There is No Substitute for Time


‘Just leave it alone’ can be the key to successful brewing, wine making, cheese making, and just about any activity in the kitchen.

It has taken me twenty years to figure it out. I am sure that it was explained to me many years ago but, that was a time when I thought I knew everything and new concepts were difficult to grasp. The secret to success in everything from homebrewing and cheese making, not to mention roasting brisket over open coals or grilling the perfect burger is to leave it alone.

I have boiled it all down to this by looking over the questions I have been asked while providing support to our customers. In doing so I discovered the two common traits those with the most problems tend to have. They insist on making everything more complicated than necessary and they feel that they must be constantly ‘doing’ something to whatever they are making.

All of the interactions necessary to bring out the best in any collection of ingredients require time. It is the one ingredient that is given the least consideration by many brewers, cooks and cheese makers. My mantra is “There is no substitute for time”. In many of the reactions needed to produce good beer, fine wine and tasty cheese, time is required and there is no speeding the process. These reactions and interactions take place at their own pace ant sometimes we need to just sit and wait them out.

The compulsive habit of stirring, flipping and for lack of a better term, playing with whatever is in front of you simply compounds the problem.

The idea that if a recipe calls for occasional stirring, constant stirring must certainly be better is a major cause of unwanted results. Case in point; is your burger dry and without that pan seared crusted flavor everyone craves? Did you spend the cooking time flipping and pressing the meat as it sizzled on the grill or frying pan? If you had placed the meat on to the hot surface and then walked away and let the fire to its thing you would find that the results are much more what you expect.

These same two traits are evident in cheese making. I must admit that I have been guilty of them also. I once became so wrapped up in the heating and controlling of milk temperature that I lost sight of the real goal, a simple, editable cheese that I found myself spending more time in the hardware store than at the dairy isle. Had I been focused on the cheese and not the method I would have had better results and sooner. I soon realized that I was repeating the same mistake I had made in my early brewing days. I was losing sight of the real goal.

Once I overcame the impulse to make the process better and just let the dairy additives do their thing the results were wondrous. The transformation of milk to solid curd became magical.

The art of brewing beer evolved without the use of thermometers, pumps and insulation wrapped coolers despite the tinkering of man. The goal was to make the beer better, not faster or cheaper. The accidental invention of cheese came about by allowing the milk to do what is natural and curdle all on its own. When the burger is left to its own over a hot flame the natural cartelization of sugars in the meat creates the distinctive aroma and flavor of grilled meat while retaining the moist and flavorful liquids inside. Is there any more reason to ‘just leave it alone’?

homebrewed beer with malted grains and hop flowers

Home Beer Brewing

Brewing beer is an American Tradition.