How do you do a 3 1/2 hour AG brew day?

Some of you mentioned recently that you can get through a brew day, including cleaning up, in 3 1/2 hours. I have been wondering a lot about that, and I thought I’d take a crack at an itemized time budget to see if I could figure it out. If you are one of those incredibly time efficient brewers, can you plug in your own numbers to give the rest of us an idea as to how you accomplish such a feat? I’m assuming you are doing batch sparging and have a typical set up like Denny’s. I have not added any time for set up or break down. I also assume all clean up is done during free time in the process.

Heat up strike water = 15 min
Transfer strike water to cooler mash tun and allow for cooler to heat up and strike temp to be reached = 10 min
Mash conversion = 60 minutes
Vorlauf #1 = 5 min
Sparge #1 = 5 min
Add sparge water, stir grains, and allow for sugars to settle = 15 min
Vorlauf #2 = 5 min
Sparge #2 = 5 min
Time to reach boil in BK = 5 to 10 min
Boil = 60 min
FO hop addition =10 min
Chilling the wort = 15 min (I guess this could be 0 if using a counterflow chiller)
Transfer to fermenter = 5 min
Aeration of the wort = I can never seem to do more than 5 to 10 min before the entire head space fills up with dense foam even in a 6 gallon fermenter. I’m thinking about aerating the wort in the BK once chilled and then transferring to the fermenter. This would keep the foam out of the fermenter. Anyone ever do that?
Pitch yeast, put on airlock and rock fermenter to mix = 5 min

Total time spent: 3.9 hours.

Hmm, I feel like a congressman. I keep failing to balance the budget. Can you help me out here, fellow homebrewers? Thank you very much.

A lot of the people claiming 3.5 hey are biab brewers. Save a lot of transfer time. Also start boiling as soon as you pull the bag .

I’m super quick on the brew day. I don’t waste any time. I also brew in a bag (BIAB) which saves probably another 30 minutes on top of what I am about to tell you. But assuming I used the old cooler, here’s how my day goes approximately:

Heat up strike water = 15 min
Transfer strike water to cooler mash tun and allow for cooler to heat up and strike temp to be reached = 2 min (skip the waiting part!)
Mash conversion = 40 minutes (good enough per my experiments!)
Vorlauf #1 = 3 min
Sparge #1 = 10 min
Add sparge water, stir grains, and allow for sugars to settle = 1 min (skip any waiting!!!)
Vorlauf #2 = 3 min
Sparge #2 = 10 min (do this into a second container and bring the kettle towards a boil at the same time!)
Time to reach boil in BK = 12 min
Boil = 60 min
FO hop addition = 0 min (this varies but you can skip it)
Chilling the wort = 60 min (I chill by immersing the kettle in a cold water bath – this is not active time spent, but rather you can just leave and come back later)
Transfer to fermenter = 10 min
Aeration of the wort = 3 min (just shake a bit and call it good – also purposely splash a lot during transfer above)
Pitch yeast, put on airlock and rock fermenter to mix = 2 min (rock fermenter to mix? that’s a new one. skip that)

Total time spent: 3.8 hours.

You can also boil less time if you want. Another thing I often do at chilling time is just consider the day done, chill the beer all night long, and pitch the yeast in the morning. It only takes ~15 minutes to finish up on the morning, so it’s as if you cut like 75 minutes off the brew day, for a new…

Total time spent: 2.5 hours + 15 minutes the next day

How’s that!?!

Brew in a bag, and you can skip the sparge if you want, or just dunk your grain bag in a bit of warm water for a couple of minutes, and save time that way as well. You can end the brew day in as little as 2 hours if you really want to (plus 15 minutes the next day).


How do I do 3.5 hr brew day? I don’t. My system RIMS won’t allow it. The good news is that I can brew 10 gallons in just a bit longer than I can 5. “Hurry slowly” is my mantra on brew day anyhow…

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I BIAB 5-6 gallon batches and average between 3.5 and 4 hours, depending on how lazy I am (aka how much ‘other’ stuff I am trying to do) during the process. I have a central house charcoal filter as well as a second under my sink so I use ‘preheated’ strike water that comes out of my faucet between 120* and 130*. Only need to heat it 20-30* more for strike temp. Also, I begin heating my wort aggressively for the boil once I pull my bag and start a batch sparge, then add the sparge wort to the kettle.

Finally, I only chill to around 110 or so with my IC then chill the rest of the way in my ferment fridge, so I guess if I had to admit it, there is another 15 minutes in my process when I transfer/decant the chilled wort and pitch yeast.

Have yet to experiment with shortened boils (less than 60 minutes) except on wild ales, but I imagine if you use hop extract or adjust IBU’s, that would cut time as well. I have read a few anecdotal ‘studies’ that suggest 60 minute boils are arbitrary and nothing more than a that’s-the-way-we’ve-always-done-it method. A lot of others swear by 30 minute mashes.

Other simple time-savers include measuring hops during mash, cleaning cold-side stuff during mash, and generally making the most of your time when something else (like a chiller or burner) is working for you.

Even if you do 60 minute boils and 60 minute mashes, that is 120 minutes. Take a look at where the rest of the time goes and think about where it can be shortened.

I’m not quite down to 3.5 hrs as I do 2 corny keg batches so water heating takes more time but where I save time over your breakdown is:

  • I don’t let wait for my cooler to come up to temp, I just crack the lid enough to get the tubing through to add water so it is heating up while the water is moving from my HLT to the cooler (-10 min)
  • only mash for 45 minutes for a lot of beers, particularly when the mash temp is higher (-15 min)
  • I don’t wait that time for sugars to ‘settle’, they are in solution and there is not need for them to settle. I just keep stirring while sparge water is being added (-10 min)
  • when doing a vorlauf I only need to run for about 30 seconds before the run off is clear of grain (-8 min between doing that twice)

From lights on in the garage to being fully cleaned up I’m usually in for 4.5-5 hrs for 12 gallons of finished wort.

Thanks for all the replies. The discussion brings to the forefront a number of thoughts and suspicions based on my few years of experience that we still don’t know all the facts. I guess a lot of things still need to be questioned.

 We know that a good mash will convert in 40 minutes because we can get a negative iodine test at that point.  We also see that the liquor has gone from milky (starch and water form a suspension) to clear (sugar and water form a solution).  BUT, I thought there was some discussion regarding further cleavage of those sugar chains into more fermentable mono or disaccharides in that last 20 minutes of the hour leading to a higher attenuation of the wort.  I guess this would be the homebrewers preference though.  If you like a fuller bodied lower alcohol beer, you're done at 40 minutes.  If you want a thinner bodied and higher alcohol beer, go the 60 minutes?  Another related thought pertains to the whole idea of a mashout.  Many of you aren't doing them anymore.  The reasons behind doing one, from my understanding anyway, was to reduce the risk of a stuck mash (doesn't seem to happen at any temperature) and denature the enzymes responsible for starch conversion and sugar chain breakdown so we don't end up with a beer with a thin body.  So, if we're not doing a mashout before the first sparge, and assuming most of the sugars and enzymes are in the first runnings in our BK continuing to undergo those biochemical reactions (unless we've already started applying heat to the BK, of course), and if it takes us a good 20 minutes to do all of this, then won't a 40 minute mash without a mashout and no heat applied to the BK be darn close to a 60 minute mash with a mashout?  I certainly cannot see why the enzymes and sugars, once they are in solution, need to be in the mash for these reactions to continue to occur.  So my conclusion is that as long as starch conversion has undergone by 40 minutes and you like the body and attenuation of the beer you're brewing, I now see how a 40 minute mash could work.

 I always assumed the 60 minute boil was based upon isomerization of the hops.  I'm assuming coagulation of hot break proteins happens before that point.  I guess if you have hops to waste, you could up the boil addition and reduce boil time.  But who wants to waste hops?  And you still have to boil down to your fermentation volume unless you're really good at extracting sugars with smaller amounts of water.

 It has always been my suspicion that aeration of wort is either not that big of a deal or very easy to do in a very short period of time.  Last year, I took advantage of a sale on NB's website and bought one of those aquarium pump aeration kits.  I was gearing up for AG, and it sounded like aeration was going to be more important.  That thing has been a frustration ever since I bought it.  The stone would float up and not stay in the wort.  So I got creative with an old racking cane and pieces of tubing.  The stone is attached at the end of the racking cane with a piece of tubing.  Then I connect the aquarium pump tubing to the upper curved end of the racking cane with other adaptations of tubing.  It works and stays at the bottom of the fermenter now, but within 5 minutes, the wort foams right up.  I've never had a stuck fermentation with it or without it.  Just rocking and splashing the beer as Dave mentioned worked just fine before I got this aeration system, so I'm really starting to think it's not really necessary, and again, another time expenditure that does not reap any rewards.  Also, we know that oxygen is needed for yeast cell wall synthesis to allow budding and replication of yeast.  BUT, what if we start out with a nice big healthy yeast starter?  Don't we need less oxygen in the wort since we're starting with a lot higher number of yeast cells?  Maybe we should be more focused on adding more yeast cells and less on aerating the wort?  At any rate, 3 minutes of rocking the carboy instead of 15 minutes of aeration and rocking is another 12 minutes off the brew day.

 For those of you transferring strike water into your cooler and immediately mashing, are you adding a few degrees to your strike water temperature to compensate for cooling?  Are you not that worried about temperature drops during the mash?  Thanks again.

As far as aeration I do the splash and shake method and generally a slight over pitch and have never had a problem. Also I do the full 60 min mash and 60 min boil. I’m just not that worried about the time. An extra 1/2 hr doing something I like is a bonus. Clean your tun while your boiling and get your chiller set up.

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This is true, but to my experience, 40 minutes is that over-the-edge point of diminishing returns. You can mash longer and get more attenuation, but it’s like nothing, not enough to make any huge difference unless you mash really long for like 90 minutes or longer. Otherwise, a point or two difference in attenuation or final gravity just is not worth the extra time to me. I can very easily still get high attenuation based on yeast selection, in particular with Notty and US-05 or their liquid equivalents. There’s just no good reason I see to waste the time to get one more percent attenuation – you’ll never notice it in the taste.

The stuck mash thing is probably not true. There’s not much difference in viscosity between 150 and 170 F wort. Mashout is essentially worthless in a homebrewing setting where you’re going to immediately get your wort up towards a boil within 30 minutes or so anyway. It makes more sense for commercial breweries who may have thousands of gallons of sweet wort laying around for hours before they can finally get up to a boil.

Yes, exactly my point.


All great points. The point I would prefer to make is that shorter boil time does not adversely impact beer flavor. Flavor is where it’s at. I don’t care about the process as long as flavor is not adversely impacted. Go as short on the boil as you want or as resources for hops etc. allow. If you want to save a buck on hops, boil longer. I usually don’t much care to save a dollar, but some folks do. And then there’s the fuel cost to consider. If using propane, how much money can you save by skipping 30 minutes or more on the boil every time you brew?

Yes yes yes yes yes. I don’t worry much about aeration anymore, as I’ve made great beer without it 10 years ago, and still do today. Also half the time these days, I use dry yeast, and yeast experts say that dry yeast doesn’t need to be aerated at all anyway. Boom. With liquid yeast, I’ll make a starter and aerate the heck out of the starter… so then who cares about aerating the wort all that much? Pitch a lot of healthy yeast and you really should be good to go.

Yes, add 10-12 degrees F to compensate for heat loss. After a batch or two, you’ll learn the magic adjustment number for your system. Then never pre-heat the tun again. It’s a wasted effort.

Cheers!! :cheers:

Also re: aeration if one believes it’s necessary…I always assumed if I have a thick layer of foam the beer must be pretty well aerated? Am I missing something here?

My aeratoin technique consists of pumping the wort through a plate chiller and allowing it to splash from the hose end high in the carboy. Usually have a very thick layer of foam on the wort when I reach fermenter volume.

Yeah, that’s kind of what I do these days too, Danny. Just drop the beer into the fermenter up high and let it splash a lot. Then do a little more rocking or shaking, if I feel like it… or not. I really don’t think it matters as long as your yeast is healthy.

Typical brew day for me today. I started strike water around 7:30 today treated it and milled my grain, mashed for 1 hour, heated sparge water to boil in HLT and rinsed pump, lines and chiller while mashing, pulled the bag after an hour and started the burner under first runnings, dropped in the FWH and started sparging from HLT, took FR gravity and pH, second runnings gravity and pH, then same from preboil, reached boil at about 9:20. boiled for 1 hour, chilled to 180, dropped in steeping hops and whirlpooled for for twenty minutes while chilling, then pumped through the plate chiller, 5.25 gals each in 2 fermenters chilled to 59, decanted and pitched the yeast starters and put them in the swamp coolers, cleaned everything up, left the rig drip drying, and it was about 12:15. I didn’t rush but I didn’t waste any time either. have to say referring to another thread recently, I thouroughly enjoyed the brew day.

Awesome! Just curious as to why you’re taking a pH reading of the wort. If the pH is off, are you going to adjust it with brewing salts or make a note of it for next time? Thank you for your response.


One or both. Was looking for kettle pH of 5.2 for this IPA.

Managed a 3 hour and 40 minute brew day this morning from the time I started to yeast pitched. Set up the electric brew cart last night before heading to bed. Set the timer relay to start heating up the strike water just before 4 a.m. Got out of bed at 4:30 with the strike water at temp. Turned the valve to start filling the cooler MT and went to go get the grains. I was mashing within 20 minutes of getting out of bed. I did do a 60 minute mash but started the vorlauf at 50 minutes with my DC pump. At 60 minutes, I started filling the BK. Poured in the sparge water, gave it a good stir, vorlaufed for another 5 to 10 minutes, and finished filling the BK all the while the BK is already heating up the wort. I was probably boiling within 5 minutes of transfering the rest of the wort to the BK. Loving this setup. One thing I did find though is that I was really hopping. No time to grab a quick bowl of cereal when you progressing through the steps this quickly. It took exactly 1 more hour post yeast pitching to have everything cleaned and put away.

Awesome. Sigh. I guess I’ll have to settle for my 5 hour brew day. Went great and Bock is chilling at 47degrees but sub 4 hours for me is a pipe dream. I have too much going on and I enjoy it that way. Metal dvd’s, currently classic rock with Deep Purple keep things flowin’. I did have a bowl of cereal :scream: and still having to make a standard copper chiller work takes time. I got to pitching temp In about 40 minutes.

Don’t understand the obsession with shortening the brew day. I can probably shorten my day which is generally around 4 to 4.5 but I’m at a pace that I find enjoyable.

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^^^^^. Hell yeah

For me, it is more of a necessity than an obsession. If I wanted to fit in more brew days into my busy life, I had to figure out how to shorten the brew day. I’ve accomplished 4 beers since November. That never would have happened before. To be able to wake up 2 hours later than I used to on brew day and still finish before the kids wake up makes it a lot easier to get more brew days under my belt. Not sure why others do it, but that’s why I did it.

Well, my first 11 gallon batch is done and in the fermenters… from start to finish it was 5 and 1/2 hours. Of course, I had some delays, I spilled some grain measuring it out during prep and had to spend time cleaning my mess up. Then I had my HWT to get set up and had to re-engineer my MT. If I’d prep the grain and hop additions the night before and not have to mess with changing things with the equipment, I could probably easily make a 4 and 1/2 hour brew day.

Quite a change for me, my partial mash brewing on the stove was taking 8-9 hours for a brew day, not counting clean-up. As a result of that, I only brewed twice last year. Now that I have new equipment, it’s been a game changer. Granted, I’m going to be hopping to do the shorter time, but it’s nice being able to sit down at the end and not have to think about what all has to be cleaned yet.

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