heat ~70* water to strike temps for a 5 gallon batch?
  3. Is the water heated this hot in a literal plastic bucket, or in a metal pot?

Hope this isn’t too far off topic – as a father with several little ones, this looks like a great way to save time on a brew day!

Have you thought about beer in a bag? Saves a lot of steps and you still have control of your brew?

Buy the 3 gallon keg and mini batch brew in a bag. You can brew a ton of mini batches, find your fav’s and THEN brew 10 gallons in your set up when you find them.

I have a 2 year old and another on the way.

I batch sparge. It takes me 5-6hrs depending on the beer (90min boil, hop steeping being the only real time extending factors).

I brew on days off and weekends usually twice a month. My wife hates beer but lets me do my thing since she knows I enjoy it the craft. I don’t think I’d fish/golf/brew on the same weekend so it’s only 4 hours “away”. I try to be reasonable about it. It doesn’t seem like that big a deal. I usually come inside to hang out/help during the mash and/or coordinate the boil with nap time. I can also start brewing at 4-5pm and get finished at a decent hour.

I had my daughter “help” with the last batch while waiting for my wife to get home from work. She was pretty excited about the whole process… running up to my wife, “We’re making beer, Mommy!” There’s always a plus side to everything.

My kids love brew day. My 3 yr old nags me that it is time to brew. They like to be with me in the garage and kicking a ball around during a mash rest. It’s our time together. (I lay a 5ft boundry around the boil kettle that they know not to cross except for a well supervised hop addition).

Sure they are a distraction that probably causes some flaws in my beer, but there will always be time later to brew better beer. They however will not be young forever.

My wife bought me the deluxe brew kit for xmas and loves that I’m so into the craft already. Now that I have a propane burner and boil outside she has nothing bad to say about the process or time involved.

My 2 year old just runs around the yard while I’m out there. I’m gonna have to come up with some kind of burner barrier though.

Next weekend will be my first all grain. I’ll probably get started an hour before lunch so I can help with feeding him and getting him down for a nap while the mash is resting.

Band rehearsals take me out of commission more completely and for much longer, so we’re pretty good at managing these things anyway.

Dan, this is the one I have. I used to plug it into a Ranco and set the temp to about 172. I used a thermowell at the time. 9 gallons of water took several hours, but I’d do it the night before or at lunch for an evening brew session on a week night. You can use a Christmas tree light timer and do it about 1 or 2 hours before start time for a 5 gallon batch. Works in a bucket or a kettle. I would put the lid almost all the way on and wrap the rest with foil to keep the heat in. Always make sure there is water around the element.

Got mine at tractor supply co., but this is the same one.

http://www.amazon.com/MARSHALLTOWN-Prem ... B000BDB4UG
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