Homebrewers know that our hobby is, like fishing, largely one of waiting. Between waiting for water to heat, standing around while the wort boils, and twiddling one’s thumbs as the yeast does its thing, patience is all but required of those who brew.
With the right approach, though, you can tick a few things off your list even as you wait. Here are five ways to wait less and do more on brew day.
1. Make the water wait for you. Heating water is among brewing’s most time consuming processes. Water’s high specific heat (the amount of energy required to raise the temperature) means that you have to add heat for a long time to hit strike temperature, sparge temperature, or a rolling boil. The first thing I do on brew day is start the burner so that the water heats while I measure and crush grain, whip up a batch of sanitizer, and prepare the day’s mise en place of hops and water additions. I also periodically check the water temperature as I go about my business so that I neither have to wait longer than necessary nor severely overshoot the target temperature.
2. Do sanitizer double duty. While a small spray bottle of sanitizer is handy for miscellaneous brewing chores here and there, sometimes you need a big bucket of the stuff. Racking canes, for example, benefit from a good soak, as do sieves, bottles, and other hard-to-spray pieces. When possible, I like to organize other brewing tasks to take advantage of the bucket of sanitizer I prepare on brew day. One bucket of sanitizer can take care of as many kegs as you throw at it, so queue up those Cornies.
3. Rack while you mash. The hour-long (or more) mash is a great time to move previously brewed beers around because you’ll soon have a mash tun to clean. After you’ve racked beer into a keg or carboy, rinse the fermentor well and fill it with the beer-safe cleaner of your choice (e.g., PBW or OxiClean) to soak. You can reuse said soapy water to clean the mash tun when the wort is initially heating.
4. Steal some starter wort. This is one of my favorites ways to multitask on brew day. If the beer I’m making isn’t terribly high in gravity, I’ll steal a measure of the wort to use as a yeast starter rather than prepare special-purpose wort from malt extract separately. My personal preference is to do this with light-colored worts so that I can gauge yeast progress during propagation, but it works just fine with dark wort, too. Just make sure to adjust the recipe size to account for the extra!
5. Goof around. Okay, so not every moment of brew day needs to be productive. The whole point of brewing your own beer is to have fun, after all, so make a day of it. Some like to grill while they brew, others enjoy watching a ball game, and still others simply sit around the table with friends and kick back a homebrew or two.
Optimizing your brew day lets you get more done with less effort. Just don’t try to do too much during the boil: We’re taught not to cry over spilled milk, but spilled wort is something else entirely.