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Homebrew Q&A: How To Split a Brew Day

Question:  I have a hard time getting 5-6 hours to spend on a brew day. I was wondering if you had advice on splitting a brew day into a two-day brew process. Not to be confused with overnight mash. I am thinking of making wort and chilling (or maybe not chill?) on day one then boiling and completing the process on day two. What are the effects and impacts of this on an ale - or other styles? I know that Bell's provides wort to homebrewers for the annual contest, is there something you do to prepare the wort for dispensing and boiling later? I would like to understand the best practice for what I want to try.

Answer:  I feel your pain – brewing takes a pretty good time commitment which isn’t always the easiest thing to fit into life. I know of others who split the day into two, but I think you’ll find that it’s even more work and time doing it that way. If you chill your wort after the mash, you’re opening your wort up to lots of bugs that can do their work at those temps. I know you’ll be boiling the next day, but there are bacteria and other wild yeasts that can impart their tangy flavors in a very short time – this is why we have people that do sour mashes. On top of that, you’ll now be bringing wort from a cooler temperature all the way to a boil rather than starting with wort that’s in the 170 degree range already. Doesn't seem like a huge deal but that’s a lot of propane/gas and time.

When we do our wort giveaway, we bring the wort to a simmer to kill off anything that might be living in it and then chill it down – this is so that carboys don’t crack by us putting hot wort into them and to keep things safe. We recommend people get their boil going as soon as they're able. Certainly it’s possible to throw it in the fridge and brew later, but it’s a big risk and something you wouldn't want to do with each batch.

My recommendation is to try to streamline your day as best as you can. My brew days take 4 hours from the time I mash-in to the time I’m done cleaning up. My system is fairly automated (it’s a Blichmann Brew-Easy electric system) and was quite an investment, but I’m able to set things up and dough in, then kind of let it take care of itself for an hour during the mash. Then once I’m on to the boil, it doesn’t need much babysitting. I know this is something that not everyone can accommodate in their house and it’s a big investment, but I think just planning out the flow of your day can give you a similar result. What can you prepare while the mash is doing its thing? What can you clean to be ready for the next step or to get out of the way before the next brew day? Have you considered brew-in-a-bag?

If you can find a way to swing your beers in 2 days, I say go for it. But I think you’ll find that once you have everything out and you’re brewing, finding ways to cut time off your day will be the way to go. I hope that’s helpful.

- David Curtis, Bell's General Store Manager and resident homebrew expert

This post is a part of an occasional homebrew Q&A series. Bell’s founder and president Larry Bell began brewing his own beer in the late 1970s after working at Sarkozy Bakery in Kalamazoo where he learned about yeast and fermentation. Larry opened his homebrew supply store, Kalamazoo Brewing Co., in 1983, which later became Bell’s Brewery. Homebrewing is still a big part of who we are. This series is an homage to our homebrew origins - one of the ways we give back to the community that helped us get to where we are today.  Homebrew equipment and supplies can be purchased online or in person at our General Store.

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