How Long is a Brew Day? (Both Extract and All-Grain Homebrewing)

When you’re planning on getting started with homebrewing, one of the hardest things to do can be setting up your timeline. How much time does it take to get from start to finish for both extract and all-grain brewing, and what steps require the most time?

Extract brew days are about 3 hours long and all-grain brew days are about 4.5 hours long for a 5-gallon batch of homebrew beer using a propane burner. Batch size, water temperature, mashing process, and equipment choices such as wort chillers and electric kettles can shorten or lengthen the brew day. Stovetop brews take significantly longer.

Keep reading for more detail about exactly how long both all-grain brew days and extract brew days are, as well as the amount of time each step takes. I’ll also get into the factors that affect the length of the brew day, potentially making it shorter or longer.

How long is an all-grain brew day?

All-grain brewing will take up most of your morning, afternoon, or evening.

An all-grain brew day takes up to 4 ½ hours, broken down as follows:

  • Up to 1 hour – Heating the strike water
  • 1 hour – Mashing grains
  • 10-90 minutes – Sparging
  • 60-90 minutes – Boiling the wort
  • 1 hour – Chilling the wort
  • 10 minutes – Transferring the wort to the fermenter and pitching the yeast

These timeframes will differ depending on appliances, other equipment, and recipes.

Heating strike water

The strike water used for your wash should be hotter than your desired mash temperature.

Because the strike water will cool once the grains are introduced, your strike water should be a few degrees hotter than your mash temperature – between 148-168℉. Boiling strike water can take anywhere from 10 to 45 minutes depending on your appliance and the groundwater temperature.

Mashing the grains

The mashing step, like each step in the brewing process, is an important one.

It will take about 60 minutes to mash the grains. The starches in the grains dissolve into the water, and the enzymes from the grains start to break the starches down into simple sugars. You’ll want to give your grains one hour in this water to achieve the maximum amount of sugar.

The mashing process provides the food for the yeast that will create your beer.

Sparging

Sparging is the act of extracting as much sugars from the grain bed as possible without also extracting any tannins that could cause astringency in your beer.

The sparging process can take anywhere from 10 to 90 minutes and can be done in two ways:

  • Fly spargingMatching the outflow of wort into the brew kettle with an inflow of water. Fly sparging takes 60-90 minutes and requires a sparge arm, as well as precision, but ensures a better extraction of sugars. 
  • Batch sparging – Extracting and draining all of the sugars and wort from the grain bed and adding to the brew kettle. Batch sparging is more time efficient (10-20 minutes) but results in less sugar extraction.

Boiling the wort

Boiling your wort adds flavor to your beer and sterilizes it.

The boiling process should take 60-90 minutes depending on the beer you’re brewing. In general, lighter profile and tasting beers’ wort should be boiled for around 60 minutes. Stronger, heavier, and darker beers’ wort will be boiled for 90 minutes or maybe more.

The wort lets hops add bitterness or impart other desirable flavors and aromas into the beer, depending on how long they’re boiled in the wort.

For more on hops and why they’re added at different times, check out this article!

Chilling the wort

This step stabilizes the wort for yeast pitching.

It will take about 45 minutes for the wort to chill to room temperature or just above. Once you’re there, you’re ready to transfer and pitch the yeast.

Transfer to fermenter and yeast pitching

This step is as easy as 1-2-3, and will only take a minute or two if you are making a small batch and using a bucket to ferment.

Take your brew kettle full of chilled, room temperature wort and dump it into your primary fermenter. You can also use a siphon if you have one or are using a carboy with a narrow mouth which will take about 5-10 minutes.

Once done, pitch your yeast and, if needed, yeast starter.

How long is an extract brew day?

Extract brewing will take less time than all-grain brewing, mainly because of the lack of mashing and sparging compared to all-grain brewing.

An extract brew day can take up to 3 hours:

  • 60 – 90 minutes – This is the largest time variable in this method. Boiling the wort will take at least 60 minutes – depending on the beer, it could take closer to 90 minutes.
  • 1 hour – Chilling the wort
  • 10 minutes – Transfering the wort to your primary fermenter and pitching the yeast.

This process could take longer or shorter depending on your equipment or appliances used. 

Heating strike water

The same applies for heating strike water during extract brewing as it does all-grain brewing.

Heat your strike water to around 180°F before adding the extract to the water – this timeframe will vary depending on the amount of water boiling and the appliances used. 8 gallons or more of water is needed for brewing 5 gallons of beer. Generally, stovetops take MUCH longer to boil the amount of water needed for the beer.

For stovetops, it’s recommended to do a partial boil with a smaller pot and less water. For outdoor and propane field brewing, it’s more viable to use more water and a full boil.

Boiling the wort

For extract brewing, boiling the wort is a normal process.

Once the extract is added, bring the wort to a boil. Boil the wort for at least 60 minutes, or as long as the recipe calls for. At the beginning of the boil, you will add your bittering hops.

Be careful to make sure your extract does not scorch at the bottom of your kettle – if you see this start to happen, turn down the heat a notch.

If you did a partial boil at the beginning of your process, add the rest of the extract with 5 minutes left in the boil.

Chilling the wort

Once the boil is done, it’s time to chill the wort.

In extract brewing, chilling the wort will take 60-90 minutes without a wort chiller or other wort chilling method. To speed up this process, you can place your kettle in continuously cold water.

Chill the wort to the ideal fermentation temperature for your yeast strain.

Transfer to fermenter and yeast pitching

You can do this in a couple of ways, none of which are likely to take more than 5-10 minutes.

It will take you no more than 10 minutes to transfer the wort to the fermenter and to add yeast. If you’re fermenting in a bucket, you can just dump the wort into the carboy. You can also use a siphon to transfer the wort into your carboy. Or, you can use a ball valve built into your kettle to drain the wort into the carboy if it came with one.

Factors that make brew day longer or shorter

Some factors will elongate or shorten the brew day.

Key factors that will make the brew day longer or shorter include:

  • Extract vs. all-grain brewing
  • Batch size of the finished beer
  • Recipe
  • Type of water used
  • Brewing technique
  • Equipment used

Let’s look at the details of each of these factors.

Extract vs all-grain

An extract brew day will be shorter than an all-grain brew day.

The extract brew day forgoes the mashing and sparging processes, knocking off a whopping 60-90 minutes of the total time needed for brewing.

Batch size

The batch size of your final brew will also affect the amount of time spent brewing.

A bigger batch size makes the brew day longer, and a smaller batch makes it shorter. A bigger batch takes longer to heat, chill, and transfer to a fermenter. Smaller batches eat up less time during these brew days, making them shorter.

Recipe

The length of your brew day is also contingent on your recipe. Some recipes call for longer boil times or triple/double decoctions.

Some recipes might call for different temperature mashes at different times of the mashing process, elongating it as a whole. More bitter beers like double IPAs might call for a 90-minute boil, increasing the length of a brew day. 

Ground water

Hotter groundwater shortens boil time, plain and simple.

To illustrate the point I grabbed some numbers from a water boiling calculator that showed, all things being equal with your setup, it will take 40°F water 42% longer to reach strike temperature than 75°F water.

That’s a big difference, especially if you are making a 10-gallon batch or it is a cold and windy day outside!

Brewing technique

From extract to full mash brewing, the brew day can vary in length depending on the techniques and methods used. 

Extract brewing requires the least amount of time. Partial mash brewing requires a little more, but not as much as full mash. Brew in a bag takes away the need to sparge, removing one hour or more from the brew day. Full mash brewing can take up to 2 ½ hours before you even get to boiling the wort.

Extract

Using extract as opposed to full mash affects brew day length.

Because you don’t need to spend 60 minutes on the mash, extract brewing shortens your brew day by 60 or more minutes.

Partial mash

Similarly to extract brewing, partial mashing will shorten the brew day.

Less time is required for a partial mash, thus shortening the entire brew day. Partial mashing still takes some time because the sugars still need time to dissolve and turn into the wort, but not as much time as a full mash.

Brew in a bag (BIAB)

The brew in a bag method cuts out a few steps and helps with preparation and cleanup.

The brew in a bag (BIAB) method knocks off an hour or more from your brew day because of the lack of sparging needed once your grains are steeped, saving a ton of time during your brew day. 

Full mash

Full mash will take the longest amount of time compared to the previously mentioned methods.

Full mash brewing includes steeping your grains and sparging the wort into the kettle. The whole process can take up to 2 or more hours at 60+ minutes for mashing and sparging each.

Brewing equipment

Let’s factor the brewing equipment into the brew day length. Different equipment will help or hurt your cause.

A propane heat source is good for homebrewing, but an electric kettle might speed up your process overall and help with setup and cleanup. A wort chiller will decrease the time of your brew day by a hefty amount. Avoid stovetops for homebrewing – it takes far too long to boil water and get started on a stovetop.

Propane vs electric

An electric kettle might shorten boiling time compared to a propane burner.

Electric kettles will heat up more surface area quicker than a propane burner, speeding up boil time. Electric kettles are also good for indoor brewing and save a lot of time during the setup.

Type of chiller

A wort chiller will help chill your wort faster, drastically decreasing wait times between the boil and transferring to the fermenter.

A copper wort chiller is best for chilling wort quickly. Keep in mind that the wort will only chill to the temperature used for the wort chiller.

Stovetop

A stovetop is probably less than ideal compared to a propane burner or electric kettle.

The average stovetop puts out 7,000 BTUs, which is extremely low when trying to heat the necessary 7.5 gallon average of water needed for brewing beer. Since a lot of standard homebrew recipes yield 5 gallons of beer, it’s best to avoid the stovetop for brewing – the amount of time to boil water makes it near impossible to get started.

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