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One frequently asked question about homebrewing is: “How long does it take to brew beer?”
But more specifically, how much time does it take from the beginning of brew day until you are actually sipping and enjoying your own home-brewed craft beer.
The brewing process will vary, depending on a few different factors.
To transform a few bland and basic ingredients to a finished drink can range from four to six weeks, to sometimes a few years. The beer style that you are wanting to brew is the main factor that determines how long it will take before it’s ready to drink.
Table of Contents
Resources For Best Results
Before getting started, it is a good idea to review and familiarize yourself with all the homebrewing equipment and supplies you might be using.
Another great way to become familiar with the brewing process is to check out any one of these beer brewing books. They are very helpful for improving your brewing skills. You are sure to find methods and recipes that suit your skill level.
An inexpensive homebrewing beer kit for beginners is the easiest way to get started, and are perfect for DIY homebrewers. You can get a decent 5-gallon complete beer making starter kit for less than $100.
Method Of Brewing
As a homebrewer, you will find this hobby to be an art and a science. As you learn more and improve your brewing techniques, you will find the method that gives you the best results and you enjoy the most.
Methods of Brewing: Extract or All-Grain
The 4 main ingredients in beer are grains, water, yeast, and hops, no matter which method you choose. The variation between extract and all-grain brewing comes down to how you acquire the sugars during brewing.
Most people start with extract kits, which makes the process very simple and straightforward. The all-grain brewing or brew in a bag (BIAB) method is used by professional breweries and advanced homebrewers.
All grain brewing requires you to crush malted grains and “mash” them to convert the starches into a fermentable sugar that the yeast can feed on. It is truly the art of making beer from scratch, and gives you the best hands-on brewing experience with the most flexibility.
All-grain brewing or brewing in a bag (BIAB) is the traditional method but requires much more time, equipment, expense, and space, but it will also allow you to create your own beer recipes.
Extract Brewing with a Kit
With the extract kit method, all the hard work is already done for you, and you can make just about any style of beer you wish.
For a beginner, an extract recipe kit is the easiest way to get started, and has everything you need to brew in the box. It includes the specialty grains, muslin bag, liquid malt extract (LME), dry malt extract (DME), corn sugar, bottle caps, and detailed instructions.
The sugars come in the kit as a concentrated powder or syrup. These are produced by malting companies and allow you to skip the conversion process that is required when brewing all-grain.
Although some argue that all-grain brewing is best, both methods have resulted in award-winning beers. There is no wrong or right way to do it, so choose the method you like best and the recipe you want to achieve.
Lagers or Ales
The difference between lagers and ales lies with the type of yeast used for fermentation. For most people who are looking to brew their own beer, especially a beginner, an ale is the recommended style of beer.
The time of how long to ferment beer takes all depends on the type of style, taste, and character you are going after. The different fermentation rates will result in variations in the color of the beer and the overall alcohol content.
Lager beers have a significantly longer fermentation time at cooler temperatures, which often requires additional items like a cooling or fermentation chamber. In contrast, ale yeasts can complete the primary fermentation in about seven days.
It can take at least 6-8 weeks or sometimes even over one year. The general time from brewing to bottling for lagers is 2-3 months.
Ales on the other hand, will ferment at a much faster pace at a warmer temperature.
Ales will ferment in a dark closet or the corner of a room without any extra equipment, other than a blanket to keep the wort and yeast nice and warm.
The Basic Homebrewing Timeline:
From brew day to opening the first bottle, the time to brew beer usually requires a minimum of 6 weeks for the best results. Most of this time is spent waiting, letting your brew sit uninterruptedly while you patiently salivate.
These timelines all can vary and they are not set in stone. They will provide a general guideline for you to follow. You will start to notice what specific timeline is ideal for that particular batch as you keep an eye on the fermentation process.
- Brew day
- Primary fermentation
- Secondary fermentation
- Bottle conditioning
Brew Day: 2 to 8 Hours
The time it takes to complete the brew day depends on whether you choose the extract kit or the all-grain method. It is best to set aside a certain amount of time where you will not get distracted.
Actual brew day for extract brewing:
- Preparation (Gather up all equipment and brewing instructions)
- Sanitizing (Everything that comes in contact with the wort after boiling MUST be sanitized)
- Steeping the grains (20 minutes)
- Boiling the wort (60 minutes)
- Cooling the wort (10 to 45 minutes)
- Transferring the wort to a fermenter and pitching the yeast (15 minutes)
Preparation: Gather up all your brewing equipment, notes, and instructions
Steeping: The specialty grains are placed in a muslin bag and steeped in the appropriate temperature for approximately 20 minutes.
Boiling: The malt extract is added to the wort and boiled for about 60 minutes while constantly stirring.
Sanitizing: During the boil, you can begin sanitizing all your brewing equipment with Star San or IO Star. All pieces of equipment and utensils need to be sanitized, including the fermenting bucket and lid, airlock, hydrometer, thermometer, stirring spoon, transfer tubing, scissors, yeast packet, etc.
Cooling the wort: After boiling, the wort must be cooled to the correct yeast pitching temperature. This can be done by placing the brew kettle in an ice bath or using a wort chiller.
Transfer to the fermenter: After chilling, the wort is transferred to a fermenting container and the yeast is pitched. The fermenter is then sealed, and an airlock is installed, and then moved to a cool and dark area.
After cleaning up, your brew day is complete.
Primary Fermentation: 5 to 7 Days
Once your wort has cooled, it is time to transfer your brew to a sanitized primary vessel where you will add the yeast, or as brewers say “pitching the yeast.” The time it takes on this step can vary slightly depending on the brewer. Some people allow ten days in the primary vessel.
This phase is called the lag phase where the yeast creates alcohol and carbon dioxide after consuming the sugars from the wort. The yeast quickly multiplies creating thick foam known as Krausen to rise to the top.
During this first week is when you will see the most activity. The yeast is busy eating all the sugars and turning it into alcohol. There isn’t much for you to do but to ensure the vessel is kept away from sunlight in a dark cool place.
In about one week, the yeast will settle down after eating the sugar. You can then transfer your brew to a smaller container where fermentation will take place. During this phase, the specific gravity declines quickly.
You will see that the airlock will bubble vigorously. It results from the yeast consuming the wort’s sugar.
Optional Two-Stage/Secondary Fermentation: 10 Days to 2 Weeks
Although this step is completely optional, it is a great debate among brewers who question whether secondary fermentation is really needed, or a complete waste of time.
Also called the “static fermentation phase”, this additional step is usually done to give the beer more time to clear. As the yeast is no longer working and producing alcohol from consuming the wort’s sugar, it starts to flocculate. It clumps and sinks to the bottom of the vessel, leaving a clearer and cleaner beer.
During this time, the airlock is also less active, showing only infrequent bubbles because the the yeast has done most of its job during primary fermentation.
Also, this is the preferred time if you want to add fruit or other ingredients to the beer. Keep in mind that adding more sugary fruit to the beer can cause the yeast to wake up and begin producing CO2 again. Always make sure you have an airlock or blow-off tube installed.
Bottle Conditioning: 2 Weeks to 1 Year or More
Lastly, you pour the beer into bottles, put the cap on them, and wait two weeks to one year before opening them and having your first sip. Allowing proper resting time after bottling ensures the beer doesn’t go flat or becomes less tasty. It is during this time that the brew carbonates.
Try to avoid splashing while performing the bottling process. It can introduce oxygen into your brew and cause the taste to become what has been described as “wet cardboard.”
Some brewers suggest making 10-Liter batches that take approximately two hours to complete. The process includes sanitizing, draining, priming, and filling the bottles.
You can expect your bottled beers to preserve for one year and some even longer. Most brewers wait at least five weeks before opening a bottle. Once you bottle and cap the beer, it continues to improve in the weeks and months to follow in what is called the bottle conditioning phase.
This maturing process can make a huge difference. Although many styles of beer can be ready in as little as two weeks, you will find that waiting at least four weeks results in a much tastier brew with the best characteristics.
Total Time For a Home Brew: Minimum of 2 to 5 Weeks
As tempting as it can be to prematurely open a bottle or rush any of the steps, taking your time will pay off handsomely. You will find that the best tasting brew you make is the one that had the opportunity to age well. Thus, ultimately, the length of time for how long to brew beer depends on you.
Those that are produced too quickly may have unbalanced and harsh flavor and can lack character or depth. Also, if the yeast did not have the opportunity to eat all the sugars, you run the risk of bursting bottles.
The upside is that while you wait for your brew to age well, you can start a whole new batch of beer. When you are familiar with your beer brewing timeline, you will be able to have as many batches in the works as you can handle.
Bottom Line For a Great Bottoms Up!
As you become a more experienced homebrewer, you will start to determine how long your typical beer takes to make. As you can see, the timeline for brewing beer at home depends on the style of beer you desire, your skills, whether you use an extract kit or go with the full-grain method.
As a homebrewer, you have the opportunity to improve your beer recipes, as well as your patience. Brewing is an art based on science that gets fine-tuned as you progress and develop more knowledge and skills.
When you finally arrive at your first bottle opening, it really is an extremely rewarding and cool experience! All the anticipation that has built for weeks or even months will culminate in your taste buds.
It is fun and exciting to experiment with different methods and recipes. As with everything, the more you practice the better you will become. Before you know it you will be brewing your favorite beer like a pro from the comfort of your home!
Ready To Improve Your All-Grain Brewing Process, and Take It To The Next Level?
This course includes 29 indivdual videos that cover techniques and processes for water chemistry, yeast health, mashing, fermentation, dry-hopping, zero-oxygen packaging, and more!