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How to make beer at home in five days

It’s quite a claim, isn’t it? Fresh, chilled, clear and perfectly carbonated beer in five days. So how, exactly, are we at WilliamsWarn able to make that claim?

The answer is in the great ingredients, a little patience and a lot of patented fermentation technology.

As the thousands of brewers who use the WilliamsWarn BrewMasterTM and BrewKegTM range have discovered, you can make outstanding, mistake-free beer with ease. Everything from a super-quaffable, thirst-quenching lager to a hoppy stout with cacao nibs, vanilla beans and a wee dram of whiskey. The beer you produce can be as simple or as sophisticated as you like.

So to start to understand this claim, let’s look at the technology behind the beer. The BrewMasterTM and BrewKegTM range from WilliamsWarn allow for both carbonation and clarification during the fermentation process which means it’s a very efficient way of making beer. And the beer is as fresh as beer can possibly be. Being able to pour directly from the BrewMasterTM or BrewKegTM after fermentation means that not a single molecule of oxygen (the stuff that makes beer age from the moment it comes in contact with it) has touched the beer.

But five days to fresh, chilled, clear, perfectly-carbonated beer… we’ve made the claim, how does that happen? First, a bit of context and a wee lesson about yeast.

We’ve known since the BrewMasterTM was introduced in 2011, that the 11g yeast sachets provided with our BrewMasterTM Personal Brewery range can make 23 litres (6 US gallons) of ale in seven days and a lager in nine days. When we introduced our BrewKegTM range of products in 2016 we found out very quickly that the same 11g yeast sachet was able to multiply to peak yeast cells (the point at which your beer is fermenting like a steam train) much faster in the BrewKeg10 (which at 10 litres is the smallest of the BrewKegTM range).

Also, because the BrewKeg10 has a smaller height compared to the BrewMaster or the other BrewKegs (the 25 litre and 50 litre versions), the clarification process is also faster. The fact that the entire physical BrewKeg10 is small enough to be totally cooled down in a kegerator or fridge also aids the clarification process.

These factors have combined to allow WilliamsWarn to have a six day process for both ales and lagers in a BrewKeg10 compared to the seven day and nine day process times in the BrewMasterTM and larger BrewKegTM.

But that ain’t five days! I hear you. Read on.

In reality it is possible to make the beers in five days, since the fermentations are generally finished in three days even though we give a standard of four days for a BrewKeg10TM process. Yep, we have a one day buffer up our sleeves.

To understand this further, let’s talk techy about yeast for a moment. And, by the way, the yeasts we use in our recipes and kits are the same yeasts used by many of the commercial breweries all around the world.

Ales yeast (Saccharomyces Cerevisiae) ferment faster than lager yeast (Saccharomyces Pastorianus). So it is preferable to try this with the WillamsWarn BrewKeg10TM Irish Red Ale or Summer Ale kits first. The Nottingham Ale yeast and S-04 ale yeast in these packs respectively are quick starters and fermenters. The American Pale Ale uses US-05 and that is a slow starter so we suggest trying this five day process on the first two ale kits first. If you ferment the lagers at ale temperatures they are generally finished in three days too but the ales are more guaranteed to finish in three days so a safer bet. But you can also try this on a WilliamsWarn BrewKeg10TM Lager kit if you ferment at 25°C.

So, have a couple of practices, get comfortable with the process and then lay the bets on heavy with your mates. Particularly those who are fermenting, kegging and bottling using more traditional methods. They’ll never believe you and it’s your opportunity to impress!

Finally, let’s take a day-by-day look at how this plays out and what you can expect.

Day 0:

Brew your Irish Red Ale or Summer Ale as per the video instructions. Make sure you rehydrate the yeast well before adding. Don’t over-swirl the yeast as that can damage the cells. Gentle swirling for 30 seconds is best to get the contact with water and rehydrate the cells fully before adding.

Once all the ingredients are added, set the temperature to 25°C.

Day 1:

After 12 hours the yeast should be creating CO2 (and alcohol) and the bubbles should be visible at the top of the sediment bottle. There should be hundreds of bubbles rising every second at the point where the sediment bottle joins the vessel valve.

After 12 hours the yeast should be creating CO2

The pressure should also have built up. We suggest you ferment at 1.5 bar as controlled by the VPRV. The beer is carbonated at this stage once the pressure is up.

Day 2:

By Day 2 the SG will be under 1.020 and maybe somewhere near 1.015. There will be less bubbles rising at the top of the sediment bottle under the tank.

There will be less bubbles rising at the top of the sediment bottle under the tank

You should see that much of the grown yeast has settled into the sediment bottle.

Day 3:

By Day 3 the Specific Gravity or SG will be about 1.011 which is the end of fermentation for WW ales. The yeast should be well settled and just the odd bubble will be seen rising and the odd clump of yeast erupting up and settling down again.

At this stage you can cool the vessel.

Day 3.5:

After 12 hours, perform the first clarification and wait 12 hours. You can actually do this as soon as the vessel is cold so even after 6 hours it should be okay to do the first clarification. So if you put the cooling on at 12pm on a Saturday for example, you don’t need to stay up until midnight, you could clarify in the evening.

Day 4:

A new layer of sediment will start to form above the existing settled yeast, as soon as you see clear beer right across the top of the sediment bottle you can perform the second clarification, it could take anywhere from 4-12 hours for this to happen.

After 12 hours, you will see a new sediment layer settle on top of the already sediment yeast

Day 5:

After 12-24 hours, you should see a third layer of sediment that has settled

After 12-24 hours, you should see a third layer of sediment that has settled. The top should show have clear beer above or around this final layer of sediment. The sediment usually pokes up into the valve area that you can’t see, but at this point just close the valve, remove the sediment bottle and dump the sediment and enjoy the fruits of your labour from your draft beer tap.

How to make beer at home in 4 days

How to make beer at home in 4 days

It’s even possible to shave a further day off the process. On Day 3 when the SG is down to 1.011 and fermentation is finished, cool the beer and clarify at the same time. This first clarification will be warm, which isn’t ideal as it means less protein haze is taken out, but it takes out most of the yeast haze. After 12 hours the beer will be cold and you’ll have a second sediment layer on top of the naturally sediment yeast. Then on Day 3.5 you perform the second clarification and this time since its cold, you remove the protein haze and any remaining yeast. You then wait 12 hours to Day 4 and you’re done, so dump the sediment bottle and pour a beer.

The reason we don’t promote these faster times as our standard practice is that we like to have some buffer in order to allow for fermentation or clarification taking a bit longer than average. We don’t want to disappoint our brewers by being too tight in the process. But the reality is if the fermentation is finished and ales are at 1.011 and lagers at 1.009 after 3 days, the beer is ready is cool and clarify and this can be done quite quickly in a BK10. Ideally it’s best to cool for a period and then clarify to get this chill haze (protein haze) forming better and to get the yeast to settle a bit better, but if these faster times work for you, then they work for you. The main thing is the SG’s are down to normal finished beer levels and the beer is clear when being consumed.

Happy Brewing.

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