The Lazy Homebrewer
By Lee Cox
I used to think I was a procrastinator. Turns out I'm just lazy.
Lazy and homebrewing aren't usually mentioned together. Homebrewing is work...a LOT of work. But it's fun and rewarding, as all of us who have been bitten by the bug know.
I started homebrewing as many of us did. I asked for (and received) a brewing kit for Christmas. It had basic equipment and ingredients for the first brew. I brewed and bottled a 5 gallon partial mash batch of...I think it was an amber. Maybe a pale. I'm not sure I knew the difference at the time, but what I did know was that I was hooked.
I brewed, and learned, and drank, and learned, and expanded, and learned. I began to gather equipment, moving to a very basic all grain system, complete with an igloo cooler mash tun and a Blichmann Hellfire burner. My beer improved, as did my enjoyment of the hobby.
I hit a point however, where the brew days became long and exhausting. Age was a factor to be sure. But my basic laziness began to question some of my practices. Were all these complicated steps necessary?
I now have my brewing process down to a manageable workload for me. Let me share some things I've done.
Brew Day Preperation
Previously most of my equipment was stored in the closet under the stairs, along with the Christmas decorations. Each brewday involved dragging all of the equipment out of the closet, to the back deck. It was a lot of work and frankly a pain in the neck (and back). I've since moved all my brew equipment to the garage, and have been brewing there as well. It helps to have all your stuff right there where you need it. Now I only store ingredients and delicate equipment (scales, etc.) under the stairs.
Beer Recipe Writing
I suppose this goes hand in hand with procedures for the most part. I enjoy writing my own recipes (this is actually what I like most about homebrewing). I get a lot of ideas and general guidelines from watching videos and reading recipes that more experienced and accomplished homebrewers have done. But if I'm reading that such and such style is usually done with a decoction mash, I rebel and figure out another way to get the same results. Brulosophy is great for showing how some of our extra work doesn't really show tangible results.
The single best investment I've made in equipment was to purchase an all-in-one, brew in a basket system (namely the Anvil Foundry 10.5 gallon system). One piece of equipment to take the place of a mash tun AND a burner AND a boil kettle. For safety reasons, I made sure to buy a GFCI cord to avoid pesky electrocution. I also have a keg washer, although that is nearing the end of its shelf life. You can bet when I replace it that ease of use will be first and foremost on my list of criteria.
This, along with the Anvil Foundry, is probably the area that has cut down my work the most. For starters, I brew with the no-sparge option. Full volume boils cut WAY down on work; no need for a hot liquor tank or sparging. I have not noticed a difference in my results.
My favorite hack, if you will, is the move to no-chill brewing. One of my biggest frustrations had been chilling wort. Groundwater here in Las Vegas, especially during the summer, is much warmer than practical for chilling. I had rigged up a system with a cooler filled with ice and water, circulated by a fountain pump. Buying ice was a pain and it still took forever to chill wort. I watched a video or two about no-chill brewing. It didn’t seem to me like the cubes that the Aussies use were that great of an idea. But I found no-chill bags on MoreBeer. Perfect! Upon completion of my boil, I sanitize a bag with StarSan. I let the wort cool down to around 185F or so and don my heat resistant gloves. I place the foundry on a milk crate, and place the bag inside my large empty brew pot. VERY CAREFULLY I transfer the wort into the bag (185F is still very hot). I then carry the bag to my fermentation chamber which is already set to pitching temp. Then I leave it until the next day. This shortens my day greatly. The next day the wort is sufficiently cool and I transfer to the fermenter and pitch yeast.
Cleaning and Sanitizing
Sorry, not much can be done here. No shortcuts on sanitizing especially. I am lazy enough that I don’t worry about how the outside of my equipment looks. But anything that touches wort still has to be taken care of.
These are all things that work for me to make my brewing more manageable and enjoyable. I hope you can find some of these helpful. Work smarter, not harder? Maybe. But maybe for once in my life laziness has paid off!
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