Can you put your homebrew in the fridge too soon? The answer is yes. Depending on what exactly you’re brewing, the exact number of weeks (or in some cases, months) will vary. But, there is a general rule of thumb that all homebrewers agree on.
Most of the time, no matter what you’re brewing, you’re going to want to wait at least two weeks after bottling before putting the brew in the fridge. On average, beers will higher alcohol content or certain yeast strains will need longer while hoppy beers should be enjoyed sooner.
It’s worthwhile to note that if you’re kegging your beer, depending on the level of carbonation you want, you’re going to want to wait a few days before chilling. This is all going to depend on your preference, however.
How long after bottling can you drink your homebrew?
Before we get too far into it I would like to point something out.
Some homebrew kits suggest chilling after only three days, if your kit is telling you this, please research!
While various yeast strains are capable of fermenting in lower temperatures, (unless you have tried and tested your particular strain) the general rule of thumb is to wait two weeks and let the bottles rest in a cool, dark place.
Most experienced homebrewers using a variety of yeast strains report chilling anywhere from one to three weeks after bottling. The sweet spot is usually at least two weeks. The main factor we are looking at here is carbonation.
Carbonation occurs when the yeast consumes any remaining sugar, creating CO2 and causing it to try to escape out of the bottle, but there is nowhere for it to go.
A suggestion amongst brewers has been: after bottling and letting the bottles sit in a cool, dark place for at least one week, chill one bottle at a time and give it a taste test! This is a great way to really sense how your particular strain of yeast behaves, which can help you avoid things like bottle bombs.
If you’re reading this and thinking, “Man, that seems like a long time to wait for my brew”, be thankful that we didn’t suggest a few months.
Certain stouts may take longer, as long as two months. Some brewers age their beer as long as a few years! But we’ll get into that later. This is why it is important to test the timing yourself, depending on what you’re brewing.
How long should homebrew stay in the fridge before you drink it?
Once again, it’s always going to depend on what you’re brewing. As a general rule, it should sit in the fridge for two to three days. (I know, all you wanted to do was make great beer. No one told you it would consist of so much waiting! Patience is a virtue, remember that.)
Can you leave it in the fridge too long?
Absolutely! IPAs and Pale Ales will lose their bitterness over time, and if you’ve already waited one to three weeks before chilling, you’re not going to want it to have been for nothing! Hops will lose their flavor and aroma after too long though, so be careful if you’re brewing especially hoppy beer.
You’ve probably already noticed a theme here – and that’s that it all depends on what you’re brewing!
Pay close attention to what fellow brewers are saying, what we’re discussing here is a general rule of thumb, or a starting point for you!
How long does homebrew beer take to bottle condition?
We have already mentioned that there are so many factors that influence how long you should actually bottle condition your brew, but let’s look more in depth at exactly what factors we’re looking at.
Hoppy beer brewers beware, you should be waiting at least two weeks but no more than three to four months. Hops will lose their flavor over time, so you don’t want to wait too long. (Impatient brewers take note- hoppy beer might be the brew for you!)
High-gravity brews with a correspondingly high alcohol content should be conditioned for an extra few weeks. They will become more complex with age and should go a step further than conditioning. They should be aged, like wine.
Conversely, low-gravity brews with a low alcohol content do not need to be “aged”, per see and can typically be enjoyed after just a couple of weeks of bottle conditioning. Though they may become slightly more complex due to the malt make-up, they do not need nearly as long as the high alcohol malts.
Hoppy beers lose their hop flavor over time
Aging hoppy beer is not something that any brewer recommends. They need to be watched carefully and closely, as their flavor can change over time.
How can you determine when your hoppy beer is ripe for drinking, and when it is starting to become too aged?
As we have already mentioned, a simple taste test can do the trick. After two weeks, try taking a sip from one bottle. If you think it needs more time, go for another week. As it gets closer to the flavor you want to achieve, try one every day. It might seem like a waste of beer at first, but once you get the hang of it and take diligent notes, you won’t need to do this every time you brew.
A blogger named Mike Pomranz has done some of the work for you, in his article here. He conducted an at-home experiment in which he drank two hoppy beers, one high ABV and one lower, and drank one can each week to see if he could note a difference in taste. We already know that hoppy beers will change quickly and must be watched closely, so we can guess the outcome of his experiment.
High alcohol beers tend to need more aging time
High alcohol beers require more fermentation and will benefit from more aging time. This extra fermentation is said to be what gives them complex flavors, and why they can taste like two completely different beers if they are enjoyed a few weeks apart. Certain flavors will disappear, other flavors will take their place at the top, and so forth. This is what will keep happening as the yeast ferments.
Remember to use a yeast that can withstand the high alcohol content, though. Overpitching can be tempting, but know your yeast’s limits first.
Other things to consider
We’ve discussed the length of time, but there are other conditions that should be met when bottle conditioning.
Remember this acronym: TTYS. In the ancient AOL instant messenger times, it meant “Talk to you soon!”
In homebrewing, it stands for:
These are all factors that will need to be considered when determining how long you should bottle condition!
Be sure to research specifically the type of beer you are brewing and compare notes with those who have had favorable outcomes with similar ingredients.
Belgian beers are a great example of why these four components are the most important when determining how long to bottle condition. Belgian yeast typically ferments better at higher temperatures, 68-80F (Or 20-26C) on average. The proper priming sugar is corn sugar for Belgian beers, whereas brown sugar or sometimes molasses is preferred for a darker beer. (Seems simple enough to remember, right? Darker beer, darker sugar.)
Once your belgian beer is carbonated to your liking, it is recommended to lower the temperature (to around 60 degrees) to finish bottle conditioning.
When can I drink my beer?
Patience is key, as we have established and reestablished!
Though it depends on what kind of beer you’re brewing, a general consensus for optimal carbonation and fermentation is at least two weeks. Start out with this, and remember to taste test your beer along the way! Though you may feel it is a waste, you will benefit in the end!
Compare notes with other brewers, there are forums aplenty with experienced brewers who are just waiting to impart their wisdom on a new brewer. Keep an open mind, and remember to be patient. No matter what you’re brewing, it will take time to get it just right.