Commercial vs Home brew fermentation times

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DocAnna

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Following my recent trip to St Austell brewery and having watched several videos about commercial breweries, I'm struck by the difference in speed of completing fermentation. Typically I and several others here will recommend 2 weeks for most beers, though longer for lagers. Commercial brewers with larger systems describe 1 week for ale fermentation, or 2 weeks for lager, though I appreciate there is considerable variation. I appreciate I'll probably find out eventually on the course I'm going to do, but I'm not sure what is the cause of the shorter ferment times? The only thing I can think of is that it is about circulation currents that mix the wort through heat and CO2 activity, which would ensure maximal activity for the yeast for as long as possible, but I'm not sure I'm convinced by this?

Any ideas?
 
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Even at homebrew levels a typical brew with OG around 1040 will have finished active fermentation in about 5 days. Giving it longer simply makes sure that it has truly finished and allows it to start clearing before packaging. (I'm dubious about the notion that the yeast cleans up after itself - after all there's plenty of yeast still in suspension)
I think the big boys at least filter before packaging which eliminates the clearing time. I don't know about microbreweries.
 
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The last couple of brews I've done have completed fermentation in around 3-4 days; that's just considering the time to go from OG to FG.

I've heard craft breweries say that they have a 14-21 day turn-around from brew day to shipping for IPAs, which would make sense. A week for fermentation, dry hopping, etc. and then another week or so in the brite tank for everything to clear up.

I think their big advantage in terms of the overall turn-around time is that they have access to centrifuges, filtering, etc. that the average home brewer doesn't have.
 
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I think fermentation takes about the same amount of time regardless of size, but It’s all about money. For a commercial brewery to have a batch sitting in a fermenter longer than necessary means they can’t get the next batch on. For home brewers like us theres no such rush.
 

Agentgonzo

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I don't know what commercial breweries are like with pitch rates compared to us home brewers. I use dried yeast, and a single sachet as it's (moderately) expensive. But for breweries that repitch their yeast, it's essentially free, so maybe they pitch more. Also, it's probably more active as it'll have just come off a previous brew so start faster.

I used to ferment out on 5-7 days regularly (British ales), but now I give it another 3-5 days just to clear (I don't cold crash) as I get much less sediment in the bottles that way. As mentioned above, that's not necessary of the brewery is casking or filtering it
 
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Jim Brewster

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My brews consistently take about two days for the yeast to get through the vast majority of fermentables. Ale has a very short turnaround really, in a commercial brewery I would think it would be cold crashed and packaged within a week.

Dry yeast has a slight lag time but many of the breweries reuse their yeast and have a big starter, so it gets going immediately. Although a lot of the smaller breweries use a new pack of dry yeast each time for practical reasons. The brewery I helped at harvested big buckets of yeast each time for the next brew.
 
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the baron

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I think the answer is in the answers above. Time saved on Yeast that is ready to go so hardly any lag, perfect temperature control so fermentation is usually no longer than 4 days plus no clearing as such required as the beer is filtered.
Kveik will be done in 3 days if perfect temp and nutrient added but it needs time to clear so that is probably the nearest you will get
 

peebee

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A week! If you find out what creates shorter fermentation times, I'd like to know. The following is a TiltPi trace (clipped), the dates are American 'cos the makers of Tilts think if they have to put up with it, we should suffer American dates too. So, the graph shows two days (plus a day or so). Temperature shown so no-one can suggest it's too hot.

The SG drops so fast, it bounces (that's actually accumulated yeast sliding off the Tilt hydrometer).

Captureclipped.jpg

I was panicking the month before because I had two fermentations taking their time (three days, eek!). Under three days has been the norm for me since the 1980s

I have no idea why I have such short ferments. I moved a few times since the 1980s so it's not the water ... then again, I've always lived in areas where loads of sheep pee in the reservoirs.
 

Jim Brewster

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It makes me think of the anthropic principle... If it's only been a week and the beer is bottled in the forest, have the yeast really finished fermenting? 🤔
 

IceQueen

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commercal brewers controll the yeast to the last cell, nutrition, pitch rate, growth/pereformance and that in all stages of the brew, not just before. and the constantly stir the beer to maximize the yeast esposure to the malt (if i remember that correct)
 

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I think it largely comes down to how you define fermentation. Homebrewers tend to view it as the time between pitching yeast and bottling, combining primary, secondary fermentation and conditioning in the same vessel. Commercial breweries will likely view it solely as the time to reach near terminal gravity. For example primary fermentation before racking to cask, where secondary fermentation takes place, before it's shipped out to be conditioned in a pub cellar.
 
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commercal brewers controll the yeast to the last cell, nutrition, pitch rate, growth/pereformance and that in all stages of the brew, not just before. and the constantly stir the beer to maximize the yeast esposure to the malt (if i remember that correct)
You are right the large towering fermenting vessels do have agitators constantly stirring the wort, but the reason is to relieve the hydro static pressure on the yeast.
Time in a fermenter is money, so beer is moved to the bright tank to condition as soon as it looks like it is finished, leaving the fermenter to take the next batch. Also as others have said the commercials will be sure of the viability of the yeast.
 

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Fermentation is a fascinating subject.

There are quite a few technological advances allowing for accelerated feentstion schedules. Usually, this involves some kind of trade off in quality.

We don't permanently move the yeast, like in the Nathan process, or have the ability to fast condition under pressure in order to finish (a rather mediocre lager) in about 21 days.

I work exclusively with liquid yeast, propagate correctly to maximise vitality and correct cell count (my main fermentation is rather cold. Pitch at 5 and main at 9 Celsius). I ensure good amount of yeast nutrients are available and oxygenate the wort on transfer into the fermenter via a venturi tube.

Main fermentation is over in about 9 days for 12.7% mas. It then undergoes a lengthy fermentation schedule which is usually six to eight weeks. I am not prepared to suffer quality.

Fermentation schedules for us are the 'classic' schedules as practiced by our grandfathers. We don't have the same equipment at home brew scale --- nor do we need to.

All beer styles benefit from long, carefully conducted conditiong schedules.

For those interested in professional brewing from start to finish, there is this beautiful book available as translation. It's likely the only book you'll need


PS:. The Augustiner brewery in Munich, conditions their lagers for three months.
 

peebee

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... All beer styles benefit from long, carefully conducted conditiong schedules. ...
A blinkered phrase in an otherwise informative post! Where did that "all beer styles ..." come from? All the styles you prefer to drink I suspect.

Some British beers (I prefer to avoid using the term style, which suggests something complying to "American Craft Beer" sentiments) will be in the Pub being drunk within 7-10 days of its making, and with no accelerated processes. Untapped it might still be past it in 21-30 days. It's a threatened beer type (cask-conditioned "running" beers) but some of the greatest British beers of the past 100-150 years fall into this category, including such as Timothy Taylor's "Landlord" (Landlord - Timothy Taylor's) (not my favourite, but it is of many people).

But it did suggest a reason for some of my high-speed fermentations: Yeast! I tend to use yeasts that are good at producing "cask-conditioned" beer that are also probably fast workers and highly flocculant. And not the best attenuators so often not too popular anymore. Like Wyeast #1469 (West Yorkshire Ale), Wyeast #1099 ("Whitbread ale"), Fermentis S-33 (dried yeast, the beer depicted in my last post used this) and perhaps Lallemand Windsor Yeast (also dried).


[EDIT: Just to be contrary, my current brew is just starting fermentation after 18 hours sitting quiet. It is Mangrove Jack's M36 "Liberty Bell" yeast which always starts a bit slow. The "contrary" bit is it used to be called "Burton Union" (i.e. UK sourced?), as if anything can be made of the names. It'll catch up.]
 
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Sadfield

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Some British beers (I prefer to avoid using the term style, which suggests something complying to "American Craft Beer" sentiments) will be in the Pub being drunk within 7-10 days of its making, and with no accelerated processes.

What is the definition of 'making' here? Brew day, end of fermentation or casked and fined? The former looks very optimistic, the latter could push the process past 2 weeks.
 

RichK

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At the last brewery tour (Palmers in Bridport) I noted two/three things about fermentation that differed from my own process. Firstly I use dried yeast compared with a very active starter. I reckon this puts me a day or two behind. Secondly they fermented at a slightly higher temperature 19.5 v 18.5C. Not sure how much difference that would make. Finally they were using finings whereas I'll cold crash. With an ordinary bitter (which is mostly what I make) I can be done in 7/8 days. Brewery were in the fermentation tank for around four.
 

Weizenberg

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A blinkered phrase in an otherwise informative post! Where did that "all beer styles ..." come from? All the styles you prefer to drink I suspect.

Maybe I could have written

"All beer styles benefit from long, carefully conducted conditiong schedules according to style"?

The point is the same though. Shortened fermentation cycles are at the expense of quality. Many do this for £££. See Guiness UK vs Ireland on quality. It won't matter to everyone though and many don't detect it or care.

Kegs don't fare well after they've been opened. Thankfully the yeast cake provides a good antioxidant. Two weeks for a cask ale after opening is rather good for beer. There is a lot to be said about cask conditioned beer (ales, lagers and others) ;)

Same advantages as bottle conditioned and less headaches with unwanted oxygenation.

I love a well conditioned cask ale like Landlord btw. Not many proper cellar men around these days. Shame.
 

Weizenberg

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At the last brewery tour (Palmers in Bridport) I noted two/three things about fermentation that differed from my own process. Firstly I use dried yeast compared with a very active starter. I reckon this puts me a day or two behind. Secondly they fermented at a slightly higher temperature 19.5 v 18.5C. Not sure how much difference that would make. Finally they were using finings whereas I'll cold crash. With an ordinary bitter (which is mostly what I make) I can be done in 7/8 days. Brewery were in the fermentation tank for around four.

The S:V (surface to volume) ratio in these vessels is different. Breweries have much larger vessels and they behave a bit differently. You have the effect of a bit of hydrostatic pressure on yeast too. That in itself will reduce the formation of unwanted higher alcohols (fusels). For us this doesn't apply and it's one of the rasons I conduct all my fermentations a bit colder than one might expect. Ales and Lagers.
 
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