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Grainfather Blog - Week 34: Super Speedy Brewday

By Grainfather - All Grain Brewing 14/08/2015 10:52 Comments
 
If, like a lot of homebrewers, you spend any time reading homebrew blogs you’ll probably have noticed a growing trend towards trying to shave as much time off of the brewday as possible. Denny Conn is a big proponent of this – his much quoted philosophy is ‘create the best beer possible with the least amount of effort’. We wanted to put this to the test so tasked Dave in our UK office to find out how quickly he could brew and how this effected his beer. Read how he got on below. 
 
 
"I’ve experimented with several techniques for shortening of the brewday that have been featured here on the weekly mash including sparge vs. no sparge and including the trub when transferring your wort to a fermenter but I was interested to know, just how many corners can you cut and still produce a good beer? I decided an experiment was needed where I took this idea to the extreme.
 
The techniques I was going to try were;
1.       Short mash
2.       Small volume (15 litres)
3.       No sparge
4.       Short boil
5.       Transfer of everything into the fermenter
 
I can normally do a full brewday in around four and a half hours but by utilising these techniques I should be able to cut anywhere up to an hour off of the day meaning I was aiming for a little over 3 hours for a brewday. If I could make a beer that was worth drinking by cutting all these corners, I’d be able to have an extra hour in bed every brewday - awesome.
 
For the recipe I was keeping it simple and just doing a basic American pale ale;
4.75kg of Munich            
0.25kg of Caramalt
15g of Herkules @ 60 mins
150g of Pacifica @ 0 mins
 
Brew Day

The brew day started at 8am by gathering all the water I would need for the brew (I was skipping the sparge stage). Luckily the water was coming out of the tap at over 50 degrees C so I was mashed in within about 15 minutes. My first chunk of time shaved off of the brew day!
 

I mashed for 40 minutes before pulling the grain basket out of the boiler and as soon as I lifted the basket water started pouring out of the bottom perforated plate. It was as if the grain bed hadn’t settled at all and the wort was in the boiler within about 15 minutes. I was not expecting high efficiency. 

I started the boil in earnest and threw in my 15 grams of Herkules. After boiling for 40 minutes I added my Pacifica and let it stand for 10 minutes (I probably should have started chilling straight away in the interest of cutting down my brewing time but I’d preferably like something drinkable at the end of this experiment so I wanted the utilisation from the hops).

 

I took a post boil gravity which came out at 1.041 which is much lower than I expected for the amount of grain used but I guess a big efficiency hit was inevitable when trialling as many time saving methods as I could in the one experiment. After a ten minute hop stand I began to chill my wort.
 
 
 
Once chilled to 24C, I transferred everything into my clean and sanitised fermenter and pitched my yeast. 

 

 
Total brewing time: 3 hours and 20 minutes. Which meant I cut an hour and ten minutes from my usual brewing time which is great but the real question is, did I make a drinkable beer in this time?
 
Tasting
 
The beer poured nicely with a good initial head (though poor head retention). It was much darker then when I’ve brewed this recipe previously and a little bit muddy. Aroma wise it was hoppy but with quite a bit of sulphur on the nose, giving it a little bit of an unappealing ‘eggy’ smell. As for the taste, it was slightly oxidised and was suffering from autolysis which was unfortunate but beyond that it had a nice toffee flavour and was quite drinkable (although not in large quantities).
 
Conclusion
Overall, I was disappointed with the way the beer turned out. I’ve made this recipe several times previously and it has always made a crisp, refreshing and hoppy pale ale but this time it was suffering from a lot of off flavours.
 
Mashing, boiling and sparging all play huge roles in the way the end beer turns out, by cutting them short you are negatively impacting clarity, attenuation and isomerisation of alpha acids whilst simultaneously having a poor evaporation rate and failing to fully remove volatile compounds such as DMS.
 
The other point is that these techniques only cut an hour off of my brew day but they made a beer that I thought was sub-standard meaning I’d wasted the cost of the ingredients and was stuck with 30 bottles of a beer I didn’t really want to drink so the time saving was a little bit pointless!"
 
The key lesson here was that if you want to make the best beer possible, it takes time and effort and there’s no point in cutting corners. If, however, you don’t want to spend a lot of time on the process and just want a drinkable beer at the end then it is worth looking into time saving techniques though you’ll probably make better quality beer in the same amount of time if you do part grain instead.

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