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New Home Brewer Here - High Fermentation Temperatures

Discussion in 'Homebrewing' started by Aanstadt, Dec 19, 2012.

  1. Aanstadt

    Aanstadt Disciple (55) Tennessee Aug 5, 2011

    Hi beer world. I am new here and new to home brewing. I just brewed my third malt extract batch. My first two came out decent and drinkable, but I know they fermented at too high of a temperature. The off flavors are very obvious, and I think I got too much fusel alcohol which is leaving me with a headache after just one beer. I live in an apartment so I am limited to where I can keep the fermenter. I tried wrapping it with a cold wet towel, and siting it in a little bath of water. But it was not enough. Can you experts guide me to the best way to keep the temperature's lower? I do have a garage, would investing in a fridge be a wise choice?

    Thanks in advance,

  2. If you stick to the wet shirt trick and add a fan blowing on the fermenter you should be able to keep the beer under 70 f but the shirt/towel will need re-wetted every so often which is a pain in the ass. I think if your sitting your fermenter in water the shirt should cover the entire fermenter and be submerged in the water as well. A Johnson temperature controller can be used as a thermostat on a fridge or space heater depending on the ambient temp of where you ferment. My basement right now is around 58 ambient so I can't use my fridge for ale fermentations in the winter, so I rigged up a space heater to point at my fermenter, put the temperature probe on the opposite side of the fermenter as the heat source so that as accurate a temperature can be maintained.
  3. Craigslist is your friend. You can grab an old fridge pretty easily but the control can be equal price. I'm not really one to talk as since I got into brewing and trading I've accumulated a nice big side by side for my beer and hops and 3 deep freezes (one is my keezer)all control by temp controllers
  4. Put the fermenter, wrapped in a towel, in a tub of water, with the bottom of the towel in the water. Point a fan (low speed is fine) at the carboy/towel. Capillary action should keep the towel sufficiently wet to provide a few degrees of cooling. Adding ice to the water will give you a few more degrees. Adding a small pump to keep the iced water moving will give you still more.
  5. Below is something I posted in the past. It details the steps that I take to maintain proper fermentation temperatures. If you have the space for an ‘extra’ refrigerator then that refrigerator along with a temperature controller will also help you maintain proper fermentation control and it is ‘automatic’. As you already know; it is important to maintain proper fermentation temperature to obtain quality homebrewed beer.

    “My homebrewing area (utility room in my half basement) is a bit too warm now (ambient about 72-73°F). My preference is to ferment my Wit beers around 70°F (although 72°F would be OK). So, since fermentation is an exothermic reaction (it produces heat) I need to ‘manage’ the fermentation temperature. Right now I am able to do that by simply placing my bucket on the basement floor; the basement floor operates like a heat sink drawing the ‘excess’ heat away. I will just use the ‘floor method’ unless the fermentation temperature exceeds 72°F. If that occurs I will place my fermenter in a shallow Rubbermaid pan (about 5 inches tall) and put water in the pan. The presence of water increases the heat sink effect by cooling a couple more degrees. If I should need even more cooling I will place a towel (or a T-shirt) around the bucket for evaporative cooling. If even more cooling is needed I add a fan to the mix. If even more cooling is required I add some ice to the water; refreezable blue ice blocks.”

  6. VikeMan

    VikeMan Champion (820) Pennsylvania Jul 12, 2009

    Yes, if you have the money and the space, a fermentation fridge (mine is a $20 yard sale chest freezer, with an added external Johnson A419 temp controller) is the best option for reliable, controlled cooling. You can use it alone, or...

    I use mine to provide the ambient temperature for the fermenter. A second Johnson controller, with its temperature probe in a thermowell in the fermenter, and controlling a fermwrap wrapped around the fermenter, provides the 'fine' temperature control for the fermentation.
  7. HerbMeowing

    HerbMeowing Savant (420) Virginia Nov 10, 2010

    A smaller batch size would allow you to put a smaller fermentor into a moderately-sized chest cooler where the fermentation temperature can be controlled easily with a one or two 22-oz bottles of frozen water.
  8. FATC1TY

    FATC1TY Moderator (860) Georgia Feb 12, 2012 Staff Member

    When you say, little water bath.. how little?

    A rope bucket would work fine for a bucket or carboy, fill it with water to about the level of the beer in the carboy. Add some ice, or frozen bottles/ice packs. Add the fan if it doesn't get cool enough.

    Are you cooling your wort down low enough as well before pitching?
  9. Aanstadt

    Aanstadt Disciple (55) Tennessee Aug 5, 2011

    I was cooling my wort down below 80°F before pitching. But I do think I need to drop that temperature more and faster.

    I appreciate everyone's advice. I think I'll start with using a fan as well as the wet towel and cold water bath. I also think I'll start searching Craigslist for a fridge.

  10. First of all, you need to get lower than 80 before pitching. That is probably where most of the problems are caused.
    My method: Get a cheap rubbermaid container. One of the bigger ones, about 2 -2 1/2 feet deep. Put the fermenter in and fill with water till it reaches a few inches below the stuck on thermometer. The day before you brew, freeze 2 or 3 two liter coke bottles filled with water. Use the frozen bottles to cool the container water.
    When I first put the fermenter in I usually use two frozen bottles for a few hours. Once its down to at least 70, I pitch. Then, just put in a new frozen bottle and put the melted back in the freezer. I usually only have to change the bottle in the morning before work and night before bed.
    GreenKrusty101 likes this.
  11. ipas-for-life

    ipas-for-life Savant (410) Virginia Feb 28, 2012

    In my short home brewing career I have found that pitching between 60-65 gets me better results than 70. I try to pitch at 60 and put it in a swamp cooler in the basement. It will usually rise to around 62-64 where I try to keep it stable by switching out ice bottles. Last night I tried my latest ipa that I kept at 64 for three weeks. Out of the 4 ipa's i've done it is the best by far. The others were fermented between 68-72. If you have the space and funds it sounds like a fridge or chest freezer is the way to go.
  12. PortLargo

    PortLargo Advocate (515) Florida Oct 19, 2012

    Proper pitch temperature is very important. Plus you need to consider that fermentation creates heat and that it takes a long time to change the temp of a large mass of liquid.

    Here is Palmer's take on the subject:

    As a minimum you need to lower the wort to the fermentation pitch temperature. Then consider that once fermentation kicks in (4 - 12 hours) the liquid will start to increase in temperature. So if you are too high to start with, and the yeast cranks it up even more, then expect the off-flavors described in the link above. This is why you will hear some homebrewers state they start fermenting at 64 and raise the temp to 68 as the yeast slows down.

    Also consider is that it takes a long time to change the temp of a 5 gallon primary. If you pitch at 75 and place your primary in a fridge with air temp of 68, expect a long time to see the liquid drop in temp (remember,the yeast is creating heat). I have no scientific data, but would guess at least 24 hours. A water bath works faster than air, but still expect many hours. In either case, there is some guesswork involved.

    Finally, many experts will tell you to keep your fermentation temp constant to reduce off-flavors. I used to think that if the yeast called for a 60 -72 degree range that it was okay just to keep the brew in that range. I now use a dedicated fridge with a controller. For even better results I should add a thermowell . . . that's about the only way to really know the temp of your precious brew.
  13. HerbMeowing

    HerbMeowing Savant (420) Virginia Nov 10, 2010

    Nothing wrong with pitching in the mid-70s then cooling the wort to low 60s before fermentation gets a'goin'.
    Just like you pre-heat a mash tun...you pre-chill the fermentation chamber.

    Anyway...works for me.
  14. You could build a "Son of a Fermentation Chiller"
    I'm planning on making one of these while on Christmas vacation for additional heating in the winter and cooling in the summer.

    In the meantime, make beers that like the heat! I'm planning on making a Quad (like Westvleteren 12) as soon as this chamber is working.
  15. rocdoc1

    rocdoc1 Savant (425) New Mexico Jan 13, 2006

    Look for a chest freezer instead of a fridge for fermentation. It's harder to keep a fridge warm enough to ferment beer, even with a temperature controller. I've read somewhere that if you are comfortable with electronics you can mess with a freezer thermostat and not even use a controller, but for me the $65 dollar Johnson controls model was a better idea. If you go with a freezer get a carboy carrier(http://morebeer.com/view_product/7446//Nylon_Carboy_Carrier) to make it safe and easier to get the carboy in and out.