Being a blog about homebrewing one of the top questions I often get asked is: how long does it take to make beer? It is the first thing that anyone looking to get started in this hobby wants to know.
It is a straightforward question that like most things worthwhile does not have a straightforward answer.
The average time it takes to make a beer from scratch to being ready to be consumed is approximately 3 to 6 weeks. Brewers call this going from grain to glass.
Why it is not a straightforward answer is because the process can actually be shorter than 3 weeks and also longer than 6 weeks depending on the following 3 factors:
- How much of a hurry you are in.
- The type of beer you are making.
- The method you use to brew beer.
How Much of Hurry You Are In
I used to pride myself in being able to make a beer in as little as 7 days. It is very possible to do and you can conceivably even make a beer in as little as 5 days. Once you brew the beer and get it into your fermenter using a yeast that ferments fast you can have the majority of fermentation done in 3-4 days, which leaves 1-2 days to carbonate in your keg.
Unless you are in a rush I do not recommend doing this. Although the beer tastes just fine brewing it this fast, the fact is beer does do better with time. Having patience and giving your brew adequate time will allow you to make a higher quality beer.
Allowing your beer to fully ferment and letting the yeast help to condition your beer takes a good 2 weeks in the fermenter. Then I recommend cold crashing for 2-3 days and if you are kegging your beer it takes 2 – 5 days to do it properly; while bottling is at least 2 weeks. Since I keg my beer the average time it takes for me to make a batch of beer is on average 3 weeks.
The Type of Beer You Are Making
Any beer you make is going to be one of two types of beers. Either a Lager or an Ale. The time it takes to make either one of these beer styles varies significantly.
Some examples of Ales are:
- American Pale Ales
- Blonde or Golden Ales
- Red Ale’s
- Stouts & Porters
Examples of Lagers are:
- American lager
- Vienna style lager
If you are making an Ale you can expect it will take you the 3 – 6 weeks I discussed above. But when you are making a Lager it is going to take much longer.
This is for two reasons:
- The yeast you use to make a lager takes longer to ferment. (3 – 4 weeks)
- When you are done fermenting your beer you then have to move to the lagering stage which takes another 3-4 weeks.
The following post will show you all of the steps involved in how to lager beer.
The Method You Use to Make Beer
How you brew your beer is going to play a factor in how long the brew day is going to take. Depending on which method you use to make beer, brew day itself can take anywhere from 30 minutes to 7 hours.
There are 3 different methods to make beer:
- Malt Extract Kits
- Partial Mash
- All Grain Brewing
Malt Extract Brew Day – Making beer using the pre hopped malt extract beer kits is the simplest and fastest way to make beer. Most homebrewers start out this way. Brew day itself is as simple as heating up some water, adding it and the contents of the malt extract can into your fermenter, pitching your yeast and putting the lid on your fermenter. Quick and easy. It will take you no longer than 30 minutes.
One tip that I will give you when it comes to making beer with these types of beer kits is to let them sit in the bottle for longer periods of time before you drink them. I would recommend at least 4 weeks. Although these beer kits have improved in taste over the years and are actually quite good tasting, they do taste better if you give them more time to condition in the bottle. The longer the better.
The following post will show you what I consider to be the 2 best home brew kits.
Partial Mash Brew Day – Partial mash brewing is the stage between malt extract and all grain brewing. You are now using some specialty grains on brew day, which adds more time to the day. You steep or soak the grains in hot water and then add the liquid it produces to your fermenter along with the water and malt extract. The steeping of the grains can take 20 – 30 minutes. So expect your brew day to take 45 – 60 minutes.
Here are some detailed partial mash brewing instructions.
All Grain Brewing – There are a lot more steps involved that take more time when you are making beer from scratch. A typical brew day for me takes 6 hours.
Let’s quickly run through what is involved in each step and the time each step takes:
All Grain Brew Day
Sanitizing – It is crucial you clean and thoroughly sanitize all of your equipment. Beer is very susceptible to bacteria and there is nothing worse than losing a batch of beer. The time it takes to thoroughly clean and sanitize your brewing equipment is worth it. It takes me about 10 – 15 minutes.
Heating Your Mash Water – How long it takes to get the temperature of the water up to the correct mash temperature will depend on the system you brew on. I brew on the all-in-one brewing systems and it can take 45 – 60 minutes depending on which of my systems I am brewing on.
Mashing – Mashing is the process of soaking your grains in hot water in order to get all of the sugars and starches out of the grains. The resulting liquid is referred to as your wort. You will typically mash for 60 minutes.
The Boil – The next step in the brewing process is where you boil the wort you just created. Hops are added at different stages of the boil as well. Depending on what grain you use, the boil can take 60 – 90 minutes.
Chilling Your Wort – When the boil is over you need to get the temperature of your wort low enough to be able to add the yeast to it. Depending on what type of wort chiller you are using, the time it takes to get to the right temperature will vary. I use an immersion chiller and it takes close to 60 minutes. I also from time to time will use a strategy referred to as “no chill brewing” although it takes approximately 12 hours to chill your beer with this method it saves you time on brew day as it is done passively without your involvement.
Racking to The Fermenter – The next step is very quick and easy. Simply transfer your chilled wort to your fermenter and add the yeast. Put the lid on and let the magic of fermentation begin. (10 – 20 minutes)
Fermentation – We have covered previously how long fermentation takes and again it depends on how much of a hurry you are in and what style of beer you are brewing. (5 days – 8 weeks)
Cold Crashing – When you are making a lager you will have already cold crashed your beer during the lagering stage. When you are making an ale I recommend you cold crash for 2 – 3 days.
Packaging – This is where you are going to transfer your beer from the fermenter to either your keg or bottles. Transferring to a keg is much quicker as you only need to clean and sanitize the one keg, versus all of the beer bottles which can take a lot more time. When you bottle you also need to add the sugar to the beer in order to naturally carbonate it which adds more time to the process. Kegging takes 10 – 15 minutes. Bottling takes approximately 45 – 60 minutes.
Carbonating – The time it takes to carbonate your beer again depends on whether you have kegged it or bottled it.
Carbonating in a keg can take anywhere from 20 minutes – 2 weeks. For me it takes 2 days to have perfectly carbonated beer. You can see the different methods of carbonating in a keg here.
When carbonating in a bottle you will have carbonation typically within 7 days, but perfect carbonation of your beer will take at least 14 days.
Check out the following post for full instructions on all grain brewing.
To Sum It Up
When it comes right down to it, the time it takes to make beer can be as little as 5 days or as long as 8 weeks depending on how much of a hurry you are in and the type of beer you are making.
If you want to make an excellent quality beer I recommend that for an ale you take 3 weeks and a lager 8 weeks.
Feel free to ask me any questions in the comments, I’ll be sure to help you out.
Now go get your brew awwnn..
Cheers Big Robb is Out!