One question that aspiring homebrewers often ask is exactly how long does home brewing take. This can vary depending on the exact process used and the style of beer brewed but the majority of brews will follow the same process.
So, how long does brewing a batch of beer take? There are many variables involved in determining exactly how long a batch of beer takes to brew including the techniques and ingredients used. For an all-grain beer you can expect to spend 4 to 5 hours actually brewing, with upto 2 weeks in fermentation and an additional 2 weeks bottle or keg conditioning. Extract brews can be brewed in an hour or so, with the same 2 weeks each for fermentation and conditioning. In general you’ll be ready to drink your beer in a month.
Contents for How Long Does Home Brewing Take?
How long does it take to brew an all-grain beer?
All grain beers are beers brewed from the raw ingredients, and as such will always take longer than the equivalent extract brew. If you are after a shorter brew day then consider using DME (Dry Malt Extract).
Typical All-Grain Brew Day Timescale
Here is a very rough outline of the timings that a typical 5 gallon batch would take to brew.
- Hour 1 – Initial setup of equipment, fill the kettle with strike water and start to bring up to temperature, quick clean of all equipment. Prepare grains for mashing.
- Hour 2 – Once strike water at temperature, mash in with the grains, stir and leave for an hour (or more depending on recipe).
- Hour 3 – Once mash complete, remove bag (for BIAB brews) or drain into boil kettle for boiling. Bring kettle up to temperature.
- Hour 4 – Boil – add hops and finings according to recipe.
- Hour 5 – Once boil is finished, cool and transfer into fermenter, pitch yeast.
- Hour 6 – Cleaning.
Typical Extract Brew Day Timescale
If you are brewing an extract brew then nearly all of the hard work is done for you, the sugars are already extracted from the malt and processed – your brew day will be much shorter.
Here’s what you can expect from a typical extract brew day:
- Hour 1 – Clean and sterilize equipment, stand cans in hot water to loosen the contents. Boil required water as per recipe.
- Hour 2 – Add contents of cans to the fermenter, add required cold water to bring to the correct volume. Mix well, check temperature and pitch yeast.
Obviously the process with depend greatly on the kit you are using, but you can typically brew an extract beer in around a third of the time.
Fermentation is the process of the yeast turning available sugars into alcohol, turning the beer from a sugary liquid into the final product.
The time taken for fermentation can vary widely depending on the type of yeast used, the beer style brewed and the ambient temperature of the fermenter during the process.
For most ales, fermentation needs to occur around 18 degrees celsius (64 degrees fahrenheit). This is the optimum temperature for the yeast to process the sugars effectlvily and cleanly with no off-flavours being produced.
For a standard yeast such as US-05, you can expect bubbling to stop around 7 to 8 days after pitching – this indicates that the process is finished. However it is often recommended to leave the beer as is for an extra couple of days – this allows the yeast to clean up the beer and can give a better flavour in the final product.
Always follow the instructions on the kit or the yeast packet.
Trust me, patience is a virtue and your beer will thank you for it.
For more information, please check out my post on fermentation time.
Lagers Vs Ales
If you are brewing a lager then you can expect the fermentation process to be much longer than if you are brewing an ale. This is due to fermentation temperature being much lower (typically around 6 to 8 degrees celsius (42 to 48 degrees fahrenheit) and the yeast needing far longer to complete the process.
You can brew with a lager yeast at ale temperatures, but your results may vary wildly.
I consider brewing a lager to be a more advanced topic and shouldn’t be attempted by a beginner, mainly due to the need to control the fermentation temperatures for a long period of time.
Bottle (or Keg) Conditioning Time
Once your beer has finished fermentation it’s time to package your beer ready for serving. You have two real options, botting or kegging you beer.
Bottling your beer
Once you beer has fermented, one option to package you beer is to use glass or plastic bottles, and this is the technique that I use currently.
When fermentation is finished, you rack your beer into another sanitized container (such as a spare fermenter) where it’s mixed with a cooled sugar solution. Once fully mixed, you can then bottle your beer using a bottling wand or tube.
Some yeast remains in the beer which is left over from the brewing process. This starts to consume this additional sugar, producing carbon dioxide that carbonates the beer in the bottle.
Once bottled, you’ll need to leave the beer in a warm place for a couple of days for the yeast to start the carbonation process then move to a cool place – such as a basement or fridge for 10 to 12 days to condition.
Your beer is then ready to drink.
Kegging Your Beer
If you are a more advanced brewer, and don’t plan on transporting your beer far, then you can keg your beer.
Kegging your beer involves the transfer into a pressurised keg and force carbonating it to serving pressures.
Kegging your beer can also mean its ready to drink much sooner than if its bottled as you are not waiting to carbonate through secondary fermentation, and is great for beers designed to be drunk fresh such as hoppy pale ales and IPAs.
You can typically drink a kegged beer one week after fermentation finishes, but some styles may benefit from being left longer.
How long it takes to brew, ferment and condition a beer ready for serving really does depend on the process followed and the style of beer.
Keg conditioned beers should be ready around 3 weeks from brewing and bottle conditioned beers should be ready around a month after brewing.
Note: This article was originally written for a collaborative brewing project that never got off the ground so i’ve decided to post it here.