Author Topic: What is the best way to keep my fermentation at the desired temp?  (Read 6811 times)

Offline Johnnyv42

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I'm starting to hear, finally, that managing fermentation temperatures is absolutely essential. What's the best way to do this? What the pros and cons? I'm thinking about what kind of stuff I'm going to want/need in the future (I don't I'll be slowing down on making beer for a while! :) ) Is there anything really cool (fermentation temp wise) that I might want to think about for the future?
Primary: Wit, Red

Secondary:

Bottled: Brown, Coffee Stout, Stout, Wee heavy, 60 Shilling, Brown Ale, Smoked Black IPA, American Pale Ale, Vanilla Porter, Wit

Offline RGWilder

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Re: What is the best way to keep my fermentation at the desired temp?
« Reply #1 on: November 02, 2011, 11:39:57 AM »
I went with a 7 cubic foot holiday freezer, from lowes ($190) a Ranco two stage thermostat from morebeer  ($140)

http://morebeer.com/view_product/16664//Ranco_Digital_Two-Stage_Temperature_Controller_-_Wired

and a small ceremic heather I already had.  I secure the t-stat lead to the carboy with some plastic strapping.

I can dial in, and leave room for small 1-3º fluctuations.  Holds a 6.5 and 5 gallon carboy, just right.


Offline Maine Homebrewer

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Re: What is the best way to keep my fermentation at the desired temp?
« Reply #2 on: November 02, 2011, 05:47:45 PM »
Depends on how much control you want to have and how much money you want to spend.

One the one hand you can spend a few bucks on tape-on thermometers, and move the vessel around different temperatures in your house. That's what I do. 

On the other hand you can spend thousands on a conical fermenting vessel of stainless steel with a water jacket that allows you to control the temperature to a degree.

In between it depends on if your environment is too warm or too cold.  If it is too cold there are wrap around heaters that are less than a hundred bucks. 
If it is too warm you will need some sort of refrigeration and thermostat combo. That can cost hundreds.

In my case I don't brew in the height of summer because there is no place I can put a primary without it reaching the low 70s between ambient temp and the heat produced by the yeast. Otherwise I monitor the temp and try not to let it get over 70*or much below 60**. As I type I have an ale in the basement vigorously fermenting at 62.  If I wanted to warm it I would wrap it in a blanket and let the heat produced by the yeast warm it a couple degrees, but I'm experimenting with what happens when an ale is fermented in the low 60s.
You can read all the books in the world but the only way to know for sure it to try it.

My next batch will likely be a lager, and by then the basement will be in the mid to low 50s.  This will allow me to keep fermentation in the neighborhood of 55**.  By spring it will be back to ales, and no brewing happens in the summer.

* Ale fermented above 70 can end up tasting like banana.  Not good.

** Ale yeast can go dormant at temps below 60.

*** Lager yeast can go dormant below 50 and while it will ferment at ale temps it is best if fermented under 60.  Fermented at temps above 60 the finished product loses the lager crispness and becomes "steam beer".

Hope that helps.
"To alcohol! The cause of - and solution to - all of life's problems!" -Homer Simpson

Offline jomebrew

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Re: What is the best way to keep my fermentation at the desired temp?
« Reply #3 on: November 03, 2011, 11:08:44 AM »
The best way is probably a glycol jacketed fermenter. 

Next would be a temperature controlled chamber like a freezer or refrigerator or insulated box and a refrigerant chilling mechanism. 

Next would be a deep underground basement or a cave with controlled humidity and teeny tiny temperature fluctuation. 

Next would be a water bath with a large volume of water constantly cooled to the fermentation temp.

Next would be some convection cooling wicking away the heat.

Next would be in the coolest, most protected closet or room.

Next would be to make a beer where the temp does not matter.


Offline Johnnyv42

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Re: What is the best way to keep my fermentation at the desired temp?
« Reply #4 on: November 06, 2011, 10:05:06 AM »
Thanks everyone, this exactly what I needed! Now I can plan all the way out to the fanciest systems!
Primary: Wit, Red

Secondary:

Bottled: Brown, Coffee Stout, Stout, Wee heavy, 60 Shilling, Brown Ale, Smoked Black IPA, American Pale Ale, Vanilla Porter, Wit

Offline beerpilot

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Re: What is the best way to keep my fermentation at the desired temp?
« Reply #5 on: November 10, 2011, 03:57:04 PM »
I built one of these:
http://www.restlesscellars.com/photos.php?view=preview&category=1&image=9

I found the details on a personal website that is no longer active, but it is basically an insulated 4x8x2 foot box divided into 3 compartments powered by a 5000BTU window airconditioner.

I bypassed the units thermostat and use a temp controller in the center compartment. The top compartment is colder by 4 or 5 degrees and the bottom is warmer by about the same so I get a wide choice of temps all within one unit.

I age wine, store wine, ferment and age lagers and somehow extra vegetables and six-packs end up in there too!